13 July 2019

Book Review: When I Lost You by Merilyn Davies *AD Gifted

Arrow sent me a free review copy of When I Lost You by Merilyn Davies ahead of the blog tour.

When I Lost You by Merilyn Davies coverAdd to Goodreads button
When a young couple are the lead suspects for the murder of their only child, Crime Analyst Carla Brown and DS Nell Jackson are assigned to investigate.

The evidence seems conclusive, but something just doesn’t feel right.

The case is quickly cast into doubt when the lead forensic pathologist starts receiving threatening letters – containing details only the police should know.

Who’s sending them? What do they want? And how did they get hold of the information?

As Carla and Nell dig deeper, it soon becomes clear that this case isn’t the first of its kind.

They must stop at nothing to find the truth – even if it hits close to home.

5 Words: Mystery, blame, conflict, murder, abuse.

Content warnings: Infant death, child abuse, graphic descriptions of crime scenes.

I feel that a lot of the author's own experiences as a crime analyst with the Met feeds a lot into the book - it feels like a completely authentic look at the job, full of first person research. It really comes across in the writing and it's fascinating. And definitely not a job that I could do.

When I Lost You is a bit police-procedural, a bit twisting thriller, and wholly addictive. It's gritty and harsh, but at the same time - and despite the content - it's sensitively told.

I did find the split timeline a little confusing at first, but I quickly got used to it and couldn't put the book down. It's a pretty compelling read, and even if I did guess the mystery it was still a bit fun and a satisfying whodunit, and I didn't see every twist coming.

I loved how When I Lost You ended, I felt like the ending was a fantastic way to bring everything together. I really hope that this is the beginning of a series, as I feel like there is a lot of scope for the stories of Carla and Nell to continue. And I feel like it would be an excellent TV series.

11 July 2019

Book Review: Lily's Just Fine by Gill Stewart *AD Gifted

Sweet Cherry Publishing sent me a free electronic review copy of Lily's Just Fine by Gill Stewart via NetGalley.

Lily's Just Fine is a perfect read for summer, full of passion and drive and a wee bit of romance. I loved it.

Lily's Just Fine by Gill Stewart coverAdd to Goodreads button
Lily couldn’t have planned life better herself. She lives in the best house in town and she’s dating the most popular boy in school. Everything else she can fix. Mum’s apathy? On it! The stuffy gala committee? Watch this space! 

Tom has enough on his plate without trying to drag Newton St Cuthbert into the 21st Century. His sister is sick and there’s nothing anyone can do. Not doctors, not his parents, and certainly not Lily Hildebrand.

Sail away this summer with the unexpected romance of Scotland's most determined teenager.

Perfect for fans of emotive YA stories. 


5 Words: Summer, friendship, attraction, control, inclusion.

Content warnings: Depression, anxiety, homophobia.

This book was all at once fun fluff and serious issues - and I loved it.

At times Lily can be a rather difficult characters. I definitely didn't always a agree with her, she can be rather selfish and single minded, but she grows and changes. When she learns something, she adjust to it. She is pretty damn firey, but she can also empathise with others. And become a bit too caught up in fighting for what she thinks is right, even if it might harm people.

I loved the LGBT+ themes, the way mental health was explored, how changing family dynamics were picked apart. I loved how a side character had chronic fatigue syndrome, the gripes about chronic illnesses and how even now so little is known about it. I also loved the soft, slowly building romance.

Unusually, the setting is a seaside town in Scotland. It had some colloquialisms, I felt that the voices were authentic, and it was a bit of a joy to read. I felt like the accent came through in the writing.

Lily's Just Fine is perhaps a little bit of an issue book, but that's not the whole of it. I found the story perfectly balanced, with enough drive from the characters themselves (rather than their issues) to keep me reading.

This book is perfect for summer, and I'd definitely recommend. I can't wait read more of the Galloway Girls series!

09 July 2019

Ten Thoughts While Reading Come Back For Me by Heidi Perks

Arrow Publishing sent me a free review copy of Come Back For Me by Heidi Perks ahead of the blog tour.

Once I started reading it, I couldn't put Come Back For Me by Heidi Perks down. It's a story packed with mysteries and secrets and lies, all wrapped up in an increasingly tense community. A Compelling thriller that I couldn't put down.

Come Back For Me by Heidi Perks coverAdd to Goodreads button
A shocking discovery.
An island wrapped in secrets.

A tiny island community is stunned by the discovery of a long-buried body.

For Stella Harvey the news is doubly shocking. The body has been found in the garden of her childhood home - the home her family fled without explanation twenty-five years ago.

Now, questioning her past and desperate to unearth the truth, Stella returns to the isolated island. But she quickly finds that the community she left isn’t as welcoming as she remembers – and that people in it will go to any length to protect their secrets.

One thing rings true…
You can’t bury the truth forever.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Character Freebie 
Ten Thoughts While Reading Come Back For Me by Heidi Perks
This was supposed to be a Character Freebie, but I decided instead to do ten thoughts I had while reading Come Back For Me by Heidi Parks. Because I had A LOT of thoughts while I was reading, and it was a book that kept surprising me
  1. This cover is gorgeous, I love the shades and the contrast, the way the red pops. Interesting tag line too We all have something to hide.
  2. A MAP! There is a map! I love maps! Cute island. I think I'd like to live on an island, although this one is SMALL.
  3. Stella is very smart, isn't she? But I wonder what her motives are and what she's hiding, why she made such a drastic change in her life.
  4. Oooh here come the secrets and lies! I am so unsure of who to trust right now, I love an unreliable narrator, and Stella's compartmentalising, and her age at the time, means she is definitely unreliable.
  5. OK so maybe this island isn't as nice as I thought? I think I'd still like to visit though, it sounds a wee bit idyllic, despite the body.
  6. I did NOT see that coming! Poor Stella, she must be heart broken. But now who is it..? Honestly thought that's who it was.
  7. OK so I kind of saw that one coming, especially with the focus the narrative was taking. But still. A wee bit shocked at the reveal.
  8. I don't believe this is the truth, I think there are still lots of secrets and lies and things that need to come to light.
  9. WELL I certainly had suspicions but I wasn't expecting that! What a twist.
  10. Right, what other books has this author written? I need them now!
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07 July 2019

Book Review: Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor *AD - Gifted

Ebury Press sent me a free review copy of Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor.

After a bit of a rocky start Needlemouse ended up being a charming story of discovery, and I loved the journey that Sylvia took throughout the pages. It's character driven story perfect for long summer evenings.

Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor coverAdd to Goodreads
Time to come out of hibernation...

Sylvia Penton has been hibernating for years, it's no wonder she's a little prickly...

Sylvia lives alone, dedicating herself to her job at the local university. On weekends, she helps out at a local hedgehog sanctuary because it gives her something to talk about on Mondays - and it makes people think she's nicer than she is.

Only Sylvia has a secret: she's been in love with her boss, Professor Lomax, for over a decade now, and she's sure he's just waiting for the right time to leave his wife. Meanwhile she stores every crumb of his affection and covertly makes trouble for anyone she feels gets in his way.

But when a bright new PhD candidate catches the Professor’s eye, Sylvia’s dreams of the fairy tale ending she has craved for so long, are soon in tatters, driving her to increasingly desperate measures and an uncertain future.

Sylvia might have been sleep walking through her life but things are about to change now she’s woken up…

Source: Review copy

5 Words: Family, obsession, jealousy, love, hedgehogs.

Needlemouse is definitely a character driven novel, and it's one of those where nothing really happens when it comes to action, but by the end you've taken quite a journey in terms of growth. It's got a pretty slow pace, but nevertheless I couldn't stop reading.

I found Needlemouse quite a difficult book to get in to, and this was down to the main character,  Sylvia. She's rather bitter and disagreeable, and generally just not a nice person. She's pretty much a straight up bitch for the first half of the book. She's also more than a little bit obsessed with the Prof and it made me feel quite awkward to read at first. Sylvia has a lot of internalised misogyny that made for uncomfortable reading at times, but it made the character seem much more believable and gave added weight to why she was the way she was.

It's a testament to the author's writing that I not only kept reading, but I actually grew to love Sylvia by the end. She has hidden depths and I loved how it all came together. Needlemouse ended up being quite a charming read.

I really loved how I learned a fair bit about hedgehogs while reading this book. A lot of research has obviously gone in to it, and it didn't feel like the author was showing off - what I learned through the characters actions felt very natural.

06 July 2019

My Favourite UKYA Moments

I couldn't tell you when I first became aware of the UKYA community being a thing, but I do know that I have loved every moment being part of it.

Here are some of my favourite moments...

YALC 2018
Me at YALC 2018.

Seeing my favourites win awards at UKYABA

I've been lucky enough to be able to attend the UKYA Blogger Awards presentation twice now, and both times I've had a wee cry seeing people I admire and consider friends in the UKYA community win awards. Everyone is so amazing and supportive, and I love being part of that joy.

I love getting to nominate the people I admire and always do a squeak of "yay!" when the nominations are announced and I see so many familiar names. My fingers are crossed for everyone shortlisted this year.

SundayYA Chat

I have met some of the very best people through this chat, and they're not just there to talk books (although we talk a lot about books). Some of them have become real life friends and we meet up for book events and signings and sometimes just a drink and a natter.

But that chat itself inspired so many debates and blog posts and I added so many books to my TBR. It's how I discovered Vic James in the debuts chat, immediately pre-ordering Gilded Cage and finding a new favourite. It's how I got to host my own book club chat and talk about a book I loved with lots of people.

You're Cora from Twitter!

The first time this happened was at YA Shot in 2016, and I was stunned. People recognised me, and I recognised other people, from those tiny little Twitter icons. I got to meet people that I talked to online almost every day, we got to talk about books in real life, not just online.

I like how now at book events I'm not alone (hello, first YALC, you were scary) and that I know so many people that I can chat to. I also love how everyone is accepting of anxiety and the need for space, and asking before jumping in for a hug.

Making Vic James cry

This sounds worse than it is, honest. Basically, I when I love a book I read it to death. I read it multiple times, I fold down pages, I annotate. It spends that long in my bag as I cart it around for rereading that the cover gets ripped and the page edges get smushed. ANYWAY. The first time I made Vic James cry was at YA Shot when she saw the state of my book - but it was happy tears! She said she loved that it'd been read to death and she scoured the annotations to see what I'd marked out and made notes on. At YALC later in the year I spent some time with her after her signing, she got to have a look at my scribbles in Tarnished City, and she circled the pages she wanted to see my reactions on in Bright Ruin.

Making Tanya Byrne and Eleanor Woods cackle

I absolutely loved Floored so it was one of the books I annotated. Unfortunately I didn't much like one of the characters, Hugo, so when he came up there were a lot of snarky notes. At YALC last year I took my copy along to get it signed, and the authors got to have a flick through and see what I wrote about the characters. Every time I think about "GET IN THE BIN HUGO" I smile and remember the laughter that particular annotation brought up.

Bookish Events

I love meeting people and authors at events, getting to celebrate our love of books. Authors and readers get to interact, fangirl, share the love. Sometimes there are freebies, sometimes there is cake, every so often there's a wee drink.

I loved how at UKYACX I was sat right next to Sally Nicholls, after YA Shot I had a drink with Sarah Baker, after UKYABA Will Hill joined us celebrating our friend's successes, whenever I see Eleanor Wood at an event she jumps up and gives me a hug. I just love how authors are part of the community too.

I also love how I can meet the publicists I email and tweet so often, can thank them to their faces for their hard work and fangirl over the titles they've arranged blog tours for.

What are your favourite UKYA moments?

04 July 2019

Q&A With Sif Sigmarsdóttir

When I read The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake by Sif Sigmarsdóttir I knew I had read something special, and the first thing I did when I finished it was reach out and ask if I could do a Q&A... And here we go!

This is probably one of my favourite Q&As ever, I think I've read it myself around five times already. Sif gives wonderful and interesting answers that provide a bit of insight into the characters and story in The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake.

Q&A with Sif Sigmarsdóttir

Can you describe The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake in five words?
YA Nordic noir feminist thriller

What inspired you to write the The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake, especially with such emphasis on the influence of social media?
I’m fascinated with social media and how it’s changing the world. Some people say it’s all bad, others say it’s all good. But I think it’s somewhere in-between.

The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake is inspired by two real life examples of how social media is being used – one for bad and one for good:

In 2018 the journalist Carole Cadwalladr revealed that a British company called Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent and used it to influence elections. It was a scandal that made us all think seriously about how our personal data can be abused. (In The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake a pharmaceutical company uses stolen data to target ads for slimming pills at vulnerable young girls.)

Around the same time the #metoo movement was gaining momentum. In 2018 the actress and activist Rose McGowan released her captivating book Brave in which she exposed the predatory misogyny within the film industry and told of how the most influential man in Hollywood sexually assaulted her. The #metoo movement, which has sparked positive change in attitudes towards women, relies heavily on the power of social media. 

Which of your characters would you most like to sit down and have a cuppa with?
Oooh! That’s a tough one. There are two strong female heroines in The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake and I love them both equally.

I would love to sit down with the glamorous and mysterious Imogen Collins who is a marketing executive by day and social media influencer by night (and maybe also a murderer).

But I grew up reading – and loving – the Nancy Drew books. So, I will have to go for my amateur sleuth, the half Icelandic, Hannah Eiríksdóttir, who gets a job as a journalist – and the task of finding out whether Imogen Collins is guilty of murder or not.

I’d take Hannah out for a cold coffee which is to me the elixir of life and source of creativity.

Do you think that you would be able to survive in the world of your book?
The word “snowflake” in the title refers both to literal snowflakes and the word’s more recent adoption as a derogatory term used to describe a particular generation.

I feel that the snowflake generation, and just young people in general get far too much flak. They’ve become punching bags for older generations who are desperate to prove their moral superiority and justify their economic advantage by putting the young down.

I’m not sure how I’d cope – but I think that young people today, like the climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, are doing a fabulous job of showing us who’s right and who’s wrong. 

Are you a planner or a pantser?
I always say that I don’t believe in inspiration; I believe in perspiration. I believe that it’s important to be organised and sit down every day and write, whether you feel up to it or not. So, my best writing skill is my tough bottom. I do consider myself a planner.

But I do think the pantser in me is also important. Because sitting down at the computer isn’t actually the only part of the writing process. It’s what happens in-between that sometimes is the key. Most of my ideas come when I’m not sitting at the computer, when I’m not technically at work. I get ideas, I get inspired, when I’m taking a walk, going to the store, making dinner, on the loo, in the shower… So, my books come to life subconsciously while I’m doing other things.

What is your favourite thing about writing?
The endorphin kick I get when I’ve written a paragraph that I’m pleased with. It’s like the rush you get from bungee jumping or swimming with sharks (or so I imagine – I’ve done neither … writing is as close to an extreme sport I’m willing to go).

Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?
That’s the million-dollar question. I’m not sure if many writers are willing to admit to this (they probably fear that it will make them sound like ungrateful pricks), but having your book published can be extremely depressing. Yes, you’ve achieved your dream. But then what?

You’ve spent years writing a book, obsessing about it, thinking about it night and day. Publication day arrives. It’s a massive high. It’s all about you, your creation, your precious offspring which is now out there in the world for all to see. But then comes a new day. Your life doesn’t change when your book is published. The pile of dirty laundry is still there. A crowd of adoring fans doesn’t magically appear outside your house with home-made cookies and cold coffee to encourage you on and keep you fed and happy while you work on your next masterpiece. It’s like you’ve climbed up a steep mountain, got to the top, and then rolled back down again. You’re back to square one.

But saying that, being a writer is the best job in the world. (Sorry for the mixed messages, folks.) I’m definitely climbing up that mountain again. While writing The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake I fell in love with the characters of Hannah and Imogen so at the moment I’m planning a new adventure for them. So, stay tuned.

02 July 2019

Ten Childhood Favourites

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Childhood Favourites
What were your favourite books as a kid?