Friday, March 12, 2021

Blog Tour: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

Review Copy
Amazon UK link is an affiliate

Hi!

Today I bring you the debut crime novel by author & London Criminal Defence Lawyer Nadine Matheson. 


There's a serial killer on the loose…

When body parts start washing up along the banks of the river Thames, the Serial Crimes Unit is called to investigate, and it quickly becomes apparent to DI Henley that there isn't just one victim. There are two.

The murders are hauntingly familiar to Henley. The modus operandi matches that of Peter Olivier, the notorious Jigsaw Killer. But Olivier is already behind bars, and Henley was the one who put him there.

Olivier is the last person Henley wants to see but she needs his help. He might be their best chance to stop the copycat before more body parts start turning up. But when Olivier learns of the new murders, helping out Henley and the SCU is the last thing on his mind.

All bets are off and the race is on to catch the killer before the body count rises. But who will get there first – Henley or the Jigsaw Killer?


As I've mentioned, this is a debut novel - but you'd never know it. The author describes this as "a macabre love letter to South East London" and it really does come across that way. London itself is a main character in this novel. The smells, the sounds, the eclectic mix of people that make up the city - they all pour off the pages. The author does such a brilliant job with the main characters that I was sure there had been a mistake and that this was at least the second book in a series - but no, it's number one. We get backstory, we get previous case history, we get relationship history, we get a complete picture of who DI Anjelica Henley is and what she has been through. That's impressive in itself but when it's also combined with a world of side characters with their own history and stories, that sets this apart from other crime novels. 

The villain, Olivier, is truly disgusting. I've read a lot of crime and thriller novels and rarely does a character make me sick to my stomach. This one most definitely did. It's pretty gruesome (I almost wrote "pretty gruesome in parts" but I feel like that takes puns to another level altogether), so do bear that in mind, but for me it was worth it. It has been a very long time since I put a book down and immediately wanted to read the next one in the series (it has been confirmed!! Yay!!). 

I highly recommend this if you like police procedurals or crime novels but ache for a good female lead. DI Anjelica Henley has shot (boom) right to the top of my favourite fictional investigators. I felt like I got to know her so well, she felt so real. This is, of course, in part down to the fact that this is an #ownvoices novel. The author was born and bred in London and works in the UK Judicial system. The book also highlights the myriad of BS that black women & women of colour are expected to endure (in both professional & non-professional instances), from the microaggressions and misogyny to the differences between resources available to solve (or even the amount of attention given to) missing persons cases when a white woman goes missing versus when a black woman or woman of colour goes missing. 

I really enjoyed this. It was a solid crime novel and I hope the first of many for this author and for DI Anjelica Henley. I would love to see it as a TV adaptation too. 

Thank you to Lia & Harper Collins for granting me access to a digital copy via NetGalley and for this opportunity to highlight the book on the Blog Tour. 

The Jigsaw Man is available now in Ireland & the UK, and from March 16th in the U.S.

Kindle: UK | US


Bookstation (Free Delivery)




You can keep up to date with Nadine Matheson via her website, Twitter, & Instagram




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Monday, March 1, 2021

Blog Tour: His Secret Starlight Baby by Michelle Major

Amazon link is an affiliate

Hi!

This is the second of three blog tour spots I'm doing for Harlequin's March 2021 releases. 

This one is a Harlequin Special Edition


This is His Secret Starlight Baby by Michelle Major.


This is the fourth book set in the small town of Starlight. I haven't read any of the others, but based on this I absolutely would, because I really liked some of the supporting characters (especially the chef, Madi). 

I have two notes for this underlined in my notebook: 
1. "confirmed consent - YAY!"
2. "the baby barely makes an appearance - YAY!"

I'm a mother of three, I have nothing against babies but I'm much more interested in how the couple are getting on (or off, fnar fnar). This was a sweet story, about (what else) an error in communication after a one-night-stand that led Cory to believe that Jordan wanted nothing to do with her, and Jordan convinced that Cory had gone back to her wealthy NFL Player ex. 

Of course, none of the above is true, and these two just need something to bring them back together. The something being Jordan's mother, who wants to come and stay with them for a while in Starlight to get to know her Grandchild. Queue a fake relationship, one of my fave things in a romance novel, and a cute story about these two getting to know and care for each other again. 

The ending was a little rushed and chaotic for me, sometimes everything doesn't need to be wrapped up with a neat little bow - it's enough to know that the ribbon has been ordered, if you get me? 

Cute, fun, just what the doctor ordered. 

His Secret Starlight Baby is available now.

Kindle (UK/Ire) | (US)

Book 1 in the Welcome to Starlight series, The Best Intentions is currently available on Borrowbox. 

You can keep up with Michelle Major by visiting her website www.michellemajor.com or following her on Instagram @michellemajorauthor or Twitter @michelle_major1.

If you are interested in more Harlequin or Mills & Boon books, there are currently a ton on sale at Bookstation, with free delivery within Ireland on orders over €10. If you've never tried one before but would like to, I highly suggest having a look through the titles and seeing if something grabs you. If ever there was a time where a bit of romance and escapism was needed, this is it!

Thank you to Harlequin for having me on the Blog Tour. 





Saturday, February 27, 2021

Blog Tour: The Surprise Bollywood Baby by Tara Pammi

Amazon link is an affiliate

Hi!

Welcome to the first of three Blog Tour stops I'm doing for recent or upcoming Harlequin releases. 

This first one falls under the Harlequin Presents umbrella, defined as: 




This is The Surprise Bollywood Baby by Tara Pammi.




I have to be honest, I had absolutely no intention of reading this book. I only wanted to mention it in passing on a Blog Tour stop because I tend to keep choosing the same type of romance books and wanted to show you that Harlequin release different types every month. I do not find anything related to babies or pregnancy remotely romantic (three kids and two c-sections will do that to you) so if you are of a similar persuasion, you may also be pleasantly surprised like I was. My intention was to skim through a few chapters but I got sucked in to it straight away, mainly because of the female lead.

This is book two in a series, which I didn't know, but I don't feel like I missed a whole lot. Anything relevant is explained. Our main characters here are Zara, a 35 year old Bollywood film star, and Virat, a 30 year old movie director & member of a well known family involved in the film industry. Zara takes the lead in the relationship, deciding that a fake engagement with Virat is exactly what they both need to put an end to the sleazy tabloid rumours being published about them. 

This was a super fast read (one-sitting) that provided a very welcome hour and a half of escapism. One thing I enjoyed while reading it was searching some of the terms or words I wasn't familiar with and looking at some of the clothing and decor items mentioned online. There were a couple of really lavish social events in this book so it was lovely to be able to picture them. 

I also appreciated that, during the sex scenes, consent was established. Even more importantly, (and something I haven't seen in a romance novel before) there was an acknowledgment of a woman not being expected to climax through penetration alone. I have read too many novels where the woman melts into a puddle at the mere suggestion of a shaft, so to read this was honestly very refreshing.

The chemistry was cute, but overall the plot was lacking for me. I don't think the title fits with the story - the pregnancy isn't central to the plot and doesn't set the scene for the whole book. I'm not mad, I just really do not think that the cover or indeed the blurb online fit with the story at all. I found this enjoyable mainly because of Zara - I thought she was a really strong character, and felt like her growth from the woman she was a decade earlier was evident even though we didn't get to see her back then. I don't think we needed all the Vikram stuff, although I do realise that it was necessary to tie the two books together. 

The first book in the series, Claiming his Bollywood Cinderella is available on Borrowbox if you'd like to check that out. 

The Surprise Bollywood Baby is part of the March 2021 Harlequin new releases and is available now.

Kindle (Ire/UK)
Kindle (US)

You can keep up to date with the author on her website, www.tarapammi.com or @TaraPammi on Twitter, @Tara_Pammi on Instagram. 

If you are interested in more Harlequin or Mills & Boon books, there are currently a ton on sale at Bookstation, with free delivery within Ireland on orders over €10. If you've never tried one before but would like to, I highly suggest having a look through the titles and seeing if something grabs you. If ever there was a time where a bit of romance and escapism was needed, this is it!




Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Blog Tour: Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

*Review Copy. 

Hi!

Welcome to the first blog tour of 2021, for the much anticipated Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers.


Grace wakes up slow like molasses. The only difference is molasses is sweet, and this - the dry mouth and the pounding headache - is sour. She wakes up to the blinding desert sun, to heat that infiltrates the windows and warms her brown skin, even in late March.

Her alarm buzzes as the champagne-bubble dream pops.

Grace wakes in Las Vegas instead of her apartment in Portland, and she groans.

She's still in last night's clothes, ripped high-waisted jeans and a cropped, white BRIDE t-shirt she didn't pack. The bed is warm, which isn't surprising. But as Grace moves, shifts and tries to remember how to work her limbs, she notices it's a different kind of warm. The bed, the covers, the smooth cotton pillowcase beside her, is body-warm. Sleep-warm.

The hotel bed smells like sea-salt and spell herbs. The kind people cut up and put in tea, in bottles, soaking into oil and sealed with a little chant. It smells like kitchen magic.

She finds the will to roll over into the warm patch. Her memories begin to trickle in from the night before like a movie in rewind. There were bright lights and too-sweet drinks and one club after another. There was a girl with rose-pink cheeks and pitch-black hair and yes, sea-salt and sage behind her ears and over the soft, veiny parts of her wrists. Her name clings to the tip of Grace's tongue but does not pull free. 

The movie in Grace's head fast-forwards. The girl's hand stayed clutched in hers for the rest of the night. Her mouth was pretty pink. She clung to Grace's elbow and whispered, 'Stay with me,' when Agnes and Ximena decided to go back to the hotel.

Stay with me, she said, and Grace did. Follow me, she said, like Grace was used to doing. Follow your alarm. Follow your schedule. Follow your rubric. Follow your graduation plan. Follow a salt and sage girl through a city of lights and find yourself at the steps of a church.

Maybe it wasn't a church. It didn't seem like one. A place with fake flowers and red carpet and a man in a white suit. A fake priest. Two girls giggled through champagne bubbles and said yes. Grace covers her eyes and sees it play out.

'Jesus,' she mutters, sitting up suddenly and clutching the sheets to keep herself steady. 
Excerpt copyright Morgan Rogers ©

Grace Porter, newly graduated Doctor of Astronomy, has done something VERY un-Grace-Porter-like. She appears to have met a girl in Vegas and gotten married - but she has no idea who the girl is. Left only with a photo and a business card for a late night radio talkshow in Brooklyn, Grace needs to figure out what happened and work out if she has just made the biggest mistake of her well-planned life, or if her future really was written in the stars. 

I adored this book so much. It's beautiful. It's emotional, funny, relatable - the author does such a wonderful job portraying Grace's sheer exhaustion at wanting to stick to "THE PLAN", please her parents, but also find happiness for herself. By Grace's age (28), we're expected to have everything fiured out, but Grace is stuck. Racism and Sexism hinder her job prospects, and she's drowning under the weight of her father's expectations. This beautiful mystery woman may just be the push to the surface she needs - but Grace still has to learn to swim to shore. 


This is a beautiful story about finding your way even when you have a path, and about defining what "success" actually means for you. It's also a look at mental health, familial & societal pressures, and the extra expectations placed upon Black women entering the workplace. A stunning #ownvoices debut. 

This one may be a little harder to track down in Ireland or the UK - but please do, it's worth it. 


Honey Girl is published by Park Row books and was released on February 23, 2021. 




Thank you to Lia at Harper Collins for having me on this blog tour and for the ARC via Netgalley.

I have linked some of the others on the tour below so you can check out their reviews if you're interested in hearing more about this book (or just interested in finding more book blogs to read). 









Thursday, February 4, 2021

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #12 - Claudia and the New Girl

Hi!

I've been really looking forward to getting to this book, mainly because Claudia is my favourite member of the BSC (and probably one of my top book characters in general), but also because the style has been thin on the ground throughout the last few books. 

Firstly, the whitewashing is especially strong on the UK/Ireland cover of this one - could be Claudia Kishi, could be Darlene Conner. Who knows. A couple of years ago, blogger Phil Yu (aka Angry Asian Man) re-imagined some of the US covers to reflect what Claudia might have actually had to deal with during her time as a sitter, and while they are intentionally very funny, they're also a stark reminder of how Claudia should have been represented on these covers. 


We kick off with the aformentioned Claudia, who is finding it hard to concentrate in class. We've read in a previous book how Claudia sometimes feels like she's less intelligent than her sister and her peers, and this book is no different. She's struggling with schoolwork and focus. Then, suddenly, all Claudia's prayers are answered when a glam new girl, Ashley, walks into her classroom. 

Claudia knows immediately that she wants to be friends with Ashley - they both have very individual styles of fashion, they're both into art, and Claudia feels like at long last, she will have someone her own age who will understand her passion for art. Ashley does - but unfortunately that's ALL she sees. She's really dismissive of the BSC, and she encourages Claudia to try and spend more time on her art than "the uselessness" of babysitting. Frankly, she's a bit up her own arse and entirely too judgemental for a white girl wearing what's described as "an Indian headband". The club members are really upset when Claudia blows them off to spend time with Ashley, and Claudia ends up being pulled in both directions just trying to make everyone happy and find some time to do what she loves. The girls do some really shitty things to Claudia, including eating and/or hiding all her snacks, leaving her some rotten notes and entries in the club notebook, and short-sheeting her bed (which I had never heard of, but sounds like a really irritating sibling prank). 

The fashion in this book is predictably some of the best we've seen so far:

"[Ashley was wearing] a very pretty pink flowered skirt that was full and so long it touched the tops of her shoes - which I soon realized were not shoes, but sort of hiking boots. Her blouse, loose and lacy, was embroidered with pink flowers, and both of her wrists were loaded with silver bangle bracelets."

"[Ashley] was wearing a long, all-the-way-to-her-ankles dress with three rows of ruffles at the bottom. A strip of black cloth was tied around her head."

"Ashley was wearing a puffy white blouse, a blue-jean jacket, a long blue-jean skirt, and those hiking boots again. Beaded bracelets circled both wrists, and she'd tied a strip of faded denim around her head, like an Indian headband."

"[Claudia] was wearing a very short pink cotton dress, white tights, and black ballet slippers. I had swept all of my hair way over to one side, where it was held in place with a piece of pink cloth that matched the dress. Only one ear showed, and in it I had put my big palm tree earring."

This is the first time where we see how passionate Claudia is about art - when Ashley's last name is announced as Wyeth, Claudia asks her if she's related to the famous painter Andrew Wyeth (who painted one of my all time favourite pictures, Christina's World).  Claudia struggling at school and prioritising her artistic endeavours over her education was important representation - especially in the late 1980s. So important, in fact, that it inspired a generation of Asian women to follow their creative passions and continue to proudly break traditional stereotypes often placed upon them by society. There's an short documentary on Netflix about it, I really recommend you watch it - it's called "The Claudia Kishi Club". 


Meanwhile, Dawn's brother Jeff is still having problems adjusting after their parents divorce, and in a frankly bizarre scene, he calls Dawn when she's babysitting the Perkins girls and tells her he has been called in to the Principal's office at school but he can't get a hold of their mother. Dawn rocks up to the office, two little kids in tow, to try and speak to Jeff's teacher. Dawn is twelve? Thirteen? 

As usual, everything works out in the end, and Claudia even ends up having a sculpture displayed in a local art gallery. Everyone makes up, and all is right in Stoneybrook once more. 



Doritos (location undisclosed)
Bazooka Bubble Gum in her hollow book
Cookies under her pillow
Twinkies in her sock drawer
Pretzels in an old pajama bag
Crackers in the Monopoly box
Marshmallows in a shoe box
Licorice Sticks under her mattress



Claudia's English class are doing a project on a selection of books that have won a Newbery Medal. The Newbery Medals were started by the American Library Association in 1922, named after "the father of children's literature 18th century bookseller John Newbury, who is credited with making children's literature "a sustainable and profitable part of the business market". They are awarded annually to an author who has made "the most distinguishing contribution" to children's literature. You can view the full list of Newbery winners here

Claudia plays a game called "Red Light, Green Light" with some children she's sitting. We called this game Statues as kids, it's where one person faces away and the others try to creep up behind them before they turn back around. 

Claudia mentions having watched Woodstock, a 1970s documentary on the famous 1969 New York festival of the same name. I personally prefer the 1995 Wigstock movie, an equally defining moment in culture that can be seen on YouTube across 8 parts starting here

Stacey is wearing Moonlight Mist perfume and Claudia remarks that it smells like roses. This has to be Helena Rubinstein's Moonlight Mist, a fragrance released in the 1950s under both her main brand and her husband's Gourielli line. There's a beautiful high quality print ad currently listed on eBay that you can view here


Tissues at the ready for the next book, because Stacey's about to skip town. 








Thursday, January 21, 2021

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #11 - Kristy and the Snobs

Hi!

Remember at the end of the last post back in September a whole four months ago when I said "I'll be back next week, I promise, I have it drafted already"? 



This week we're up to Book 11, with the spotlight on my least favourite sitter.



Our miniature soccer mom Kristy opens up this book about snobs by being, well, a massive snob. She declares her new neighbourhood to be "full of snobs" because it's an affluent area and the neighbours appear to have money. This book also kicks off with a passing comment about how an elderly dog is limping, WHICH IS NEVER A GOOD SIGN. Louie is taken to the vet who diagnoses him with...being elderly.

Kristy runs into some preppy girls & they have a brief interaction in which they call each other names, and meets one of them later when she's out with Louie. Shannon Louisa Kilbourne and her dog "Princess Astrid of Grenville" slag Louie off, and suddenly I'm #TeamKristy all the way. GET HER, KRISTY. 

When Kristy is sitting for some neighbours, Shannon prank calls her & tells her the house is on fire. Kristy freaks out before she realises what's happening and THIS. MEANS. WAR. Kristy gets Shannon back by sending "a man dressed as a stork" to her house to drop off "a huge package of diapers". Kristy, please. Who paid for this? This pranking goes back and forth, each one more juvenile than the last, until the girls eventually realise that they're not too different from each other after all. 

The inevitable happens and Louie passes away, in a very sad scene (I BAWLED) that involves the family making the decision to put him to sleep. Shannon comes through and tells Kristy that she can have one of Astrid's puppies if she wants, the girls all become friends & Shannon joins Logan in becoming an official associate member of the BSC. 

The style in this one is thin on the ground, as it tends to be when Kristy is the lead character, but luckily we have Myriah and Style Queen Gabbie Perkins to save us: 


"In Gabbie's room, she found Myriah wearing a pink party dress with white tights and shiny Mary Jane shoes. But Gabbie had a different idea about getting dressed up. She was wearing one of her mother's slips, a necktie belonging to her father, a feather boa, a straw hat, sunglasses and snow boots" 

Notable events in this book include:

The Perkins' shortlisting the names "Randy for a boy, or Randi for a girl" for their new baby. According to the CSO, there hasn't been a single Randy OR Randi born in Ireland between 1964 and 2019 (There is, however, a mini Sharon resurgence happening - after dropping off the face of the country for three years in 2014, the Sharons are on the rise again with 11 babies named Sharon in 2017, 2018, & 2019. Go team!).  

The Pikes all having the Chicken Pox (with Claudia still expected to babysit them) and winding each other up by doing "the bizzer sign", a hand signal they invented to annoy each other. My twins also had something like this, it was a sound that they used to SCREAM at each other until I banned the two of them from saying it, so I can absolutely vouch for how annoying something like this can be. 




Gummi Bears stashed inside her pillowcase
M&Ms (location undisclosed)


Stacey reads an article called "Getting What You Want: Dealing With Difficult People the Easy Way". This could possibly be a reference to the famous self-help book by Robert M. Bramson entitled Coping With Difficult People, first published in 1981. 

The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst is mentioned, it's a children's book about dealing with pet loss.

Stacey knocks over some Lincoln Logs at the Delaney's house - I had never heard of these but they're very cool little logs used to build toy cabins & houses. They were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999.


Book 12 is up next, Claudia has competition when a new artsy fartsy girl comes to town. What will happen? Excellent style, that's what. 












Sunday, January 17, 2021

Spotlight On: Romance Novels

Nothing to disclose


Hi!

The urge to call this post "Bridgerton & other books about riding" was shocking.

In 2011, I confessed my "Dirty Little Secret" and spoke on here about my love for romance novels. No matter how many reading groups I join, or how many book discussions I'm a part of, someone will always pop their head up and declare that these are not "real" books and scoff "you read 20 books in a month? Ah but not REAL books", declaring all romance "chick-lit" and all YA "children's books". 

When Fifty Shades of Grey hit the top of the reading charts in 2012, it was dubbed "Mummy Porn". Article upon article surfaced about more and more women wanting to read about romance or sex as if this were a new concept.  In reality, the romance novel industry is worth billions of dollars, and according to a Glamour article from December 2019, made up almost a quarter of all book sales in 2016. It's almost as if it's another dismissal of women and our frivolous little hobbies like the equally valuable cosmetics industry, isn't it? 

With Bridgerton being a worldwide smash hit since Netflix released it in December 2020. the original set of novels by author Julia Quinn are once again getting some attention. 



I haven't read the books - I don't personally like the regency setting, so I won't typically read anything that is classed as historical romance or anything to do with lords and ladies. If you do like this style, Oprah magazine recently published a list of 24 historical romance novels in the same vein, with a brief synopsis of each one. If you want to read the Bridgerton series, this is the order: The Duke and I; The Viscount who Loved Me;  An Offer From a Gentleman;  Romancing Mr. Bridgerton;  To Sir Phillip, With Love; When He Was Wicked; It's In His Kiss; and On The Way to the Wedding; and The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After.

Being a fan of Harlequin and all their imprints, I sometimes review & participate in blog tours for their new releases. I've tagged every one I've toured for, so please have a click on this Harlequin tag if you'd like to go back and read those. Harlequin also have a really nice free app called Book Breaks that feature hundreds of free stories to read - you can sort by how much time you have to read or by category. 

   


If you prefer physical books, larger Tesco stores sometimes have a decent selection of romance books priced around the €6/€7 mark. Usually after you read a couple you'll discover that you prefer certain authors over others, so the app could come in really handy there. 

A great source for discovering new authors and book styles is the BookBub Daily E-mail. You sign up for free, tick a couple of preferences, and you will get an e-mail once a day featuring some free/low priced e-books for whatever platform you choose at sign-up. The daily e-mail isn't intrusive, and it always has a couple of free romance books. I've found some of my favourites this way. I just signed up using a second e-mail purely for this blog post and it has recommended several - it's worth mentioning that it doesn't just recommend straight romance, there are hundreds of LGBTQ+ books too. 

Don't forget your library - there is absolutely no reason why you should ever be embarrassed to borrow any kind of book in person, but while *the situation* is ongoing, Borrowbox have hundreds to loan, and they're incredibly popular going by some of the hold dates. If you have a tablet that can use apps or a smartphone, you can use Borrowbox. It will not work with a Kindle Paperwhite. 

The key to enjoying romance novels is to figure out what you like and don't like to read about - for example, I absolutely do not want to read lords & ladies, supernatural romance, anything to do with people getting pregnant ("A Royal Pregnancy" - best of luck, hun, but absolutely not), anything involving gangs or mafia, or BDSM. If you're into any or all of the above, there is a WEALTH of books set around those themes, just have a Google. 

Personally, I enjoy rom-com style books, a good ol' fake relationship, someone-returns-to-their-small-town, a childhood pact (all credit to Crossroads) or enemies to lovers. So if you are interested in any of those, I got you. Here's some of the ones I've read & reviewed over the past decade, you should be able to click on any cover to go to my Storygraph review of that book (provided I remember how to do that correctly, it feels like I haven't put together one of these posts in ages).


        


     


     


If you'd like to park the smut for now and just read something contemporary & funny that gives you a dose of the warm & fuzzies, then I highly recommend these, or anything Mandy Baggot has written (particularly her Christmas ones):
 

     

The bottom line here is - never be embarrassed to read a book, no matter what that book is. Don't let someone on a Twitter thread or a Facebook group make you feel bad about wanting some light escapism at any time, but particularly during what has been one of the most difficult periods of time any of us have endured. As I have said previously - it's fine to want to read every book that has ever been nominated for a literary prize. It's also fine to spend three hours reading about people riding up in the mountains. 

Feel free to give me a shout below or via DM on instagram if you want any more specific recommendations, and I'll see what I can do, no judgement.