Brianne's Bytes

Reviews PublishedProfessional Reader.25 Book Reviews

Hot and Steamy - Reviewed 18 October 2018

Sensuous PassionsSensuous Passions by A Redhead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An exciting and beautifully descriptive collection of erotic short stories that are not for the fainthearted. My favourites are The Dragon Keep and The Vampire and the Redheads. In the Dragon Keep, will Anya be rescued and return home? What will be the fate of the Vampire, in the tale of the Vampire and the Redheads?

A delightful read, Amanda's writing skills are mindblowing and admirable. I am looking forward to reading another of Amanda's books very soon.

View all my reviews 

A Good Debut And Extremely Interesting Read - Reviewed 22 October 2018

Strangers on a BridgeStrangers on a Bridge by Louise Mangos 
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strangers on a Bridge is a tale of obsession and betrayal, set in the Swiss Alps. I thought the descriptions of the setting were absolutely beautiful, although the character of Alice was extremely difficult to relate to, as she prevaricated so much and repeatedly made terrible decisions, given that she was being stalked. I found it difficult to fully understand the reasons why Alice didn't want to discuss her stalker, Manfred, with Simon, her own husband, when he was at home. Simon, I believe, was not supportive enough of her and the difficult situation the whole family found themselves in as a result of Alice's actions, on the occasions when his wife let him into her mind.

Later on, I found Alice's blossoming relationship with Manfred's son, Gerry a little far-fetched, as well as her acceptance of his promises to protect her.

I really enjoyed this book and I thought it was very well written, however, for me, it is less of a suspenseful thriller and more of a contemporary fiction novel. It is still an extremely interesting read and a good debut. I am very much looking forward to reading Louise Mangos' next book.

View all my reviews 

A Hot and Steamy, Thrilling Read - Reviewed 25 October 2018


Office Toy (Office Toy, #1)Office Toy by Cleo Peitsche 

 My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Office Toy is the story of Elle Girdley, who goes for a job interview that is not what she expects it to be, but nevertheless, is in her element. In Elle, the interviewers, Cunningham, Johnathan and Nolan, have unwittingly found their perfect candidate.

This book is exactly what I expected it to be. There was very little in the development of the main or any of the other characters. It was, though, a hot and steamy, thrills-only read. Expect plenty of bondage and anal sex!

View all my reviews

Lighthearted, Enjoyable And Thought-provoking - Reviewed 10 November 2018

Dancing Over the HillDancing Over the Hill by Cathy Hopkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A light-hearted look at what can happen when a couple retires or are unexpectedly made redundant at the same time in their lives and are stuck in a relationship rut, with seemingly nothing in common.

Although very funny, moving and thought-provoking, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would and I preferred The Kicking the Bucket List.

I did manage to be drawn into the characters' world, for the most part, especially Cait and could identify with many of her dilemmas to do the right thing. As with The Kicking the Bucket List, the story was written with humour and a lovely light touch while dealing with love and marriage issues and long-term relationships. I liked that the story has a modern feel and I could identify very much with Cait and her Facebook dilemma when an old flame sends her a friend request, a person who she thought she loved but lost. Her friends, Lorna and Debs, provide some very useful relationship advice, as well as some rather hilarious moments.

I thought the characters of Cait and Matt were very well written and I wanted to continue reading this to find out how their relationship worked out.

This book is funny and charming and it gives you a poignant reminder that you might want to look at your own life, too.

I look forward to your next book, Cathy!




View all my reviews

Absolutely Delightful! - Reviewed 15 November 2018

Batter Off Dead (Southern Cake Baker Mystery, #2)Batter Off Dead by Maymee Bell  
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sophia Cummings, the owner of For Goodness Cakes, is catering for a charity fundraiser at Grape Valley Winery and must make it a successful event to win more catering jobs and pay the bills. Ray Peel, the Winery's landlord, has pledged to pay off the library loan in her hometown of Rumford, however, the event turns sour when Ray is murdered before the loan and Sophia are paid. Can she figure out who killed Ray before For Goodness Cakes collapses?

I have never read any of Maymee Bell's novels before, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. I particularly liked the author's descriptive style, especially the many references to the cakes sold at the bakery which were described so well that you could almost smell them baking in the oven! The portrayal of Sophia's relationships, especially Madison, her best friend, and Bitsy, her mother were also very good, although I think that there could have been a little more spark between Sophia and Carter Kincaid, her sheriff boyfriend. You were introduced to many characters very quickly at the start of the book which was a little confusing at first, however, I like that I was kept guessing all the way through as to the identity of the murderer. The ending to the book was finished off very nicely and I will be reading more Maymee Bell novels in the future.

I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book, supplied by Netgalley. 

View all my reviews 

Insightful And Thought-provoking - Reviewed 18 November 2018


Breaking the RulesBreaking the Rules by Emma Leigh Reed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Isabelle LaFayette attempts but fails, to end her own life in what her mother calls a selfish act. Her suicide attempt haunts her, along with her other past regrets and the inability to forgive herself.

Jack Riley comes into Isabelle’s life and becomes her first love. He makes her feel alive, but she cruelly pushes him away, mistakenly believing that she doesn't deserve to be happy. Can she find the strength to confront her pain and be released from her troublesome past?

Isabelle needs to break the rules that have been imprisoning her. It is the only way for her to move on and piece her heart back together again.

Izzy, as she is known to her friends, is an extremely likeable character and I could really empathise with her. I thought this book was very insightful and thought-provoking. Although I thought that some of the dialogue between Izzy and her new beau, Nick Sterling, was a little repetitive, I found it a very enjoyable read, The author's writing has depth and the ending was very good.

 

I received an ARC of this book by from Netgalley.

View all my reviews 

Sexy And Very Enjoyable! - Reviewed 20 November 2018

French Kissing: Episode OneFrench Kissing: Episode One by Harper Bliss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

French Kissing is a sexy novel about very successful women with plenty of action in the boardroom and bedroom. It centres around the owners and employees of a public relations firm called Barbier & Cyr that is located in Paris. One of the owners is in a long-term relationship with a woman who works at a hospital and is working long hours like her partner. The book is written in sections and is told from each one of the key characters' perspectives, making the story very easy to follow.

Juliette and Nadia have been partners for the past ten years. Juliette is a workaholic and very proud of the agency that she and Claire Cyr started. However, Juliette feels her long-term relationship with Nadia is in jeopardy and doesn't know what to do about it. The highs and lows of their relationship are one of the key focal points in this book and the glorious undercurrents are very humorous, amazing, and touching. Juliette is in a state of turmoil and at a loss as to how to make things right with Nadia. How will things progress?

The two other main characters involved with Juliette and Nadia are Claire and Steph. Claire is single and Nadia has invited a doctor from her hospital to a dinner party happening at Juliette and Nadia's home as a date for Claire. These four women are all involved in each others' amazing love lives. This is a major part of the book, along with being a source of many delightful events and amusing situations. The author's wonderfully written highs and lows are incredibly enjoyable to read.

This is a truly remarkable novel!

View all my reviews 

Breathtaking And Shocking - Reviewed 23 November 2018

The Perfect HusbandThe Perfect Husband by Buffy Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Shelly's marriage ends in divorce, she's left completely devastated and feeling like she's never going to find love again. Then she meets Eric after joining an online dating agency, and he's handsome, caring, and everything she has ever wanted. From romantic dates to expensive gifts, it's as if she's in a dream.

But just when Shelly thinks she's finally found her perfect match, she begins to realize that all is not as it seems. As the cracks start to develop, perhaps Eric isn't everything she thought he was. Will her dream become a nightmare?

Shelly is very much in love and is blissfully unaware of and ignores all the warning signs that Eric is unwittingly giving out.

"He was making me feel things I'd never felt before. And there, at that moment, blanketed by his warm kisses and tender love, I felt like I was in heaven and I knew I would never be the same."

Her best friend, Jackie and her work colleagues are also equally charmed by him.

"He's incredible, .....I can certainly see why you're falling in love with him. He's so generous......."

Then the warning triggers come, that all is not right with Eric.

"You should download a GPS tracker app on your cell phone so I can keep tabs on you."

"You're joking, right?"

"Not really........"

After Shelly and Eric marry, outgoing, attractive, confident Shelly is frequently accused of flirtatious behaviour with other men and is forced into sex acts and acting out her husband's fantasies. She becomes a shadow of herself, whilst keeping up the pretence of a perfect marriage.

This novel is a fantastic and addictive read and I was very impressed with the author's writing style. Although there is plenty of romance, it is also a very dark, psychologically suspenseful novel and certainly not all hearts and flowers.

Stars: Five, a wonderful read, breathtaking, shocking and nailbiting in parts.

View all my reviews 

Hilarious And Sweet - Reviewed 26 November 2018

The Twelve Dice of ChristmasThe Twelve Dice of Christmas by Gail Oust
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adore a new book, and if it’s part of a series, that's great, as it means more books for me to read!

Welcome to Serenity Cove, a peaceful Southern community where the residents like to play dice, and when there is a dark mystery, play detective.

With Christmas fast approaching, Kate McCall and her retired friends get into the holiday spirit by agreeing to help the elderly Eula Mae Snow decorate her home, even when it means sorting through many of the older woman’s belongings. Intent on doing a good deed and uncovering a bright collection of seasonal decorations, Kate is stopped dead in her tracks when instead she discovers the skeleton of a man showing clear signs of foul play.

Many in Serenity Cove thought that Waylon Snow had run off and left town and his wife, Eula Mae, more than two decades earlier. But with the appearance of his skeleton and a whole host of clues pointing to Eula Mae as the murderer, Kate will have to put her sleuthing skills to work to figure out who could have committed the evil deed.

Kate and her retired friends, known as The Bunco Babes, are feeling festive and they are planning a cookie exchange and ugly sweater contest for their last dice game session of the season. As they plan their holidays, they decide to help their friend decorate her house for the annual charity Christmas Home Tour. The Bunco Babes get cracking, and in the process of hunting for the Christmas decorations, Kate discovers the skeleton in the root cellar. Kate now has a twenty-five-year-old mystery to contend with. Can she solve it?

This is my first novel by Gail Oust and I really enjoyed it. I love that it is an old mystery set in Christmastime. Although this is the fourth book in a mystery series, you do not need to have read the previous books in sequence to be able to follow the story properly.

I found many of the characters very funny and easy to relate to, particularly Kate herself, but also Eula Mae's granddaughter, Tammy Lynn and Bill Lewis, Kate's "significant other". Many of the other characters in the book were extremely amusing and unusual. Kate and the Town Sheriff, Sheriff Wiggins have history, Although he is not in Kate's fan club, can she use her powers of persuasion on him to allow the Bunco Babes into the house in time for it to be decorated for the Christmas Home Tour?

You’ll treasure this sweet Christmas mystery, as I did!

Thanks to Netgalley and Beyond the Page Publishing for a copy of this book.

View all my reviews I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I'm a great place for you to tell your story and let your visitors know a little more about you.

Gripping And Very Interesting - Reviewed on 27 November 2018

Salvation in Death (In Death, #27)Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Immediately after drinking the wine during a Catholic funeral mass, Father Miguel Flores is dead on the altar. Detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas confirms that the consecrated wine contained potassium cyanide. Though the East Harlem neighbourhood is a long way from the stone mansion she shares with her billionaire husband Roarke, she knows she's looking for a murderer.

The autopsy reveals faint scars of knife wounds, a removed tattoo and evidence of plastic surgery, suggesting “Father Flores” may not be the man his parishioners thought. Now, as Eve pieces together clues that suggest identity theft, gang connections, and a deeply personal act of revenge, she hopes to track down whoever committed this unholy act. Then a second murder takes place, in front of an even larger crowd of worshippers. Are the homicides linked?

Salvation in Death is the 27th book of the "In Death" series, with Eve and Roarke as the lead characters.

Salvation in Death begins with the poisoning of a Catholic priest during mass. The priest, a passionate, dedicated and energetic member of the community, seems to have no enemies. He cared especially about young people, was not depressed, stressed or troubled and every member of the church looked up to him. But when his autopsy reveals some old scars and a covered tattoo, Eve realises that the priest must have some dark secrets in his past. When the tattoo points to a ruthless badass gang, Eve is not convinced that the priest is the person he purports to be. When another religious leader is also killed, Eve and her team have to investigate whether there is a serial killer on the loose or if the cases are coincidental in their timing.

This is the first book I have read from the "In Death" series by J. D. Robb, the pseudonym of Nora Roberts. I loved the portrayal of the relationship between the two lead characters, Eve and Roarke, particularly,

"Everything and all things. That was Eve for him. Nothing he'd ever dreamed of, even in secret in the dirty alleys of Dublin, approached the reality of her. Nothing he possessed could ever be as precious. The taste of her in the cool night, in the pale light, stirred a craving he understood would never be fully sated."

There is an impressive number of characters in this crime novel which I have to say made it a little difficult to follow at times. Others that I found an affinity with were Peabody and her significant other and work colleague, McNab.

"They were a good ten feet from the Homicide bullpen when Peabody's nose went up like a hound on the hunt. "I smell doughnuts." When Peabody increased her pace, Eve started to roll her eyes, but then she smelled them, too."

I also liked the following quote including McNab:-

"We got a snag. One of the sons-in-law's a lawyer." "Shit." "Ain't that always the way?" ......."So. He's making lawyer noises. It's after two A.M., and people have been held here for over four hours, yaddah-blah-blah." "Did you get anything from the interviews?" "Nothing that buzzed and popped......"

Eve is really out of her comfort zone investigating murders that have taken place in Catholic churches. She obviously has a past that she has to come to terms with which she seems to make some progress in Salvation in Death. Roarke and she have a great deal of chemistry between them and are very hot together and Roarke has some hilarious moments that make him adorable. He is there for her when certain aspects of the case trouble her and she is needing clarity, but she is by his side when he is struggling with some bad memories of his own. They make a brilliant team and I can't wait to read more of them.

I really surprised myself in that I chose to read this crime novel at all as I don't generally go for books relating to Catholicism. However, I thought it was very nicely written and I found it thoroughly enjoyable. The ending was a surprise to me, and I loved the way the book was concluded. Reading Salvation in Death has inspired me to read other "In Deaths" and also other Nora Roberts novels.

Overall, Salvation in Death is a gripping and very interesting read.

View all my reviews

An Easy, Escapist And Thrilling Read - Reviewed on 29 November 2018

The Paris Apartment (Love Nests, #1)The Paris Apartment by Sophia Karlson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Take a twenty-four-year-old beautiful virgin and a hot, hugely successful, hunky chap in a minimally furnished apartment in the centre of Paris, the most romantic city in the world and you've got an incredibly sexy and romantic read!

James Sinclair, a successful trader keeps his busy life uncomplicated. Work is about all he has time for. Imagine his surprise when he returns to his Paris apartment to find his little sister’s best friend, Mila Johnson, in his bed. One night of fooling around opens a Pandora’s box which Mila just wants to pry open wider, whereas James just wants to keep the lid on tight. Mila is sweet and innocent and no way is he going to expose her to the real James Sinclair. As his relationship status changes to complicated, James struggles to keep control over his past and his heart. Mila’s teenage fantasy is still larger than life, but James swings between hot and cold. Now that she has him between the sheets, Mila will do anything to keep him there.

Mila Johnson and James Sinclair haven't seen each other for more than twelve years, and when they accidentally meet up again, there is an intense attraction between the two of them. Mila has escaped her narrow-minded parents and limiting family life for two weeks of freedom in Paris, ready to explore the exciting and vibrant City. Then James turns up, her best friend's older brother crush, sexy, broody, full of dark secrets and a man of the world...

Right from the start, this is a phenomenally sexy and incredibly exciting read, with beautifully descriptive love scenes. I loved the chemistry between the two main characters.

His heart was jolting, his pulse irregular as his eyes glimmered at her, taking in her beautiful face, the even complexion of her untainted skin, her eyes big and wide, accentuated by the dark-rimmed glasses that she wore. Those eyes were something else, and the way she looked at him he wanted to tug off her glasses, lean over the table and kiss her lips. Mark her.

But all is not rosy as there are dark moments and plenty of sordid secrets, too. I enjoyed every moment of The Paris Apartment.

This romance by Sophia Karlson makes for an easy, escapist and thrilling read.

Many thanks to Backlit PR and Netgalley for this ARC.

View all my reviews

Steamy, Intense and Emotional - Reviewed 5 December 2018

Sugar: My Life as a Sugar BabeSugar: My Life as a Sugar Babe by Monique X
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sugar was beckoning at me to be read, initially by the eye-catching and attractive cover and that it looked like it would be a very steamy read, as indeed it was. I was definitely not disappointed! I was smitten from the very first, right until the last page.

Monique is a loving single mother, who is trying to create a happy home for her two daughters and she's also a Sugar Babe, dating wealthy men, a practice known as Sugar Daddy dating. She mostly meets her Sugar Daddies during the day, when the children are at school or when they are with their father. Monique finds a thousand pounds in her purse after one night of passionate and very hot sex, and she realises that Sugar Daddy dating could be her way to survive as a single mother.

A heady life of wealthy men, luxury hotels and glamorous experiences ensue. One of my favourites was Iranian engineer Farshad, who liked to lavish Monique with gifts such as expensive jewellery and leather boots and wine and dine her in exotic restaurants.



Dates with Sugar Daddies see her flying to Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, Milan, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong and skydiving in Dubai. Thanks to her Sugar Daddies, Monique can provide for her children, she has some independence, and experiences a whole new range of sexual fantasies.



She deactivates her account with her agency, Seeking Arrangement, and her ex-husband stops paying for the children's' upkeep. She is then prepared to do anything for the sake of her children. Money becomes her top priority and she starts living in the dangerous waters of the escort world. Now she realises that she must find a way out before this hollow existence becomes a habit.

I absolutely loved reading Sugar. Maybe it was the novelty of reading a book told as memoirs and based on true events. It was fascinating to read about Monique's travels to different countries and about the different nationalities, cultures and personalities of the gentlemen she dated. However, she ends up working as an escort rather than a Sugar Babe, as it's all about basic survival instincts, money and very spicy sex.

Sugar is steamy and hot, passionate and caring, intense and emotional and there are definitely moments where you will laugh. It is such a fun, fast and interesting read.

Monique X is a brilliant storyteller and really draws you in with her descriptiveness.

Thanks to NetGalley and Thistle Publishing for my ARC.

View all my reviews

A Brilliant and Witty Mystery! - Reviewed 10 December 2018

Wedding WipeoutWedding Wipeout by Jacob M. Appel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Wedding Wipeout far more than I was expecting to. The story-line is brilliant and the mystery is so good that you want to keep on reading.

Rabbi Kappelmacher is planning to retire and is training his assistant, Rabbi Steinmetz, to follow in his footsteps, however, things get interesting when a visitor arrives. Former assistant Rabbi, Marshall Green, is now a lawyer with a case to solve.

One of his firm’s clients has died under suspicious circumstances. An elderly woman, Florence Eisenstein had just married the man she had been dating for the last several months, Alfred Shingle. The morning after her wedding, she is found dead in her bed.

She and her sister, Lorraine, were to be the heirs to their father’s egg cream fortune. Their father’s will, however, stipulated that if either of them married her allowance would cease and the proceeds would immediately pass to the other sister. So why, after so many years of unmarried contentment, did Florence decide to marry and also announce to her family that she had found a way to break the will? A will that, as far as Green was aware, was unbreakable. And why did she say that she was disinheriting her nephew, with whom she was on good terms?



Though Wedding Wipeout appears to be a typical mystery novel and is rather reminiscent of Agatha Christies's Poirot, it's actually quite a refreshing take on the mystery genre. Rabbi Kappelmacher and his sidekick, Rabbi Steinmetz have a very entertaining partnership whilst visiting with suspects and eyewitnesses. I particularly liked the wit and dry humour that was evident throughout the book, although I think that some of the humour and certainly some of the references, may have been lost on me, not being Jewish.



Green believes Florence may have been murdered, even though her own doctor ruled it an accidental death. Using his wit and rabbinic reasoning, Kappelmacher unravels all of the misleading information, red herrings and lies to reveal the truth, whilst Steinmetz tries to keep pace with him.

Wedding Wipeout was a wonderful read. I greatly look forward to reading more books by Jacob M Appel.

Thanks to LibraryThing and the author for a copy of Wedding Wipeout, via Members Giveaway.

View all my reviews 

Really Enjoyable - Reviewed 15 December 2018

The Songbird GirlsThe Songbird Girls by Richard Parker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, this book is amazing! I generally enjoy a good thriller but this one had me enthralled from the very first page.

Detective Tom Fabian’s past is catching up with him. It has been years since the most famous case of his career – when his evidence put infamous serial killer Christopher Wisher behind bars forever. But when Wisher summons a reluctant Fabian to his prison cell to hand over a diary, he realises that Wisher’s twisted games are far from over.

Shortly after Fabian’s visit, Wisher is found dead in his cell. And a few days later, the police find a woman's body bearing Wisher’s signature, a dead songbird. But the police never released this detail to the
public.….. so who has Wisher been talking to? Did Wisher have an accomplice? He had a number of regular visitors whilst in prison. Why are they visiting a serial killer?



The Songbird Girls has a very clever plotline that I really enjoyed. It was intriguing from the beginning and although this is not the first book in the series, I found it a good stand-alone read, as there was plenty of back history.

There are many twists and turns throughout this well-written novel. I simply had to keep reading on with this fascinating thriller and the ending left me very happy. I believe there is definitely scope for a follow-on book. It has an impressive, well-thought-out storyline that culminates in some very tense closing chapters.

I highly recommend reading The Songbird Girls and I am looking forward to reading another book from this author!

I would like to thank NetGalley, Bookouture and the author, Richard Parker, for a copy of this book in return for a review.

View all my reviews   

A Delightful, Sexy Must Read! - Reviewed 17 December 2018

The Billionaire's Sham GirlfriendThe Billionaire's Sham Girlfriend by Leslie North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely adored this wonderful, sweet little romance from the very beginning.

Gregor Beaumont likes racing fast cars and seducing fast women. His late grandfather wanted to make sure Gregor and his two playboy brothers settle down and he had the brilliant idea of buying up a huge share of the brothers’ engine company and using that as an incentive for each brother to find Mrs Right. Settle down or lose the company to a competitor. Gregor has other ideas. He wants a charming but desperate girl to pretend to be his girlfriend. No problem, unless things start to get complicated.

Enter Kara Alerby. Gregor comes into her theatre wanting to hire her to act the part of his adoring girlfriend and offering lots of money that would really help her realise her dream of creating a school for gifted children. She can resist his smiles, his charisma, his beautiful blue eyes and his kiss-me mouth if it means she’ll get her school. She only needs to remember that it’s all a pretence.

When Gregor's love of racing puts his life in jeopardy, Kara isn’t ready to watch another person die in front of her as her father did. Gregor isn’t about to stop doing the one thing that makes life worth living. The two are on a collision course, one that could break them apart forever if they don’t change directions.

Although Gregor has a very public, playboy image, I loved the sexy chemistry between Kara and him whenever they were together and they were both very likeable characters. Kara is bright, ambitious and caring and very much knows her own mind. Gregor is gorgeous, mischievous and soulful. The story was sweet and captivating to the end and loads of fun to read if a little too short.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone.

Thank you to NetGalley, Relay Publishing and the author for a copy of this book.

View all my reviews 

Imaginative And Optimistic! - Reviewed 24 December 2018

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, #1)Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love this book. It's a refreshing, pleasant, imaginative and optimistic book about friendship and the lure of the mysterious, and among other things, it's about a bookstore! It's a definite must-read for all bibliophiles.

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore begins with Clay Jannon, an out-of-work web designer who has found employment at a 24-hour bookstore located in San Francisco. Although the store has very few customers, he meets a variety of strange people that frequent the shop, but who rarely buy anything. However, they borrow mysteriously coded volumes, known as the "Waybacklist," most of which are hand-made, from a secret corner of the store. His curiosity sets him on a strange journey to try to find out more about the "Waybacklist," of ancient, esoteric books.



When they make an exchange from the "Waybacklist," Clay must record transaction details into an old logbook, including personal information about each customer, such as their appearance and state of mind. When the shop is empty, Clay busies himself by creating a computerised model of the bookstore in 3D. By identifying each of his customers by a different colour in the model, he is able to see a pattern developing and becomes convinced that the customers and Penumbra himself are members of a secret cult.



With two computer geek friends, one an old school friend, Neel, and the other a potential customer he met in the bookstore, Kat, who becomes his girlfriend, Clay sets out on a quest to learn the carefully kept secrets of the bookstore. When they bring their findings to Mr Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend further than they ever imagined.

Clay, the main character, is exactly the kind of lead you want in this type of novel. He is constantly clueless though he tries hard, he is absolutely hilarious and very genuine. There are many different secondary characters regularly being introduced, but the book is so cleverly written that they never seem unnecessary. There is a lot of different levels of interaction between them, that I really liked.

There is an amazing use of different technologies in this book, however despite all the Google, Amazon, Kindle and the computer references, the true emphasis of the novel is on the people, and that is why I found the book so charming and bewitching. The younger characters are keen and enthusiastic, and you can identify with their search for connection and knowledge. The mix of foisty old books and cutting-edge technology is captivating.

If you prefer villains in your novels then this book is not for you. There is no evil in this book, and everyone that the narrator meets becomes a friend. I couldn't really guess how this book would end but I loved the way the story was concluded. The following quote is actually the last paragraph in the book, but it describes the mystery and the wonder of the whole book, to perfection.



"A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time."

Enthralling and fun to read, this novel, with its unique twists and turns of plot, left me feeling very satisfied.

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore has inspired me to read other novels by Robin Sloan.

View all my reviews

Funny, Entertaining And Imaginative - Reviewed on 5 January 2019

Nine Perfect StrangersNine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My rating is 41/2 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I love this book. It's a funny, entertaining, and imaginative book about the issues that affect many people from all walks of life. It's also a definite must-read for all Liane Moriarty fans out there.

Nine people, of all ages, have booked into a health resort called Tranquillum House for a break. They are all going there for their own reasons. Located in Australia, Tranquillum House is a "boutique health and wellness resort" where a new you awaits. The resort is owned and run by Masha, a ruthlessly ambitious Russian. She is a former company executive who, ten years prior, experienced a near-death experience leading to her to choose a different life direction. However, Masha, assisted by her loyal staff members, Yao and Delilah, has a dark and sinister agenda for her nine new customers, although she is driven by good intentions.

The guests get a lot more than they bargained for with their ten-day cleansing programme of diet, light exercise, therapy and spa treatments. First, we are introduced to Frances, a romance novel writer whose career has taken a nosedive. Then Tony, who is divorced and has recently lost his much-loved dog has booked into Tranquillum House for weight loss. Lars, a divorce lawyer, is a regular guest of health resorts. Ben and his wife Jessica have won millions on the lottery, but their marriage is in jeopardy. The Marconi family, Napoleon, a teacher, his wife, Heather and their daughter Zoe have booked in for stress relief and appear to be weighed down by grief and guilt. Carmel, a divorced mum of four girls, has lost her husband to a younger woman and is troubled by her very low self-esteem.

All of the characters are wonderfully developed and are all so hopeful for their stay at the health resort. Their interactions with each other are fabulously entertaining, particularly those including my two favourites, Frances and Yao. Frances, for me, was hilarious and I loved the portrayal of the obsessive and infatuated Yao. Masha, exotic, charismatic and narcissistic, has plans for all of the guests that she truly believes will transform their lives and will reward her a glorious and promising future.

Humour and wit in are both in abundance in this novel where people with little in common with each other come together in circumstances where they form unexpected bonds with one another. There are, however, some terribly sad experiences for some of them, including Masha, that eventually became apparent by the end. I did find the pacing a little slow at times but it picked up during a very suspenseful second half of the novel. I couldn't really guess how this book would end but I absolutely loved the way the story was concluded.

Whilst Nine Perfect Strangers might not be everyone's favourite novel by Liane Moriarty, including mine, (I think Big Little Lies is a better book), it was still a hugely enjoyable read. Overall, I would say that Liane Moriarty has created a book with engaging characters, a surprising plot and some very insightful writing, which I am extremely pleased I have read!


A Very Promising Psychological Thriller - Excerpt Reviewed on 16 January 2019


Watching You Excerpt: The First Four ChaptersWatching You Excerpt: The First Four Chapters by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Watching You by Lisa Jewell is a very promising psychological thriller, set in Bristol in England. It begins with an investigation of murder then quickly moves on to the central character, daughter of the victim, Josephine (Joey) Mullen. What’s great about it is you immediately start to get a picture of the impulsive and rather fanciful Joey who is currently living with her new husband, Alfie, in her brother's and his wife's beautiful home - a house in Joey's favourite street. In these opening chapters, several other characters in this book are being well developed and you start to get a feel for their different personalities. The suspense as to where this may be going next is beginning to build, along with a suspicion that secrets are being kept. When Joey notices one of the neighbours, headteacher Tom Fitzwilliam, she is fascinated by this handsome fellow that everyone seems to like. Is Joey developing an obsession for this charismatic, mature man?

I am very much looking forward to how the different relationships develop. I have read some of Lisa Jewell's novels before and I particularly enjoy her easy-to-read writing style.

I loved reading this excerpt and I will definitely be reading more from Lisa Jewell. I can't wait for a copy of the rest of Watching You!

Thank You NetGalley and Atria Books for the excerpt of this book to review.

A Very Enjoyable Read - Reviewed on 12 January 2019

The Girl in the CornerThe Girl in the Corner by Amanda Prowse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was excited to read this latest novel by Amanda Prowse, having been lured by the attractive cover design and the very relatable premise of a woman who feels the need to re-evaluate her whole life, following her husband's guilty admission of his betrayal.

In the opening chapter, we are introduced to sixteen-year-old Rae-Valentine Pritchard, who is quiet and shy, when she meets the very confident, loud and gregarious Dolly Latimer, at College. The two girls quickly become best friends and are inseparable teenagers, laughing and joking their way through life. Dolly arranges a double date for the two of them, her brother Howard and his friend, Vinnie. Rae and Howard, so in love, get married two years later.

From her modest life in the suburbs to a splendid Georgian house in North London, Rae is now a devoted wife and mother to daughter Hannah and her son, George. Following a surprise party in celebration of their silver wedding anniversary, Howard confesses to a shocking betrayal of their marital vows that totally shatters Rae. She is forced to take stock of her position as wife and mother and also her role as a general dogsbody to the Latimer family restaurant business. Will her relationship with her best friend Dolly be affected?

Rae starts to think about all her teenage dreams that she once had - training as a chef and island-hopping in Greece. Can Rae give up on her shattered marriage, live life for herself, and be the real Rae-Valentine?

The planned anniversary celebration trip to Antigua still goes ahead, however, Dolly travels with Rae, instead of Howard. Dolly's divided loyalties and a handsome and friendly, young barman are just the starts of matters becoming even more complicated. In Antigua, Rae contemplates the possibility of continuing with her marriage and what this might mean for her friendship with the enthusiastic Dolly. A reconciliation with Howard may be much more difficult than everyone thinks.

This is a wonderful story for anyone who has always felt that they were 'the girl in the corner' at every social occasion or even for just being the quiet and reserved middle child in their own family, with which I can personally identify. Amanda Prowse has a lovely writing style that captures Rae’s tormented soul beautifully. I also liked the way other issues were explored, in particular, Rae’s parents and sister, Debbie-Jo, who felt like the humble relations compared to the wealthy and successful Latimers. Howard’s betrayal is the catalyst for all of the years of unspoken emotions, forcing Rae to face her feelings of being second best in the Pritchard family.

The Girl In The Corner is a hugely compelling, mature and thought-provoking piece of women’s fiction. Well paced from the very beginning and quick to get into the heart of the story, the novel has great depth and plenty of humour, however, I thought the ending was slightly rushed.

Overall, The Girl In The corner is a well written, emotive book about love, loss, friendship, family and following your dreams that I highly recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for an advance copy of this book.



Watching You Excerpt: The First Four ChaptersWatching You Excerpt: The First Four Chapters by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Watching You by Lisa Jewell is a very promising psychological thriller, set in Bristol in England. It begins with an investigation of murder then quickly moves on to the central character, daughter of the victim, Josephine (Joey) Mullen. What’s great about it is you immediately start to get a picture of the impulsive and rather fanciful Joey who is currently living with her new husband, Alfie, in her brother's and his wife's beautiful home - a house in Joey's favourite street. In these opening chapters, several other characters in this book are being well developed and you start to get a feel for their different personalities. The suspense as to where this may be going next is beginning to build, along with a suspicion that secrets are being kept. When Joey notices one of the neighbours, headteacher Tom Fitzwilliam, she is fascinated by this handsome fellow that everyone seems to like. Is Joey developing an obsession for this charismatic, mature man?

I am very much looking forward to how the different relationships develop. I have read some of Lisa Jewell's novels before and I particularly enjoy her easy-to-read writing style.

I loved reading this excerpt and I will definitely be reading more from Lisa Jewell. I can't wait for a copy of the rest of Watching You!

Thank You NetGalley and Atria Books for the excerpt of this book to review

Whatever It Takes: A Highland Springs Romance (Whatever Series Book 4)Whatever It Takes: A Highland Springs Romance by Leigh Fleming
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whatever It Takes is a beautifully compelling story that has a bit of everything. From drama, romance and conflict, to joy and sorrow, there is really something for everyone. It is a contemporary fiction and romance novel set in Highland Springs, West Virginia, a wonderfully scenic, American small town with a close-knit community.

What’s really likeable about it straight-away are the opening chapters that draw you straight into the main character, Darla Jean Heartwood. She is a strong, confident, very successful businesswoman, however, she is also emotional and impulsive. You feel instantly on her side, particularly in her initial dealings with Jason Byrne the handsome fellow who has been following her. You can immediately sense there is something going on, and one of the highlights of the book is following how that relationship develops. The handsome, charismatic, distinguished, silver fox Jason is, at first, hard to work out but you gradually get to know him as the story unfolds and see that he has many surprising qualities.

Darla has kept a family secret for eighteen years until she receives an unwanted telephone call. Family relationships are put to the test when she decides to correct some of her past decisions, for her daughter, Meghan, the man she loves, and also herself. She will let nothing stand in her way to expose the high-profile Governor, a man who took away her innocence and brought great angst to her life for years.

Both the plot and the character development are excellent, and the story-line is very believable. The story is both captivating and engaging. It held my interest from start to finish, and I found myself rooting for Darla as she showed extremes of courage in confronting her challenges.

The writing style is very easy to read and it’s an interesting novel particularly for the interplay of the different characters - a wacky and psychic aunty, a loud and pushy cousin and a large group of girlfriends. Plenty of romantic ups and downs along the way and plenty of surprises. I loved it!

I highly recommend this book and suggest wholeheartedly that you add it to your booklist.

Thank you to Hidden Gems for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.

Shallow WaterShallow Water by Amanda J. Clay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Shallow Water is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat story that has a bit of everything. From tension, fear, and panic to drama, romance and conflict, and joy and sorrow, there really is something for everyone. It is a suspenseful, psychological thriller fiction novel set in wonderfully scenic Pt. Redwood on California’s rural Mendocino coast.

What’s really likeable about it straight-away are the opening chapters that draw you into the main character, Clara Kendrick. She is a strong, feisty, sexy, confident, badass, journalist, but is living her life under the shadow of the past. She partially blames herself for the terrible unsolved murder of her best friend Ruthi eight years ago, memories of which continue to haunt her.

Clara receives a telephone call from a relative begging her to go and visit her sick mother who she hasn't seen since she fled from her home town all those years ago. She can't bear the thought of seeing her first-love and old flame Sean again. Relationships are put to the test when she does return and past issues are brought to the fore.

But not long into her return to Pt. Redwood, another teenage girl is found on the beach in similar circumstances to Ruthi. Clara and Sean find themselves at the centre of the investigation. Is there a serial killer at large, or is the second murder a coincidence?

I felt instantly on her side of the emotional and impulsive Clara, particularly in her initial dealings with Sean, her handsome, bad-boy first-love. You can immediately sense there is something still going on, and one of the highlights of the book is following how they deal with their emotional baggage. Sean is, at first, hard to work out but you gradually get to know him as the story unfolds and see that he has many surprising qualities. Both the plot and the character development are excellent, and the story-line is very believable. The story is both captivating and engaging. It held my interest from start to finish, and I found myself rooting for both Sean and Clara as they tried to deal with all of the accusations being made against them and the courage they showed in confronting their challenges.

Shallow Water was an interesting novel particularly for the interplay of the different characters - a distant and indifferent mother, a group of exceptionally bitchy grown-up teenagers and a judgemental, close-knit community. Plenty of twists and turns ups and downs along the way and plenty of surprises. I loved the authors writing style which I found very easy to read and the suspense at times had me scared and almost afraid to read on. I loved it!

I did figure out who was behind the murders but not until very near the climax of the book and I was very satisfied with the ending. I have been inspired to read more from Amanda J. Clay and I highly recommend this book. I suggest wholeheartedly that you add it to your reading list.

Thank you to LibraryThing and the author, Amanda J. Clay for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.

The Duke of FireThe Duke of Fire by Jennifer Monroe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Duke Of Fire is a delightful story that has a bit of everything. From romance and drama to tension and conflict, and joy and sorrow, there really is something for everyone. Reminiscent of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, it is a lovely, historical fiction novel set in the magnificent Wellesley Manor, part of the beautifully scenic Exeter Estate, in England.

What’s really likeable about it straight-away are the opening chapters that draw you into the main character, Miss Jane Harcourt. She is a kind, compassionate, strong, and clever governess, but has to leave her present employment due to the unwanted advances and desirous pursuits of her boss. She goes to stay with her cousin Anne and her husband David, until she is able to secure another position, working as a governess.

Jane finds herself further employment with Michael Blackstone, the Duke of Hayfield, also known as the Duke of Fire and his son, Samuel, a sweet eight-year-old little boy. Five years ago the Duke’s wife was killed in a fire and he has lived with the stress and guilt of her death ever since, as he was unable to save her from the fire before she perished. The Duke himself suffered terrible disfigurement and has become a virtual recluse in his own home.

The extremely wealthy Duke has a brother, Lord Robert Blackstone, who assists with all business matters concerning their vast estate, but, unfortunately, does not take much of a liking to Jane’s arrival. Jane in return is mistrustful of Lord Blackstone’s intentions.

I felt instantly on her side of the thoughtful, pretty, and caring Jane, particularly in her initial dealings with the Duke, with whom she was already in awe of. You can immediately sense that there was something going on, and one of the highlights of the book was following how they dealt with their emotional feelings. The Duke is, at first, hard to work out but you gradually get to know him as the story unfolds and see that he has many surprising qualities. Both the plot and the character development are excellent, and the story-line is very believable. The story is both captivating and engaging. It held my interest from start to finish, and I found myself rooting for both Jane and the Duke as they tried to deal with all of their conflicting emotions of that time and the courage they showed in confronting their challenges.

The Duke of Fire was an interesting novel particularly with regard to the interaction of the different characters - a loving, bright and energetic young boy, a handsome, but selfish and untrustworthy brother and a judgemental, gossiping, close-knit ton. Plenty of emotional angst and ups and downs along the way and plenty of surprises. I loved the authors writing style which I found very easy to read. It was a fantastic read!

I delighted in every page of the book from beginning to end and my only criticism would probably be that it could have been a little longer. I liked very much how the book was ended. I have been inspired to read more from Jennifer Monroe and I highly recommend this book. I suggest wholeheartedly that you add it to your reading list.

Thank you to Hidden Gems and the author, Jennifer Monroe for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.

Playing with FirePlaying with Fire by Jen Talty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, Jen Talty is straight into all of the action and keeps it coming with this thrilling romance novella, set in Lake George, New York. It is a delightful story that has a bit of everything, from drama and hot desire to tension and conflict, there is something for everyone.

I really like that, in the opening chapter, we are introduced to hot and sexy fire-fighter, Cade Nash. Next, we meet his gorgeous new neighbour, but Heather Holbrook is a dentist and Cade has a deep-rooted fear of dentists, dating back to a bad experience from his childhood. Cade loves to help people in their hour of need so when Heather’s car has a flat battery and she needs a jump-start, he is there to assist.

Heather has recently divorced and is trying to start over in her new neighbourhood. After leaving her abusive husband, she just wants a happy, quiet life. You could immediately sense that there was an intense physical attraction between Cade and Heather and one of the highlights of the book was following how they dealt with their emotionally-charged feelings for one another. After some problems with her ex-husband, Heather is forced to rely on Cade more than she would have chosen to, until he oversteps the mark, although his main goal was to protect her. Can Heather forgive him?

I thought both the plot and the character development were great and found the story-line to be very believable. The story is well-told, captivating and engaging. It held my interest right from the beginning and I found myself rooting for both Heather and Cade as they tried to deal with all of their conflicting emotions. This was a short, fast-paced read with plenty of action, some suspense and lots of lust and love. I enjoyed their instant attraction and the banter between them and I laughed-out-loud a few times while reading it. I thought the ending was very appropriate for this great novella.

I have been inspired to read more from Jen Talty and I highly recommend Playing With Fire.

Thank you to Hidden Gems and the author, Jen Talty for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.

Seal's Homecoming (Seal & Veteran Series #1)Seal's Homecoming by Leslie North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely adored this wonderful, hot, little romance from the very beginning.

Chance McCallister is a Navy SEAL with dark brown eyes a perfectly honed body and likes sprucing up classic cars. He and his brothers have returned to their home town of Springwell, Georgia for their father’s funeral. Chance buys the car parts from the garage that his ex-girlfriend owns, who he is trying to avoid and hasn’t seen for twelve years. No problem, unless things start to get complicated....

Enter Mandy Loomis, a stunning, petite, curvy, russet-haired beauty, to whom he lost his virginity and who he thought he’d marry until she ripped out his heart just before he left for the Navy. Mandy’s gambler father died two years ago, leaving her the garage family business and a whole load of related debt, owed to a loan shark.

To Mandy, Chance was her childhood sweetheart who abandoned her twelve years ago. Then he was eighteen years old, now she is drowning in lust for him and he is bigger, stronger and even sexier, with an aura of danger and a reputation of fighter and predator. Just as the two are beginning to realize they could have a future together, the loan shark starts to make some serious trouble for them, putting both their love and their lives in danger.

Although Chance has a bad-boy image, I loved the sexy chemistry between him and Mandy whenever they were together and they were both very likeable characters. Mandy is bright, ambitious, fiercely independent and very much knows her own mind. Chance is gorgeous and his actions are always carried out with good intentions.

SEAL’s Homecoming is a short fast-paced read with lots of action, some suspense and plenty of lust and love. Leslie North has written another brilliant story that was sweet and captivating to the end and loads of fun to read.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone.

Thank you to Hidden Gems and the author, Leslie North, for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.

Death in ProvenceDeath in Provence by Serena Kent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

DEATH IN PROVENCE is a wonderful, light, and relaxed read with all of the matching vibes you get when on holiday. That’s exactly how I felt - this novel is almost as good being on a long vacation.

It is a refreshing, mystery fiction novel set in wonderfully scenic St Merlot, a sleepy, quiet village that has infrequent visitors at the unfashionable end of the Luberon Valley, France. St Merlot is unspoilt, with dry stone walls and wildflowers.

What’s really likeable about it straight-away are the opening chapters that draw you into the main character, Penelope Kite. Recently retired and divorced, she is an optimistic, happy, fifty-year-old with plenty of joie-de-vivre. Penelope, or Penny to her friends, has put her unfaithful ex-husband and her ungrateful stepchildren first, for a long time. Since she left her job in forensics at the Home Office in England, she’s been an unpaid babysitter and chauffeur for her grandchildren. Now, she’s going to start living for herself so she buys her dream house, Le Chant d’Eau, or The Song of Water. The stone farmhouse tucked high in the hills is in need of major restoration but is complete with a garden, swimming pool, and sweeping mountain vistas.

But not long after her arrival at Le Chant d’Eau, a corpse is found floating in her swimming pool. The local detective doesn’t seem particularly interested in finding out either the truth or the murderer, but Penny knows a thing or two about murder investigations herself so she starts an investigation of her own.

Enter Clemence Valencourt, the chic but supercilious estate agent, the disdainful chief of police, Inspector Paul Gamelin brought in from the headquarters of the Police Municipale in Cavaillon to investigate. He is 40-ish, has a tanned narrow face, greying hair and a grave demeanour. He also speaks excellent English. The devilishly handsome local mayor is called in to formally identify the corpse. He is the maire de St Merlot, and is gorgeous, with floppy sun-streaked hair, a caramel tan and chiselled cheekbones He also has stunning dark blue eyes...................

All this and being tempted by the delightful food and drink delicacies that Provence has to offer. Luckily her kind and high-spirited, old friend, Frankie who is conveniently fluid in French is just a flight away.

One of the highlights of the book is following the many twists and turns of the plot. I liked the fact that Penny is a smart 50-year-old woman who has lots of life experience and is trying to come to terms with ageing and that she is not quite as naive as her new neighbours in St. Merlot seem to believe. Both the plot and the character development are excellent, and the story is captivating and engaging. It held my interest from start to finish.

DEATH IN PROVENCE was an interesting novel particularly for the interplay of the different secondary characters as well as the primary ones - a reticent and monosyllabic neighbour, an eccentric but honourable gardener, a jaunty and smiling electrician, and a close-knit village community, to name but a few. Plenty of ups and downs along the way and plenty of surprises. I loved Serena Kent’s writing style which I found to be so vivid and very easy to read. The descriptions of the places, people and food were very real and it was easy to imagine that you were actually there. She has reflected the spirit of the French villagers, their individuality brilliantly.

Although I did not figure out who was behind the murders, even though all the clues were there, I had a great time guessing and I loved it! I was very satisfied with the ending. I have been inspired to read more from Serena Kent and I highly recommend this book. I suggest wholeheartedly that you add it to your reading list.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Buried SecretsBuried Secrets by T.J. Brearton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up a copy of Buried Secrets as it was chosen for our Book Club monthly read and I am so glad that I did because it transpired to be an amazing roller-coaster read and I didn’t want it to end.

First, we meet Brett Larson and his wife Emily who have recently moved into their first home, a beautiful, rural, yellow, farmhouse. When Brett finds human remains on their property and a mysterious note hidden in a box, he immediately starts his own investigation with no thought about what he might be getting himself into, that soon starts to land him in a great deal of trouble. We are then introduced to James Russo who is in prison awaiting trial and his cell-mate, Nate Reuter, who appears to be obsessed with the developments in the local tabloids of the discovery of the remains on the Larson property. Told in alternating chapters, I couldn’t read this exciting novel fast enough, so keen was I to know how the two stories would relate to each other.

T.J. Brearton has done a fantastic job in Buried Secrets with the characters. Emily and Brett are just like any other newly-weds, having just moved into their first home together and the excitement of Emily discovering that she is pregnant. I can only imagine their unease at the discovery of the bones and yet Brett couldn’t just leave matters for the police to investigate. For his part, Russo, who is an equally important character in the story, is a likeable bad guy, trying to keep out of trouble but kept finding himself in desperate situations. I found myself continually rooting for him as he was trying to do what he thought was the right thing. I was left wondering exactly what choices I would make if I were to ever find myself in similar situations to Russo. Buried Secrets is a thought-provoking book because of that.

In the second half of the book, Brearton really picks up the pace, and I was kept guessing what was going to happen next the whole time I was reading this crime novel. The twists kept on coming at me right until the very end.

The way in which T.J. Brearton brings everything to a conclusion is just fabulous and I haven’t got anything negative thing to say about this book. I loved it and it has left me eager to read more from this author. Buried Secrets is an exciting and action-packed thriller that I highly recommend.

House of BeautyHouse of Beauty by Melba Escobar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading HOUSE OF BEAUTY, although, I think it’s fair to say, not as much as I hoped to.

I was lured by the premise of a crime novel centring around a beauty salon, featuring the murder of a schoolgirl, concealed by corrupt officials involved in massive healthcare fraud, all happening in Bogota in Columbia. It sounded like a brilliant idea for a novel! I was also drawn by the notion of a beauty salon as a safe place to go, where women can discuss their innermost secrets with each other with no male intrusion.

HOUSE OF BEAUTY was an interesting read which brought a reality that touches on current and pertinent social aspects in Columbia.

I did not enjoy this novel as much as I might have, as some of my enjoyment was lost in the translation. Putting the issue of translation difficulties aside, I found there to be some confusing elements in this novel and not enough detail about the motive for the murder and the ensuing investigation. The detail of the murder itself is very specifically explained which I liked. The book is told from the perspective of two women, after the murder of Sabrina Guzman has already taken place. Claire, a customer at the salon and ghostwriter Lucia, are both middle-class Columbians. However, there’s nothing to make their respective points of view distinctive, so I was frequently puzzled as to which one of them was currently speaking. There are also third-person chapters from the perspective of Karen, a beautician at the salon; from Sabrina Guzman, the girl who dies; and from Sabrina’s mother, Consuelo.

I was fully involved in the story and was keen to know how Karen dealt with all of her difficulties she had with her life, however, I felt that I didn’t really understand the precise reason for the crime being committed. The conclusion, although it had some interesting twists, did not bring everything totally together for me, but maybe that was the author’s intention. It definitely left some room for further thought even after I had finished reading.

All in all, I would recommend Melba Escobar’s HOUSE OF BEAUTY for its originality.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


The First Time I DiedThe First Time I Died by Jo Macgregor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was completely (and unexpectedly) bowled over by this book! Why you might ask? It leapt out at me to be read as it is a thriller which is one of my favourite genres. My enjoyment was unexpected as I am usually wary of anything to do with the paranormal, but not on this occasion. It is not a crime novel where the reader is buried under loads of supernatural information. The thriller and mystery parts are well interwoven along with the paranormal aspects and as a result, I was hooked from the very beginning!

Garnet McGee returns to her home-town in Pitchford, Vermont, at the suggestion of her college professor, who thinks she needs some time away from her studies so that she can re-evaluate what she wants to do with her life. Whilst there, she vows to solve the mystery of a murder which shattered her life ten years ago. But after dying in an accident and being brought back to life, she starts hearing voices, seeing visions and experiencing strange sensations. Are these merely symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and an over-active imagination, or is she getting messages from a paranormal presence?

This is the first of Jo Macgregor’s novels I have read and as always when reading a mystery, I started guessing who the main suspect was. Well, I was wrong because it was someone else…

THE FIRST TIME I DIED is unusual in that I had imagined that it would be about Garnet's death, but it was, in fact mostly about someone else’s. I found that this gave the novel an edge that was both engaging and enjoyable. I found it easy to empathise with Garnet and I wanted her to succeed in what she was looking to achieve.

I loved Jo Macgregor’s writing style and some of her descriptions in the novel were so atmospheric, especially those about Plover Pond. The first half of the novel is written in alternating chapters of time, giving the reader clarity, which really worked for me. "Then" referred to a time period of ten years ago, when Garnet was a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl.

Jo Macgregor brought everything together for a fabulous conclusion even though I never did manage to accurately guess who was behind the murder. I haven’t got anything negative thing to say about this book. I loved it and it has left me eager to read more from this author. THE FIRST TIME I DIED is an exciting and action-packed crime/thriller that I highly recommend.

Thank you to Hidden Gems and the author for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.

Who (Stalker, #1)Who by Megan Mitcham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who scares you the most, a complete stranger or a person you know that has you in their sight?

Megan Mitcham’s latest novel, WHO, delivers an intensely evocative story in this first book of her new Stalker series. With intelligently crafted words and an intriguing plot that has plenty of suspenseful twists, this novel made me want to keep on turning the pages. At first, I found the book a little slow and I was worried that the story wouldn’t live up to its promise, however, the pace soon picked up and I knew I was reading a book that I would come to really enjoy.

Billionaire Larkin Ashford is the fiercely independent owner of her fashion empire which was founded on the back of wedlock. When her company has the opportunity to go public, her Board of Directors won’t give her the green light, unless she agrees to marry. A series of threatening messages aren’t making her decision any easier. As she retreats to her rooftop hideaway to clear her head, she finds herself imprisoned in the strong arms of a mysterious chap who thinks she was about to jump…

Despite her friends’ warnings that her knight in shining armour could be her stalker, she can’t get him out of her head. Determined to find the truth, she searches for her mystery man and discovers a dark secret that could destroy everything that she holds dear. With her empire in danger, she’ll have to uncover the truth before her fortune and her life are reduced to tatters.

I loved the character of Larkin who is efficient, imaginative and extremely shrewd. She has deep-rooted issues with trust from her past and she doesn’t believe in love or long-term relationships. Her mother died when she was thirteen, and she has a tense relationship with her emotionally distant father. She does have a few really close friends that are supportive and loyal. I loved that Megan Mitcham introduced us to an abundance of wonderful characters, especially Larkin’s girlfriends, Genevieve, Marlis and Libby. Their exuberance collectively provides many moments of fun, support and girlie laughter.

Larkin’s high profile life is very much lived in the limelight and with major personal and business decisions needing to be made, who is causing so much trouble for her and what will be the price she has to pay?

I had so many different scenarios playing out in my head, and even though I anticipated some of the twists, I couldn’t settle on the outcome and I was kept guessing until the end. The author definitely did not disappoint with the conclusion of this book!

If you love dramatic plots, intrigue and enjoy crime novels with a bit of romance, then Megan Mitcham delivers with abundance in WHO.

Thank you to Hidden Gems and the author, Megan Mitcham for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.



The Colour of Murder (British Library Crime Classics)The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE COLOUR OF MURDER is the first book by Julian Symons that I've read and I really enjoyed it. Though it is naturally a book of its time, I found it endearing and charming. The characters were fantastic and the book, for me, is reminiscent of a Patricia Highsmith or a Ruth Rendell mystery.

I thought that the story was captivating and engaging and extremely well structured, both leading up to the murder, as told by the accused, as he relates his account of events to a psychologist and in court, with the cases for the defence and prosecution. I loved that the style of writing was slightly different from the usual types of murder mysteries, although there was still a whodunit theme, as well as a look at the nature of justice. It held my interest from start to finish and the way in which Julian Symons brought everything to a conclusion was just fabulous. I loved it and it has left me eager to read more from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.

Sue Fortin Untitled Book 1Sue Fortin Untitled Book 1 by Sue Fortin (author)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having read some of Sue Fortin’s books before, I was very keen to get my hands on a copy of SCHOOLGIRL MISSING as it was a must-read for me. I liked this book very much, The level of suspense she manages to create in her writing is awesome and she is one of my favourite authors in this genre.

SCHOOLGIRL MISSING is an engrossing, psychological thriller set in Ambleton, a lovely quiet village with a river running through it.

What’s really likeable about it straight-away are the opening chapters that draw you into the main characters, Neve and Kit Masters and their daughter, Poppy. Neve is impulsive and unreliable. She was someone who I could empathise with, but she also had me losing patience with her. Kit had a deep-rooted fear of loss as a result of previous life experiences which I could fully understand.

Because Poppy is Kit's daughter and not Neve's, she cannot hide her all-consuming need to have a child of her own. Kit, however, doesn't share her desire which has put a strain on their relationship, and when Poppy vanishes, the cracks begin to deepen. Would either Neve or Kit harm Poppy to achieve their own aims? Are those around them completely as they seem?

One of the highlights of the book was following the many twists and turns of the plot and I absolutely loved the way in which this story developed. Both the plot and character development are excellent, and the story is captivating and engaging. I found that I was regularly pondering where the story was going to next.

This was an interesting novel particularly for the interplay of the different secondary characters as well as the primary ones- a handsome suitor, a supportive best friend, an unpleasant ex-husband, and a dodgy past acquaintance, to name but a few. I thought that all of the characters were very cleverly written - resulting in my constant changes of opinion about whether or not I trusted them. 

I loved Sue Fortin’s writing style which I found to be so vivid and very easy to read. She portrayed the characters’ feelings incredibly well as the story unfolded and Neve's past was particularly well told.

SCHOOLGIRL MISSING is a story full of secrets, suspicion and lies that held my interest from start to finish and the way in which Sue Fortin brought everything to a conclusion was just fabulous. I loved it and it has left me eager to read more from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley, HarperCollins and Sue Fortin for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.


A Case of Bier (Bed-and-Breakfast Mysteries, #31)A Case of Bier by Mary Daheim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable, cute cozy mystery! This is the first book I have read by Mary Daheim and it won't be my last.

After a busy summer, Judith McMonigle Flynn desperately needs a holiday. Her thoughtful husband, Joe, surprises her with a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Thrilled to be getting away, Judith’s overjoyed when Cousin Renie and Bill agree to join them. Though the husbands have made the arrangements, how bad can a short time away in the beautiful mountains be? Judith and Renie are about to find out!

However, the other guests who are camping nearby, are rather strange and peculiar. They’ve gathered on the mountainside to give a relative a proper and permanent send-off, but Judith realises that paying their respects might be a little premature. It’s up to her and Renie to save a would-be corpse from an early date with death.

I really enjoyed the main character and her husband. There was a lot of good humour in this book, which helped with the cozy atmosphere and I loved the random approach they had when trying to solve the case.

A CASE OF BIER is entertaining and a fairly fast read, with a quick pace. I was able to follow the characters and their backgrounds without any problem, even though I haven't read any of the previous books in this series. I would like to read the other books since I enjoyed this one.

Thank you to Edelweiss, William Morrow and Mary Daheim for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.

The Playing Card KillerThe Playing Card Killer by Russell James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, I have to say that I enjoyed every minute of this cracking crime/thriller!

I loved that, straight-away, Russell James introduces Brian Sheridan, who is currently on medication for anxiety-related problems. Brian decides to stop taking his medication as he thinks that he is living life through fog and haze which he hates. As a result, he is tormented by dreams of women being strangled, then left with a playing card tucked in their corpse. When he sees an apparent victim on the news, dead, Brian fears he may be the unwitting killer. Detective Eric Weissbard thinks the same thing and starts to build a case to get Brian convicted. But there's so much more to these murders…

Brian discovers that he has a brother, Tyler, with a penchant for murder. Tyler is willing to frame Brian for the crimes unless Brian wants to join Team Playing Card Killer. 

Russell James’ sympathetic portrayal of the immensely likeable Brian was wonderful to read as his neuroses and delusions were laid bare and there was no hidden side to him. Brian is a troubled young man with an adoptive family with whom he barely has any sort of relationship. His girlfriend, Daniela, by contrast, is confident, and self -assured and she delivers Brian an ultimatum - either he continues with his medication or she will leave him.

I also liked Russell James’ fantastic character portrayal of Detective Weissbard who is talented, analytical and operates mostly and very successfully on gut instinct. However, he is disrespected by his colleagues and is assigned to chasing all the non-eventful leads and red herrings. That is until a jittery young guy arrives at the station, claiming to have detailed knowledge of the investigation that hasn't been revealed.

For me, THE PLAYING CARD KILLER explores some freaky imaginings and is full of creepy vibes. It's a fantastic thriller that surprised me with a mystery that borders on a grim horror novel. I was never quite sure exactly how far off the rails Brian had gone or where the author was going next with this disturbing but exciting story. The suspense was so great that I was on the edge of my seat because I was so absorbed with Brian and Detective Weissbard.

THE PLAYING CARD KILLER held my interest from start to finish and the way in which Russell James brought everything to a conclusion was just fabulous. I loved it and it has left me eager to read more from this author. I would recommend THE PLAYING CARD KILLER to anyone who likes this genre.

[Thank you to NetGalley, Flame Tree Press and Russell James for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.]

If You're Not The OneIf You're Not The One by Laura Briggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a treat this pleasant and delightful romance was, from the best-seller author, Laura Briggs. I have read a couple of Briggs’ novels before, so I knew when I chose to read this that I would be in for a treat.

Although this book is the third in a series of stories about three women running a wedding planning business together, I thought this story worked fine as a standalone. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Wedding Belles - the three friends with their wedding planning business. Tessa is the planner, Natalie the designer, and Ama the caterer. Each has their own, unique voice and different opinions on love.

The protagonist in this third book is Natalie, the wedding dress designer. Natalie isn’t particularly romantic, herself. She doesn’t believe in true love, or destiny and she thinks that people are just plain lucky if they happen to find that certain someone. It’s coincidence and nothing more. 

As a wedding dress designer though, she knows she has to keep these feelings under wraps. Even if she’s suspicious that Harper, the bride she’s currently working with, might secretly agree with her. However, Natalie’s own love life is not straight-forward. Her family and friends are so keen for Natalie to ‘settle down’ that she comes to an agreement with her casual boyfriend, Chad, to call a halt on their constant speculation. But what of boy-next-door, Brayden, who has been smitten with Natalie since they were at High School together?

For me, the greatest part of IF YOU’RE NOT THE ONE is the friendship between these three young women. These are girl-friends with whom you want to share your innermost secrets, to be there for you, or to party or have lunch with.

I love that Laura Briggs writes with flair, which helped to make this novel as wonderful as it is. This book will be highly enjoyable for anyone who loves a good romance. Overall, it’s been an incredibly entertaining story and I very much recommend it.

[Thanks to NetGalley, Bookouture and Laura Briggs for my free ARC, in exchange for my voluntary review.]

The Year After YouThe Year After You by Nina de Pass
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful, soul-searching, but sad story of hope and grief and it is one of the best books that I have read in a while.

It is set in Hope Hall, a Swiss boarding school located in the Alps. For me, one of the things that Nina de Pass did very cleverly was using the setting to maximum effect in THE YEAR AFTER YOU. Since my childhood, I have loved boarding school settings, as everything is so much more intense when in close proximity, such as romantic liaisons and relationships which tend to run at a different rate.

The main protagonist in this novel is Cara, who I found to be exceptionally frustrating at times, though this did not spoil the story for me in any way. From an honesty point of view, she was pretty unreliable as a narrator, however, I had a great deal of empathy for her because of what happened to her best friend Georgina. I loved that Nina de Pass developed Cara’s character so well.

I really liked all of the characters in THE YEAR AFTER YOU because they were so well formed as people with their own parts to play and were not just added after-thoughts to make the protagonist look better. For me, the story-telling also held some poignant messages about support mechanisms of friends and family and mental health issues.

I think that THE YEAR AFTER YOU is a book that I will remember. I would certainly recommend reading it.

[Thank you to NetGalley, Black & White Publishing and Nina de Pass for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.]

The Next to Die (Spilling CID, #10)The Next to Die by Sophie Hannah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Five well deserved stars! This is such a good book for me - the witticisms, the sarcastic put-downs, as well as the hilarious musings and anecdotes, all help this book along for me. It’s nothing like any other novel that I can recall reading before and it is especially refreshing for a crime novel.

I love novels that feature out of the ordinary protagonists, so this one fits right into that category. The story is actually told from the points of view of two people - stand up comedian, Kim Tribbeck & DC Simon Waterhouse.

Quirky Kim Tribbeck has a dark side, and I really enjoyed the insight into her world as told through her POV. Her contribution is told through an autobiographical book called “Origami.” DC Simon Waterhouse, the other protagonist, is inspired, well respected, and talented as a detective and he doesn’t like public speaking. The story is also told via a number of newspaper articles and random emails.

The chapters vary between different characters, excerpts from “Origami”, the emails, newspaper columns, short stories, and letters. In addition to the burning question, “Who Is Billy Dead Mates?” (the nickname of the killer who appears to be targeting pairs of best friends), there is an obsessed journalist who claims the victims have been murdered by a mad misogynist. Before they die, each of the victims is given a small white book.

I particularly loved the chapters that were told from Kim’s point-of-view. For me, Sophie Hannah’s portrayal of Kim was brilliant. She turned this novel into something much more than a police procedural. In THE NEXT TO DIE, Hannah managed to combine a wonderfully clever and complex plot with some extremely unforgettable characters.

THE NEXT TO DIE by Sophie Hannah is a highly recommended, layered mystery with a surprising and fulfilling ending.

{Thank you to Edelweiss and William Morrow for the free copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}


Mr Doubler Begins AgainMr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book by Seni Glaister that I have read. Why did I choose this book? Well, I was lured by the vague synopsis which piqued my curiosity and I am also a sucker for an attractive front cover, so it ticked some of the boxes for me!

Mr Doubler, a potato farmer, lives alone at Mirth Farm, on top of a hill. He doesn’t need anyone else for company as he is content with just his potato plants and Mrs Millwood, his housekeeper. However, she is taken ill and Mr Doubler starts to feel lonely and his life is no longer as complete as he thought. Before he lost his wife, her friends were always around. Can the kindness of the village strangers bring a lonely man out of his melancholy?

Although ageing, illness, death and the difficulties arising from family relationships are pivotal throughout this book, it is also a story very much about hope.

For me, this is a charming and endearing book and I love the way that Seni Glaister has written about rural life. There are some wonderful descriptions that make me want to make a trip to Mr Doubler's farm and she has created a fantastic set of characters. Whilst they are not all likeable, there are some lovely interactions between some of them as Mr Doubler's life alters course.

I like that Seni Glaister has included plenty of humour in her writing and the story is, for me, very poignant and thought-provoking.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Mr Doubler Begins Again and I would definitely recommend that you add it your reading list.

[Thank you to NetGalley, HQ and the author, Seni Glaister, for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.]


A Boy and His Dog at the End of the WorldA Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Five well-deserved stars! - I savoured the first six chapters that were available for review from NetGalley and cannot wait to read the rest of the book.

I feel that I must confess that I’m not much of a reader of apocalypse-type fiction and was mainly tempted by the cover design and interesting synopsis.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, is an engaging and ingenious story, written, very vividly, in the first person. There was something in the writing that was both dark and alluring and I loved reading it. C.A. Fletcher’s writing style is very special, giving an extremely strong atmosphere to the novel. I felt that it was an amazing and very promising story and that, when I finished reading, I wanted more.

My heartfelt thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, Orbit Books, for providing these sample chapters and my full applause to the author.

Pecan Pies and Dead Guys (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, #7)Pecan Pies and Dead Guys by Angie Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book by Angie Fox that I’ve read though it is book seven in the series of the Southern Ghost Hunters Mysteries. I chose to read this novel as I happen to love cozy mysteries so it a ticked a box for me!

Sometimes Verity Long would like to forget that she lives with the ghost of a 1920s gangster. But the reluctant house-mates must work together when a dead detective blackmails Frankie into helping him solve a cold case. But everyone appears to be hiding something. 

Meanwhile, Ellis Wydell, Verity’s living, breathing boyfriend needs Verity’s help with a police case of his own. After a dead body is discovered near the pecan orchard, Verity gives her insights, thinking her job is done. But when mysterious pecan pies start arriving at her house, she wonders who might be thanking her… or stalking her. 

Verity has her work cut out for her, but will she uncover the secrets behind the pecan pies and dead guys? Or has she stumbled upon a recipe for disaster?

I loved Angie Fox’s fun and humorous writing style and I thought the plot was wonderfully engaging and imaginative. Even though it is part of a series, this is also a great stand-alone novel. Beautifully written in the first person, the dialogue is very well executed and often very funny. The book is unique and heart-warming and the extremely likeable characters and well-paced plot make Pecan Pies and Dead Guys a rich paranormal cozy that is easy to read and hard to put down, with a very fulfilling ending.

If you enjoy the genre, you will love this book.

{Thank you to NetGalley, Moose Island Books and Angie Fox for the free copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}

Death Comes to Call (Tara Thorpe Mystery #3)Death Comes to Call by Clare Chase
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a great fan of mysteries and thrillers so, when I saw “Death Comes To Call” featuring DC Tara Thorpe being launched, I knew I had to read it. This is actually the third book in the Tara Thorpe Mystery Series. Although I haven’t come across the other two novels in the series - “Murder on the Marshes” (Book 0ne) and “Death on the River” (Book Two) - I thought “Death Comes To Call” worked fine as a stand alone as there was enough back-story provided to understand some of the dynamics between the different characters. Reading this novel, however, and Clare Chase’s excellent writing, have inspired me to go and get myself copies of the first two books!

In the opening chapter, we are introduced to DC Tara Thorpe who is Cambridge Police’s youngest detective and isn't afraid to step on toes to get results.

When a promising local artist disappears, the victim’s brother begs Tara to take the case. It seems there’s no evidence of foul play… he simply disappeared without a trace. 

Tara agrees to investigate however her unconventional approach to policing has upset some of her colleagues, including her former boss DC Patrick Wilkins, currently suspended, but who is prepared to do anything to bring her down. Luckily, she’s on good terms with DI Garstin Blake…

I loved that in “Death Comes To Call,” the sub-plots that explore the detectives’ personal lives run parallel with the murder investigation. Clare Chase writes with flair and an easy style. I thought the characterisation was very well done and I liked the gripping plot, as well as the wonderful depictions of the setting.

All in all, this was a story that held my attention well and I loved that things came together for a great finish and wrapped everything up very neatly.

[My thanks to NetGalley, Bookouture and the author for providing me with a free advanced copy of this novel.]



Life, Death and Cellos (The Stockwell Park Orchestra Series Book 1)Life, Death and Cellos by Isabel Rogers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really appreciated reading Isabel Rogers’ debut novel, “Life, Death and Cellos.” Sadly, I am no musician, however, I was still able to relish the orchestral elements that were so much a part of this hilarious novel.

I loved the highly original story of Stockwell Park Orchestra, which is having a difficult time, complete with a dead conductor, love affairs, a stolen cello and no money. Can Stockwell Park Orchestra possibly beat the odds to play another season?

For me, Isabel Rogers has written a wonderful and highly amusing masterpiece, complete with a brilliant, fast-paced plot and delightfully engaging characters. I loved the straightforward and easy to read writing style - can't wait to see what happens in book two!

“Life, Death and Cellos” is an ideal read for some great laughs, a bit of escapism and a touch of mystery.

My heartfelt thanks to NetGalley and Farrago for my free ARC, in exchange for my voluntary review, and my full applause to the author.

One Minute LaterOne Minute Later by Susan Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read some of Susan Lewis’ work before and I particularly liked “No Turning Back” and “No Child Of Mine.” However, this book, “One Minute Later,” outclasses them both, I think. What an incredible journey Susan Lewis took us on, through the lives of the characters in this novel!

Before I go any further, I must mention how much I loved being at Deerwood Farm. Susan’s beautiful writing style made this, for me, a magical place to be, as it was so much more than a scruffy, dirty Farm. The chapters including Deerwood were definitely my favourite ones, helped along, very much, by Susan Lewis’ fantastic descriptive prose.

“One Minute Later” is a story of hope, love, happiness and wonderful times. But it is also a very sad tale of anger, fear, hate, self-loathing and even, death.

The book is told from two perspectives, mainly in alternating chapters, the first by Vivi Shager who on the day of her twenty-seventh birthday, discovers that she has an undiagnosed heart condition. After escaping her home-town nearly a decade ago, she’s forced to return to her childhood home to be cared for by her devoted and enigmatic mother. Vivi has always known that she is hiding something and now she’s determined to find out what it is. 

The other perspective is mostly provided by Shelley at Deerwood Farm, both past and present. I don’t want to say anything more here for fear of spoilers.

I thought the characters were so well written and developed, that I was keen to follow their lives for all of them, including the baddies, who were pretty evil. On reflection, though, the most outstanding for me was Vivi for her grit and determination; Josh, for just being himself - kind, lovely-natured, sweet, sexy and good-looking; Michelle for being such a good friend and so supportive of Vivi; and Shelley, for being the anchor of her family and coping so well with the hand in life that was dealt to her. I could go on and on here, but I won’t…

The two threads of the story eventually link, creating a wonderfully fulfilling, heartbreaking and heart-warming conclusion. 

The book has a poignant message for all of us relating to organ donation, whether or not we want to think about it and I very much recommend that you get a copy of “One Minute Later” for yourself.

{Thank you to Pigeonhole and Susan Lewis for a free copy and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}

Finding Julie (When the Music's In You)Finding Julie by Doris Rangel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although I haven’t read “No Tomorrows” - Book 1 in the series “When the Music's in You” - this particular novel still appealed to me because of the fascinating description and I am very glad I chose “Finding Julie” because it was so enjoyable to read. Also, I think it was a great choice because it had an unusual story-line.

Following a minor accident, warm and funny Julie Stuart awakens to find she has lost her memory. However, she is told that she is psychosomatic because she has only forgotten her husband and her marriage.

James Stuart fell hard for Julie, but the second they married, she became a cold shell of a woman, more than willing to warm his bed but in the daytime wanting nothing to do with him. After three years, he's had enough and files for divorce.

When James receives a phone call advising that Julie has been hurt in an accident, the divorce is put on hold as he goes to her side. To his shock, the delightful girl he'd once courted greets him, the cold woman he married nowhere in sight. Only he doesn't trust her.

So James comes up with a plan ... pretend to be someone else and see what happens. When Julie's memory returns and the truth comes out, will all be forgiven, or will both walk away?

I really liked Doris Rangel’s writing style and her portrayal of the characters was wonderful. I could really empathise with the characters and feel their emotions and I found myself rooting for them in the hope that they would overcome their difficulties. The story was very refreshing for me personally, as I haven’t read too many novels about amnesia. Julie's back-story was very emotive and well-explained.

Overall, a delightful romance, full of misgivings, but with a fulfilling conclusion.

I will definitely be reading Book 1 in this series and I would recommend “Finding Julie” to anyone who likes this genre.

{Thank you to Hidden Gems and Doris Rangel for the free copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}


Lucy: Speak Out! (PEANUTS AMP Series Book 12): A PEANUTS CollectionLucy: Speak Out! (PEANUTS AMP Series Book 12): A PEANUTS Collection by Charles M. Schulz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been a “Peanuts” fan since I was a child, so I jumped at the chance to read “Lucy: Speak Out! (PEANUTS AMP Series Book 12)”, a delightful collection of classic “Peanuts” comics.

There was absolutely no doubt that I was going to love reading this collection. As well as Lucy, all of my favourite characters are included - Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Woodstock, Linus, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Schroeder, Spike, and Marcie.

I often found myself giggling as I read through the tales of the gang. In typical “Peanuts” fashion, this was a brilliant contemplation of life and there were many pearls of wisdom. Despite the title, it is not all about Lucy, although I’m sure she would wish that it was! This is a superb collection of comics that I absolutely adored and I know that all other “Peanuts” fans will love it, too.

{Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for a free copy and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}

Star Collector, Vol. 1Star Collector, Vol. 1 by Sophie Schönhammer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first time I have read any Manga and this particular comic/graphic appealed to me because of the fascinating description and I wanted to try something new that sounded entertaining.

I am very glad I chose “Star Collector” because it was so enjoyable to read. I think it was a great first choice for trying this genre because it had a straightforward story-line, which made it no bother for me to master the Manga style which needs to be read from right to left.

For me, the story was tender and sweet and the artwork was absolutely gorgeous. I could feel the characters’ emotions and each one had their own individuality and distinctiveness.

I can’t say much else on the quality of the artwork since I am not at all artistic but I did appreciate how the story progressed through the artwork as well as the dialogue.

I will definitely be reading Volume 2 in this series to see how their relationship progresses.

I would recommend this story to anyone who wants to try Manga and is after a quick and light-hearted read.

{Thank you to NetGalley and Diamond Book Distributors for the free copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}

Dead Memories (D.I. Kim Stone, #10)Dead Memories by Angela Marsons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I seem to be the only person who has never read a book from the DI Kim Stone Series or any other novel by Angela Marsons. Well, where have been all this time? - I have read one now!

“Dead Memories” (in case anyone, like me, didn’t know) is the latest Kim Stone story by Angela Marsons. “Dead Memories” is fine a stand-alone book, but it does appear that, by not reading the other nine novels in the series, I have missed out on a lot of back-stories from previous books. Of course, I now plan to read the first book of the series, “Silent Scream,” followed by the rest of them.

This tenth novel in the DI Kim Stone series is set in the Midlands. In Chaucer House, two teenagers are found chained to a radiator. The boy is dead but the girl is still alive. Every detail of the scene mirrors DI Kim Stone’s terrifying experience with her brother, Mikey, when they lived in the same tower block thirty years ago. 

When more bodies are discovered in a burnt-out car, Kim can’t ignore the chilling similarity to the deaths of Erica and Keith – the only loving parents Kim had ever known. Can Kim solve this complex case and save her own life or will she become the final victim? 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Dead Memories.” I thought the premise was fascinating and I loved Angela Marsons’ writing style. This great, fast-paced thriller held my attention throughout and I had no idea as to the identity of the perpetrator.

“Dead Memories” is a superb read which I have no hesitation in recommending.

{Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for a free copy and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}

Birds of a Feather: A Book of Idioms and Silly PicturesBirds of a Feather: A Book of Idioms and Silly Pictures by Vanita Oelschlager
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful way to teach children about idioms. Every page has an idiom not only listed but also beautifully illustrated and giving its literal meaning. The illustrations are hilarious and sweet, especially as they all feature birds or animals. My favourites were ‘Bring home the bacon,’ ‘No spring chicken’ and ‘Let the cat out of the bag.’

The meaning of the idiom, along with an example of its usage in a sentence, is written at the bottom of each page, inverted, and in minute lettering, so that it can be referred to only when you really try to read it. Unfortunately, the writing was so small that I had problems reading it at all.

“Birds Of A Feather” concludes with an explanation of how a particular idiom originated, and encourages readers to find the origins of other idioms, as the words that are used in an idiom are generally not meant literally, however, neither are they a random group of words thrown together.

{Thank you to NetGalley, VanitaBooks, LLC and the author for a free copy and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}

Terminal Identity: Sequel to Stolen LaughterTerminal Identity: Sequel to Stolen Laughter by Charlene Tess
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book caught my eye as I loved the synopsis and I read a lot of books from the mystery/thriller genre. “Terminal Identity” is the sequel to another of Tess Thompson’s books ‘Stolen Laughter.’ For information, Tess Thompson is actually an author duo, Charlene Tess and Judi Thompson. As well as co-authors, the sisters are both established writers in their own right.

We get to meet some of the characters from ‘Stolen Laughter’ - Bryce Cameron, his brother, Quinn, and Hannah and Juliette - again, in “Terminal Identity.” However, it is not necessary to read it before reading “Terminal Identity” as it works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.

Juliette Dreschler awakens to a shocking reality. She is no longer the woman she used to be after a life-changing accident has left her with both physical and mental difficulties and now someone wants her dead…

Lenny Raines has been hired to keep the young, fragile woman safe and to determine who and why someone wants to harm her. Lenny has scars of his own from a troubled and dangerous past. He is intrigued by Juliette’s stubborn determination and admires her courage in the face of danger. He tries to ignore the growing passion he feels for Juliette, as the last time he became involved it almost cost him everything. As a killer emerges from the shadows, Lenny must risk everything to protect the woman he loves.

“Terminal Identity” is set in Switzerland, and also in Savannah, Georgia. I must mention how much I loved being in Zug in Switzerland. Tess Thompson’s beautiful writing style made this, for me, a wonderful place to be, even though whilst there, the drama was centred around the private nursing facility where Juliette was receiving care, following the accident. The chapters including Zug were some my favourite ones, helped along, very much, by some fantastic descriptive prose.

“Terminal Identity” is a story of hope and love, but it is also about bitterness and hate and the demons that drive feelings of anger, greed and jealousy which can lead us to commit murder.

The story is told from many different perspectives including Hannah’s; Hannah’s husband, Bryce’s; Juliette’s; and Bryce’s brother, Quinn’s. This made it a little difficult at times to follow exactly what was happening, however, there was never a dull moment in this exciting and suspenseful tale.

I thought the characters were so well written and developed, including those who were pretty evil. On reflection, though, the most outstanding for me was Juliette for her grit, perseverance and determination and coping so well following her accident.

This great, fast-paced thriller held my attention throughout and I had no idea as to the identity of the perpetrator. “Terminal Identity” by Tess Thompson is a highly recommended, complex story with a surprising and fulfilling ending.

{Thank you to Hidden Gems and Tess Thompson for the free copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}

The Buried GirlThe Buried Girl by Richard Montanari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book caught my eye as I loved the synopsis and I read a lot of books from this genre, although I haven’t read any of the author, Richard Montanari’s books before.

“The Buried Girl” is a chilling psychological thriller with some added Gothic elements.

When the wife of a New York psychologist, Will Hardy, is murdered he moves into Godwin Hall, a dusty, shut-up mansion in the small town of Abbeville, Ohio, with his teenage daughter, Bernadette.

At the same time, Abbeville Chief of Police Ivy Holgrave is investigating the death of a local girl. She is convinced this may only be the latest in a long line of murders dating back decades, including her own long-missing sister.

But what place does Will's new home have in the story of the missing girls and why does he have past memories of Godwin Hall? Is the diary of a young woman, written over a century earlier, linked to the killings? 

Richard Montanari writes a wonderfully atmospheric and compelling novel. Tense and suspenseful, the many threads of the story slowly begin to link together, central to which is Godwin Hall. Both the characterisation and the plot are superb with the three main characters damaged, but starting the process of recovery. I am hoping that there will be a sequel to this novel as it was a fantastic read which I highly recommend to lovers of thrillers and crime fiction.

{Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins UK/Witness Impulse for the free copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}

Chocolate Cream Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen #24)Chocolate Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Chocolate Cream Pie Murder” is the twenty-fourth book in the Hannah Swensen Series by the author, Joanne Fluke. Why did I want to read this novel? Well, I love to curl up on the sofa on a dark winter’s night, or any time, really, with a mug of hot chocolate and a good cozy mystery and if it’s about food, as this one is, then so much the better!

I haven’t read any of the other books in this series yet, however, I don’t think that this spoilt my enjoyment of this novel. That said, there is nothing more exciting than picking up a book which is the first in a new series.

When Hannah’s Bakery, The Cookie Jar, becomes the setting of a TV special about movies filmed in Minnesota, Hannah hopes the spotlight will be shining on her bakery, and not the unsavoury scandal about her personal life. But that’s impossible with a disturbing visit from someone she once believed was her one and only love, a group of bodyguards following her every move, and a murder victim in her bedroom. Now, moving to her mother Delores’ penthouse, Hannah and an old flame team up to solve a case and as suspects emerge and secrets hit close to home, Hannah must find the killer prowling around Lake Eden before someone takes a slice out of her…

I liked that the opening chapters drew me into the story and captured my attention immediately. Although I had to wait a while before an actual murder took place there was still a lot going on. I found many of the characters very funny and easy to relate to, particularly Hannah herself and many of the other characters in the book were extremely amusing and unusual. I even liked the bad guy, the one everyone loves to hate.

The book had a natural, steady pace, and even though the murder occurred towards the end, I was kept guessing until the surprising reveal. Delightful and entertaining “Chocolate Cream Pie Murder” is a quick, light read for all cozy mystery fans.

{Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for the free copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}

Name*
Email address*
Message*

I love to read and I would like to share some of my reading experiences here with you on Brianne's Bytes and I hope to inspire other book fanatics.