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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2023

BOOK REVIEW: The Drift by C.J. Tudor

Published: January 19th, 2023
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror Fiction, Suspense, Psychological Ficiton, Psychological Thriller, Noir Fiction, Crime Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Sunday Bibliophiles! Today I’m finally sharing my review of C.J. Tudor’s latest heart-pounding thriller. This is one you don’t want to miss! Thank you to C.J. Tudor for sending me a proof copy of this book and the delicious cookies.

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SYNOPSIS:

THE HEART-POUNDING NEW NOVEL FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE CHALK MAN AND RICHARD & JUDY PICK THE BURNING GIRLS

‘The wildest thriller of the year is three thrillers in one. Buckle up‘ LINWOOD BARCLAY

‘An exceptional thriller. Original, high-octane plot, jaw-dropping twists . . . A writer at the top of her game’ CLAIRE DOUGLAS

‘A truly terrifying, ice-cold chiller from the master of macabre. C.J. Tudor should be on everyone’s must-read list’ CHRIS WHITAKER
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Survival can be murder . . .

Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school during a snowstorm, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.

Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.

Outside, the storm rages. Inside each group, a killer lurks.

But who?

And will anyone make it out alive? . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“They were trapped. With the dead. And if rescue didn’t come soon, they would be buried with them.”

There is something uniquely terrifying about the idea of being trapped in a place that is cut off from everything else. Add in a harsh, brutal, unrelenting snowstorm and it becomes even more dangerous. Then people begin to disappear or turn up dead. You realise that nowhere is safe and if the elements, thirst or starvation don’t kill you, then one of your fellow companions just might. All of a sudden that picturesque home or resort doesn’t look so inviting. The Drift is all of these things and more, making it exactly the kind of compelling claustrophobic thriller I love.

C. J. Tudor has done it again. Chilling, tense and twisty, this is one f****d-up rollercoaster ride that packs a punch from the first page. A prime example of an author at the top of her game, this Queen of sinister storytelling knows how to hold her reader hostage, making our hearts pound as she chills us to the bone. Expertly written and plotted, she holds the reader in her thrall and we are powerless to resist. It is why every book she releases is a must read for me. I don’t even read the synopsis anymore as I know I’m  a first-class thriller.

“Obviously, everyone here was hiding something. The only difference was the size of the secret and the depth of the lie. ” 

I was on the edge of my seat from those first grisly and ominous pages, reading in breathless anticipation as things spiralled out of control. A ticking timebomb of sheer dread, the overwhelming fear leaping from the pages as the characters fight to survive not only the brutal conditions, but someone who wants to silence them. Told from multiple points of view, there is also a sense of something dark lurking, watching and waiting to strike. A feeling of being hunted that only heightens the sense of danger and ramps up the tension. But who can they trust? Most of the characters are strangers thrown together in the worst of circumstances and they have no idea who is truthful and who is spinning a web of lies.

“The realization unfurled slowly in her stomach, like poisonous tentacles. 
No. No, no, no.” 

I loved unwrapping the layers one by one to see what they revealed, trying to piece to puzzle together. But there were still things I couldn’t work out, and I needed answers. As I sped toward the finale nothing could stop me from flying through the pages, not even sleep threatening to overtake me at 3am. But when that big reveal came I was unprepared, my jaw left on the floor as I tried to comprehend what I’d just learned. It’s been over a week since I finished the book and I’m still thinking about it.

Unsettling, eerie and unbearably tense, The Drift is a nerve-shredding masterpiece that you won’t want to put down. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

C. J. Tudor’s love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.
Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.
C. J. Tudor’s first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in over forty countries. Her second novel, The Taking of Annie Thorne, was also a Sunday Times bestseller as was her third novel, The Other People. All three books are in development for TV. Her fourth novel, The Burning Girls, was a Richard and Judy Book Club selection and has been adapted for television by award-winning screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt (creator of The Bridge and Marcella). It will debut on Paramount Plus in 2023. The Drift is her fifth novel and has also been optioned for the screen. C.J. Tudor is also the author of A Sliver of Darkness, a collection of short stories.
She lives in Sussex with her family.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Berts Books |Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022 Squadpod Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends

REVIEW: All About Evie by Matson Taylor

Published: July 21st, 2022
Publisher: Scribner UK
Genre: Domestic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

The year is almost over so I’m finally sharing my long-overdue review for what is one of my favourite books this year. Thank you to Matson Taylor and Scribner UK for the gifted proof copy of this book, which was our Squadpod Book Club pick for July.

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SYNOPSIS:

EVIE EPWORTH IS TEN YEARS OLDER. BUT IS SHE ANY WISER?!

Ten years on from the events of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth, Evie is settled in London and working as a production assistant for the BBC. She has everything she ever dreamed of (a career, a leatherette briefcase, an Ossie Clark poncho) but, following an unfortunate incident involving a Hornsea Pottery mug and Princess Anne, she finds herself having to rethink her future. What can she do? Is she too old to do it? And will it involve cork-soled sandals? 

As if this isn’t complicated enough, her disastrous love life leaves her worrying that she may be destined for eternal spinsterdom, concerned, as she is, that ‘even Paul had married Linda by the time he was 26’. Through it all, Evie is left wondering whether a 60s miseducation really is the best preparation to glide into womanhood and face the new challenges (strikes, power cuts, Edward Heath’s teeth) thrown up by the growing pains of the 70s.

With the help of friends, both old and new, she might just find a way through her messy 20s and finally discover who exactly she is meant to be…

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MY REVIEW:

When the previous book in a series is not only one of your favourite books of that year, but of all time, there is some trepidation about reading the follow up. Would I enjoy this one as much and still love Evie with the same fierceness? The answer is yes! Once again Matson Taylor has knocked it out of the park with this hilarious, heartwarming and addictive novel that feels like a cup of Yorkshire tea and a piece of parkin on a cold day.  

This time, Taylor transports us to the Summer of 1972, 10 years after the events of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth, to reunite us with the eponymous heroine for more entertaining exploits. Evie is working for the BBC and living the life she’s always dreamed of  in London when a mishap involving Princess Anne and a Hornsea mug leads to her dismissal, and Evie is now forced to reassess her life. But what direction will she choose from the overwhelming number of possibilities open to her? And then there is her love life. At the ripe old age of 26 and a half she feels in danger of becoming over-the-hill and wonders why she hasn’t yet met Mr. Right. There is fun, laughter and lots of emotion, as Evie embarks on her greatest journey of self discovery yet.

Oh, Evie. How I love her. She truly feels like an old friend and I never get tired of reading her. She’s an iconic northern heroine who pole-vaults off the pages and straight into your heart. It is a slightly more sophisticated and wise Evie we meet in this book, yet she’s still the same feisty, funny, quirky and unforgettable Yorkshire lass we love. It has been great to watch her grow and I loved her metamorphosis from teenager to young woman in this story. And the snippets of information about her ex boyfriends were hilarious. 

Matson Taylor is a comedy genius and had me laughing out loud within the first few pages. He has a talent for writing witty, offbeat and uproarious characters and storylines that are also heartfelt. He paces the story perfectly, switching seamlessly between the serious and lighter moments to ensure things never feel too heavy. There are so many moments that were pure comedy gold and still make me laugh when they randomly pop into my head many months after reading the book. The evocative imagery and attention to detail brought 1970s London to life so vividly it felt like I’d stepped into a time machine and appeared in 1972. The book is filled with blasts from the past: Old Jamaica bars, Wimpy burgers, cheese and pineapple hedgehogs etc. I was assailed by memories and the nostalgia took over and thoroughly enjoyed the walk down memory lane.

Uplifting, witty and utterly magnificent, All About Evie is another must-read from Mr. Taylor. And that ending! I need book 3 now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team.

Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. Previously, he talked his way into various jobs at universities and museums around the world; he has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers. He gets back to Yorkshire as much as possible, mainly to see family and friends but also to get a reasonably-priced haircut.

He has always loved telling stories and, after writing academically about beaded flapper dresses and World War 2 glow-in-the-dark fascinators, he decided to enrol on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is his first novel. 

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

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BLOG TOUR: Behind Closed Doors by Carol Wyer

Published: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Suspense, Psycholgocial Thriller
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review for this heart-stopping thriller. Thank you to Zoe at Zooloo’s Book Tours for the invitation to take part, and Carol Wyer for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Two kidnappings, thirty years apart. Can Stacey face her own dark past in order to save her stepdaughter?

When Stacey’s ex-husband turns up on her doorstep begging her to help save his kidnapped thirteen-year-old daughter, Lyra, the terror is all too familiar. Stacey’s own violent kidnapping thirty years ago was never solved, and while a severe case of amnesia spares her from recalling the specific horrors, she remembers enough…

Stacey knows her father never paid the ransom―she has the missing pinkie finger to prove it. She knows she was only saved because of an anonymous tip-off to the police. And she knows her captor was never apprehended.

Lyra’s kidnappers have made it clear the police must not get involved. But Stacey can’t shake the eerie similarities between the two cases, and she’ll use whatever she can, from her journalistic powers to her shady contacts, to save Lyra from the same nightmare. Desperate to find any link between Lyra’s abduction and her own, Stacey forces herself to revisit her forgotten, traumatic past for clues.

But can she make sense of the terrible secrets she unearths in time to save Lyra? And if she does, is she ready to face her own tormentor?

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MY REVIEW:

“Stacey couldn’t shake the ominous feeling surrounding her. The hair. The dingy room. The scissors. This had to be an echo of her past.”

When Stacey’s ex-husband, Jack, turns up on her doorstep one afternoon, Stacey O’Hara is unprepared for the nightmare she’s about to be plunged into. Her thirteen-year-old stepdaughter, Lyra, has been kidnapped, and he wants Stacey’s help to rescue her from a terror she is all too familiar with after her own violent kidnapping thirty years ago. 

As they race against the clock to save Lyra, Stacey can’t shake the strange similarities with her own abduction that keep cropping up. Could the two be linked? Forced to face the past she’s run from for decades, can Stacey make sense of the secrets she’s unearthed before it is too late?

“The room was dimly lit by a small lamp. Shadows, like demons, danced on the wall.” 

Wow! This book certainly packs a punch, grabbing me from the forbidding opening pages. I didn’t want to put this book down! It showcases why Carol Wyer has become one of my favourite thriller authors, her ability to hypnotise the reader and keep them guessing as she weaves her tangled web of dark secrets keeping me on the edge of my seat as I read. As the secrets are slowly revealed, the intricate puzzle begins to come together. But would it look like I imagined? Or something completely different?

“A hazy vision floated from the recesses of her mind. She saw herself as a terrified teenager, tied to a chair, a hood over her head. Her heartbeat increased. She didn’t want to remember.” 

I loved that this book was essentially two mysteries in one as we uncover the truth not only about Lyra’s abduction, but Stacey’s too. While Lyra is never on the page as anything other than a character being discussed, her presence is felt over every sentence, along with the urgency to save her. And while trying to do so, Stacey begins to discover things she never knew about her abduction thirty years ago. Because of her profound dissociative amnesia Stacey has never processed the trauma of being abducted. The memories were buried so deep that she can’t reach them. But after Lyra’s abduction, she is assailed by flashes of the long-repressed memories that she isn’t always sure she can trust. It is so evocatively written that we feel every bit of her confusion, torment and fear as she faces the truth of her abduction for the first time while desperately trying to rescue Lyra. She is a likeable protagonist and was easy to root for, unlike her ex-husband, Jack. 

In Jack we see Wyer’s skill for writing morally dubious and complex characters that you aren’t sure you can trust. Did I dislike and suspect him because he reminded me of my own abusive ex-husband? Or was he really involved in this somehow? I could never make up my mind but also couldn’t shake my suspicions of him no matter how much Stacey was adamant he wasn’t involved. 

Dripping with suspense, charged with adrenalin and fraught with malice, Behind Closed Doors is a heart-pounding thriller that fans of the genre will love. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

USA Today bestselling author and winner of The People’s Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer’s crime novels have sold over one million copies and been translated into nine languages.

A move from humour to the ‘dark side’ in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in Little Girl Lost and proved that Carol had found her true niche.

February 2021 saw the release of the first in the much-anticipated new series, featuring DI Kate Young. An Eye For An Eye was chosen as a Kindle First Reads and became the #1 bestselling book on Amazon UK and Amazon Australia.

Carol has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’, featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and the Huffington Post. She’s also been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ”Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr. Grumpy… who is very, very grumpy. When she is not plotting devious murders, she can be found performing her comedy routine, Smile While You Still Have Teeth.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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REVIEW: Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Publsihed: March 19th, 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Humorous Fiction, Domestic Fiction, New Adult Ficiton, Women’s Fiction, Pensioners on the Pages
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Today I’m resharing my review for this heartwarming story. I’m taking part in the Squadpod Advent Calendar Challenge this month and today’s prompt is a ‘Book with a character you’d like to meet’. I couldn’t think of anyone who I would like to meet more than the delightful Veronica McCreedy. I read this back in March 2020 and it has stayed with me ever since. It really is the perfect book to read to lift your spirits. And I dare anyone not to fall in love with Veronica.

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SYNOPSIS:

A Richard & Judy Book Club and BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.
A truly feel-good book club read – a #1 bestseller in ebook and audio!

‘This year’s Eleanor Oliphant . . . Funny, bittersweet and wholly original.’ Daily Express

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

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MY REVIEW:

Oh how I loved this absolute gem of a book. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, it had me transfixed. I got lost in the pages and totally immersed in Veronica’s story. 

Veronica McCreedy is an eccentric, feisty, cantankerous, witty and unstoppable old lady. I just couldn’t help but love her and she quickly found a place in my heart. Her bad-tempered idiosyncrasies became endearing and I was sure she had a heart of gold hidden behind it all. When a locked wooden box containing her teenage diaries is found, Veronica’s poignant story is slowly unveiled and we finally learn what lies underneath those brusque layers she uses to protect herself. 

Running parallel to Veronica’s story is her daring adventure to Antarctica to see the Adélie penguins. She became obsessed with them after watching a nature programme and decided she wanted to leave her vast wealth to the research programme. But she needs to make sure they are worthy of it, so she books a trip to see the penguins for herself; refusing to heed to frantic warnings of her assistant Eileen and the trio of scientists that it is too dangerous. I adored this part of the story – the different sides we see to Veronica’s personality, her blossoming friendship with young scientist Terry, and the adorable rescued chick, Pip. I found myself in awe of Eileen’s spriteliness and determination, overcoming her age and the bracing conditions to have the adventure of a lifetime. 

But behind the cuteness of this storyline is a serious commentary on climate change and our responsibility to save the environment and a number of earth’s most beloved species that are facing extinction in the near future.  It is peppered with blog posts by Terry which are informative as well as entertaining. The author has clearly done her research and I know a lot more about climate change and penguins after reading this book. 

The story is narrated by two very distinct voices and is filled with a rich, colourful and fascinating cast of characters. The cutest of these is without a doubt little Pip, and I now blame the author for the fact I really want a pet penguin! The investment, hard work and love that the author has put into this book is evident in the exquisite writing and attention to detail. I savoured every word, devouring this book while also trying to make it last as I dreaded parting with Veronica and the penguins.

Away with the Penguins is without a doubt the most delightful, joyous and uplifting book I’ve read so far this year, if not in a long time, and I have no doubt it will have a place in my top reads of the year. A lush blend of characters and storylines that is immersive and reaches into your soul and serves as a great reminder that it is never too late to have an adventure, try new things or make changes in your life. Whatever your reading preferences, I highly recommend this book. Just make sure to have lots of tissues and be prepared to fall in love.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From Hazel’s website:
Hazel is an enthusiastic and experienced harp-player based in Somerset and Exmoor. Her repertoire spans many styles of music and includes singing with harp accompaniment.  

Hazel is also an author. Her three bestselling novels, published by Penguin Random House, are described as ‘quirky’, ‘lyrical’ and ‘life-affirming’. AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS (USA title = HOW THE PENGUINS SAVED VERONICA) is a Richard and Judy and a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstons | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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BLOG TOUR: Suicide Thursday by Will Carver

Published: November 24th, 2022|
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Hardboiled, Noir Ficiton, Crime Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Suicide Thursday. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Karen at Orenda Books for the gifted proof.

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SYNOPSIS:

A disenchanted man struggles to get beyond the first chapter of the books he’s writing, and to separate fact from fiction in his own life. His friend’s suicide changes everything … The mind-blowing, heart-rending new thriller from cult bestselling author Will Carver.
 
‘One of the most exciting authors in Britain’ Daily Express

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Eli Hagin can’t finish anything. 
 
He hates his job, but can’t seem to quit. He doesn’t want to be with his girlfriend, but doesn’t know how end things with her, either. Eli wants to write a novel, but he’s never taken a story beyond the first chapter. 
 
Eli also has trouble separating reality from fiction. 
 
When his best friend kills himself, Eli is motivated, for the first time in his life, to finally end something himself, just as Mike did…
 
Except sessions with his therapist suggest that Eli’s most recent ‘first chapters’ are not as fictitious as he had intended … and a series of text messages that Mike received before his death point to something much, much darker…

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MY REVIEW:

“Suicide is a beginning for those left behind.”

Bold, uncompromising and unique, Suicide Thursday is another thought-proovoking novel from the incomparable Will Carver. 

Aspiring writer Eli Hagin can’t finish things. He can’t get past the opening chapter of his book, can’t end his relationship, and can’t leave the job he hates. But when his best friend takes his own life Eli finds himself feeling motivated to finally finish something. But not everything is as it seems and fact begins to merge with fiction as the truth behind Mike’s suicide is revealed…

This is one of those books that haunts your subconscious long after reading and I have not stopped thinking about it. Will Carver is a master of his craft, holding us in the palm of his hand from beginning to end as he explores a multitude of social and moral topics in this genre-blending tale. I am a proud member of the #CarverCult and I will pick up his books without even looking at the synopsis. They are like nothing else you will ever read, but you know you are getting a story that is meticulously written, twisty, sinister and atmospheric. 

The story is told by multiple narrators using mixed media as it moves between the days leading up to Sucide Thursday and the heartrending aftermath. This is a story filled with flawed, unreliable and unlikable characters. Eli is particularly abhorrent; selfish, acerbic and unfeeling. I couldn’t decide if he was simply a terrible person or if there were elements of neurodiversity that affected his perception of the world. There was nothing that could excuse him deciding Mike had killed himself as a message to him rather than an expression of his own desperation though and I really hated him at times. But he was great to read. 

As someone who has lost friends to suicide and struggled with mental health, I was a little apprehensive about how I’d feel reading this book. But while this is undoubtedly hard to read, Carver skillfully and realistically conveys the psychological and emotional torment of depression and suicidal thoughts, and the complex layers of the particular kind of grief that comes with losing a loved one in this way. Carver is also an author with a knifelike awareness of the human condition who gets to the heart of why people behave like they do. 

Disturbing, moving and darkly funny, Suicide Thursday is a compelling and audacious novel that stays with you. Highly recommended.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series and the critically acclaimed, mind-blowingly original Detective Pace series that includes Good Samaritans (2018), Nothing Important Happened Today (2019) and Hinton Hollow Death Trip (2020), all of which were ebook bestsellers and selected as books of the year in the mainstream international press. Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for both the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award 2020 and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for Guardian‘s Not the Booker Prize. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his children.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Orenda | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour

*These purchase links are affiliate links

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Publisher: November 15th, 2022
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Literary Fiction, Saga, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day Mad Honey! Thank you to Eleni at Hodder & Stoughton for my gifted proof copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Olivia fled her abusive marriage to return to her hometown and take over the family beekeeping business when her son Asher was six. Now, impossibly, her baby is six feet tall and in his last year of high school, a kind, good-looking, popular ice hockey star with a tiny sprite of a new girlfriend.

Lily also knows what it feels like to start over – when she and her mother relocated to New Hampshire it was all about a fresh start. She and Asher couldn’t help falling for each other, and Lily feels happy for the first time. But can she trust him completely?

Then Olivia gets a phone call – Lily is dead, and Asher is arrested on a charge of murder. As the case against him unfolds, she realises he has hidden more than he’s shared with her. And Olivia knows firsthand that the secrets we keep reflect the past we want to leave behind ­­- and that we rarely know the people we love well as we think we do.

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MY REIVEW:

“If you want to understand something, you first need to accept the fact of your own ignorance. And then, you need to talk to people who know more than you do, people who have not just thought about the facts, but lived them.”

First of all, can we take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous cover of this book. Even if I wasn’t a fan of the author, this would be one I’d pick up for the cover alone. Thankfully, what’s between the pages is as mesmerising as what’s on the outside. Mad Honey is a contemporary masterpiece. Complex, layered, and thought-provoking, this is a book that will consume you from the first page until the last and then linger long after reading. There are shocking revelations and, as we’ve come to expect from Ms. Picoult, the story examines some controversial and difficult subjects that are told with sensitivity and compassion, while never shying away from harrowing or painful truths.

Jodi Picoult has been my favourite author ever since I read My Sister’s Keeper almost twenty years ago. Her books are auto-buys for me without even reading the synopsis, but I have to say that this one had me very intrigued because it is co-written with an author I’ve never read. And it’s perfect. Not only does Ms. Picoult once again showcase her ability to illuminate ordinary lives and reveal the secrets that are hidden behind people’s unassuming exteriors, but this is complimented by Ms. Finney Boylan. The duo have crafted a narrative so seamless that it is impossible to know where one ends and the other begins. The prose is at times poetic, others stark or heartrending, and at other times joyous or funny, taking us through every emotion alongside their pitch-perfect characters. And in an added bonus for long-term Picoult fans, this book also features an appearance from a much-loved character, lawyer Jordan McAffee, who has appeared in a number of Jodi’s previous novels.

“You tell yourself this wouldn’t happen in your hometown.
You tell yourself this isn’t anyone you know.
Until it does, and it is.”

Not only is this a story told by dual authors, but it is one of dual timelines and dual narrators: Olivia tells us the story in the present, while Lily narrates past events. The two stories are expertly interwoven to take you through the events following Lily’s death while also slowly revealing what really happened in the months leading up to that fateful day in a masterfully choreographed narrative. The authors transport us into their psyche, making us feel everything they do. There is a real sense of isolation that radiates from both narrators, their personal anguish and trauma making them feel there is no one who understands what they are living. It is tortured and heartbreaking, but oh-so real, with an overwhelming grief that feels cavernous. But it isn’t all doom and gloom. We also feel their joy, which is particularly well portrayed in Lily as we are reminded of how it feels to experience the heady, all-consuming feeling of falling in love, the excitement of discovering each other and the apprehension of opening up your whole self to them.

But what I loved most about Olivia and Lily is how authentic and recognisable they both are. These women could be your family, friend or neighbour; making the story really hit home as you realise these things could happen to anyone. Even you. In fact, one of the things that made this story so hard to read for me was how much I saw myself in Olivia and my eldest child in Asher. Like Olivia I fled an abusive marriage and then raised my son alone for many years, giving us a strong and unbreakable bond. My son is also the same age as Asher is in the current timeline, making it impossible not to bring his face into my mind as I read every word.

“These people, who do not really see me, have no idea what they are missing.”

Powerful, moving and astutely observed, Mad Honey is, quite simply, phenomenal. Not only is this one of my favourite books this year, but it is also one of my favourite Jodi Picoult books ever. It has also helped me discover a new author whose back catalogue I now plan to explore. 

READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

DM for Trigger Warnings

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MEET THE AUTHORS:

Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-eight novels, including Wish You Were Here, The Book of Two Ways, A Spark of Light, Small Great Things, Leaving Time, and My Sister’s Keeper, and, with daughter Samantha van Leer, two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page. Picoult lives in New Hampshire.

Her next novel, Mad Honey, is co-written with Jennifer Finney Boylan.

Jennifer Finney Boylan is the author of sixteen books, including GOOD BOY: My Life in Seven Dogs. Since 2008 she has been a contributing opinion writer for op/ed page of the New York Times; her column appears on alternate Wednesdays. A member of the board of trustees of PEN America, Jenny was also the chair of the board of GLAAD for many years. She is currently the Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence and Professor of English at Barnard College of Columbia University.

Jenny is a well known advocate for human rights. She has appeared five times on the Oprah Winfrey Show and has also been a guest or a commentator on Larry King Live, Good Morning America, and The Today Show. She is also a member of the faculty of the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference of Middlebury College as well as Sirenland, in Positano, Italy.

She lives in Maine with her wife Deirdre. They have two children.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2023

REVIEW: End of Story by Louise Swanson

Published: March 23rd, 2023
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Dystopian Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Get ready to meet your new favourite thriller author! End of Story is a heart-pounding masterpiece you won’t want to miss. Thank you to Louise Swanson and Hodder & Stoughton for my gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Too much imagination can be a dangerous thing

It has been five years since writing fiction was banned by the government.

Fern Dostoy is a criminal. Officially, she has retrained in a new job outside of the arts but she still scrawls in a secret notepad in an effort to capture what her life has become: her work on a banned phone line, reading bedtime stories to sleep-starved children; Hunter, the young boy who calls her and has captured her heart; and the dreaded visits from government officials.

But as Fern begins to learn more about Hunter, doubts begin to surface. What are they both hiding?

And who can be trusted?

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MY REVIEW:

If you tell a story well enough, it’s true. 

I knew Lousie Swanson was a master storyteller and anything she writes is on my auto-buy list.  So when she announced End of Story it immediately became my most anticipated book of 2023.  I decided to pick it up last night after struggling to read all week thinking her books are always compelling.  I knew it would be good, but I was unprepared for the sheer tour de force I was about to read.  So addictive it had me on the edge of my seat from the first lines, I devoured it in just a couple of hours; staying up until 3am to finish as it was impossible to put it down and sleep without a conclusion. 

Exquisitely written, this is one of those books that has to be experienced.  You need to pick it up and allow the author to take you on the ride.  And what a ride it is!  Set in 2035, the story is told by Fern, a former author living in a nightmarish future where fiction is banned.  But she is determined to tell her story and begins keeping a secret diary where she not only talks about her innermost feelings and current life, but how fiction came to be outlawed and her own part in that story.  She is a fantastic character who I immediately felt connected to and enjoyed reading, seeing how her story unfolded piece by piece. 

Darkly sinister and suspenseful, this is a book filled to the brim with fear and tension. But it is also a complex, layered and moving story that has so much more depth than you expect.  An inventive and clever story that is like nothing I’ve ever read.  Ms Swanson has outdone herself with this one.  It is easily my book of the year and I feel sure that anyone who reads it will be adding her to their auto-buy lists.  

If I could give this more than five stars I would.  An absolute tour-de-force, End of Story is a heart-pounding masterpiece.  A work of art.  And you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.  Add it to your 2023 lists now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Louise Swanson’s debut End of Story arrives in March 2023. She wrote the book during the final lockdown of 2020, following a family tragedy, finding refuge in the fiction she created. The themes of the book – grief, isolation, love of the arts, the power of storytelling – came from a very real place. Swanson, a mother of two who lives in East Yorkshire with her husband, regularly blogs, talks at events, and is a huge advocate of openly discussing mental health and suicide.

She also writes as Louise Beech. Beech’s eight books have won the Best magazine Book of the Year 2019, shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year, longlisted for the Polari Prize, and been a Clare Mackintosh Book Club Pick. Her memoir, Daffodils, was released in audiobook in 2022.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Keep It In The Family by John Marrs

Published: October 18th, 2022
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this chilling novel. Thank you to FMcM for the invitation to take part and my copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

In this chilling novel from bestselling author John Marrs, a young couple’s house hides terrible secrets―and not all of them are confined to the past.

Mia and Finn are busy turning a derelict house into their dream home when Mia unexpectedly falls pregnant. But just when they think the house is ready, Mia discovers a chilling message scored into a skirting board: I WILL SAVE THEM FROM THE ATTIC. Following the clue up into the eaves, the couple make a gruesome discovery: their dream home was once a house of horrors.

In the wake of their traumatic discovery, the baby arrives and Mia can’t shake her fixation with the monstrous crimes that happened right above them. Haunted by the terrible things she saw and desperate to find answers, her obsession pulls her ever further from her husband.

Secrecy shrouds the mystery of the attic, but when shards of a dark truth start to emerge, Mia realises the danger is terrifyingly present. She is prepared to do anything to protect her family―but is it already too late?

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MY REVIEW:

“You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God.”

– Ted Bundy

When a book opens with a quote from a notorious, sadistic serial killer you know it’s going to be a wild ride.  From the first page I had shivers down my spine and was on the edge of my seat, full of anticipation at the promise of such a chilling tale.  

Mia and Finn’s new house is a dilapidated two-storey detached Victorian house on an ordinary street.  It’s a house you’d never really notice but for the young couple this house is a promise of a better future.  But what they don’t yet know is that it is also a place harbouring dark secrets.  Secrets that the person who is quietly watching them knows.  The truth finally begins to emerge after the couple make a gruesome attic in the attic that haunts Mia and leaves her desperate to uncover the truth of what happened in the house.  But someone else will do anything to keep it from being uncovered.  The only question is, which of them will succeed?

“He isn’t the first to be caught in their web and he won’t be the last. Most of them beg for mercy but they are all wasting their time. There will be no change of heart because there never is. No one under this roof believes in compassion. Empathy is an alien emotion here. “

OMG!  What the f#@% did I just read?!  Deliciously dark, marvellously menacing and totally twisted, I am slightly terrified of John Marrs after reading this; though I would love to peek inside his mind to know how he came up with what is his darkest book yet.  I’ve been a big fan of Marrs’ books since I first read The One upon its release in 2017, and with every book he just gets better.  He truly is the king of the twisted psychological thriller.  Everything about his books makes my thriller-loving heart sing as he holds me hostage, my heart pounding as I read with baited breath as he drops clues like breadcrumbs to build the suspense.  Every time you think all the twists have been revealed and you have it all figured out he will pull the rug from under you and turn the world upside down.  It’s a never-ending maze of secrets, lies and murder.  Twist after twist that makes your jaw drop and your head spin.  And I can’t get enough of it. 

This story makes even the most messed-up and crazy family you know seem sane. By giving each of them a voice we are able to really get inside their minds and discover who they are. I felt most drawn to Mia, my heart going out to her in particular after the events at the end of part one.  I also really enjoyed the play on the traditional awful mother-in-law trope. Debbie is detestable for so many reasons and I admit I was team Mia from the start. 

But it is the mystery narrator who I felt was most powerfully written.  Though they are clearly a killer with a warped moral code, they are utterly fascinating. Through flashbacks to their childhood we learn that they are a creation of their horrific experiences, my heart breaking for what they endured and witnessed.  Writing a one-dimensional villain is easy, but it takes true talent such as that possessed by Marrs to craft such a mesmerising yet chilling portrayal of a disturbed individual who is both repulsive yet sympathetic. 

“To some, I’m a saviour, but to others, I’m a monster. I know what my work has been about, all the souls I’ve saved from torment. It’s part of the bargain that I can never share my role with the world. There’d be no hope of them understanding. Blinkered as they are, I could only be a monster. “

But who was our mysterious villain?  I enjoyed trying to piece the clues together to work out the answer but the clever red herrings left by the author led me to also suspect the innocent at times.  Even when I’d guessed correctly I discovered there were yet more crazy antics to come as this person toyed with their victims further and prolonged their torment with glee.  When and how would it end?  I had no idea.  But I don’t think I could have guessed what was in store even with infinite opportunities.  

Keep It In The Family is my new favourite John Marrs book.  And I think it will be yours too after you read this dark, sinister and mind-blowing tale.  Just buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

John Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author. His books include No1 bestseller and Netflix series The One, The Passengers, award winning What Lies Between Us and The Good Samaritan.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The Wife Next Door by Rona Halsall

Published: October 12th, 2022
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the unsettling and unexpected The Wife Next Door. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

It was meant to be the perfect break-up…

Just because it’s over between us, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. My ex-husband and I still care for each other a lot, and we are determined to put our sweet little boy, Toby first.

Now we’ve moved into houses right next door to each other, with each of our new partners and their children. We’ve even knocked down the garden fence, so Toby can easily run between our homes.

But it seems not everyone is happy about this big, blended stepfamily. I try to ignore the viciously-worded note in the ‘new home’ card, the red pen scrawled through my divorce paperwork, and the day I find myself locked into my house, all the keys suddenly missing…

But I can’t pretend it’s all in my head when a false accusation is made against me that could destroy my life – and Toby’s – forever.

Someone doesn’t like what’s happening under these two neighbouring roofs.

What they don’t know is that they’re messing with the wrong person. And that hell hath no fury like the wife next door…

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MY REVIEW:

Jess and her ex-husband Rob are determined not to let their break-up stop them from being friends.  In an attempt to put their son, Toby, first they move into new homes next door to each other with their new partners and their children and try to create the perfect blended family.

But it seems someone isn’t happy about the new arrangements: there are threatening messages, strange incidents and malicious accusations.  Jess’s family are concerned she’s paranoid but she’s sure someone is out to get her and tear their new blended family apart…

Taut, tense and filled with surprising twists, this is another first-class domestic thriller from Rona Halsall.  Rona was one of the first authors whose books I reviewed and has become a must-read author for me.  So much so that I don’t even read the synopsis before requesting her books or applying for the blog tour.  She can be relied upon to deliver an intriguing, gripping and entertaining read filled with revelations I never saw coming.  The Wife Next Door certainly lived up to those expectations, keeping me guessing up until the jaw-dropping finale.

Protagonist Jess was a great character.  Halsall puts the reader in her shoes and makes us feel everything she does.  I felt pretty sure she wasn’t paranoid but also couldn’t decide who could be behind what was happening.  My heart went out to her as things spiralled out of control and I helplessly watched her life fall apart.  Would she be able to prove her innocence? Or would Halsall deliver one of her sensational twists to reveal she isn’t who I thought?  

Unsettling, claustrophobic and totally riveting, this is a must-read for any thriller lover.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rona is the author of Best Selling psychological thrillers published by Bookouture. She loves a puzzle to solve, so now she writes them… her challenge is to find domestic storylines with twists that keep her readers guessing right to the end.

She has been a bit of a nomad during her adult life, moving around the north of England. Then she settled in Snowdonia, North Wales where she brought up her family while working as a business mentor. She now lives on the Isle of Man with her husband and two dogs.

She is an outdoorsy person and loves stomping up a mountain, walking the coastal paths and exploring the wonderful glens and beaches on the Island while she’s plotting her next book. She has three children and two step-children who are all grown up and leading varied and interesting lives, which provides plenty of ideas for new stories.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon | Waterstones

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

BLOG TOUR: The Setup by Lizzy Dent

Published: June 9th, 2022
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Romance Novel, Contemporary Romance, Holiday Fiction, New Adult Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this funny, heartwarming and uplifting rom-com. Thank you to Ellie at Viking for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

SHE HAS A PLAN . . .
FATE HAS OTHER IDEAS.
—————–

There are two men in my life. But this is not a love triangle.



Mara Williams reads her horoscope every day – but she wasn’t expecting to be in a whole other country when destiny finally found her. Just as a fortune teller reveals that her true love is about to arrive, a gorgeous stranger literally walks into her life. And now Mara is determined to bring them together again . . . Surely even fate needs a nudge in the right direction sometimes?

But while Mara is getting ready for ‘the one’, the universe intervenes. Her new flatmate Ash is funny, and kind, and sexy as hell . . . There was no predicting this: it’s as if her destiny just arrived on her doorstep.

So will Mara put her destiny in fate’s hands – or finally trust herself to reach for the stars?

*An edgy, hilarious rom-com from the author of The Summer Job. For fans of Beth O’Leary, Starstruck and New Girl.*

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MY REVIEW:

“Fate always knows how to deliver.” 

Lizzy Dent has done it again!  Charming, witty and uplifting, The Setup is a fabulous summer read that has cemented her place as one of my Queens of rom-com.  

Alone in Budapest after her best friend Charlie dropped out of their girls trip at the last minute, Mara decides to go visit a fortune teller.  She tells her that she will meet the love of her life imminently, a prediction that seems to come true when the very man she described literally walks through the door shortly after.  But life is never simple and it seems that the universe has another plan, one that includes Mara’s sexy new flatmate, Ash.  Will Mara follow fate or finally trust herself to choose what she wants? 

I became an instant fan of Lizzy Dent when I read her debut, The Summer Job, last year and was excitedly anticipating this follow up.  I had the pleasure of meeting Lizzy recently at The Book Party and she is every bit as charismatic, funny and delightful in person as she appears online, something she also brings to her books. I love how she cleverly plays with the familiar romance tropes, making them feel fresh and entertaining and injecting them with laugh-out-loud humour and valuable life lessons.  I couldn’t put it down, reading the first ¾ of the book in one sitting and staying up until almost 2am without realising the time. And that ending! It couldn’t have been more perfect.

“I’ve never understood how people can know themselves so well that they know exactly where they’re going and what to do to get there. How to make clear decisions that truly come from just them. It’s a mystery to me.”

Mara is a wonderful character.  Quirky, shy, awkward but totally endearing, she is someone I loved from the start.  A horoscope enthusiast, she is so invested in the idea of fate and destiny that she doesn’t trust her own instincts or feelings and won’t make even the smallest of decisions without consulting what her horoscope says.  I particularly loved her system for choosing which movie to watch.  It certainly saves the many hours of flicking through the choices and trying to make a selection that is familiar to us all.  Mara is also a lonely character, her shyness leaving her with only one real friend who she feels like she’s drifted apart from lately, so I enjoyed watching her create new friendships as she tries to improve herself, especially with Samira.  I also really liked her relationship with Ash which, though predictable, felt very real and natural.  I was rooting for them and definitely Team Ash over Team Joe.  When she would waver I wanted to shake her and tell her to forget a dream and go for what was right in front of her.  But would she?

Funny, heartwarming and sweet, The Setup is a feel-good romance that should be on everyone’s tbr. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Lizzy Dent (mis)spent her early twenties working in Scotland in hospitality. After years travelling the world making Music TV for MTV and Channel 4, and creating digital content for Cartoon Network, the BBC and ITV, she wrote three Young Adult novels as Rebecca Denton published in the UK. This is her debut adult novel. She lives between London, Austria, and New Zealand with her young family.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

*All purchase links are affiliate links