Monday 28 June 2021

False Witness by Karin Slaughter | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book in order to take part in a readalong with Tandem Collective. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

False Witness by Karin Slaughter - 5/5
You thought no one saw you. You were wrong.

Leigh and her sister Callie are not bad people – but one night, more than two decades ago, they did something terrible. And the result was a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, devastated by violence.

Years later, Leigh has pushed that night from her mind and become a successful lawyer – but when she is forced to take on a new client against her will, her world begins to spiral out of control.

Because the client knows the truth about what happened twenty-three years ago. He knows what Leigh and Callie did. And unless they stop him, he's going to tear their lives apart …

Just because you didn't see the witness … doesn't mean he wasn't there.

Oh wow. I had never read a Karin Slaughter book before and after this, I will be reading every single thing she has written.

The first chapter grabs you and you instantly know that you won't be able to put this book down. 

In the 90s, Callie, who is in her early teens is babysitting five-year-old Trevor. It is apparent that his father Buddy is raping Callie, recording it on secret cameras and sharing them with his friends. After an altercation, Callie believes she has killed Buddy and calls her older sister Harleigh to come help. This chapter is gruesome with some unbelievable descriptions.

Fast forward to present day and Harleigh now goes by Leigh and is a lawyer. She has been requested to help on a case for a man named Andrew who is said to have raped a woman, potentially a couple more. There is a reason why Andrew wants Leigh on this case. What does he know about what she and Callie did as teenagers?

This book is just superb and makes you feel every emotion. It explores what the sisters' lives are like now; Leigh, a lawyer, and Callie who is a drug addict, clearly affected by her past. The twists and turns had me gasping and it is just meticulously planned. Slaughter has obviously done an amazing amount of research.

The story in current time mentions the Covid-19 pandemic but it isn't a massive part of the story. I read to escape and Covid is omnipresent so although I didn't like this aspect, it was weaved well into the narrative.

Friday 25 June 2021

Grown Ups by Marie Aubert | Blog Tour Book Review

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

Grown Ups by Marie Aubert - 3/5

Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and starting to panic. She's navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs, but forces these worries to the back of her mind as she sets off to the family cabin for her mother's sixty-fifth birthday.

But family ties old and new begin to wear thin, out in the idyllic Norwegian countryside. Ida is fighting with her sister Marthe, flirting with Marhte's husband and winning the favour of Marthe's stepdaughter. Some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets tensions simmering even further, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, her whole family.

Exhilarating, funny and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups asks what kind of adult you are without a family of your own.

40 year old Ida, younger sister Marthe, Marthe's husband Kristoffer and Kristoffer's six-year-old daughter from a previous marriage are at the family's old childhood holiday cabin celebrating Ida and Marthe's mother's 65th birthday.

For a short story, just over 100 pages, there is a lot to unpack. Both women have struggled with fertility. Marthe has now fallen pregnant and Ida realises that she may have left having a family too late and looks into freezing her eggs. She was the type to just meet men through Tinder, not even caring if they were married, and never settling down. It is now that she sees children everywhere, that she panics that she will never be a mother. 

It is a very character driven novel but I will be honest and say that I didn't love any of the characters, I think they all had their downsides. 

Ida seems to have put her career before anything else, aiming to be the poster child. There is a lot of sibling rivalry between her and Marthe, even now in their 30s/early 40s.

Grown Ups is an interesting look at family dynamics, fertility and what it is like to be a grown up without children of your own.


A massive thank you to Pushkin Press for having me on the blog tour. You can find the Twitter handles of all the other bloggers who are taking part in the graphic below.

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Animal by Lisa Taddeo | Blog Tour Book Review

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

Animal by Lisa Taddeo - 4/5

"I drove myself out of New York City where a man shot himself in front of me. He was a gluttonous man and when his blood came out it looked like the blood of a pig.

That's a cruel thing to think, I know. He did it in a restaurant where I was having dinner with another man, another married man.

Do you see how this is going? But I wasn't always that way.

I am depraved. I hope you like me."

I was instantly intrigued by this book after seeing  "I am depraved. I hope you like me" all over the marketing. I am not one to shy away from a book with a tough topic; My Dark Vanessa was my favourite book of 2020 after all!

Animal follows 36-year-old Joan who witnesses her boss's suicide in the middle of a restaurant. Joan had been having an affair with him and he killed himself in front of her and her date, who was also a married man. We get a bit of an idea of the type of woman that Joan is at this point.

She leaves New York and moves to California to seek out celebrity yoga instructor Alice. It is unknown to us who Alice is and why Joan is eager to meet her but it all unfolds as you read on. We also do not know who Joan is addressing in her narrative which again, becomes clear as you read.

Joan is not a character that you are supposed to love. We get flashbacks to her childhood and flashbacks to all the dalliances that she has had with men. She is very hypersexualised and has experienced trauma at an early age. She has thoughts that are uncomfortable to read. Things like death don't seem to affect her, she has seen enough. I must also add trigger warnings for rape and miscarriage.

This is a sharp and gritty book that explores Joan's life and how everything that has happened to her has impacted her. She classes herself as depraved but I personally feel like she is very complex and she is the way that she is because of what she has experienced. 

Animal is shocking and uncomfortable at times but you cannot deny that Taddeo is a fantastic author who really makes you feel the book. I think this will be a great one to discuss at book clubs. 

A massive thank you to Midas PR for having me on the blog tour. You can find the Twitter handles for all of the other bloggers that are taking part in the graphic below.

Sunday 20 June 2021

The Darlings by Angela Jackson | Blog Tour Book Review

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

The Darlings by Angela Jackson - 4/5

"When Mark Darling is fifteen years old, he is the golden boy, captain of the school football team, admired by all who know him. Until he kills his best friend in a freak accident.

He spends the next decade drifting between the therapy couch and dead-end pursuits. Then along comes Sadie. A mender by nature, she tries her best to fix him, and has enough energy to carry them both through the next few years.

One evening, Mark bumps into an old schoolfriend, Ruby. She saw the accident first hand. He is pulled towards her by a force stronger than logic: the universal need to reconcile one’s childhood wounds. This is his chance to, once again, feel the enveloping warmth of unconditional love. But can he leave behind the woman who rescued him from the pit of despair, the wife he loves? His unborn child?

This is a story about how childhood experience can profoundly impact how we behave as adults. It’s a story about betrayal, infidelity and how we often blinker ourselves to see a version of the truth that is more palatable to us."

This book is such an interesting one and I was intrigued right from the very beginning.

Fifteen year old Mark Darling accidentally killed best friend Fergus during a cricket game at school. The bat flew from his hand, hitting Fergus on the head. A few years later, Mark's mother and father die in a car accident so he is truly alone in the world.

In the present day, Mark is married to Sadie and they have a baby on the way; they had gone down the IVF route. Mark credits Sadie with saving his life. He was in a bad place when they met and now he is on medication and going to counseling. She turned his life around.

Mark bumps into an old school acquaintance, Ruby, and there is a connection there. Sadie saved his life but Ruby knows him from a different time. She knows who he was before the accident. They begin an illicit affair. I felt the urgency in this because affairs are always discovered so there was an element of excitement to it.

On paper, I shouldn't like this book. I do not condone cheating in any form but the story and the way this book is written really carries it. It explores infidelity and betrayal not just on the surface but in a deeper way.

Mark carries a lot of self hatred and I felt like there was a bit of a juxtaposition with the fact that he was desperate to be a popular comedian with fans who love him and his act. 

You can feel the change in Mark's feelings towards Sadie as the book goes on and the author has made it flow effortlessly. 

I loved it!

 Angela Jackson, author

Angela Jackson is a former psychology lecturer and teacher trainer. Her debut novel The Emergence of Judy Taylor won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award and was Waterstones’ Scottish Book of the Year. 

The Darlings is her second novel. 

Originally from the north of England, she now lives with her family in Edinburgh.


A massive thank you to Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for having me on the tour. You can find the information of other bloggers that are taking part in the tour in the graphic below.

Thursday 17 June 2021

The Rules Of Revelation by Lisa McInerney | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book in order to take part in a readalong with Tandem Collective. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

The Rules Of Revelation by Lisa McInerney - 4/5

Ireland. Great nationalists, bad mothers and a whole lot of secrets. Ryan Cusack is ready to deliver its soundtrack.

Former sex-worker Georgie wants the truth about Ryan's past out there but the journalist has her own agenda.

Mel returns from Brexit Britain, ill-equipped to deal with the resurgence of a family scandal.

Karine has always been sure of herself, till a terrible secret tugs the rug from under her.

Maureen has got wind that things are changing, and if anyone's telling the story she wants to make sure it's her.

A riotous blast of sex, scandal, obsession, love, feminism, gender, music, class and transgression from an author with tremendous, singular talent."

The Rules Of Revelation is the third book in the Ryan Cusack series, following The Glorious Heresies and The Blood Miracles. I haven't read either of the first two books but heard that it could still be read as a standalone. 

The book is set in Cork and follows the story of Ryan Cusack. He has a son, Diarmaid, with a woman named Karine and is out of the country due to some things he had done in his past life with regards to drugs and drug dealing. He is making waves with his band, Lord Urchin, and we also hear stories from Mel, Georgie and Maureen.

I don't want to give too much away but it is a very character driven book and you do need to give it your full attention. It isn't fast paced, which is what I look for in a book, but I ended up caring so much about these characters and wanted to see what the story was between them. 

The story for each character is built well and McInerney writes beautifully. The writing is funny, especially any scenes with Maureen, but serious too. It covers a lot of socio-economic factors so it has a lot of depth to it. We hear about sex work, gender bias, class issues and sexism, to name a few. 

My favourite parts were Ryan's chapters where he would be explaining tracks from his album to Karine. 

I will definitely go back and read The Glorious Heresies and The Blood Miracles because I need to hear more about these characters. I am also very excited to hear there are plans for a TV adaptation. I think it will work really well. 

Monday 7 June 2021

The Good Neighbours by Nina Allan | Blog Tour Book Review

[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.]

The Good Neighbours by Nina Allan - 4/5
"Cath is a photographer hoping to go freelance, working in a record shop to pay the rent and eking out her time with her manager Steve. He thinks her photography is detective work, drawing attention to things that would otherwise pass unseen and maybe he's right...

Starting work on her new project - photographing murder houses - she returns to the island where she grew up for the first time since she left for Glasgow when she was just eighteen. The Isle of Bute is embedded in her identity, the draughty house that overlooked the bay, the feeling of being nowhere, the memory of her childhood friend Shirley Craigie and the devastating familicide of her family by the father, John Craigie.

Arriving at the Craigie house, Cath finds that it's occupied by Financial Analyst Alice Rahman. Her bid to escape the city lifestyle, the anxiety she felt in that world, led her to leave London and settle on the island. The strangeness of the situation brings them closer, leading them to reinvestigate the Craigie murder. Now, within the walls of the Craigie house, Cath can uncover the nefarious truths and curious nature of John Craigie: his hidden obsession with the work of Richard Dadd and the local myths of the fairy folk."

I did not expect to love this book as much as I do.

The Good Neighbours opens with fifteen year olds Cath and Shirley planning a sneaky trip on the ferry over to mainland Scotland (they live on an island). We get a slight insight into what Shirley's family are like. Mum Susan who spends a lot of time with her three year old son Sonny and carpenter dad John who seems to be quite an angry man.

Shirley is more outgoing and ballsy whereas Cath is more quiet and reserved. 

Fast forward to present day and Cath now works in a record shop. Her passion is photography and she goes to photograph the house of a murder scene. A university lecturer in her 50s has been bludgeoned to death. 

This forces Cath to remember the death of her old childhood friend Shirley Craigie. Shirley, her mother and her brother had been shot at the home and John, her father, was killed in a car accident on the same day. The police believed that John had killed his family before committing suicide. Cath is not convinced and delves deeper into the case.

She travels back to the island to see the Craigie house and discovers a woman named Alice living there. She befriends her and they start to work together on finding out what really happened.

We read all about John Craigie's childhood and discover that he was convinced that fairies were real. The story has a lot of focus on Richard Dadd, a Victorian painter who killed his father because he believed that he was the devil. I don't want to give too much away because it is just a beautifully written book that I absolutely devoured.

Nina Allan has done some great genre blurring here. At the beginning, I thought this was your standard crime novel but it is so much more. We have that crime aspect but with a hint of fairy mythology too.

It explores how much people remember, we have conversations between Cath and Shirley in Cath's head and everything is blended really well. I loved it. 


A massive thank you to Riverrun for having me on the blog tour. You can find information about other bloggers that are taking part in the graphic below.

Friday 4 June 2021

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery | Blog Tour Book Review

[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.]

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery - 4/5
"Who better to mend a broken heart than your sister?

When Daisy’s dad married Sage's mum, Daisy was thrilled to get a new sister. Except Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.

Sage found herself living in a palatial home where she felt she didn't belong. She didn't have her new sister’s intelligence so she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down at every opportunity. After the divorce, the stepsisters' rivalry continued until the final straw: Daisy married Sage's first love, and Sage fled to Europe.

Eighteen years later, Daisy never expects―or wants―to see Sage again. But brought together by an accident involving the little sister they have in common they must learn to put aside their differences. Slowly, the stepsisters begin to view the past through one another's eyes and long buried feelings are revealed. Until their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences…"

I really enjoyed this book!

The Stepsisters follows Daisy, Sage and Cassidy.
Daisy is married to Jordan and they have two children; Krissa and Ben. Jordan has walked out on her without explanation. It is obvious that he wants to reconcile but changes need to be made. Daisy doesn't understand what changes they are and Jordan expects her to know why he is upset.

Sage, Daisy's stepsister has recently moved back to the area from Italy. She never properly settled down, she had been married three times, but it was always for money. They bump into each other at the side of the road one day after over a decade of not speaking. We learn that Sage was previously engaged to Jordan.

Following an accident in Patagonia, their shared sister Cassidy is moved into Daisy's family home, under their father's suggestion, as she needs some round the clock care. It is obvious that there are issues between Daisy and Cassidy. 

Cassidy has stayed "single" although it transpires that she has been having an on-off relationship for three years and isn't willing to commit properly. I like the differences in the three ladies relationship statuses. 

There are obviously a lot of buried secrets between the three sisters and things that they all believed about one another whilst they were younger, mostly stemming from (step)mother Joanne. You want to keep reading to find out what exactly has caused these rifts. There is definitely some rivalry between them and the three of them being back together forces them to revisit some truths.

I didn't particularly love any of the characters, Daisy was probably my favourite, but all of them grow on you as you read on. Yes, some of them make some choices that I didn't agree with but they all learn about the importance of communication and there is a lot of development from all of them.

All in all, this is a really great exploration of sibling relationships.

A massive thank you to Mills & Boon for having me on the blog tour. You can find information about the other bloggers on the tour in the graphic below.

Thursday 3 June 2021

The Troubles With Us by Alix O'Neill | Book Review

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

The Troubles With Us by Alix O'Neill - 5/5
"A hilarious memoir about growing up in Northern Ireland in the 90s towards the end of the Troubles and a brilliantly propelling narrative of the extraordinary background story of her mother. Her mother’s vivid personality and witty colloquialisms dominate the book and help to give a social history of life in Belfast from the 1950s onwards.

Growing up on the Falls Road in 1990s Belfast, Alix O'Neill has seen it all – burnt-out buses blocking the route to school, the police mistaking her father for a leading terrorist and a classmate playing hide and seek with her dad's prosthetic hand (blown off making a device for the IRA). Not that she or her friends are up to speed with the goings-on of the resistance. They’re too preoccupied with the obsessions of every teenage girl – booze, boys and Boyzone – to worry about the violence on their doorstep. Besides, the odd coffee jar bomb is nothing compared to the drama about to explode in Alix’s personal life. 

Desperate to leave Northern Ireland and the trials of her mother’s unorthodox family – a loving yet eccentric band of misfits – behind, she makes grand plans for the next stage. But it’s through these relationships and their gradual unravelling that Alix begins to appreciate not only the troubled history of where she comes from, but the strength of its women.
Warm, embarrassing and full of love and insight, The Troubles with Us is a hilarious and moving account of the madness and mundanities of life in Northern Ireland during the thirty-year conflict. It's a story of mothers and daughters, the fallout from things left unsaid and the lengths a girl will go to for fake tan."

There is no way I could give this book less than five stars. I am genuinely obsessed with it.

The Troubles With Us is very close to home for me. I was born in west Belfast in 1992 and still live in Belfast now, although no longer in the west. The author is also from the west so every place that was mentioned throughout the book was in the area where I grew up. It was unbelievably familiar to me.

Alix writes about her life from childhood right up to today and the humour is strong throughout. I laughed out loud on many occasions. As we read about Alix's life, which is very interesting might I add, we also hear about riots, murders, protests etc that were happening around the same time.

As someone who grew up in Belfast nothing about the history of the city shocked me but I suppose seeing it all written down just makes you think. This is great book for everyone to read, especially if you are not from Northern Ireland. It is so important for others to know exactly what it is like to live here and what it was like to grow up here.

The book is completely non-biased so we hear both sides of the "story", what both Catholics and Protestants believed, or rather, still do.

Alix is a really great storyteller and I loved that it started off with what it was like during The Troubles, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement right through to some of the more recent protests, the heartbreaking and unnecessary death of Lyra McKee and how Brexit would have an effect on us in Northern Ireland. It doesn't seem like anything will ever change. I feel like this book will be so shocking to anyone not from NI but it is so normal for us.

A few things that stood out for me were:
1. I wholeheartedly agree with the Jonathan Taylor Thomas from Home Improvement love.
2. "Rebecca sounded like the kind of girl who had her shit together" - I can tell you right now, that's a lie.
3. "It was normal to have a fake name in your back pocket." I remember as a shortcut to get home sometimes, I would cut through an area that wasn't "my own". I would be so glad that I had a generic name but I did often have create a fake area where I'd say I lived if I was ever asked. That was the norm for us.

I know from my review so far that it sounds very heavy but Alix has a great way of adding comedy into a serious story. If you like the TV show Derry Girls, you will love The Troubles With Us.