The Family Upstairs~Lisa Jewell

Where do I begin? Wealthy Chelsea family end up living within a commune in their own home and eventually find themselves surrendering their powers as the matriarch and patriarch of the family as well as their personal and household items of value. They live a “simpler” life under the guidance of David, only life isn’t so simple and his guidance is actually frighteningly controlling and violent when things aren’t going according to his will. Miracle births and tragic deaths among karma unfold through the trips back time as one of this missing children, now and adult in the present day, lead us through their sorry life and sad tale.

I’d love to say there was a hoot ending, but I’m not completely sure it’s meant to leave us feeling comfortable or as if this is the quote before the storm really hits! If this were adapted to television as a series, there would most definitely be a follow up series! So I do anticipate that this will be the case in the future, and very much look forward to it!

This is the second of Jewell’s titles I have read (the previous being The House We Grew Up In) and I’m seeing a pattern in writing style; starts off slow but progresses quickly enough to reel you in but not so quick as to leave you bored and guessing the next moves of the characters. The chapter styles are the same with chapters from the past tense but mostly written in the present, with the two timelines coinciding perfectly as the end of the book draws near.

There were parts of this book that left me shocked and some that left me nearly in tears, but it never left me bored. I will most definitely be adding more of Jewl’s titles to my ever expanding TBR list!

Where The Memories Lie ~ Sibel Hodge

another 10/10 read from this crazy talented lady 💖

The story line is a confession amidst Alzheimer’s disease, an ending of a life in an unexpected way, and not one but MANY changes of direction when it comes to the perpetrator! Half way through, I thought I had it all worked out, then changed my mind, then 3/4 of the way through I was utterly adamant I had it all solved. Close to the end, I realised I was so off the mark and did not expect that twist, or what happened next!

I was gripped!

I will admit that my favourite books from Hodge are the Detective Carter books and the follow up series Becky Harris books (I’m impatiently waiting for the next instalment of “the Becky Books” 💖) and I’ve read several of her novels now and I find the subjects are always highly and thoroughly researched and put together in a way that, even with a change of narrative or writing style, they just flow so well. The descriptions of people and atmospheres have you feeling like it’s playing out all around you and the plots just get you hooked right away.

If you’ve not yet read one of her books, you seriously need to!

Some Kind of Wonderful~Giovanna Fletcher

I picked up this book in an Aldi special buy months ago, and begun reading it a few weeks after placing it on my book trolley. I did enjoy it, but as my own personal life took a total turn in the opposite direction I was used to, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to carry on reading a romance novel, but I stuck to it and I can safely say I’m glad I did, because it’s not really a romance novel but more a “picking-yourself-up-after-romance-has-ended” type of novel and it turns out that’s exactly what I needed at that moment.

Some Kind of Wonderful starts with Lizzy eagerly awaiting a proposal from Ian (the boyfriend of 10 years) who goes to propose but ends up drunkenly waving a ring in her face while dumping her on the last night of their holiday. So obviously, heart broken Lizzy returns to their flat, grabs what she can and returns to her childhood home and attempts to piece her life back together and learn who she is. Lizzy also has to contend with her heavily pregnant and hormonal sister, a revelation from her dad, a new job opportunity as well as a perspective suitor and life-long single mate becoming one of those settled types of loved-up people.

Sounds like she has a lot on her plate, but Lizzy bosses it and discovers what she wants from life and takes herself off on an adventure of a lifetime instead; we don’t see this adventure as the book ends but the epilogue on the last page show us Lizzy returning and walking back in to her life.

I would have loved a longer epilogue where we learn a few of the life lessons Lizzy has faced, but I suppose that could easily be a story for another day-followed by her fresh start upon her return. On the whole I did enjoy this book! I would have adored it some years ago when I was avidly reading nothing but chick-lit (Jane Green and Sophie Kinsella being my most favoured authors of light hearted fiction) and it was a nice break from the crime thrillers I’ve been hooked on this year. It actually showed me that there’s always a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel and who you were is not necessarily who you’re meant to be. I really recommend this book to anyone needing a quick read of a relatable character.

The Five: The Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Women ~ Hallie Rubenhold

For years, there have been countless documentaries, films and works of fiction all revolving around Jack The Ripper but not one person seemed to ever seek out the truths behind the victims until recently.

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane were the five very (incorrectly) publicised victims of Jack The Ripper in 1888; all were regarded within the media as women of the sex industry, yet only one for all certainty was.

Not only does Rubenhold seek to inform us about the forgotten victims of an unforgettable killer, but also to educate us regarding the hard times and issues women of working (and somewhat middle) class faced on a daily basis. This book didn’t focus so much on their deaths but on the lives of these incredible women (and I say incredible because they truly were; while they may not have been Florence Nightingale or Mother Teresa like figures of history, their struggles and own history show us that to be born female in such a time was a true, gritty and downright bloody battle and for many a year they somewhat survived).

This is not a book posing as a hunt for the Ripper but is a book purely on the known victims and their lives as well as up until the coroners court verdicts of their deaths. This is so worth a read!

Fashion, Lies and Murder~Sibel Hodge

I’ve been an avid reader of Sibel Hodge’s latest works for a while now, and decided I’d go to the very beginning of her writing journey and work my way through all her titles. This is very different from her latest works and here’s why; this title/series (this is first of four Amber Fox adventures) is entirely made up of calamity and humour along with crime solving.

Amber is clumsy, sarcastic, has two gorgeous men lusting after her attentions and a slim waist despite her addiction to all things chocolate (don’t you just love/hate her already?!) in this first instalment of her escapades, we discover Amber was kicked out of the police force after an unfortunate (it was it well deserved?) shooting incident and is now working for her ex fiancé as a claims investigator in his insurance company. She has a gorgeous boyfriend (where for art thou Romeo?) and a cat who seems to match her sarcasm. Her first job within her more role is to snoop and find evidence of a lie within a personal injury claim, a motor theft and bug an office of a well known fashion designer. Little does she know what she’s walked in to! Enter the world of Kinky Elvis, gun-wielding dodgy washing machine owners, the most comical and clumsy mob heavies and airy-fairy physics. Not to mention her brilliantly crazy dad!

I’ll admit that at first it felt a slightly juvenile read in comparison with Hodge’s latest title (Anatomy of a Crime) and the language came across as very Americanised at times BUT it turned out to be the hilarious read I needed! I giggled and laughed my way through it and found myself relating to Amber’s clumsy ways and adoring her dear old dad and rolling my eyes at her sister!

This was well worth a read and I will be continuing with the Amber Fox series, but rather than one after the other it’ll be when I need that giggle-worthy chick-lit pick-me-up. A perfect, easy to follow quick read for a light hearted escape. Perfect for the beach or a rainy day.

Anatomy of a Crime~Sibel Hodge

Anatomy of a Crime is the latest title from the crimeariffic author Sibel Hodge and it has totally blown its genre out of the water! I was so excited and more than happy to Beta Read this title and (extremely) ecstatic to see my name at the end! Living the book lovers dream right now!

Written as podcast format with interviews from those around the case in question, we also have a few first-person narratives and perpetrator-narratives in between which are written in Hodge’s usual and descriptive style adding more of an atmosphere and draw to the characters and the story. A totally new format to me and it really does work well!

The podcast is created by Lauren Taylor who uses this series to cover what appears to be a ritualistic murder in 2017 in Blackleaf Forest. Doesn’t sound like much right now, but Lauren’s gut soon tells her that all is not what it seems and she ruffles a few feathers along the way, and that’s when the more disturbing details and truths are uncovered along with local gossip and legends. This is a book that will stay with you each time to close it for the night- I certainly felt for the character of Caris and the twists and turns are frankly riveting.

I just love how Hodge has experimented with this format and really hope we have another instalment from Lauren in the future!

Author Interview; Samantha Rendle

For those of you who have been following my Instagram or been reading my blog for a while, will know that I was given a freebie digital copy of The Furious Four to read prior to general release in order to have a review ready to leave on publication day. And those who know me will know that I’m not really a zombie apocalypse kind of girl, but this one I couldn’t put down! I’ve been lucky enough to do a brief interview (via e-mail-thanks Covid!) with the talented Sam Rendle, who in her own words is a “Vegan, aromantic asexual activist and mental health advocate from Bristol, UK.” As well as a digital content creator.

Q1) What made you want to sit down and write? Was there a specific occurrence in your life that triggered your creative side or is it something that’s always been present?

I’ve always loved to read and I’ve always been very imaginative. I often find myself inspired by music videos, films, other books and even dreams I’ve had, and after the latter in particular I can find myself coming up with a character or a plot in a matter of minutes. I’m not sure there was one specific thing that made me want to write; I think I’ve always just had a strong drive to create.

Q2) Some people can only write if they’ve got a perfect desk set-up or it’s the middle of the night and the world is silent so there’s a lack of distractions; or need to wait until they find inspiration. What’s your writing process? Do you need have a set routine in order to write or can you jot down your thoughts and go back to them?

I tend to write when I’m inspired. I think that’s why writing The Furious Four took so long. Like I said, I’ve always had that drive to be creative, but it’s hard to find the balance between creative projects. My video making takes priority most of the time, and sometimes my other creative projects (writing, painting, scrapbooking and sewing) are difficult to choose between and inspiration for different things will hit me at different times. I tend to sit on the sofa with my laptop and notebook when inspiration hits me to write, though. I tend to type out my novels but notes are always handwritten. That way I can have both manuscript and notes in front of me at once.

Q3) What made you write about a zombie apocalypse? It’s a very widely done subject but this has such a different feel – was it a challenge to create the characters and cliff hanger that would set the book part from others of this genre?

The initial idea came from playing my now-favourite game through for the first time. A friend bought me The Last of Us Remastered for my birthday a few years ago and I completely fell in love with it. I loved the bond between Joel and Ellie who, though not related, have an almost father-daughter relationship. I think a similar dynamic is captured among my four main characters – or at least that’s what I aimed for! The characters themselves – mainly Gabriel and Preston – were inspired by characters in the Batman New 52 comics. I love dark, complex characters with plenty of flaws and angst. I think it helps, too, that I do love making my characters suffer. It sounds awful putting it that way, but I think the greater the suffering, the greater the reward when something positive happens.

Q4) Are people and places in your everyday life inspiration for your characters and plot?

Occasionally, yes. The Sanctuary is based on a nature reserve I went to a few times as a child. I can’t remember where it was or what it was called but I remember it had a walking route where you could spot for birds. Also, though it isn’t really described all that much, the pharmacy where Preston and Beth first met was, in my head, the pharmacy attached to my own doctors’ surgery. I tend to set my writing in places I’ve been or am familiar with, but very rarely are the characters themselves based on people I know.

Q5) I didn’t know whether or not I was meant to like Preston he comes across as moody and unreliable and not much about him was really exposed until later in the book; was it your intention to keep his mental health struggles silent so as to make people aware of how such issues are stigmatised?

Absolutely. To Preston, mental illness is a sign of weakness – he’s pretty much an embodiment of the stigma. I do intend to delve deeper into his mind in future instalments and explore his struggles further, because I think it’s important to establish that even the strongest of us have our weaknesses, and that’s okay.

Q6) I love the character of Beth and how she struggled with many Gabriel at first. I think you managed to describe the struggles of motherhood perfectly. Did you speak to younger mums to aid you in writing Beth? She becomes such an amazing strong character and I was so sad to say goodbye to her- what made to decide to end her journey where you did?

Working in a local shop I tend to come across a lot of young mothers. Most of our customers are regulars so in the nine years I’ve worked there I’ve seen these mothers and their kids grow up, and I’ve often found myself wondering how I’d cope in their situation. I honestly think I’d struggle as a mum at twenty-seven, let alone ten or eleven years younger!

I got quite emotional myself when I wrote her farewell, but it made the most sense for it to happen in order for the story to progress in future instalments. The narrative, as you know, isn’t completely linear, so we might see past Beth cropping up now and then in future (or, um, past).

Q7) This is a self-published title; talk me through this process-did you need to find a proofreader and artist for the cover? How long did it take to go from your computer to e-copy? Will there ever be a physical copy? Because I really want a copy for my shelf!

I actually did send TFF to a couple of literary agents, but unfortunately it was rejected. However I was desperate to get the book out there in one way or another, and I’d heard of self publishing on Kindle before, so I did a little research into the process and decided I’d take that route. I have a good friend with a degree and some enviable writing skills of his own, and he did a little proofreading for me – I think you’ll find his name in the acknowledgements at the end of the ebook – and then I went about looking for a cover artist. At first I contacted a lovely lady who designed a book cover for me in the past, but her work was a little (ahem, a lot) over budget at the time, so I turned to Fiverr. I was a bit sceptical at first – it felt too good to be true – but I found a wonderful artist who did a fantastic job of making a cover for me. She kept me up to date on the whole process and it was such a good experience, so I’ll definitely be commissioning her again.

Q8) The Furious Four is clearly not going to be a stand-alone book; when can we expect the next instalment? I’m so eager for Gabriel to meet his paternal family and I’m not sure if it’ll be a good thing or a bad thing (knowing that his grandfather and father pretty much caused the apocalypse!)

As I said, inspiration irritatingly comes and goes for me. But you’ll be pleased to know I am (*looks*) sixty-eight pages into the first draft of the next book! It’ll feature new characters as well as much-loved existing characters, and we’ll get a broader look into post-apocalypse 2025. I’ll let you in on a little secret though: I’m also working on another book, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too!

It was amazing to work with Sam on this interview and to read her book, I’m so enthralled to see what happens next and follow her works as an author.

If you want to follow her social media, check out the links below.

The Furious Four is available on digital download now here red

Continue reading “Author Interview; Samantha Rendle”

The House We Grew Up In ~ Lisa Jewell

“When a tragedy breaks a family apart, what can bring it back together?
The Birds seem to be the perfect family: mother, father, four children, a picture-book cottage in the country.
But one Easter weekend, something happens – something so unexpected, so devastating, that no-one can bring themselves to talk about it.
The family shatters, seemingly for good.
Until, years later, they are forced to return to the house they grew up in, and to confront what really broke the family apart…”

I really liked this book; it seemed a little confusing at times with present-ish day emails at the start of each chapter but I really liked following each member of the Bird family and found myself getting so frustrated at them at times and then really emotional at others. Having a hoarder within my own family, I truly understood the frustrations and concerns of the Bird children, and also wanting to keep memories and hold things close to me meant I also had a slight insight in to their mothers way of thinking.
We worth a read!!

The Baby Trap~Sibel Hodge

The first books I read from Hodge were Murder mysteries and crime thrillers so for me this was a total change of genre and pace as well as writing style.

The book flowed well and was full of humour and light hearted for the most part despite the underlying theme being infertility (a heart ache for many unfortunately). The narrative was good and I loved the various characters (the hippy, the evil stepmother, the loving dad, and the ever loving, humour-filled and sensitive husband).

I laughed and I felt misty-eyed, I empathised and I yearned for Gina’s end goal. I was so excited for their trip of a lifetime and wriggled with utter glee on the last few pages.

This book was so well written and clearly a personal touch contributed deeply to the characters narrative and journey.

Overall I really enjoyed it. It was a real shift from what I’m used to from Hodge being one of her earlier titles, but I’m really enjoying exploring her earlier stuff just as much as her latest thrillers!

Dear Evan Hansen

I liked this book in general and it was a good read BUT the scenarios and characters could be really frustrating! They’re mostly teenagers so that’s to be expected I guess! But the whole time I read it I was wishing Evan and Connors social and communication skills were more confident and clear- that would have avoided a lot of tricky situations but then again if they did that there wouldn’t be a book! Originally a stage production and turned in to a book I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time before it’s a film. Not sure I’d be first in line to see it but I’ve heard good things about the musical.

As well as frustrating at times, it was also raw and emotional. I found myself really feeling sympathy for Connor’s family as well as for Evan; both misunderstood teenagers who feel alone in their worlds. It made my heart hurt to read about Connors parents, especially his mothers attempts to build a rapport with a Connor which was based on a purely fictitious friendship.

Fans of the stage show may or may not like this book (not like when you watch the film first and find the narrative of the book lacking and vice versa) BUT 13 Reasons Why fans will enjoy