Book review: My Name is Anton by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Title: My Name is Anton

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publication date: 1st December 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 


“It’s 1965, and life has taken a turn for eighteen-year-old Anton Addison-Rice. Nearly a year after his brother died in a tragic accident, Anton is still wounded—physically and emotionally. Alone for the holidays, he catches a glimpse of his neighbor Edith across the street one evening and realizes that she’s in danger.

Anton is determined to help Edith leave her abusive marriage. Frightened and fifteen years Anton’s senior, Edith is slow to trust. But when she needs a safe place to stay, she lets down her guard, and over the course of ten days an unlikely friendship grows. As Anton falls hopelessly and selflessly in love, Edith fears both her husband finding her and Anton getting hurt. She must disappear without telling anyone where she’s going—even Anton.

If keeping Edith safe means letting her go, Anton will say goodbye forever. Or so he believes. What would happen, though, if one day their paths should cross again?

My review:

Anton and Edith form an unlikely friendship after Anton accidentally catches Edith being abused by her husband in the apartment across his. Although their situations couldn’t be more different, they immediately form a strong bond as they help each other through a rough period in their lives.

Catherine Ryan Hyde develops characters who are genuine and real making it easy to connect with them on a deeper level. As their friendship evolves into a romance, both innocent and intense, and they support each other through tough times I couldn’t help wanting the best for these characters. The storyline was realistic enough, bringing in an array of difficulties which couples face in their every day lives as Anton and Edith go on their separate ways only to reconnect years later. From a both platonic and romantic perspective their story was beautiful and pure.

A lot of the focus in My Name is Anton is on the characters – from Anton’s dear grandmother and great-uncle to his belittling parents and his sweet dog. Unfortunately the plot suffered as a result and there were several times where I felt that it lacked depth. Towards the end the pace picked up speed but it felt as if the author decided to squeeze most major milestones into the few remaining chapters. At this point I was thoroughly enjoying the book and would have preferred an extended ending and conclusion to fit with the pace and style developed in the previous chapters.

This book is beautifully written and contains the perfect mixture of heartache and happiness  interwoven in even the most bittersweet chapters. It was a joy to read and I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy character driven books with a powerful message.

My Name is Anton is out to buy today!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Blog tour: The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Title: The Cousins

Author: Karen M. McManus

Genre: Young Adult Thriller

Publication date: 3rd December 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★


“Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.”

My review:

The Cousins is set in Mildred Story’s fancy resort on Gull Cove Island. Rumours have roamed on the island about the reasons Mildred disowned her children twenty-five years ago however the reasons are still unknown. When Mildred’s three grandchildren receive a surprising letter inviting them to work at the resort during their summer break, everyone is keen to understand why she made contact after so many years and if there is something sinister behind her actions.

Family drama and tension is at the center of The Cousins and a big chunk of the first half of the book focuses on the three cousins trying to under the relationship between their parents and their grandmother. The messy family dynamic was at times difficult to follow, especially as there were many characters introduced in both timelines however once I learnt the relationship between the characters it became easier to discern.

I often struggle with YA Thrillers as the plot is usually too oversimplified however there was plenty of action in The Cousins. The twists were unexpected and the ending quite unpredictable. The alternating chapters from 1996 to now allowed for progression of both storylines and created an ever increasing tension as more secrets were revealed.

Although there were some moments which made me cringe, The Cousins was overall both engaging and enjoyable. It felt like there were many paths the plot could take but I was ultimately satisfied with the ending and outcome. It was a quick read for me and I can see many readers speeding through it.

Many thanks to Dave at TheWriteReads for providing an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Cousins will be out to buy on 1st December 2020!

Book review: After All I’ve Done by Mina Hardy

Title: After All I’ve Done

Author: Mina Hardy

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Publication date: 10th November 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 


She’s lost her best friend, her husband–and possibly, her mind.

Five months ago, an accident left Diana Sparrow badly injured and missing a few months of her memory. As if that’s not enough, she’s started having recurring nightmares about the night of the accident. Dreams that feel so real, she’s left questioning: maybe she didn’t just slide off the road into a ditch. Maybe, just maybe, she hit something. Or someone.

She can’t turn to her former best friend Val, who’s been sleeping with Diana’s husband Jonathan for months, but she might find some comfort in newcomer Cole Pelham. Yet the closer they become, the more Diana begins to wonder what really happened that night–and how Cole might be connected. Worse, it seems everyone else could be involved, too.

Who was with her that night? What really happened? As her life unravels thread by thread and the dreams become too real to ignore, Diana will have to face the unthinkable–and do the unforgivable.

My review:

After All I’ve Done starts with a lot of promise. Although the memory loss plot has been incorporated many times before in Thrillers, there were extra layers of mystery and doubt right from the first chapter which carried through to the end. The book was always filled with tension and suspicion which led to a very cryptic mystery, forcing the reader to anticipate the characters’ intentions from the little background that is disclosed on the main character, Diana.

Thrillers often feature either too many characters or so few that the plot is watered down however After All I’ve Done stars the right number of characters and a perfect balance between character development and plot. I couldn’t connect with Diana as I felt that she was too untrustworthy and sometimes too dull for a main character. However, the other minor characters such as the mother-in-law and best friend dipped in and out of each chapter with ease and encouraged me to speculate on their motive which I always enjoy.

My main concern with this book at the beginning was the possible predictable twist and ending. I believed that my theory was too farfetched despite the multiple hints throughout the book and especially given how twisted and wrong such an outcome would be but unfortunately my guesses were right. I finished this book feeling somewhat shocked and unsettled however I applaud the author for bravely analysing twisted family relationships and for not being afraid to push boundaries to the extreme. Although I didn’t entirely like the direction it took, the added suspense and mystery surrounding Diana’s accident kept me invested until the end.

After All I’ve Done is out to buy now!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: The Girls in the Snow by Stacy Green

Title: The Girls in the Snow

Author: Stacy Green

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: 19th October 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 


In the remote forests of Stillwater, Minnesota, you can scream for days and no one will hear you. So when the bodies of two fifteen-year-old girls are discovered frozen in the snow, Special Agent Nikki Hunt is sure the killer is local: someone knew where to hide them and thought they’d never be found.

Home for the first time in twenty years, Nikki sees that the whole town had been frantically searching for missing best friends Madison and Kaylee, and when she finds out who Madison’s step-father is, she becomes desperate to lead the case. John was once the person she trusted most in the world, who stood by her when she was just sixteen and her parents were murdered. Who supported her when she identified their killer, Mark Todd.

But when Nikki arrives at the Sheriff’s office, she’s confronted by protesters eager to see Mark freed. With new evidence that could clear his name, Mark has appealed his conviction and his brother Rory begs Nikki to take a look at what they’ve found.

Nikki knows she must focus on the killer at large, but Rory makes her wonder if she put her trust in the right people all those years ago. Are Madison and Kaylee’s deaths connected to her parents’ murders? And can she face up to her past before another life is taken?

My review:

Madison and Kaylee, two fifteen-year-old girls, are found frozen in the forests of Minnesota and Special Agent Nikki Hunt is called to the case. Nikki’s past quickly catches up to her as she recalls the horrific murders of her parents not too far from where the two girls were murdered. What follows is a race against time to catch the killer as Nikki also battles with her own memories of the day her parents died.

New series in the Mystery/Thriller genre often need a feisty and mysterious main character and I was not disappointed to find that Nikki Hunt fits that criteria perfectly. I was intrigued by her history and her connections to Stillwater. The parallel story line involving her parents’ killer, Mark Todd, was an interesting addition and created further tension and intricacy in the already gripping plot involving the two murders.

The bitter and freezing cold backdrop created an even more intense atmosphere and a remarkable setting for a murder. Although the descriptions are simple and straightforward, the setting was superbly illustrated and a nice touch to complement the plot.

With its impressive setting and interwoven story lines, The Girls in the Snow proved to be a strong start to the Nikki Hunt series. I can already see several directions the series may take and would be interested to to see which direction it follows and what future adventures Nikki will face.

The Girls in the Snow is out to buy now!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: The Vow by Debbie Howells

Title: The Vow

Author: Debbie Howells

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Avon

Publication date: 15th October 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 


Two weeks before her wedding, a stranger stops Amy in the street and warns her she’s in danger. Then that night, Matt, her fiancé, doesn’t come home. Desperate, Amy calls the police – but when Matt fails to emerge, she’s forced to call off her wedding day.

Then another man is reported missing, by a woman called Fiona – a man meeting Matt’s description, who was about to leave his fiancée for her.  He was supposed to be moving in with her – but instead, he’s vanished.

Amy refuses to believe Fiona’s lover can be her Matt – but photos prove otherwise, and it soon becomes clear that Matt has been leading a double life. As the police dig deeper, two conflicting, yet equally plausible stories emerge from two women who allegedly have never met.

My review:

Amy is convinced that she has found the love of her life and is excited for her wedding, soon to take place. Her world is turned upside down when her fiancé, Matt, disappears mysteriously with no trace. The investigation ultimately brings the police full circle when they suspect that Amy is involved in Matt’s disappearance. This is a common plot line in thrillers and has been done many times before so I was glad to see some other characters, such as Fiona, introduced to break up the stereotype and create a sense of unease.

One of the strongest features in The Vow is the never ending mystery the author weaves into the story line. Matt is painted as a secretive and possibly manipulative character however it is clear from the start that both Amy and Fiona have a dark side which they are trying to hide. It was impossible to understand who the victim was in these circumstances and I thoroughly enjoyed the ping pong approach of deceit and lies as the plot progressed.

Unfortunately the characters were too mediocre and uninteresting to fully grab my attention. I could empathise with both Amy and Fiona and I found Amy’s daughter, Jess, a nice addition however none of these women had any unique attributes to keep me invested in their development.

Although I wasn’t fully invested in this book, there were some interesting writing techniques, such as changing POVs and an unknown narrator from 1996 which stood out and created a never ending sense of mystery. Full of suspense and tension, The Vow promises to be a hit for thrill seeking readers.

The Vow is out to buy today!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Title: Dark Matter

Author: Blake Crouch

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Pan

Publication date: 11th August 2016

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 


“‘Are you happy in your life?’

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he wakes to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before the man he’s never met smiles down at him and says, ‘Welcome back, my friend.’

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined – one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

My review:

Jason Dessen wakes up after being taken by masked abductors and his life changes drastically as he begins to question who he is and if the home and family he knew really existed. Was he ever just a physics professor or is his research revolutionary, changing the course of human history? Before he knows it he is thrown into a confusing and terrifying race against time as he struggles to battle an unknown enemy. I was immediately captivated by the intense story line and was intrigued to see how the plot would develop.

It is difficult to explore the backbone of Dark Matter without giving too much away as this is the kind of book that readers must go in without any expectations to avoid spoiling too much. Not only is the writing exceptional but the story line included the perfect mix of romance, dystopia  and mystery. I was always kept guessing, eager to find out more about the theory of dark matter and conscious of the villain like characters trying to stand in Jason’s way. There were plenty of surprises along the way as new developments in the plot were introduced and characters’ intentions revealed.

As with Blake Crouch’s other novel, Recursion, there was a lot of confusion as Jason’s journey through time and space progressed and I often had to stop and recall the events in previous chapters as the pace was too fast and the space and time concept too complex. Although I enjoyed the complexity and chaos I would have preferred some more clarity and simple explanations in some of the ideas of parallel universes and I felt that this was lacking at times.

Dark Matter pushes the boundaries of the almost impossible in a brilliant attempt to explore humanity and highlight the existence of other worlds with endless possibilities. I enjoyed the ride despite several moments of confusion and am excited to read any future books by this author. Readers who enjoy deep reflections into humankind and identity will find a lot to love about Dark Matter.

Book review: The Skylark’s Secret by Fiona Valpy

Title: The Skylark’s Secret

Author: Fiona Valpy

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publication date: 29th September 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 


Loch Ewe, 1940. When gamekeeper’s daughter Flora’s remote highland village finds itself the base for the Royal Navy’s Arctic convoys, life in her close-knit community changes forever. In defiance of his disapproving father, the laird’s son falls in love with Flora, and as tensions build in their disrupted home, any chance of their happiness seems doomed.

Decades later, Flora’s daughter, singer Lexie Gordon, is forced to return to the village and to the tiny cottage where she grew up. Having long ago escaped to the bright lights of the West End, London still never truly felt like home. Now back, with a daughter of her own, Lexie learns that her mother—and the hostile-seeming village itself—have long been hiding secrets that make her question everything she thought she knew.

As she pieces together the fragments of her parents’ story, Lexie discovers the courageous, devastating sacrifices made in her name. It’s too late to rekindle her relationship with her mother, but can Lexie find it in her heart to forgive the past, to grieve for all that’s lost, and finally find her place in the world?

My review:

Told in dual timelines and spanning several decades, The Skylark’s Secret explores what it means to be a mother and to find one’s place in the world. Family relationships are tested are friendships are formed with issues such as class and background forming the backbone of this story.

As with other books by this author, setting plays a huge role in shaping the essence of the plot and story line. Scotland, and in particular the village and sea, were an interesting choice and it was fascinating to see the changes between Flora’s story line in the WW2 setting and Lexie’s in the 70s. I skimmed over a lot of the marine language however thoroughly enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the Scottish Highlands.

Historical Fiction told in dual timelines is often hard to follow however the two storylines were beautifully intertwined with a lot of similarities in the two characters’ paths. Unfortunately I couldn’t connect with either of the two main characters in the same way that I usually do with other previous books by this author. Some of the minor characters were quirky and interesting but could not hold my attention and I ultimately left and came back to the book several times.

This is a beautiful story of resilience and compassion with impressive storytelling and a fantastic setting. Despite several slow parts and a set of average characters I finished it with a smile on my face and sense that it will be a pleasurable read for many fans of the genre.

The Skylark’s Secret is out to buy today!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Title: City of Girls

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication date: 4th June 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


It is the summer of 1940. Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York with her suitcase and sewing machine, exiled by her despairing parents. Although her quicksilver talents with a needle and commitment to mastering the perfect hair roll have been deemed insufficient for her to pass into her sophomore year of Vassar, she soon finds gainful employment as the self-appointed seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, her unconventional Aunt Peg’s charmingly disreputable Manhattan revue theatre. There, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming the trash and tinsel only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses.

Exile in New York is no exile at all: here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to be free, to get up to no good, to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop. And when the legendary English actress Edna Watson comes to the Lily to star in the company’s most ambitious show ever, Vivian is entranced by the magic that follows in the wake of this true, true star.

But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new.”

My review:

City of Girls is a riveting story following young Vivian Morris as she moves to New York City. Rebellion, growing up and finding oneself are at the forefront of the first half of the book as Vivian faces several challenges after her move to the big city. The plot develops beautifully as Vivian grows up to be a conflicted woman, both mature and somewhat careless, and she tackles a different set of struggles explored in an equally appealing manner.

The setting in City of Girls is simply exquisite and filled with rich elements and vivid details that made it easy to feel fully immersed. 1940s New York as a backdrop tackles a set of complex issues such as the ongoing war and the responsibilities of young women. I adored the first half of the book and the striking descriptions of the theatre, costumes and nightlife.

As the plot progressed and Vivian matured, she questioned some of the decisions which shaped her life and it was interesting to follow her thought process and see major changes in her personality and her views of the world. Certain important people in her life, such as her parents and her aunt, dipped in and out but the focus was primarily on Vivian and I enjoyed getting to know her as a strong main character.

Another unique aspect of City of Girls was the first person narrative letter format. The entire book is a response to a letter Vivian received from someone revealed from early on without any indication of how the characters are connected. This style of writing was innovative and fitted well with the plot progression and character development.

City of Girls has the perfect blend of beautiful writing and interesting story line. Although some parts felt slow and I lost the connection with the characters, it usually quickly picked up with a revelation or turn in the plot. It was a marvelous read and one I will remember for a long time.

Book review: Beast by Matt Wesolowski

Title: Beast

Author: Matt Wesolowski

Genre: Crime/Horror

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 20th December 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories…

In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged ‘cult’, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong’. However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire’…

Both a compulsive, taut and terrifying thriller, and a bleak and distressing look at modern society’s desperation for attention, Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never return…”

My review:

After reading Changeling last year, I was convinced that The Six Stories series would quickly become one of my favourites and was eager to find out if Beast would live up to its predecessors. I was pleased that it surpassed by expectations in several aspects and managed to devour it in two sittings.

Scott King is back to tell another mysterious tale on his podcast in the same format as in previous books. Elizabeth Barton is brutally murdered in what appears to be a prank gone wrong. I was immediately taken aback by the revelation of the three murderers however this created an even greater need to unravel the mystery surrounding Elizabeth’s murder. He speaks to six witnesses who knew both the victim and murderers which allowed for brilliant character progression and also added an element of mystery. I never felt that there were too many or too few characters and we gradually discovered more through their interviews, including the type of relationship they had with the victim and murderers.

One of the most defining and unique aspects of the Six Stories series is the eerie atmosphere created in each setting. There are always events of supernatural nature hinted to be the cause of the murder and this is blended into the plot exceptionally well, never feeling too unrealistic but rather leaving the reader with an idea to consider as the plot progresses. This happened almost effortlessly in Beast with the vampire legends and I thoroughly enjoyed these supernatural elements. The setting of Ergarth as a small and sleepy town perfectly juxtaposed the horrific events during Elizabeth’s murder and created an ongoing uncertainty and unease until the end.

As the plot progressed and all interviewees had been introduced, I was finding it difficult to understand why the three suspects convicted of the murder performed the horrific act and was unsure of where the story was heading. However, the ending was a perfect representation of the complex nature of human emotions and actions. It left me speculating a set of moral questions as it touched upon relevant current day topics such as the dangers of social media, complex family relationships and the pressures of growing up. A truly magnificent read and brilliant addition to the Six Stories series, Beast quickly became one of my favourite reads of the year and I cannot wait for the next book in this series.

Book review: The Warehouse by Rob Hart

Title: The Warehouse

Author: Rob Hart

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Transworld Digital

Publication date: 13th August 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


Gun violence, climate change and unemployment have ravaged the United States beyond recognition.

Amid the wreckage, an online retail giant named Cloud reigns supreme. Cloud brands itself not just as an online storefront, but as a global saviour. Yet beneath the sunny exterior lurks something far more sinister.

Paxton never thought he’d be working Security for the company that ruined his life, much less that he’d be moving into one of their sprawling live-work facilities. But compared to what’s left outside, perhaps Cloud isn’t so bad. Better still, through his work he meets Zinnia, who fills him with hope for their shared future.

Except that Zinnia is not what she seems. And Paxton, with his all-access security credentials, might just be her meal ticket. As Paxton and Zinnia’s agendas place them on a collision course, they’re about to learn just how far the Cloud will go to make the world a better place.
To beat the system, you have to be inside it. “

My review:

After many riots and protests in the US, Cloud is built as a way to facilitate easy access to everyday items to an entire nation. Life outside Cloud can be cruel to a normal individual with rising unbearable temperatures and thirst for jobs but life inside Cloud provides opportunities and basic needs so the competition for a job there is understandably fierce. The Warehouse contains an eerily familiar dystopian concept, not too far from current day life, which immediately made it feel relatable and chilling. I was already intrigued by the various directions the plot could take.

As the plot progressed, more details are uncovered about the background of Cloud and its creators. The first person POV by the Cloud creator in blog format created an element of mystery surrounding the company and I constantly felt like he could not be trusted. As the story line progressed and small details were revealed I became even more intrigued by the concept behind Cloud and the workings of such a monopoly. The tension never ceased and it always felt like there was something new to learn about Cloud which gave a spooky thriller-like feel to the story.

The characters were unfortunately not to my liking and I could not connect to any of them. Zinia and Paxton were dull and not engaging enough for such a turbulent plot. There was too much unresolved secrecy and deceit surrounding Zinia and I would have appreciated a more devious antagonist. Paxton was too weak and vulnerable for a main character and his presence almost always felt like it was taking away from the plot instead of adding value.

Although the idea behind The Warehouse is creative and alluring, the execution was weak and there were too many loose ends and questions left unanswered. This could merit an extension or even a possible series to compensate for the somewhat rushed and confusing ending. I would be interested to see how Cloud develops with a new set of resilient and strong-willed characters. This dark Sci-Fi novel highlights the injustices of modern day life and brings to light scenarios that society may believe are almost impossible but are entirely realistic in our future. Fans of dystopia may find a lot to speculate on after reading this book.