Sunday 28 January 2024

Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane | Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

My rating: 4/5
Publisher: HarperFiction
Publication date: 7th March 2019

Blurb:

It began with four words.
‘I love your laugh. x’

But that was twelve years ago. It really began the day Georgina was fired from The Worst Restaurant in Sheffield (© Tripadvisor) and found The Worst Boyfriend in the World (© Georgina’s best friends) in bed with someone else.

So when her new boss, Lucas McCarthy, turns out to be the boy who wrote those words to her all that time ago, it feels like the start of something.

The only problem? He doesn’t seem to remember Georgina – at all…

Review: 
I love Mhairi McFarlane's novels. I think when you look at the covers you assume they are a typical romance and while yes, there is an element of romance to them, the main subject matter is deeper. They always have McFarlane's Scottish humour throughout though! 

Georgina is 30 years old, she has just lost her job in an Italian restaurant and has walked in on her kind of famous comedian boyfriend shagging his PA. Both pretty crap things to happen in the same day, but both scenes are hilariously written.

After getting a job at a newly renovated pub, she realises that the owners are brothers and she has a past with one of them back in her school days. Lucas McCarthy appears to have totally forgotten her though and she doesn't bring it up either.

The whole novel focuses mostly on memory, grief and self development. I love how every single one of McFarlane's characters are fleshed out, from her family to her group of friends and even the Bob the stripper dressed as Thor.

A great read with a satisfying ending.


Wednesday 24 January 2024

We Play Games by Sarah A. Denzil | Blog Tour Book Review

[ad/gifted - I received an audio copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

Genre: Psychological thriller 
Publication date: 11th January 2024
Publisher: Audible Originals 
My rating: 4/5

Blurb:
When the rules turn deadly, winning is everything.

The perfect couple. The perfect marriage. The perfect game.

Effie and Ben May have everything. Success. Beauty. Glamour. But beneath the charming smiles and expensive clothes, a twisted game is in progress.

A game for which only they know the rules.

Leaving their fast-paced London life behind them, the Mays move to the exclusive gated community of Ivy Oaks. Here they can settle down and start a family in this quiet, safe little neighbourhood. At least, that’s what they tell their new neighbours.

But the truth has deadly consequences.

While Effie and Ben scheme and manipulate those around them, they fail to notice their carefully cultivated faรงade crumbling away. The perfect couple soon turn the game on each other, breaking all the rules. But when the stakes are life and death, losing isn’t an option.

As the final cards are dealt, who will play the winning hand and who will pay the ultimate price?

Review:
I love a good audiobook and this one is up there for me in terms of entertainment.

Narrated by a full cast with music, mixed media such as news reports and online chat comments, I was enthralled from the beginning.

Effie and Ben May have just moved to the gated community of Ivy Oaks. The two are married but also have their own little games they like to play. They seduce married couples in order to scam them, usually out of money, then move on to find their next mark.

They have one rule "No lies, no ties" but when they beginning to lose focus and start turning on each other, what will happen in this cat and mouse game?

This was a bit of a slow starter for me but when the scene was set, I found it hard to stop listening. Ben was a character I loved to hate and Dan Stevens voice was perfect to bring him to life. Billie Piper's Effie was just as good. The whole cast were fantastic.

The twists and turns throughout kept my interest and I thought the ending and epilogue tied it together perfectly. Highly recommend!

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


Tuesday 23 January 2024

Exodai by Elizabeth Hendrick | 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.]

Genre: Memoir
Publication date: 18th September 2023
My rating: 5/5


Blurb:
Tonight, I am going to be tortured for the woman I love …

Elizabeth’s drives and desires have always been unusual. Beginning in early childhood, her need for love and suffering took her from the prim surroundings of a Norfolk girls’ school to the secret, latex-clad, rope-bound, whip-lashed delights of the Tokyo role-playing scene.

For Elizabeth, torture was not about sexual gratification – it was about love. In this frank and open memoir, she tells the story of a remarkable personal journey. Attracted to other girls from an early age, Elizabeth struggled to come to terms with her sexuality. As a schoolgirl, her fantasies of torture – always for the benefit of whichever girl she was in love with – were rooted in her own inability to accept herself as a lesbian or reconcile her desires with her Christian beliefs. Before finally realising that connection, Elizabeth would go through years of emotional and physical pain.

Having experimented at university, Elizabeth discovered a whole new world when her career as a high-flying headhunter took her to Tokyo. There she was inducted into the Japanese fetish scene and learnt what real role-playing was all about. When she fell in love with a gorgeous Japanese dominatrix called Tomo and became her slave, she began a descent into hell. Tomo proved to be an irredeemable sadist who took torture far beyond the accepted limits. Elizabeth went to the brink of destruction for Tomo. Not for the faint-hearted, this gripping memoir describes what she experienced there and how she found her way back.

TRIGGER WARNING: this book contains graphic descriptions of real-life sadistic torture.

Review:
Whenever I read a memoir or non-fiction book, I tend to read them slower than fiction and I am probably not in the minority when I say this. However, when I started reading Exodai, all of a sudden it was 2 hours later and I was halfway through. This is probably one of my favourites.

This book follows Elizabeth's life as a Christian, coming to terms with her sexuality which didn't align with the Christian values. She then discovers the world of BDSM in Tokyo. The novel runs much deeper and at times my heart ached.

There is a lot of discovery, self-reflection, realisation and it felt very eye-opening to me. Elizabeth poses the question of, where is the line? When does BDSM stop being BDSM and be real torture and how to do you know if you are submitting for the right reasons? The relationship with Tomo was hard to read.

This is such a brutally honest memoir with a lot of thought provoking and emotional aspects. It takes a lot to share a story like this so openly and publicly, thank you for sharing it with us, Elizabeth.

•••
Thank you Literally PR for having me on the blog tour. You can find information about the other bloggers on the tour in the graphic below.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

One Last Breath by P. S. Cunliffe | Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

Genre: Psychological thriller 
Publication date: 16th January 2024
Publisher: Embla
My rating: 4/5

Blurb:
A deadly trap. A ticking clock. How long until she has only one last breath?

Jessie wakes to darkness, cold, and the rain beating down on her. She reaches out, and her hands meet hard stone.

Suddenly she knows where she is. Deep in the woods, far underground, at the bottom of the well where her best friend's lifeless body was found fifteen years ago. After returning to her hometown to investigate a new murder, she now finds herself poised to become the killer's next victim.

Jessie gazes up to the circle of night sky above her, the relentless raindrops landing on her face.

She doesn't know how she came to be here, but she knows that, with the storm getting worse, it's only a matter of time before the well begins to fill with water. Can she make it out before it's too late? And what will be waiting for her on the surface if she does?

Review:
As soon as I started reading One Last Breath, I was instantly gripped. The novel opens with a woman climbing out of a well, only to be pushed back in.

We soon discover that the woman is thirty-two-year-old Jessie, a true crime documentary maker, whose friend Amy was found dead in the same well back when they were teenagers. Her documentary on Amy's murder ended up getting Amy's boyfriend at the time, Connor, released from prison as it was proven that he did not kill her.

Jessie is now back in her hometown with five-year-old daughter Freya to visit her father. Only there has been another murder. This time of a teenage boy and Jessie is convinced that Evan's death is related to Amy's, even though they are so unalike. Against advice of the police, she starts doing her own investigating which, as we know, does not end well for her.

The story is told in flashbacks of the days counting down to Jessie coming to be in the well, her being in the well and her husband Martin in the early hours of the morning rushing to get to his father-in-law's house. It has bit of mixed media too, with transcripts from some episodes of Jessie's documentary, Born Killer.

There are so many characters in this book and I felt like I trusted none of them, convinced each of them were responsible at different points. The urgency that I want from a thriller is there and it is very clever. There are so gross depictions of injuries that had me grimacing and you really feel the claustrophobia of Jessie being trapped in the well. This is a very entertaining thriller! 

Thursday 11 January 2024

First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston | Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

Genre: Psychological thriller 
Publication date: 2nd January 2024
Publisher: Headline
My rating: 4/5

Blurb:
Everything she is about to tell them is a lie...

Evie Porter has everything a girl could want: a doting boyfriend, a house with a picket fence, a fun group of friends.

The only catch: Evie Porter doesn't exist.

First comes the identity. Once she's given a name and location by her employer, she learns everything there is to know about the town and the people in it.

Then the mark: Ryan Sumner.

The last piece of the puzzle is the job. For Evie, this job feels different. Ryan has gotten under her skin and she's started to picture another kind of life for herself - one where her boss doesn't pull the strings. But Evie can't make any mistakes. Because the one thing she's worked her entire life to keep clean, the one identity she could always go back to - her real identity - just walked right into this town. A woman, who looks just like her, has stolen her name - and she wants more. As Evie's past begins to catch up with her, can she stay one step ahead to save her future?

My review: 
I was always a massive thriller reader but recently found myself getting less excited by them. I think I'd maybe read too many and could see the formula early on which dampened my experience. First Lie Wins was like a breath of fresh air and really reinstated my love of thrillers.

Evelyn "Evie" Porter is in a new relationship with Ryan Sumner. However, Evie is not real. Ryan thinks he is her boyfriend, but really he is Evie's next job.

Her boss, known only as Mr Smith who she has never met, has been assigning Evie (real name Lucca Marino) to jobs where she is tasked to seek out intel and other information from politicians to businessmen, giving her a new identity each time to do so.

When Ryan's friend James turns up at a party with his new girlfriend "Lucca Marino", Evie quickly realises that Mr Smith is out to get her but in this game of cat and mouse, Evie is always one step ahead.

This book is so clever and is meticulously and intricately planned out. The timeline switches between present day as Evie Porter but is interspersed with chapters from Evie's past aliases and jobs. You can see it all play out in your minds eye and it is such an entertaining read. 

I would say that I probably wanted it to end about half a page earlier than it did but that's absolutely a personal thing. I highly recommend this book!


Thursday 4 January 2024

Legally Binding by Sophie Snow | 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.]

Genre: ๐ŸŒถ️ Romance
Publication date: 13th Feb 2024
My rating: 5/5

Blurb:
She's half his age. He's her boss and everything she shouldn’t want. One night together to get it out of their systems can’t hurt... right?

After shocking her loved ones by ending her long-term relationship, Maggie Burlington is determined to prove that she can do it all on her own. But juggling a monster house renovation, her parents’ failing business, and her job as personal assistant to the illustrious Calahan Michaelson leaves Maggie with little time for a personal life, let alone romance—not that she’s looking for one.

Like his assistant, Cal couldn’t be less interested in romance. He’s been there, done that, and if Maggie’s face sometimes flashes through his head as he’s drifting off to sleep, then surely it’s just because they spend so much time together. Though, there is the matter of that accidental sex club meeting…

When a night stranded in the office due to bad weather brings Maggie and Cal closer, Maggie must decide if proving she can make it on her own is worth losing the one person who makes her feel less alone.

Review:
I absolutely ADORED The Rule Of Three by the same author, so imagine my excitement at being chosen to receive an ARC copy of Legally Binding! This book honestly felt like perfection.

Maggie Burlington is the 27-year-old assistant to lawyer Cal Michaelson who is 28 years her senior. She has always had a bit of a thing for him but that's all it was, a work crush.

After an unexpected meeting at a sex club, it feels like they have officially crossed a line even though nothing actually happened between them. They eventually agree on just one night to get it out of their systems but they both end up deeper than they ever expected.

I loved this book so much. Cal and Maggie both had so much depth to their characters and I just adored them. From Maggie's treatment by her family and ex-boyfriend to Cal's divorce and family, it was all developed so well. You really get a feel for both of their personalities and their character growth both separately and together was beautiful to read.

This isn't the first age gap romance novel I've read but it is probably one of my favourites. The romance was obviously a main part of the book but I really liked that the work aspects weren't glossed over and it added to my overall enjoyment of the novel.

I loved that any trial and tribulations or worries that they experienced felt real. I spent a lot of the book internally saying "aww! ๐Ÿฅน" at Cal's actions. Men written by women ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ

If you are looking for a spicy, age gap, boss/employee romance that has a great plot to boot, get this on your TBR! 

••• 
A massive thank you to Sophie Snow for having me as part of her ARC team.

Wednesday 3 January 2024

Be Bad, Better by Rebecca Seal | Blog Tour Book Review

[AD/gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links.]

Genre: Self-help
Page count: 400
Publisher: Souvenir Press
Publication date: 28th Dec 2023
My rating: 4/5

Blurb:
You do not have to be good.

At some point, you'll have absorbed the message that being good is to be calm, efficient and tidy. Wise and well-meaning people offer to help you become worthy, to be positive and productive and to always say 'yes, I can!' But what if this is wrong? And what if some of the things we've been told are bad, are just as useful as the good?

Blending science, expert interviews and practical advice, here is the flipside of everything we've been told we should be - and how the bad parts are really not so bad after all. You'll discover:

- Why it's helpful to feel angry
- How it's counterproductive to always be productive
- How laziness can improve your relationships
- Why your body is, and has always been, absolutely fine
- How clutter inspires creativity and enhances your sense of place
- Why mindlessness is good for your mental health

Be Bad, Better is not an invitation to start misbehaving but it is about taking what you think are your worst bits and asking what they could do to serve you. Examining how society polices our behaviour and artificially constructs the good and bad, here is a thoughtful and eminently helpful guide to reassessing your ideas of success, embracing every part of yourself and being bad, better.

Review:
What a fantastic book to start the year with! As a chronic people pleaser who is desperate to be liked, struggles to say no, feels guilty about every little thing and constantly compares herself to strangers - I needed this book!

Rebecca Seal weaves together scientific facts, advice and interviews across a variety of topics with a similar theme. All of them have negative social connotations such as being selfish, laziness, having clutter, being anxious and many more and turns them on their head, showing us that there are positives to be found and we need to stop trying so hard.

I think this is a book that everyone should read. Although I probably knew quite a bit of it deep down, having it all presented to me in this manner, factually, has really been eye opening. I am excited to take some of this advice on board and be less apologetic for being me.

•••

A massive thank you to Souvenir Press for supplying me with a copy of this book and allowing me to take part in the blog tour. More information on where to find other reviews is shown in the graphic below.