Goodreads Challenge 2018 Update

So after reaching my target for the Goodreads challenge 2 years in a row now, I decided to really challenge myself for 2018! But it’s looking very unlikely that I will meet that challenge this year. I’ve only reached just over halfway this past week and as it’s now August 20th it’s obvious that, with well over half the year gone already, I’m quite far behind. I’m hoping to read a few more books than normal on my holiday soon but holidaying with a 7 year old means that I will probably be only reading in the evenings. I do have to admit that I really am looking forward to getting away and spending a relaxing week off!

So this is how my Goodreads challenge is looking so far…

I do think in hindsight that setting my target to 300 was too much of an optimistic stretch but at the time I didn’t realise that I’d have a brand new job starting this year which has had a big impact on my reading time.

So how about you? Have you reached your halfway target? Would you rather set your target lower so you know you can complete the challenge? Or would you rather test yourself to see how far you can go? Let me know!

Happy reading!

Jo x

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The Rave by Nicky Black @AuthorBlackNE

About this book…

It’s 1989, the second Summer of Love, and Tommy Collins is doing what he does best: organising all-night raves on a shoestring, and playing a game of cat and mouse with the police. But Detective Chief Inspector Peach is closing in on him, and his dreams of a better life are beginning to slip through his fingers.

DCI Peach finds it all a nuisance, a waste of his force’s time, until he finds his teenage daughter unconscious at one of Tommy’s raves. Then the chase becomes personal, and his need to make Tommy pay becomes an obsession.

The Rave is a fast-paced, gritty portrayal of life on the edges of society at the end of a decade that changed Britain forever.

My review…

The Rave is the second book in the Valley Park series but don’t let that put you off as you don’t need to have read The Prodigal before you read this one. Both can be read in any order as they standalone plotwise.

The 1980s were one of my favourite decades (even though it’s the one that fashion forgot!!) but I obviously lived a much more sheltered life than I realised. That could possibly have been due to my being a new bride in 1989 but more than likely it was down to living in Central Scotland in the middle of nowhere at the time! I knew that raves took place (and recognised the little smiley face that became synonymous with them!) but wouldn’t have had a clue how to get to one, even if I had wanted to!! I know enough about that time though to realise that Nicky Black has done a fantastic job of bringing that era to life. It was a time where the youths in this country didn’t exactly have the easiest of times so the opportunity to have fun and get off your face to forget your troubles was appealing to many. And here Tommy Collins is grabbing his chance to turn his life around and provide a better life for his family. Unfortunately, it comes at a cost…..

This is a dark and gritty portrayal of those times, full of interesting but unlikable characters although I did have a soft spot for Tommy Collins who just wanted to improve his lot in life especially for his child. I empathised with Peach due to his personal circumstances so I did understand why he was gunning for Tommy and thoroughly enjoyed their sparring as they tried to get one over on each other. There were surprises later on in the book that made me reconsider my initial reaction to both men but I have to say that I thought the build up to the final few pages was absolutely spot on for me.

The Rave could have been a depressing and gloomy look at the North East area of the time but, although bleak at times, there was ultimately hope for the future of a generation who just wanted a better quality existence for themselves and their families. Well written and involving, I really enjoyed my first rave during my trip back to the 1980s with Nicky Black plus I was also able to remember it the next morning unlike many ravers back then! Bonus!

Meet the author…

The pen name Nicky Black is a combination of two writers – Nicky Doherty and Julie Blackie. Julie was a script writer for many years, and Nicky has created two novels based on Julie’s TV and film scripts. Both are stories set on the fictional estate of Valley Park in Newcastle, and the criminal world that inhabits it.

The Prodigal was a bestseller in 2015 and The Rave was published on 14th August 2018.

Nicky is a proud eighties throwback and cat lady and lives in North Tyneside.

He Will Find You by Diane Jeffrey #BookReview @dianefjeffrey

About this book…

No matter where you hide…

Kaitlyn Best is stuck in a rut. So when she discovers she’s pregnant after a one-night-stand with Alex, her school crush, she throws caution to the wind and accepts his offer to make a new life together in the depths of the Lake District, far from her home… and her demons.

He will find you.

But Alex is not what he seems. And when Kaitlyn’s world begins to crumble before her eyes, she realises she barely knows the man she has agreed to spend the rest of her life with.

Since Alex won’t tell her his secrets, Kaitlyn vows to find them out for herself. But when she uncovers the truth, she realises she has made a terrible mistake…

My review…

My first piece of advice to you, if you’re planning on picking up this book, is to make sure you have plenty of time set aside to read it. Don’t do what I did, which is to start it in bed at half 10 at night as you will then be a very tired and grumpy reader the next day having stayed up till half 2 in the morning avidly reading this gripping thriller!But OMG it was so worth it!

There comes a time in your life as a parent that you have to hope you’ve given your children a good enough upbringing for them to make their own informed decisions that you proudly support. But I have to admit that I would really have had to bite my tongue if, like Kaitlyn, one of my kids packed up their entire life to go and live with someone they had only physically met once since their schooldays. Fair enough plenty happened in that one encounter (as Kaitlyn is now pregnant) but the internet is an untrustworthy medium for a truthful relationship and that is how their entire courtship is conducted. So when they finally start living together, things don’t go quite as smoothly as they were hoping!

Diane Jeffrey has really upped her game with this, her second novel. I was constantly on edge throughout as she really did rack up the tension between Kaitlyn and Alex. The gloomy atmosphere of Kaitlyn’s new home made it feel incredibly spooky, as though there were ghosts hiding around every corner, and as the dark clouds appeared on the horizon of this relationship I mentally prepared myself for the storm ahead. There were twists that made such a natural entrance into the narrative that they created a real sense of surprise for me and, as I said before, I was gripped enough to want to read this in one entire sitting. It was just so addictive!

So my second piece of advice to you is….make sure you check out Diane Jeffreys books if you’ve never read them before! I have enjoyed both of them now but He Will Find You just has the edge over Those Who Lie for me. It had the perfect pacing for a page turning psychological thriller in my eyes and I absolutely loved it!

Highly recommended by me!

Meet the author…

Diane Jeffrey grew up in North Devon, in the United Kingdom. She now lives in Lyon, France with her husband and their three children, Labrador, cat and kitten. THOSE WHO LIE, her debut psychological thriller, was a Kindle bestseller in the USA, Canada and Australia and in the top 100 Kindle books in the UK. HE WILL FIND YOU, set in the Lake District and Somerset and published in August 2018, is her second novel.
Diane is an English teacher. When she’s not working or writing, she likes swimming, running and reading. She loves chocolate, beer and holidays. Above all, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
Readers can follow Diane on Twitter @dianefjeffrey
or on Facebook.com/dianejeffreyauthor

11 Missed Calls by Elizabeth Carpenter #BlogTour @AvonBooksUK @LibbyCTP

Today I’m delighted to share my review of 11 Missed Calls By Elizabeth Carpenter. Many thanks to Avon and Sabah Khan for my invite and review copy of the book.

About this book…

Here are two things I know about my mother:
1. She had dark hair, like mine. 
2. She wasn’t very happy at the end.

Anna has always believed that her mother, Debbie, died 30 years ago on the night she disappeared.

But when her father gets a strange note, she realises that she’s never been told the full story of what happened that night on the cliff.

Confused and upset, Anna turns to her husband Jack – but when she finds a love letter from another woman in his wallet, she realises there’s no-one left to help her, least of all her family.

And then a body is found

My review…

If you’re looking for an action packed, twist upon twist rollercoaster of a psychological suspense then 11 Missed Calls probably isn’t for you! Even the title 11 Missed Calls suggests urgency but I think that’s rather misleading and that the title doesn’t really work with what’s between the covers of this book. But I personally love Libby Carpenters books so I hope that other people will also pick up this book and enjoy it, which is why I’ve tried to bring an understanding of her style to my review. Her books are subtly crafted and the tension is very slowly built up across the viewpoints of her characters whilst also drawing in those who have been the most affected by the issues raised. She takes normal families and uses difficult situations to explore the emotional dilemmas that face them and how they cope.

Anna has had to live her whole life never really knowing the full circumstances of her mother’s disappearance. But when her fathers second wife receives an email supposedly from the missing Debbie, it sets in motion a search for the truth by the daughter who has never been able to fully move on from the devastation of never knowing her mother. She’s also having to deal with problems within her own family after finding something hidden in her husbands wallet. I have to admit to not particularly liking Jack, Anna’s husband. In fact the male characters were all portrayed as weak or distant with hardly a likeable one amongst them!

The other point of view was an intriguing one as it was told by Debbie in the weeks leading up to her disappearance whilst on a family holiday to Tenerife in 1986. The era was captured perfectly here and I had the 80s tunes mentioned running back through my head for days after! There was a claustrophobic atmosphere throughout this narrative and I felt very uncomfortable at times due to some obvious concerns about Debbie’s mental health.

This is very much a female character lead drama that didn’t lead me to the conclusion that I had been expecting! There were plenty of red herrings to suggest a different outcome and I did love that I had been misdirected! Always a sign of a good read in my eyes!

I don’t think there’s too long to wait for Libby Carpenters third book and I have to admit that I’m really intrigued to see what she writes next! Really looking forward to it so bring it on!

Meet the author…

Libby Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She completed a BA in English Literature and Language with the Open University in 2011.
Libby was awarded a Northern Writers’ New Fiction award, and was longlisted for Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 and 2016) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015). She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories in the area. She currently works as a book keeper. Her first novel, 99 Red Balloons, became a bestseller in 2017.

Do No Harm by LV Hay #BlogTour @orendabooks @annecater @LucyVHayAuthor

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of Do No Harm by LV Hay. Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my invite and review copy of the book. And make sure you check out the other review on the tour today as it’s by my #choufleur Claire Knight who blogs at A Knights Reads

About this book…

Till death do us part…

After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong…

Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives…

Chilling, dark and terrifying, Do No Harm is a taut psychological thriller and a study of obsession, from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.

My review…

I really enjoyed The Other Twin by Lucy V Hay and so was quite looking forward to her new book Do No Harm. This is a truly terrifying psychological thriller, that messed with my head almost as much as the events that occurred affected Lily. Right from the first few pages, the desperation of Lily’s stalker felt oppressive, with the madness that develops from such an obsession becoming immediately apparent.

This was a character lead domestic thriller where it was impossible to predict the outcome. I eyed everyone with suspicion as they ALL seemed to have a motive for trying to split up Lily and her new husband Sebastian. But Maxwell especially made my skin crawl as it was his job as a father to protect his son and poor Denny was definitely caught in the crossover between his divorced parents. I wanted things to work out between Lily and Sebastian as he was such  an devoted husband and stepfather that their marriage should have been working perfectly. It was all I could do not to shout at them to run away from everything and make a fresh start elsewhere but unfortunately they wouldn’t have been able to hear me!! And anyway, when someone is as disturbed and threatening as their stalker, there is no hiding place on earth that would be safe.

I adored this book. It was so wonderful for me to be able to pick up a book and have no idea what was going to happen! There were so many twists and turns that I was dizzy with delight when all the reveals came together. Some I admit that I did expect but others came as a huge shock to me! The creativity of the storyline felt fresh and exciting from start to finish with a true rollercoaster of emotional responses from me all the way throughout this book and I loved it.

Highly recommended for fans of psychological thrillers.

Meet the author…

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017.

Valentina by S.E Lynes @Bookouture @SELynesAuthor

Today is publication day once again for Valentina which is actually being republished by Bookouture with a fabulous brand new cover. And as I grab any excuse to shout to the rooftops about this amazing book, I thought a timely reminder of my review was in order! And check out this new cover…

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About this book…

When city girl Shona moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, she believes that all that lies ahead for her family is happiness.

But with Mikey working long hours away from home, the frightening isolation of the Scottish countryside begins to get to Shona. She feels lonely and trapped.

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina. Valentina enters Shona’s life like a whirlwind, bringing excitement and spontaneity to replace boredom and fear.

Now Shona has the perfect home, the perfect man, and the perfect new best friend – or does she?

As Shona’s fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood outside becomes the least of her fears…

From Amazon chart bestseller S.E. Lynes, Valentina is an unputdownable thriller with a twist that will take your breath away. Fans of Gone GirlThe Woman at the Windowand The Wife Between Us will be gripped.

My review…

I started this book when I was on a train journey earlier in the summer months but I quickly realised that I didn’t want to dip into it over a few days, catching reading time whenever I could. I had only got to 6% but I had got….. “the feeling”! Yes THAT feeling-the tingly excitement of discovering a book that you want to hide away with and read in one or two long sittings. So, it came on my summer holiday with me and what a fabulous choice I made as it turned out to be one of my top holiday reads-a 5* book that kept me glued to my sunlounger.

I was drawn to the book initially due to rave reviews from fellow bloggers and after investigating further I realised that lots of the locations were very familiar to me. I love books that are set in places that mean something to me so the setting of Aberdeenshire and the connection to the oil industry engaged me right from the start. Although from Norfolk, I moved to just outside Aberdeen due to my mum’s job so the mention of places such as Banchory, the Ardoe House Hotel and Kippie Lodge really brought back some very emotional memories of my time there (we were members of Kippie Lodge and always felt like we were in an episode of Dallas whenever we went!!). There were lots of incomers to the area at the height of the oil industry and as one of them I did struggle to settle and fit in. So that was the reason I felt so fiercely protective of Shona as I really did experience her every emotion when she had to “up sticks” and leave behind a home and family she loved.

Susie Lynes weaves such a twisty plot into her storytelling that once I started this book I physically couldn’t put it down and at one point even gasped out loud! But she also takes us beyond what happens here and I’m sure I’m not the only one who came away unable to move on from it as the issues raised stayed on my mind for quite some time afterwards. There is certainly plenty of ponder upon and I think book clubs up and down the country would have a field day with this one!

The isolation of new mothers means that sometimes friendships are formed by women where the only thing they have in common is the fact that they gave birth at the same time! There is so much to discuss here after dissecting the meeting between Shona and Valentina that very quickly becomes an intensely close relationship. I felt such an empathy for Shona the whole way through (apart from one little thing and I’m sure you’ll know what that is after you have read it!) as she felt like a kindred spirit and I connected with her right from the start. I even envied her the fabulous new friendship with Valentina-to have someone so unconventional and free spirited come into her life just when she needed her the most seemed almost too good to be true!

This was a tightly knitted, gripping storyline where I was aware from very early on that something wasn’t quite right. But what? Was I correct in my assumptions? Well, in some cases I was but not all as there are a few shockers along the way here. This is such a self assured debut written with a such a perfect understanding of what makes women connect with others and how parenthood makes us perceive the world around us and the people in it very differently. Honestly, when I finished it I just wanted to go back and read the whole thing again! Such wonderfully atmospheric storytelling has given me a real hunger for another book from Susie and she has joined the list of writers who truly can’t write quickly enough for me! Just BRILLIANT!

Valentina: An absolutely gripping psychological thriller is available to purchase now from Amazon UK (affiliates link)

About the author…

S. E. Lynes
 
After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing in creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Sunset Over The Cherry Orchard by Jo Thomas #BlogTour #RandomThingsTours @annecater @jo_thomas01 @Bookish_Becky

I’m thrilled to be sharing my review today of Sunset Over The Cherry Orchard by Jo Thomas. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the invite and for my review copy of the book.

About this book…

It’s time for Beti Winter to dance to her own beat.

After three failed engagements Beti is in desperate need of a fresh start. What better place than the sun-drenched hills of southern Spain?

But it’s not all sangria and siestas. Beti finds work on an old Andalusian cherry farm where there are cherries to be picked, trees to be watered and her fiery boss, Antonio, to win over.

As the sun toasts her skin, Beti finds herself warming to the Spanish way of life. Embracing the art of flamenco, she discovers there is much to learn from the dance of passion. She just has to let loose and listen to the rhythm of her heart.

My review…

What a heartwarming and adorable book this is! Sweet as the cherries it describes but with the fiery passion of dance, food and family to cut through the narrative so that it was delightful without being too saccharine or schmaltzy! Jo Thomas describes what she wanted to achieve in her book on the very first page, a book about the close relationship between food and love which are all we need to live a simple and happy life. And she has met her target full on with Sunset Over The Cherry Orchard! It’s a wonderful correlation between feeding the ones we love and the happiness is brings to us all.

Beti Winter loves the sunshine, despite her surname, and the chance to run her own bar in Spain is the answer to all her prayers and dreams. But another failed engagement means the promised way of life doesn’t work out and she ends up living and working on an Andalucian cherry farm. As the sun shines upon her, she falls in love with the place and the people, especially one of them in particular! And when the passions of the local food and dance combine that’s when this wonderful book became an unputdownable, emotional addiction for me as I obsessively read towards the hoped for happy ever after.

I’ve been a fan of Jo Thomas since my mum rang me up one day and told me that I had to read an amazing new book that she had just finished called The Oyster Catcher. I did, and from then onwards I was hooked!  Her books are such a feel good experience that they always lift my spirits whenever I am feeling a little low. I mean, good food, friends, family and romance……what more do I need?! They are the perfect antidote to the murders and dark side I often find myself drawn to in fiction and Jo Thomas is definitely top of my list when it comes to searching out a life affirming and happy read.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book and will never look at cherry blossom in the same way again! Right, now I’m off to make a Spanish Omelette for tea-this book has got me craving everything Spanish! Enjoy!

Meet the author…

Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.