Book Reviews

Book Review: Under A Starry Sky by Laura Kemp

One summer to change her life…

Wanda Williams has always dreamed of leaving her wellies behind her and travelling the world! Yet every time she comes close to following her heart, life always seems to get in the way.

So, when her mother ends up in hospital and her sister finds out she’s pregnant with twins, Wanda knows that only she can save the crumbling campsite at the family farm.

Together with her friends in the village, she sets about sprucing up the site, mowing the fields, replanting the allotment and baking homemade goodies for the campers.

But when a long-lost face from her past turns up, Wanda’s world is turned upside-down. And under a starry sky, anything can happen…

 

I have to be honest, this is not the kind of book I usually read. I am normally more of a crime/mystery/scfi kind of person.

All that said, I loved this book and read it from start to finish in one 7 hour stint!

The story follows Wanda Williams, a girl who has always dreamed of travelling but has never managed to leave due to family constraints.

I found the characters exceedingly well developed and I formed very clear images of them in my mind.

On several occasions, I found myself getting choked up or laughing out loud.

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Book Review: The Never Have I Ever Club by Mary Jayne Baker

Robyn Bloom thought Ash Barnes was the love of her life – until one day he announced he was leaving her to fly halfway across the world.

Months later, Robyn is struggling to move on – but then she has a brainwave: The Never Have I Ever Club. Her handsome next-door neighbour Will helps her bring their fellow Yorkshire villagers together for some carpe-diem-inspired fun.

From burlesque dancing to Swedish massages, everyone has plenty of bucket-list activities to try, but it doesn’t take long for Robyn to realise what – or who – her heart truly desires: Will.

There’s just one problem: he’s Ash’s twin brother.

Make that two problems: Ash is moving home… and he wants Robyn back.

Mary Jayne Baker is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors.

Once I started reading, I fell in love with the endearing town of Kettlewick and its wonderful inhabitants. I couldn’t even really dislike Ash. He certainly has the charm everyone alludes to.

Will sounds perfect. Even though I couldn’t figure out which twin brother was going to get the happy ending, I was very much Team Will. I am saying no more about that.

Robyn is a great lead character. She shows a loving, caring side to her that makes her incredibly likeable.

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Book Review: Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly

Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead.

But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain and guilt she’s long kept buried. But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

 

(Trigger warning – Monstrous Souls dives into the troubling world of child abuse and coverups.)

Monstrous Souls is the debut novel from Rebecca Kelly and is a throughly good read. It follows the aftermath of a traumatic event which left its one known survivor with a fractured life and fractured memory.

Fifteen years after the event, fragments of memory start to align and the lid is slowly lifted on a system of organised abuse of children, covered up and hidden at the highest levels.

At times the book can be hard to read, as the subject matter is disturbing, but the author does a wonderful job of drawing you though the story.

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Book Review: How To Save A Life by S.D. Robertson

You can’t have a rainbow, without a little rain…

When a stranger saves Luke’s life, he knows he’s been given a second chance. He’s going to make it count – and, determined to live each day to its fullest, he starts by saying yes to everything life has to offer.

Slowly but surely, Luke learns that a little bit of blue-sky thinking can go a long way, and things start to look up.

But when Luke’s new resolve is tested, will he return to his old ways? Or can one fateful moment truly save a life?

 

If any of S.D. Robertson’s previous novels are anything to go by, I knew that How To Save a Life was going to be an emotional rollercoaster before I even began. And yes, it was.

Oh Luke. He’s such a complex and compelling character. On the first few pages, he’s not the most likeable of characters. He reminded me a little of Scrooge in that he is cynical, a loner and has no interest in the world around him.

The author throws the reader straight into Luke’s life and the more I got into the story, the more empathy I felt for him. As you start to get to know his history, you begin to understand his choices and his demeanour. Also, as a character, he really does develop and evolve over the course of the novel.

The supporting characters are also strong, Meg and Nora especially. I felt so sorry for Rita. Grief presents itself in so many different ways and I had nothing but sympathy for her.  There were moments I could empathise with and parts I could relate to.

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Book Review: Agony Auntics by Julie Butterfield

As an agony aunt, Fliss Carmichael should have all the answers but when her own marriage begins unravelling at the seams, she hasn’t a clue where to start.

After a simple mistake causes an unintended role swap, she becomes the one seeking advice from an unlikely source!

When reading the blurb, I was immediately drawn to the premise of this novel and indeed, from the first page, I was drawn into the plot.

This book, told as narrative and a series of e-mails, focuses on Fliss and Ellie. I like how it’s told from the point of view of both and it goes between the two effortlessly.

Fliss is an agony aunt. It is not what she dreamed of being. It’s more a profession she fell into but, having been married for eighteen years, she has always believed that the sacrifices she made in her own career was worth it in exchange for her happy marriage.

However, when she gets an e-mail from Ellie, a woman who asks for advice in talking to the man she loves but has never spoken to, it forces Fliss to take a look at her own relationship with her husband, Jasper. She realises things are not so perfect.

I felt an enormous wave of love and empathy for both characters but especially Fliss. I’ve never really considered that this stranger offering advice is also a human being with their own complexities. Their lives can be as messy and beautiful. I had never considered that side of the coin before.

These women are at different stages in life and I liked the juxtaposition of the two. Most of all, I loved the relationship that developed between these two women and that it begins through the written word.

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Book Review: Tell That To My Heart by Eliza J. Scott

Jemima Dewberry wears her heart on her sleeve. Her weakness for bad boys, coupled with her track record for making bad decisions has led to endless heartbreak. The only trouble is, she can’t seem to kick the habit.

On top of that, her “dream” job at Yorkshire Portions magazine hasn’t turned out to be what she’d hoped, and she seems to have developed the knack of annoying her boss without even trying. It doesn’t help that the new girl seems to have taken an instant dislike to her. All that’s keeping her there are her best friends Anna-Lisa and Aidey, who have picked up the pieces of her shattered heart more times than they care to remember.

When Jemima’s latest boyfriend turns out to be no better than the rest, the hurt and humiliation is almost unbearable. She declares she’s finally through with love, and swears off men for life. But when charismatic Caspar De Verre walks into the office with his dangerous good looks and mesmerising smile, she’s utterly captivated, and her promises to Anna-Lisa and Aidey not to let her heart rule her head are soon forgotten.

But is Caspar all he seems? Anna-Lisa and Aidey have their doubts. And Herbert, the happy-go-lucky black Labrador Jemima’s looking after, doesn’t seem to like him either.

As Jemima falls for Caspar’s charms she finds herself being forced to confront the struggle between her head and her heart. But which one will prove the most powerful?

And will Jemima get the happy-ever-after she so desperately craves?

 

Tell That To My Heart is the first novel in the Heartshaped series. I loved Eliza’s previous series, Life on the Moors, so I have been looking forward to getting stuck into a new book from her.

Mim Dewberry should be enjoying the fact that she has the job of her dreams. In reality, she hates where she works. Also, having had her heart broken by her ex, she has sworn off men. Well, that’s until Casper begins work at her office. Even when her friends, Anna and Aidey share their misgivings about him, she doesn’t listen to their advice. Whether it’s advice she should heed, I am hoping you’ll find out for yourself.

This book was full of the same warmth and heart that I have come to love from Eliza’s books and I devoured this, not able to stop reading.

Mim felt like a sister and I became very protective of her. I wanted to hug her. Casper gave me a Daniel Cleaver/Jasper from The Holiday vibe and, like Herbert, I couldn’t quite decide if I liked him.

The plot is paced well and I couldn’t figure out how it would end. As normal, I am not going to say much more about the plot and what happens as I don’t want to spoil it but what I will say is that there are some very bad characters in this book. There was one in particular that I didn’t even try to like.

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Book Review: The Beauty of Broken Things by Victoria Connelly

United by tragedy, can two broken souls make each other whole?

After the tragic loss of his wife, Helen, Luke Hansard is desperate to keep her memory alive. In an effort to stay close to her, he reaches out to an online friend Helen often mentioned: a reclusive photographer with a curious interest in beautiful but broken objects. But first he must find her—and she doesn’t want to be found.

Orla Kendrick lives alone in the ruins of a remote Suffolk castle, hiding from the haunting past that has left her physically and emotionally scarred. In her fortress, she can keep a safe distance from prying eyes, surrounded by her broken treasures and insulated from the world outside.

When Luke tracks Orla down, he is determined to help her in the way Helen wanted to: by encouraging her out of her isolation and back into the world. But Orla has never seen her refuge as a prison and, when painful secrets and dangerous threats begin to resurface, Luke’s good deed is turned on its head.

As they work through their grief for Helen in very different ways, will these two broken souls be able to heal?

From the moment I started reading The Beauty of Broken Things, I knew it was going to be a rollercoaster of a novel.

Many themes are explored including the loss of a spouse, mental health, trauma and PTSD and I feel this was done with empathy and sensitivity.

These characters find themselves in a rather unique situation and I immediately warmed to them. I felt so sorry for Luke and wanted to give him a big hug. His grief for the loss of his wife is palpable.

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Book Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

I am pleased to be welcoming Emily Henry to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her latest novel, Beach Read. 

 

TWO WRITERS, ONE HOLIDAY. A ROMCOM WAITING TO HAPPEN…

January is a hopeless romantic who narrates her life like she’s the lead in a blockbuster movie.
Gus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale.

But January and Gus have more in common than you’d think:

They’re both broke.
They’ve got crippling writer’s block.
And they need to write bestsellers before summer ends.

The result? A bet to swap genres and see who gets published first.
The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely…

 

January has just lost her father, she’s facing a publishing deadline and then she realises that her nemesis, Gus, is her new neighbour.

As they begin to talk and make a bet, they discover things about each other that they wouldn’t have imagined and revelations that will change their lives.

I love this novel and found it so addictive. I couldn’t stop reading and when I wasn’t, I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

Gus and January are enthralling characters and an interesting couple. Both felt so real and normal. They were flawed, layered, unique and each carry their own emotional baggage. I loved them as a potential couple. What actually happens, I am not going to tell.

The plot was compelling and unlike books i’ve read before. However, at the same time, it held the same charm that my favourite romantic comedies hold. In fact, I could see this as a movie. The setting was so vivid and I wanted to jump into the novel.

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Book Review: Strangers by C.L. Taylor

Hello to C.L. Taylor. She’s here with the blog tour for her new novel, Strangers. 

 

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

 

I have become such a big fan of C.L. Taylor’s books so I was excited to be involved in the blog tour for her latest book, Strangers.

Alice is being stalked and this thought becomes more terrifying by the moment. Even a new man doesn’t make things better.

Ursula used to be a teacher but, after losing her boyfriend, she is carrying around so much guilt. She is now a courier, just trying to get through each day.

Gareth is a security guard in a shopping centre. He cares for his elderly mother who is suffering from dementia. When he begins to find postcards from someone he thought was long gone, it becomes a worry.

C.L. Taylor is one of my favourite authors of psychological thrillers and this book didn’t disappoint. It plays mind games with the reader.

Strangers does take a while to build in terms of pace. It is told from the point of view of Alice, Ursula and Gareth and yes, because of this, it does jump around a little. The stories all seem disconnected but that is the genius of this book. I spent the whole book wanting to turn the page to find out what was going to happen to these three people and how they were going to end up all together by the end – an end I didn’t see coming. It was plotted and developed well.

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Book Extract: Running Haunted by Effrosyni Moschoudi

I am very happy to be welcoming back Effrosyni Moschoudi to Novel Kicks. Her latest novel, Running Haunted was released on 5th May. 

Kelly ran a marathon… and wound up running a house. With a ghost in it.

Kelly Mellios is a stunning, athletic woman, who has learned–the hard way–to value herself. Having just finished her first marathon in the alluring Greek town of Nafplio, she bumps into Alex, a gorgeous widower with three underage children, who is desperately looking for a housekeeper.

The timing seems perfect, seeing that Kelly aches to start a new life, and Nafplio seems like the ideal place to settle down. She accepts the position on the spot, but little does she know that Alex’s house has an extra inhabitant that not even the family knows about…

The house is haunted by Alex’s late wife, who has unfinished business to tend to. By using the family pet, a quirky pug named Charlie, the ghost is able to communicate with Kelly and asks her for help. She claims she wants to ensure her loved ones are happy before she departs, but offers very little information about her plans.

Kelly freaks out at first, but gradually finds herself itching to help. It is evident there’s room for improvement in this family… Plus, her growing attraction towards Alex is overpowering…

Will Kelly do the ghost’s bidding? How will it affect her? And just how strange is this pug?

 

To celebrate the release of her new book, Effrosyni has shared the first chapter of Running Haunted. Enjoy! 

 

 

***** beginning of extract******

 

Chapter 1

Kelly gave a luxurious sigh as she took a seat at a seafront café with her best friend, Efi. The girls had a view to the fort of Bourtzi, the magnificent landmark of the historical town of Nafplio. Under the strong sunshine, it looked as if it floated gently in the serene sea like a resting, off-white bird.

Leaning back in her comfortable chair, Kelly felt the pained muscles all over her body sing with relief. Thinking back to her amazing feat, she couldn’t help but give a cheer. ‘I’ve just finished my first marathon! I can’t believe it!’

Efi, who sat beside her, beamed at Kelly for a few moments, then said, ‘You’d better believe it, girl! I’m so proud of you! You’ve come so far to get this medal, and I don’t just mean the forty-two kilometres you just ran.’ She winked and hooked her mouth to the side.

Kelly gave a huge sigh, a shadow crossing her face. Instinctively, to hide it from her friend, she looked the other way and said with regret, ‘I know. Please don’t remind me…’

‘Hey, what’s this? It’s been over a year, Kelly… Let it go. Besides, you just proved you’re not the same girl any more. You’ve left all that misery behind you for good.’

‘You’re so right, Efi. And, from now on, I just want to look ahead, you know?’

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Book Review: Growing Up For Beginners by Claire Calman

It’s not easy being a grown-up, but at 47, Eleanor hoped she’d be better at it by now…

When Eleanor waves her daughter off for a gap-year trip, she finds herself stuck as a satellite wife, spinning in faithful orbit around her domineering husband, with only her clever but judgmental father Conrad for comfort.

Andrew isn’t mastering the art of growing up either. But when he finds his belongings dumped in bin bags on the drive, even he can see that his girlfriend is hinting he should move out. With no other options, he moves back in with his parents.

Backing onto their garden lives artist Cecilia, living in chaotic clutter and dreaming of her ex-lovers, still acting like a stroppy teenager at the age of 66.

Four lives are drawn together by long-buried secrets of the past, and it is time for them all to grow up… before it’s too late.

 

The premise for this novel intrigued me so I was excited to be a part of the blog tour.

Eleanor has just seen her daughter off for her gap year trip and more than ever, things seem to revolve around her husband, Roger. He cares little for her opinions.

Andrew is not fairing much better. He has found himself back at his parents house after splitting with his girlfriend. When he meets Olivia, he likes her but it isn’t long before he gets in his own way.

Cecelia has two grown up daughters but refuses to see herself as old.

Conrad has many regrets in life, the biggest one is letting the love of his life go.

This book for me was very much about the characters. All of them are at various stages of their lives, trying to figure out who they are and what they want. All of them have internal struggles and regrets which I think many readers can find relatable. All were very well thought out and developed. I couldn’t predict where it was going to go.

I really couldn’t like Roger. He was so infuriating and unfortunately felt realistic. As for what he does with Eleanor’s books, I know where I’d be sticking those torn out pages. I wanted to give Eleanor a shake and Andrew a hug.

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Book Review: The Plus One Pact by Portia MacIntosh

What if your plus one could be the one…?

Cara has officially run out of men. Her most recent dates have gone from bad to worse, and when her dating app informs her there is no one left in her area to choose from, she is at a dead end.

But with a summer of events ahead of her, she needs to find a solution, fast; someone to keep her company at the never-ending weddings, family gatherings and gender reveal parties that she can’t face going to alone. 

So when she meets handsome, confident, Millsy on a night out she may be in luck. They could not be more different in personality, but he too has a summer of events ahead and is desperate to get his family off his back about finding a ‘nice girl’. What if they made a pact to help each other out and be a plus one for the summer? Just as friends of course…? 

 

Cara has officially run out of men. Having rejected every man on her dating app, she’s unsure what her next move should be.

Not to mention that her ex boyfriend has been invited to her cousin’s wedding and she has no-one to go with.

Then she meets Joe. Millsy to his friends. He also has a wedding to attend and just like that, they make the plus one pact. What could go wrong?

I was pleased to be included in the blog tour for The Plus One Pact. I am a fan of Portia’s books and was looking forward to reading this. It did not disappoint.

Cara for me was instantly likeable and she felt realistic. She’s strong, independent and fights for what she believes in, even if it means her cousin has more incentive to hate her.

I wasn’t so sure about Millsy to begin with. He seemed a little shallow but as the book progressed, you get to know more about him and first impressions are not always correct. Or are they?

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Book Review: Meet Me at Pebble Beach by Bella Osborne

Regan is holding a winning lottery ticket.

Goodbye to the boyfriend who never had her back, and so long to the job she can’t stand!
Except it’s all a bit too good to be true…
When Regan gets pranked, she finds herself jobless, homeless and boyfriendless in one fell swoop.

Luckily her friendly seaside community provides a beacon of hope, proving to Regan that sometimes you really can rely on the kindness of others – and one local in particular, a handsome fireman called Charlie, helps Regan realise that this could be her chance for a fresh start.

Armed with a list of ways to change her life, Regan decides it’s time to step out of her comfort zone. Because – as Charlie knows all too well – life is for living . . .

 

Regan is in a relationship with a man who cares more about the state of his flat than about her and she also has a job she hates.  When she believes she has won the lottery, she quits her relationship and her job. When she finds out it was all a practical joke, she is now jobless, homeless and no longer has a boyfriend.

I knew from the first few pages that I was going to love Meet Me at Pebble Beach. Bella has a writing style that immediately draws me in and before I know it, it’s the early hours of the morning and I have missed out on sleep.

I loved Regan from chapter one and can relate to her. She’s a bit naive and doesn’t always make the best decisions but, like all of us, she is muddling along the best she can. Her heart is in the right place and she’s courageous for causes she believes in and people she loves. Even when I knew she was making a potential, avoidable mistake, I willed it to be OK.

Charlie and Kevin. Oh, can I give you both hugs?

Meet Me at Pebble Beach is such an interesting premise. Regan does what many of us dream of doing if we win the lottery and I felt so sorry for her when it didn’t go as planned. I have never wanted to slap a character more than Alex in that moment.

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Book Review: A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette

A big massive social distancing hug to Abby Collette. She’s here today with the blog tour for A Deadly Inside Scoop. This is book one in her Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series. 

 

Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.

To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It’s not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she’ll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown…

 

Brownyn is excited for opening day. She’s just taken over the family business which is making and selling ice cream. Her grandparents legacy is in her hands and she can’t wait to get started.

Opening day doesn’t go as planned though. When the snow keeps people away, Brownyn takes a walk and ends up finding a dead body; not how she expected the day to go.

OK, Abby, you had me at ice cream. Hahaha.

I loved the sound of this novel the moment I was asked to take part in the blog tour.

I was immediately drawn into the mystery of this book, made even harder to put down as the story progressed. I am fast becoming a fan of cozy mysteries.

I loved the intrigue. I was continuously trying to guess what had happened but kept running into plot twists. I suspected everyone at some point. So much drama in such a small town.

This small town sounds adorable and is full of interesting and loveable characters. Bronwyn is such a relatable person and I really cared what happened to her and her family. I had a special soft spot for Pop Pop. Plus, it goes without saying, the cat.

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Book Review: The Game’s Gone by Simon Barnes

No one would call David Rose – or ‘Rosie’ as he’s known to one and all – a star, but he’s good at his job and proud of his work as a sportswriter for a national newspaper. He’s used to seeing flashier talents come and go – both on the field, and in the competitive world of the press. Football comes first in the way he spends his working life, but he’s happy to pitch in whatever the sport – from Formula 1 to Test cricket in the West Indies, the Olympics to a heavyweight championship bout in Japan. 

He’s used to the ups and downs of a journalist’s life and has learned to keep his own head safely down – until an especially venal boss pins his own misdemeanours on the entirely innocent Rose. Rosie’s revenge is slow but sweet, as he manoeuvres through a world where egos clash, money talks and you’re only as safe as your latest by-line. 

 

David Rose or ‘Rosie’ as he is known is a sports writer for a national newspaper. He’s not a star but he’s good at what he does, he puts the work in and he takes pride in what he does.

Books relating to sport is not usually something I would pick up. However, I am pleased to have taken part in the blog tour for this book. As an Audible original, it was narrated by Colin Mace and he did this very well. I felt he really helped bring over the various personalities of the characters.

This book reminded me of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch in style but Simon Barnes covers a wide range of sports. I could tell that he brought a vast amount of personal experience to this story.

I have to admit, at the beginning of the book, I didn’t like many of the characters. Even Rosie grated on me a little, mostly down to comments about women. The Game’s Gone does well to shine a light on how it would have been. As a result of this, it took a while for me to settle into the narrative but what I found as I progressed were very intriguing and interesting characters, especially David Rose.

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