#TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview ‘Tripping on a Halo’ by Alessandra Torre @ReadAlessandra ‏#Romance

I enjoy reading humorous romance with quirky heroines, in between suspenseful, heart-stopping thrillers and dramatic novels.

The last few books I’ve reviewed have been intense, but today I offer you, Tripping on a Halo, a different, fun, laugh out loud romance, you’ll love, by Alessandra Torre.

Tripping on a Halo by [Torre, Alessandra]

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It’s really hard to save a guy’s life when he keeps running from you…
You might be asking yourself why I’m waving an inflatable penis in the air and screaming at the top of my lungs. If I took time to explain, Declan Moss would get hit by a bus.

Let me back up. I didn’t ask for this. I was perfectly happy–and perfectly sane–before I was tasked with keeping Declan Moss alive. It was a thankless job until the moment that my panties dropped and his delicious smirk found his way in between my thighs.

Hello, toe-curling ecstasy. Goodbye, professional boundaries. And suddenly, there’s a new danger to avoid: the falling of my heart.

****

My Review

Tripping on a Halo is a unique romantic comedy, unlike any other you’ve read or are likely to read.

I loved all the characters in this novel. The main characters, Declan and Autumn were wonderful, and their friends and family, the secondary characters, were great too. Ansley, Roger, and Nate, brought the story to life.

The events are partly told from Declan’s point of view, but mostly from Autumn’s distorted perspective.

Autumn is a unique, quirky character, who’s impossible not to love. She’s stalking Declan because she’s convinced she’s destined to save his life. The reasoning which has led her to firmly believe this, is complex and disturbing, and it’s why you’ll fall in love with this endearing character.

The plot is unusual and the story is mostly hilarious, except for the last part which delves into the explanations and causes of her delusions. It has a satisfactory, although completely unexpected ending.

I’d recommend this feel-good romance especially to readers who enjoy a laugh out loud, heartwarming love story, with a meaningful subtext, and of course, a guaranteed happy ending!

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#TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview ‘The Cactus’ by Sarah Haywood @SarahxHaywood

The Cactus is another book I discovered thanks to my favourite reviewer, Linda Hill, who reviewed it on Linda’s Book Bag in January.

I love reading humorous, feel good novels and romance, to balance the intensity of the thrillers and dramatic novels I usually read, so after reading Linda’s review, I was sure I’d love The Cactus. The unique and quirky main character, Susan Green, reminded me of Eleanor in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, one of my favourite novels of 2018, which I reviewed here.

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People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green – family and colleagues find her prickly and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself.

Age 45, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward – a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control. And things can only get worse … at least in Susan’s eyes.

****

My Review

The Cactus is a wonderful and uplifting novel with an unlikely, quirky and lovable heroine, Susan Green, who is coping with her mother’s death, litigation regarding the will, as well as serious personal issues (I don’t want to include spoilers). In spite of her world imploding, she’ll find her silver lining in the most unlikely places and situations.

It’s a novel about family secrets and domestic strife, and how honesty and goodness can overcome the most negative situations. I read it in an afternoon – evening (finished in the early hours), because I just couldn’t put it down. Fortunately, it was another blissfully lazy, winter Sunday, ideal for cosy reading by the fireplace.

Susan, who tells her story in the first person, is a fascinating woman, who captivates the reader with her honesty and humour, from page one. The rest of the secondary characters who interact with Susan are also believable and engaging, and the plot is clever. It’s set mostly in London and Birmingham, so it has a very English feel to it.

I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy well written, feel good novels with unique characters. It will make you laugh, cringe and cry, right up to the heart-warming ending. A delight to read!

And it’s a real gift at its present, very low price, of well under the cost of a coffee for the kindle version, which I read, and a few more pounds/dollars/euros for the paperback, which I’m getting for my bookshelf, because I know I’ll be rereading it.

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#TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris @Audible

I’d heard about this novel when it first came out, but it was after recently listening to an interview by Richard Armitage, who is the narrator on Audible, that I decided to purchase it with my monthly credit, and I’m so glad I did. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is more than a book, it’s an emotional experience.

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In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

 

****

My Review

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is one of the most emotional love stories I’ve ever read. It’s about Lale and Gita, both from Bratislava, who meet and fall in love in a concentration camp in Poland.

It’s the story of Lale’s resourcefulness, strength, tenacity, goodness and love for Gita, during the three years they spent in the camp, and how he found her again when they lost touch after leaving Auschwitz.

It’s also about the horrors of war, the cruelty humans are capable of, and the need to take risks and compromise in order to survive.

The struggle for survival in extreme situations is complex and unimaginable for those who have never experienced it. The emotional and psychological cost of that survival is just as unimaginably distressing, and also comes across in the narrative. 

Yet the end of the novel, the epilogue and their son’s testimony, makes it ultimately an uplifting novel, because there is more gratitude and faith in the future than bitterness or desire for vengeance about the past.

In the end it’s not a novel about war or evil, it’s about the power of love.

Did I tell you I listened to the audio version brilliantly read by Richard Armitage?

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#TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview ‘The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom’ by Beth Miller @drbethmiller @Bookouture‏

I found The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom, quite by chance, browsing new releases on Amazon. I was especially looking for humorous and uplifting titles. Having read too many thrillers recently, I needed a break, and I found a heartbreakingly beautiful novel, which stole my heart.

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Eliza Bloom has a list of rules: long, blue skirt on Thursdays, dinner with mother on Fridays, and never give your heart away to the wrong person. Nothing is out of place in her ordered life…

Then she met someone who she was never supposed to speak to. And he introduced her to a whole world of new lists:
New foods to try – oysters and sushi
Great movies to watch – Bambi and Some Like It Hot
Things I love about Eliza Bloom

Eliza left everything she knew behind for him, but sometimes love just isn’t enough. Especially when he opens a hidden shoebox and starts asking a lot of questions about her past life. As the walls Eliza carefully constructed threaten to come crashing down, will she find a way to keep hold of everyone she loves, and maybe, just maybe, bring the two sides of her heart together at last?

****

My Review

The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom is a wonderful novel about love, marriage, complex family dynamics, intercultural marriages, friendship, and last but not least, parents coping with adolescent children!

The writing style is wonderful. Eliza’s first person point of view, draws the reader in as we follow Eliza,’s life from her strict, childhood and upbringing, her arranged marriage, romance and elopement with an ‘unsuitable’ Londoner, pregnancy, and married life up to her 40th birthday, when she’s coping with her own teenage daughter’s rebellious nature.

The novel has two parallel timelines, 2000-2001 and 2016. This dual timeframe works well as a narrative device, creating suspense by gradually unfolding the plot, which is basically the story of Eliza’s marriage to Alex and the numerous challenges they face, told piece by piece, until we finally get the whole, heartbreaking picture.

The characterisation is perfect, both their families and friends jumped out of the pages and came to life as real people. Leah, the teenage daughter is brilliantly and vividly portrayed, and the family dynamics which developed throughout the novel was believable, sometimes humorous and others touching.

Eliza and Alex’s relationship is challenging due to their very diverse cultural and family backgrounds. Eliza is more complex, because she is torn between two worlds, and sometimes, understandably, can’t seem to decide where she wants to be. Alex is patient, loving and considerate, but it’s not always enough, and he has his own limits and hang-ups to deal with, too. Leah, like every teenager, is a constant source of stress in their relationship until she, selfishly, albeit unwittingly, manages to push her parents and the whole family to the very limit.

I’m so glad I found this uplifting novel, which I read in one wonderful sitting (fortunately I was able to read it over a long, lazy Sunday).

I can’t imagine anyone not loving this novel. It’s realistic, inspiring, poignant and heartwarming.

And it’s a real gift at its present, very low price, of well under the cost of a coffee.

Go on, indulge!

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#TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview ‘The Taking of Annie Thorne’ by C J Tudor @cjtudor #Audible

I recently finished reading ‘The Taking of Annie Thorne’ a chilling thriller by C J Tudor, which was recommended by Linda Hill, book reviewer extraordinaire. Visit Linda’s blog for fabulous book reviews, author interviews and lots of other bookish posts!

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One night, Annie went missing.

Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst.

And then, after 48 hours, she came back.

But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what.

I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same.

She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

****

My Review

The Taking of Annie Thorne is a brilliant thriller and a compelling read. I started it on Friday evening and finished it on Saturday after lunch.

It’s difficult to write a review without giving anything away. There are plenty of twists and turns, and a few red herrings, too! Most characters are not who they seem to be.

The beginning is intriguing as the story unfolds. The events are mostly told from Joe Thorne’s first person point of view, in the present tense, with some flashbacks to his childhood and his sister’s disappearance.

Joe is a flawed, but likeable character. I’m not sure why, because he’s done some unlikable things! I appreciate his fierce honesty as he grapples with his psychological issues and moral dilemmas. He knows he’s the main actor in a tragedy, yet in spite of the hopelessness of his situation, he’s struggling to make amends, help others and be a better person. He’s also a genuinely good teacher, concerned with his students’ wellbeing.

Joe does a lot of lying, however, he’s honest with himself and consequently the reader. Unfortunately, Joe doesn’t know all the truth himself, so he occasionally misleads us, especially at the beginning.

Joe and the reader will gradually discover what happened to his sister, who wrote the anonymous email asking him to return, and who is responsible for what has happened to other children in Arnhill.

The atmosphere is chilling and sinister, with some scary scenes, which aren’t too gory, except for the creepy beetles, which I can’t stand.

The last third, where the whole plot is resolved, is fast paced, surprising and satisfactory. Although there are some supernatural elements in the story, the storyline and ending are believably wrapped up.

I’d recommend this novel especially for readers who enjoy engaging and bloodcurdling thrillers.

By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed Richard Armitage’s reading on Audible.

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#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Something in the Water’ by Catherine Steadman #Amreading #Bookreviews #Thriller

Today I’m reviewing Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman.

Blurb

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events.

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?

Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.

 ****

My Review

Something In the Water is an absolutely brilliant crime thriller set in the UK.

The novel is narrated in first person by Erin, a documentary film maker. The first chapter is a shocking scene of Erin burying someone in the woods, and then the narrative goes back three months to Mark and Erin’s anniversary and moves forward gradually to the present time.

The first part of the novel is a slow burn, as we find out how the couple met, over five years earlier, and what their first years together were like as a happy young, professional couple working hard, making money and enjoying life.

The novel picks up a faster pace when they decide to get married, shortly after Mark, who works in banking, loses his job, and they go on honeymoon to Bora Bora, where they accidentally become involved in international crime.

The rest of the novel rushes full speed ahead as Erin tells us how their lives are turned upside down and their relationship deteriorates as a result.

The ending, where matters escalate, is unexpected and disastrous. I felt as devastated as Erin by the outcome of their dilemma, and yet she was lucky enough to have friends in the right places, so the disaster was not as bad as it could have been, for her.

There is a hopeful, but open ending, which was a great way to round off the novel. I’m even tempted to imagine there may be a sequel…

I listened to the audio book, and the fact that the author, Catherine Steadman, who is also a fabulous actress, is the narrator was an added bonus.

Something in the Water is an enthralling read, at the beach, at the pool, at home, on the train, or wherever you  happen to be this summer.

Lovers of suspenseful crime thrillers will not be disappointed.

I’m impatiently looking forward to Catherine Steadman’s next novel.

****

Something in the Water was published by Ballantine Books in June 2018, and it’s already on the bestseller lists.
Find out more and check out other reviews on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

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About Catherine Steadman

Catherine Steadman is an actress and writer based in North London, UK. She is best known for her role as Mabel Lane Fox in Downton Abbey and is currently filming on the new Starz television series ‘The Rook’. She grew up in the New Forest, UK, and lives with a small dog and an average sized man. Something in the Water is her first novel.

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#TuesdayBookBlog ‘The Thinnest Air’ by Minka Kent #Amreading #Bookreviews

Today I’m reviewing The Thinnest Air by Minka Kent.

Blurb

Meredith Price is the luckiest woman alive. Her husband, Andrew, is a charming and successful financial broker. She has two lovely stepchildren and is living in affluence in a mountain resort town. After three years of marriage, Meredith’s life has become predictable. Until the day she disappears.
Her car has been discovered in a grocery store parking lot—purse and phone undisturbed on the passenger seat, keys in the ignition, no sign of struggle, and no evidence of foul play. It’s as if she vanished into thin air.
It’s not like Meredith to simply abandon her loved ones. And no one in this town would have reason to harm her. When her desperate sister, Greer, arrives, she must face a disturbing question: What if no one really knows Meredith at all? For Greer, finding her sister isn’t going to be easy…because where she’s looking is going to get very, very dark.

****

My Review

I enjoyed Minka Kent’s debut novel, The Memory Watcher, so I was happy to read The Thinnest Air, which has been published earlier this month.

The Thinnest Air is a well written and tightly plotted psychological suspense.

There are plenty of things to praise and enjoy about this novel and one aspect which disappointed me.

In the first place, I loved the dual narrators and the two time-lines in their narration. Meredith Price starts telling the story backwards, in chapter one, starting from her honeymoon, three years earlier, and her sister Greer, starts telling the story the day her sister, Meredith, goes missing and moves forward for ten days until the mystery is finally solved, starting at chapter two. Both narratives merge in the final chapters.

The plot was cleverly contrived and unravelled by both sisters’ alternating narratives.

The second aspect which stands out positively is the characterisation, especially of the narrators. Both sisters have a very close bond, in spite of their completely different characters and lifestyles. Greer is too forthright and lacks social skills, while Meredith is too easy-going and pleasure-loving. Neither is completely likeable, although Greer’s, no-nonsense approach to life and strong work ethic appealed to me more than Meredith’s laid back approach and excessive love of luxury and short-term satisfaction.

The secondary characters were mostly well-rounded, although a few did seem to be clichés, for example the bitchy ex-wife.

Thirdly, the suspense was cleverly built up from chapter two and never slowed down. Most of the twists and turns were believable and added to the suspense, but not all of them, one or two, especially towards the end, did seem to have been placed just to add another red herring.

Although I’d recommend this novel and overall I enjoyed it and couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out what had happened to Meredith, the one thing that irked me was the ending.

I wasn’t personally satisfied with the final outcome, although it was mostly rational and, more or less, believable.

I fully understand the need for the psychological suspense genre to surprise and/or shock the reader with the resolution, but there were plenty of unlikable characters, who had the motivation and opportunity to harm Meredith, and finally I was more disappointed than surprised by the identity and motivations of the actual culprit, and the way this person was caught, but that’s only my personal response to the final outcome. We all have our triggers and preferences, so I’m sure other readers might enjoy the ending.

I listened to the audio version of this book and enjoyed the reading by two narrators very much.

****

The Thinnest Air on 1st July and is already has almost 1,400 reviews on amazon.com and 104 on amazon UK.

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