Tag Archives: reviews

Review of “You’ll Be the Death of Me” by Karen M McManus

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

I’ve really enjoyed Karen McManus’s other books, but this one didn’t quite live up to the others. The action basically takes place in a single day, which should give it pace and action, but it felt meandering and inconsequential.

It’s hard to care about characters who make such terrible decisions. For example they discover a dead body and rather than calling an ambulance/the police, they run away leading themselves into all sorts of unnecessary trouble.

The ending is also very strange, it ends very abruptly, so I imagine it is setting up a sequel, but there didn’t seem to be enough meat on the bones of the original story to warrant drawing it out any further.

Review of “Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell

Thanks to NetGalley and Pan MacMillan for the ARC of this book.

I have been trying to read this book for 6 years. I found it really hard to get into. The beginning reads like it’s picking up in the middle of a series and you haven’t started with the first book. You have to read about 40% of the book before the lead character even has a conversation with his love interest.

It was easier to read once Baz, the love interest, turned up. His point of view is more interesting than the lead, Simon. He is more self-aware and there is more action once he arrives.

It’s a shame because I thought ‘Eleanor and Park’ by the same author was perfection, so I know Rowell can write a beautiful, well contained, sublime love story but this book felt self-indulgent and rambling by comparison. I don’t think fantasy is her forte.

Review of “The Match” by Harlan Coben

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC of this book.

This is the second in Harlan Coben’s series featuring lead character Wilde and supporting characters from his other series. I love Coben’s writing but I don’t think Wilde is his best protagonist, his backstory is a bit ridiculous.

I was pleased that the book gives us some resolution as to how Wilde ended up abandoned in the woods as a child, even if didn’t entirely make sense.

As usual, this book featured some interesting current hot topics, such as DNA matching sites and online fame. Parts of the story were fun and intriguing and parts were a bit far-fetched.

I really enjoy Hester Crimstein’s no nonsense attorney character. The other supporting characters also help to make Wilde more relatable.

Review of ‘Her Every Fear’ but Peter Swanson

Thanks to NetGalley and Faber & Faber for the ARC of this book.

The book follow Kate an anxious English woman with a traumatic past who does a house swap with her American cousin, Corbin, and goes to stay in his expensive Boston apartment. Soon one of her neighbours turns up dead things take a dark turn.

I found this book a bit more difficult to get into than other Peter Swanson books, but once I got past the beginning few chapters, I managed to get into it. I’m not overly fond of neurotic protagonists and they tend to make stupid decisions. However, Kates neurosis was validated as pretty much every man in this book turns out to be a psychopath.

The story is fairly far-fetched, but I did enjoy the setting. This felt like one of Peter Swanson’s more pedestrian efforts and lacked his usual twists and surprises.

Review of ‘The Man who Died Twice’ by Richard Osman

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

I didn’t think Richard Osman’s first book in his Thursday Murder Club was great, but I thought I’d give the second book a chance because the first book was so popular, I thought maybe I’d missed something. Unfortunately, I found the second book suffered from all the same issues as the first.

Osman writes with some beautiful touches of gentle observational humour which make you smile; he is clearly infatuated with his characters, his characterisation is strong and you get a really good sense of them, especially the old ladies. The problem, however, is the plot. I felt both books lacked a compelling narrative. There is nothing propulsive about the plot, it meanders along and in both books I just didn’t care about the outcome. This really is an issue in a mystery book.

There doesn’t ever feel like there are consequences to any of the events. I think five people are shot dead in this book and their deaths are largely met with a shrug of the shoulders or the other characters feeling it’s jolly good fun to be surrounded by all this death. The heroes of the book commit crimes left, right and centre; framing someone, withholding evidence, stealing evidence, lying to the authorities, purchasing drugs etc. and it seems we are supposed to find this endearing. Why should we care about who has committed one crime, if the people investigating it are perpetually committing other crimes? They are no better than the villains.

Judging by the hype around this book, I am in the minority in being underwhelmed by these books. I’m sure this will continue to be a wildly popular and successful series, I’m just not sure why. It probably has something to do with the excellent marketing. The books are beautiful and very current. The titles are catchy, although the title of this book has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, it’s just a throwaway line from what is essentially the epilogue. I wonder if this series would have been published if it were not written by a celebrity.

Review of ‘My Sweet Revenge’ by Jane Fallon

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

I’m not entirely sure about how I feel about this book. On the one hand it’s a very readable, twisty, fun book. On the other hand all the characters are awful to each other and behave in utterly unbelievable ways. It’s very hard to suspend your disbelief and fully immerse yourself in the story when the characters’ actions are so unlikely.

The book follows Paula, an overweight, depressed woman who discovers her husband is cheating on her. Rather than confronting him, she concocts a ridiculous revenge plan to lose weight, make her husband love her again and then break his heart. Therefore, she pretends for months that she does not know the affair is going on. Who does that?

I could just about accept that as a plot but then a huge twist happens and turns out she’s not the only one manipulating the situation and it was all too much.

However, Jane Fallon, has a viciously humorous voice, so I’ll definitely try another of her books.

EDIT: Since then I’ve read ‘Faking Friends’ by Jane Fallon which has almost exactly the same premise, of a woman enacting revenge on her partner and his mistress by lying to them for months. It made me wonder if all Jane Fallon books are convoluted revenge fantasies? Turns out, I don’t really like the idea of revenge, I just want to tell these poor, vengeful women to cut their losses and move on with their lives.

Review of ‘The Couple’ by Helly Acton

Thanks to NetGalley and Bonnier Books for the ARC of this book.

‘The Shelf’ by Helly Acton was probably the best book I read last year, so I was really excited to read a new book by this author. She writes romantic fiction but tries to put an original spin on her stories so they are not as formulaic as usual for books in this genre. I didn’t think ‘The Couple’ quite reached the standards of ‘The Shelf’, but it is a sweet story and a fun read.

‘The Couple’ is set in a world where being single is the most socially acceptable state. The government supports people who are single, they get additional benefits and people who prefer to be in a couple are frowned upon or considered strange. Millie works for Slide, a Tinder/Uber style company, which enables people to meet sexual partners for one night stands. Slide is planning to market a drug which would prevent people from being able to fall in love. Millie has to work with a new colleague, Ben, on the marketing campaign and she is instantly drawn to him.

I liked the love story between Millie and Ben. Ben is an adorable, sweet, non-threatening love interest. I found the world-building a bit clunky. A world where people never want to couple up for longer than one night is so impractical (what about having children, humans’ main biological imperative?) that the idea never fully works. It is interesting to consider whether people would be better off single or in a couple, but the stigmatisation of coupledom didn’t ring true for me.

This book didn’t feel quite as fresh or unpredictable as ‘The Shelf’, but it’s still a good read within the romantic fiction genre. if you haven’t read Helly Acton before, definitely start with ‘The Shelf’ and, if you enjoy her voice, it’s worth giving this book a go.

Review of ‘Playing Nice’ by JP Delaney

Thanks to NetGalley and Quercus for the ARC of this book.

This is one of the best thrillers I have ever read. It is both absolutely compelling and excruciatingly painful to read. It is brilliantly written and deftly covers so many sensitive issues. I’m absolutely in awe at the author’s skill in writing something so fast-paced and thought-provoking.

It is the story of Pete and Maddie who discover the two year son they have been raising was swapped in the hospital and their biological son is being raised by another family. The book follows their attempts to have a civil relationship with the other couple and find an arrangement which is best for both children. However, it is not long before things start to go horribly wrong.

I could not put this book down! It was uncomfortably fascinating to imagine yourself in their position and what you would do if you had to choose between the child you have loved for 2 years and your biological child.

Delaney descriptions of the difficult situations which parents find themselves in including emergency C-sections, neo-natal care, postpartum psychosis and dealing with violent children and brilliantly drawn and very realistic. I found so much of the book fascinating and moving.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Go and read it!

Review of ‘The End of the World Running Club’ by Adrian J Walker

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC of this book.

I really enjoyed this book. It is set during an apocalyptic meteor strike on Great Britain and follows protagonist Edgar as he struggles to keep his family safe during the initial strike and later, tries to find them again after he is separated from them.

One of the things I liked most about this book is what a realistic, flawed character Edgar is. I appreciated the description of how weighed down he is by the pressures of middle-aged life and how even though he loves his family, he sometimes longs for time away from them. That is something which is easy to identify with after a year of homeschooling and lockdowns!

I thought the description of the meteor strike and the family sheltering in their cellar while they listen to people dying outside was horrific and really well written. The thought of being stuck in a cellar with a baby and a 3 year old for weeks is unimaginable!

I enjoyed Edgar’s relationships with the other people he travels with to search for his family, particularly the fond friendship with Australian Harvey.

I thought the ending was bittersweet and unpredictable. The book as a whole was thought provoking with a good balance of humour, horror and sentiment. Highly recommended.

Audiobook review: ‘The Castaways’ by Lucy Clarke

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins fir the ARC of this book.

This is a fabulous thriller. I barrelled through it and was very frustrated whenever I had to stop listening.

The story follows two sisters; Erin, in the present day, and Lori, two years earlier. Lori has vanished after a plane crash which stranded her on a desert island in Fiji. The plane passengers are presumed dead but then the pilot turns up alive 2 years later and Erin is determined to find out what happened to her sister.

I really enjoyed this book. It is fast-paced, tense and compelling. I thought the ending was heavily signposted throughout the book, but I didn’t mind as I found it a fairly satisfying, if unlikely, resolution.

The audiobook is well narrated. However, I thought the choice of narrators was a bit odd. They are supposed to be sisters who have grown up together (in Bath, I think) and lived much of their adult life together, but one has a strong London/South-East estuary accent and the other has a faintly Welsh burr. I found this slightly distracting, but it doesn’t make the book any less enjoyable.