Monday, 7 June 2021

The Good Neighbours by Nina Allan | Blog Tour Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

The Good Neighbours by Nina Allan - 4/5
"Cath is a photographer hoping to go freelance, working in a record shop to pay the rent and eking out her time with her manager Steve. He thinks her photography is detective work, drawing attention to things that would otherwise pass unseen and maybe he's right...

Starting work on her new project - photographing murder houses - she returns to the island where she grew up for the first time since she left for Glasgow when she was just eighteen. The Isle of Bute is embedded in her identity, the draughty house that overlooked the bay, the feeling of being nowhere, the memory of her childhood friend Shirley Craigie and the devastating familicide of her family by the father, John Craigie.

Arriving at the Craigie house, Cath finds that it's occupied by Financial Analyst Alice Rahman. Her bid to escape the city lifestyle, the anxiety she felt in that world, led her to leave London and settle on the island. The strangeness of the situation brings them closer, leading them to reinvestigate the Craigie murder. Now, within the walls of the Craigie house, Cath can uncover the nefarious truths and curious nature of John Craigie: his hidden obsession with the work of Richard Dadd and the local myths of the fairy folk."

I did not expect to love this book as much as I do.

The Good Neighbours opens with fifteen year olds Cath and Shirley planning a sneaky trip on the ferry over to mainland Scotland (they live on an island). We get a slight insight into what Shirley's family are like. Mum Susan who spends a lot of time with her three year old son Sonny and carpenter dad John who seems to be quite an angry man.

Shirley is more outgoing and ballsy whereas Cath is more quiet and reserved. 

Fast forward to present day and Cath now works in a record shop. Her passion is photography and she goes to photograph the house of a murder scene. A university lecturer in her 50s has been bludgeoned to death. 

This forces Cath to remember the death of her old childhood friend Shirley Craigie. Shirley, her mother and her brother had been shot at the home and John, her father, was killed in a car accident on the same day. The police believed that John had killed his family before committing suicide. Cath is not convinced and delves deeper into the case.

She travels back to the island to see the Craigie house and discovers a woman named Alice living there. She befriends her and they start to work together on finding out what really happened.

We read all about John Craigie's childhood and discover that he was convinced that fairies were real. The story has a lot of focus on Richard Dadd, a Victorian painter who killed his father because he believed that he was the devil. I don't want to give too much away because it is just a beautifully written book that I absolutely devoured.

Nina Allan has done some great genre blurring here. At the beginning, I thought this was your standard crime novel but it is so much more. We have that crime aspect but with a hint of fairy mythology too.

It explores how much people remember, we have conversations between Cath and Shirley in Cath's head and everything is blended really well. I loved it. 


A massive thank you to Riverrun for having me on the blog tour. You can find information about other bloggers that are taking part in the graphic below.

Friday, 4 June 2021

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery | Blog Tour Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery - 4/5
"Who better to mend a broken heart than your sister?

When Daisy’s dad married Sage's mum, Daisy was thrilled to get a new sister. Except Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.

Sage found herself living in a palatial home where she felt she didn't belong. She didn't have her new sister’s intelligence so she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down at every opportunity. After the divorce, the stepsisters' rivalry continued until the final straw: Daisy married Sage's first love, and Sage fled to Europe.

Eighteen years later, Daisy never expects―or wants―to see Sage again. But brought together by an accident involving the little sister they have in common they must learn to put aside their differences. Slowly, the stepsisters begin to view the past through one another's eyes and long buried feelings are revealed. Until their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences…"

I really enjoyed this book!

The Stepsisters follows Daisy, Sage and Cassidy.
Daisy is married to Jordan and they have two children; Krissa and Ben. Jordan has walked out on her without explanation. It is obvious that he wants to reconcile but changes need to be made. Daisy doesn't understand what changes they are and Jordan expects her to know why he is upset.

Sage, Daisy's stepsister has recently moved back to the area from Italy. She never properly settled down, she had been married three times, but it was always for money. They bump into each other at the side of the road one day after over a decade of not speaking. We learn that Sage was previously engaged to Jordan.

Following an accident in Patagonia, their shared sister Cassidy is moved into Daisy's family home, under their father's suggestion, as she needs some round the clock care. It is obvious that there are issues between Daisy and Cassidy. 

Cassidy has stayed "single" although it transpires that she has been having an on-off relationship for three years and isn't willing to commit properly. I like the differences in the three ladies relationship statuses. 

There are obviously a lot of buried secrets between the three sisters and things that they all believed about one another whilst they were younger, mostly stemming from (step)mother Joanne. You want to keep reading to find out what exactly has caused these rifts. There is definitely some rivalry between them and the three of them being back together forces them to revisit some truths.

I didn't particularly love any of the characters, Daisy was probably my favourite, but all of them grow on you as you read on. Yes, some of them make some choices that I didn't agree with but they all learn about the importance of communication and there is a lot of development from all of them.

All in all, this is a really great exploration of sibling relationships.

A massive thank you to Mills & Boon for having me on the blog tour. You can find information about the other bloggers on the tour in the graphic below.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

The Troubles With Us by Alix O'Neill | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

The Troubles With Us by Alix O'Neill - 5/5
"A hilarious memoir about growing up in Northern Ireland in the 90s towards the end of the Troubles and a brilliantly propelling narrative of the extraordinary background story of her mother. Her mother’s vivid personality and witty colloquialisms dominate the book and help to give a social history of life in Belfast from the 1950s onwards.

Growing up on the Falls Road in 1990s Belfast, Alix O'Neill has seen it all – burnt-out buses blocking the route to school, the police mistaking her father for a leading terrorist and a classmate playing hide and seek with her dad's prosthetic hand (blown off making a device for the IRA). Not that she or her friends are up to speed with the goings-on of the resistance. They’re too preoccupied with the obsessions of every teenage girl – booze, boys and Boyzone – to worry about the violence on their doorstep. Besides, the odd coffee jar bomb is nothing compared to the drama about to explode in Alix’s personal life. 

Desperate to leave Northern Ireland and the trials of her mother’s unorthodox family – a loving yet eccentric band of misfits – behind, she makes grand plans for the next stage. But it’s through these relationships and their gradual unravelling that Alix begins to appreciate not only the troubled history of where she comes from, but the strength of its women.
Warm, embarrassing and full of love and insight, The Troubles with Us is a hilarious and moving account of the madness and mundanities of life in Northern Ireland during the thirty-year conflict. It's a story of mothers and daughters, the fallout from things left unsaid and the lengths a girl will go to for fake tan."

There is no way I could give this book less than five stars. I am genuinely obsessed with it.

The Troubles With Us is very close to home for me. I was born in west Belfast in 1992 and still live in Belfast now, although no longer in the west. The author is also from the west so every place that was mentioned throughout the book was in the area where I grew up. It was unbelievably familiar to me.

Alix writes about her life from childhood right up to today and the humour is strong throughout. I laughed out loud on many occasions. As we read about Alix's life, which is very interesting might I add, we also hear about riots, murders, protests etc that were happening around the same time.

As someone who grew up in Belfast nothing about the history of the city shocked me but I suppose seeing it all written down just makes you think. This is great book for everyone to read, especially if you are not from Northern Ireland. It is so important for others to know exactly what it is like to live here and what it was like to grow up here.

The book is completely non-biased so we hear both sides of the "story", what both Catholics and Protestants believed, or rather, still do.

Alix is a really great storyteller and I loved that it started off with what it was like during The Troubles, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement right through to some of the more recent protests, the heartbreaking and unnecessary death of Lyra McKee and how Brexit would have an effect on us in Northern Ireland. It doesn't seem like anything will ever change. I feel like this book will be so shocking to anyone not from NI but it is so normal for us.

A few things that stood out for me were:
1. I wholeheartedly agree with the Jonathan Taylor Thomas from Home Improvement love.
2. "Rebecca sounded like the kind of girl who had her shit together" - I can tell you right now, that's a lie.
3. "It was normal to have a fake name in your back pocket." I remember as a shortcut to get home sometimes, I would cut through an area that wasn't "my own". I would be so glad that I had a generic name but I did often have create a fake area where I'd say I lived if I was ever asked. That was the norm for us.

I know from my review so far that it sounds very heavy but Alix has a great way of adding comedy into a serious story. If you like the TV show Derry Girls, you will love The Troubles With Us.

Monday, 31 May 2021

The Couple by Helly Acton | Blog Tour Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received an e-book copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

The Couple by Helly Acton - 4/5

"Millie is a perfectionist. She's happy, she's successful - and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat) around her, she's never lonely. She has her dream job at a big tech firm and is on track to become the company's youngest ever Innovation Director. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world.

Besides, normal people just don't have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit . . . well, odd. Sure, everybody has that one coupled-up friend who messes up the numbers at dinner parties, but it's a bit eccentric. You know, like having a pet snake or living off the grid. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up when you can do everything yourself? No, Millie is perfectly happy with her conventional single life.

So when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that stops you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He's charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection with him. Is this the spark that science and society are trying to suppress?

Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?"

The Couple is a great twist on a regular romance. Society today tells us that to be happy and successful we all need to be in relationships. This book turns that on its head. The single life is the way to live and people who coupled up are seen as outsiders. They always need to justify why they are in a couple and even get punished by higher taxes.

29 year old Millie works at Slide, the world's fastest-growing strings-free sex app. She and her group of single friends enjoy their life. Millie has a type-A personality and has had a plan for her life since she was 16. It is all very career focused and she lives for itineraries and routine. Being in a relationship would completely ruin that. She believes that you don't need a relationship to be happy and you shouldn't rely on someone else to bring you happiness.

Ben comes to work for Slide after relocating to London from the Cardiff branch. He and Millie click instantly. A new pill is developed, Oxytoxin, which is an antidote to love. Millie and Ben are paired together to come up with a creative way to brand it. 

This is a very interesting read and not like anything I've read before. Not only does it explore love and relationships, but it was interesting to hear about Millie's work life and how she deals with setbacks. I loved her character development. Ben helps Millie see that work doesn't have to be her entire life.

I absolutely loved how any songs mentioned were reversed to be aimed towards self love like 'Love Me Like I Do' and 'Nothing Compares 2 Me'. It is very clever!

This is the first book I have read by Helly Acton, although I do have a copy of her novel The Shelf. I will definitely be reading it soon as I loved The Couple so much!

A massive thank you to Compulsive Readers for organising this blog tour and Zaffre Books for the e-book copy. You can find details of where to find other bloggers reviews in the graphic below.