Small Deaths by @RijulaDas #BlogTour @FMcMAssociates

I am delighted to be a part of the book tour for the release of this translated title, Small By Rijula Das, published by Amazon Crossing.

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In the red-light district of Shonagachhi, Lalee dreams of trading a life of
penury and violence for one of relative luxury as a better-paid ‘escort’.
Her long-standing client, Trilokeshwar ‘Tilu’ Shau is an erotic novelist
hopelessly in love with her.
When a young girl who lives next door to Lalee gets brutally murdered, a spiral
of deceit and crime begins to disturb the fragile stability of this underworld’s
existence. One day, without notice, Lalee’s employer and landlady, the
formidable Shefali Madam, decrees that she must now service wealthier
clients at plush venues outside the familiar walls of the brothel. But the new
job is fraught with unknown hazards and drives Lalee into a nefarious web of
prostitution, pimps, sex rings, cults and unimaginable secrets that endanger
her life and that of numerous women like her.
As the local Sex Workers’ Collective’s protests against government and police
inaction and calls for justice for the deceased girl gain fervour, Tilu Shau must
embark on a life-altering misadventure to ensure Lalee does not meet a
similarly savage fate.
Winner of the 2021 Tata Literature Live! First Book Award – Fiction
Longlisted for The JCB Prize for Literature 2021
Rijula Das
Set in Calcutta’s most fabled neighbourhood, Small Deaths is a literary noir
as absorbing as it is heart-wrenching, holding within it an unforgettable
story of our society’s outcasts and marking the arrival of a riveting new

My Review

Small Deaths by Rijula Das

I was intrigued by this book after reading the blurb I was sent.
A book centred around the oldest profession in time, set in the town of Shonagachhi, Calcutta, in India.
We start by getting to know Tilu, an aspiring author of erotica who wants to get better recognition for more literary work. He visits the Blue Lotus in Shonagachhi whenever he can afford it to meet Lalee, his favourite concubine.
A visit there ends with the other inhabitants of the house finding the body of one of the girls who lives among them.
What follows is a tale of true sadness. These women don’t choose to be dragged into prostitution; however, once there, they are estranged from their loved ones due to the shame of the work they have been made to do. The other girls become their families. But nothing can stop the way society taints them and how they are looked upon as public property; the johns do whatever they want, and the madams who are there to ‘look after’ them are just as bad, selling them from one bad situation to another, and not often a better one.
Here, an awful sex trafficking ring is exposed, involving a much-respected ‘holy’ man. But the violence that is used toward women is horrific.
It made for uncomfortable reading, in some ways, but the sad truth is that these things do happen the world over; it’s just that we aren’t all privy to the knowledge.
We see the story unfold through several viewpoints, including the above two characters, other girls from the Blue Lotus, police officers, a pimp, and some other random characters, which can be a little confusing but adds another layer to the story.
An interesting but heartrending read.

About the Author

Rijula Das received her PhD in Creative Writing/prose-fiction in 2017 from
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where she taught writing
for two years. She is a recipient of the 2019 Michael King Writers Centre
Residency in Auckland and the 2016 Dastaan Award for her short story
Notes From A Passing. Her short story, The Grave of The Heart Eater, was
longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2019. Her short
fiction and translations have appeared in Newsroom, New Zealand and
The Hindu. She lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand.

Author Q & A

Tell us a little bit about your book, Small Deaths?
Set entirely in the Calcutta’s red light district, Small Deaths is the story of Lalee, a sex worker trafficked into the trade as
a child who dreams of trading her precarious life for that of a better-paid escort. Tilu Shau, her loyal client, makes a living
writing cheap erotica and dreams of literary fame and Lalee’s love. When a young woman is murdered in Lalee’s brothel,
the two of them are drawn into a misadventure that threatens the fragile stability of their lives and forces them to ask
what is the price of one’s right to dignity, a future and a life?

The book was originally published as A Death in Shonagachhi – what role does the setting of Shonagachhi play in your novel?
Sonagachi is a neighbourhood in North Kolkata, and the largest red-light district in Asia with several hundred multi-storey
brothels where more than 30,000 commercial sex workers live and work. It is rare to find works of fiction set entirely in
this area, even though the neighbourhood is one of Calcutta’s oldest. The novel is a product of my doctoral research on
the relationship between sexual violence on women in India and public space; I looked at how we ‘allow’ women to access
public spaces, and what punishments are meted out to them when they violate the unwritten rules. The red light district
in traditional, patriarchal societies is a space of contradictions. They are often the oldest of neighbourhood, well-known
and yet, unacknowledged spaces. I wanted to understand the way sex workers access a city where they are invisible
citizens –– how they live, die, advocate, organise and make a life that is uniquely their own.

Why was it important to you to tell this story now?
Living in the world we do, it is easy to forget that women’s rights are not actually indelible and unalienable. It is easy to be
lulled into a sense of security. But women’s rights, or indeed the rights of vulnerable people, irrespective of gender identity
is under siege at all times, many instances of which we are witnessing at present time. The right to bodily autonomy is an
unfinished fight for us, as is the constant fight for the recognition and acknowledgement of women’s labour, wherever
that may take place. Stories from the margins like that of women like Lalee, because they are real, living women, are a
useful and timely reminder of where we are and how easy it is to deny human rights to vulnerable people even in this age.

How do you do your research? Your research specifically looks at the connections between public space and sexual
violence – how did this inform your writing of Small Deaths?

There is a wealth of both academic research and case studies and interviews with the sex workers of Shonagachhi. Social
welfare organisations are extremely active in the area and have extensive grassroots knowledge. As I wrote Small Deaths
over 7 years, the research seeped into the work, informing the fictional narrative, and sometimes changing or adding to
the course of events. In creative work research informs the lived experience of the book’s universe, but it should never
get in the way of the narrative. It’s often a tight-rope walk.

Tell us more about writing truthfully about sexual violence and why it was important to write on this theme?
We’ve always written about sexual violence, but how we do it, matters. What we decide to show and what we decide to
leave unsaid, matters. Very often we see gratuitous, even erotic portrayal of sexual violence in fiction. As someone who
has faced sexual and other forms of violence as a woman, it changes the way I could write about it. I had to ask –– at what
point does writing a sexual violence scene become voyeurism? How do I write with authenticity, empathy and truth and
still reserve dignity for those on whom the violence occurs? Whose eyes and heart does the chapter look through, is it the
victim or the abuser? There are certain expectations when a book deals with the life of women trafficked into sex-work,
but the greatest satisfaction, for me, came in subverting any pandering to trauma-porn, or a representation of abject and
unabated victimhood because that is not consistent with the reality of life on the margins.

Were there news stories that particularly inspired your work?
Small Deaths is inspired by real people and real events, and where reality is shocking, invention is not only unnecessary
but a travesty. I wanted the book to cleave as close to reality as possible and as such, a number of real events have inspired
the action in the book. The scandal of an ashram called Dera Sacha Sauda where a powerful, self-styled guru held women
hostage in a warren of rooms and sexually abused them for years has inspired events in the book. The disappearances and
deaths of sex workers, and the migration of women across international borders for sex work in coercive circumstances
have inspired both characters and events. It is however not one event, but a landscape and an ecosystem developed over
decades that this story has grown from.

Are there any books that you would recommend to explore more about the themes in your novel?
There are a number of academic works that I read and referred to while writing this book. Fictional work set entirely in
Shonagachhi is harder to come by.

You have translated a number of books in your work, including Nabarun Bhattacharya’s short fiction. How do you
think your translation work helps to inform your writing?

Translation has definitely influenced how I use language. How we use English as Indian writers is evolving as our relationship
with English becomes more organic, more intertwined with our multilinguality. Reading in diverse literary traditions, as
translation helps us do, also changes my relationship with narrative form and storytelling.

What made you want to become a writer? Why fiction?
I’m not sure we decide to become a writer any more than we decide to become ourselves. It does take a certain amount
of practice, showing up for it over decades, a lot of hard work without any promise of reward or even the assurance that
one should persevere, but we write because there is no other way to exist. Fiction allows me, personally, the necessary
distance from myself to explore places that would feel too exposing to do as autobiography. It is also the sheer joy of
being in other people’s heads, creating characters who are entirely different from me, and watching them take-off on
their adventures.

Which other writers have informed your work?
It is hard to see my own influences. I often read people whose work I enjoy as a reader but as a writer, we’d be widely
different. I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan. His comedic brilliance and timing is so effective and subtle that you almost don’t
realise the sheer genius required to pull it off. Jeanette Wintersen, Marguerite Duras and Borges have been abiding

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To stick with it. People often think of talent as the sole variable that makes a writer, and while there is such a thing,
another very important variable is the ability to stay the course. It takes time to make even a bad book, a good one can
and does take time to see the light of day.

What’s next for you?
I’m finishing a translation of Nabarun Bhattacharya’s novel, soon to be published by Seagull Books. After that I hope to
focus on my second novel.

February 2022 Books #AmReading

February is the month of Love and I do love a good book!

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Grace by Victoria Scott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This second book from Victoria Scott is another amazing page-turner.
Told from the viewpoint of two women, both at different ends of the same struggle, with an additional view of the judge presiding over a very heart-wrenching child custody case.
Michelle is young and has suffered considerably in that short life, at the hands of an inadept social services team, who failed her, from the moment she was separated from her younger sister at the age of six. Fast forward to her late teens, and she has found herself pregnant, in a relationship with a man who has stood by her more than any of the so-called support workers she has had assigned to her. Even his questionable behaviour towards her doesn’t waiver her trust in him.
However, they’re broke, live in squalor, and she knows that is no place to bring up a baby, however much she is already attached to that little being.
Amelia is a woman, in a marriage tinged with sadness at the fact that they can’t have children, and the one time they thought their dream would come true ended up in the tragedy of stillbirth.
A solution to both of these women’s problems could be found, in the placement of little Grace, born to Michelle. She thinks her daughter would be better off in the care of someone who could give her everything.
And that someone could be Amelia, and her husband Piers, who are approached via the Foster to Adopt scheme.
The thing is, nothing is ever that simple.
It was, indeed a roller coaster of emotions as I read the story, following the feelings of a young woman who desperately wants to get her life, and daughter back, and a woman who knows her dream is on the cusp of becoming a reality, but everything balances on the decisions of a judge, after a drawn-out investigation.
All in all, the final conclusion was what I wanted to happen, but there was so much happening in the background, as you read, even if you are of a differing opinion, you would probably agree that it was for the best. People are not always what they seem, and this book demonstrated that, perfectly.
So emotional. But brilliant.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 7th July, 2022

The Wishing Tree (The Wishing Tree Series)

The Wishing Tree by Kay Bratt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s always a true bonus when a series is introduced and it includes the writing of some of your favourite authors.
This introductory book to The Wishing Tree Series is exactly that, and I devoured it in one sitting at 5 am this morning, as I was unable to sleep.
A small, some may say, sleepy town, with some extremely interesting inhabitants, and one or two soon to be ones too, is home to a tree that those who live there say is magical.
A wishing tree.
Each of the authors has contributed to the building of the series with a taster, and introduction to the characters with stories of their own, soon to be blossoming into full-blown novels.
From the longstanding residents to those who might just be coming back home, to newcomers, there is something to interest everyone.
I am absolutely 100% excited about the following books! Each of the characters that have been focussed on has stories to tell. Stories that I want to read.

Rainbows End in Ferry Lane Market

Rainbows End in Ferry Lane Market by Nicola May
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll just start by putting this out there. I am gutted this is the last in the series!
I thoroughly enjoyed the first twp books in the Ferry Lane series and eagerly awaited this third book, where we were able to catch up with old friends, as well as make some wonderful new ones.
This book centres around Glanna, Isaac and Oliver.
Glanna is a local girl by birth, but she disappeared to London as soon as she was able, wanting to spread her wings. She spreads them a bit too far, and ends up in a downward spiral of drink and high living, which ends up with her in rehab. On the cups of turning forty, with a wonderful relationship over, she heads back home, to her parents, and back to one of her first loves. Art.
Isaac is a local artist. A very famous reclusive artist. And somehow, Glanna ends p making his acquaintance, during a particularly awful storm. Could he be the one to nurse her heart back to happiness? With so many deep, dark secrets in his background, will he be up for romance?
Or is it Oliver, Glanna’s one perfect relationship, that soured, as she realised they both wanted different things. Him: marriage and a family. Her: love and a happy life, just the two of them.
The wonderful cast of colourful characters that accompany Glanna on her own journey of self-discovery, are a delight in themselves, with her father, and his rather brash new girlfriend, and her posh mother, who is always chasing the younger man. Not forgetting Banksy, Glanna’s gorgeous whippet! And we get to hear all about how marriage and motherhood are treating all the favourites from the past two books.
This was a wonderful read that I devoured in a day!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 14th April, 2022

The Wedding Season

The Wedding Season by Katy Birchall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine being on the cusp of getting married, literally, then finding yourself jilted, but not quite at the altar, but in a broom cupboard?
That is where Freya finds herself, the day before her dream wedding.
Their wedding was meant to be the beginning of that special Wedding Season, when all those close friends and family, seem to settle down at the same time.
Luckily for Freya, she has a strong band of friends around her, and they help her navigate what could be an extremely tough few months, assembling a plan to help Freya cope with the weddings, hens and stens that are all part of the season.
Each event is assigned a task to help her get over Matthew. Tasks she would never have thought about even attempting had she been in her comfortable twelve-year relationship. And possibly a way to find someone to help her get back on that dating horse…
A funny, but touching ode to friendship, and finding love in the most unexpected places!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 14th April, 2022

The Wrong Suitcase

The Wrong Suitcase by Laura Jane Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw this was out today, and I immediately clicked to buy, and read it in one sitting!
Two guests travelling abroad to attend the wedding of mutual friends. Two guests who have just come out of relationships.
Somehow, their suitcases, which are identical, are mixed up at the hotel, and what follows is a gigglesome journey to them finding their own cases, and each other.
I thoroughly enjoyed the short story, and only wish there was more to follow, to see what happens post wedding!

The Amazing Road Trip Home - England to India with Strangers

The Amazing Road Trip Home – England to India with Strangers by Apinder Sahni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is always good to read a story that resonates with you, and even better when you can put a face to a name.
Apinder Sahni has written a beautiful biographical tribute to two well-respected Sikh men, the Chhatwal brothers, Inder and Gurcharan, and their journey, not only in a car from England to India, but also their personal journey from India to now.
Filled with anecdotes, as well as factual information, Sahni creates that personal touch with the chapters that delve into the brothers’ background and past, as well as that fateful journey with Roy, Sarita and their son, in that Austin.
An educational, emotional read.

The Book Share

The Book Share by Phaedra Patrick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you know what?
I really loved this book!
Like really enjoyed it!
Liv is a middle-aged cleaner, pootling along with life. Her children are leaving the nest, her husband is deep in his own work worries, and Liv is just about coping. with her books by her side to keep her going
Until one of her cleaning clients changes her life, completely.
Essie Starling is a reclusive best-selling author, and somehow, she opens up to her cleaner, in the strangest of ways, leaving Liv with a mission and a half to complete, upon her death,
Sure, maybe it is a bit far-fetched, to imagine the situation she is propelled into, but what a situation to find yourself, eh?
Liv ends up on a journey of self-discovery that she never thought she needed to go on, and, in the process, awakes a passion for words that she had left dormant for far too long.
So many twists within the story kept me going and I finished it far too quickly for my liking.
As I said before, loved it!
Many thanks to NetGalley and HQ for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 31st March, 2022

The Girls

The Girls by Bella Osborne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You’d be forgiven for thinking this might just be a frivolous rom-com about a bunch of girlfriends, off on a sun-soaked holiday, looking at the cover, but that’s where this old adage, “Never judge a book by its cover”, is most suitable.
The Girls is about a group of friends, and there is an element of being abroad, but, that’s where the frivolity ends.
These are four women, some may describe as, past their prime.
Pauline, Val, Jackie and Zara.
All in their later years, these four friends used to house share in the seventies, and now, somehow, fate, or rather, Zara, has brought them back together.
Pauline is in her own personal hell, alone after a long abusive marriage, with demons that won’t back down, and she’s on the brink of taking her life.
Val, alone, but strong. with a secret hidden so deep, that none of her girls knows about it.
Jackie, the most frivolous of the bunch, is still searching for her One, and even though she knows her options are lessening, due to her age, can’t help herself.
So, when they are all invited to a party to celebrate their old, now famous, friend, Sara’s 80th birthday, they meet with some trepidation, having not seen each other for many years.
Here’s where things get more serious.
Zara wants them all to recreate their 70s living arrangement, but in her villa in France, knowing that all her friends have nothing holding them to England, and with a somewhat selfish motive of her own,
However, her sudden demise plunges them into even more problems.
Lots of different issues are raised in this extremely good book.
Sure, maybe it is a little far fetched to think that someone would go to so much trouble to have their friends around them, but the ensuing story had me gripped.
And, the best thing?
They all learn something important about themselves through the journey.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 14th April, 2022

Mad About You

Mad About You by Mhairi McFarlane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another Mhairi McFarlane book that I added to the top of my TBR ARC list as soon as it hit!
Harriet is a wedding photographer, who doesn’t really believe in marriage, for herself.
She has issues from the past that stop her from truly committing, even to her lovely boyfriend, Jon. A surprise proposal from him, in front of his family, pushes her over the edge and she pushes him away.
Without giving too much away, all I can say is that this book has dealt with some pretty harrowing issues, including emotional harassment, narcissism, and the role that Social Media can play in totally ruining someone’s life.
Harriet is lucky to have a good friend around her, Lorna, who, might I add is a character I would love to have in my corner! She ends up as a lodger in a house, where it turns out the landlord is a shady character she’d not think she would ever come face to face with, but sometimes shady isn’t actually bad, it’s more that you haven’t got to know someone properly.
I read this in literally a day, so yes, a good book, a great read!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins, UK for an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.

Releasing 14th April, 2022

I Wish… by Amanda Prowse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was absolutely intrigued by the opening set of short stories to introduce this series, The Wishing Tree, and dived straight into the first of the full-length stories, I Wish… by Amanda Prowse.
Linden Falls has a magical quality, and a rather special tree, too.
Verity and her daughter Sophie are unaware of this power, when Verity, on a spur of a moment decision, sticks a pin into a globe and finds herself travelling to this small Americal town, with her girl.
She needs a break, and to find herself, after being cruelly thrown aside by her famous chef husband, Sonny, for a younger model.
They plan a three-month circuit breaker trip to an unknown place and find themselves meeting new people, and forging new friendships, along with feeling a sort of magic that the Wishing Tree and Linden Falls bestows upon its inhabitants and visitors.
I felt for Verity.
One devotes themselves to the one they love, and the last thing you expect is to be thrown over for another. Through this story, you see her become more confident, and self-aware, and the relationship between mother and daughter is a beautiful thing to behold.
Sophie is a caring seventeen-year-old, who, instead of showing herself being torn between her two parents, chooses to help her mother, as well as keep her relationship with her father intact too.
And I loved how Verity was given that second chance she so wanted, even though it came in a guise different to what she expected.
Quite honestly, I wanted it to carry on, and on, so secretly I am glad that we will be revisiting Verity and her story in further books, later on!

Releasing March 3rd, 2022

Wish You Were Here by Kay Bratt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a beautiful testament to friendship!
Neva Cabot is the keeper of the Inn in Linden Falls, and has, by default become Keeper of the Wishes hung on the Wishing Tree in the centre of the town. A calm and centred person, she quietly goes about her business, yet has a sixth sense about what someone may need, at any time.
Henry Harmon is struggling with his wife, Greta’s decline due to Alzheimer’s. But he knows she’s a proud woman, and he keeps the struggle of trying to care for her, to himself
Neva, Henry and Greta have an age-old bond that was severed, yet, somehow they overcome a huge hurdle in order for Neva to reach out to her long-estranged friends to help them.
She takes in Janie and her two daughters, a family that moved into a ramshackle property in the town not long ago, on the pretext of needing a housekeeper. But, there is something else, Janie is hiding.
Having constant company, and two wonderful girls to keep her on her feet, fills Neva with so much joy, it is a wonder to behold. Caley and Breeze are unique young ladies in their own right.
But, ultimately, like I mentioned at the beginning, this is a story of age-old friendship, and how it can be fractured, but equally, it shines a light on how that same friendship can be mended, and take on a different shape.
And I have to say that there are the two starring roles of Myster and his feline ladyfriend, to add to the fun!
Another wonderful addition to the series. I can’t wait to read the next one!

Little Boxes: Debut literary fiction from the Young People’s Laureate for London

Little Boxes: Debut literary fiction from the Young People’s Laureate for London by Cecilia Knapp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heartwrenching debut novel about friendship.
Four friends with lives tied together in invisible knots, living in a block of flats on a run down old council estate, in the seaside town of Brighton.
Two in a damaging relationship, one with unrequited love and another with a secret he’s unable to talk to anyone about.
The death of one man brings about a tsunami of feelings and change, mainly for the better.
Leah is a girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders, helping her mum cope with life, since her dad left them, and coping with the aftermath effects that had on her older brother. Her relationship with Jay is coloured by her own experience of men and how they treat women,
Jay is a damaged soul in his own right, but unable to do anything to help himself.
Nathan is the product of a successful partnership, but what he wants in life seems just out of reach.
Matthew has his own secrets. Living with his grandfather, he has never been able to be open and honest about who he really is.
When Ron, his grandfather dies, unexpectedly, feelings rise up and take over, and many other untold stories come to light,
A touching, sometimes uncomfortable, read.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 9th March, 2022

Wish Again by Tammy L. Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am loving these interconnected books in The Wishing Tree series by a whole host of fabulous authors!
Wish again is Tammy L. Grace’s input into the exploration of the residents of Linden Falls, and this time we are learning about Paige, who returned to her childhood home, after the awful death of her husband, to the comfort of her mother and the bookshop she runs.
More unfortunate events tear Paige up, but every cloud has a silver lining, as they say, and Linden Falls also has a Wishing Tree.
Even though Paige isn’t a believer, a wish happens upon her and she ends up making it come true for someone else, and with that as a catalyst, she ends up finding many new things to do with her time, as well as rediscovering old passions and a new found love for her illustrator job.
A wonderful addition to the series, and Gladys, her dog is just fabulous!

Releasing 16th March, 2022

So, I managed thirteen (Fourteen, if you include one I beta read!) this month! Which one sounds good to you? Tell me about a good book you have read.

January 2022 Books #AmReading

If you’re reading this, then that means the first month of the year 2022 has reached its end!

My intentions this year are to make sure I read what I already have, and minimalise the arcs I request, so I can be writing, too…

Well, last January, I dedicated myself to reading the Bridgerton series, so my challenge for myself this year was to read some of the series of books I have on my Kindle… I do love a good serial binge, reading as well as watching on TV.

How have I done, so far?

I read two series that I had, and I think I only have 2 arcs on my list,left!

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Without A Hitch

Without A Hitch by Bettina Hunt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Without A Hitch is another one of the many books I have had on my TBR for a while, now, and the few days before heading back to work seemed like a perfect time to dip into this lovely little read!
Three brides-to-be, whose journeys become interwoven via an online brides-to-be forum, all share their journey from proposal to the alter in this gigglesome book.
Each of the ladies, along with their partners, are all very different, with their own ideas of a dream wedding, but there is one thing they all want.
A perfect (for them) day.
Complete with a perfect dress, venue, catering and that all-important honeymoon.
If you have been on the journey to wedded bliss, you will recognise the stresses, suffer the agonies of not being able to get what you want, along with a sense of happiness and relief when that day is finally done!
I thoroughly enjoyed this fun, easy to read boo, and am looking forward to diving straight into the second one!

Without a Hitch on Honeymoon: (Short Story Sequel to Without a Hitch ) (Novella)

Without a Hitch on Honeymoon: (Short Story Sequel to Without a Hitch ) by Bettina Hunt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved being able to plunge straight into the next story in Bettina Hunt’s series about the three brides, this time, following their adventures on honeymoon.
Well, not strictly all on honeymoon. Two managed to make it up the alter, and back down as married women, but one had a change of heart.
However, it was still great to continue all three stories, from Sienna and her Social Media influenced frenzy of a trip, to Bryony who was meant to be honeymooning on a shoestring budget, cut even shorter when she discovers her new hubby has a gambling addiction, then rescued with a competition win, and finally to Agnes, who left her ideal Jewish fiance standing at the alter, falling into the arms of her own angel, Gabriel.
Weddings… honeymoons… all stressful, but still the brides are tied together by that forum… and now, I just want to find out what happens next, when they enter the next of the site’s rooms… hopefully, there will be babies without a Hitch, too!

A Tempting Trio by Bettina Hunt

A Tempting Trio: A Romantic Comedy by Bettina Hunt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I must admit to going on a bit of a Bettina Hunt binge, and though I started at the wrong end of her releases, it didn’t detract me from the enjoyment of her writing. In fact, I can see the way her style has developed from book to book.
A Tempting Trio is the story of Sarah, who has managed to find herself, unintentionally in a bit of a dating conundrum.
She’s been in a relationship with David, a married man, though she knows it’s wrong, and she should end in, when she meets a rather gorgeous stranger, Adam, in a coffee shop. He leaves his number. Maybe Adam will be the one who helps her kick her married man to the curb, and back to his wife…
Then she’s offered a job opportunity by her best friend, Alice, which introduces her to Tommy, an aristocratic romantic, who rather fancies our Sarah.
All three men have something about them.
But she’s not that greedy… is she?
There are some moments when you feel glad you’re not in her shoes. I mean, what are the chances of having all three of your men turning up in Paris, and confronting you while you are trying to enjoy a midnight visit to the Eiffel Tower?!
Again another easy to read, fun story, where you don’t quite know where Sarah and her dating future will lead her.

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (The Rajes, #1)

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have loved Sonali Dev’s Bollywood inspired stories, and the Rajes series has been waiting for me to dive in, for a while now.
This first book, loosely based around some themes from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, was a great read!
Trisha Raje is a surgeon with a plan. She also is part of an Indian royal family. She has ideas that might not always align with those of HRH, or her father. These issues have caused rifts between them.
DJ Caine is a British born man of mixed descent, who has seen a tough life, losing his parents, and other loved ones, as well as being threatened with the loss of his only surviving family member, Emma.
He’s also an incredibly talented chef who has been hired by Trisha’s sister, Nisha, to cater for events leading up to the hopeful beginnings of their brother Yash’s political career.
There are always secrets.
And being a part of a royal family, (even though the royal part doesn’t really exist, anymore), has its own share of burdens.
Trisha and DJ clash, but they both need each other, in order to help their family members, and there is a certain chemistry between them, that they are trying hard to deny.
Family drama, racial and class prejudices, high jinx briberies, and sizzling hot food, as well as chemistry… what more could you want?

Sapphires are a Guy's Best Friend

Sapphires are a Guy’s Best Friend by Nicola Marsh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, ahem, I haven’t read anything racy for quite a while, so I was thankful for the heads up, on this one.
However a bit of raunch never deters me from reading a good book, and I had great fun reading this one!
Sapphire is trying to keep her family’s jewellery business afloat.
Patrick is trying his hardest to gain the approval of his parents, as he works to launch a collection for their successful couture fashion house, in Melbourne.
They both need each other, really, but there is history.
This relatively short, but snappy read details their interactions as they try to combine business with pleasure, and aim to bring both their companies to success.
An enjoyable, easy, but naughty in places, read!

A Sunrise Over Bali by Sandy Barker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a solid Sandy Barker fan and have devoured all her previous books, in a flash, so to know there was a fourth coming in her travel romance series, was just fantastic.
I love how each story is individual, but that there are links and characters that tie them all together. so, yes, it could be a stand-alone, but equally, it’s always fun to read books in a series, in order, to keep track of each character’s story.
This book centres on Jaelee Tan.
She’s a bigwig VP back in the US, and the daughter of a mother who doesn’t show much emotional involvement in her life but expects big things from her only child.
After bumping into her ex at her best friend’s party, and feeling her world unravel, Jaelee takes a sabbatical from work, which ends up being the catalyst for her leaving her job.
She moves to Bali to UROP, a place filled with ‘digital nomads’, where she hopes to ground herself.
Jae finds herself in paradise, with new friends, and ideas for a new future for her career.
As I was expecting, there was going to be romance, and it came in the form of Hot Scot, Alistair. An intense romance that gathers speed fast in this idyllic location.
But, romances are not meant to be smooth-sailing, are they?
There are exes involved, then families and their issues have to crop too…
So Jae swaps the beauty of Bali for the gloom of Scotland…
All in all, an easy, fun read, with lots of laughs, love and sizzles!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins, UK for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 11th February, 2022

Recipe for Persuasion (The Rajes, #2)

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think first off, if you are looking for a light-hearted, fluffy read, then this probably isn’t quite the read for you.
That doesn’t make it a no go, though.
Recipe for Persuasion is another Austen inspired book, the second in the Rajes series bu Sonali Dev, this time focussing on Ashna Raje, daughter of the younger of the Royal Raje brothers, who was uprooted from her life in the palace in India, to the US.
Struggling to keep the memory of her father alive, as she works hard to steer his restaurant, Curried Dreams, in the right direction, Ashna is confronted with a face from the past, as she swallows her nerves and ends up signing up to a reality cookery show.
Rico, a world-renowned soccer player, ends up as her partner on the show, but his reasons for being there are a little more calculated.
Yes, there is second chance romance within this story, obviously, with the above two characters, but the story is so much more. From the complex relationships between estranged mothers and daughters, marital expectations, rape, PTSD, Dev has explored so much within the pages of this novel.
I felt invested in the family, having read the first book, and though it wasn’t as easy a read as the first, Recipe for Persuasion was just as good.
Bring on book 3!

Incense and Sensibility (The Rajes, #3)

Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve become invested in the Rajes siblings and their dramatic lives, and Yash was definitely a character I was intrigued by, via the snippets I learned in the previous two books.
A romance at heart, with politics, racism and yoga as the sub interests.
Yash has been maintaining a facade for the last ten years, of a relationship with his friend, Naina, while they both chase their dreams, unencumbered by the pressures from family to settle down.
A horrific event at one of Yash’s political engagements throws both their worlds into further confusion, as she appears to have real feelings for him, while he is beginning to realise what he really wants, and needs, though it may not be the choice his family would make, on his behalf.
India tries her hardest to distance herself from the brother of some of her closest friends. Yash and she have a history, that no one else is aware of, though the tragic event stirs up feelings of concern that she thought she had finally left behind.
The story follows how their journey, almost a second chance romance, evolves, and the reactions of the families as truths are unearthed.
A great read!

The Emma Project (The Rajes, #4)

The Emma Project by Sonali Dev
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed all of the previous three books and was excited to read this, the final book in the Rajes series.
This time Sonali Dev has taken the youngest of the sibling,s Vansh, as the main character, and oh, my, the twists, as his romantic interest is revealed!
There is extreme forbidden lust, as he finds himself drawn to his older brother’s (not really) ex, Naina.
Both are passionate characters with worthy causes they want to contribute towards, but with difficulties from their upbringings raising their heads constantly, the conflict gets juicy.
I was a little sad, as I really wanted to know more about Esha, and knowing this was the last book, I began the book thinking I was going to be missing something, once the series finished, but I was glad she got her own subplot in this final instalment, and that we can leave the Rajes clan with a happy heart!
Many thanks to Avon and Harper Voyage for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 17th May, 2022

Brown Girl Like Me

Brown Girl Like Me by Jaspreet Kaur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been following Jaspreet Kaur on Instagram for a couple of years, and seeing her upcoming release, Brown Girl Like Me, filled me with excitement.
I was over the moon to be able to read an advance copy.
Being a Brown Girl, and especially a British-born Brown Girl, it has always been hard to find ourselves out there, in anything other than stereotypical roles, via a novel, or on film and in TV series.
Brown Girl Like Me is a great attempt at pulling together all the feelings that we may have encountered through our lives, from the lack of strong role models to not being understood in myriad circumstances.
It is certainly not a quick and easy read. Something to sit, read, digest and savour.
Personally, for me, it made me realise that I am lucky. There were many instances Kaur wrote about situations that I hadn’t experienced, but there were so many of her personal stories that resonated with me.
I have always had a lot of support and openness within my family, where we were able to speak out about pretty much anything.
But yes, I will always be that Brown Girl, and I am bringing one up, too, who I hope will be a strong Brown Girl in herself, who knows there is a strong Brown Girl right behind her, too.
There is also cause to celebrate our culture, customs and backgrounds, and reasons to ensure we stay proud and remember that w might be Brown, but our heritage has more colour in it than many others.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.

Releasing 17th February, 2022

A Wedding in Provence: From the #1 bestselling author of uplifting feel-good fiction

A Wedding in Provence: From the #1 bestselling author of uplifting feel-good fiction by Katie Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Katie Fforde has accompanied me through my young adult years, all the way to the present, and I know that whenever I pick up one of her books, I will be engulfed in the story, immediately.
A Wedding in Provence is much the same.
Alexandra is en route to Switzerland, in Paris, enjoying her last moments of freedom, before she has to enrol in a finishing school, as expected by her relations.
Not very eager to take this route, she jumps at the chance to stay in gay Paree for a little longer when a temporary job offer comes up, but it ends up in Provence, as a nanny, rather than something more glamorous.
She finds herself in a chateau, looking after three children, unaided, two of which aren’t keen to have her there, with a grandmerè who doesn’t feel she is qualified, an estranged mother of said children, who wants to whisk the children away, and a friendly dog.
What’s more, she appears to have some feelings for the father, who just happens to be a Count.
Oh, it could just be straightforward, couldn’t it? The Nanny and the Count fall in love and the children have a ready-made happy family…
But where’s the fun in that?
We get to meet Alexandra’s friend David, who comes to help her tutor the children, and he also happens to be homosexual, something frowned upon in England during the setting of this story. He’s her best friend, but also like a surrogate father to her.
There are many interesting characters in this book, that help to add colour to the story, and the market scenes make me want to go and visit similar places, too!
Yes, the romance is there, absolutely, simmering, in the background, but I do wish there had been more of the build-up, as the inevitable conclusion is so sped up!
However, we do get to enjoy the development of the relationship between the young nanny and her charges, as they go from wary to not wanting her to ever go.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Releasing 17th February, 2022

So hot off the press, we don’t even have a cover, yet!

Last Time We Met: The must-read romantic comedy for summer 2022 by Emily Houghton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved Before I Saw You, and was thrilled to be asked to review the next release from Emily Houghton, Last Time We Met.
A kinda second chance romance, but with a whole lot of other circumstances to navigate through.
Eleanor and Finley have been best friends since they were dots, then life happened, and Fin disappeared from Eleanor’s life.
Fast forward to fifteen or so years later, and Eleanor is feebly trying to get over an awful break-up with her long-standing partner Oliver. No amounts of tea and sympathy from her mother, sister Freya, or even her best friend Sal are helping her get over him.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Fin is reeling from a phone call from England, telling him his mother is at the end of her life. A mother he left behind and hasn’t spoken to for many years. As well as many other people who were precious to him at one point. Oh, and he’s just ended his current relationship, too.
It’s inevitable, isn’t it, that the two former best friends end up meeting, and they haphazardly work their way through the difficulties they both faced, both at the end of their former friendship and over time they had no contact.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that when they were young and innocent, they signed a contract that if they were both singles at 35 years old, they would have to marry one another?
As it is, they are both 34, and not in relationships.
That would just segue into such a predictable ending for the story.
No. I shall not spoil it for you, and tell you that they live happily ever after, but I will say that I finished the book with a smile on my face, but not before shedding some tears, too.
So much covered, from alcoholism to estrangement, and how hiding your feelings can be the worst thing you could ever do.
I whizzed through this in a day and loved each moment of the book.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Random House UK and Transworld for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 12th May, 2022

Beach House Summer
Another exciting no cover yet one!

Beach House Summer by Sarah Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another Sarah Morgan stunner!
This time we have a multi-POV story, from the eyes of Joanna, a woman who hears of her ex-husband’s death, Ashley, the girl who was with him at the time, and Mel, Joanna’s childhood friend.
Joanna lives a blessed life, apart from one thing. She has no privacy. Having been married to a famous TV chef, who often cheated, she has got used to a life spent with cameras following her every move, and even post-divorce, her life is not her own.
Ashley, is young, and pregnant, with something important to tell Cliff, the man driving the car they are travelling in, when a horrific accident happens.
Mel and Joanna were best friends for most of their young life, until Joanna upped and left, suddenly, at 16, supposedly breaking Mel’s twin brother, Nate’s, heart, and taking up with Cliff soon after.
The accident that took her ex-husband’s life affects Joanna more than she thought, as she ups sticks and leaves her beautiful home, which feels like a prison, and heads off, back to her home town, with young mum-to-be, Ashley in tow.
A great story, that shows how not everything is what it seems to be, all of the time. I enjoyed this read.
Many thanks to NetGalley and HQ for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 26th May, 2022

Golden Healer (The Curse of Time #2)

Golden Healer by M.J. Mallon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It feels like an age since I read the first book in The Curse of Time series, but it was great to pick up where we left off, with the continuing story of Amelina and her mystical powers.
This time, she is a little wiser and is aware of the powers given to her, and wary of certain individuals, such as Ryder, who has his own dark secrets.
There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing throughout the story.
I felt so sorry for poor Esme, trapped in the mirror, and I wanted to shake Jade until she realised the error of her judgement.
But, I can feel another story coming as the ending was definitely not a Happily Ever After!

So, I managed fourteen books. What were your first reads of the year?

December 2021 Books #AmReading

December is done. 2021 is done… And that has been a fantastic year of ARC reading!

Well, you guys should be proud of me! I managed to get to the end of the NetGalley arcs, and even began to make a dent on the TBR book that have been languishing on my Kindle for an undisclosed amount of time!

And, I know I still have one day left of the year… but, I am cooking another Christmas dinner, tonight, and will be doing lots of bits and bobs tomorrow, so, I don’t think I will be fitting in any more full books of reading

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M is for Mummy by Katy Cox

M is for Mummy by Katy Cox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness, this book resonated with me on so, so, SO many levels, I just can’t describe it!
M is for Mummy is a book about love – a Mother’s love.
Lucy is an exhausted mother of two boys aged 4 and under, Stan and Jack. Before that, she was, and still is, wife to Ed, a session musician, and prior to that, she was a cellist of the highest level.
Motherhood takes every ounce of her energy, so much so that it’s like she’s lost her own identity, and if it wasn’t for her close friends, Jen and Charlie, she’d give up even imagining a future of music, for herself.
On top of that, she is dealing with the likelihood that her older son might just be autistic. With certain habits and traits being displayed, she is more and more convinced that he is, but without a diagnosis, and little support from other directions, Lucy battles with the meltdowns and obsessions as best she can.

I loved this. As I said before, it resonated, so much. As a teacher of young children, I come into contact with children like Stan, increasingly, and the difficulties that parents have, of accepting that maybe, there is something else that might be making their child act in certain ways.

Lucy is a fantastic, though knackered mother, and I applauded her for recognising something within her child, and wanting to act upon it. I only wish I could suggest this as reading for certain parents who really don’t get ASD…

Many thanks to NetGalley and Corvus/Atlantic Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Releasing 5th May 2022

It Could Never Happen Here

It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oooh! So many good things about this book.
Yet again, I was drawn in by the fact that this was a book centred around a school, (teacher here!) and mysterious happenings concerning the pupils,
Glass Lake is a school that people clamour to get their children into and will fight tooth and nail to stay on the right side of those ‘Lakers’ who seem to rule the roost – power parents, rather than the principal.
However, something happens which sets off a chain of events, that somehow link back to another local tragedy…
A lot of mystery, and twists. I do love a good twist!
I don’t want to give anything away, but there are some big issues dealt with, within the covers of this book, regarding sexting, and keeping our children safe online.
It did get a little confusing when the chapters jumped from one timeline to another, and the points of views switched, sometimes, mid-chapter, which I had to really concentrate on, to know whose head I was in at the time, however, I was captivated and wanted to know what happened, and finished this book on a cold, windy Sunday, in pretty much one sitting!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Atlantic/Corvus books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Releasing on 3rd February, 2022

After the Rain by Lucy Dillon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tara Hunter is a councillor, in the midst of one of the hugest projects of her life. The village where she lives has suffered from the after-effects of life-changing, for some, flooding, and she has put her heart and soul into trying to help everyone affected to get back on their feet.
It’s a fact that after flooding, a lot of hidden rubbish comes to the surface of the water, and it appears that the same happens to Tara and her own hidden insecurities and feelings. Things she has managed to compartmentalise, forget about and move on from, from her childhood, come flooding back.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the rogue father who disappeared when she and her twin brother Toby were children also reappears, with a couple of his own secrets
Couple that with an intriguing new addition to the staff of the Wellness Centre she works for, David, and throw in some fantastic four-legged characters, and you have a captivating read.
I enjoyed this book, very much, and reading about Tara made me think a lot about my own well being. it is so easy to become the carer for all others, forsaking your own needs, especially if you feel they aren’t worthy of being acknowledged, or too painful to analyse.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Uk for an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.

Releasing 17th March 2022

Single Bald Female by Laura Price
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll just start by saying I loved this book.
I was captivated from the moment I read the blurb, and was so glad to have been granted the chance to read an arc.
The C-Word. It’s a b!tch, isn’t it?
This book highlights so many issues with the suffering a cancer patient goes through, from the words they hate people using to describe their experience, to the changes they experience, but also, it looks at how cancer affects those around the patient, too.
Jess has it all. Great job, wonderful partner, lovely friends, and a doting dad.
Then she realises she has something else she hadn’t counted on.
Breast cancer.
From trying to hide her diagnosis from all but her closest colleagues and friends, to deciding to announce to the office,, andher Facebook family, we accompany Jess through her experience.
Should she harvest eggs?
Freeze an embryo?
Cut it or shave it?
Wig it or go au natural?
Soldier on or admit she’s floundering?
Jess’s life is turned upside down. But there are ways she can right it. They just don’t all seem to be the right decisions.
She meets Bel, a younger cancer patient, who teaches her the value of the life she has, and through Bel, she learns more about love, life and herself.
Again, I’ll say it. I loved it.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for an Arc in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 14th April, 2022

One Day I Shall Astonish the World

One Day I Shall Astonish the World by Nina Stibbe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a book about a woman, Susan, who works with, and ends up best friends with her employer’s daughter Norma.
We are privy to the way their relationship develops, from one of colleagues to best friends, then colleagues again, with less friendship.
The book is set over several decades, and details the changes in their lives, as their own relationship morphs, ending with the horror of COVID-19.
I want to have liked this more, but unfortunately for me, it was a hard read. I was unable to really get into the swing of the book and found there was not a proper story arc to it, a definite beginning, middle or end…

Many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK for an ARC n exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 14th April, 2022

Love in the Time of the Monsoon by Malika Gandhi

Love in the Time of the Monsoon by Malika Gandhi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting story, revolving around Pooja, and her group of friends, with some illicit love, abuse, rape, and the horrors of portion thrown in.
The story has some poignant parts within, but there was sometimes quite a bit of jumping around, meaning I wasn’t moving seamlessly with the story.
However, there was a lot of meaning within.

Playing for Love by Jeevani Charika

Playing for Love by Jeevani Charika
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a huge fan of Indo Anglo fiction, and I’ve read a couple of other books by Jeevani Charika, so was over the moon to be able to read Playing For Love.
Sam (Samadhi) is trying her hardest to make a success of her new start-up business, Shanthi Bags, with no support from her family. Because she hasn’t told them. Instead, she’s ploughed her savings into a small office within The Nest, and hopes her crowdfunding campaign works.
Luke’s a nice bloke… Who happens to see the most beautiful woman ever, at his workplace, and hasn’t a clue how to approach her. He’s too shy. But, he can help her with her business, and then, maybe she’s fall in love…
Unlike his alter-ego, Blaze, YouTube gaming star, Brash, confident, and always that little bit aloof. (But no one knows that Blaze is Luke.)
Who happens to be someone Sam has watched on Youtube for many years, admires. Maybe even has a fangirl crush on…
Then something happens that throws Sam and Luke together, but not in the way they ever expected.
I devoured this easy read in a couple of hours in one sitting. A light-hearted fun read, with a little family background to tug at the heartstrings, and a sweet, bumbling Luke, who you really want to succeed in his attempts to woo Sam.
Many thanks to NetGalley and HQ Digital for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 11th February, 2022

No-One Ever Has Sex in the Suburbs (No-One Ever Has Sex #2)
Only bought this one 4 years ago!

No-One Ever Has Sex in the Suburbs by Tracy Bloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I visited Katy and Ben’s chaotic life, and here we find them in the throes of early parenthood.
The stresses of that, along with the worry of past infidelities, makes for a gigglesome read.
Is Katy happy to be going back to work? How will Ben cope as a Stay At Home Dad? And when he struggles, who will he turn to?
I can’t wait for the next one!

A Wayne in a Manger

A Wayne in a Manger by Gervase Phinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lovely book filled with anecdotes about the funny things children do and say, centred around Christmas and the Nativity. It spoke volumes to me, especially as an Early Years Teacher!

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can’t believe I got to 46 years of age and hadn’t read this Children’s classic, but I was determined to remedy that.
Charlotte’s Web is a true tale of friendship and determination.
A bittersweet tale, which teaches so much about life within its pages.

No-one Ever Has Sex on Christmas Day (No-One Ever Has Sex #3)

No-one Ever Has Sex on Christmas Day by Tracy Bloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back in the world of Katy and Ben, and Matthew and Alison, with a sprinkling of Duncan, Braindead and Ally, topped with a mother and her toyboy, a job offer, and a huge family Chrtistmas!
I always enjoy reading series, where you can immerse yourself in the characters and their stories, and this one is no different.
Katy and Ben are finally in their dream home, gearing up for their perfect first Christmas in it. But life has other ideas.
She’s still working, and now, so is Ben. After Millie, now 3-years-old, started pre-school, he ended up back in education, but now at her nursery. Crowned Master Elf, he has the pre-school nativity to supervise, and that is never without its fraught moments.
A client offers Katy something of a curveball of an opportunity, which she spends most of the book trying to figure out.
Matthew is like that bad smell that seems to never quite get the hint, and comes back on a regular basis. After some misunderstandings at his twins’s preschool, they are enrolled at the same one BEn works, which causes untold (funny) stress. Plus he’s a dad of three now, with a fourth on the way.
I love the side characters in this series, and Braindead gets a bit more of a starring role in this book, with him finding himself lovestruck!
Katy’s mother is hilarious, too, as she announces she has left her marriage, and taken up with a Spanish toyboy of her own, and that they are coming for Christmas!
A laugh out loud book, with so many unfortunate mishaps and misunderstandings, coupled with the continuation of a fantastic story.

No-one Ever Has Sex at a Wedding: An absolutely hilarious romantic comedy

No-One Ever Has Sex at a Wedding by Tracy Bloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another hilarious addition to the No-One Ever Has Sex series.
Katy and Matthew’s indiscretion manages to cloud the nuptials of Ben’s best friend Braindead, to Abby, causing a lack of bedroom action between newlyweds, and angst in Wedded Bliss Land, too.
To top it off, Katy’s Mum is getting married, and so is her best friend, Daniel, to her step-dad-to-be’s son!
Such a fun read!

No-One Ever Has Sex on Holiday (No-One Ever Has Sex #5)

No-One Ever Has Sex on Holiday by Tracy Bloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The last in the No-One Ever Has Sex series and it was another great addition.
I wondered how the fallout from a one night stand could end up spanning five books, but, to be honest, it wasn’t really mentioned much in this one.
Instead, we have three of our fave couples from the last four books, Katy and Ben, Braindead and Ally, and Daniel and Gabriel, on a family holiday with their assorted offspring.
From the moment they set off on a budget flight, much to the disgust of Daniel, who is used to the finer things in life, and meet a hen party, to the time they finally see their sleeping arrangements, to the touchdown back home, after a week of craziness, you know you are in for a great laugh!

The Art of Spirit Capture by Geoff Le Pard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now, I have read a fair few of Geoff Le Pard’s books, and I’ve enjoyed them all, varied in their genres as they are.
The Art Of Spirit Capture has to be by far my favourite of all I have read, I have to admit!
It’s a long un, around 500 pages, but you really don’t realise, once you get into the story, and I definitely did. In fact, it was my Christmas reading, and I was thankful that the turkey and all its trimmings wasn’t something that had been left to me to cook, because I slept very little on Christmas Eve, engrossed as I was in the story!
Jason Hales (you will remember the name, after hearing Cyrus, one of the other characters insisting on always using Jason’s full name!) has been made redundant.
It’s not ideal. He’s already getting through a particularly upsetting break-up and juggling those emotions with ones related to his brother. Peter, who was in an unfortunate biking accident, and is now in an induced coma.
Then, he receives a call from a small village lawyer, telling him an old aunt of his, Heather, has passed on, leaving him and his brother as sole beneficiaries of her estate.
The story follows Jason as he ends up making a home for himself in the cottage he spent many a summer of his early childhood.
The locals are wary of him. He’s wary of everyone. Except for Lotte. She was a childhood friend, from his earlier mentioned summer visits. However, she has secrets. Secrets that seem to involve him and his brother and something his uncle Ben used to make.
Spirit Captures.
I can’t put too much more in this review, for fear of including spoilers, but suffice to say, it is a fantastic read, and there is a bit of paranormal there, along with romance, too, and a wonderful mystery unravelled as the story unfolds.
Fabulous read!

Donkey Boy and Other Stories

Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary Smith has written some beautifully poignant shorts, here, drawing on her own life experiences of living in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and of course, Scotland.
From the horrifying story of Merunissa and her mother to the story of Odd Socks and a man residing in a care facility, and, of course, Ali the Donkey Boy, there is something there to touch all hearts.

Shamed: The Honour Killing That Shocked Britain – by the Sister Who Fought for Justice

Shamed: The Honour Killing That Shocked Britain – by the Sister Who Fought for Justice by Sarbjit Kaur Athwal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is terrifically hard to read, as a British Sikh woman.
Not because I don’t believe it, but I know, for a fact that there have been women, like Sarbjit, who have been cushioned from all things Western, in their life, here in the UK, despite being born and brought up here. They haven’t been awarded the freedom of their peers, citing culture and their community, and ‘honour’ as a reason.
I always count myself lucky to have been born into a family for whom doing the right thing was more important than the expected thing.
Sarbjit’s book details the horrific true story of one of the first honour killings that resulted in a conviction of the perpetrators – the victim’s mother-in-law and her husband. And all because she was not willing to toe the line they were throwing.
We learn of how Sarbjit was brought up to be ‘respectful’ of her elders and the community (read scared, not respectful) and how she could/should never go against them, for fear of shaming her family.
How her arranged marriage was foisted upon her, and how she suffered the pain of knowing what had happened to Surjit, the other daughter-in-law of the family, yet felt unable to do anything, paralysed with the fear of what may happen to her, her children, the family…
It’s stories like these that do build up your faith in the law, when you know there are individuals like DCI Clive who stood with her, and believed her, and in the end, managed to secure the conviction of the murderers.
Yes, I felt angry, almost annoyed, at why she didn’t step up, sooner, but then, deep down, I know of her confusion. How she was pulled in two very different directions, and how her own upbringing caused her to doubt what she should have done earlier.
A compelling true story, that just so, so sad.

Memoir of a Mad Woman

Memoir of a Mad Woman by Vashti Quiroz-Vega
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Trigger warnings for Abuse
Oh my goodness.
Short in length, but the punches packed in this novelette by Vega are felt long after you finish the book.
Emma is a girl who has ended up a number in the system, after losing both parents.
With no-one else to guide her and abuse at every turn, from physical to mental to sequel, it’s a disturbing read.
A lesson in what pushing someone too far can do…

TWO AND HALF MURDERS by Neel Anil Panicker

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a story that had such wings, but the way it was presented meant it never took flight.
An intriguing way of telling a story, with the alphabetical chapters, but poor spelling and grammar kept popping out.
I think there could have been so much more detail to the story, thus warranting the reader to want to read more in a prospective series.
Unfortunately, it didn’t hit, for me.
P.S. I really do hate it when I feel like I can’t give a glowing review…

Fat Chance

Fat Chance by Nick Spalding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have had this book sat on my Kindle for a long while, now, waiting to be read. I didn’t choose not to read it. It just ended up getting nudged down the list as I added to my huge list of books that I buy.
But, I am glad that I finally read it.
A funny yet poignant tale about a couple. Zoe and Greg, who, after twenty years of marriage, and that settled feeling together, meaning you lose interest in keeping the weight down, are both heavily overweight.
They kid themselves that they are happy. Well, they are, true love, that is. You don’t really see your loved one physically, because you love the person inside.
However, a friend at Zoe’s work, the local radio station, thinks it would be the best idea for them to both enter a couples weight loss competition, run by the station. Whichever couple loses the most amount of weight, collectively, wins a life-changing sum of money.
Neither of them is really interested, but for the sake of the prize, they give it a go, and along the way, they learn a lot about themselves and get themselves into some mischief, all in the name of losing weight.
I laughed out loud. I giggled. I related with so many of their struggles too.
All in all, a fantastically funny, but real book!

Christmas at the Restaurant (The Nantucket Restaurant series Book 2)

Christmas at the Restaurant by Pamela M. Kelley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet next episode into the lives of the three sisters, left a restaurant by their grandma in Nantucket.
The whole of Christmas feels magical in Nantucket, and it seems to be having a positive, and romantic, effect on everyone connected to the restaurant.
An easy, feel-good read.


Sarah by Teri Polen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another book that has been languishing on my Kindle for the last few years.
I am so glad I decided to read this, today.
I have become a little more into horror and thrillers, recently, and this fit the bill, perfectly, not overly gory, but scary enough!
A ghost haunts the room of teenager Cain, and she’s out to get revenge, using him to help her.
Sarah was a young girl in her prime, who was killed by three boys from her school. She can’t rest until she has avenged her death. Cain ends up the perfect source of information and fuel for her to wreak her havoc.
But, he isn’t interested in being the accomplice to a ghost.
So she turns on him, too.
A quick, jumpy, thrilling read!

The Wedding Setup: A Short Story

The Wedding Setup: A Short Story by Sonali Dev
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I do love a Bollywood inspired story, and Sonali Dev is one of the Queens of the genre.
Ayesha is getting on in the eyes of her widowed mother. But, how can she leave her mum, alone?
Ever since the death of her older brother, Ayesha has been with her Amma, filling the gaps of both her father and brother.
And, anyway, she’s never going to find someone to replace the true love of her life.
Still, it doesn’t stop her mother from match-making. At her best friend’s wedding, Ayesha comes to realise exactly how meddling her mother can be… and not always in the way she would have thought.
A really fun, quick and easy read to bring a little Eastern spice into the cold nights!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Original Stories for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Publishing on 11th January, 2022

The Twelve Wishes of Christmas

The Twelve Wishes of Christmas by Ruby Basu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a lovely debut from author Ruby Basu, combining two of my favourite things: my Indian heritage, and Christmas!

Coming from a devout Hindu background, Sharmila’s family never celebrated, even though they lived in England. She fed her love of Christmas by watching Christmas Hallmark style movies.
Now, Sharmila has been gifted something she held as one of her biggest wishes: the chance to experience a real American small-town Christmas, but there are conditions attached.
Unaware that her gift is actually part of an inheritance claim, She flies to the US with her best friend Penny and embarks upon a truly magical festive adventure, but there are always going to be flies in the ointment.
Lucas and Zack are not impressed that their uncle has left their family home and controlling shares in the family business to a total stranger. They are going to try their best to overturn this.
But, you know the score. It’s a Christmas book. There has to be love, and obstacles, and lots of festive food, right?
It’s just the right balance of ‘will they/won’t they’ to create a fun, easy to read festive book!

P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy

P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy by D.G. Kaye
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heartbreaking memoir, detailing the struggles author D.G. Kaye has with reconciling her thoughts and memories of their narcissistic mother, just before, and after she passes away.

Have Bags, Will Travel

Have Bags, Will Travel by D.G. Kaye
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another memoir from D.G Kaye, though this time it’s an amusing one with travel anecdotes, as well as some sound advice on packing practically, and how o, just maybe, get away with bringing back all that extra shopping!

So, how was this final month of 2021, and what has my total books read been this year?

Well, I may have just surpassed my monthly reading record, as I think that was 25 books, this month!

And the total for the year? Not counting all those picture books I read to the children at school daily…

I didn’t surpass my total from 2020, which was around 170, but 145 books read. That is a pretty respectable amount, I reckon!

2022 is already promising to be a year filled with many other literary high points, so I am going to aim to stay sensible on signing up for arcs, and faithfully try to get somewhere through this TBR list that I have… All my unread eBooks are on a list, and I feel lightheaded whenever I look, and there is another trolley in my reading nook, filled with the physical books that I have bought but not got to reading, too… Maybe, just maybe, I can make a dent in them, too!

What was your total books read count? And favourite book of the year?

November 2021 Books #AmReading

How did it get to November, already? Now, I warn you, November is pretty much written off for me, in anything other than school, with Parents evenings, training, and the run-up to Christmas things happening in school… Will I ever finish that ARC list, and get some of my other books read?

peacefully reading

Sunny by Sukh Ojla
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I requested this arc with much anticipation, as I have seen the author in her stand up comedy shows a few times, and she has always hit the nail on the head about being a young, British Asian, single woman.
The premise of Sunny, is a thirty-year-old British born Indian woman, struggling to fit in with the stereotypes of the East/West background she has grown up in.
Add to that, the pressures to feel like she should look a certain way, act a certain way, live her life a certain way.
But it’s the double life she struggles with and those pressures above? Doubled.
Sunny wants to be like those friends of hers, settling down with their partners of choice, finding that intimacy that you only have with your soulmate.
She also wants to keep her parents happy, and not overstep any mark that might bring disrespect to her family, or her parents in particular.
Cue trying out all the dating apps, kissing many frogs, but not finding her Prince Charming, then clambering back into her ‘home clothes’ and wiping her make-up off before getting home, to where she is living, again, with her parents. And going out with her friends, with that ’emergency kit’ forever with her, to mask any activity her parents would disapprove of.
At home, life is so much simpler, until Mama comes in, with her wanting Sunny to find a suitable boy, and settle down,
What follows is a story filled with so much laughter, as you relate to some of the situations that Sunny gets herself into, including hesitantly allowing her mum to get involved in her online dating, even letting her look at ‘Tindles’!
But there is more at the heart of this.
Sukh Ojla deals with much more than the funny side of bagging a man so you can have that Big, Fat Indian wedding. There are unspoken expectations about how a girl should look, what she should say, how she should behave, and how these weigh heavily on someone mentally and emotionally. She touches on mental health, and the hidden depths of depression that can hit someone who is loaded with the pressure of expectation from all sides.
Being a resident of Gravesend for the last twenty years, I can vouch for the authenticity of how my marital hometown has been described, from the local Indian sweet shop to the town centre, the gurdwara to the promenade!
Sunny is a fantastic character, in herself, but the cast around her are equally amazing. I love her Mama, who is that quintessential Indian Mummy (Gravo style) complete with the samosa making skills, and Yoga class friends who are forever gossiping. Her Dad is equally wonderful. Quiet, unassuming, but a pillar of strength, regardless.
Sunny manages to find some real pieces of work, on her hunt for Mr Right, but she also learns a lot about other friends she has, and the new ones she makes.
(There were times I wanted to slap certain ‘friends’ of hers!)
Most of all, she finds herself, and I absolutely loved the ending!
I can’t wait for another from this author!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Publishing on 3rd March, 2022


Impossible by Sarah Lotz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, that was a bit of a roller coaster of a read, wasn’t it?
Bee receives an email, unintended for her, and what is revealed through the course of her and the sender, Nick, is pretty impossible to believe.
I don’t want to add any spoilers, but this really is an ‘Impossible’ love story, and it sure takes you through the ringers!
I enjoyed reading it.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 17th March, 2022

To Love and Be Loved

To Love and Be Loved by Amanda Prowse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, Amanda Prowse, you’ve done it again!
I was hooked on the story of Merrin from the moment I started reading. She was born and has lived in the same Cornish Fishing village of Port Charles, her whole life, and intends to spend the rest of it, there, too.
On the cusp of beginning the next chapter of her life, Merrin is convinced her life is headed in exactly the right direction.
Until the one thing she never expected to happen, happens. Filled with humiliation, Merrin flees her beloved hometown to forget her sorrows, but with a huge sense of regret at leaving her family behind.
Nothing can convince her to come back, not even the death of her grandma… Nothing, until her sister gets married.
Where do I start? Merrin is a beautiful character, full of hope, romance and life. It broke my heart to read how she crumbled, along with all her dreams, on that fateful day.
And feeling that she was never going to find anything close to the love she had felt at the time, the story grows, showing how she hardens her heart to feelings too intense, pushing away so many people who love her, romantically, and otherwise.
However, life does move in mysterious ways, and despite losses, she finds her perfect ending.
I loved Merrin’s best friend, Bella, a lot. What I wouldn’t give to have a Bella by my side!
A consuming read which I finished in a day.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 11th January, 2022

Em & Me

Em & Me by Beth Morrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, so, although it took me a little time to read, (life, not the book’s fault!) I truly loved this new release by Beth Morrey.
Delphine Jones is a relatively young woman, in her late twenties, already with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Having been a teen-mum, reeling from the loss of her beloved mother and caring for her grief-stricken father, as well as looking after her twelve-year-old daughter, life hasn’t dealt her the best cards, but she’s trying to make the most of it.
She keeps things afloat with a waitressing job, and a long term cleaning gig for an old friend of her mother.
Thing is, there was always meant to be more to the life of Delphine Jones, or Fifi as her dad calls her.
This isn’t a romance, though there is so much love within the pages of this book.
I was immersed in the story of Delphine, as she slowly begins to bring back the unravelled threads of her former self, and starts to reach for the dreams she had all but given up on, in order to keep existing.
Fifi was a bright student with so much to look forward to until she fell pregnant at sixteen. Then all the confidence seemed to have been knocked out of her.
I loved how the different people around her built her up, in their own ways, so each part of her life starts to make sense.
Her ‘teacher’, Ros, who encourages her to study again.
Letty, her elderly French companion, who teaches her to take every opportunity while she can.
Dylan, who shows her she is not dead inside.
Sanjay (and Dylan, again) who brings music back into her life.
Her father, who finds his strength again, through her, then becomes her support.
Selassie and Abrihet, who taker her into their little restaurant, and treat her like their own daughter, giving her encouragement, and nourishment she didn’t know she needed.
And Em. Beautiful Em Jo, her daughter, who is her whole reason for living and being.
A story filled with soul and hope.

3rd February, 2022

The Keeper of Stories

The Keeper of Stories by Sally Page
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a beautiful book!
I was hooked by the cover and the blurb definitely reeled me in – that’s what it’s supposed to do, and it did its job!
Janice is a cleaner, who, over the course of her ‘career’ has collected the stories of many of her clients. She is a firm believer that everyone has a story. Except her.
But, fate works in mysterious ways and meeting a couple of very different people, and a dog, through her job, and her daily travel, prove to her that everyone does indeed have a story, including her.
I was rooting form Janice from the off, especially after learning about her waste-of-space husband. Here’s a woman with a heart of gold, and so much to give to the people around her, yet he sees her as ‘just a cleaner’.
The added characters of Euan, and Mrs B (I LOVED her!) really gave the story a kick, and Decius the dog was an added bonus!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 3rd February, 2022

Rereleasing Soon! Special post coming on 6th December!

So, not a total washout. I can say that I did get my arcs down to 1, but the list is back up to 5! I just can’t help myself! So, any that caught your eye? What have you been reading?

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