Friday 31 July 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | The Storm by Amanda Jennings

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The Storm by Amanda Jennings - 5/5 ★★★★★

Years before, in the midst of a relentless storm, the tragic events of one night changed everything. And Hannah has been living with the consequences ever since. Keeping Nathan happy. Doing as she’s told.

But the past is about to catch up with them.


Hannah is married to highly-esteemed lawyer Nathan Cardew and they have a teenage son called Alex. They live in a beautiful house in Cornwall that once belonged to Nathan's parents. Their marriage is far from perfect though. Nathan is controlling, makes Hannah show him receipts for everything she buys and she doesn't even have her own bank account or passport. But the full story runs much deeper.

The chapters alternate between the points of view of Hannah, Nathan and Hannah's old boyfriend, fisherman Cam Stewart, back in 1998. It is very obvious to us that Hannah loved Cam but something tragic happened which led to Hannah choosing Nathan and settling down with him, never to see Cam again...until Alex goes missing and brings Cam back into her life.

I absolutely loved this book. Nathan is a character that you just hate from the start and you feel very sorry for Hannah having to live the way she does. We are fed information about what happened and why she does put up with it in dribs and drabs which just pushes you to want to read more to find out the full story.

The Cornish setting is beautifully described, Jennings really sets the scene and the whole book just played like a movie in my head whilst reading. I know absolutely nothing about fishing but I feel like the scenes with Cam on his boat back in 1998 really taught me something!

I honestly didn't suspect what had happened at all and the ending - that last sentence - made me want to scream! 

Wednesday 29 July 2020

The Island by C.L. Taylor | Cover Reveal & Chapter 1 Sneak Peek

I read 'Sleep' by C.L. Taylor back in January of this year and I absolutely loved it, rating it 5/5 stars and recommending it to everyone.

HQ have just revealed the cover of Taylor's brand new YA novel, The Island, coming out in January 2021. Isn't it a beauty?

If you are a C.L. Taylor fan like me, you will be very interested in what I have to share with you...a sneak peek at Chapter 1 of the new novel!

Start reading below and don't forget to pre-order your copy.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | Lost by Leona Deakin

[This post contains affiliate links. If you click to buy anything through a link on this page, I will earn a few pennies at no extra cost to you.]

Lost by Leona Deakin - 3/5 
Blurb: There is an explosion at a military ball. The casualties are rushed to hospital in eight ambulances, but only seven vehicles arrive. Captain Harry Peterson is missing.

His girlfriend calls upon her old friend Dr Augusta Bloom to support the investigation. But no one can work out if there is a connection between the bomb and the disappearance.

When Harry is eventually discovered three days later, they hope he holds the answers to their questions. But he can't remember a single thing.

Without any clues, will Dr Bloom find herself lost in this puzzle too?

Review: Captain Harry Peterson is attending a Navy ball with his girlfriend Karene Harper. There is an explosion and a few people are injured, Harry being one of them. He is taken to hospital via ambulance but it doesn't arrive there until a few days later. It is a different hospital than expected and much further away from the one that the other casualties were brought to.

Karene enlists the help of her old university friend, and private investigator, Dr Augusta Bloom, to find out what happened to Harry in his missing hours. Bloom, alongside her partner, ex-spy Marcus Jameson, discover that Harry is missing his memories from the last four years and assume that he was the specific target at the ball and someone messed with his memory. But why?

It was great to see Dr Bloom and Jameson working together again and although this probably could be read as a standalone as some parts are explained, I would definitely recommend reading 'Gone' by Leona Deakin beforehand so you are familiar with the supporting characters and Bloom and Jameson's relationship.

I struggled a bit with this one. It didn't grip me as much as 'Gone' did and I felt like it was easy to set down to go and do something else.

Leona Deakin is a fantastic writer, there is no doubt about that, there just wasn't enough of a chase for me. I would have liked it to be a little more fast-paced. The story was very good and you could tell that it had been meticulously planned and well researched.

Monday 20 July 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | How To Disappear by Gillian McAllister

[This post contains affiliate links. If you click to buy anything through a link on this page, I will earn a few pennies at no extra cost to you.]

How To Disappear by Gillian McAllister - 5/5 
Blurb: Lauren's daughter Zara witnessed a terrible crime. But speaking up comes with a price, and when Zara's identity is revealed online, it puts a target on her back.

The only choice is to disappear.

To keep Zara safe Lauren will give up everything and everyone she loves, even her husband.

There will no goodbyes. Their pasts will be rewritten. New names, new home, new lives.

The rules are strict for a reason. They are being hunted. One mistake - a text, an Instagram like - could bring their old lives crashing into the new.

They can never assume someone isn't watching, waiting.

As Lauren will learn, disappearing is easy. Staying hidden is harder...

Review: Do you have a favourite author? If I am ever asked for a book recommendation, I will always say 'No Further Questions' by Gillian McAllister. 'How To Disappear' may have just knocked that off the top spot.

14 year Zara witnesses the murder of a homeless man by an up and coming football player. In court, it comes out that she has lied slightly and the case is thrown out. The footballer's career is over due to these allegations and a vigilante group set out to find her and make her pay. Due to her age, she is known only as Girl A but it doesn't take long for them to find out her real name and where she lives.

She is threatened so must go into witness protection. She lives with a blended family; her mum Lauren, stepdad Aidan and stepsister Poppy. Poppy is a teenage carer for her mum who has MS. Aidan can't leave his daughter (who must stay to care for her mum) so Lauren and Zara have to go alone. The family is split up.

The chapters alternate between the points of view of Aidan, Lauren, Zara and Poppy and the book is split into three sections; Before, After and Later.

Aidan tries to infiltrate the group that are searching for Girl A so they don't find Lauren and Zara, claiming he is searching for them but throwing them off the scent. Poppy, Lauren and Zara also have secrets that they are hiding and you feel very worried that they are going to contradict each other and everything will backfire.

The pace is fantastic and my heart was in my mouth whilst reading. Towards the end of the After section, I felt like my heart was racing and it had me almost wanting to cry! I lost count of how many times I wanted to shout "What are you doing?!" at a number of characters.

All of the characters have so much depth to them and I liked hearing about Poppy's struggles with being a teenage carer for her mum. I feel like that is something that would often be overlooked.

The epilogue was just perfect and nearly had me crying again. Bravo, Gillian!

Tuesday 14 July 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | A Place For Everything by Anna Wilson

[AD/Gifted: I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click to buy anything through a link on this page, I will earn a few pennies at no extra cost to you.]

A Place For Everything by Anna Wilson - 5/5 
Blurb: Anna grew up in a house that was loving, even if her mum was 'a little eccentric'. They knew to keep things clean, to stay quiet, and to look the other way when things started to get 'a bit much for your mum'.

It's only when her mother reaches her 70s, and Anna has a family of her own, that the cracks really start to appear. More manic. More irrational. More detached from the world. And when her father, the man who calmed and cajoled her mother through her entire life becomes unwell, the whole world turns upside down.

This is a story of a life lived with undiagnosed autism, about the person behind the disorder, those big unspoken family truths, and what it means to care for our parents in their final years.

Review: "People have this image of autistic people - that we are completely closed down, mute, only fit for a job at Google or something. Why can't the general public understand that we're humans first and autistic second?"

I don't think I can give this book anything less than five stars. It is a beautiful, heartfelt and raw account of living with a mother with undiagnosed autism.

Wilson writes about her mother's behaviours both when she was a child and as an adult with her own children. Autism has always been around but it has only been recognised relatively recently and we understand it more these days. Everyone, even medical professionals, think she is "crazy", has mental health issues and rely on medicating her.

As the mother of an autistic child, it was heartbreaking to read about how Anna felt about her mother's behaviour. As readers, we obviously know she is autistic, but no one did at that point so it was irritating (to say the least!) to have to just put up with it. 

You feel the absolute sense of relief when the family discover that it could potentially be autism.

"'...have you ever thought that your mother might be on the autism spectrum?' Another jolt of electricity. Cogs whirr. Gears shift. Clunk clunk clunk. The pieces fall into place. An axe is hurled against the glass box, and we are free."

I resonated with this a lot because it is similar to how we felt when our son was diagnosed. It was like a glass shattered and everything slotted into place. We realised "THAT'S why he does that!" A lot of the traits, I recognised, such as keeping everything inside whilst around others but then having a meltdown or letting everything out when you were in your "safe space" with the family that you trust.

I loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter and they are all annotated at the back of the book for additional reading. A Place For Everything is a wonderful read, whether you have any experience with autism or not.

It is beautifully written and I would thoroughly recommend.

Thursday 9 July 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | Across The Water by Ingrid Alexandra

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Across The Water by Ingrid Alexandra - 4/5 

Blurb: In a remote, boat-only access house, Liz Dawson's lifeline to the real world is her window, where she watches the people who live in the three identical houses that sit side by side across the creek. But it's the middle house Liz finds herself drawn to most: the beautiful young mother, Delilah Waters and her baby.

When Dee and her baby go missing, last seen by the murky waters of Myall Lake, it is a suspected murder-suicide. After all, it's no secret that Dee Waters never wanted children. She wasn't coping with the baby. Everyone in the town believes she leapt to her death, taking her child with her. Everyone except Liz.

Wrestling with her own demons, Liz risks everything to uncover a truth that becomes more complex with every twist. Of all people, Liz knows that just because someone is a reluctant mother, it doesn't mean they don't love their child. And it doesn't mean they're capable of murder... Does it?

Review: Liz has briefly moved to a secluded area in Australia with her husband Adam after his father dies and they need to sell his house. The house stands on one side of a creek, with three other houses on the other side; one belonging to Dee, Rob and their baby Ruby, one is Erica and Samir's and the third is Zac's, who works in the local bar.

Liz passes the time in the evening, whilst her husband is commuting to Sydney for work, by looking across the creek at the goings-on of the houses she sees. She becomes familiar with these people then one day, Dee and baby Ruby go missing. But what has Liz seen? What does she know?

It took me a while to get into this and it took to almost halfway into the book to finally get somewhere but when it did, I was hooked. We learn that Dee is struggling with being a mother as it's never what she wanted and Erica is struggling with the loss of four babies.

We are given little breadcrumbs of information throughout the book and I felt desperate to read on to put all the pieces together. You suspect so many people of Dee and Ruby's disappearance and the ending was great. I did end up guessing a little of it but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | You Are Positively Awesome by Stacie Swift

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You Are Positively Awesome by Stacie Swift - 5/5  
Blurb: A pocket pick-me-up from an Instagram sensation

Everyone weathers difficult days; sometimes, people just wake up needing a bit of a boost and a reminder that nobody really has it together all the time. This is a book for all those days - a rainbow of good vibes, full of self-care prompts and words to live by. Even though deep down people know it's okay not to be okay, everyone needs a bit of a reminder from time to time.

Whether it's an affirmation to raise a smile, practical tips on upping self-care, or space to create a pie chart of 'Things That Help On Tough Days', this book combines colourful illustrations with useful words of support for everyone, even at their unsparkiest. 

Review: This is a really cute, positive, upbeat and encouraging book.

It doesn't translate fully into Kindle format given that, in print format, it would have little activity bits to fill in for you to look back on and give yourself a boost. I would definitely be interested in purchasing a physical copy to fill in!

The positivity is by the bucketful in this book and Stacie writes beautifully. It's so uplifting and I feel like it would be one of those books you'd gift to a friend for their birthday or Christmas. It focuses so much on feeling positive about yourself, remembering that you are loved, acknowledging that it is okay not to be okay and that people's lives that we see on social media aren't always sunshine and rainbows.

It's a reminder that self-care isn't selfish, take time for yourself, say "no" more and just be kind.

Tuesday 7 July 2020

I Am Not A Label by Cerrie Burnell | Children's Book Review

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Wow. Every parent needs a copy of this book on their children's bookcase.

Cerrie Burnell (you may remember her from CBeebies) has put together stories of 34 artists, thinkers, athletes and activists with disabilities - past and present.

The foreword by Cerrie herself is wonderful. She explains that being born with one hand (and even having a hook at one point) meant that she never saw protagonists or heroines that were like her in any children's book that she read. The aim of this book is to introduce children to people who have disabilities but have managed to do amazing things.

My son C was delighted to see Beethoven on the first page because he is absolutely obsessed with composers. I often joke that they'd be his specialist Mastermind subject.

We learn about all types of disabilities, whether they are visible or hidden like being blind like Stevie Wonder, having autism like Temple Grandin and having spina bifida like Catalina Devantas.

It opened up a lot of conversation between C and myself. He had a lot of questions and was eager to learn more. 

It is a wonderfully educational book and I especially loved that they included a transgender person and mentioned about one person having relationships with both men and women. 

The glossary at the end is brilliant for easily explaining words that children may never have heard before such as cis-gender and fibromyalgia.

An absolutely fantastic compilation of stories featuring some of the most brilliant people. The illustrations are lovely too. We will know most, if not all, of the people included in this book but the way they have been drawn is stunning.

Monday 6 July 2020

Poo In The Zoo: The Great Poo Mystery by Steve Smallman | Children's Book Review

[Ad/Gifted: We received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

My children, like many others I assume, love a bit of toilet humour. Anything to do with poop especially, and they will be in fits of laughter.

Poo In The Zoo: The Great Poo Mystery had C and E (and even me at some points!) laughing at both the language and the pictures.

Blurb: SPLAT PATTER PLOP! Zookeeper Bob's super-duper pooper scooper has disappeared and the POO is piling UP! Is this a DOO-DOO disaster?

Or can Arabella Slater - Poo Investigator - save the day?

Review: This is the second book in the series but we haven't read the original, Poo in the Zoo, yet. After reading this one though, we will definitely be adding it to our bookshelf!

Zookeeper Bob McGrew has a little robot named Robbie that helps pick up all the poo that all the animals at the zoo leave behind - basically a little poop hoover!

One morning though, Bob wakes up, he can't find Robbie Robot and there is poo all over the zoo! What on earth has happened?

He enlists the help of Arabella Slater, PI (Poo Investigator) to help crack the case. 

This wonderful rhyming book is packed with poo jokes and beautiful illustrations (even if they do all contain poo!) and both my 7 year old and 5 year old found it absolutely hilarious. They especially loved the tales of what Arabella had gotten up to in the past.

We love the 'Dinosaur That Pooped...' books so if your little ones enjoy those, they will love Poo In The Zoo: The Great Poo Mystery!

This book will be published by Little Tiger on 9th July and can be purchased at bookstores for £6.99.