The Vacation (aka Welcome to Wherever You Are) by John Marrs #BookReview

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How far would you run to escape your past?

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep . . .

Originally published as Welcome to Wherever You Are, this is a re-edited release perfect for fans of T. M. Logan.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars_1457015727_81_246_96_2

A classic John Marrs, do I need to say more? It doesn’t matter if you read his debut first or last, it’s as brilliant as the rest of them. It is set up in the same way as The One and The Passengers with multiple characters so if you enjoyed those you’ll enjoy The Vacation too.

Welcome to Wherever You Are was the only novel of his that I hadn’t read yet. It is his very first novel, published in 2015 if I’m not mistaken and re-published in 2021, and I kept it for a special day where I absolutely needed an absorbing read, but suddenly the wait for Keep It In The Family became too long. It’s been published on October 18, 2022 meanwhile so I’ll probably postpone reading this at least a few months. I know, women readers, don’t try to understand :-).

So this story follows a number of lodgers at the Venice Beach Hotel: Tommy who went backpacking with his friend Sean, Savannah who fled her home and is now looking over her shoulder all the time, Declan and Matty who had their reasons to go on a world tour from Ireland, Nicole and her friend Eric on a special mission and Jake who tries very hard to just blend in.

They all have their own personal stories and secrets I hadn’t expected and with the short alternating chapters I wanted to keep on reading. I was genuinely flabbergasted so many times! I loved and felt for Tommy because of his family history. He’s sort of the string between all of the characters since he’s the receptionist at the backpacker’s hostel but he also builds friendships (and perhaps a little more) with the other occupants. There were a few other heartbreaking moments too though with one that nearly brought tears to my eyes.

I can’t applaud this author enough, he’s able to draw me in and have me hooked in a matter of a few chapters, which is quite an accomplishment when you have so many characters, and he finds the perfect balance in all of his novels. I wish I could say more about the twists and turns but you’d want to find these out on your own, so all I can say is that they’re very very good.

This book was awesome, so if you’re also wanting to be surprised, this one’s definitely for the list.

I bought a copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

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Christmas gift ideas for book lovers – edition 2022-2023

Christmas gift ideas for book lovers

If you have a bookworm in the house then you know what to give them. Give them books! Yes they’ll be very happy with books even if they already have enough books in your mind. But OK in case you rather want to give something book related I have got you covered and you can find 10 gift ideas right here for 2023: 

Gift idea 1

Qeeboo Turtle Carry Bookstand (Luxury for Men) (for BE/NL also on Bol.com): 399 EUR

A definite eye-catcher in your interior!

You can choose between a black and white turtle but I love the black one most of all. Dimensions are 40 cm x 58 cm x 93 cm

Queeboo Turtle 

Gift idea 2

Creepy claw bookmark (Amazon)

I saw these creepy claws made of resin on a blogger’s Instagram account. You can find them on Amazon at a variety of different prizes and manufacturers.

Creepy claw bookmark

Gift idea 3

True Crime Bookmark (Copper And Cardi)

Handmade bookmark for true crime enthusiasts. Do take a look at their t-shirt too which says ‘Only here to establish an alibi’. Unfortunately this is an US Etsy shop so due to custom charges it won’t be possible for me to order. Otherwise I’d certainly have gone for this!

CopperAndCardi Bookmark

Gift idea 4

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders and other cases (Amazon)

With a 4.7 out of  stars (441 ratings) this certainly captured my attention. I love sleuthing so definitely on my list!

This is not a board game: No dice, no luck, but a challenge to your mental ability. A game of deduction, logic and cunning mysteries; examine the evidence, scour the newspaper for clues and travel around London wherever your instinct leads you. Inside the box: 1 map of London, 10 case booklets, 10 newspapers, 1 directory, 1 rulebook

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Become the hero of 10 original Sherlock Holmes adventures and work either alone or with friends to find the truth. Suitable for 1 to 8 players.

Gift idea 5

Library Fragrance Discovery Set by Ellis Brooklyn (Liberty London)

If you really want to surprise your partner, you might want to consider giving this vegan and cruelty-free box of 8 mini-perfume samples with a bookish theme: West, Fawn, Fable, Myth, Raven, Rives, Prose and Sci Fi (36 EUR – EU delivery amounts to 8 EUR including additional tax and duties)

Gift idea Ellis Brooklyn perfume

Gift idea 6

A Bookish Neck Tie 

If your man likes to read, or you just want to transfer a little bit of your passion onto him and while you can’t get him into a bookish t-shirt in this lifetime then maybe he’d still be ok wearing a bookish tie (win-win right). There are 624 results or 11 pages to choose from on Zazzle (on Zazzle.com but there’s also a BE site). I chose the Author’s Book Genre Neck Tie

Gift idea Book Tie 01 Gift idea Book Tie 01 01

Or what about this classy ‘Book’ tie on Amazon UK? 

Gift idea Book Tie 02

Gift idea 7

Bookish Mug (Society 6) – around 14 USD

One can never have enough mugs. I’ve been looking for a back-up mug for a while now and I haven’t found the perfect size that I want but I do like the look of these.

For the lovers of the Golden Age: Agatha Christie, for the classy minimalists: Bookish heart, for the gentle souls: Drink Tea, Read Books, Be Happy, and then there’s that one for those that can’t get enough of pink things: I Read Past My Bedtime

Society6  Society6 Coffee Mug  Society6 Coffee Mug 5  Society6 Coffee Mug 4

Gift idea 8

Key ring (The Literary Gift Shop)

It doesn’t always have to be a big gift to make someone happy.  

TheLiteraryGiftShop

Gift idea 9

I Read Past My Bedtime (Society 6; US)

I love everything pink so I’m happy to share that the artist Socoart has 54 products with this design, ranging from beach towels in this pretty pink to duvet covers in all sizes, to throw blankets and laptop sleeves. It’s difficult to choose, I like everything, but I’m going for the duvet cover if I can choose anything!

Society6 I read past my bedtime    Society6 Duvet cover

Gift idea 10

An Escape Room in A Box from Key Enigma

I’m saving the best for last. Key Enigma has 11 Escape Room games to choose from and prices vary but these three here are all under 50 EUR with The Butterfly Curse only 25 EUR if you want to try one before committing to a bigger box.

KeyEnigma 01HackForwardKeyEnigma 02

I couldn’t help it but I chose Hack Forward – although only Part 1 (at the moment it seems you can’t purchase part 1, 2 and 3 separately). I’ve only played the first chapter but I can tell you it’s been really great so far. I’ll do a full review when I complete the entire mission of course but I can already recommend it. If you purchase the full box of Hack Forward at 45,90€ you get more than 8 hours of game and there are 100+ puzzles. 

Hack Forward is an escape game that mixes puzzles, narrative, and technology to immerse you in a challenging experience so carefully designed that it may be impossible for you to distinguish reality from fiction. A box full of mysteries and enigmas will reach your hands. With the materials, codes, and clues hidden inside, you must use your ingenuity and match the objects to solve the case.

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I hope you found some inspiration and I wish you all the bookish gifts you had in mind this year. If you need more inspiration, you can also take a look at my gift ideas of the previous years: gifts for the year 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018.

The Secrets We Keep by Jonathan Harvey #BookReview

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Told from the point of view of four family members, The Secrets We Keep, by Coronation Street scriptwriter Jonathan Harvey, is a funny and poignant story.

It’s hard being that woman, the one whose husband disappeared. It’s made me quite famous. I just wish it was for something else.

He went out five years ago for a pint of milk and never came back. So here I am with a daughter who blames me for all that’s wrong in the world, a son trying his best to pick up the pieces and a gaggle of new neighbours who are over friendly, and incredibly nosy.

Then I find a left luggage ticket in the pocket of one of his old coats and suddenly I’m thinking . . . What if he’s not dead? What if he’s still out there somewhere?

You think you have the perfect life, the perfect kids, and then it’s all turned inside out. What if I don’t like what I find? And is it a chance I’m willing to take?

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star three and a half

The Secrets We Keep is a character-driven story and is told through the voices of all four members of the Bioletti family. At the start of the novel Danny is standing on the cliff and it’s a long time waiting before I found out if he really killed himself and why. Why would he do this to his wife and children? This novel focuses on much more than on the missing person of this family though.

16 year old daughter Cally is dreaming of becoming a famous model and wants to take her first steps in the business after being discovered by a scout, even though her mother Natalie wants her to focus on getting a degree first. She’s headstrong though and she will fight for her dream to come true. Her gay older brother Owen is in a relationship with Matty and he struggles with his relationship. Cally often gave jibes to her brother about his being gay but I know she never meant it in a derogatory manner, she was just this cheeky teen. It was totally cool as far as I’m concerned.

Don’t let the luggage ticket fool you, it is this discovery that makes Natalie spring into action but I never actually found out what was in the luggage or why he left both luggage and ticket behind. It is only a means to crack the story open and while Natalie is finding out her husband Danny kept some things from her the author dives into Danny’s past. Danny recounts his life from the time he was a young boy and this section of the novel was the most compelling for me. His teenage life was very hard, he even slept on the streets before meeting Natalie and I felt for him in these sections. It also felt like he loved her the minute he saw her so it was a big mystery to me why he would walk out on his family.

I sort of received an answer in the end why he did what he did but it didn’t entirely satisfy me. The sympathy he had built up was slowly evaporating. He could have gotten a divorce surely if he wanted an escape. Then at least his wife and kids would have had closure and known what had happened to him.

The last 20 pages or so also felt a little rushed and it wasn’t wrapped up like I would have wanted it. Owen receives an important visit for example but you don’t know how that unfolds anymore. The lingering feeling after I finished reading remains that Danny is quite egoistic and thinks only of himself which is a bit disappointing after all.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Cruise by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

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A glamorous ship
During a New Year’s Eve party on a large, luxurious cruise ship in the Caribbean, the ship’s dancer, Lola, goes missing.

Everyone on board has something to hide
Two weeks later, the ship is out of service, laid up far from land with no more than a skeleton crew on board. And then more people start disappearing…

No one is safe
Why are the crew being harmed? Who is responsible? And who will be next?

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

This is the second novel I read by this author and after having been impressed with her debut novel The Chalet I couldn’t resist this new mystery set in another secluded location. I’ve not been on a cruise ship yet but the author seemed to know the ins and outs of life on a cruise ship so well and described it so vividly that I almost feel as if I’ve been on one after reading this novel.

The Cruise didn’t let me down, just like last time I was completely engrossed in the chapters set in the past, while the present was puzzling and addictive.

There’s the story of a 15 year old girl named Laura raised by her father. She’s not held captive literally but she has no contact at all with the outside world. This already heartwrenching background of this teenage girl pulled on my heartstrings even more when the consequences of such a life manifest themselves.

Then on New Year’s Eve on the ship there’s one of the staff members missing but reported seen falling overboard, and when the ship is docked for two months before going on their next tour in the Carribean with only a skeleton crew aboard, there’s a murder. The ship’s doctor Stuart, chef Alice and one of the cleaners slash the other part of the trapeze dancer duo, Antonio provide the necessary intrigue in alternating chapters and it seems they all have some secrets they keep close to their hearts. There’s plenty of mystery and secrets which are ultimately unearthed in the last part of the novel so that kept me well on my toes.

The two plotlines were so far removed from each other but it is exactly that contrast that I love, especially when the pieces start to fall into place. There is a connection between the stories and I really enjoyed getting so much background into one of the characters. It wasn’t the biggest surprise though, the biggest twists were ones that made my loyalties change quite a bit in the end and the fact that an author can change my feelings towards characters is another thing that scores high on my reader satisfaction list :-). I can’t say more but there’s quite a few things happening in the last part and someone is being quite devious!

Overall a very enjoyable murder mystery that kept me well entertained and definitely ticked my boxes. If you enjoyed her previous novels you’re guaranteed to enjoy this one too.

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher to read and review. This is still my honest opinion.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll #BookReview

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Her perfect life is a perfect lie . . . Ani FaNelli is the woman who has it all: the glamorous job, the designer wardrobe, the handsome and rich fiancé. But behind her sharp edges and meticulously crafted facade lies the darkest of pasts . . .

When a documentary producer invites Ani to tell her side of the chilling and violent incident that took place when she was a teenager at the prestigious Bradley school, she hopes it will be an opportunity to prove how far she’s turned her life around since then. She’ll even let the production company film her lavish wedding, the final step in her transformation.

But as the wedding and filming converge, Ani’s past threatens to come back and haunt her. And as her immaculate veneer starts to crack, she is forced to question: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for – or, will it at long last, set Ani free?

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star three and a half

Another title from my backlist that I picked up now because Reese Witherspoon saw something in it and it’s now a major Netflix film starring Mila Kunis. I really wanted to read the novel before watching the movie, but in all honesty I originally bought it years ago because of  the cover love!

Ani (pronounced Ah-nee, not Annie cos that’s too pedestrian for her) is introduced as a shallow and rather nasty character. Obsessed with looks and wealth she’s on the verge of marrying a rich guy, for status rather than love as it seems. It’s hard to like her and I wondered if there was anything that would make me actually interested in getting to know this person better.

There was, lovely reader, there was. The past chapters took me back to her start at The Bradley School, a private school full of snobs and rich kids where she tries to blend in. In order to do that she has to reinvent herself. This desire of hers to be one of them coupled to several events that happened to her in her first year make her the troubled woman she is in the present. It helped to understand and make some allowances for the way she thinks although it didn’t mean she turned my feelings around completely.

The novel gets more compelling with the start of the incident at the school and everything that ensues with the documentary so many years later. At least I felt her emotions while she went through this. There’s another monumental event prior to this that shaped her but the emotions I was expecting to read about were not there. In fact this part was written in quite a detached manner and in the aftermath there’s not much pondering about what happened. She simply pretends nothing happened and she continues being friends with people who are definitely not worth being called friends, but her whole adult life is a testimony that it really did change her. I certainly felt for her but the Ani of the past could have touched me much more deeply if the author had given me her emotions.

Luckiest Girl Alive is a novel about bad things happening to you and coming out the other way. You might seem okay but are you really? The novel involves bullying, abuse and violence when you least expect it. This is definitely a book with trigger warnings.

This novel is compared to Gone Girl but there is no Gone Girl twist so don’t go in expecting a similar experience as Ani is only a woman coping with her past.

* I watched the movie now as well and I had a different experience from reading it. The build up in the novel was much longer with a very cold and snobbish Ani, whereas the movie made me feel more compassion and comprehension for Ani. I’m still not saying she’s the warmest person in the room but I felt they at least shaved off some of it. In the movie it also becomes much sooner clear what the events were, I didn’t have have to wonder repeatedly what had happened in her past (of course I already knew but I still felt the lead up wasn’t so long and mysterious). Then again the scenes about Ben and Arthur in the book had more of an impact on me and at least her friendship with Arthur received more attention, but all in all they stayed quite close to the original and I think it is definitely worth watching.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Poisened At The Priory – The notorious death of Charles Bravo by Antony M Brown #TrueCrime #ColdCaseJury

Poisened at the Priory

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1876. When the newlywed barrister Charles Bravo ingests a rare poison, all evidence suggests suicide.

But in one of the most infamous inquests of all time, a coroner finds it to be an unlawful murder. So, we must ask, what is the truth?

The fourth book in Antony M. Brown’s popular Cold Case Jury series picks apart this notorious case that gripped Victorian Britain – and continues to spark debate to this day. Why did Bravo refuse any help, even when going through agonising pain? Was his wife, with her scandalous past, to blame? Or perhaps it was her former lover, eager to remove his usurper for good… or another sinister hand, moving silently?

In Poisoned at the Priory, Brown compiles the evidence and creates dramatic reconstructions of four main theories of how Charles Bravo may have died – including Agatha Christie’s solution, in her own words, for the very first time.

But was Christie correct? What’s your verdict in this spellbinding case?

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2

If you love murder mysteries, especially if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie type of novels, then this is a must read. This is a true crime novel and not a fictional tale so not knowing what the truth is in the end is both a blessing and a curse because you’ll never know if you were right. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying this novel because I loved the role I was given as member of the Cold Case Jury, trying to make up my own mind about what happened to Charles Bravo. It might sound easy but it was anything but!

This novel is quite extensive, it first took me back in time to the events leading up to the fatal events and then plays out in great detail a few possible scenarios as to what might have happened. Bravo was married to Florence Ricardo née Campbell and only four months after their marriage he became ill and died a few days later of poisoning. Five doctors stood at his deathbed, called upon by his wife Florence, but he couldn’t be saved.

There are a lot of questions surrounding his death that kept my grey cells working overtime. The first question up for debate was how the poison was administered. Was it in the red wine at dinner, or in the water in his room? You would think that this would be easily determined but those were other times and it’s clear that they gave the patient all of their attention at the time but nobody was thinking of looking for evidence or getting to the bottom of it at the most crucial time so we’re looking at opportunity here most of all.

Even though you can’t even even be absolutely sure about this truth, I found this at least the easiest one to come to a conclusion. The hard work was yet to begin: did Bravo poison himself intentionally, or perhaps accidentally? There were statements made that support this if you believe the source. But there are also a number of murder theories to excite the reader involving Florence’s housemaid Jane Cox, Florence’s ex-lover Doctor Gully and Bravo’s wife Florence herself. Whose word to believe and who lied? I couldn’t make up my mind and needed someone else’s opinion.

And opinions I certainly received, none other than Agatha Christie herself offered her opinion on this mystery. Other doctors of that time expressed their opinions as well, and other authors who wrote about this case in the following years, as well as the author of the novel himself of course. There seem to be as many different opinions as people were asked. I loved reading what everyone’s thoughts were!

I know you want to ask me what I think and I’m actually torn between two very different scenarios.  Bravo’s behaviour was not entirely consistent, so I’m keeping Julian Fellow’s opinion also in mind. He actually turned this historical unsolved case into one of five episodes of a televised crime docudrama series in 2004. My main concern about my initial thought is that it was established he was poisened when he was still alive. If you don’t know who poisened you, wouldn’t you want to know who did it and point fingers at someone? He actually never did that, the five doctors would certainly have mentioned it when questioned, so that is weird. The only trouble is that I don’t see why he would take his own life, get rid of any evidence or not admit what he did while he was suffering so much, so I’m hesitantly inclined to consider a murder scenario as well.

Poisoned at the Priory is so perfect for a book club discussion. This novel has such food for thought and I think you could talk hours about it. After finishing the novel readers can cast their own verdict on a special site mentioned on the first page of the novel and see what other readers thought. I entered my own verdict and the rest of the jury is with me: 59% had the same thought and my runner-up scenario was good for the second largest percentage.

Poisened at the Priory is the fourth crime for the Cold Case Jury. The author has researched and substantiated this case thoroughly with witness statements, photos, expert opinions on the poison… and presented it in a very pleasant way to get through these facts (I thought it a great idea to start with the different scenarios and then follow up with evidence). This was an unexpected treat to read and I can’t wait to read the other books in this series!

I received a free paperback copy of this novel from the publisher Mirror Books. This is my honest opinion.

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban #BookReview

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Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

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All Your Twisted Secrets is a slick YA mystery thriller that I decided to read when I learned Urban’s third novel Lying in the Deep (another novel with a locked room setting on a cruise ship), is going to be released in 2023. I’m forever trying to catch up with my tbr pile and I’m so happy I finally took the plunge with her debut. I had a good feeling about this novel and I was right, it made me a happy reader.

Amber finds herself locked up with 5 other teenagers in what she thinks is a dinner that could earn her a scholarship for the school of her dreams. Also present are her boyfriend Robbie, a boy she used to be friends with Diego, Priya who she has fallen out with over her friendship with Sasha, Sasha her newest friend and the one who holds Amber’s future in her hands, and Scott who she doesn’t know very well but who’s rumored to be the school’s drug dealer. In the room with them is a ticking time bomb and a syringe with poison so they have to decide… to kill or be killed. Tick tock!

In alternating chapters there’s on the one hand the panic setting in and heated discussions about who they are going to sacrifice for the group and why, and flashbacks to the past school year where the history between the different characters was explored. The present shows that there’s always a lot more to be discovered when you scratch that surface and so secrets and truths are revealed that consequently have an impact on the group dynamics.

Yes this novel reminded me in a way of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus and they have every right to be named in the same sentence. Maybe I rated that other novel a little higher because I had no idea how that was going to end and I sort of knew here, even though I had some reservations because the threat seemed more than real.. and if they didn’t die from a bomb or poison, it would probably be from the heat in the room or from killing each other in some other way. Even though I knew some of it, All Your Twisted Secrets still had a few more twists up its sleeve that I couldn’t have predicted and that all made up for it. The secrets really intensified towards the end and the last one was definitely the worst. I couldn’t stand one of the characters after this reveal!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading All Your Twisted Secrets, it was an addictive novel that made me want to read one more chapter every time I thought of putting it down for the night. I found myself a new author and I can’t wait to read her next novel!

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Psychopaths Anonymous by Will Carver #AudioBookReview

Psychopaths Anonymous

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Maeve has everything. A high-powered job, a beautiful home and a string of uncomplicated one-night encounters. She’s also an addict – a functioning alcoholic with a dependence on sex and an insatiable appetite for killing men.

When she can’t find a support group to share her obsession, she creates her own. And Psychopaths Anonymous is born. Friends of Maeve.

Now in a serious relationship, Maeve wants to keep the group a secret. But not everyone in the group adheres to the rules, and when a reckless member raises suspicions with the police, Maeve’s drinking spirals out of control. She needs to stop killing. She needs to close the group. But Maeve can’t seem to quit the things that are bad for her, including her new man….

Psychopaths Anonymous is a scathing, violent and darkly funny audiobook about love, connection, obsessions and sex – and the aspects of human nature we’d prefer to hide.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars_1457015465_81_246_96_2

This is my second novel by this author and I bought the audiobook with my last Audible credit. I thought I started off on the wrong foot with the first one but now I’m having to admit that this author is probably not a match for me.

First of all, I have come to realize that I prefer books with a clear and predictable structure, a question at the start of a novel waiting for an answer, a heads up on what mystery needs to be solved. I however got into this novel without anything to hold on to except the 12 steps of AA. But where will it lead after reaching step 12, what is the purpose of the story? After a good part of the story, when it dawned on me what ticked Maeve’s boxes, I was questioning if she would get caught as a serial killer, who the next victim would be, and if she would kill her sexual partner in the end, but her overall thoughts didn’t really interest me as much as wanted them to.

Lots of people are fascinated by psychopaths and how their brain works, as am I, and I probably read and watched a few too many romanticized versions where you can find some redeeming qualities in the characters because there was nothing sympathetic about Maeve. I’m definitely not ‘A Friend of Maeve’ in any way. She’s this know-it-all alcoholic psychopath who joins several group meetings (including AA with the intent to steal some ideas for her own group meeting of Psychopaths Anonymous) because she loves other people’s misery and it obviously feeds her feelings of superiority. I didn’t like Maeve at all, but it might be more worrisome if I did.

Psychopaths Anonymous is not for the faint of heart. Even I found it quite crude when Maeve describes one of her murders in gruesome detail, I must be turning soft now I’m a year older. There is a big dose of violence, alcohol and sex within these pages but I’m somewhat surprised myself that what probably bothered me most were her opinions on God and faith. It was a recurring theme and it didn’t sit well with me how she ridiculed people who find support and solace in their belief. Each to their own of course, and I’m an atheist as well but it felt quite harsh and repetitive.

I looked up the traits of a psychopath and she’s a 100% perfect fit so the author did a great job. I won’t spoil where this story is going to go and if she’s able to keep on hiding body parts in her freezer from Seth, the one person she doesn’t grow tired of. I don’t know what the chances are in real life of this ending happening as it was in this novel, but as far as fictional worlds go, I have to say I’m feeling ok with the way the author ended things for Maeve. I don’t regret sticking to it till the end because I simply had to know how it was going to be wrapped up but in all honesty I probably won’t give it a third shot.

I bought an copy of this audiobook. This is my honest opinion.

Reasons To Go Outside by Esme King #BookReview

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Pearl Winter hasn’t been outside in forty-three years.

Since she arrived on Dartmoor as a girl, an isolated family cottage has been her whole world. A place of safety. But now fifty-nine-year-old Pearl is utterly alone – except for the postman, the local crows, and memories of the summer of 1976.

Teenager Connor Matthews feels like a stranger in his own home.

Since his mother’s death he’s been adrift from his remaining family, troubled by the reality of moving on, and unable to see a future ahead. But when Connor begins a summer job as Pearl’s gardener, an unexpected friendship opens the door to a fresh start for them both. If only Pearl and Connor can take the first steps . . .

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I received an invitation to read this novel so that’s how it got on my radar but I was doing just fine reading my backlist so I declined the offer. It didn’t let me go however and I kept thinking about it because the main character’s agoraphobia intrigued me, so I ended up buying an ecopy anyway.

The novel starts in August 1976 with 16 year old Pearl, her mother Lana and stepfather Ray in a car, arriving at their new home Highview. Pearl then already struggles to get from the car to the front door, she knows she won’t step a foot outside after their arrival and unbelievably so, her resolution becomes true.

Jumping to the present, Pearl is 60 years old. She spends her days cleaning, reading, feeding the crows from a distance, and as for exercise she walks the stairs up and down. But her parents have passed away and now the garden really needs tending. 18 year-old Connor answers her ad because he loves the outdoors and gardening and soon enough he comes inside and she feeds him cake, they start talking and even with the major age gap a warm friendship starts to develop between them. Sometimes all you need is for someone not to judge right? In other chapters there’s Nate who was made redundant at the insurance company after 30 years of loyalty. He finds himself making new friends too at the Happy Tails Rescue Centre, with the four-legged ones and others.

I loved how Pearl and Nate’s characters grew and found happiness, they each have a set of wonderful side characters. Unfortunately it doesn’t change Pearl into going outside or Nate from wanting to be on his own. In flashbacks I learned how Pearl and Nate knew each other quite well when they were teenagers. It was a mystery why they hadn’t stayed in touch because they still think about each other after all this time and there’s a longing that is quite endearing. You have to imagine though that times were different when she left, the means to stay in touch were not the same as nowadays, there was no mobile phone or internet, and it’s not that her parents didn’t seek help for Pearl’s conditions but the professional help back then was not at all what it would be today, so she didn’t get the help she needed basically.

I believed Nate would be the one to get her to go outside again, if only they could find each other again. But I was surprised that it is someone else who for the very first time gives her an incentive to want to venture outside. I’m not telling more but there is definitely a nasty turn of events that ultimately has a positive effect too. I also finally received an answer to the question I had been asking myself from the start, which is what had happened that made her this way. It all made sense suddenly and it made me feel quite sad for Pearl so there’s definitely not only happy but also some sad moments to be found in this novel.

Summing this novel up I’d say it’s a heart-warming and uplifting novel of friendship and love!

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan #BookReview

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Lydia Smith lives a quiet life, spent in the company of her colleagues and customers at the bookstore where she works. But when Joey Molina, a young and mysterious regular, hangs himself in the bookstore and leaves Lydia secret messages hidden in the pages of his books, her world starts to unravel.

Why did Joey do it?

What did he know?

And what does it have to do with Lydia?

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Well how could I not go for this novel? Fiction about books and bookstores is like dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit so I readily gave into the temptation of buying this novel when I saw it was on sale at my local bookstore (which is sadly now closed for good), especially when I read the back flap. Thrown in the mix is a past murder mystery and a recent mystifying suicide, and the promise of hidden messages that need to be solved. This sounds like a perfect recipe to me!

Lydia is a bookseller at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. She keeps her past very much to herself, nobody knows that she was a final girl when she was only 10 years old, the only survivor of a mass murder.  She feels a special affection for Joey, one of the store’s misfits – they are often non-customers but she enjoys their presence – so it is shocking that she finds him dead on the first floor. What is also shocking is the photo she finds poking out of his pocket, of her and two of her friends when she was a teenager, before the terrible events that happened to her. How did he get this photo? What were those terrible events? Why did he commit suicide?

Much to her surprise she is handed his meager possessions, mostly books, and while she’s looking through them she notices something off about them. It seems Joey used his books to leave her message and she is eager find out what he meant to tell her, if she can find out how to decipher the clues.

I enjoyed the way the author managed to hide messages in the books and while I could only imagine how it would work I could read the message the way she found it in the books, so I still had part of the fun.

Of course there’s also the photo, the link to her past. I enjoyed the gradual reveal of Lydia’s memories and finding out more about that fatal day until finally the horrific scene is played out. It still didn’t explain the current events though. It took until the last part of the novel to discover how Joey’s tied into this and I have to say that I’m impressed with the twists and turns, which ultimately gave him the reason to take his own life.

The only remarks I could make about this story is that I didn’t understand why she wasn’t talking to her father, if it was to create mystery and suspicion towards him at the start it didn’t have the intended effect on me. Her relationship with David also didn’t hold any value to me and I don’t know why he was added, she could have been single just as well. Was it only to demonstrate how hard she found it to trust someone? It certainly felt hollow to me and David never became an interesting character. Other than those minor notes I think this is a very enjoyable debut novel. It starts off as a bit quirky but it develops into a far darker and complex story then I expected so I was pleasantly surprised it was so engrossing. I wouldn’t mind at all reading another novel by this author.

I bought a paperback of this novel. This is my honest opinion.