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Book Reviews by Boo

Meet Me at Pebble Beach

Bella Osborne-Avon Books-Out 28th May 2020

I bloomin’ love a Bella Osborne book and ‘Meet Me at Pebble Beach’ is no exception!

Regan is stuck in a rut. She’s got a mediocre life with a mediocre boyfriend and a job that doesn’t challenge her. We’ve all worked in places where the job isn’t great but the colleagues make it bearable and in this case, Regan has Alex. They while away the work day playing daft pranks on each other for their own amusement.

One day, the prank goes too far, and Regan finds herself at a metaphorical crossroads, where she has to make some huge decisions. She meets Charlie, who helps her in more ways than one. He has his own demons to face but Regan and all her antics keep his mind off of those! There are a few sub-plots which weave together to reveal the whole story, all of which are brilliant. Kindness, compassion & loyalty are definitely the main themes though!

Like all Bella Osborne books-I’ve read them all-the charm is in the characters. Initially I couldn’t warm to Regan because she was too scatty and careless with both people’s feelings and material things too! But Bella is clever! The reader is supposed to feel that way, I think, in order to appreciate the journey that Regan embarks on.

There are some really interesting characters in this book, Kevin, Charlie and Regan herself, but my favourite it Elvis. Bella Osborne is a dog person and so am I. It’s easy to see her love of dogs in the way she describes the Irish Wolfhound breed so fantastically and, for the most part, any part where he is appears instantly makes the reader smile!

‘Meet me at Pebble Beach’ is a great story with a superb plot; it’s very funny and emotional. WARNING: it is sad in places though, so make sure you have a hanky close by!

A perfect holiday read-I loved it! 5⭐️🤩

Pax-Sara Pennypacker-illustrated by Jon Klassen-Harper Collins Children’s Books 2016

I’m really lucky in that, as part of my role of literacy co-ordinator at school, I’ve been able to purchase books to stock the new library. In order to be able to recommend and talk to the children about these books, I’ve had to read them and it’s been brilliant!

This one is about a boy, Peter, who rescues a fox kitten, naming him Pax. He brings him up as a pet. Peter’s mum has recently passed away and the fox inadvertently helps him with his grief by giving him something to focus on. Peter lives with his dad and their relationship is strained to say the least. His dad is dealing with his own grief & feels heavily the burden of bringing up his son.

His dad signs up to fight in the army as a war seems inevitable. He tells Peter that he needs to reintroduce Pax into the wild as he will have to go and live with his grandpa for a while and the fox will be a problem. Peter is devastated and pleads with his father. The fox is more or less domesticated, how will he ever survive alone in the wild?

The chapter where Peter is forced against his will to discard the fox that he loves reduced me to tears. I’ve never owned a fox but I have two dogs whom I adore. The thought of giving them up is heartbreaking; I simply couldn’t do it. However, when my parents divorced, I remember having to have my two Chow-Chow dogs re-homed and reading this brought some uncomfortable memories back: I remember my dad saying ‘They never forget; they’ll always love you’ 💔 I remember thinking ‘This is your fault’. All these years later, I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven them for that, I think that’s why totally empathised with Peter.

Peter reluctantly goes to live with his grandpa and instantly realises he has to go and find his fox. The story continues from two perspectives: that of Peter and that of Pax. Both embarking on a journey.

This is such a wonderful book for children and adults alike. Full of sadness, regret & hope. Heart wrenching at times, the confusion and heartache of both Peter & Pax is so palpable. The character’s thoughts and feelings are so genuinely shared by Sara Pennypacker that is hard to believe they are fictional characters, it’s as if she is telling you a story about someone she knows.

I’m not going to lie, I cried throughout, because I felt so strongly about all the main characters, they were easy to relate to. Their bravery and devotion is so admirable. Pennypacker carefully conveys to her reader about love and loss and coming of age-whether you’re a boy or a fox-and it’s absolutely beautiful. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Perfect Remains-Helen Fields. Avon Books Audiobooks

Thank you to Sanjana Cunniah at Avon books for including me on this audiobook tour.

It’s an absolute thrill to be included on the audio book tour for this novel. I am a huge fan of Helen Fields and have read all of the series so far of these Callenach/Turner thrillers. I am currently half way through her latest offering ‘Perfect Kill’, so I leapt at the chance to review this audio version of her first book in this series.

As I have a long commute, I tend to listen to these books on the way to & from work, although, I’m not going to lie, I stopped listening to this as the nights got darker as it got too spooky to listen to on my own driving down the dark Cornish country lanes!

Synopsis

A body is found smouldering in a remote Highland mountain and once the police get there all that remains are some teeth and a tiny piece of material.

Newly recruited DI Luc Callenach has come via Interpol to work at the police station; this is his first shout in charge, and he is finding it hard to settle in to a new team after relocating from Lyon. Fellow detective Ava Turner is a friendly face and they settle into a good working relationship.

Meanwhile, Dr. Reginald King works at Edinburgh university but has a terrifying side to his personality which is rarely revealed to his students. He’s been off sick from work but his lies about his illness cover a macabre series of events.

There is also another disturbing case that Callenach and Ava Turner are working on which involves new born babies being abandoned in a freezing cold park to die.

Both Detectives get to know each other professionally and their working relationships progress as the story unfolds. But then King targets Ava and there is a race against time for Callenach to find her…

As I said, I’ve read all of these books and they’re fantastic. Gripping and full of suspense with the friendship between the two main characters unfurling as the books continue. You can read any of them as stand alone reads or listen to them from the start via these audiobooks https://www.audiobooks.co.uk/audiobook/perfect-remains/408105

Robin Laing narrates this story so brilliantly. I think that in order to keep the listener engaged, the ‘voice’ of the book needs to be interesting and tell the story well. At school we talk about having a ‘storyteller voice’ when reading to keep the reader hooked and he does this extremely well!

Fields is a fantastic author, it’s really difficult to write crime effectively, I think, and she definitely has the skill to make it horrific but readable if that makes sense?!

I often wonder how authors make these situations up, but her previous career as a criminal lawyer I suppose gives her plenty of macabre ideas to work with. There was plenty of time I cringed when listening to this audio version because her description is so vivid it’s hard not to visualise it in all its grimness!

It was nice to go back to the start of these stories also, and hear it through a different medium: it gave it a different perspective!

It’s not hard for me to give this audiobook a solid 5⭐️ I hope you listen to it and then read the others in the series too!

Boo x

The Author

Helen originally studied law at the University of East Anglia and once qualified she practised criminal and family law for thirteen years. These books are set in Scotland where she feels most at one with the world.

She runs a film production company with her husband and she currently lives in LA with her three children.

Katheryn Howard-The Tainted Queen-Alison Weir. Headline Books 14th May 2020

I’ve just finished this book and, as usual, I’m blown away! Whenever I’ve finished one of these Alison Weir Six Tudor Queens book, I feel utterly bereft for the particular queen it focuses on, however her demise.

I mean, I know what happens, I’ve loved the Tudor period since I was a girl but, as I’ve said before, Weir has this outstanding ability to take you by the hand and lead you through the story as if you were two bystanders.

Clearly she’s a competent historian, obviously the facts are there, but she researches them thoroughly, discounting any sources that are not deemed credible and once she has those ‘bare bones’ she is able to weave this exquisite narrative, embellishing and creating dialogue, sumptuously, colouring in the grey facts.

Her flawless description enables you to inhale the sights and sounds of this point in history, the stench of the city, the wilds of Richmond park or the entertaining atmosphere at King Henry’s court. Her characterisation allows the reader to understand each character and their motives, understanding their personalities and considering, perhaps, from a different point of view, how they lived and the choices they made.

This book is about Katheryn Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, a pawn within a powerful family whose ambitions carried high stakes & avarice and a lust for power.

After the death of her aunt, as a young girl, she is sent to her father’s stepmother, the Dowager Duchess, to be looked after and to learn the skills to ‘make a good marriage, or even a place at court.’ She is mostly given free reign to do as she pleases, in amongst completing her lessons & improving her dancing skills.

After a few years, the older ‘young ladies’ of the household, allow her to become a part of their ‘after hours’ activities and after they feast and drink alcohol, (& smuggle men into their accommodation) as a bystander, the teenage Katheryn learns more about carnal desires & becoming a woman. Despite one or two dalliances with men, Katheryn doesn’t believe that any of them have been serious & so when an opportunity becomes open for Katheryn to work for the current queen, she happily accepts without a second thought.

She enjoys the position because she adores the Queen, Anna; she has also become serious about Thomas Culpepar, who is her cousin and serves Henry closely in his Privy Chamber. However, as it becomes clear that Henry & Anna of Kleve are not producing an heir, her uncle, The Duke of Norfolk, constructs a plan for the king to notice her & and, potentially, become queen.

She was 19, Henry was 49.

I don’t think there are any spoilers here, the plan is successful!

However not all loose ends from her previous life are as secure as she hoped and this, sadly, becomes her undoing.

Like I said, we all know the history, but Alison Weir tells such a fantastic story that I momentarily forgot what had happened; the tension was palpable as I read on. As a female particularly, I really felt the injustice of it all. Women of this time were at the mercy of the men who surrounded them, often with no-one to trust and the weight of the crown on her head too. It seems so alien now that such a terrible punishment could fit the ‘crime’ and so devastating that this young queen was only 21 years old when she met her end.

This penultimate book is a well executed, supremely magnificent story, packed with love, honour, naivety, greed, & desire. A thrilling snapshot of the rise and fall of Henry’s fifth wife. 👑⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️👑

NB: Not the final book jacket.

We Met in December-Rosie Curtis.

Published by Avon Books Audiobook available on audiobooks.com

It’s an absolute pleasure to be included on the audio blog tour for the fantastic ‘We Met in December’ by Rosie Curtis. Thank you to Sanjana at Avon for my invite.

I was fortunate enough to have read this book a couple of weeks ago and I was really excited to be able to review the audiobook version of it. I have a 40 minute commute to school every day so I love to be able to listen to a variety of audiobooks in the car.

The Author…

Rosie (@karamina on Twitter) grew up in the Scottish Highlands before moving to Melborne, and now lives with her family in Southport, UK. Writing as ‘Rachael Lucas’ she is the author of four women’s fiction novels, published by Pan Macmillan, as well as two YA novels, published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

A little about the story…

After breaking up with her boyfriend, Jess has made some pretty big decisions and moved from her home in Bournemouth to London. Her friend, Becky, has inherited her grandparents house and has been able to offer Jess a room with a reduced rent in upmarket Notting Hill. Jumping at the opportunity, Jess is determined to make a fresh start focusing on her new job and giving relationships a wide berth which is helped further by Becky’s house rule: no couples!

On the first night in her new home, just before Christmas, she meets her new housemates: Emma, Rob, and a guy called Alex, who she fancies him immediately. Ooooops-so much for the house rules!

Before Jess moves in properly, she has a pre-arranged skiing holiday with her girlfriends, whilst there she cannot get her mind off the gorgeous Alex, but when she returns, she discovers that Alex has started seeing Emma.

Jess is mortified because she will have to now live in the house with them as a potential couple. Instead of moping in her room, she decides she will get to know London a bit better, which will keep her out of the house.

But fate has a funny way of intervening, and, over the year, despite what her head tells her to do, her heart has other plans…

The audiobook…

Because each chapter of the book is dated throughout the year, from the perspective of either Jess or Alex, The We Met in December audiobook is narrated by Jessica Preddy, who has previously lent her vocal talents to Disney, and has acted in Doctor Who and Outlander and Finlay Robertson who played Mark Harper in series three of Unforgotten. 

Jessica Preddy is a great choice for the character of Jess because I feel she really understands the character, her tone is almost Bridget Jonesesque and that is instantly appealing. Similarly, Finlay Robertson is an excellent choice for Alex, he just sounds like his character should-personable and relatable.

My thoughts

I did really enjoy the story, as I said, I’d already read and loved the book. I liked the character of Jess, moving to London or any big city, starting afresh is something lots of people could relate to. Jess spends her spare time, walking around London and Rosie Curtis is incredibly skilled in bringing this magnificent city-and where I grew up-to life. I loved her description of Little Venice so much, that I found myself hankering for a little walk along the canal. When I went up to London last month from where I currently live in Cornwall, I went out of my way to go there! It didn’t disappoint-it’s a perfect romantic setting.

The parallel stories of regret & love lost between Alex and Jess works really well too and, although the process takes a year, I liked how the relationship simmered along gently. I think the fact that they are just good mates at the start really set the foundations for the rest of the story.

The sub-plot surrounding Jess’ nan is a clever way for the author to really expand on Jess’ characterisation and the bond she has with her grandmother is lovely-it’s sweet how her nan follows her activities on Instagram.

This isn’t a typical Christmas story, but it is engaging and entertaining nonetheless. It says on one of the tag lines on the book:

‘The perfect Christmas rom-com for fans of Josie Silver & Richard Curtis movies.’

And that is exactly how it plays out while reading/listening to it! I can totally see this in movie version too!

Thank you for taking the time to read my review. If you enjoyed it, please give it a like or the page a follow-it’s very much appreciated. Don’t forget to check out all the other great bloggers participating in this blog tour!

Woman in the Water-Katerina Diamond. Published by Avon 23/1/20

As you know, I’m a huge fan of Katerina Diamond’s books, I’ve reviewed her books for The Sun in the past, and I was excited to read this new one because the two main characters-Detectives Adrian Miles & Imogen Grey-have almost become like friends as the books have gone on, and I was excited to see how they were getting on!

There is always the danger that as a series of books continues, the author may struggle to keep momentum, but not in this case, Diamond is such a master story-teller that my heart was in my mouth by the time I got to the end of chapter 1, and I don’t think my blood pressure lowered until I read the very last word.

Miles finds a woman’s body in the water and their only lead is a local construction company owner, whose name crops up more than once in their investigations. However, they don’t seem to be getting anywhere-no-one will talk. As the investigation continues, it affects Miles more than he thought it would. This causes the relationship between both of the officers to become fragmented: Grey thinks that Miles isn’t acting objectively because of his past, and Miles vehemently disagrees, which in turn makes him question everything about their relationship up to this point. Then something happens which changes his perspective for good.

This absolute thriller of a book deals with some uncomfortable issues, I can’t say what, as it is pivotal to the plot, but what I can say is that Katerina Diamond, despite this being fiction, writes with an intense sensitivity which enables the reader to feel extreme sympathy-and in some cases, empathy-with the characters and their situations. What she has done so successfully with this story, is to highlight that mental cruelty is as dangerous as physical harm in relationships, and that either alone or combined, they can have serious consequences. For that, I commend her for her understanding and skilled ability to tackle serious subjects without dumbing them down or doing them a disservice.

Just a fantastic read-her best yet!

5⭐️

Hello…how have you been?

It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to review any books here on my blog, of course I’ve still been reading though and I’m so pleased to be part of a some brilliant blog tours in the next few weeks! I’m a Year 6 teacher as well as an avid reader/blogger &, as such, I’m sent children’s books too. I read this absolute gem by Libby Scott & Rebecca Westcott recently-it is just wonderful! Libby is autistic and has co-written this book based on her own experiences when making the transition to secondary school. My friend, Natasha, who is the book editor at The Sun, kindly published this little review for me!(*whispers* Tania is my real name but everyone I know calls me Boo!)

The Promise-Katerina Diamond.

I always have a pile of books to read. I’m a primary school teacher and during term time I find it difficult to find time to read a book which isn’t for children or about teaching! At the start of the holidays I made a conscious effort to tackle the pile.

Then this came through the letterbox. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews for The Sun or my blog then you know how much I adore this author. After an initial squeal of delight, all other books were cast aside so that I could give it priority.

Let’s start with the cover. Sometimes this is overlooked but Diamond’s are always a great ‘hook’, as I would say in the classroom, a pictorial insight into what lies ahead: a tantalising teaser.

In ‘The Promise’ we are reunited with DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles. They are investigating a serial killer who befriends women online before savagely killing them.

In a desperate attempt to capture the killer, DS Grey is used as bait. As part of a carefully organised operation, she is given a fake online profile and begins to build up a ‘relationship’ leading to video calls to the killer in an attempt to capture them.

Meanwhile, a father and teenage son return to England from the U.S.A. Their relationship is fraught and the son, Connor, feeling like a fish out of water in a strange country, begins to spend time alone in the treehouse in the garden. From his vantage point high amongst the branches, he starts to notice the comings and goings of his neighbours-not everything he observes makes for comfortable viewing.

Parts of this are written with the story switching from the past to the present in order to give another perspective. In some books this doesn’t work-it becomes confusing. Here it works well because it relates clearly to the main story and gives some clarity to the plot while still maintaining an air of mystery. If that makes sense?! She’s hella clever this author!

Sometimes, when an author creates a series, by book four the plots starts to wear a bit thin, the characters hold less appeal and it can seem like they’re writing it just for the sake of it. This is absolutely not the case with ‘The Promise’ if anything, this is the best so far.

With this series, I feel invested in the characters. I’ve been on the journey through the previous books with them (you don’t need to have read the previous books to get a grasp on this one, they work as well as a stand alone text). I have felt the highs & lows that Grey & Miles have experienced. Furthermore, I’m not ashamed to admit, I care about them, this is because of the writer’s exquisite characterisations: I would say this is categorically the solid foundation of this author’s incredible work.

I’ve said it before, Diamond is an expert storyteller. She weaves her ‘slightly disturbing’ story web, sits back and waits. Bit by bit she reels you in, leading you this way and that while you experience a myriad of emotions: fear, sympathy, anger, horror, hope-at one point I was crying my heart out over one of the character’s situations-I think that takes an exceptional skill, to evoke that kind of emotion with the written word. Finally, just when you think you’ve got it worked out she pulls you in another direction.

I’ve sat here and tried to present a balanced review of ‘The Promise’. I’ve tried to think of a negative because, to be fair, this seems like a gushing review but I genuinely can’t. Read it, if you find one let me know but be prepared to have graphs, data and a full on PowerPoint to back up your claim because otherwise I just won’t believe you!

An engaging, terrifying masterpiece, perfectly paced and thrilling to read. 5⭐️

Published by Avon books, September 2018.

My Husband’s Lies-Caroline England.

Avon Books-Published 17th May 2018

A fascinating insight into a close group of friends. On the outside their lives all seem pretty average but behind closed doors they’re all struggling to keep a lid on a myriad of secrets.

Will’s wife, Penny, is secretly suffering with mental illness and this comes to a head at Nick & Lisa’s wedding where she appears to attempt suicide by jumping from a hotel bedroom window. The others are stunned & this seems to induce an outlet for the others to examine themselves more closely.

It’s here that Caroline England takes us by the hand & allows us to learn what everyone else is hiding; all their problems different but all somehow inextricably linked. How does she do that? Well quite brilliantly actually.

The way she writes makes me sympathise (and in some cases empathise) with many of the characters, even though I probably wouldn’t have in the ‘real world’ and that is because her characterisation is meticulously detailed, as is her description, so it is impossible not to feel what these characters are experiencing.

Without giving anything away-it’s bloody hard!-think this is particularly evident in the relationship with Dan & Seb. Initially, I really wanted to dislike both but the way it was written, I thought, was incredibly sensitive. I’ve never come across characters in a book before which focuses on their particular story, maybe that says a lot about the types of book I read, but I honestly thought it was so skilfully done and I felt really emotional reading it.

Often, I read a book where I can’t turn the pages quick enough, where I find myself so tense I’m holding my breath & trying to anticipate what will happen next; occasionally, I read a book where all of the above happens AND when it finishes it affects me in such a way that I need to talk about it with someone. ‘My Husband’s Lies’ is one of those books.

A captivating, emotive read. 5⭐️

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