Monday 27 November 2023

Love Under Contract by Cassie Connor | Book Review

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Love Under Contract by Cassie Connor
My rating: 5/5
Publisher: One More Chapter 
Publication date: 8th December 2022

Hotshot lawyer Rebecca Madison is dreading the annual family Thanksgiving break where the question on everyone’s lips will be ‘why are you still single?’.

When it comes to her career, she’s the best of the best, hired for her take-no-prisoners approach and sharp instincts. But when it comes to her love life…well, she hasn’t found the loophole for happy ever after yet.

So when she has a one night stand with a gorgeous stranger she meets in a bar, Becca decides to do what she does best: make a deal with Mr One Night to be her Mr Right (just for the holidays).

With an iron-clad contract setting out the terms for their fake relationship, Becca has one important point. Clause 1.a. No kissing, no sex (as mind-blowing as it was), and absolutely no emotional attachment!

But five thousand miles from home and spending every waking moment in the company of a man who makes her feel things she’s never felt before, just how easy will it be for Becca to stick to her own rules…

I read this book after a few thrillers as I needed something a little more light-hearted but I didn't expect to love it so much! 

Rebecca Madison is a 33-year-old London-based contract lawyer and has just found out that her younger sister is engaged - to her ex-boyfriend. She meets 29-year-old furniture designer Hudson in a hotel lobby and after a one-night-stand she discovers he is in a bit of a predicament.

Rebecca is expected to attend a Thanksgiving/engagement party at her family's home in New York and, wanting to save face, draws up a contract inviting Hudson to act as her boyfriend on the trip and she will help him out with his issues. I do love the fake dating trope!

We all know where this is going and I have always said I don't like spicy scenes just for the sake of it (and this book has a lot of spice!) but it was there for a reason. We see massive character development with Rebecca and you could feel her cool and collected exterior chip away as she spent more time with Hudson and each of their families. A really lovely read! 

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Heaven by Mieko Kawakami | Book Review

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Heaven by Mieko Kawakami
My rating: 3/5
Publisher: Picador 
Publication date: 12th May 2022

In Heaven, a fourteen-year-old boy is tormented for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, he chooses to suffer in silence. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate, Kojima, who experiences similar treatment at the hands of her bullies.

Providing each other with immeasurable consolation at a time in their lives when they need it most, the two young friends grow closer than ever. But what, ultimately, is the nature of a friendship when your shared bond is terror?

Our unnamed protagonist is a fourteen year old boy who is being bullied at school, mostly by two other teens; Nanomiya and Momose, because he has a lazy eye. He starts receiving letters from a girl called Kojima. She also gets bullied because she is dirty and unkempt and because they understand each other, she thinks they should be friends.

This was a hard read due to the descriptions of the bullying that both of the characters go through but there is also a philosophical aspect to the story and it makes us think about morals. It is beautifully written but very sad and raw.

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Butcher & Blackbird by Brynne Weaver | Book Review

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Butcher & Blackbird by Brynne Weaver
My rating: 5/5
Publisher: Piatkus
Publication date: 31st October 2023

Every serial killer needs a friend.
Every game must have a winner.

When a chance encounter sparks an unlikely bond between rival murderers Sloane and Rowan, the two find something elusive - the friendship of two like-minded, pitch-black souls who just happen to enjoy killing other serial killers.

Stalking across the country, the two hunters collide in an annual game of blood and suffering, one that pits them against the most dangerous monsters in the country.

But as their friendship develops into something deeper, the restless ghosts left in their wake are only a few steps behind, ready to claim more than just their new-found romance.

Can Rowan and Sloane dig themselves out of a game of graves? Or have they finally met their match?

My review:
Can I have more please, Brynne Weaver? 

I caught wind of Butcher & Blackbird on TikTok and as soon as I heard that Joe Arden was the narrator for the male main character, I knew I had to get an audiobook version. I was not expecting Joe Arden with an Irish accent. Hailing from the island of Ireland myself, this was a nice surprise.

Rowan Kane finds Sloane Sutherland in a cage next to a dead body. He soon realises that she is the Orb Weaver, a serial killer who he had admired from afar, with him being a serial killer too. Rowan becomes infatuated with Sloane and after releasing her from the cage, he suggests a game. Every year they will meet up for a friendly and competitive spot of killing. He is desperate for a reason to continue seeing her.

Weaver has developed such perfect characters and the slow burn was incredible. Lucy Rivers and Joe Arden brought them to life and I loved the fact that it is recorded as a duet. This was my first Lucy Rivers narrated book and she was wonderful! 

Never has a book caused me to have such a visceral reaction. I laughed out loud at some really great comedic prose, I giggled, I kicked my legs and flapped my arms.

This is a dark romance novel between two serial killers and the content warnings list is loooong. There are quite a few taboo subjects mentioned, such as cannibalism (I will never eat ice cream again) as well as some very explicit spicy scenes. I highly recommend listening to the audio version. I will however be purchasing the paperback copy when it's out in December because I am DESPERATE to get tabbing, highlighting and annotating.

If you like he falls first, "touch him/her and you die", this is for you. Perfect.

Friday 10 November 2023

Wildfire by Hannah Grace | Book Review

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Wildfire by Hannah Grace
My rating: 4/5
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Publication date: 3rd October 2023

When Russ and Aurora cross paths at a university party, a drinking game ends with them spending the night together. The next day, Aurora slips away before Russ learns her full name. 

This anonymity ends when they both turn up to their first day of work as camp counsellors. A job they had both chosen to escape Maple Hills for the summer. 

Given their history, there’s still an obvious tension between the two but the camp has a strict “no staff fraternizing” rule. Russ doesn’t want to risk heading home early but Aurora has never been one for rules.  

As things heat up, they'll have to resist or risk starting something they just can’t stop.   

As soon as I read Icebreaker, I instantly pre-ordered Wildfire. As it was the second in the Maple Hills series, I was excited for the crossover in characters.

Russ Callaghan is the goalie of the UCMH hockey team and meets Aurora Roberts. After the two have a one-night-stand at an end of year party, they are thrown together again when they realise that they are both volunteer counselors at a kids summer camp.

The majority of the story takes place throughout the course of the summer and focuses on their developing relationship. When I read Icebreaker, I said that the plot was thin but spice was fantastic. In Wildfire, I felt that the plot was better, with a little less (but still very good) spice. 

I really enjoyed the characters of Russ and Aurora, their familial issues and seeing Russ's confidence grow. I know everyone wants a Henry book but I feel like I want a JJ one because he is a fantastic friend!

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Mary; or the Birth of Frankenstein by Anne Eekhout | 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.]

Mary; or the Birth of Frankenstein by Anne Eekhout
My rating: 4/5
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication date: 2nd November 2023

There is a beast inside her, a monster. It wants to scream, it wants to tear things apart.

1816. Mary, eighteen years old, is staying in a villa on Lake Geneva with her lover Percy Shelley. She is tormented by his infidelities; haunted by the loss of her baby daughter.

Then one evening with friends, as storms rage outside and laudanum stirs their imaginations, Lord Byron challenges everyone to write a ghost story, and something fierce and wild awakens in Mary.

Memories surface of the long, strange summer she once spent with a family in Scotland, where she found herself falling in love with the enigmatic Isabella Baxter. She learned tales of mythical beasts, witches and spirits. And she encountered real monsters - both in the rocky wilds, and far, far closer to home...

Illuminating the past like a flash of lightning, this brilliant reimagining of the birth of Frankenstein takes us into a feverish world of waking dreams-where grief mingles with desire, and the veil between beauty and horror grows thin.

I very rarely read historical fiction but I always make an exception for books about Mary Shelley. I've read two others this year (Our Hideous Progeny by C. E. McGill and Reproduction by Louisa Hall) and I really enjoyed them so I was excited for this take.

Mary; or the Birth of Frankenstein is told from two timelines. In 1816, Mary, her husband Percy, their baby son and stepsister Claire, are at the residence of Lord Byron at Lake Geneva where there are fellow poets in attendance. They begin to exchange ghost stories. When challenged to write the best horror story, Mary remembers another time in her life, four years earlier in Dundee, Scotland where she joins the Baxter family, instantly having a rapport with Isabella, the daughter who is still in grieving after losing her mother.

The family exchange stories in a similar way, these can be fiction or non-fiction. Mary takes things that have happened on her adventures and embellishes them a little. The girls spend their time outdoors and eventually happen upon a monster of sorts and they debate what is true. The relationship grows deeper between Mary and Isabella but Isabella's brother-in-law Mr Booth, who Mary has her doubts about, has been watching them. This encourages Mary Shelley to write her famous Frankenstein novel.

This is translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson and it is just absolutely gorgeous. I fell so quickly into the story and I actually had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction. In true gothic style, you have that sinister feeling right from the beginning and it flows beautifully. You feel a real change in Mary in just four short years, especially after losing a child rising. It is dark, moody and just stunning.

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