The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts #BookReview

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The Plus One [n] informal a person who accompanies an invited person to a wedding or a reminder of being single, alone and absolutely plus none

Polly’s not looking for ‘the one’, just the plus one…
Polly Spencer is fine. She’s single, turning thirty and only managed to have sex twice last year (both times with a Swedish banker called Fred), but seriously, she’s fine. Even if she’s still stuck at Posh! magazine writing about royal babies and the chances of finding a plus one to her best friend’s summer wedding are looking worryingly slim.

But it’s a New Year, a new leaf and all that. Polly’s determined that over the next 365 days she’ll remember to shave her legs, drink less wine and generally get her s**t together. Her latest piece is on the infamous Jasper, Marquess of Milton, undoubtedly neither a plus one nor ‘the one’. She’s heard the stories, there’s no way she’ll succumb to his charms…

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star three and a half

This is a perfect summer read to ‘put your feet up and relax’. The Plus One has a high Bridget Jones vibe although Polly is a much cooler and fun person than Bridget and she’s certainly not as clumsy and insecure, so I think I actually like her a whole lot more!

She doesn’t have the most interesting job at a magazine called Posh! but I must say it did make for some very entertaining reading. Her job includes writing articles about the new IT-dog (because the rich have an obsession for horses, and dogs come a close second), finding baby scans so they know who the little ones can become friends with when born, to being sent to places she’d normally never go for the best scoop… like interviewing the new singleton marquess at his parent’s castle, or attending ‘special and top secret’ parties frequented by people of the high classes.

It is going to sound very weird coming from me ‘of all people’ because you must know how I feel about explicit sexual scenes in novels by now. To recap: knowing they’re in there is enough reason for me not to read a novel BUT in The Plus One they were actually one of my favorite parts. Why? Well I’m not sure I can explain this very well, it’s not that they were superhot, they were actually quite the opposite of the usually perfectly orchestrated ‘we end up in bed and suddenly all clothes are off without any mention of the inevitable bra hook problem’ and the ‘everyone’s conveniently bathed and shaved while sex was not to be expected’. It’s more that everything that could go wrong, really went wrong there and I believe that’s actually why I enjoyed them so much. The Plus One isn’t full of fairytales… although now that I think of it, the book does include a castle, a sheikh, a gold bath, bidet and loo seat… but at least in the bedroom department, when it comes down to it, it was hilarious and brutally honest :-). The many struggles and thoughts flashing through Polly’s head were super funny and made me snort OUT LOUD. Yep, damn this book.

“I always get nervous with these conversations about what one is into versus what one is absolutely not into. Like when a man asks ‘What is your fantasy?’ and you want to say ‘A film on the sofa and a grab bag of Maltesers’, but you have to think up some implausible positions and say you like dressing up as a naughty optician because that’s what you think they want to hear.”

I think you get the idea what type of novel it is :-). If you read this you’re bound to get along with and root for Polly. Now there is a very serious health issue in this novel as well which makes it sometimes a bit more serious but overall this is just a fun chicklit novel that will transport you to a whole other world. I came to realise that even the rich and famous don’t have the perfect lives and you can find sleazebags in every layer of society :-). I was a fan of the colorful cast in the novel, her gay roommate Joe, best friend Lex, colleagues Lala and Legs, old friend Bill, but I would have liked to see their own lives more in detail too and missed a bit more intrigue and drama perhaps. The ending left me completely satisfied though, I saw what was coming but was very happy the way it ended.

I received a free paperback copy from the publisher, HQ, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas #BookReview

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COULD YOUR DREAM HOME BE YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE?

After what happened in London, Kirsty needs a fresh start with her family.
And running a guesthouse in the Welsh mountains sounds idyllic.

But then their first guest arrives.
Selena is the last person Kirsty wants to see.
It’s seventeen years since she tore everything apart.

Why has she chosen now to walk back into Kirsty’s life?
Is Selena running from something too?
Or is there an even darker reason for her visit?

Because Kirsty knows that once you invite trouble into your home, it can be murder getting rid of it . . .

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star three and a half

I had very high expectations of this novel after reading Last Seen Alive, which was one of my favorite reads last year. It’s always difficult to live up to that expection so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I was feeling it just wasn’t as twisty compared to last time. I remember feeling actually shocked by the revelations in Last Seen Alive but that shock-effect with everything being turned upside down didn’t really make it into this one for me since I was able to foresee at least some of it. Am I getting just too good at this thing, it could also be a possibility :-).

Kirsty’s family of four moved to Wales to get a new start and they’re starting a b&b with her mother. As if that’s not enough eggshells to walk on, her mother invites Selena to stay, the niece she has cut out of her life for 17 years because she’s such a liar. They are adults now though and when Kirsty sees her with her daughter Ruby, her heart softens and she has to wonder if it’s time to put the past in the past. Do Not Disturb brings this estranged family back together, adding also her brother and his wife into the mix, and it was great seeing all the underlying tensions and secrets they kept from one another. Finding out why Kirsty and Selena fell out of love and out of touch kept me very busy, it was all very mysterious and things remained unspoken for quite a while. The author then adds an extra dash of creepiness by letting a few strange things occur in the house which make you wonder what exactly is going on and where the threat is coming from.

Do Not Disturb was a compelling read that is more than just a thriller or murder mystery. It’s about life as a family and I really appreciated how all the secrets and the façade of their splendid lives was slowly peeled away to its core. I found many ugly truths and tragedy in the end. But as I said, I did anticipate some of it and my instincts also told me to read certain scenes with a good dose of suspicion and it proved I was right on at least one major issue. I also kind of felt how it was going to end and I would have liked to have seen another culprit really. There were plenty of secrets and lots to discover and it’s definitely a good thriller that kept me well entertained but it’s not the novel that I would recommend most if you haven’t read any of her novels yet. I do look forward to reading her next one though because I’ve already seen what she can pull off!

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

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Holly Seddon #BookReview

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Fearing eternal singledom, childhood friends Kate and Paul make the age-old vow that if they don’t find love by thirty, they will marry each other.

Years later, with the deadline of their 30th birthdays approaching, the unlikely couple decide to keep their teenage promise. After all, they are such good friends. Surely that’s enough to make a marriage?

Now, on the eve of their 10th wedding anniversary, they will discover that love between men and women is more complex, and more precarious, than they could ever have imagined.

As Kate struggles with a secret that reaches far into their past, will the couple’s vow become the very thing that threatens their future?

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Love Will Tear Us Apart is a novel that has its entire focus on Kate, Paul, their children and their own parents.

It’s a novel built up with time shifts, starting with the moment Kate and Paul met at the tender age of 13 up and up to now, celebrating their 10 year wedding anniversary. Well, there’s not really a festive mood and it seems all is related to a mysterious letter Kate found.

I would call this novel a descriptive family saga. I can’t say this was a love story… I wondered more than once where the love was. I didn’t really feel it from Kate’s side, at any given moment in her life which made me feel sad in her place. I didn’t see any tell-tale signs between Kate and Paul, any tentative gestures or touching by accident, nothing like that and I knew they were good together as friends but I wondered when love would change them.

I actually really liked everything about the mystery in the novel but I wasn’t really waiting to hear every single thing that happened in Kate’s life. I enjoyed reading how they became friends and how their friendship developed in the beginning of the novel, and I loved Viv, Paul’s mother who took Kate into her house and treated her like she was her own daughter. But as the novel went along it became a bit tedious having to read everything that followed and happened in her life, from her first steps into university, her first job and everything that came with it, her life felt rather depressing and I felt the focus was off.

I was more interested in that moment where they – childhood friends – finally fell in love, how they got to this point  and especially what was in the letter which was brought up so many times. There was A LOT of build up to finding out what was in that letter! Some readers had expected more of it but it didn’t disappoint me, it was a good secret. Will they stay together or not after the contents of the letter are revealed though? Will love rule after all? My lips are sealed :-).

I was happy I got to read this novel through receiving daily staves. It really helped me to stay curious and not rush through the novel to get to the ending more quickly. I’d recommend this novel to readers who like to hear the life-story of their characters and truly enjoy reading family sagas.

I received a copy of this novel via The Pigeonhole. This is my honest opinion.

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.

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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.

 

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 . . .

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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…

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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.