The Safe House by Louise Mumford

Reviewed by Lotte

This book was unnerving because it was so believable! It’s the subtlety and simplicity that show it really could happen and that’s what makes it a great, unsettling psychological thriller.

Esther and her mum, Hannah, live in a bunker completely off grid. It’s all Esther has ever known – a life of isolation with just her Mum (and of course Mr Wiffles), living inside, with a high spec air filtration system, hazmat suits for going outside, regimented routines etc. For Hannah, this came about because Esther has asthma and she became terrified and determined to keep her safe. Mumford has written this book in a character focused way that shows us both sides – the lengths mum went to keep Esther safe before they even moved to the bunker, the reasons behind her actions and all she’s sacrificed; as well as Esther, how normal it was for her before she realised there was a whole world out there and learning that what she thinks is true might actually be wrong. This all starts to unravel when a stranger turns up, knowing things about Esther. He shows her she doesn’t need to be as cautious as she believes but the suspense woven into the storyline keeps you on tenterhooks just incase – what if mum was right and something will happen. So even as the plot unravelled and different things were revealed it still felt uncertain. Mr Wiffles was a great addition with his whit and humour as well as adding to the distorted reality Esther was living in.

The first half of the book was really good but a little slow, however, I feel that added to this sense of normality that Mumford was trying to create. The second half moved a little faster, so much so that some things felt a little off-kilter, as in, would she really do that after growing up the way she has. The story went from one extreme to another but perhaps that added to the suspense that it could all go wrong. And we truly didn’t find out for sure if Esther was ok or whether Mum was right. There were many twists and turns that added to this suspense and sense of unknown as well as giving us some great shock moments.

This was a good book with a well paced plot and fully developed characters. It wasn’t extreme but the eerie element of realness kept the book gripping throughout.

Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this ARC.

Author: Louise Mumford
Publisher: HQ Digital
Release Date: 12 May 2022

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Reviewed by Lotte

It’s no secret that I am a massive Jodi Picoult fan, I love her books and it just so happens we share the same birthday. Some might say I’m biased but I’d challenge anyone to tell me this book didn’t impact them in some way. For me Jodi produced another knock out novel that will stay with me for some time.

We meet Diane, someone who has her life on track – or so she thinks – a job she loves, a partner she also loves, she has plans for the future and a clear idea of where she’s heading. And then the pandemic hits and everything changed. She became stranded in the Galapagos whilst her partner Finn is stuck in New York working as a doctor on the front lines in a major New York hospital. To top it off they’re cut off from each other, receiving sporadic emails and sending postcards. These opposing worlds summed up the divide we were all facing in some way, with some people fighting on the front lines and the rest of us looking in helplessly. Diane goes through the same grief we all did, losing special events we were looking forward to, being unable to fulfil plans and being left feeling bereft and pretty lost. Her experiences on the island, the people she meets, the isolation from loved ones, the heartbreak and the hope she feels, all guide her through figuring out what she’s going to do next and more importantly who she is now. All while being quarantined on an island where she doesn’t know the language and is relying of the kindness of strangers. This beautifully mirrored the experience of so many of us: we were all lost in an unknown world.

As usual Jodi throws in so many twists and turns. There’s multi-layered characters and plot lines twisted perfectly together. As always Jodi has researched this novel extensively and that’s seen in the level of detail she includes (which is pretty miraculous given we were all in lockdown!). This novel is told through the lens of Diane, punctuated by emails from Finn that just heightened the fractious nature of their situation and how extreme this pandemic had become. The emails were perfectly times, along with the character development to create suspense and a sense tapestry of a novel. There was always something happening, or another emotion playing out, always something that kept me wanting to read more and more.

The pandemic shattered our sense of who we were, leaving us lost in the abyss while chaos raged in the outside world. We lost who we were, our plans, our goals, our direction. It left us questioning what we wanted for ourselves and from the world around us. It left us questioning what mattered. And it took many us a long time to find our way back – which wasn’t always to the place we started at. This pandemic has irrevocably changed many of our lives and Jodi depicts this perfectly in this story. I’ve heard many people say this is the book we didn’t know we needed, and I can honestly say it was. It was validating, eye opening, reassuring, it helped me make sense of the last couple of years and I felt heard as a result of Jodi’s masterful, powerful writing. I couldn’t recommend it more.

Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this ARC (apologies for the delay in sharing, ill-health happened).

Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 25th November 2021

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Reviewed by Lotte

We Were Liars was not what I expected it to be and at the start I just wasn’t sure what the story was doing. Then it caught me with a few intriguing themes so I persevered. The main protagonist, told entirely from her perspective, appeared to have had some kind of serious accident but it all felt off – something wasn’t adding up and a few things were going through my mind. I didn’t actually work it out until right at the end when the terrible circumstances were revealed. I liked that I wasn’t sure, and that the author led us to believe there could have been other things happen, in fact anything except the truth! But once again I feel like those things could have been made so much more of. In fairness this was off-set by the fact the book wasn’t very long and was told in short sharp accounts so there wasn’t time to dwell on the lack of details. I’d say this is an easy to read, fairly compelling book, enough to keep me occupied today!

Thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for allowing me to read and review this ARC.

Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: 14 May 2014

Midnight Magic by Gina Kincade and Others

Reviewed by Lotte

What a brilliant book filled with fantastical, often very steamy, paranormal romance type novels and novellas. This was such a great way to read book by other authors that you might not come across and having read this, I’ll be sure to look up their other work. For me, I was eagerly awaiting Caswell’s Convict by M.C. Solaris. It’s linked loosely with the Orion’s Order series, where we first met Clyde in Rhyker’s Key. Caswell’s convict was like a mini version of one of the Orion’s Order books yet it still had everything we know and love about it. There was the Lion shifters, including Clyde one of our main characters, a mind healer, Maddie, who was our other main character, other species, a steamy love narrative where ultimately good come through. I loved that Solaris made me fall in love with both Clyde and Maddie immediately. I was rooting for them, felt frustration when things didn’t go to plan and elated when things were good…probably during the hot scenes! I loved that I was hooked by the story in such a short amount of time too. There was so much to it, without it being serious dense with information – lots of emotional ups and downs and a whole lot of suspense! Really hope we see more of Clyde and Maddie. The Caswell Lion Pride we’re only mentioned briefly so you don’t have to read Orion’s order to enjoy Caswell’s Convict (although I strongly recommend them if you like shifters, paranormal and sizzling romances – you’ll be hooked!).
The other stories in this book are equally fantastic – you’ll be sure to enjoy!.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

Authors: Gina Kincade, C.D. Gorri, Laura Greenwood, Juliana Haygert, Rebekah R. Ganiere, Louisa Bacio, Siera London, Susannah Shannon, Ariel Dawn, Fiona Starr, Julie Morgan, Taya Rune, Taylor Aston White, Quell T. Fox, Autumn Breeze, Asa Maria Bradley, Kate Rudolph, M.C. Solaris, Emilia Rose, Mia Meade, Hanleigh Bradley, Pepper McGraw, McKayla Schutt, Lilith Darville
Publisher: Naughty Nights Press LLC
Release Date: 10 May 2022

Calypso’s Heart by M.C. Solaris

Reviewed by Lotte:

I’ve just re-read this book in readiness to hit book 2 and 3 in the Orion’s Order novels, and I can confidently say that second time around it was definitely just as good!

As I said in my previous short review, going into it I wasn’t sure it was for me and with it being a fairly lengthy read, I was dubious. But oh my word, it was sooo worth it, for many different reasons. For a start there was so much to the plot: lots of different characters, many paranormal elements, storylines that led to more action, and obviously as a PNR (Paranormal Romance) there was plenty of steamy scenes. I really liked that there was so much to enjoy in it. This one book almost felt like a series of tv episodes, there was so much happening. I particularly liked that a lot of the world building was done by bouncing around these various elements of the plot so rather than being boring, there was usually something happening that kept my attention, even if it did mean a little bit of repetition.

The characters themselves were all intriguing in their own ways. It was a little difficult to keep track of everyone at the beginning, not just names but their species and abilities too. I actually nearly confused Nick with Nico at the start! But they naturally got clearer the more I read, in that same way that world building happening, these characters were brought to life as we progressed through the plot. I loved that the Order was made up of different species too, it just made it all more interesting. It’s unusual for me to like all the characters but I honestly did (with the exception of The Ghost obviously!). I want to know more about them too! Our two main characters were enthralling. Watching Cali find out about herself, develop into the person she’s meant to be whilst also falling for Blake kept me hooked. There was a point where I was wondering if she was just going to be a soppy female under the spell of her Alpha. But actually, Cali is badass! She’s the female alpha to his male alpha, she’s not afraid to stand up to him and when it comes to handling the problems they face, she holds her own. And Blake doesn’t fit the stereotypical mould either, watch out for a subtle, thoughtful and respectful side too.

The paranormal parts had pretty much everything you’d want – shifters, wolves, vampires, aristocratic tech nerd, dream travellers, healers, a ghost and more. It’s chock full of abilities and alternative world fun. And as for the romance – well, Solaris knows how to write a steamy sex scene that’s for sure! Be prepared for details – lots of details – involving the paranormal elements too.

This novel is told through the POV of all characters which can get a little confusing as the switch can happen quickly. But once you get the hang of who’s who it’s easy to identify the changes. At that point it just brings the story to full fruition, hearing from many perspectives in the situation. I actually part listened to the Audio of this book (switching between reading and listening), narrated by Jarman Day. He really brings this book to life and helps with character identification – how he keeps all the characters so distinct is incredible! He’s probably one of the best narrators I’ve listened to this year!

Overall I found this novel completely addictive and I’m super excited to be able to start reading Rhyker’s Key straight away. I’ve also joined M.C. Solaris’s ARC team so check back for a review of the third book Deacon’s Star coming soon. Brilliant read, fab author, so happy I stumbled across it!

Thank you to the author and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Author: M.C. Solaris
Publisher: MC Solaris LLC
Release Date: 15 May 2020

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Reviewed by Lotte:

I’ve read all seven of The Seven Sisters books throughout this year and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed each one. The sisters are each named after a star constellation called the Seven Sisters of The Pleiades. We have:

Book one – Maia – The Seven Sisters #1
Book two: Ally – relating to Alycone – The Storm Sister #2
Book three: Star – relating to Asterope – The Shadow Sister #3
Book four: CeCe – relating to Celaeno – The Pearl Sister #4
Book five Tiggy – relating to Teygete – The Moon Sister #5
Book six: Electra – The Sun Sister #6
Book seven: Mary – relating to Merope – The Missing Sister #7

I really enjoyed how in each book every sister went on their own journey to find out about their past and that Riley was able to make their stories original. Without giving away any spoilers each sister was taken down paths with different histories, locations and backgrounds, discovering connections to family in different ways.

The narrative was told in both present and past day settings, so as the sister discovered parts of their past in the present day, Riley took us back to see that past playing out too. It made for interesting reading as the dynamic changed and gave us multiple perspectives. In present day I found myself eager to go back to the past to read the truth and when reading the past I was excited to find out how the sister was finding the information. I think this is what kept me hooked through these long books and throughout the whole series, because in the same way that I wanted to switch between past and present, I was also intrigued to find out the next sister’s story.

I don’t really think I can choose a favourite story but I did find there was more repetition within the plot as we progressed through the books. This was a useful reminder and I can imagine if you read them a year apart from each other it would be helpful but as I read them in a short space of time I found them unnecessary and tried to read through those parts quickly. With this in mind you could read each book on its own, as it contains enough backstory for it to be a stand-alone book. A friend actually read book 6 without having read the previous 5 books and loved it!

I know we all thought book 7 would be the last but it turns out we have one more to go – the story of the mysterious Pa Salt, the sisters adopted Father, and if I’m honest I’m looking forward to reading it! His actual name is Atlas, which fits with the theme because according to legend, Atlas was the Father of the Seven Sisters. So I’m captivated and hoping this last book will finally give us the rest of the answers we’ve been holding on to!

Author: Lucinda Riley
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release Date: Nov 2014 – April 2021

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Reviewed by Lotte:

I was excited to read this book. I love Les Misérables and I most definitely love fantasy novels. And I did like the premise! Using the backdrop of Les Mis, the characters and the theme of the uprising was a great idea but it wasn’t quite enough. Sure, you could see the references, but I felt they could have been used so much more. 

However, I enjoyed it as the characters themselves started to emerge and the way Grant portrayed the underground people, the ‘most wretched’ in fantastical ways. It was fun seeing them depicted as guilds of thieves and assassins etc. There were some great story lines including the use of call signals and the various relations between the guilds. Overall, there was plenty of subterfuge and misdirection to keep me hooked and although the time hops were a little disorientating, it all came together in the end.

If you’re looking for a re-telling of Les Mis, this book isn’t for you. However, if you enjoy fantasy, waring guilds and the underground rising for a good cause, with hints of Les Mis thrown in, then you’ll enjoy this book. It’s all about expectation I think. For me, the overall premise and potential plot is enough to make me want to pursue the series and try the next book! I really hope the references and build up in this book come to fruition more as the series plays out.

Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Author: Kester Grant
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Release Date: 4 June 2020

Calypso’s Heart by M.C. Solaris

Reviewed by Lotte:

This book was absolutely fantastic!

Going into it I wasn’t sure if it was for me, and with it being a fairly lengthy read, I was dubious. But oh my word, it was sooooo worth it! I found it completely addictive, the plot line and characters were enthralling and by the time I was finished I felt cheated that I didn’t have the second book to hand to begin reading immediately. Brilliant read, fab author, so happy I stumbled across it!

Thank you to the author and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. Full review pending.

Author: M.C. Solaris
Publisher: MC Solaris LLC
Release Date: 15 May 2020

Aaaand we’re back!

After taking some time out of reviewing due to ill-health and life taking over, I’m finally back and ready to get sharing again! But not to worry, I haven’t been idle this year, I’ve read over 70 books already so I’ll be sure to backtrack and review some of my favourites and some of the more talked about books of 2021. I can’t wait to get started! 

Sleepless by Louise Mumford

Reviewed by Lotte:

Sleepless was a great, pacey novel filled with suspense. It moved along at a nice speed with enough content to keep it interesting and enticing. There was plenty of events happening one after the other, which kept my attention throughout. The twists and turns gave the story more depth although some of them were a little predictable.

This didn’t take away from the enjoyment too much though because the plot line was based on a fairly original but conceivable concept. So many people suffer from insomnia and sleepless episodes, so the thought of being desperate enough to try a sleep trial is completely conceivable. And although the tech involved isn’t something yet created – thank goodness – the premise is sound and has potential to exist. This makes it a great read because it is so relatable and applicable to our lives. It was also refreshing to read something that hasn’t been completely over done in other novels. The ideas and story line were new and intriguing which made me want to read the book in the first place and continue reading chapter after chapter once I’d started.

However, it is lacking in the detail I often look for in a book, like information about the specifics of the tech involved, how does it alter REM sleep, how do the discs work etc. It also lacked reaction. So many things happened and yet our protagonist, Thea, barely reacted to them, or reacted very short term and then the next thing came along. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Thea, but I would have loved her more if I’d have seen and felt more from her. I would have also liked a little more from the ending. Without providing any spoilers we have no idea if and how Thea escaped successfully at the end and the way in which the whole situation was tied up left a lot of ambiguity – I have so many questions! This is the only part of the book that felt less feasible. I’m wondering if this is to leave it open for a future book or merely leaving us with a cliff-hanger. Either way I felt like it ended too quickly.

Overall, this was a good read and something I’d recommend if you want to be entertained without it being too heavy in information (something we all need in our reading pile!).

Thanks so much to NetGalley, HQ Digital and Louise Mumford for the opportunity to read this book.

Author: Louise Mumford
Publisher: HQ Digital
Release Date: 10 December 2020