Sisters of Berlin by Juliet Conlin

Published by Black & White Publishing (March 2020)


Synopsis

BERLIN 2019.

A young writer is brutally attacked in her home and left for dead. For her sister Nina Bergmann, it’s the beginning of a nightmare that will threaten to destroy her marriage, her job and – ultimately – her life. As she sets out to unravel the truth about what really happened to her sister, Nina comes face-to-face with inner demons she believed long since banished and discovers that her sister’s past and that of the once-divided city are intertwined in unimaginable ways. The Wall may be gone, but its legacy still haunts Berlin . . .

Review

I was gifted this book by LoveBooksTours in exchange for an honest review.

Today is my stop on the Book Tour for Sisters of Berlin by Juliet Conlin.

This book was a really easy read for me, the characters were relatable and the narrative flowed smoothly from one chapter to the next. I devoured this novel and it gave me satisfaction from beginning to end. It was set in Berlin too which is one of my favourite places to visit, it is such a beautiful city to explore and it is so full of history.

I thought I was going in to a murder mystery in this book but what I got was a deep evaluation of a woman who had lost her sister brutally and how she needed to find comfort and move through her grief. The narrative was reflective on her situation, I never once thought anything contained in the book was forced and to be honest, apart from one tiny thing, I didn’t think any of the novel was predictable which is a real win!

I really connected with Nina, she is a strong and capable female character in a horrible situation. The relationships she has as a mother, wife and daughter are all shown in equal measure within the novel and how she balances these after her sister is murdered is explored and frankly, admirable in its conclusion.

Considering its context, I did find this an easy and enjoyable read and would recommend. Although it draws from history in some of its plot points, it isn’t heavily referenced so for me it didn’t detract from the story.

The Twin by Natasha Preston

IMG_20200302_150349_668.jpgPublished March 2020 by Delacorte Press


Synopsis

After their parents divorced, 10-year-old twins Ivy and Iris were split up–Ivy lived with Dad, Iris with Mom. Now, after a tragic accident takes their mom’s life, the twins are reunited and Iris moves in with Ivy and their dad. Devastated over Mom’s death, Iris spends the first few weeks in almost total silence–the only person she will speak to is Ivy. Iris feels her life is over and she doesn’t know what to do. Ivy promises her twin that she can share her life now. After all, they’re sisters. Twins.
It’s a promise that Iris takes seriously. And before long, Ivy’s friends, her life at school, and her boyfriend, Tyler, fall under Iris’s spell. Slowly, Ivy realizes she’s being pushed out of her own life. But she’s just being paranoid, right? And Mom’s accident was . . . just an accident. Right? It’s not like she–or Dad–or Tyler–are in any danger. . . .

Review

I was sent this book by the publisher and it was my first foray into Natasha Preston’s writing.

I really didn’t enjoy this book. I’ve given it a two star rating purely because I finished it and that was only because it wasn’t a difficult read and I wanted to know how it all finished (and how it could be finished). I personally didn’t think the ending was worth it, I didn’t feel it resolved anything (was that the point? – I genuinely don’t know).

It is a shame because I usually lap up the good twin/ bad twin trope but alas, this just didn’t work for me and I knew it from the first few chapters. The main character twin, Ivy (the one you are supposed to care about), is so self-centred and annoying, the narrative is from her point of view but she constantly jumps to weird accusations about her twin, Iris. Every chapter pretty much ends with her asking herself ‘why does my twin want my life?’ and half the time Iris hadn’t even done anything … the actions just didn’t match the accusation a lot of the time causing me to find the narrative disjointed and unenjoyable.

I think if the story had been a little more imaginative and unique I would have felt differently. I was really excited to read this one but unfortunately I just don’t think it worked!

Goodreads Rating: 2 / 5

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

Published 2020 by Harper Collins (UK – Right Cover)

Synopsis

Laurie and Jamie have the perfect office romance

(They set the rules via email)

Everyone can see they’re head over heels

(They staged the photos)

This must be true love

(They’re faking it)

When Laurie is dumped by her partner of eighteen years, she’s blindsided. Not only does she feel humiliated, they still have to work together.

So when she gets stuck in the lift with handsome colleague Jamie, they hatch a plan to stage the perfect romance. Revenge will be sweet…

Review

I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review and I loved it. The perfect recipe for Lockdown Distraction, it mixed nicely the fake relationship trope with relatable characters, a pinch of drama and an amazing setting (Manchester FYI). I really enjoyed imagining the characters walking down Deansgate and St Peter’s Square. They even ventured over to Lincoln which is really close to where I grew up.

This is the first book I’ve read by Mhairi McFarlane and I’m so glad I did, I’m going to be visiting all of her previous novels now! If I Never Met You was an easy and enjoyable read without being too simple. Not that it was complex either – it was just right! It had just the right amount of drama to keep me intrigued and emotionally involved and the characters’ situations were well designed and pretty true-to-life in my opinion.

As a 30 something year old living in Manchester myself it was so easy to follow the narrative and feel that connection with Laurie. While her situation made my jaw drop to begin with she had an excellent and dry sense of humour as well as relatable relationships with her friends, colleagues and family. Jamie was adorable, as a bit of a rogue, you know where the story is going but everything unravelled and the ‘relationship’ developed at a natural speed and not at all rushed.

If I Never Met You is a wonderful story and one I think I may revisit again in the future and is currently only 99p on Amazon!  for Kindle 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 4 / 5

 

 

 

Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno

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Published April 2020 by MacMillan Childrens

Synopsis

Don’t be easy. Don’t give it up. Don’t be a prude. Don’t be cold. Don’t put him in the friendzone. Don’t act desperate. Don’t let things go too far. Don’t give him the wrong idea. Don’t blame him for trying. Don’t walk alone at night. But calm down! Don’t worry so much. Smile!

Marin is a smart, driven, popular girl – she’s headed for Brown when she graduates and has a brilliant career as a journalist ahead of her. Especially in the eyes of English teacher Mr Beckett. He spends a lot of time around Marin, and she thinks it’s harmless . . . until he kisses her.

No one believes Marin when she tells them what happened, so she does the only thing she can: she writes an article called ‘Rules for Being a Girl’ for the school paper to point out the misogyny and sexism that girls face every day. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and rewrite her own rules.

Review

I was sent this novel to review from Netgalley.

As an adult, this book didn’t make the best impression on me I’m afraid. Written by two authors (although I have no knowledge of Katie Cotugno) and two female authors at that, I expected the subject matter to be handled with a little more tact than it was. I know that I am not this book’s target audience but from a Contemporary Young Adult novel I was really disappointed.

Marin as a main character is perfect, she is what you expect – kind, smart and independent as a reader I was firmly on her side of the battle from the start. The teacher involved, Bex (don’t even get me started) is awful and cringey from the get go and Marin’s best friend is pretty horrible and so is her boyfriend. I’m not quite sure what Marin did to warrant having such nasty people in her life! The parents of a few kids are introduced too however and they came across pretty well, being supportive and diverse.

Despite this, I found the narrative to be too simple. The book sits at around 300 pages and took me between 2.5 – 3 hours to read. For such a heavy subject matter, I would have wanted a bit more delving in to the relationships of the novel to get me more involved and emotionally connected. I feel like it skims the surface just to pass on its main message but doesn’t really hit the mark. On every page I was struggling not to roll my eyes at some of the obvious plot points that are supposed to be hints but instead end up being glaringly obvious but as I said initially, I read this book as an adult, not the young adult it was intended for. I would like to think, in a younger mind that girls don’t need this message spoon-feeding to them but I could be wrong.

All the way through this novel I thought my rating would be a 2 but I raised it to 3 partly because I’m not the target audience and partly because, despite its flaws, it was a quick read for me and it tied itself up quite nicely in the end.

Goodreads Rating – 3 / 5

 

No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter

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Published August 2019 by Macmillan

Synopsis

‘It’s not my body that’s holding me back. I think it’s more of a problem that people tell me my body should hold me back.’

Meet Emily Daly, a stylish, cute, intelligent and hilarious seventeen-year-old about to start her last year at school. Emily is also fat. She likes herself and her body. When she meets Joe at a house party, he instantly becomes The Crush of Her Life. Everything changes. At first he seems perfect. But as they spend more time together, doubts start to creep in.

With her mum trying new fad diets every week, and increasing pressure to change, Emily faces a constant battle to stay strong, be her true self and not change for anyone.

Review

I was sent an e-arc of this book via Netgalley and the Publisher.

I loved this book. It was such a sweet and easy read for me and I definitely connected on a deep level with the main character, Emily who is struggling with how she thinks she is perceived by others because of her weight. Emily is a gem, she is confident and outspoken but inside she is dealing with the overbearing nature of her mother who is struggling with her own weight and the constant worry of teenagers – comparing herself to others, measuring success on her friends relationship milestones and focusing on the only thing she can see as being the difference between herself and them – her body size.

I wish I had read this as a teenager. By the novels conclusion, Emily has realised that she can’t compare herself to others and that she doesn’t need to accept anything less than the best, because no matter what she looks like it doesn’t change who she is as a person. It’s a cheesy and well-worn message but to have it put so plainly in this Young Adult novel really made me feel good and root for Emily as a character.

This novel also attempts to tackle the social issue of fad dieting in the form of Emily’s mum who is constantly trying to lose weight but struggling to do so. She seems to be impeded by her daughter’s self-confidence which from a mother is so completely the opposite of what I grew up with I did struggle to ‘believe’ her attitude although I totally understood the mental health side of things behind these actions. I think this was the only detraction for me and it didn’t impede my enjoyment of the novel as a whole.

Goodreads rating: 4/5 Stars

Audiobook Review – The Foundling by Stacey Halls

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Published by Bonnier Books (UK)

Synopsis

London, 1754.

Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why. Less than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.


Review

Last week I took part in a listenalong of The Foundling which was organised by Tandem Collective UK (see Instagram for links etc). I sourced my own copy of the novel (Thanks, Audible) and Tandem sent me several prompts which told me when to pause the playback and gave me a question or two to answer which I then posted to my Instagram stories.

Now, although I have had Audible for around a year, I have to confess I don’t finish a lot of audiobooks, they take me A LONG TIME so I have an excess of books to listen to right now on there. I religiously listen to Stephen Fry read Harry Potter most nights; I put the timer on for 10-15 minutes and usually hear 2-3 minutes before I’m asleep which means I’m always rewinding and in all honesty, I started with The Philosopher’s Stone last July and I am currently halfway through The Order of the Phoenix (that’s how long it’s taking).

So when Tandem advertised doing this readalong I didn’t have the highest of hopes of finishing the book but I also really wanted to read this book after I read the first two chapters a few months ago. I haven’t read The Familiars but I have it and I had heard really good things about it, so I signed up for this one.

And I am so glad I did! I couldn’t stop listening to it. On day one I listened to 4 hours straight while I did some crafts I’ve been putting off which I loved. I felt so much better afterwards, I had achieved something on a weekend (what is a weekend right now?). Now, more than ever I know it’s super important to separate work and play since I’m doing everything in one room so to be able to switch off and actually push myself to start something was a big step and listening to this really was a godsend.

I know that this could have happened with any audiobook. Why was this audiobook important? Well to start with, the narrators are fantastic; I honestly cannot say this enough. The book is told from the point of view of two very different women and the ladies recording their voices were spot on. I couldn’t have felt more involved in the novel if I tried, I felt like the characters were talking to me (I know that’s the point). In other audiobooks I’ve tried, I often find the narrator distracting and quite distanced. I mean, it’s an audiobook –the narrator is key!

In terms of storyline, it moved at a reasonable pace but I have to say I do think I feel this way purely because of the narrators. If I was reading this as a physical novel I’m not sure I would have rated it so highly. The characters are intriguing and considering I’m not usually a fan of Historical Fiction I did want to find out how the novel would be concluded but there isn’t a great deal of dialogue. The narrative is heavily made up of the women’s thoughts and feelings and not conversations which again, is probably why this worked so well as an audiobook.

I would definitely recommend this novel, in physical and audio format. The conclusion was satisfying but not necessarily exciting, if I had to sum it up I would say it was ‘tidy’. There were some interesting themes running throughout, relationships and mental health played a huge part in how the women had experienced life which led to the choices they had made and how their chapters were communicated. I did feel a connection with them, I did understand why they felt the way they did and why they did what they did. The novel makes you play devil’s advocate; putting you in the middle so it’s hard to take sides which was really interesting. I didn’t have a favourite necessarily, I think I would have been happy with any outcome in this book.

So, thanks Tandem for helping me fall a little in love with audiobooks, I think my Audible membership might be getting a little bit more use from now on.

Goodreads: 4/5 Stars