The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway by Rhys Thomas #BookReview

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Sam Holloway has survived the worst that life can throw at you. But he’s not really living. His meticulous routines keep everything nice and safe – with just one exception . . .

Three nights a week, Sam dons his superhero costume and patrols the streets. It makes him feel invincible – but his unlikely heroics are getting him into some sticky situations.

Then a girl comes along and starts to shatter the walls Sam has built around himself. Now, he needs to decide if he’s brave enough to take off the mask, and to confront the grief he’s been avoiding for so long . . .

Hilarious and heart-warming, this is a story about grief, loneliness, and the life-changing power of kindness.

amazon uk amazon com

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Sam is 26, lives in his immaculately clean house, has 2 equally geeky friends and he works in the factory of a Japanase wholesaler where he’s a model employee. At night he’s roaming the streets (in a ridiculous costume) and although his actions are limited to helping elderly ladies with their shopping or bringing lost dogs back home, he feels good with these little helpful acts. Good people doing good deeds definitely applies to Sam.. but when he falls in love, everything is jeopardized and in danger of falling apart, including the safe, simple life he carefully built up. It all starts to unravel and while he is used to coping on his own, he might need some help to deal with the setbacks he comes across. Sometimes help does come from the people you least expect it from. One of the people reaching out and helping him was definitely a surprise but I cheered when I realised he was actually getting help from someone in his corner!

It took me a while to get into this novel but Sam did grow on me as the story developed and in the end I genuinly cared and I wanted him to overcome the past. The episodes of ‘The Phantasm’ were at first quirky and funny – as a parody on old heroes like batman –  but behind Sam as the masked man lies a tragedy slowly revealing itself as the story progressed. There was a shift at a certain moment from which point I started to understand more clearly why he felt like he needed this alter ago. The general hilarity of it all changed everything with the new insights. His background and the trauma which he dealt with on his own definitely shed a different light on his actions. There’s a reason why he feels best when he’s in character and why he simply can’t hang up his costume, even after he hears his love interest say she thinks The Phantasm is ridiculous, and it was sad and I felt heavy-hearted hearing what life had thrown at him.

There was a good mix of laughter and pain in this novel. His backstory was very tragic, well thought-out and the best part of the novel for me. Unfortunately that’s also probably what I will remember in a few month’s time and the first part of the novel won’t hang in my head as long.. it was so cartoonish at times that I had a hard time imagining this character could be a real person. So to end I’d say I liked it, but didn’t love it. A commendable debut and if you have a bit more fantasy than me, you might love it.

I received a free copy of this novel from publisher Wildfire in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

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The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke #BookReview

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A SENSELESS MURDER. A TERRIFYING LEGEND. A FAMILY HAUNTED.

1990: In the darkest woods, three girls devote themselves to a sinister figure.

2000: A young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter.

2018: A teenage girl is charged with murder, and her trial will shock the world.

Three chilling events, connected by the shadow he casts.

He is the Tall Man. He can make you special…

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star three and a half

The Tall Man turned out to be a very creepy and unsettling read. I couldn’t make head or tale of what was going on and my mind was begging for the answer to that question which didn’t leave my mind for a minute when reading: who is The Tall Man? Is he someone real? Is it the legend that became ingrained in Sadie’s mind and is it possible he’s only a figment of her imagination that she takes for real? Is it linked to a  post-natal depression? The novel is set up to confuse and confuse it certainly did. I didn’t mind not knowing though and the author did a terrific job balancing that fine line, making me wonder. The suggestion was superb and your own fantasy and imagination will do lots of the work, which is of course the strength of the plot. Locke makes it easy enough with her smart writing, she really masters this and even I was not sure what to think and believe.

The story is somewhat of a slow build but really delivers when it comes to the two big reveals.

It was a great idea to insert the documentary makers, reporting and questioning Sadie’s daughter Amber. She was tried for murder and Phoebe Locke left me guessing for so long about the identity of the person she murdered and the motive she had for doing so! Amber was for me the most interesting character of the novel. I was however a bit disappointed I didn’t get to find out more about the documentary makers following her. There’s no background story of Greta and Federica but I had the feeling there was something to tell there as well.. I’m sure they had some interesting secrets but they both held out so I didn’t find out.

I very much enjoyed how this novel ended, the final chapters managed to really blow up in my face, it was so good. The ending only threw me completely off balance. I did find it strange that the focus was on The Tall Man for so long and then in the final disclosure so much other stuff suddenly came to the surface, out of nowhere I might add, which became relevant to the story and was actually so great and astonishing to hear that it instantly became so much more intriguing than what Sadie saw or heard in the shadows. I felt a bit cheated by The Tall Man and his mystery became a bit anticlimatic. I’m sorry for being so vague but I certainly don’t want to spoil it all and you’ll have to read it for yourself to see what he’s made of.

I received a free copy of this novel through daily staves on The PigeonHole website. This is my honest opinion.

Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton #BookReview

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Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road.

She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. And very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance, arrive and she sees her own body that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead.

But what is she supposed do now?

Lily has no option but to follow her body and sees her family – her parents and her twin brother – start falling apart. And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .

amazon uk amazon com

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star three and a half

It must be karma because while I was finishing this novel, something very sad happened to someone at work. One day he’s there, the next he’s not.. gone in the blink of an eye, much like Lily in this novel.

I’m not one to believe in an afterlife or staying around on earth (although I did really love the movie Ghost) but I actually found some comfort in the story as I imagined my colleague following everyone around and still being near. Sometimes you just find it in unexpected places when you need it. If you are struggling with feelings of grief, having difficulties letting a loved one go, then this is a nice novel to lose yourself into and draw some strength and positive thoughts from in the end.

Sunflowers in February touches subjects as spirituality and life after death but all in a charmingly funny way. It’s a book about trying to hold on – and Lily is quite literally holding on to her old life by claiming her brother’s body – but also about letting go. I had some problems with Lily’s selfish choice to take what wasn’t hers and putting her brother in her own shoes. She also didn’t make much of an effort either acting like a boy. Imagine your brother squeeling over a pair of shoes, ahum. So sometimes she did irritate me a little bit and I thought I would do better (not that I’ve ever tried mind). If it was an effort at being hilariously funny then it was maybe somewhat cheeky and humourous but not in a laughing out loud kind of way but I felt the story didn’t need it really or it was perhaps not something I was looking for in that moment so that’s probably why I also liked the story more towards the ending. In the final part she’s more reflective and appreciative of everybody and you can feel the warmth of her family and her friends even though they don’t know she’s there.

Overall, this was a light and humurous read which started out from a horrific situation but was beautifully turned around and left me with a heart-warming and satisfying feeling.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

If You Go Down to the Woods by Seth C. Adams #BookReview

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We were so young when it all happened. Just 13-years-old, making the most of the long, hot, lazy days of summer, thinking we had the world at our feet. That was us – me, Fat Bobby, Jim and Tara – the four members of the Outsiders’ Club.

The day we found a burnt-out car in the woods was the day everything changed. Cold, hard cash in the front seat, and a body in the trunk… it started out as a mystery we were desperate to solve.

Then, the Collector arrived. He knew we had found his secret. And suddenly, our summer of innocence turned into the stuff of nightmares.

Nothing would ever be the same again…

amazon uk amazon com

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I read somewhere that this novel is perfect for fans of IT and TV Show Stranger Things. I haven’t read or watched either so I can’t comment on this but as a reference point for myself, I’d say that this novel is a mix of The Goonies meets Pulp Fiction. I can see both parts clearly before my eyes. I know it sounds like a strange combination but the novel did start out as a young adult novel, suited for younger readers even more perhaps, and then morphed in the end into a much darker read with quite a violent plotline. I was really lulled into a secure and safe feeling because yes there were plenty of threats and angst that the main character Joey feels but hey he’s a young kid and he apparantly pees his pants when he’s afraid,.. so it’s not so strange perhaps that I kind of went into complete shock with the turn of events in the end!

What I really did like though was the writing in this novel, the author has a very pleasant style, and I enjoyed the author’s (or Joey’s) way of telling the story. He’s sharing a story about that one summer in his life, a summer that starts with great friendships being made, of falling in love for the first time all sweet and innocent, but then a sequence of small decisions made him grow up a lot faster than he wanted to. The novel started off very strongly and I was certain I had a five star read in my hands but my excitement died down a little… maybe it was meant to be really suspenseful and threatening when this bunch of kids encountered the Collector but I didn’t really feel the adrenaline pumping, yet in the end the author certainly made up for that and my heart rate must have been the equivalent of running a marathon because I was really scared then for Joey and the rest.

Another thing that really made me want to keep on reading were actually the members of the Outsiders’ Club, a very diverse bunch of kids. There’s a black kid who knows how to shoot a gun, a fat kid who’s used to bullying, and a beautiful tomboy girl who isn’t scared of anything. I loved their personalities and seeing their friendship develop but the one that really stole my heart was Bandit, Joey’s dog. Bandit goes everywhere with him and I held my heart that he wouldn’t die from the moment I read about him and yes, it’s a sin I know but I skipped to the end to see if I could still see his name written there… I’d have been devasted to see him die. There were almost human qualities attributed to him, he understands Joey so well and he was such a lovely character!

I don’t want to give the impression that this was a bad read but I think I’d have rated it a lot higher if the author had chosen a more linear style of writing, going all the way dark or not. I don’t know if everybody will feel this way because I might be more difficult than some when it comes to crossing genres but this is my personal opinion. I also would have liked more background and more exlaining on what was actually the greatest mystery of all: the car and the body in the car. There’s a lot (if not all) left unexplained and I wasn’t entirely satisfied that this intriguing part of the story was left unexplored.

Long story short: the title should definitely have been Don’t Go Down To The Woods!

Next week on the blog tour I’m sharing a guestpost from the author with you! I also received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. 

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig #BookReview #BookAtBedtime

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“The first rule is that you don’t fall in love, ‘ he said… ‘There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'”

A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live.

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.

amazon uk amazon com

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star three and a half

How to Stop Time is the first audiobook ever that I completed. I think the narrator, Tom Hollander, had as much to do with it as the story itself because his smooth velvety voice was wonderful to listen to and and made the story interesting and come alive through his different voices.

Tom Hazard tells his life story in How to Stop Time and it’s not one I’ve ever heard before. My god this man has seen it all, lived it all and now I felt like I had the privilige to hear it from someone first hand. This is someone’s intriguing life history that I became privy of, hearing it from him first hand instead of from the history books. It makes all the difference!

Tom Hazard is a man who looks like he’s about 41 but is more than 400 years old in reality. He has a rare condition that makes him visibly age one year for every 15 years that pass. Should we be envious of him though? He has to change locations every 8 years because it would become awkward otherwise and people could remark that he’s not changing, and what about love? If you happen to find love and you know that person will be taken from you, that will inevitably become a burden to bear and I don’t know who suffers most from it in the end.

I was transported into time, even going so far back to a time where witchhunts were real, a time where Tom meets historical characters and can tell first-hand about how it was to meet the icons of that time. Tom doesn’t see his condition as a gift however but he has promised two people to keep on living and so he does. But the secret society has made him promise not to fall in love. The heart can’t stop time either but he’ll have learned a valuable lesson in the end about life and living.

I’m not normally one to read historical reads and I don’t know if I would have appreciated the novel as much if I would have read it but as an audiobook this really was interesting and it just really worked. I’ve decided to rate this novel with 3.5 stars though because even when I liked it so much and I even contemplated a 4 star rating at first, I don’t see myself rereading or listing to this book again in the end, so that’s why I’m settling on the current rating. If historical fiction is your genre however then definitely check it out, you’ll find it very enjoyable.

I listened to this audiobook on BBC Radio4 – Book At Bedtime. 

The Intruder by P.S. Hogan #BookReview

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William Heming is an estate agent. He’s kept a copy of every key to every house he’s ever sold. Sometimes he visits them. He lets himself in when the owners are out. But what will happen if he gets caught?

What will he do next?

amazon uk

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star three and a half

William Heming seems like a righteous man at first but looks can be oh so deceiving and don’t I love it!  That hidden side of people is so fascinating to discover and what’s better than a voyeuristic side of one’s personality to explore? His voyeurism doesn’t apply to people though, there’s no funny business, but he likes to look at people’s lives and homes.. the things that really tell a story about them. Now if you’re following the voyeur around, do you become one yourself then too :-)? I must assume so. I didn’t really mind slipping inside and looking into the houses myself so hmm maybe everyone has a little bit of that side in him or her and that’s why this novel is so fascinating?

It’s actually quite funny how Heming thinks of himself as a ‘concerned citizen’ and a model for the community and succeeded so well in making me wonder if he’s really bad or just someone harmless with a few quirks. I wouldn’t find it okay either if people didn’t pick up their dog’s poo or would damage a car’s mirror and just leave without taking responsibility for it. He wants to do something about it and even though it is wrong in every way I couldn’t help but feel somehow relieved someone wanted to right a wrong.

That feeling diminished however the further I went into the story and I realised he really had a nasty side. It’s not that Heming became unhinged because his personality never really changes throughout the novel, he is who he is, but while he cleverly holds up the façade for his co-workers, I became more intimate with his true self and he’s so creepy in his ways of addressing the reader and stating what the obvious for him, defending his ways as if they are normal.

I am simply sharing an experience, a life as it happens. Think of me as an invisible brother or uncle or boyfriend. I’m no trouble. I may be there when you are, or when you’re gone, or more likely just before you arrive. I agree it is an idea that takes some getting used to.

The novel slowly reveals not only what an oddball he is but also how his actions of spying on people, of lurking in the shadows and tresspassing started in his childhood. The author goes back and forth and while he’s trying to convince me of his harmlessness his childhood is slowly starting to make me doubt him.

His actions and his focus of attention become highly worrying, both for him as for his mark, a girl he lays eyes on and he’s smitten with from the moment he sees her red cape, just like Little Red Ridinghood. What he doesn’t see though is that he would be the Big Bad Wolf :-). I can’t tell you how the plot evolves but it does get a bit out of hand and dangerous and he’ll have to try to jump through a lot of hoops to keep himself the unsuspicious guy he’s been for most of his life. The ending did feel a tad anticlimatic for me because I expected maybe an extra twist as a final topping on an ice sundae but it wasn’t a bad ending per se. It makes you think even more about what you don’t know that is going on under your own nose.

This was a great unsettling read, very character-driven, and Heming was fascinating to read about. He felt quite real and his way of talking to the reader directly didn’t miss its effect.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Widow by Fiona Barton and The Confession by Jo Spain #BookReviews

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What’s it about?

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…

But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.

Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

amazon uk amazon com

Review

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The Widow is a story about what recently widowed Jeanie has got to say about her husband after he died. Her husband was suspected of kidnapping a little girl named Bella and a few days after he’s passed away she opens the door to reporter Kate and agrees to an interview. Before we get to the interview we get flashbacks to when it all began, the day that little Bella went missing and everything that happened afterwards which made her husband a suspect.

The Widow isn’t full of twists and turns and didn’t send a thrill or even shivers through my body but I was invested in the investigation even if I willed them sometimes not to be shortsighted. This was mostly a police procedural type of book for me and partly a character driven novel about Jean’s marriage with a very domineering man. Jean herself is a woman with little personality and not the most likeable character either despite what she had to endure with that husband of hers.

I expected a bit more from the ending as well, once we finally got to what I was waiting for, it was over very soon. Overall an okay read but I missed a bit of twists and turns and I’m not sure these slow burning type of books are really my cup of tea.

If you like this one you’re certainly going to like The Confession too!

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

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What’s it about?

You find out who did it on the very first page. On the last page, you’ll find out why. 

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.

Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn’t know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry’s many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?

This gripping psychological thriller will have you questioning, who – of Harry, Julie and JP – is really the guilty one? And is Carney’s surrender driven by a guilty conscience or is his confession a calculated move in a deadly game?

amazon uk amazon com

Review

star three and a half

It’s actually kind of funny but one of the reasons I was attracted to this novel was because I thought it was a very orginal starting point for a novel, giving up the person responsible right from the start, and yet I was still kind of waiting for the twist. Deep down I wouldn’t have been surprised if he – the killer who came forward – retracted his story or that he didn’t do it at all. It’s so silly that I’m conditioned like that when it comes to reading thrillers. Another thought I had was that it would have been some kind of a hesaid/shesaid story, where you have to find out who’s telling the truth about what happened but it was not like this, it’s actually pretty straightforward from the beginning.

The Confession is told through 3 POV’s: the detective, the victim’s wife Julie and the attacker JP. The main goal is to find out WHY. JP confessed but he told the detective he didn’t know the man, so what could possibly be his motive then?

To know this we go back to the very beginning, to when Julie met her husband in college and to JP’s miserable childhood. His mother was an alcoholic who always fell for the wrong guys, there was abuse and neglect and JP had to take care of his sister and see he could feed them both. It was very easy to start sympathizing with him, even after I read a really gruesome and violent opening chapter where he just bashed someone with a golf club. On the other side I found it harder to sympathize with Julie and her enigmatic husband. Julie’s weak and they are both money-grabbing people.

I was still interested in the why of it all but it was becoming harder to care for the victims. Slowly the net tightens and this is where the really good part started for me, when it finally becomes clear what made them cross paths. It’s even getting better when Julie has a confrontation with JP to find out for herself. That conversation between the two of them was highly entertaining and absolutely gripping! It really ends on a high note and I did feel oddly satisfied with the way the story went and was concluded.

If you like this one, I recommend you read The Widow too!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher through Netgalley and this is my honest opinion.