Book review: The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths


Title: The Postscript Murders

Author: Elly Griffiths

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: 2nd March 2021

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death. 

But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…
And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…
And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…

Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

My review:

The Postscript Murders is the second book in the DS Harbinder Kaur series and follows on with the introduction of a new murder case which DS Kaur is assigned to. This time, an elderly woman is murdered and the circumstances surrounding her murder become more and more suspicious.

I thoroughly enjoyed the return of DS Harbinder Kaur and the confidence she built throughout this book. Her intuition always points her in the right direction and her determination to succeed and solve each case are a commendable aspect of her personality and work as a detective. I also liked the hints of the characters from the first book and this blended in nicely to showcase Harbinder’s character development.

The plot flowed seamlessly from one setting to another and I was invested in both Harbinder’s storyline and the other characters’ trip to Scotland. The pace was steady throughout although it picked up somewhat during the murders. I also really enjoyed how the ending developed with one murder reveal after another.

My main issue with this book was mostly with the unrealistic events surrounding the three characters who were too involved in the investigation despite not forming part of the detective team. Travelling across the country to attempt to solve a murder for someone who they did not know too well before she died seemed too improbable and forced.

Although some parts seemed too farfetched, I enjoyed the cozy mystery feel and would gladly read the next book in the series. This is an overall solid addition to the DS Harbinder Kaur series who is molding into a respectable main character with a lot of great qualities.

The Postscript Murders is now out to buy!

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

Blog tour: Aether Ones by Wendi Coffman-Porter

Title: Aether Ones

Author: Wendi Coffman-Porter

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Brown Books Publishing Group

Publication date: 13th October 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“Leilani Falconi is a top agent for the Imperial Investigative Service, tasked with policing the veil between two realities. Long ago, the Great Sundering tore the universe into two mirrored halves; aether space, which progressed using magical energy or eldrich, and kuldain, which advanced via electromagnetic technology.

But now a series of suspicious deaths stretching back more than a decade has the agent trapped directly between secretive bureaucracies and their peoples. If she can’t solve the mysterious crimes in time, existence as she knows it could erupt into chaos.”

My review:

Aether Ones features a set of intriguing characters and a universe with limitless possibilities. Friends often become foes as fights break out in an attempt to solve unusual crimes. This upbeat pace and constant change in setting at the beginning showed promise for the rest of the book.

The main character, Leilani, is feisty and courageous and the perfect example of how a strong female lead can sometimes be enough even without the addition of minor characters. My main concern throughout the book was the huge mix of other more minor characters and I often found it difficult to understand how characters were related to each other.

The science fiction elements in Aether Ones are at times too ambitious and it felt like the author struggled to fit all the descriptions of the settings into the book. Despite the commendable effort I was sometimes lost and could not understand where one setting was in relation to another. However, the narrative for each setting was original and interesting and I was absorbed by the intensity and imagery of the world building.

Aether Ones has the potential for a sequel, especially with its impressive and original world building. I would have preferred to see less characters and a deeper focus on only a few of the species and worlds. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining read and a book which transported me to a fascinating and vivid universe.

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

Aether Ones is now out to buy!

Book review: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield


Title: Once Upon A River

Author: Diane Setterfield

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Transworld Digital

Publication date: 24th January 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

My review:

“There are stories that may be told aloud, and stories that must be told in whispers, and there are stories that are never told at all.”

When a lost girl appears in a pub by the river, carried by a man who collapses as soon as he enters the building, the community is astounded by the situation but quickly come together to care for the girl. The mystery deepens when several people come forward, certain that the lost girl belongs to their family. This intriguing beginning was quick paced and well developed, already showing a lot of promise only a few chapters into the book.

Once Upon A River may be classed as Historical Fiction but often crosses the line into Fantasy with its folklore and fantastical elements. The author does this gradually by dipping into new realms with these writing mechanisms and slowly building up the setting and backstory with hints of possible magical elements that may explain the situation surrounding the lost girl. I found this to be one of the strongest aspects of the book and was pleased to see how well it was incorporated into the main storyline.

Another important factor which explains the richness of this book is the unique setting and the eloquent descriptions and language which worked incredibly well in bringing in the reader to the present moment. I was often completely lost into the book while I was reading which doesn’t often happen to me so I was pleasantly surprised at just how well the setting was mapped out.

Ultimately it is always the characters which make Historical Fiction books feel special and unique and I was happy to see a lot of character progression with most of the characters in the book. I was originally unable to foresee how their stories would overlap as several characters did not seem relevant to the plot until a long way into the book however each character ended up fitting well into the storyline without having a predictable outcome.

Once Upon A River is a vivid and enchanting tale told through the eyes of ordinary people in an extraordinary setting. It flows just like a river would and unfortunately the pace was lost somewhere towards the middle of the book however it quickly picked up speed and ultimately left me satisfied and even wishing for a sequel. The storytelling was exquisite and has left me eager to explore other books by this author.

“And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bridge once more and return to the world you came from. This river, which is and is not the Thames, must continue flowing without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to?” 

Blog tour: Bad Habits by Flynn Meaney

Title: Bad Habits

Author: Flynn Meaney

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 11th February 2021

My rating: ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“Alex is a rebel from the tip of her purple fauxhawk to the toes of her biker boots. She’s tried everything she can think of to get expelled from her strict Catholic boarding school. Nothing has worked so far – but now, Alex has a new plan.

Tired of the sexism she sees in every corner of St Mary’s, Alex decides to stage the school’s first ever production of The Vagina Monologues. Which is going to be a challenge, as no one else at St Mary’s can even bear to say the word ‘vagina’ out loud . . .”

My review:

Bad Habits is set in a Catholic boarding school with traditional values and features a set of fun and outgoing characters keen to make a difference to the way certain taboo topics such as sexuality and sexual health is perceived. With a fun undertone and witty comebacks, it showed a lot of promise from the start and I was keen to find out how these topics will be developed, especially through the actions of the main character, Alex.

The most noteworthy aspect of Bad Habits for me was the character development. Each character started out with their own perceptions and beliefs on how The Vagina Monologues should be produced and this gradually changed throughout the course of the book to allow for wider appreciation and outside of the box thinking without removing the feminist aspect. Alex’s character stood out the most and her constant perseverance to produce The Vagina Monologues was noteworthy and admirable. However, I especially liked seeing the progress in Mary Kate from shy and reserved to assertive and more outgoing.

The writing in Bad Habits is crisp and entertaining and several of the slapstick encounters at the school made me laugh out loud. There were a few cringe worthy moments but they were overshadowed by the witty dialogue and key focus on the important subject matter. The lively and engaging style of the writing fitted the plot and character development well and kept my interest until the end.

I would highly recommend Bad Habits to readers interested in feminism discussed in an unusual setting and anyone looking for a fun and charming read.

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

Bad Habits is now out to buy!

My reading and blogging goals for 2021 and a reflection of 2020

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Although 2020 was a tough year, books and blogging were a wonderful escape for me and I still managed to focus on some of the goals I had set for myself at the beginning of the year. As in previous years I decided to review some of those goals and also set new ones for this year.

My goals from last year were:

Read 55 books from a variety of genres – achieved

I kept my goals of reading 55 books the same as in 2019 and I once again managed to reach this goal by reading my last book on New Year’s Eve! I also read a wide variety of genres including Fantasy, Young Adult and Science Fiction in addition to my usual favourites Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction and Thrillers.

Discover Spanish Contemporary Literature – sort of achieved

I read three books in Spanish last year which was an improvement from the previous year however I was hoping to read many more books in Spanish. It feels like my TBR list is ever growing and mostly with recommendations for books written in English so I was constantly trying to beat the backlist and read those books in English that were piling up on my list.

Don’t overload myself with ARCs – achieved

My goal from last year was to only request one ARC per month which I followed however unfortunately a lot of the ARCs were published in October, November and December. Even though I read the ARCs throughout the year my reviews were written and published mostly at the end of the year.

Redesign my blog – achieved

I redesigned my blog in May and at first was happy with the final look however I now want to redesign it again! This often happens a few months after I choose a new theme as I start to find flaws and research new ways to enhance the design.

Get more involved in the book blogging community – not achieved

Unfortunately I did not focus on this goal as much as I would have liked. I had originally planned to blog hop at least twice per week however there were moments in 2020 when I would not blog hop for two-three weeks at a time – something I hope to correct this year! However, I was very pleased to become a member of TheWriteReads and connect with so many wonderful book bloggers!

My goals for 2021

Read 60 books

I have decided to increase my target by 5 books this year and hope to read a total of 60 books by the end of the year. I think this is achievable however I would have to read consistently throughout the year.

Read at least one Spanish book per month

I have several Spanish books on my Kindle and a few paperbacks in my bookcase waiting to be read. There are already several Spanish authors whose work I enjoyed so I hope to read some more of their books and discover new Spanish authors too.

Read at least one Non-Fiction book per month

I discovered Non-Fiction, in particular Self Help and Personal Development books, towards the end of 2020. I like how it breaks up my usual pace in reading Fiction books so I hope to continue with this trend this year. There are already several Non-Fiction books on my bookshelf so I think that this goal should hopefully be easy to achieve.

Restart my Studious Saturday posts

Back in 2018 and 2019 I was regularly publishing discussion posts in a segment called Studious Saturday which involved sharing my thoughts on different aspects of reading and authors. This winded down in 2020 however I have many ideas and hope to continue this segment in 2021.

Refine my blog from a design and statistics point of view

I am still not completely satisfied with my blog’s design and believe that this can be improved. I hope to look into this as well as the possibility to change my blog to self-hosted and use this as a way to improve my stats in the community and wider web. Although I blog for pleasure and don’t focus too much on stats, I recognise that there is still a lot to improve and I hope to research this area more during this year.

Question time

What are your reading and blogging goals for 2021? Did you achieve your goals from 2020?

My top books of 2020

studious-saturday

It is finally 2021! It’s been a surreal year on many levels. On a personal level I also struggled several times during the year but books encouraged me to stay positive and escape to many worlds. Similar to my top books of 2018 and top books of 2019 posts, I have split my top books into backlist and those published in 2020. To read my thoughts on each book click on the links below.

Top backlist books

Book CoverBook CoverBook Cover

5. The Muse

4. A Man Called Ove – review to come!

3. Beast

2. After the End

1. The Silent Patient

The year started off strong with The Silent Patient. I was blown away by the ending and was doubtful that any other thriller would impress me more and I was right. The top spot is an easy choice however I struggled to rank After the end, Beast and A Man Called Ove. Although they are different in genre and writing style, there was something to take away from each one. Finally, The Muse took me on a beautiful journey during lockdown when I most needed it and remains one of the books with the most beautiful settings I have read to date.

Top books published in 2020

Book CoverBook CoverBook Cover

5. My Dark Vanessa – review to come!

4. The Water Keeper

3. The Italian Villa

2. What Lies Between Us

1. As the Stars Fall

My top 4 books published in 2020 were all ARCs and I am very grateful for the authors’ and publishers’ kindness to provide such brilliant books to read before their publish date. I loved the character development in As the Stars Fall, the mystery in What Lies Between Us and the setting in The Italian Villa and The Water Keeper. I finished the year reading the seemingly popular My Dark Vanessa which I originally had mixed feelings about but ultimately decided is a book with a very powerful message which deserves its spot in the list.

I am especially pleased to have read such a wide range of genres in 2020. My top books in past years were mostly thrillers with occasional contemporary fiction or historical fiction thrown in however this year I was lucky to enjoy a much greater mix. I still remember how these books made me feel after finishing them, even though for some months have passed. I look forward to reading many more interesting books during 2021 and am curious to how this list will look at the end of this year.

Question time

What are your favourite books of 2020?

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: ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“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!

Blog tour: As the Stars Fall by Steve N Lee

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Title: As the Stars Fall

Author: Steve N Lee

Genre: Fiction

Publication date: 25th August 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★

Summary:

A desperate dog. A scarred girl. A bond nothing can break.

When a young girl suffering with her own tragedy comes across an injured young dog, she can’t resist helping him. Both having braved the worst the world had to throw at them, the pair quickly form an unbreakable bond. They picture their future as an endless stream of adventures filled with love, laughter, and good times.

But life has one last cruel trick to play…

At one moment heart-warming, the next heart-breaking, this is the story of a devoted dog’s roller coaster journey to be the one thing every good dog dreams of being — a best friend. Through a touching tale, As The Stars Fall explores how compassion can make us whole again and friendship can heal even the most broken of hearts.

If you crave a story of love and loss, of compassion and belonging, of friendship that knows no bounds, you need to read As The Stars Fall.

My review:

As the Stars Fall explores the myriad of emotions when dog and human meet and the special bond that is formed through the eyes of Kai, an injured homeless puppy rescued by a kind girl and her dad. Stories like this are always heartfelt and touching however what made this story truly special was witnessing the exciting and strange sounds, smells and feelings from a dog’s perspective. Details such as the scents in Mia and Dad’s house and finding happiness in the small things at home were original and entertaining. I especially enjoyed seeing Kai progressing from a scared and nervous young puppy to a confident and happy companion to Mia and the friendship that transpired was truly unique.

The characters in As the Stars Fall each have their quirks. I particularly adored the way Mia and Dad’s relationship developed through the years and the special role that Kai played in transforming it. Naturally, Mia and Kai became close friends from the start but it was delightful to see how much joy Kai brought to Mia’s life during the difficult period she was experiencing and likewise, Mia rescued Kai from a life threatening situation to only bring him up to be a cheerful and lively dog.

The story line traces many of the main milestones in a dog’s life but also reveals other less significant moments such as times when he is left home alone which allowed the reader to form an even deeper connection. By the end I almost felt as if Kai was my dog and I was completely immersed in the story. This is largely due to the coherent and emphatic writing and natural flow between chapters. The style was fitting without being too formal or unnatural for a dog’s voice.

I adored As the Stars Fall and was completely captivated by Kai and his adventures. I thank the author for providing this book at a very opportune time as I have always wanted a dog and have been considering making it a reality over the past few months and this book offered a different perspective. I highly recommend this book to any dog lovers or readers who love a brilliant story with realistic characters.

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

As the Stars Fall is out to buy now!

About the author:

Apart from animals and writing, Steve’s passion is travel. He’s visited 58 countries and enjoyed some amazing experiences, including cage-diving with great white sharks, sparring with a monk at a Shaolin temple, and watching a turtle lay eggs on a moonlit beach. He’s explored Machu Picchu, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China, yet for all that, he’s a man of simple tastes — give him an egg sandwich and the TV remote control, and he’ll be happy for hours!

He lives in the North of England with his partner, Ania, and two black cats who graciously allow Steve and Ania to stay in their house.

Blog tour: Crossing in Time by D.L. Orton

Title: Crossing in Time

Author: D.L. Orton

Genre: Science Fiction / Romance

Publication date: 21st April 2015

My rating: ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“When offered a one-way trip to the past, Isabel sacrifices everything for a chance to change the rapidly deteriorating present–and see her murdered lover one last time. When she arrives twenty years in the past, buck naked and mortally wounded, she has 24 hours to convince a stunned but enraptured nineteen-year-old to change their future. Definitely easier said than done, as success means losing him to a brainy, smart-mouthed bombshell (her younger self), and that’s a heart breaker, save the world or not.

This offbeat tale is about falling madly in love when one is too cynical for such things, letting go of pessimism when it’s the last life jacket on a sinking ship, and racing against the clock when one doesn’t have the proper footwear. It’s a coming-of-age story for old fogeys, a how-to-make-love guide for diehard celibates, and a laugh-out-loud tragedy with a hopeful twist.”

My review:

Unaware of the mayhem that is about to occur and change the fate of humanity, Isabel runs into her old love, Diego, and the two quickly relive their relationship. The first part of the book focused solely on the feelings and connection between these two characters, briefly pausing on their past mistakes and reflecting on their choices. Their love story didn’t seem too far fetched and I appreciated how they became a stronger couple by recognising their errors and working on their differences.

The time travel element was introduced far into the book after allowing enough time for the reader to connect with the main characters. I was dubious at first that the focus on time travel would be too forced however I was pleasantly surprised at how well developed this side of the story was.

Unfortunately I lost the rhythm at the part where Isabel travels back in time to meet Diego. There were certain moments which felt too uncomfortable as Isabel attempts to prepare Diego for the moment they will “meet” in his reality and almost drills into him how he should act and think around her. I realise that Diego was much younger here and Isabel was pressed for time as she tried to save humanity, but there were many scenes where I thought they were completely different characters.

Crossing in Time explores complex relationships and human emotions and offers the perfect mix of Science Fiction and Romance. I found a few inconsistencies between the time travel versions of the main characters however I still enjoyed the book despite this setback. It filled me with hope and positive energy and posed a series of important questions about what it means to be human.

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

Crossing in Time is out to buy now!

Blog tour: Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

Title: Catalyst

Author: Tracy Richardson

Genre: YA Science Fiction / Fantasy

Publication date: 2nd June 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

Marcie is spending her summer working on the archeological dig that her mother runs: Angel Mounds, a site of an ancient indigenous civilization. Soon after she arrives, she meet some intriguing individuals, and becomes wrapped up in a supernaturally-charged mission to save the planet from the destruction man has brought upon itself.

Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained-an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.
This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with. Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.

My review:

Catalyst follows Marcie, a young girl spending the summer at an archaeological dig. As such, the setting was well constructed and different to what I expected. There was some insight into the archaeological aspect which I found interesting and would have preferred a deeper focus on this even though I realise that it isn’t the main theme of the book.

The author tackles the difficult subject matter of fracking and environmental change with enthusiasm and weaves it into the main story line with ease. However, it sometimes felt too superficial and hurried as the point of view bounced from character to character in an attempt to capture different opinions on this controversial subject.

The magic and fantasy elements were well incorporated and developed and I liked how the characters didn’t immediately warm to their newfound powers. However, I wish that these powers were explored at a greater level as by the end I still had many questions about how they work.

Catalyst brings an element of youthful fun with the romance and setting while also analysing several extensive topics. This has its positive side but it also seemed like there were too many factors to juggle in such a short space and by the end I felt like the author only briefly touched on some of these topics even though the character development was strong. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and the author’s courage to highlight such a thought-provoking message.

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

Catalyst is out to buy now!