Tag Archives: book

#BlogTour ‘The Idea of You’ by @robinnelee @PenguinUKBooks

To the media, Hayes Campbell is the enigmatic front-man of a record-breaking boyband.

To his fans, he’s the man of their dreams.

To Solène Marchand, he’s just the pretty face that’s plastered over her teenage daughter’s bedroom wall.

Until a chance meeting throws them together . . .

The attraction is instant. The chemistry is electric. The affair is Solène’s secret.

But how long can it stay that way?

OK, how am I going to review this book? Well, I’m going to tell you that this book had such an impact on me that I read it in under 48 hours. I’m married, have a toddler and have plenty of things to keep me busy but, much like Solène Marchand, I willingly let a lot of it fall by the wayside so I could fall into ‘The Idea of You‘.

Prior to reading ‘The Idea of You‘, I’d seen the hype and had friends rave about it and the proof that came through my door exclaimed ‘This will keep you up all night!’. Immediately, I was put off – it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype, could it?

For me, ‘The Idea of You‘ far surpassed my expectations although I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.

A young lad, only seven years older than Solène’s daughter, takes a shine to the almost forty year old when they meet backstage at a gig. There were times when I felt uncomfortable with Hayes’s proximity in age to Solènes daughter and some of the comments that were made. However, much like the protagonist herself, I kept returning to his thrall.

In addition to the age difference, there’s also the added complications of a teenage daughter, an ex-husband, millions of adoring fans and the tabloid media. Oh, and social media too. This novel is bang up-to-date with plenty to keep you turning the pages.

In terms of a read that will captivate women of many ages and fulfil a long-held desire that your favourite celebrity might not only look your way but be interested in what he sees, ‘The Idea of You‘ is perfect. There are trips all over the world, yachts, beyond five star hotels, designer clothes as well as deep desire and beautiful people. In addition to the surface stuff, though, there’s something more… there’s a discussion around feminism and sexism as well as the nature of celebrity and the impact it has.

When I wasn’t reading ‘The Idea of You‘, I found myself grinning as though I was Solène! I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I doubt I’ll be able to stop thinking about it any time soon. I’ve been in touch with lots of my female friends to discuss it with those of us who’d read it – and to tell the ones who hadn’t read it yet to rectify that immediately.

The Idea of You‘ is the perfect holiday read. It’s hot, it’s sultry, it’s sexy. There were moments when I was completely caught up in the breathless excitement of what was going on.

Do yourself a favour and read ‘The Idea of You‘. Thank me later 😉

Vic x

PS – I predict a spike in childbirths in the next nine months…

Review: ‘When They Find Her’ by @liamiddlet0n

Naomi had always wanted to be a mum. But three years ago, her husband left, taking their daughter with him.

Now, her daughter has come to stay, and Naomi knows it's her chance to re-build her family.

But the night ends in a terrible accident. And Naomi has no memory of what happened.

Panicking, desperate, Naomi finds herself telling a lie: 'My daughter is missing.'

From the outset, 'When They Find Her' had me gripped. 

This confidently-written debut grabbed me with its utterly unthinkable opening and kept me emotionally invested until the final page. 

Lia Middleton's writing is so visceral that, at first, I wasn't sure I could continue to read this book as it felt too uncomfortably close to home for me (as someone with a young child). However, I couldn't leave it alone - I HAD to know how it would end. I was completely swept up in Naomi's nightmare and her split second choice with catastrophic consequences. 

'When They Find Her' is perfectly-plotted and intelligently written on a subject which continues to remain taboo: mental health, more specifically the mental health of new mothers. This novel is dark and, at times, uncomfortable to read - this is not, however, a criticism but a testament to Middleton's skill as a writer. She captures the terror of being a new mum and puts it to chilling use. I absolutely identified with Naomi and her fears - and how those fears affected her family. 

An absolutely stellar debut.

Vic x

Review: ‘Founders, Freelancers & Rebels’ by Helen Jane Campbell

In this book Helen Jane Campbell interviewed inspiring, brave and creative experts across the UK and US, tapping into some incredible insights and pulling them together into this friendly guide, to offer that support which we all need from time to time.

This book’s for you if you’ve stopped feeling ‘hungry’ for new client work, you’re starting up for the first (or second or third!) time, or you’ve simply run out of steam. The author's intention is to offer a wealth of ideas and fresh perspectives to inspire you at any stage of your independent creative career.

Whether you're chasing a better quality of life, finding your calling, leaving a legacy or focused on reaching your potential, this book can help you succeed when working on your own feels like an uphill struggle. It also offers a reality check and support for anyone who has the appetite to go solo, but who is nervous about taking the plunge.

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. 

I really liked Helen Jane Campbell's writing style, her strong voice comes through in a friendly, chatty style so that even when she's talking about certain aspects of freelancing that some may find uncomfortable (eg finances), it feels completely natural and not at all intimidating. Starting up a business can feel like an insurmountable challenge at times but Campbell's style helps reassure the reader and make everything seem totally possible. 

Campbell covers a number of topics that could be stifling your creativity or putting you off trying to go it alone. She uses case studies alongside her own experience to give practical advice and demonstrating her credentials to be the one giving this advice.

Vic x

Review: ‘Blackstoke’ by Rob Parker

WEALTH. SECURITY. PROSPERITY. NONE OF IT MATTERS IN THE DARK.

In a quiet cul-de-sac on the newly-opened, much sought-after Blackstoke housing development, the first handful of families are moving in. These neighbours, thrown together for the first time, are looking forward to settling into their bright new lives—with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The estate couldn’t be nicer, but it’s a big change for everyone.

Then things start to happen. Bad things. As if something doesn’t want them there.

As the new residents try to make sense of events, the buried history of the area makes itself suddenly, deeply apparent—with a series of shocking, violent escalations.

Soon, no one is safe, as the original powers of Blackstoke return to reclaim their territory and birthright in a final night of dark revelations, gore and bloodshed.

My thanks to Rob Parker for my ARC of ‘Blackstoke‘ which is available in e-book, paperback and hardback now.

It is quite difficult for me to write a review of ‘Blackstoke‘ without giving too much away. It starts off sedately enough, introducing the reader to the residents of the cul-de-sac. In this respect, Rob Parker does an excellent job in building up strong mental images of his characters, their idiosyncrasies and backstories. The descriptions he uses about the setting and characters are strong and, at times, almost lyrical. But don’t be fooled by the niceness of this new estate and the folks moving into it.

Despite it’s gentle start, ‘Blackstoke’ is eminently readable and I found, even in those early chapters before the horror kicked in, I didn’t want to stop reading it. Parker has such a way with words – and clearly understands what drives people – I didn’t want to step away from this narrative. To be fair, even if he had written a novel where very little happened, I’d still be inclined to read it because the prose is so strong.

But – fear not – plenty happens in ‘Blackstoke‘ – more than you could ever imagine when picking this book up, in fact. I must warn you now, however, if you’re squeamish, this may not be the book for you. I liked its refusal to shy away from the really dark and vicious. This book does not leave things to the imagination, it’s graphic and horrifying but I still wanted to keep reading it.

The female characters in this book are particularly well-drawn and utterly kick-ass which I think was my favourite element of ‘Blackstoke’.

I had in my mind when beginning this book that it was going to be reminiscent of an episode of ‘The X Files’ (‘Arcadia‘; Season 6, episode 15 – also known as the “garbage monster”) and, although it has similarities, there is another episode of ‘The X Files’ that ‘Blackstoke‘ resembles far more. I can’t say more than that episode is in Season 4 – I wouldn’t want to inadvertently give spoilers!

Blackstoke‘ is a real departure from the thrillers you’ll be used to reading from Rob Parker but it’s a compelling trip into horror that is impossible to put down.

Vic x

Review: ‘Black Widows’ by Cate Quinn

Blake Nelson moved onto a hidden stretch of land – a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah – where he lived with his three wives: Rachel, the chief wife, obedient and doting to a fault; Tina, the other wife, who is everything Rachel isn’t; And Emily, the youngest wife, who knows little else.
When their husband is found dead under the desert sun, the questions pile up.
But none of the widows know who would want to kill a good man like Blake. Or, at least, that’s what they’ll tell the police…

Set within Utah – Mormon-country – ‘Black Widows‘ delves into the Church of the Latter Day Saints – and an extreme form of Mormonism: polygamous marriage. The idea of reading a book set within this community is intriguing enough but what Cate Quinn has done with ‘Black Widows‘ is create a compelling read featuring characters I could engage with despite wildly different cultural differences. I was utterly invested in the women in this book.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the wives – Rachel, Tina and Emily – and each voice is distinctive in character and tone. I found the three wives completely captivating. They were honest, engaging and utterly believable. Thanks to Quinn’s excellent writing, I could even hear their accents as I read. The character development as the story goes on is exquisite.

I genuinely could not put this book down. I spent several nights reading long after I should have gone to sleep – I just couldn’t stop. ‘Black Widows‘ is one of those books where I couldn’t wait to find out who was responsible but also didn’t want the story to end. I think one thing that really contributed to this were the short, snappy, perfectly crafted chapters that left me wanting more.

My thanks to Orion for supplying me with an ARC of this novel. I cannot recommend ‘Black Widows‘ highly enough.

Vic x

#BlogTour #BeforeSheDisappeared @LisaGardnerBks

Today it’s my turn on Lisa Gardner’s blog tour for her first standalone novel in ten years: ‘Before She Disappeared‘. I’d like to thank Penguin Random House for allowing me a sneak peek at this brilliant book and for having me on the blog tour.

Frankie Elkin is a middle-aged woman who spends her life doing what no one else will: searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up and the public no longer remembers, that’s when Frankie starts looking. Carrying little more than a backpack and her own demons, Frankie travels around the US looking for people who have been forgotten.

Arriving in Mattapan, Boston, Frankie starts her search for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teen who vanished after school almost a year earlier. Although Mattapan’s reputation precedes it, Frankie doesn’t let it stop her from asking around – but she’s met with resistance from the police department and Angelique’s family, who seem pretty wary of the white lady who’s sticking her nose in. Frankie soon learns, though, that she’s asking too many questions – questions someone doesn’t want answered.

I’ve got to admit, the first chapter didn’t grip me and I was worried that this might be a bit of a slog but once we arrived in Mattapan with Frankie, the story completely lifted and I enjoyed not only the mystery but also the descriptions of Mattapan and the people that live there. Gardner really creates a strong sense of the community that Frankie inserts herself into. It was a pleasure to learn about the rich Haitian culture that exists within Boston.

Frankie is a well-rounded character. She may be ballsy but she’s not infallible by any stretch of the imagination and this lent her an air of authenticity to me. Gardner portrays the insidious nature of alcoholism perfectly but manages not to hit the reader around the head with it. There were almost times in the story where I forgot that Frankie had a problem with booze, only for the demons to rear their heads again and I genuinely believe this is what it’s like for addicts. I really liked the idea that Frankie has swapped one addiction for another – she may not be obsessing over her next drink but she’s certainly consumed by the case she’s investigating.

Although there are references to police investigation techniques, I didn’t feel that I was reading a police procedural novel and that, for me, meant that ‘Before She Disappeared‘ wasn’t bogged down in the minutiae of police work. I did, however, feel that the details that were included were not only relevant but also interesting.

Thanks to the interesting cast of characters that Lisa Gardner has created, I found myself heavily invested in the outcome of this book. ‘Before She Disappeared‘ is a well-paced mystery that really packs an emotional punch.

This may have been the first Lisa Gardner book that I’ve read but it won’t be my last.

Vic x

#BlogTour #The Push by @audrain

I’m thrilled today to be reviewing Ashley Audrain’s debut novel ‘The Push‘ which was published yesterday.

Here’s a little snippet of ‘The Push‘ to whet your appetite:

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right.

I had always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers.

My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.

But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I?

As most readers of this blog will know, I became a mum for the first time in 2019. The Push takes place over a number of years so although I can’t recognise some of the feelings that Blythe, the narrator, feels as her child Violet gets older, I can attest that Ashley Audrain certainly captures the all-encompassing terror felt by some new mothers.

The Push‘, although being fiction, taps into the fears that many women experience when they become mothers: am I supposed to feel like this? Am I doing this right? Am I good enough? Is my child … ok? Normal?

This explosive novel explores subjects that still remain taboo: the pain and discomfort around breastfeeding, post-natal depression and how your relationship with your partner changes after the arrival of a baby. Yes, this novel takes those elements to the extreme but there certainly were scenes that had me nodding firmly in recognition.

Audrain has weaved natural fears around motherhood into this perfectly pitched novel, leaving the reader unsure whether they can believe what they’re being told.

Interspersed across three different timelines, this layered story is absorbing, emotional and terrifying, some might say like motherhood itself. Featuring complex, nuanced characters, ‘The Push‘ will leave ice running through your veins long after you have turned the final page.

There were scenes that left me feeling physically sick with fear, my emotions completely in Audrain’s thrall. I also wept repeatedly when reading this book thanks to the powerful nature of the prose combined with an utterly intoxicating plot.

I think ‘The Push‘ is the kind of book our society needs. It is definitely a great choice for a book club – it will generate conversation and no doubt some controversy but I genuinely think it will open the minds of those who read it. This novel isn’t just about the relationship a mother has with her child but also those around her – from her partner to strangers – and the expectations that are placed on her as a result.

Perfect for fans of ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin‘, ‘The Push‘ is beautifully written, perfectly plotted and deserving of the hype it’s been receiving.

Vic x

Guest Post: William Shaw

During our twenty-two week run at Virtual Noir at the Bar earlier this year, I was lucky to host a number of amazing writers. I was also invited to talk to a number of podcasts, publications, blogs and Facebook groups.

The first Facebook Live event I took part in was with William Shaw, who was hosting daily chats with a number of people from the world of writing. William was a brilliant host and I enjoyed appearing on his show.

A couple of months later, William appeared at VNatB and was so generous that he read an excerpt of someone else’s work instead of his own!

William is joining us today to talk about his next project: Reading Party. I’m confident that you’re going to be interested in what’s coming up!

Vic x

Guest Post: William Shaw talks about Reading Party

I’ve been trying to come up with a way in which Zoom events can have the same kind of engagement as live events – and also really be about the books. 

I came up with the idea of a reading party. The idea is guests get to read from an author’s new work – aloud. Together, twenty guests read a chapter from a writers’s new book, in the presence of the writer themselves.

It kicks off with the writer explaining a little about the extract they’ve chosen, answering guests’ questions about what kind of mood they want etc, and then the reader kicks things off followed by all the guests in turn. 
Afterwards there’s a discussion.

Admission is by ticket – or by buying a copy of the book. After the reading there’s time for discussion and then the writer signs and dedicates a bookplate for anyone who has bought the book. Books are supplied by the online bookshop Bert’s Books.

Nov 12th 7.00pm Bella Ellis (Rowan Coleman) reads The Diabolical Bones
Nov 19th 7.00pm Elly Griffiths reads The Postscript Murders
Nov 26th 7.00pm C. L. Taylor reads Strangers

Look out for upcoming events from Sarah Hilary, Mark Billingham and more. 

Review: ‘The Power of Rude’ by Rebecca Reid

For decades, women have been called ‘bossy’, ‘hysterical’ and ‘neurotic’ in situations where men might simply be dubbed ‘assertive’. We need to change the narrative around women and we need to use our voices to take control. Rebecca Reid isn’t afraid to show us how.

I am not an assertive person. I would like to be an assertive person. I recommend ‘The Power of Rude‘ to anyone who would like to be more assertive, especially if that person is worried about how being “rude” might be perceived.

I guess you could call ‘The Power of Rude‘ self-help but it is so much more than that. It’s insightful, constructive and thoughtful. It’s also thought-provoking and anger-inducing as well as being laugh out loud funny and totally relatable.

Rebecca Reid has shared her own experiences on several subjects including health, money and sex, coupled that with findings from her own research and case studies of well-known women. ‘The Power of Rude‘ is like a chat with a friend – a friend who will tell you that you shouldn’t be putting up with [insert any number of wrongs that women suffer on a daily basis].

I can’t stop thinking about ‘The Power of Rude‘ and how I am going to use the advice given to improve my life. I will refer back to this book for the rest of my life and will buy it for my female friends although, to be honest, I reckon anyone who doesn’t feel able to advocate for themselves could benefit from reading ‘The Power of Rude‘.

The Power of Rude‘ is an indispensable guide to how to assert yourself. Get it now!

Vic x

Review: ‘The Point of No Return’ by Neil Broadfoot

After more than a decade of being in prison for the brutal murder two Stirling University students, Colin Sanderson has been released after his conviction was found to be unsafe.

Returning home to a small village not far from Stirling, Sanderson refuses police protection, even in the face of a death threat. But the PR firm that has scooped him up to sell his story does know of a protection expert in Stirling. They want Connor Fraser.

Connor reluctantly takes the assignment, partly as a favour to DCI Malcolm Ford, who is none too keen to have Sanderson on the loose, particularly as he was involved in the original investigation that saw him imprisoned. 

When a body is found, mutilated in the same way as Sanderson’s victims were, all eyes fall on the released man. But how can he be the killer when Connor’s own security detail gives him an alibi?

As Connor races to uncover the truth, he is forced to confront not only Sanderson’s past but his own, and a secret that could change his life forever.

Having read ‘No Man’s Land‘ and ‘No Place to Die‘, I was really looking forward to reading the next instalment in the Connor Fraser series – and I wasn’t disappointed. ‘The Point of No Return‘ is a tight, pacey thriller that develops recurring characters within the context of another intriguing mystery.

Broadfoot has a knack of writing taut prose, with not one word wasted and that really helps me envisage the action unfolding. The action at times actually left me breathless. I genuinely can see Connor Fraser coming to a screen near you (hopefully soon).

The unflinching violence in this series is not for the faint-hearted but, with characters like Duncan Mackenzie and his henchman Paulie in the mix, it never feels gratuitous or unnecessary. In addition to the menace provided by Mackenzie and Paulie, Colin Sanderson genuinely gave me the creeps.

Setting the series in Stirling gives Broadfoot’s series a fresh feel to it, putting Scotland – and its political conflicts – at the heart of every story. It’s great to see recurring characters being given space to develop and gain depth. As much as I like Connor, I love Donna Blake and the divided loyalties she experiences on a daily basis.

The third in Neil Broadfoot’s Connor Fraser series is his strongest yet. Readers get not only a barnstorming mystery, they’re also treated to a glimpse into Connor’s own backstory which makes it much easier to understand his motivations and behaviour. However, you don’t have to have read the previous two novels in this series in order to enjoy ‘The Point of No Return‘ – but I recommend that you do anyway!

I can’t recommend ‘The Point of No Return‘ highly enough.

Vic x