Tuesday 29 September 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

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Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall - 
Nancy, Eleanor and Mary met at college and have been friends ever since, through marriages, children and love affairs.

Eleanor is calm and driven, with a deep sense of responsibility, a brilliant career and a love of being single and free - despite her soft spot for her best friend's husband.

Mary is deeply intelligent with a love of learning, derailed by three children and a mean, demanding husband - she is now unrecognisable to herself and her friends.

Nancy is seemingly perfect: bright, beautiful and rich with an adoring husband and daughter - but beneath the surface her discontent is going to affect them all in terrible ways.

When Nancy is murdered, Eleanor and Mary must align themselves to uncover her killer. And as each of their stories unfold, they realise that there are many different truths to find, and many different ways to bring justice for those we love...

It is going to be hard to review this without spoilers but I'll give it a go!

The book follows three women who became friends at university; Eleanor, Nancy and Mary. They are now in their late 40s. 

Each of their lives have taken a different path. Eleanor never married nor had children, Nancy was married to Robert and had one daughter called Zara and Mary who was the "other woman" to Howard, a man 20 years her senior whom she ending up marrying and having three children with.

The story is split into three parts, each told from the perspective of each of the women. We find out that Nancy is having an affair and she dies following a meeting with the man she is seeing. But who killed her?

These women, as the book title says, are far from perfect. Eleanor is in love with her best friend's husband, Nancy is having an affair and Mary is living with a husband who treats her horribly. 

I struggled with this one. Although it is in three parts, Eleanor's is first and takes up almost 50% of the whole book. I wasn't drawn in by her story but luckily, I'm not the type to leave a book so I persevered. I was glad I did. Nancy and Mary's chapters are wonderful. We hear about Nancy's postnatal depression after Zara was born and the backstory of Howard and Mary and how their relationship progressed over the years.

The last half of the book definitely had me hooked so although it's a slow burner, it is worth powering through.

Thursday 17 September 2020

The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck - Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck - 4/5 
"Helsinki: Detective Jessica Niemi is called to investigate a brutal murder in  an affluent suburb.

A bestselling author's wife has been killed. But this is no ordinary murder: ritualistic and grisly, she is found dead dressed in a black evening gown, sitting at the end of an empty dining table, her face frozen in a bone-chilling smile. As more murders follow, each mirroring scenes from the  writer's Witch Hunter novels, it seems to be the work of an obsessive fan.

But Jessica soon realises this is not the work of one person. As the countdown begins to beat the killers to their next move, the motives seem far too personal. The hunt is on, but no-one is quite what they seem and as her own dark past comes to light, Jessica must battle her own demons while trying to catch the killers before they claim their next victim."

Oh wow, there is so much going on in this book.

Roger Koponen is the author of a series of Witch Hunter books. Whilst away at an event, his wife is murdered in their home in a style reminiscent of the murders in his books.

Jessica Niemi and the rest of the police department quickly try to find out what other deaths happen and how they happen, so they can prevent them.

The main bulk of the story, the investigation, is set over two days and it is jam packed. We also hear about Jessica's brief relationship that she had with a man named Colombano when she was visiting Venice when she was around 20 years old.

The plot is fantastic. The police officers are desperately hunting for clues to bring everything together and I thought I had it sussed quite early on. My head is still spinning with the amount of twists. So many parts shocked me. It touches on mental illness and the supernatural/the occult and I feel like that's all I can say without giving away too much!

It is set in Finland and I could just imagine it as a English-subtitled Netflix drama. It is a long book with short chapters so it is easy to fly through and it was great to get backstories of the police officers too. 
Tuesday 15 September 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | If I Could Say Goodbye by Emma Cooper

(AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also 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.)

If I Could Say Goodbye by Emma Cooper - 5/5 

"Jennifer Jones' life began when her little sister, Kerry, was born. So when her sister dies in a tragic accident, nothing seems to make sense any more.

Despite the support of her husband, Ed, and their wonderful children, Jen can't comprehend why she is still here, while bright, spirited Kerry is not.

When Jen starts to lose herself in her memories of her sister, she doesn't realise that the closer she feels to Kerry, the further she gets from her family.

Jen was never able to say goodbye to her sister. But what if she could?

Would you risk everything if you had the chance to say goodbye?"

This book is utterly beautiful.

Jennifer's sister Kerry dies in front of her. Kerry saves Jennifer's life by pushing her out of the way of an oncoming car and she takes the impact.

The story follows Jennifer, her husband Ed and their two children, Hailey and Oscar, focusing on how they deal with Kerry's death. Ed can see a change in Jennifer's behaviour and becomes worried about her. Jennifer is hallucinating her sister and often interacts with her, leaving Ed to think that she's having a breakdown. Jennifer blames herself for her death.

The pace of this book is fantastic and you can see the steady decline in Jen's mental health. It is so beautifully written. There are moments that make you want to laugh and others that have you almost crying.

Ed is just the most wonderful character. He absolutely adores his wife and just wants to make everything better for her. Everyone needs an Ed in their life! 

It is funny, full of emotion and heartbreaking. I would definitely recommend.

Thursday 10 September 2020

Vet Squad Toys - Review

 [AD/Gifted - We received these items for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

E is a massive animal lover, she will instantly make a beeline towards any animal that she sees so I've always said that I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up being a veterinarian when she's older.

Vet Squad is a new range of toys from Vivid Toys which, as you can probably guess by the name, are centred around vets, but the best thing is that they are all female characters.

There are a few different toys in the range, all at different price points, and they have teamed up with Sea Life Trust to donate some of the money raised from the sale of these toys. We received:

  • Vet Squad Air Adventure (£16.99)
  • Vet Squad Reef Rescue (£12.99)
  • Vet Squad Forest Rescue (£12.99)
  • Vet Squad Animal 3 pack (£3.99)
  • 4 x Vet Squad Vet & Pet sets (£7.99 each)
E wanted to open the smaller sets first, the individual characters that come with their own animal; Emily & Brooke the Dog, Yara & Luna the Rabbit, Robin & Snowy the Owl, Ava & Leo the Cat. Each character has a little backpack with two different veterinary objects to help them do their job. These can attach onto the backpacks and you can also put them in their hands.

I love the diversity with the characters. Not only do we have characters of different races but Robin wears glasses too! As a glasses-wearer myself, I was very excited about this as it is quite rare to see when it comes to children's toys.

Next up, the Reef Rescue and Forest Rescue. The Reef Rescue set comes with an Emily figure, the speedboat, a turtle (complete with removable bandage on its flipper, stethoscope, bucket and sponge. The Forest Rescue set comes with an Ava figure, the jeep, elephant with a feeding bottle and a little case that holds a bucket, sponge and a pair of sunglasses.

The play options are great with these sets. E liked to put her characters in different scenarios, having them rescue the poor, injured animals. The figures are poseable and E just needed a little help to get them into the seats of the vehicles. Each items is well made and to make the sets even more exciting, if you wipe the injured area of the animals with warm water, it will disappear like the vet has fixed them!

E has taken to filling up the bathroom sink and bringing the Reef Rescue set in for some water play too.

The Air Adventure set is probably the most exciting one in my opinion. In this set, you get the helicopter, Robin figure, a horse and another case which holds smaller accessories. The helicopter has a real working winch so it can rescue the horse from danger.

E has enjoyed playing with all of the sets together. The speedboat that comes with the Reef Rescue set has a hole at the back so she would pretend that Emily's speedboat had gotten into difficulty and use the winch to pull it out. I love that each set has it's own functionality but can all work well together.

If you want to add more to your collections, the Animal 3 packs are great. Inside these sets, you get two animals and an accessory. These would make great little stocking fillers for children who already own any of the bigger sets.

There is full Vet Surgery Playset due for release at the beginning of October and judging by how much E absolutely loves the rest of the range, Santa will definitely be bringing it!

You can check out the full Vet Squad range at Smyths Toys.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah

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

Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah - 5/5 


Kamran Hadid feels invincible. He attends Hampton school, an elite all-boys boarding school in London, he comes from a wealthy family, and he has a place at Oxford next year. The world is at his feet. And then a night of revelry leads to a drunken encounter and he must ask himself a horrific question.

With the help of assault counsellor, Zara Kaleel, Kamran reports the incident in the hopes that will be the end of it. But it's only the beginning...



"Because without changing problematic men - without changing the system that makes them that way - we can't improve things for women."

I absolutely loved Take It Back by Kia Abdullah so I was worried that Truth Be Told wouldn't be able to hold a candle to it. I was wrong. Another fantastic read by Abdullah.

Kamran Hadid attends Hampton, a prestigious boys' boarding school. To the Hadids, appearances are everything.

After a party on campus, a drunken Kamran realises that he has been raped by a fellow student, Finn Andersen.

The book follows the court case and the repercussions for all involved. There are two sides to the story and both parties believe their truth.

It is a very deep story that touches on the stigma surrounding male rape, the differences between the strength of men and women (why didn't he fight him off?) and gay people in the Muslim community.

It was great to see Zara Kaleel back again and to follow her personal story. You can read this one as a standalone without having read Take It Back, but it is fantastic so I would definitely read that first.

Truth Be Told is full of emotion and kept surprising me. Five out of five stars isn't enough for this one!

Thursday 3 September 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | The Wish List by Sophia Money-Coutts

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book from the publisher for a review. This post also contains affiliate links. If you click to buy anything through a link in this post, I will earn a few pennies at no extra cost to you.]

The Wish List by Sophia Money-Coutts - 4/5 


Be careful what you wish for…
Florence Fairfax isn’t lonely. She loves her job at the little bookshop in Chelsea and her cat, Marmalade, keeps her company at night. But everything changes when her stepsister, Mia, announces that she’s engaged to her boring golf-playing boyfriend. That’s when Florence meets Irish love coach, Gwendolyn.
…because you just might get it!
When Gwendolyn makes Florence write a wish list describing her perfect man, Florence refuses to take it seriously. Finding someone who likes cats, doesn’t wear pointy shoes and can overlook her ‘counting habit’? Impossible! Until, later that week, a handsome blond man asks for help in the bookshop…
But is Rory the one, or is he simply too good to be true? Florence is about to find out that her criteria for finding Mr Right aren’t as important as she thought – and that perhaps her perfect man has been right there all along…


I really enjoyed this book!

Florence Fairfax is 32 and single. In fact, she's never had a proper boyfriend. When her half-sister Mia gets engaged, her stepmother recommends that Florence goes to a love guru on Harley Street. To shut her up, Florence complies even though she thinks it's a load of rubbish.

While at her session, she must create a wish list of things she wants in a man. Later, a man enters the bookshop that she works in and they hit it off and eventually enter into a relationship. Rory (the Tory - eek!) works in politics and hopes to become Prime Minister one day but not everyone is Florence's life is taken by him.

I love Florence and the depth of her character. This book made me laugh and although I'd guessed where it was going, it was an exciting read and I enjoyed everything about it. Money-Coutts has written such likable characters which makes this book a pleasure to read. If I had one bad thing to say about it, it would be that it ended too soon and I wanted more!

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Granny Franny's Big Red Bus - Children's Book Review

[AD/Gifted - We received a copy of this book for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Reading is a very important part of my life and I knew it was something that I wanted my children to love. C and E will be 8 and 6 this month and they have never once gone to bed without a bedtime story. Their bedroom looks like a library and they love having a huge selection to choose from at bedtime.

We were very kindly sent a copy of Granny Franny's Big Red Bus by Sonia Beldom and they couldn't wait to read it.


"Granny Franny is always surprising her grandchildren, Ronni and Jax with sensational stories and surprise days out. One day, she decides to do something super special for their birthday. She buys a big red bus to take them on a magical mystery tour of London; what she's forgotten is that she can't actually drive a bus. Then she meets Thinkerbell, the talking bus bell and everything changes. Then it starts to rain...a lot.


Granny Franny loves her grandchildren Ronni and Jax and wants to do a fun day Sunday for their birthday. She decides to buy a beautiful, shiny red double decker bus for a London adventure but then realises that she doesn't actually know how to drive it!

Enter Thinkerbell, a personified bell that helps Granny Franny get to grips with how to drive this new bus. Obviously, the path doesn't run smoothly and we get into a bit of a pickle.

Aimed at children aged around 3-8, both my children enjoyed this book. The rhymes made it interesting and the story was engaging and kept their interest. E loved joining in with some of the text such as the "DING DING DING" of the bell. The illustrations, drawn by Beldom too, made it that little bit more special. 

I love a book that draws on the author's experience because it makes it seem more real. Sonia Beldom made her lifelong dream come true by saving up for lessons and becoming a bus driver in 2018.

Granny Franny's Big Red Bus was actually written during the COVID-19 pandemic and sales are helping to raise fun for bus-related charities while all private hire vehicles were off the road.

You can purchase your own digital or hard copy from Amazon.