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

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

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

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

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

Reviewed by Lotte:

Ok so I should probably say I’m a complete Jodi Picoult fan – like, ride or die fan. I’m pretty sure I’d love anything she writes because up until now I haven’t been disappointed with a single one of her books (and I’ve read them all!). This one certainly didn’t let me down either – it was epic!

Within 16% Jodi had managed to intertwine the physics theory of quantum mechanics, the Ancient Egyptian Book of Two Ways, a love story and a moral dilemma. If that’s not mastery I don’t know what is!

So, let’s rewind slightly. The book opens with Dawn’s near-death experience and the thoughts she had in what she believed would be her last moments. She didn’t see the man she had married though, instead she saw the road she hadn’t taken. This is where the book splits into the Water Path (Boston) and the Land Path (Egypt). I don’t want to give any spoilers away so let’s just say we follow these two timelines as Dawn works through whether she should carry on in the life she was living or pick up the road not taken and finish the work she left behind in Egypt.

I found Dawn a pretty interesting character. For a start she was a Death Doula, not something I’d heard of before, and her history of academia, her mother and her current life were well-developed. This also included her flaws; we saw how human and real she was which made her really relatable. None of us are sunshine, roses and straight forward thoughts so it was refreshing to read.

I always enjoy the structures of Jodi’s books and this one was the same. Having the two paths playing out in parallel until later in the book when they converged was a super clever way of following the theory of multiverses existing. It was also a neat way of writing from different perspectives (although it was still Dawn throughout) which Jodi is well-known for. This structure really helped us understand the real dilemma that Dawn was facing because both ‘timelines’ could be completely feasible. How do you decide which one to choose? 

The other thing I really enjoyed was the level of detail in the plot. There is a lot of Egyptian terminology and names, lots of which I had to google (only because I wanted to attempt the correct pronunciation not because it was necessary, Jodi explains it all really well for us). The book is pitched in a way that combines these academic lives with the complexities of emotions and the different connections we have the people around us. All these different facets made it compelling to read and kept me engaged throughout.

This was yet another cracking novel from Jodi and a well-earned NYT #1 bestseller! But are you Team Wyatt or Team Brian?!

Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 20 October 2020

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal (Lady Astronaut #3)

Reviewed by Lotte:

This book takes place at the same time as the second book in this series, written from the perspective of Astronaut Nicole Wargin, whilst Elma is off on her Mars mission. I was worried I’d miss Elma, our Lady Astronaut, but I absolutely loved Nicole and loved this approach.

Nicole was such a great character to add to this saga. She was relatable, fallible and just all round really interesting and well-developed. I loved that she didn’t have to be perfect, that she was real and that it didn’t limit her either. She was still strong, independent, capable and reliable. That for me is true strength and the type of thing I want to read! It added so much depth to the plot too.

As for the story itself, all I can say is wow! I keep thinking I can’t enjoy this universe anymore and then Kowal just goes ahead and takes it to the next level. It was a genius idea to shift the focus and write this as a parallel to the previous story. It helped develop the world more, building on the details we already had, making the universe more substantial, and ultimately more intriguing and enjoyable, without it being laborious.

Add in all the mystery, sabotage, drama and ultimately the fight for survival, along with all the sci-fi elements and the complexities of space, and you find yourself with an epic read with so many facets. I was engaged every single moment and often found myself mulling over the pieces of the puzzle between reading sessions!

I’d just like to say how much I appreciated Kowal’s sensitivity in writing the parts that related to eating disorders and recovery. Including it was inspiring without ever being triggering or encouraging. This should be the gold standard for writing!

Thank you Mary Robinette Kowal, Tor and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this ARC.

Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Rebellion, Solaris
Release Date: 26 November 2020

The Magpie Society: One for Sorrow by Zoe Sugg & Amy McCulloch

Reviewed by Lotte:

This story is set at the boarding school Illumen Hall, immediately after one of their students was found dead. Her death was ruled as ‘misadventure’ with the police believing it was suicide. But was it? We get to see the story unfold from the perspective of Ivy – one of Illumen Hall’s top students, a prefect and all-round perfectionist, and Audrey – an American that recently had to move to England, attempting to leave her past behind. But it’s not always that straight forward.

I loved that the two authors, Sugg and McCulloch, each wrote from one of the protagonist’s perspective. I didn’t know this until after I’d read the book, but honestly you couldn’t tell there was a switch, their writing was perfectly in sync. I think the very subtle differences probably just enhanced the character definitions.

For me this was a modern day ‘Enid Blyton – The Naughtiest Girl in School’ (if you’re old enough to remember this trilogy!). The story held everything you could want from a boarding school novel: inter-pupil dramas, difficult backstories, a secret society, and even an unsolved mystery. The use of a mystery podcast presenter was a stroke of brilliance and very current. It added to the suspense and generally kept us pondering…is this more than it seems? And if so, who did it???

With a couple of twists and turns along the way, coupled with an unlikely alliance, we were kept guessing right up to the end. I found myself not wanting to put it down, helped by the shorter chapters, switching perspectives and intermittent podcasts. Of course, we also had that ending! I mean really?! Bring on 2021 when I can read the next instalment!

Thanks to the authors, publisher and Netgalley for granting my wish to read this ARC. Apologies, my review is a few days late due to ill-health.

Author: Zoe Sugg & Amy McCulloch
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release Date: 29 October 2020

Contacts by Mark Watson

Reviewed by Lotte:

Mark Watson has written a book so intense, dark and scarily relevant in today’s society. It is a study in mental ill-health, social media and what it’s like to be ‘contacts’ in a person’s life.

He tackles the subject of suicide with sensitivity yet still being honest enough to be painfully aware of the thought processes both as the person intending to carry out the suicide and as one of the many receiving that message. As someone that has walked the road – on both sides of the situation – I found parts comfortingly familiar and others intriguing and insightful, reading things I hadn’t considered before.

I even felt that Mark Watson narrating the audio version was a great choice too. There’s something about his voice which is halting and nervous yet genuine and raw that pitches the perfect tone for the inner monologue of Brian and that book overall.

If it were appropriate, because I’m not sure it is, I would say this book is beautiful. However, it did leave me wanting more, almost wanting to sit down over a cup of coffee or tea with Mark and just discuss it all further. The content inspired an intrigue into the complexities surrounding suicide and the world we live in, who we are connected with and how. It has left me with many things to consider.

Thanks NetGalley, Harper Collins UK and Mark Watson for the opportunity to read this ARC.

Author: Mark Watson
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Release Date: 29 October 2020