Review: How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan

How To Keep A Secret
How To Keep A Secret
by Sarah Morgan

This may be a little different from Morgan’s usual stories but it’s every bit as enjoyable and addictive.


THE BLURB

When three generations of women are brought together by crisis, they learn over the course of one hot summer the power of family to support, nourish and surprise

Lauren has the perfect life…if she ignores the fact it’s a fragile house of cards, and that her daughter Mack has just had a teenage personality transplant.

Jenna is desperate to start a family with her husband, but it’s… Just. Not. Happening. Her heart is breaking, but she’s determined to keep her trademark smile on her face.

Nancy knows she hasn’t been the best mother, but how can she ever tell Lauren and Jenna the reason why?

Then life changes in an instant, and Lauren, Mack, Jenna and Nancy are thrown together for a summer on Martha’s Vineyard. Somehow, these very different women must relearn how to be a family. And while unraveling their secrets might be their biggest challege, the rewards could be infinite…

Heartwarming and fresh, Sarah Morgan’s brilliant new novel is a witty and deeply uplifting look at the power of a family of women.


MY REVIEW

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always look forward to a new Sarah Morgan book and while this was a bit of a departure from her usual style I very much enjoyed it.

Rather than being a romance focusing on one couple this is much more about family and tells the story of three generations of women, Nancy, her daughters Lauren and Jenna and Lauren’s daughter Mack. Each of them facing a crisis and in need of the support of their family, if they can find their way back to each other and reveal the secrets that have kept them apart.

While this is a little bit different from Morgan’s typical books it does feel like a natural progression and hangs on to all of the things I love about her writing. Her romances always had a little bit more depth, dealt with difficult issues and had strong friendships and family relationships. This is just a little lighter on the romance and a little heavier on the family relationships, what brings them together and what pulls them apart.

That’s not to say there’s no romance in this story because there most definitely is and as you would expect from a Morgan story it is wonderful. Sweet, funny, emotional and with quite a bit of heat. What’s particularly good about it is the way that the author looks at the different types of relationships and romances. We have Nancy who’s in her 60’s, 5 years a widow and trying to deal with betrayal and move forward in her life, 35 year old Lauren whose seemingly perfect life with her husband and daughter falls apart forcing her to return home as a single parent where she runs into an old flame, first grade teacher Jenna who’s very happily married to her childhood sweetheart but desperately wants children of her own and 16 year old Mack who’s having a hard time at school, doesn’t know who she is and just wants to fit in.

I really loved the way all of the different relationships within this story were portrayed and how realistic both they and the characters felt. I have to admit I had a particular soft spot for Lauren but by the end of the novel I think I came to love them all even Nancy who initially seemed very self centered and cold.

It was good to have chapters from the point of view of each of the women in the story. They each had very distinctive voices and you could tell even without the chapter headings whose head you were in. It made them very real and I have to say the chapters from Mack’s perspective in particular were very well done. I can’t really remember what it was like to be a teenager but I think the author captured it so well.

The story is a little bit on the predictable side, the secrets are pretty easy to guess, but I still enjoyed reading it. In fact as always I found it an incredibly addictive read and ended up finishing the whole thing in a day, although this is normal for me with Morgan’s books. They’re just too likable and easy to read.

Overall therefore while this is a little different from Morgan’s usual style I very much enjoyed it and I will be hoping for more of the same.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.

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Review: The Last Romeo by Justin Myers

The Last Romeo by Justin MyersThe Last Romeo by Justin Myers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderful writing and a scarily accurate portrayal of the dating scene make this a very readable and addictive story. It left me with very mixed feelings but that can only be a good thing can’t it?


THE BLURB

James is 34 and fed up. His six-year relationship with Adam has imploded, he hates his job making up celebrity gossip, and his best friend Bella has just announced she’s moving to Russia.

Adrift and single in loved-up London, James needs to break out of his lonely, drunken comfort zone. Encouraged by Bella, he throws himself headlong into online dating, blogging each encounter anonymously as the mysterious Romeo.

After meeting a succession of hot/weird/gross men, James has fans and the validation he’s always craved. But when his wild night with a closeted Olympian goes viral and sends his Twitter-fame through the roof, James realises maybe, in the search for happy-ever-after, some things are better left un-shared. Seriously, wherefore art thou Romeo . . .


MY REVIEW

When I finished this, very early one Saturday morning, I felt so mixed up about it. Did I enjoy it? I’m honestly not sure. I think it was so completely different from what I was expecting it confused me.

There is certainly a lot to really like about it. The writing is excellent and there’s a lot more depth and realness to it than I was expecting. It’s wonderful to finally come across a book with a gay main character who’s looking for love that gives such an accurate portrayal of the dating scene.

As a main character, James (or Jim) is very genuine. He’s far from perfect, he’s insecure, doesn’t seem to really like or value himself but he is someone I’d want as a friend and there was so much I could relate to. I didn’t particularly agree with everything he did (a lot frustrated or worried me) but I could certainly understand it. Similarly his experience of dating, while uncomfortable and awkward a lot of the time was very believable and true to life.

I really loved the other characters and the way the relationships between them were portrayed. I think the author really captured modern friendships and how your circle of friends can become in fact your family. I also loved the commentary on celebrity and social media and found it so relevant. Myers has a very successful blog (I hadn’t read it before picking up the book but have now and it’s brilliant) and works as a freelance writer and columnist for several major publications so his knowledge and experiences really shine through.

Unfortunately however I think it was the realness and the depth that stopped me from loving this. For some reason I was expecting a bit of a light and fluffy romance and the fact that it was so completely not this threw me off. It has some funny moments but at times it goes a little bit dark making it more uncomfortable rather than enjoyable to read.

Overall, I’m not sure my feelings on this will ever be clear. The more I think about it the more I think yes that bit was brilliant or I’m really not sure I liked that bit. It definitely challenged me so I think I’ll just suggest that you read this for yourself and make your own mind up.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
They Both Die at the End
by Adam Silvera

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unsurprisingly this was an emotional read but what impressed me the most was the incredible detail that went into the world building. I loved how this made me think and how when I finished I wanted to rush out and live my life. Absolutely brilliant.


THE BLURB

When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.

Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.

Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love…

Another beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming book from the brilliant Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not and History Is All You Left Me.


MY REVIEW

Do you know what, I’m not sure that title was wise. This is an absolutely brilliant book but honestly I spent pretty much the whole time afraid to get too attached to Mateo or Rufus just in case they did in fact both die at the end. I kept hoping it wouldn’t happen, that they would be the exception, there was a mix up with the names and they received the call in error or that just by finding each other they’d save each other but just in case I kept myself that little bit detached. Consequently I think it lost that emotional punch I was expecting. It is still packed full of feels and some very touching moments but I was ready for out and out devastation.

It is an incredibly well written story and I really loved both Mateo and Rufus. Both are a little bit lost in the beginning but it was so wonderful to watch them develop over the course of the story. Mateo was probably the more relatable of the two, anxious and afraid to live (or leave his bedroom) in case he does something that results in the dreaded death cast call informing him he has less than 24 hours to live, I could see elements of myself in him. Wanting to go on adventures and be brave but just too scared and needing that little push. He was also just the nicest and sweetest guy. I really wanted him getting the call to be a mistake. Rufus took a little longer to warm up to, he’s beating someone up at the story, but you can’t help but grow to love him when he helps Mateo so much and starts becoming more like him.

The relationship between them is just so sweet and funny and wow. They begin the day as complete strangers and opposites but somehow they compliment and bring out the best in each other. Rufus encourages Mateo to be brave and break out and Mateo makes Rufus kinder and better…. oh god I’m gonna cry.

Anyway, moving swiftly on, I just loved their story but what made this even better was the little glimpses into the lives of others who cross their paths. The chapters more or less alternate between Mateo and Rufus’s povs but there are these other chapters thrown in from the pov of their friends, the people who make the calls to inform people they’re going to die that day, and others who have either received their call or just bump into Rufus or Mateo in some way. These gave such an insight into the world and raised so many questions I found it fascinating.

Actually the whole world just fascinated me. What would it be like to live in a world where everyone finds out between midnight and 3am whether they’re going to die that day? What would you do if you found out it was your day to die? Would you deny it, try to fight it? Would you accept it and try to make your last hours count? Take control and decide for yourself how you’re going to die? Or what if you don’t get the call? Does that mean you can’t die no matter what you do that day? Would you take more risks? It really makes you wonder about fate, self fulfilling prophecies and whether you have any control over your destiny.

The world the author creates and the way he presents all of these issues and questions was just brilliant. Such clever writing to create a world that’s so similar but so different in terms of attitudes to life and death. I think this is a story I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

Overall an absolutely brilliant but emotional read.

Review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

Hold Back The Stars by Katie Khan
Hold Back The Stars
by Katie Khan

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

More of a love story than a space adventure, this story may not be for everyone but I have to praise it for being so completely unique and yet so completely real.


THE BLURB

Ninety minutes.

A few years from now, not too far in the future, two people meet.

It is a classic story of boy meets girl.

Except that it’s not.

When we find them, they have an hour and a half left.

Unless they can save themselves, they won’t survive.

The clock is ticking.


MY REVIEW

It seems to have taken me forever to come up with a review for this as my thoughts on it have been and, a few weeks later, remain rather muddled.

Firstly I want to say that I absolutely loved it for its originality. In fact, I was so drawn to the concept behind it that I somehow ended up both buying a copy and requesting it from NetGalley (I forgot I already owned it). There was something about the idea of a man and woman adrift in space with only 90 minutes of air left and almost no hope of salvation that really appealed to me. Space has always seemed so big and terrifying to me and the thought of being adrift…. wow.

However, if you’re expecting a tense and nail biting fight for survival similar to Gravity or The Martian I fear you will be disappointed. While there is some attempt to save themselves the majority of the story is spent with Max and Carys reflecting back on their relationship. Interspersed with the current time, and their rapidly diminishing air supply, we get flashbacks to their first meeting and all of the ups and downs of their romance, leading up to how they ended up in their current predicament.

The story of their time together does make for a fascinating story and combining that with some truly incredible world building really did engage me but given how little air they had remaining I couldn’t help but think, shouldn’t you be trying harder and focusing more on that?

I felt there should have been more tension. The portrayal of their relationship is wonderfully real and the story is truly heartbreaking at times but I found it difficult to reconcile this leisurely stroll through their past with the thought of their rapidly approaching deaths.

Added to this I have to admit that I didn’t particularly take to either Max or Carys. The characters are believable and well rounded but Carys was too insecure and needy and Max too committed to his beliefs and unwilling to compromise. They do balance each other out in many ways but I never really got behind them as a couple and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it (although maybe I’m just too much of a cynic).

The biggest highlight of this story for me was probably the world the author created. Set in the future it’s so incredibly well thought out and believable. There’s no info dumping but rather all of the details around the state of the world, the political situation and belief systems are revealed gradually and in a very natural way. I liked this idea that their are no real nationalities or religion but rather everyone is encouraged to be an individual, although it did seem a tad lonely and a selfish way of existing.

The pacing of the story is a little bit on the slow side but the writing does make it very readable and it was yet another I found difficult to put down. The ending when it comes is like a lot of the book, a little confusing, a lot unique but ultimately felt right.

Overall I have to say I loved how unusual this book was and also how real it was. I just wish there had been a little more tension and passion to it. If you’re looking for a sci fi space type story I don’t think this will necessarily be for you but if you like unique love stories this may be perfect. I know I will definitely be looking out for more from this author.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Mini Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

 

Cherish Hard (Hard Play, #1)

Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet, funny and very steamy, I found it difficult to resist reading at every opportunity.


THE BLURB

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh kicks off her new Hard Play contemporary romance series with a sizzling story that’ll leave you smiling…

Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.


MY REVIEW

This is only my second Nalina Singh book and the first contemporary romance from her I’ve had a chance to read but it won’t be the last.

Main characters Sailor and Isa are extremely likeable and from pretty much the first page the chemistry between them had steam rising from my kindle. Both are troubled by events from their childhood, Isa pretty much ignored by her family who thought work was more important and Sailor by a father who walked out on the family leaving them destitute, and they’re looking for very different things in life. When they meet however they just can’t resist getting involved despite expecting it to end in disaster.

I had a lot of love for Isa and the way she fought for her family but honestly Sailor has to be the sweetest, kindest and sexiest man alive. The secondary characters were also brilliantly done and I loved how the author worked in a lot of diversity as well as issues such as arranged marriage, bullying and neglect.

The pacing is spot on and I absolutely loved a lot of the dialogue. Sailor and Isa definitely have a lot of chemistry and the sparks certainly fly between them at every interaction but there’s a lot of affection and humor between all of the characters.

I only really had a couple of small niggles the first of which was Isa’ s inner alter ego Devil Isa. That was wandering a little too close to the Fifty Shades inner goddess for me (although I promise it’s nowhere near as bad). I also would’ve liked a bit more struggle, a few more obstacles on the path to “Twue Love” but maybe I’m just mean.

Overall though I did love this book. It’s funny, sweet and has just enough chemistry to keep you going back for more.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has not influenced my review.

Review: Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan

Spandex and the City

Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars for being so hilariously funny, brilliant and a little bit mad.


THE BLURB

LOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET

Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?


MY REVIEW

This book is out of this world…

Or should that be “involved in some kind of industrial accident that gave it super powers”??

I really, really loved this book. I am a big fan of Jenny Colgan but I’m an even bigger fan of Jenny T Colgan. This book has the usual mix of fun, humour and romance but with the added bonus of Ultimate Man. Yep we’re in super hero territory.

Have you ever wished you could be involved with a super hero or have you, like main character Holly, realized that actually being romantically linked to a man who wears a purple costume and is on a mission to use his superpowers to save the world is a little bit rubbish. Saving the world is admittedly more important than going on a date but being ditched is no fun, the costume is kinda naff (does everything really need to be purple) and let’s face it you’re going to end up as the damsel in distress. On the other hand though, if you’re single in the city with not many options you could probably do worse.

I absolutely loved how Colgan poked fun at the whole superhero world (in the most affectionate of ways) and how completely unimpressed Holly was by Ultimate Man. It had me giggling away on more than one occasion but is oh so true. Holly was a brilliant character and very relatable. She’s a little bit ditzy and seems to spend an awful lot of time embarrassing herself but she knows what she wants and despite having no powers she’s willing to get stuck in.

The romance is pretty sweet and funny as you would expect but there are also a few unexpected complications and bit of a love triangle which makes it a little bit unpredictable. It’s by no means certain how it’s all going to end. The whole superhero vs his nemesis storyline is fun and I loved how Colgan managed to sneak in a little dig at our current obsession with technology. If I had one minor niggle (and it is very minor) it’s that I thought some of the action scenes could use some work. It may just be me but I found it a little confusing trying to figure out what was going on.

Overall though I absolutely loved it. It may not be for you if you’re looking for Colgan’s usual cosy food related romances but if you don’t mind something a little bit different and a lot funny I’d definitely recommend.

I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. This has in no way influenced my review and if it helps I also bought a physical copy.

ARC Review: 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You by Vicki Grant

IMG_20171006_150912_121.jpg

 

The Blurb

Two random strangers. Thirty-six questions to make them fall in love.

Hildy and Paul each have their own reasons for taking part in the psychology study (in Paul’s case it is the $40, in Hildy’s the reasons are significantly more complex). The study poses the simple question: Can love be engineered between two random strangers?

Hildy and Paul must ask each other 36 questions, ranging from “What is your most terrible memory?” to “When did you last sing to yourself?” By the time Hildy and Paul have made it to the end of the questionnaire, they’ve laughed and cried and lied and thrown things and run away and come back again. They’ve also each discovered the painful secret the other was trying so hard to hide. But have they fallen in love?


My Review

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

As soon as Hildy and Paul started asking each other the 36 questions as part of a psychology study I was 100% hooked. The style of the book is probably not for everyone given that probably 70-80% is pure dialogue (or instant messaging) but it really just worked for me.

Good dialogue is probably what I enjoy most in a book so I don’t mind if there are no descriptions, no musings on innermost thoughts or even much in the way of action. I get so much more out of a couple of people having a chat and in this book it’s done absolutely brilliantly.

I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much, the banter between the two of them was just so funny but very believable. There are a few darker moments but even they are almost instantly flipped to light.

Hildy and Paul are perhaps a little cliched but honestly, in what romance are there not cliches and I feel like the fact they turned out to be different to what they initially appeared was kind of the point.

There were only really a couple of things that niggled me about this book. Firstly, their ages. I didn’t realize this was YA and spent forever trying to figure out how old they were (it turns out Hildy is 18). There were bits that just seemed a bit silly for those ages, Hildy complaining she’s never going to find love for example (she’s 18). Personally I think it may have worked better if they were a little older (college rather than school).

I also wasn’t so keen on the chapters which were in regular prose. I kind of found myself skimming through them to get to the next question and honestly Hildy needs some new friends as Xiu and Max were horrible.

Overall though this was a brilliant read and one I’d definitely recommend. Sweet, hilariously funny and completely addictive. Loved it. And, if you’re curious about what I mean by weird format, here’s a couple of sneaky peeks (yes, there are drawings too).

I won a copy of this book in a Readers First Giveaway. This has in no way influenced my review.


Where to Find It

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You is available from the 19th October