Monday, October 25, 2021

Blog Tour: Fan Club by Erin Mayer [Review + Excerpt]

ARC provided by Netgalley. 
Amazon UK link is an affiliate. 


Today I have a cracking debut novel for you, written by former Bustle editor Erin Mayer. Fan Club is a sharp, witty commentary on stan culture, how we view fame, and the risks we take in order to find some kind of meaningful relationship. 

The term "stan" comes from the song of the same name released by Eminem in 2000. It's written from the POV of a man (named Stan) so deeply obsessed with Eminem that he writes letters to him detailing his descent into anger and rage when Eminem doesn't reply. His actions get increasingly more dangerous as he begs for his idol's attention. The term entered the Oxford English dictionary in June of 2018, listed as "an overzealous or obsessive fan, esp. of a particular celebrity."

In this book, our main character isn't named. Which seems fitting, as she feels like she doesn't really exist in any great sense of the word. She uses the term "every-father" in the opening paragraph of the book - she herself is the "every-office-worker". She's anybody, she's nobody, she's everybody. She works at a job she hates, editing articles she doesn't care about for a website she doesn't read, lives with a roommate she doesn't really know, and doesn't have many friends. She craves love, intimacy, friendship, excitement, and she has all but given up - until she finds Adriana Argento. 

Adriana is a pop princess, loved the world over, who is on the brink of releasing her first album after a hiatus due to a tragedy at one of her shows. If this all sounds a bit familiar - you too, may believe God is a Woman. Adriana becomes more and more important to our main character, and as so often happens, the fans find each other and our gal becomes deeply involved with a very intense branch of the Adriana fandom, to the detriment of her and the people around her. But it's exciting. 

This really didn't go the way I thought it would, but I found it to be a really engaging read.  The whole world of standoms and fandoms is equally terrifying and intriguing to me - I find it a little sad sometimes and one of the lines in the book really summed that up for me: 

"The most efficient way to lose yourself is to idolise somebody else"

It's scary to me how much access people have to celebrities now. Of course as long as there have been celebrities, there have been stans - but I feel like with advances in technology and the ways we use social media, celebrities have gone from being untouchable to being dangerously reachable. Stan Twitter honestly scares the bejaysus out of me, but I've no doubt had I been born ten years later that I'd have absolutely been bang smack in the middle of it. I can see the allure - finding your tribe is one of the hardest things on this earth to do, and many people go through life without ever finding that kind of comraderie or a group of people with whom they can truly be themselves. Fandoms seem like ready-made families, ready and waiting to accept you with open arms - until you step out of line. 

I ate this book up in one sitting - I was gutted when it ended, because I could easily have read another hundred pages. It takes celebs, fans, cults, social media, jaded millennials, capitalism, and spins it into a cautionary tale about living vs existing in a world full of online obsession. As a species, we've never been more connected - so why aren't we more connected? 

I didn't adore the ending, but I really enjoyed the journey there. 

You can read an excerpt from Fan Club below. Thank you to Justine at Harper Collins for having me on the Blog Tour, I really appreciate it. 

Fan Club will be released on October 26th, and you can request it from your local indie bookshop, library, or purchase it at the links below: 

You can keep up to date with Erin Mayer's work on her website, Twitter, and Instagram



I'm outside for a cumulative ten minutes each day before work. Five to walk from my apartment building to the subway, another five to go from the subway to the anemic obelisk that houses my office. I try to breathe as deeply as I can in those minutes, because I never know how long it will be until I take fresh air into my lungs again. Not that the city air is all that fresh, tinged with the sharp stench of old garbage, pollution's metallic swirl. But it beats the stale oxygen of the office, already filtered through distant respiratory systems. Sometimes, during slow moments at my desk, I inhale and try to imagine those other nostrils and lungs that have already processed this same air. I'm not sure how it works in reality, any knowledge I once had of the intricacies of breathing having been long ago discarded by more useful information, but the image comforts me. Usually, I picture a middle-aged man with greying temples, a fringe of visible nose hair, and a coffee stain on the collar of his baby blue button-down. He looks nothing and everything like my father. An every-father, if you will. 

My office is populated by dyed-blonde or pierced brunette woman in their mid-to-late twenties and early thirties. The occasional man, just a touch older than most of the women, but still young enough to give off the faint impression that he DJs at Meatpacking nightclubs for extra cash on the weekends. 

We are the new corporate Americans, the offspring of the grey-templed men. We wear tastefully ripped jeans and cozy sweaters to the office instead of blazers and trousers. Display a tattoo here and there - our supervisors don't mind; in fact, they have the most ink. We eat yogurt for breakfast, work through lunch, leave the office at six if we're lucky, arriving home with just enough time to order dinner from an app and watch two or three hours of Netflix before collapsing into bed from exhaustion we haven't earned. Exhaustion that lives in the brain, not the body, and cannot be relieved by a mere eight hours of sleep.

Nobody understands exactly what it is we do here, and neither do we. I push through revolving glass doors, run my wallet over the card reader, which beeps as my ID scans through the stiff leather, and half-wave in the direction of the uniformed security guard behind the desk, whose face my eyes never quite reach so I can't tell you what he looks like. He's just one of the many set-pieces staging the scene of my days. 

The elevator ride to the eleventh floor is long enough to skim one-third of a longform article on my phone. I barely register what it's about, something loosely political, or who is standing next to me in the cramped elevator. 

When the doors slide open on eleven, we both get off. 


In the dim eleventh-floor lobby, a humming neon light shaped like the company logo assaults my sleep-swollen eyes like the prick of a dozen tiny needles. Today, a small section has burned out, creating a skip in the letter W. Below the logo is a tufted cerulean velvet couch where guests wait to be welcomed. To the left there's a mirrored wall reflecting the vestibule; people sometimes pause there to take photos on the way to and from the office, usually on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend. I see the photos later while scrolling through my various feeds at home in bed. They hit me one after another like shots of tequila: See ya Tuesday! *margarita emoji* Peace out for the long weekend! *palm tree emoji* Byeeeeee! *peace sign emoji.*

She steps in front of me, my elevator companion. Black Rag & Bone ankle boots gleaming, blade-tipped pixie cut grazing her ears. Her neck piercing taunts me, those winking silver balls on either side of her spine. She's Lexi O'Connell, the website's senior editor. She walks ahead with her head angled down, thumb working her phone's keyboard, and doesn't look up as she shoves the interior door open, palm to the glass. 

I trip over the back of one clunky winter boot with the other as I spped up, considering whether to call out for her attention. It's what a good web producer, one who is eager to move on from the endless drudgery of copy-pasting and resizing and into the slightly more thrilling drudgery of writing and rewriting, would do.

By the time I regain my footing, I come face-to-face with the smear of her handprint as the door glides shut in front of me. 



I work at a website. 

It's like most other websites; we publish content, mostly articles: news stories, essays, interviews, glossed over with the polished opalescent sheen of commercialized feminism. The occasional quiz, video, or photoshoot rounds out our offerings. This is how websites work in the age of ad revenue: Each provides a slightly varied selection of mindless entertainment, news updates and watered-down hot takes about everything from climate change to plus size fashion, hawking their wares on the digital marketplace, leaving The Reader to wander drunkenly through the bazaar, wielding her cursor like an Amex. You can find everything you'd want to read in one place online, dozens of times over. The algorithms have erased choice. Search engines and social media platforms, they know what you want before you do. 

As a web producer, my job is to input article text into the website's proprietary content management system, or CMS. I'm a digitized high school janitor; I clean up the small messes, the litter that misses the rim of the garbage can. I make sure the links are working and the images are high resolution. When anything bigger comes up, it goes to an editor or IT. I'm an expert in nothing, a master of the miniscule fixes. 

There are five of us who produce for the entire website, each handling about 20 articles a day. We sit at a long grey table on display at the very center of the open office, surrounded on all sides by editors and writers. 

The web producer's bullpen, Lexi calls it. 

The light fixture above the table buzzes loudly like a nest of bees is trapped inside the fluorescent tubing. I drop my bag on the floor and take a seat, shedding my coat like a layer of skin. My chair faces the beauty editor's desk, the cruelest seat in the house. All day long, I watch Charlotte Miller receive package after package stuffed with pastel tissue paper. Inside those packages: lipstick, foundation, perfume, happiness. A thousand simulacrums of Christmas morning spread across the two-hundred and sixty-one workdays of the year. She has piled the trappings of Brooklyn hipsterdom on top of her blonde, big-toothed, prettiness. Wire-frame glasses, a tattoo of a constellation on her inner left forearm, a rose gold nose ring. She seems Texan, but she's actually from some wholesome upper Midwestern state, I can never remember which one. Right now, she applies red lipstick from a warm golden tube in the flat gleam of the golden mirror next to her monitor. Everything about her is color-coordinated. 

I open my laptop. The screen blinks twice and prompts me for my password. I type it in, and the CMS appears, open to where I left it when I signed off the previous evening. Our CMS is called LIZZIE. There's a rumor that it was named after Lizzie Borden, christened during the pre-launch party when the tech team pounded too many shots after they finished coding. As in, "Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks." Lizzie Borden rebranded in the 21st century as a symbol of righteous feminine anger. LIZZIE, my best friend, my closest confidant. She's an equally comforting and infuriating presence, constant in her bland attention. She gazes at me, always emotionless, saying nothing as she watches me teeter on the edge, fighting tears or trying not to doze at my desk or simply staring, in search of answers she cannot provide. 

My eyes droop in their sockets as I scan the articles that were submitted before I arrived this morning. The whites threaten to turn liquid and splash onto my keyboard, pool between the keys and jiggle like eggs minus the yolks. Thinking of this causes a tiny laugh to slip out from between my clenched lips. Charlotte slides the cap onto her lipstick, glares at me over the lip of the mirror. 


That's Tom, the only male web producer, who sits across and slightly left of me, keeping my view of Charlotte's towering wonderland of boxes and bags clear. He's four years older than me, twenty-eight, but the plush chipmunk curve of his cheeks makes him appear much younger, like he's about to graduate high school. He's cute, though, in the way of a movie star who always gets cast as the geek in teen comedies. Definitely hot but dress him down in an argyle sweater and glasses and he could be a Hollywood nerd. I've always wanted to ask him why he works here, doing this. There isn't really a web producer archetype. We're all different, a true island of misfit toys. 

But if there is a type, Tom doesn't fit it. He seems smart and driven. He's consistently the only person who attends company book club meetings having read that month's selection from cover to cover. I've never asked him why he works here because we don't talk much. No one in our office talks much. Not out loud, anyway. We communicate through a private Morse code, fingers dancing on keys, expressions scanned and evaulated from a distance. 

Sometimes I think about flirting with Tom, for something to do, but he wears a wedding ring. Not that I care about his wife; it's more the fear of rebuff and rejection, of hearing the low-voiced Sorry, I'm married, that stops me. He usually sails in a few minutes after I do, smelling like his bodega coffee and the egg sandwich he carefully unwraps and eats at his desk. He nods in my direction. Morning is the only word we've exchanged the entire time I've worked here, which is coming up on a year in January. It's not even a greeting, merely a statement of fact. It is morning and we're both here. Again. 

Three hundred and sixty-five days lost to the hum and twitch and click. I can't seem to remember how I got here. It all feels like a dream. The mundane kind, full of banal details, but something slightly off about it all. I don't remember applying for the job, or interviewing. One day, an offer letter appeared in my inbox and I signed.

And here I am. Day after day, I wait for someone to need me. I open articles. I tweak the formatting, check the links, correct the occasional typo that catches my eye. It isn't really my job to copy edit, or even to read closely, but sometimes I notice things, grammatical errors or awkward phrasing, and I then can't not notice them; I have to put them right or else they nag like a papercut on the soft webbing connecting two fingers. The brain wants to be useful. It craves activity, even after almost three hundred and sixty-five days of operating at its lowest frequency. 

I open emails. I download attachments. I insert numbers into spreadsheets. I email those spreadsheets to Lexi and my direct boss, Ashley, who manages the homepage. 

None of it ever seems to add up to anything. 

Excerpted from Fan Club by Erin Mayer. Copyright 2021 by Erin Mayer. Published by MIRA books. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Blog Tour: Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Review Copy
Amazon UK link is an affiliate


Following the success of her memoir Everything I know about Love, fellow egg mayo sandwich connoisseur (the superior sandwich filling and I WILL fight you) released her debut fictional novel, Ghosts, in October 2020. It's released in paperback today, July 22nd, and I jumped at the chance to be a part of the blog tour having enjoyed Dolly's writing in the past. 

In Ghosts, we meed Nina George Dean. She's doing a job she loves (writing about food), living in the city she loves (London) and she has a genuinely lovely family and friend circle. All that's missing is someone to share that with - so Nina agrees to take her friend Lola's suggestion of using dating apps seriously and dives into the murky world of blurry profile pictures and DM roulette to try and find a connection with someone who won't mess her around. Then she meets Max. 

I enjoyed this book a lot - it's witty, warm, funny, and Nina is really likeable. I also liked the other characters in her life - in particular it was nice to see a thirtysomething who had a good relationship with her parents. So often we see books where the mother is this stereotypical busybody who gives out about her husband, but not here. Nina's parents are facing a very tough journey together, and I really felt for her mother. 

The ghosts in the novel are everywhere (not literally) - we have parents getting old, a friendship that may possibly be coming to an end, an ex moving on, and boyfriends being twats. We go through so many stages in life and each one comes with a new set of challenges. Unfortunately, none come with a guide book - we're all just supposed to know what to do and how to cope with the fact that we're getting older or might need to move on from something that's not making us happy anymore. 

Friendships definitely change when one person has children - your day as a parent becomes consumed with trying to keep tiny humans alive and cling on to some semblance of a personality (then dealing with the guilt of wanting to retain your pre-baby personality) and it can be really hard to maintain friendships and remember that everyone is dealing with their own set of responsibilities and expectations. We're all just bloody winging it, really. I appreciated this part of the storyline a lot and really liked where the friendship with Katherine went. 

I would be very confident in recommending this to anyone looking for a Summer read with a bit of depth - it made me teary on more than one occasion. 

Thank you to Hannah at Penguin Random House for having me on the blog tour, and please do check out the other stops on the tour below if you'd like some more opinions on the book. 

Ghosts is out now and available at all good bookshops including:

and of course your local library and on Kindle

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Blog Tour: Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan [+ Excerpt]

Review copy. 
Amazon UK link (*) is an affiliate.


Today I am honoured to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan. You'll find an excerpt at the end of the post, thanks to Graydon House.

"Lady Sunshine" is the nickname given to our protagonist, Jackie Pierce, by her musician Uncle Graham in 1979. The book flits between 1999, when Jackie is given the task of dealing with Graham's estate after she inherits it, and 1979 - the Summer that changed everything. 

The sprawling estate in California was home to Graham, his wife Angela, and their daughter Willa. Jackie is sent there for the Summer when she's seventeen, and after a shaky start, her and Willa forge an incredibly close bond. In the present, Willa doesn't seem to be in the picture at all, so what happened? Jackie is busy packing up the estate for sale, but a promise was made to a group of musicians to allow them record there one last time. The music brings back a lot of memories for Jackie, could this finally give her some closure and help her move on from the events of that Summer? 

This has (and will be) compared to Daisy Jones and the Six and I don't entirely disagree - it has that same lazy, hazy seventies vibe and the musical element does play a part - but that's where the similarities end. This book is a look at friendships, families and forgiveness. I really loved this book. I think it's definitely one of my favourites this year and I would highly recommend it as a good Summer read. It's lovely. 

Lady Sunshine will be published on June 29th and will be available from all good bookshops, your local library, and at the links below.

Kindle US | UK*

You can keep up to date with the author on her website, or on her socials - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest


A Girl, Her Cousin and a Waterfall
I rattle the padlock on the gate, strum my fingers along the cold chain-link fence.
I own this place.
Maybe if I repeat it often enough I'll believe it.
All along the base of the fence are tributes: shells, notes, sketches, bunches of flowers. Some still fresh, some so old the petals are crisp as parchment. I follow the fence uphill, along the coast side, and stop at a wooden, waist-high sign marking the path up to the waterfall. It wasn't here the summer I visited.
The sign is covered in words and drawings, so tattooed-over by fan messages that you can barely read the official one. I run my fingertips over the engravings: initials, peace symbols, Thank you's, I Love You's. Fragments of favorite lyrics. After coming so far to visit the legendary estate, people need to do something, leave their mark, if only with a rock on fog-softened wood.
Song titles from my uncle's final album, Three, are carved everywhere. "Heart, Home, Hope."
"Leaf, Shell, Raindrop."
"Angel, Lion, Willow." Someone has etched that last one in symbols instead of words. The angel refers to Angela, my aunt. The lion is my uncle Graham. 
And the willow tree. Willa, my cousin.
I have a pointy metal travel nail file in my suitcase; I could add my message to the rest, my own tribute to this place, to the Kingstons. To try to explain what happened the summer I spent here. I could tell it like one of the campfire tales I used to spin for Willa.
This is the story of a girl, her cousin, and a waterfall...
But there's no time for that, not with only seven days to clear the house for sale. Back at the gate, where Toby's asleep in his cat carrier in the shade, I dig in my overnight bag for the keys. They came in a FedEx with a fat stack of documents I must've read on the plane from Boston a dozen times - thousands of words, all dressed up in legal jargon. When it's so simple, really. Everything inside that fence is mine now, whether I want it or not.
I unlock the gate, lift the metal shackle, and walk uphill to the highest point, where the gravel widens into a parking lot, then fades away into grass. The field opens out below me just like I remember. We called it "the bowl," because of the way the edges curve up all around it. A golden bowl scooped into the hills, rimmed on three sides by dark green woods. The house, a quarter mile ahead of me at the top of the far slope, is a pale smudge in the fir trees.
I stop to take it in, this piece of land I now own. The Sandcastle, everyone called it.
Without the neighbours' goats and Graham's guests to keep the grass down, the field has grown wild, many of the yellow weeds high as my belly button.
Willa stood here with me once and showed me how from this angle the estate resembled a sun. The kind a child would draw, with a happy face inside. Once I saw it, it was impossible to un-see:
The round, straw-colored field, trails squiggling off to the woods in every direction, like rays. The left eye - the campfire circle. The right eye - the blue aboveground pool. The nose was the vertical line of picnic benches in the middle of the circle that served as our communal outdoor dining table. The smile was the curving line of parked cars and motorcycles and campers.
All that's gone now, save for the pool, which is squinting, collapsed, moldy green instead of its old bright blue.
I should go back for my bag and Toby but I can't resist - I move on, down to the center of the field. Far to my right in the woods, the brown roofline of the biggest A-frame cabin, Kingfisher, pokes through the firs. But no other cabins are visible, the foliage is so thick now. Good. Each alteration from the place of my memories gives me confidence. I can handle this for a week. One peaceful, private week to box things up and send them away.
"Sure you don't want me to come help?" Paul had asked when he dropped me to the airport this morning. "We could squeeze in a romantic weekend somewhere. I've always wanted to go to San Francisco."
"You have summer school classes, remember? Anyway, it'll be totally boring, believe me."
I'd told him - earnest, sweet Paul, who all the sixth-graders at the elementary school where we work hope they get as their teacher and who wants to marry me - that the trip was no big deal. That I'd be away for a week because my aunt in California passed away. That I barely knew her and just had to help pack up her old place to get it ready for sale.
He believed me.
I didn't tell him that the "old place" is a stunning, sprawling property perched over the Pacific, studded with cabins and outbuildings and a legendary basement recording studio. That the land bubbles with natural hot springs and creeks and waterfalls.
Or that I've inherited it. All of it. The fields, the woods, the house, the studio. And my uncle's music catalog.
I didn't tell him that I visited here once as a teenager, or that for a little while, a long time ago, I was sure I'd stay forever.

Excerpted from Lady Sunshine © 2021 by Amy Mason Doan, used with permission by Graydon House.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Watermelon Sugar, Why?

*Amazon UK link is an affiliate


It's not often I want to write a full blog post about a book mere moments after finishing it, but that's exactly where I am with this one. 

The Idea of You is creating a bit of a buzz online at the moment. Originally published in 2017, it's being re-released by Penguin Michael Joseph UK in July 2021.

 I first heard of this book in a Vogue article from last December that dubbed it "The Sleeper Hit of the Pandemic". Described as a "romance novel inspired by Harry Styles", I forgot all about it until I saw a group of people share PR images on Twitter yesterday. The PR package states in bold writing "THIS WILL KEEP YOU UP ALL NIGHT" - I mean, I had to read it after that. I downloaded it on Kindle* and tore through it (although it did not, in fact, keep me up). 

The basic premise is this: Soléne is the thirty-nine year old co-owner of a chic art gallery in L.A. that focuses only on art by women or people of colour. She's divorced, her husband having moved on with a new relationship, and they share custody of a twelve year old daughter, Isabelle. Soléne gets roped into taking Isabelle and a group of her school friends to an August Moon concert and meet-and-greet. August Moon are a five-piece British pop band. One of the members, Harry Styles Hayes Campbell, catches Soléne's eye and so begins our affair. 

Hayes is twenty, a mere eight years older than Isabelle. And therein lies the problem for me. I actually surprised myself with how judgemental I became while reading this - there's a nine year age gap between myself and my own husband. I don't bat an eyelid at an age gap usually. But something about this made me feel really uncomfortable, even though both are consenting adults. Maybe it's because Hayes is only a couple of years older than my own eldest child? I couldn't see Hayes as anything but an older teenager, and those have never been anything but scary to me, even when I WAS a teenager. 

Try as I might, I couldn't enjoy this at all, and here's why: 

- Several times, the characters make reference to how Soléne could be Hayes' mother. I don't know how this is supposed to be a turn-on (unless you're Oedipus). It just took me out of the story and reminded me of how young this guy was. 

- Hayes was super immature. This didn't feel like a sexual relationship despite the copious amounts of quite graphic sex. It was very much a codependent mother/son dynamic and that gave me the creeps. 

- I couldn't get past the Harry Styles stuff. A lovely young man by all accounts with some great music, but not my cup of tea personally and not someone I want to fantasize about. I fear that the unthinkable has finally happened - I've aged out of my pop star fantasy. 

- Isabelle, at twelve/thirteen, had more maturity than Hayes. She handled the situation much better even though she felt completely betrayed and embarrassed by her mother. At one point Hayes looks at this literal child and says to Soléne "she has your mouth". Considering the only mention of Sol's mouth up to that point had been how great it looked/felt when it was attached to a certain appendage, VOM. 

I read over that Vogue article again and I fully appreciate where the author is coming from - there's a severe shortage of romance novels or movies that feature women in their late thirties or early forties. At one point in the book, Soléne mentions how dismissive people can be once a woman hits that age - she is reduced to either "mom" or "businesswoman". I completely agree, and I think there is this notion that "women of a certain age" don't enjoy being sexual or passionate. Ultimately, this is a novel about women reclaiming their sexuality and living out their fantasies. This is all fantastic - this just wasn't it for me.

My reaction to this book surprised me, considering the fact that I'm no stranger to a romance novel and I love a good daydream. That's not to say you might not enjoy it - I'm a big fan of reading something for yourself before jumping on a bandwagon going in either direction (it's why I read the Fifty Shades trilogy back in the day - I wanted to be informed in my ranting) so if you do give it a go, I'd love to hear your thoughts. If the success of books like this and the aforementioned Fifty Shades series show anything, it's that there's a huge market for rom-coms and erotica featuring women in their thirties and forties. Hopefully this will lead to more being published, and who knows - maybe the next one will be the one I fall for.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Blog Tour: Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley

Review Copy
Amazon UK Link is an Affiliate


Today I have the pleasure of shining a spotlight on the debut novel by Kate Bromley, Talk Bookish to Me. 

This is a contemporary rom-com fiction centered around romance author/bookstagrammer Kara and her exRyan. Kara is struggling to find inspiration to finish writing her historical romance novel, and her deadline is looming. The last thing she needs is for Ryan (and his dog) to come crashing back into her life after the two had a disappointing breakup a decade before. Maybe Ryan will provide the inspo that Kara has so desperately been searching for? 

I mostly enjoyed this. I'm going to get my main negative out of the way - something Ryan does or has been doing is usually a deal breaker for me in books. What saved it for me was the way Kara reacted when she found out about it, and although it still annoyed me that it was included, this is something that people deal with and I thought the resolution was satisfying. The other thing that I didn't find necessary was the inclusion of the book Kara writes. I'm fine with a book within a book but this didn't add anything to the main story for me personally. It's worth saying here that I'm not, for the most part, a fan of historical romance so fans of that genre may enjoy Kara's book.

The positives - I loved the writing style. It reminded me of the writing in some of my other favourite contemporary romcoms - Beth O'Leary, Mandy Baggott, Sophie Kinsella. I liked Kara a lot, but I imagined her very differently to the character depicted on the cover. Annoyingly, I also really liked Ryan despite his shortcomings. I was also a fan of the change in setting towards the last third of the book, I didn't see it coming but I was glad that it happened. 

Talk Bookish to Me is available now. 

You can learn more about Kate Bromley below, and keep up with her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or her Website.

Thank you to the publisher for having me on the tour and for the advance e-copy via Netgalley. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Blog Tour: You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon (Review + Excerpt)

Review Copy
Amazon UK link is an Affiliate


Today I have the new thriller by Hannah Mary McKinnon for your consideration. 

You Will Remember Me opens with our unnamed protagonist waking up at night on a beach with a head wound and no memory of who he is. All he can recall is one telephone number - he makes a call, but will it save him or put him into even more danger?

Meanwhile, Lily is worried sick about her boyfriend, Jack, who has seemingly gone missing. It's incredibly out of character for him to just disappear, and she is determined to find him. 

Miles away in Maine, Maya is searching for her Stepbrother Asher after he vanished without a trace.

I'm reluctant to tell you much more than that, because I think that's all you need to know going in. This is a thriller, there is a villain (at least one), and that villain is almost cartoonish in their wickedness. This for me made for an enjoyable read, I really love an unapologetic baddie who isn't afraid to let the reader know exactly how evil they are. Jack, as a main character, wasn't hugely interesting to me. I found the women of the story much more fascinating, especially learning about what drove them and how determined they were in their own different ways. 

If you're a fan of this genre you'll like this one, I think. 

You Will Remember Me is available now. 

You can also request it from your Local Library. There are currently other books by the same author available for request and there's one available on audio via Borrowbox

You can keep up to date with the author via her Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Website. 

Thank you to the publisher for having me on the Blog Tour and for the advance e-copy via Netgalley.


Chapter 1—The Man from the Beach 

Cold. Cold was the first word that came to mind. The first thing I noticed when I woke up. Not a slight, uncomfortable chill to give me the shivers, but a cramp-inducing, iced-to-the-bone kind of frozen. I lay flat on my stomach, my left ear and cheek pressed into the rough, grainy wet ground beneath me, my entire body shaking. As my thoughts attempted to assemble themselves into some form of understandable order, a wave of icy water nipped at my bare toes and ankles, my instincts pulling my feet out of reach. 

I had a sudden urge to get up, a primal need to take in my surroundings and assess the danger—was I in danger?—but the throbbing pain deep in my head made the slightest effort to shift anything seem impossible. Lifting a finger would be too much effort, and I acquiesced, allowing myself to lie still for another few freezing seconds as the frigid water crept over the balls of my feet again. When I blinked my eyes open, I was met by a thick, fuzzy darkness enveloping me like a cloak. Where the hell was I? And wherever it was, what was I doing here? 

When I lifted my head a fraction of an inch, I could barely make out anything in front of me. There was hardly a noise either, nothing but a gentle, steady rumble in the background, and the cry of a bird somewhere in the distance. I made my brain work its way backward—bird, rumble, sand, water—and the quartet formed the vaguely cohesive image of a beach. 

Searching for confirmation, I inhaled the salty, humid air deep into my lungs as another slosh of water took aim at my calves. This time the discomfort was enough to push me to my feet, and I wrapped my arms around my naked torso, my sopping board shorts clinging to my goose-bump-covered thighs. An explosion of pain in my head threatened to send me back to my knees, and I swayed gently, wishing I had something to steady myself with, willing my body to stay upright. As I pressed a hand to the side of my skull, I let out a quiet yelp, and felt along a two-inch gash in my scalp. My eyes had adjusted somewhat to the lack of light, and my fingertips were covered in something dark that smelled of rust. Blood. How had I…? 

Another low rumble made me turn around, shuffling slowly in a semicircle. The behemoth effort was rewarded by the sight of a thousand glistening waves dancing under the moonlight like diamonds, the water stretching out and disappearing into the darkness beyond. As my ears tuned in to the rhythmic whoosh of the waves, my mind worked hard to process each scrap of information it took in. 

I’m definitely on a beach. It’s nighttime. I’m alone. What am I doing here? 

Before I could answer the single question, a thousand others crowded my brain, an incessant string of chatter I couldn’t stop or get away from. 

Where is everyone? Never mind them, where am I? Have I been here long? How did I get here? Where was I before? Where are my clothes? What day is it? 

My legs buckled. Not because of the unfamiliar surroundings, the cold burrowing its way deeper into my core, or the pain in my head, which had increased tenfold. No. My knees hit the sand with a dull crunch when I realized I couldn’t answer any of the questions because I couldn’t recall anything. Nothing. Not the tiniest of details.

Including my name.

Chapter 2—Lily 

A frown settled over my face as I put my phone on the table, pushed the bowl of unfinished berry oatmeal away and stretched out my legs. It was Saturday morning, and I’d been up for ages, too eager—too hopeful—to spend a day at the beach with Jack, but those plans had been a literal wash-out. The start to the summer felt capricious, with this second storm in the last week of June poised to be much worse than the first. I’d convinced myself the weatherwoman had exaggerated or got her forecast completely wrong, but clouds had rolled in overnight anyway. As a result, I’d been unceremoniously woken up at two thirty by a trio of bright lightning, deafening thunderclaps and heavy raindrops pelting against my bedroom window. 

At first, I’d pulled my pillow over my head to deafen the noise, and when that didn’t work, I rolled over and stretched out an arm. The spot next to me was empty and cold, and I groaned. Jack hadn’t come over to my place as I’d hoped he would, slipping into bed and pressing his naked body against mine. I’d buried my face back into my pillow and tried to ignore the tinge of disappointment. We hadn’t seen much of each other this past week, both of us too busy with our jobs to spend more than a night together, and I missed him. Jack had called the day before to tell me he’d be working late, finishing the stain on the cabinets he’d labored on for weeks before his boss had to let him go. Apparently expensive custom kitchens weren’t in as high demand in Brookmount, Maryland as originally thought. 

“But you got laid off,” I’d said. “It’s your last day. Why do you care?” 

“Because I made a commitment. Besides, it’ll help when I need a reference.” 

Typical Jack, always keeping his word. He’d bought a lottery ticket once, and the clerk had jokingly asked if he’d give him half of any winnings. Jack had laughed and shaken the man’s hand, and when he won ten bucks on the ticket, had promptly returned to the store, and paid over the share as promised. His loyalty was one of the many things I loved about Jack, although part of me wished he weren’t quite as dedicated to his soon-to-be ex-boss. 

“You could come over to my place when you’re done,” I said, smiling slowly. “I’ll leave the key under the umbrella stand. I don’t mind you waking me up gently in the middle of the night…or not so gently.” 

Jack laughed softly. The sound was something I’d fallen in love with eighteen months ago after our eyes had met across a crowded bar, the mother of all uninspired first-encounter clichés, except in this case I’d been forced to admit clichés weren’t always a bad thing. 

“It’ll be really late, Lily,” he said, his voice deep. His English accent was something of a rarity in our small coastal town, and still capable of making my legs wobble in anticipation of his next words. “I’ll go for a quick swim now, then finish up work. How about I come over in the morning? Around nine? I’ll bring you breakfast in bed.” 

“Blueberry pancakes from Patti’s? With extra maple syrup?” 

“This time I’ll order three stacks to make sure I get some.” 

“Pancakes or sex?” I said, before telling him how much I loved him, and whispering exactly how I’d thank him for waking me with sweet weekend treats. I’d hoped it might change his mind and he’d come over earlier, except it was ten now, and he still hadn’t showed. It was odd. Jack detested being late as much as he loved being early. He often joked they set Greenwich Mean Time by his father’s old watch, which Jack had worn since his dad passed a little over a decade before we’d met, when Jack was only twenty.

I checked my phone again. Jack hadn’t answered either of my calls, another anomaly, but I tried to talk myself into believing he’d worked late into the night to make the final good impression he wanted, and overslept. Maybe there was a line at Patti’s—the restaurant was slammed every weekend—and perhaps his phone was set to silent. 

I picked up my bowl and wandered to the kitchen. My place was the smallest of six apartments, a tiny but well-maintained one-bedroom in a building a few miles from the beach, farther than I’d planned, but the closest I could afford. I’d lived there for almost five years, had furnished it with an eclectic assortment of third-hand furniture, my favorite piece a royal blue microfiber sofa I’d bought for fifty bucks, and which Jack swore was the most comfortable thing he’d ever sat on. Whenever he sank down into it and pulled me on top of him with a contented sigh, I’d tease him about what made him happier; the squishy, well-worn cushions, or me. 

The image made my frown deepen. Where was he?

Excerpted from You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon, Copyright © 2021 by Hannah McKinnon. Published by MIRA Books

Friday, April 16, 2021

Blog Tour: Twin Games in Music City by Jules Bennett (+Excerpt)

Review Copy

Amazon UK link is an affiliate


As part of the Harlequin Spring Fling series, today I have a cute little shot of pure escapism for you to enjoy. 

Twin Games in Music City is set among the bustling world of Nashville's finest country musicians, where two record labels in the haven of Beaumont Bay compete for the best artists. Country star Hannah Banks has recently moved labels, hoping that her new deal will allow her more freedom with her image and the kind of music she records. Unfortunately for Hannah, she falls hard and fast for the label owner, Will. The feeling is mutual, but Hannah and Will getting involved with each other could mean the death of both Hannah's career and Will's reputation. 

The "twin" in the title is Hallie, Hannah's sister & manager, who, despite a bit of twin-swapping at the start, thankfully doesn't feature in the actual romance (that's a genre even I won't go near). This is sweet. There are sex scenes, but they're not very explicit and there's no mention of any appendages. It's a fast read, no shocking surprises, perfect if you need to clear your head for an hour or two. I think if you enjoy those insta-romance movies Netflix promotes at Christmas, you might like this. 

I did feel like the parts about Hannah's music kind of dropped off, I felt that was somewhat unresolved, but this is a series so maybe that will be mentioned in a future installment. The ending was also rushed, but that's also not unusual for a book like this. My patience for anything involving straight white men is on the floor at the moment, so Will didn't really interest me at all but I liked the Nashville setting, I liked Hannah & Hollie, and I probably would read something else written by this author if I needed something light to escape into. 

Harlequin have kindly provided an excerpt which you can read below. Thank you to the publishers for continuing to have me on their tours. 

  Twin Games in Music City is available now. 

Kindle UK | US


Will Sutherland settled into the corner leather booth and watched as Hallie Banks wound her way through the tables at Rise and Grind. 

This little meeting shouldn't already have him irritated, but it did. Will didn't want to meet with Hallie - he wanted to meet with her twin sister, Hannah. 

But obviously, Hannah Banks, country superstar and America's sweetheart, couldn't be bothered with such mundane things as setting up her recording schedule for the next album or going over the tour dates and venues. 

He'd only met her a handful of times in passing at various events within the industry. Will had always found her attractive; he'd have to be dead not to. Hannah Banks could  make any man do a double take and he was no different. 

As far as knowing her personally, he couldn't really say much, but this first official meeting wasn't going as planned. 

Her selfish way of thinking might have worked for her old record label, but now that she'd signed with Elite, she was going to have to accept the very real fact that she wasn't in charge. He was. 

Hallie offered a soft smile and reached to shake his hand. "Good morning. Have you been waiting long?"

Will came to his feet and gripped her hand, surprised by how soft and delicate she seemed. He didn't recell noticing Hallie's hands before... and he shouldn't be noticing them now. 

"I just got here myself." He gestured to the seat across from him. "Please, sit."

She put her bag in the vacant seat and settled into the chair with curved arms. A barista came right over to take their orders before leaving them alone again.

"So where did you say Hannah was and why couldn't she make it today?" he asked, hoping to get a direct answer this time.

Hallie blinked up at him. "Oh, I didn't say. She just asked me to meet you. After we talk, I will go over the schedule with her. She did request that she record in her home studio, so that was the main thing I'm supposed to tell you."

Of course. Will shouldn't have been surprised, though. Since that horrific storm had swept through Beaumont Bay only a few weeks ago, the town was still trying to recover. It was all hands on deck in this Nashville bedroom community to rebuild the multimillion-dollar homes that had taken a hit and the few businesses that had been affected.

The Bay wouldn't stay down long This lakeside community was where Nashville came to play, where all the deals were done, where the country music elite hid their juciest secrets. And it was a town that legendary music producer Mags Dumond pretty much owned...or thought she did.

But the Sutherland brothers had made a name for themselves in the music industry by pulling themselves up by the bootstraps...and staying out of Mags's way for the most part. The woman had been a thorn in his family's side for decades, but he refused to think about that now. The next step in building his family's music empire was his new star, Hannah Banks, and finishing the renovations to the studio that had been damaged.

"I would have to check out Hannah's recording studio before I could commit to that agreement," Will informed Hallie. "We are going to have to start the production process next week to keep up with the deadlines. Tell Hannah I'll be at her house first thing in the morning to check out this recording room of hers."

Hallie pursed her pale pink lips and shook her head. "Tomorrow morning won't work." She pulled out her phone and scrolled, then tapped her finger on the screen. "How about Tuesday at ten?"

Considering this was Friday, there was no way in hell he was waiting until Tuesday. Will pulled in a deep breath and sighed. Was Hallie going to be just as difficult as the country diva? The pout of her lips said yes, and something hard and dark moved inside him.

And that's when he knew something was off here. 

"I'm not sure how things went when she worked for Mags at Cheating Hearts, but now that she's with Elite, I run the schedule and say when things are going to get done."

Halile's eyes narrowed. "Is that right? Well, maybe I should've just stayed with Cheating Hearts." Will inched forward, resting his hands on the table. "Hannah? Are you kidding me?"

She cursed beneath her breath and Will gritted his teeth. He'd known something felt off, but he'd never thought for a second his newest artist would play such a childish game as to pretend to be her twin. No way in hell would he fall for this swapped-twin trap. Hannah Banks was about to learn who was in charge real quick. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Blog Tour: The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak

Review Copy

Amazon UK link is an affiliate.


Today I have "The Bookstore on the Beach", an ideal Summer read by Brenda Novak. 

Mary and Laurie are two friends who own a bookstore in the beautiful location of Sable Beach. Mary's daughter Autumn has had a difficult 18 months - her husband, Nick, has disappeared in his capacity as a Government employee. Autumn isn't ready to give up on him yet, and continues to investigate, but she really needs the comfort of her homeplace so decides to take her teenage son and daughter to Sable Beach for the Summer. 

This is one of those books about a small town full of characters with secrets - Mary is hiding something enormous that she hoped Autumn would never find out, but that is threatened when a private investigator shows up in town asking questions. Autumn is struggling with the feelings she still harbours for her childhood sweetheart Quinn. Taylor thinks she might be pregnant, and that's the least of her worries when she meets a group of teenagers at the beach and forms a connection with one of the girls. 

This, for me, was almost too much at times. Every single character has an issue or a secret and I felt like it was a drama series that had been condensed down to fit into one book. I mean, what are the odds of two private investigations on in the same family at the same time but with two different people?! 

I also would have really loved more of the actual bookstore. From the title, I imagined it to be a central hub for all the goings-on in Sable Beach and it really wasn't that. The notion of having a bustling bookstore in a beach location was the reason why I wanted to read it in the first place. 

This is sounding a bit negative - it's not a bad book by any means, but it's the second one now that I've read by this author that I thought had a little bit too much going on (the first being A Matter of Grave Concern). If you DO make it to a beach at any stage this year, and you like these kind of sweeping, drama-filled generational stories, then this could be a really great beach read. I think if you like Lucy Diamond books this may suit you. 

The Bookstore on the Beach is available now. 

Kindle (UK)
Kindle (US)

The library also have a number of Brenda Novak books for reserve

Thank you to the publisher for having me on the tour and for providing a digital review copy.