Friday, 21 February 2020

Book Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley.



Publisher: HarperCollins UK.
Hardcover, 384 pages.

Release date: February 20th 2020.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Source: Received from publisher for review.


A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the author of The Hunting Party.


The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?


A rugged, windswept island off the west coast of Ireland is the setting for The Guest List, Lucy Foley’s follow-up to her 2019 smash it, The Hunting Party. As suitable murder mystery settings go, it doesn’t get more fitting than Cormorant Island, which is boggy, barren, and steeped in folklore of the very spooky kind. On the other hand, as venues for destination weddings go, Cormorant Island may not be an obvious choice, but it has an undiscovered off-the-beaten-track charm to it that appeals to online magazine publisher, Jules, who dares to be different, and her fiancĂ©, handsome TV personality Will, who goes along with whatever Jules wants; the kind of guy who is guaranteed to adopt the cringeworthy mantra ‘Happy wife, happy life,’ once the rings have been exchanged.

 The Guest List opens on an ominous note as a storm rages on Cormorant Island causing the lights go out. It soon becomes clear that despite the best efforts of wedding planner Aoife, and the meticulous attention-to-detail of bridezilla Jules, that something has gone seriously awry. The story unfolds through a series of flashbacks told via multiple narrators, including best man Johnno, an old school friend of Will’s, and bridesmaid Olivia, a broken, fragile girl, who is the younger sister of the bride. As with all good mysteries, nothing is what it first seems in The Guest List, and just about everybody in the wedding party is harbouring grudges and hiding more than a few dark secrets. As the alcohol flows, the secrets start to spill… 

 While The Guest List relies maybe a little too heavily on coincidence at times – the term ‘six degrees of separation’ springs to mind – it is nonetheless a highly entertaining mystery –featuring a whole host of ghastly characters - that kept me flipping the pages late into the night. Fans of The Hunting Party are sure to love this tale of madness, mayhem and the wedding from hell. One thing is for sure: Jules and Will will not be living happily ever after! 


 In short: A page-flipper of a mystery that will keep you entertained right till the end. If you liked The Hunting Party you will love The Guest List.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Book Review: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid.


Product details:
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Hardcover, 320 pages.
Release date: January 7th 2020.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

What happens when you do the right thing for the wrong reason? 

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right. 

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other. 

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.


One of the most buzzed about debuts of 2020, Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age introduces thirty-something mother-of-two Alix, a successful blogger, along with twenty-five year old Emira, who works as Alix’s childminder. The story begins when Alix, experiencing a late night disturbance at home, calls on Emira to remove her three-year-old daughter Briar from a potentially dangerous situation, by way of taking her on a late-night outing to a nearby upscale grocery store. Once there, Emira attracts unwanted attention from a security guard who, upon seeing a black woman out late at night with a white child, jumps to the conclusion that Emira has kidnapped Briar. A heated conversation ensues, the whole scene is filmed by a late-night shopper, and by the time Briar’s dad races to the store to rectify the situation, Emira just wants to go home and forget about the whole thing. But Alix. Alix can’t forget about what happened. She’s offended, no outraged, on Emira’s behalf. She’s mortified too that her actions put Emira in such a potentially dangerous situation. Alix resolves to make things right.

A book that focuses of themes of race, class and privilege could make for a pretty weighty read, but thanks Reid’s easy breezy style, Such a Fun Age is a page-turner that downplays its unsettling inciting incident to instead focus on the relationship between Alix and Emira, two very different women, with almost nothing in common, who just happen to spend most of their days together.  While Emira loves spending time with Briar, with whom she shares an unbreakable bond, this twenty-something woman who loves to party with her friends, and has recently hooked up with the late-night-shopper who filmed the ‘grocery store incident,’ has no real interest in getting to know Alix. Simply put, all Emira wants from her relationship with Alix is the paycheck Alix hands her at the end of the working week. Alix, on the other hand, wants to get to know Emira. And while Alix knows she must be careful so as not to overstep, she’s determined to help Emira out – to improve the younger woman’s lot in life. The problem is: Emira never asked for Alix’s help.

As annoying characters go I have to say that Alix is pretty high up on the scale: privileged, successful and presumptuous in the extreme, it never occurs to Alix that her behaviour – she checks Emira’s text messages on the regular as a means of gaining information and making conversation – is wholly inappropriate. However, when a piece of Alix’s illicitly gained information leads to Emira accepting an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner, Alix gets more than she bargained for when a face from her past – one who knew Alex before she was Alix – shows up at her door. From that point on, Alix is more determined than ever to ‘Save Emira’ even when Emira makes it pretty clear that she doesn’t need saving. It also becomes pretty clear, as we learn more about Alix’s past - and her present - that Alix is not in a position to save anyone. Maybe, like most of us, she should just focus bettering herself. Problem is, Alix thinks she’s pretty much perfect. It’s everyone else that’s the problem.

A sharply observed, self-assured debut, Such a Fun Age is a compelling character study and social commentary that sparkles with wit, charm and a whole lot of sass.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Book Review: The Truants by Kate Weinberg.


Product details:
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Hardcover, 320 pages.
Release date: January 28th 2020.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Seductive, unsettling, and beautifully written, The Truants is a debut novel of literary suspense perfect for lovers of Agatha Christie and The Secret History--a thrilling exploration of deceit, first love, and the depths to which obsession can drive us.

People disappear when they most want to be seen.

Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat grey skies of East Anglia for one reason: To be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess's thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna's thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly-knit group of rule-breakers--Alec, a courageous South African journalist with a nihilistic streak; Georgie, a seductive, pill-popping aristocrat; and Nick, a handsome geologist with layers of his own.

But when tragedy strikes the group, Jess turns to Lorna. Together, the two seek refuge on a remote Italian island, where Jess tastes the life she's long dreamed of--and uncovers a shocking secret that will challenge everything she's learned.


Themes of love, lust, betrayal and grief populate Kate Weinberg’s accomplished debut, The Truants, an absorbing coming-of-age tale wrapped in a mystery that is as subtly sinister as it is entirely compelling. 

Jess Walker is finally free. Free from her boring small-town existence. Free from her domineering mother and hum-drum home life. Free to expand her horizons, broaden her mind and all that jazz. When that first taste of freedom lands on her lips like a long-awaited kiss, it takes her breath away. Jess feels like the world is her oyster: she can do anything, be anyone: Jess feels like life has finally begun. 

That’s thanks in part to the troupe of friends Jess meets in her first term at university - a hedonistic trio comprising pill-popping Georgia, journalist Alec, and nice-guy Nick – but even more so it’s down to one Dr. Lorna Clay: Agatha Christie scholar, celebrated author of The Truants – a book that captivates Jess like no other - and the number one reason Jess has chosen to enrol as a student at the University of East Anglia.

Of course, it’s not unusual that an eager undergraduate such as Jess should become intellectually enamoured of her professor. What is unusual, though, is that Lorna Clay, presented to us as brilliant, worldly, and glamourous through the eyes of eighteen-year-old Jess, invites, even encourages such behaviour in her students: she plays favourites, shares confidences, and is privy to details of the various romantic entanglements of her students. It’s no surprise then, that when Jess’s love life takes a turn for the complicated, and her friendship group is ripped apart by a betrayal that is quickly followed by a tragedy, it’s Lorna Clay that Jess turns to for advice. After all, her brilliant professor only has Jess’s best interests at heart, right?

Clever and nuanced, The Truants is something of a slow-burn mystery, one that is filled with subtle twists and hidden depths. It’s a tale that demands patience of its reader, a story that is sometimes frivolously distracted; one that sometimes meanders from its intended path – at least seemingly so. Don’t be fooled. In The Truants, the devil is in the details, all is not what it first seems, and in the end, like all the best university professors, it commands your full attention, leaving you inspired, impressed, and hungry for more.


In Short: A compelling coming-of-age tale wrapped in a clever mystery, The Truants will keep you guessing right to the end - and beyond. Top Tip: Pay attention to the little things!

Friday, 10 January 2020

20 Books I Can't Wait to Read in 2020 - Part III - Young Adult Fiction.

It's time for my the third and final part of my round up of twenty books I can't wait to read in 2020! Today I'm talking YA Fiction, and yes, while my list is very heavy on the YA Contemporary fiction, I have tried to mix it up a bit with a must-read Hunger Games prequel and even a YA summer thriller.

Let me know what you think of my YA 2020 picks!

*****



The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes releases May 19th 2020 from Scholastic. 

*****




Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can…but in the real world, it's more complicated. In this debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson, Marisa Kanter hilariously and poignantly explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.


Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?



There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.



He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…



Except who she really is.



Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.



That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.



Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.



If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.


What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter releases April 7th 2020 from Simon & Schuster.


*****



In this coming-of-age romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, scandal and romance collide when an ambitious teen returns to her hometown only to have her plans interrupted after falling for the town’s “bad boy”—a.k.a. her childhood best friend.


Sometimes to find the good, you have to embrace the bad.



Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.



What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.



Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…


Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett releases May 5th 2020 from Simon Pulse. 

*****



Sam’s summer isn’t off to a great start. Her boyfriend, Eli, ditched her for a European backpacking trip, and now she’s a counselor at Camp Blue Springs: the summer camp her eleven-year-old self swore never to return to. Sam expects the next seven weeks to be a total disaster.


That is, until she meets Gavin, the camp’s sailing instructor, who turns her expectations upside down. Gavin may have gotten the job just for his abs. Or that smile. Or the way he fills Sam’s free time with thrilling encounters—swimming under a cascade of stars, whispering secrets over s’mores, embarking on one (very precarious) canoe ride after dark.

It’s absurd. After all, Sam loves Eli. But one totally absurd, completely off-the-wall summer may be just what Sam needs. And maybe, just maybe, it will teach her something about what she really wants.

Perfect for fans of 99 Days and Anna and the French Kiss, this unforgettable, sun-drenched summer romance from one of YA’s bestselling and most beloved authors, Sarah Mlynowski, is an irresistible dive into the joys of seizing the day and embracing the unexpected. 


Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe by Sarah Mlynowki releases May 19th 2020 from HarperTeen.

*****



What happens when you fall down the rabbit hole? The compulsive must-have follow-up to CLEAN and MEAT MARKET from bestselling author Juno Dawson


Alice lives in a world of stifling privilege and luxury - but none of it means anything when your own head plays tricks on your reality. When her troubled friend Bunny goes missing, Alice becomes obsessed with finding her. On the trail of her last movements, Alice discovers a mysterious invitation to 'Wonderland': the party to end all parties - three days of hedonistic excess to which only the elite are welcome.



Will she find Bunny there? Or is this really a case of finding herself? Because Alice has secrets of her own, and ruthless socialite queen Paisley Hart is determined to uncover them, whatever it takes.



Alice is all alone, miles from home and without her essential medication. She can trust no-one, least of all herself, and now she has a new enemy who wants her head...



A searing exploration of mental health, gender and privilege, from the most addictive YA novelist in the UK today.


Wonderland by Juno Dawson releases May 28th 2020 from Quercus Children's Books.

*****





For fans of Sadie and Serial, this gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Kit Frick weaves a thrilling story of psychological suspense that twists and turns until the final page.


I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick releases June 2nd 2020 from McElderry Books.

*****




Meg has her entire life set up perfectly: her boyfriend Mason is sweet and supportive, she and her best friend Emily plan to head to Cornell together in the fall, and she even finds time to clock shifts phonebanking at a voter registration call center in her Philadelphia suburb. But everything changes when one of those calls connects her to a stranger from small-town Ohio, who gets under her skin from the moment he picks up the phone.


Colby is stuck in a rut, reeling from a family tragedy and working a dead-end job—unsure what his future holds, or if he even cares. The last thing he has time for is some privileged rich girl preaching the sanctity of the political process. So he says the worst thing he can think of and hangs up.



But things don’t end there.…



That night on the phone winds up being the first in a series of candid, sometimes heated, always surprising conversations that lead to a long-distance friendship and then—slowly—to something more. Across state lines and phone lines, Meg and Colby form a once-in-a-lifetime connection. But in the end, are they just too different to make it work?



You Say It First is a propulsive, layered novel about how sometimes the person who has the least in common with us can be the one who changes us most.



You Say It First by Katie Cotugno releases June 16th 2020 from Balzer & Bray.

*****
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