The Cactus

When I first started this book, I thought “I see what Haywood is doing”, she’s going for the kind of character that we can all relate to, except the character possess those traits in extreme. A similar kind of vibe as Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine.

You can’t not relate to Susan. Her outer voice is like our inner voice, take for example, when a neighbour asks you to look after their kid in the middle of the night with no confirmed return time, we all think “well no, this isn’t how I wanted to spend my night” and “when the hell are you coming back?!”; whilst those are our thoughts that we keep hidden inside us, Susan just speaks her mind.

So I think you can already tell that I’ve mightily warmed to the main character, on to the plot.

Susan has just found out that she’s pregnant, and also that her mother has died. The circle of life is hard enough to rack your head around, but Susan has an added complication – her brother. Edward is the complete opposite to Susan – unreliable and reckless, and yet still he was the apple of his mother’s eye.

Being independent and decisive, Susan deems her baby’s father as unimportant and is determined to bring her child up on her own.

Her mother’s will could be the perfect blessing in disguise – a helping hand through the first few years, when money will be tight.

Except Susan’s mother hasn’t split things equally, the will is in favour of Edward.

Susan is outraged. Surely her mother wouldn’t be this stupid? How could this have happened? When did her mother write this will? Was she ill? Did Edward have something to do with it? Resolute on finding the truth, Susan puts on her detective hat and begins to build her case. Interviewing family and friends, and delving back into her childhood leads her closer to the truth, but will things work out before Susan gives birth?

I loved being alongside Susan as she interviewed her family, Haywood has created some absolute cracking background characters that will have your eyebrows rising and your head nodding along, without you even realising.

Along the way, Susan discovers something she has rarely relied upon – friendship. Kate and Rob stand by her side and watch as Susan blooms both physically and emotionally.

When I read the final few pages, I was quite tearful. Susan has come a long way. Oh how I miss her already!

I could go on and on about how much I loved this book and make this review even longer than it currently is! In summary, give it a go and thank me later!

I haven’t even expanded on the quirky relationship with the baby’s father – this book really packs a punch; it’s witty, clever and full of moments that will make you smile.

For bookworms who loved: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fineTrying, and/or The Cows, you will absolutely adore this. In fact I’m loving this genre so much, that I really would love some similar recommendations – tweet me or comment down below if you can think of any! There is nothing more powerful than a woman taking control of her life and walking around fearless, it really speaks to my inner self – I just wish I was as confident as these women!

*Thank you so much Two Roads for providing me with the most gorgeous hardback through bookbridgr – not only am I grateful for you sharing this amazing story with me, I am absolutely in love with the cover – GORGEOUS!*

Until next time, Chloé x

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The Fear

You know when you first start a book and you spend the first few pages going “this is good”, “this has potential”, “I like the way this has started”, etc. With The Fear, my mind had no time to process my original reactions as it was so focused on the plot – you really are thrown straight in and sucked in by Taylor’s incredible writing

Lou is stuck in the past, her traumatic abduction as a child has left her fearful to trust men. When her father leaves her the farmhouse, she must return to th the place that haunts her dreams and confront the very man that destroyed her. If it wasn’t hard enough to actually find and visit this man, imagine the pain that hits her when she finds Mike grooming a young girl; Chloe. Lou is determined to stop Mike once and for all, she’s not a scared little girl anymore.

Already this plot is an utter page-turner, but Taylor adds another dimension into the mix. Wendy is stalking Lou. Why? Why oh why? I’ll be honest with you, it clicked for me pretty early on who Wendy was but I think Taylor did this on purpose as this plot twist was revealed halfway through. Whilst I was lulled into false pretences that I had sussed this plot out, Taylor was carefully building up the momentum of the main plot line and what a TREAT it was.

I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed this book. This book has the right balance of twists that you can’t guess the ending, whilst also managing to be believable and realistic.

*Thank you Sabah over at Avon for my copy – I thoroughly enjoyed this book!!*

Check out the other posts on this amazing blog tour:

Until next time, Chloé x

This Could Change Everything

Another heart-warming tale from Mansell. I love how her books make me feel, they are the perfect escape from our busy, every day lives. This Could Change Everything definitely had a Cinderella/fairy tale vibe. When Essie finds herself jobless, homeless and dumped; it’s not long before Zillah comes along and helps her life take a much happier route. Like a fairy godmother, Zillah offers Essie a small flat within her gorgeous house, in the most perfect location within Bath; Zillah also points her in the direction of the Red House for a job, where Essie finds Lucas.

Seeing Lucas is a shock, he’s linked to how her life changed in a second, and she’s not sure if she wants to work for him. But with the pub being less than a five minute walk from her new digs, Essie knows she needs to make it work. Surely it can only get better?

And better it does! Essie thrives in her new work environment and loves her new home life. Her life is even further fulfilled when she joins Zillah and fellow lodger; Conor, in their bid to make people’s final moments more special.

Now that Essie has her life back on track has her heart got room for someone new or will someone from her past take her fancy? Mansell always creates the perfect build up with her new relationships leading the reader guessing “will they?” or “won’t they” – so juicy!! Essie isn’t the only one to get caught blushing, Conor’s romance life is hotting up!

Another classic from Mansell – perfect to switch off and unwind with. I love the ‘bubble’ Mansell creates, when I opened this book I was quickly absorbed into this fictional world and the outside world was put on mute!

Fellow bookworms, what were your thoughts on This Could Change Everything? Or if you haven’t got around to it (why ever not?!) what’s the last Mansell book you’ve read?

This Could Change Everything is out now in hardback and eBook, or if you are craving a paperback it’s hitting the shelves on July 12th.

*Thank you Headline for sending me a copy through bookbridgr – super chuffed!!*

Until next time, Chloé x

What Lies Within

Hamad, Freya and Paul have been friends since university. Years later, Freya and Paul’s marriage is on the rocks and Hamad is desperate to help them both. When Hamad buys his girlfriend; Racine, three riads in Marrakech – it’s the perfect opportunity to bring his two friends over to make a new life.

Culture runs through this book like a river with its multiple estuaries and the Jinns are the spirits of the past. When events displease the Jinns, bad things begin to happen, and when the balance is restored allowing the spirits to settle, the people and their lives are able to flourish like beautiful flowers with a plentiful supply of natural water.

Whilst cultural ways root the way in which things should be done, the older generation are the ones that are able to provide perspective and wisdom to the younger characters. Edith; Hamad’s grandmother, brings such guidance to this tale – I LOVED her – not only is she full of ‘sass’, she’s also incredibly canny and her input on the events in this tale have a momentous impact on the ending.

This is a story centred around the dynamics of friendships. How long can a person hide the truth from their friends? How long will it take for the friends to sense something is going on? And when the lie comes out into the open, how many others will surface?

Thorpe sets the scene with an unusual prologue and loops back to this around two thirds of the way through the book, I loved that moment when the familiar text repeated itself and my brain went “of course!!! I already knew this”. It always seeks to amaze me how you can be so focussed in the first 50 pages of a book trying to find out what the prologue meant, but then you get sucked into the intricacies of the plot and forget that important ‘first message’, right up until the moment it’s under your nose again! This is just one small example of Thorpe’s fantastic writing technique – this is a well structured and well thought out plot that centres around the truth coming out. As the reader, you are aware of many of the lies that are being hidden, and you’re itching to find out when the others will find out – such a page turner!

My only slight bit of advice to bookworms wanting to read this: don’t get sucked in by the book bio/description on Amazon – I noticed the word ‘psychological’ thrown about – and noticed some people seemed to have gone down the route, that this book MUST be a psychological thriller, it’s NOT! It DOES look at the psychology surrounding long friendships and the effect that lies bring to the table, which I agree – does bring a dark nature to the overall plot, but if you’re thinking this is going to be a psychological thriller similar to The Last Mrs ParrishThe ConfessionObsession, etc – it’s not. I would hate people to be disappointed in this book because it’s not their favourite genre, because this book deserves to be celebrated for what it is – in my view it falls into the dark women’s fiction category, and in this category it shines!

*Thank you Olivia over at Quercus for providing me with a proof copy, this honest review is my way of saying thanks!!*

What Lies Within is available now in paperback.

Check out the other posts on this tour:

Until next time, Chloé x

Ultima

Let’s go back to April last year when I posted my thoughts on DOMINA, where I finished with:

I CANNOT wait for the third (and final) in the series… bring on next year!

And here we are, a year later, and Wow. Oh Wow. oh WOW. Like any fine piece of art, the final touches are the most important, they can make or break the success of the painting – it’s the artist’s crowning moment. Books, to me, are a piece of fine art – they tug at your emotions and leave a lasting impression like any painting or sculpture. Ultima is the ultimate finale (excuse the pun) in Hilton’s three part series that follows Judith Rasleigh.

Hilton has created a masterpiece.

This series won’t be for everyone as it’s quite explicit sexually and brutally, but for me – it’s been a guilty pleasure for the past few years. Hilton’s writing style is so endearing, I just can’t help but read on page after page after page…

Da Silva has finally caught Judith and it’s time for her to pay for what she’s done. Except being a corrupt police detective means jail time isn’t Da Silva’s style, Judith’s crimes must be repaid in a different way. Da Silva has found himself owing serious money to a Russian Mafia boss, 100 million in fact, and Judith is tasked with organising a fake masterpiece that can clear his debts.

Judith must once again take up her identity as Elisabeth Teerlinc; international art-dealer, and create a provenance that will lull billionaires into parting with their cash for a piece of art painted by a very talented Chinese con artist.

It’s either that or be killed.

Every move Judith makes is calculated and you can’t help but be in awe of this daring plot.

I also loved the addition of Pandora as a character, I felt this was a really nice touch and a nod to Judith’s humble beginnings in the art world.

Yes this book has brutal murders in it. Yes it has some rather dark sexual scenes. But there is so much more to this plot than those two labels. If you are willing to give it a go, you will be absorbed by a very slick and clever plot that will have you questioning artwork in museums…

Fellow bookworms, anyone else read any in this series – Maestra, Domina and now Ultima? Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below!

*Huge thanks to Emily Burns for sending me a copy – super grateful!!!*

Until next time, Chloé x

Uncommon Type

*Just a little disclaimer, I was in a very chatty mood when I wrote this… hence why it reads much more like a direct download from my thought process!! Apologies if you think “gosh when is she going to get to the point?”, if you do feel like that/even before you start know you will roll your eyes, go right ahead and scroll to the conclusion*

Even when I first opened this book, I was worried about how I would review it. How do you review a book that is packed full of different stories with different characters?! I knew that I was likely to forget something by the end and so I started writing down snippets for each short story…

Story 1 – Three Exhausting Weeks – Two best friends jump into a relationship and discover that although their personalities compliment each other in a friendship group, it can be disastrous for a couple. It was a short, punchy story that gets to the point quickly and leaves the reader with the following message – it’s good to try new things but don’t let people change who you are and how you live your life, unless you want to!

There are seventeen stories in this book, I quickly discovered that capturing my thoughts on each story would create a lengthy review and thought better of it…so instead I will summarise with the following:

  • Each story is most definitely unique – you can feel the creative energy that Hanks must have had in his mind when he wrote this collection of stories (particularly with Alan Bean Plus Four)
  • The amount of short stories within this book allowed Hank to cover a vast amount of subject topics in 400 pages – something I don’t think you’d be able to achieve from a novel of a similar length, as it would create a complex plot that would come across chaotic and unbelievable
  • Hanks’ personality can be felt on every page of this book – his wit, his empathy, his kindness, it’s all in there

What I think you lose from short stories is the ability to connect with each character and understand their personality. Although Hanks does use some of his characters across a number of stories, I just felt that the usual kinship developed in a novel was lacking, as the one-on-one bonding time with a character is reduced. That’s just my personal opinion though.

I’m not against short stories as a whole though, back before Christmas I read Christmas With You by Sheila O’Flanagan which is packed full of short tales based within a hotel, I think the reason why I preferred this was for two reasons:

  • One, many of the characters were from previous O’Flanagan tales, so I already knew a lot about them, I knew their history, what they liked, etc.
  • Secondly, O’Flanagan weaved together the short stories in a different way to Hanks. Hanks used a physical object – the typewriter as his linking tool, whereas O’Flanagan used not only a physical object (the hotel) but she also used the other characters in the background of each story, which meant each character developed in your mind, even if they weren’t centre stage. I mentioned previously that Hanks does use some of his characters in more than one tale, but interestingly he never mixes characters from different tales.

*And those of you just after the conclusion…*

The last few paragraphs seem to give off the vibe that I didn’t enjoy the book, which is true and not true. I was truly blown away with Hanks ability to tell such infinitely, imaginative stories and, loved his smart and witty writing style. I felt there were a lot of powerful messages weaved into this book and they were executed in a way that I wasn’t able to judge the character that was ‘in the wrong’, as I was able to see these traits in me, the people around me, and … all of us. One to reflect on can be found in ‘A Month on Greene Street’ – if  you’ve read it, drop me a comment below on your thoughts of how Bette first treated Paul.

All in all, I’m glad I read it and am keen to see if Hanks will dip into the publishing world again… hopefully a full novel next time!

Until next time, Chloé x

The Friendship Cure: A Manifesto for Reconnecting in the Modern World

This is the first piece of non-fiction that really tickled my fancy in a longtime, and it kept me hooked throughout!

In this book, Leaver takes upon herself to dissect, explore and conclude what does and doesn’t work in friendships. Starting with why we; humans, need friendship, then Leaver sets off on an adventure to discover female friendships, male friendships/”bromance”, and answers the most intriguing question of all – can men and women ever just be mates? And with the fundamentals done, the book moves onto the ‘doing’ – how do we make a new friend? How does social media help and not help? What do we do when we’re in a toxic friendship?

Leaver’s quest on these topics leads her to fascinating academic experiments and stories from the general public. There are some really touching and memorable stories that will make you smile and remember how lovely we can be to one another; check out the friendship between Lynda and Natasha in Chapter Three – this one will pull at your heart strings too!

Leaver writes in a way that draws you right in from the start, she’s taking you on this research journey with her, she’s letting you in on all the facts she’s obtained, she’s asking you questions – in fact she’s creating the very thing she’s discussing; a friendship with you, the reader.

The topic chapters were effective. It’s easy to devour this book in one go but if you’ve only got a small amount of time or are particularly intrigued by one chapter, it’s easy to flick to it and take away some pointers.

The loneliness epidemic has hit our world, and this book explores if friendship can be the cure. If you’re in the mood for something different, or want to dip yourself into non-fiction for the first time, I highly recommend you start here. Leaver’s passion for the topic makes it an irresistible read, particularly when she gets animated about particular subjects!

Oh and I completely agree with the notion that we all need a waggy tail in our lives! 🐾

The Friendship Cure is out in hardback on 22 March published by Duckworth Overlook

Thank you to Thogdin over at Duckworth Publishers for sending me an uncorrected proof – this honest review is my way of saying ‘thanks!!’

Until next time, Chloé x

What Happened That Night

When Lola rejected Philip’s proposal, Philip was full of anger and made it clear he wanted her out of his life. Lola was happy to do this… and then she found out she was pregnant. Does she tell Philip? Does she get married to protect the family image and give her child a better standard of living? A lot of questions are whirling in Lola’s head and any solution that involves Philip makes her frustratingly sad. She decides to be brave, and becomes a single mum to Bey, supported by her loving family.

This concept is going swimmingly for a few years, until she returns to Dublin where Philip and his family work and live. When Philip’s father takes a walk in the park, he never expects to see a young child that looks the spitting image of his son, and yet here standing in front of him, is Bey. Lola now needs to confront the past again; did she make the right decision hiding Bey from Philip?

Another decision is now made that will change Bey’s future, but is it the right one?

Eeeeek and to think that those first few paragraphs only touch at the beginnings of this plot – this book really does unravel in the most delicious way!

This is the first book I have read that has cast a main character as a jewellery designer, and what an intriguing dimension this brought to the book; I could feel the creative energy radiating from the pages!

Bey possessed a trait that many young women have, and one that I know I have, the ability to think you aren’t capable or good enough compared to your fellows. I thought O’Flanagan captured Bey’s thoughts in a relatable and believable way; using Will (Bey’s colleague) to compare how he would approach a situation was extremely effective – I took away some pointers myself.

Whilst this definitely falls into my ‘cosy and relaxing read’ category, there are some darker and deeper moments sneaked in, and this combination created a real page-turner.

I love the closure that you get at the end of an O’Flanagan tale – the good ones get what they deserve; the nasty ones either get the punishment they deserve or they manage to see the evil of their ways; and all loose ends are tied up. It’s that satisfying, content feeling that you know The End is ‘The End’ and, that a real life ‘happy ever after’ has been achieved.

Another cracker that fans of O’Flanagan are sure to adore – I find her ability to create unique and heartfelt plots, book after book, truly inspiring.

What’s next?

Thank you Becky over at Headline for sending me a copy, this honest review is my way of saying ‘thanks!’

The paperback version is out now!

Until next time, Chloé x

Swing Time

Set over a number of decades and globe trotting between London, New York and West Africa, this is the story of a girl trying to find her way, surrounded by strong opinionated women. Can she break from the pack and be her own self? And if she does break free, who does she want to be?

As a young girl growing up in the 1980s in London, there is a lot to be learnt about relationships, gender, race and class. And just when she thought she knew it all, she ventures to West Africa in her 30s and realises she doesn’t know a thing at all.

One trick of Smith’s that I particularly liked was the fact the main character is unidentified; we know what she thinks, who her family and friends are, where she goes, everything viewed from her eyes, but we don’t know her name. And I really liked that. It allows each reader to really identify with particular events; rather than slipping your feet into the shoes of the main character, it’s as if the main character is slipping into your own shoes.

Weaved into this story are a number of smaller messages. One that resonated, was the influence your group of friends have in how quick you grow up. The main character is easily susceptible to copying her childhood friend; Tracey, no matter what the activity might be. Deep down the main character knows that what Tracey is doing is wrong and not appropriate for their age group, but yet she’s not strong enough to stand up to her friend. It was such a poignant moment when I read how the main character took advantage of Tracey being away from school, and spent time with others who acted like the young girls they were!

I can not fault Smith’s writing style, the story positively flows from the pages as beautifully as a memorable piece of music, the notes were all in the right places never falling too sharp or too flat. It’s an absorbing and intense read; not in the usual sense that I use intense, in the sense that there was so much jam-packed into this story, it required a high level of focus to truly appreciate.

My only niggle with this story relates to the huge volume of messages dotted about in the story. I came to the end of the book not really understanding what Smith wanted me to take away from the book, there was no clear driving message flowing through the book, other than perhaps, growing up? Many might argue that this is fine, but after reading Drift Stumble Fall so recently and finishing it with a wave of clarity, in what the author was driving with the plot; I really noticed that this was missing from Swing Time.

This is the first book, I have read by Zadie Smith and I now understand what all the fuss is about.

Who else has read her work? I would be interested to hear about her other books – as many of the quotes on this book identified this as ‘her best yet’.

Until next time, Chloé x