I'm Claire and I'm a voracious reader. I've loved books all my life and am lucky enough to have lots of time to devote to my favourite hobby - reading!
My favourite genres are crime, police procedural, psychological thriller, suspense, horror, mystery and paranormal; throw in a hint of romance and it'll tick another box. The type of genres I read has been widened considerably by accepting review requests from authors and publishers, so I'm happy to give almost anything a go!
Published by: Bookouture (5 October 2016)
Saskia Frost’s world is blown apart when her dad dies. Without any family, she’s on her own now and up to her eyeballs in her father’s debts. He owed a lot of money to some very dangerous men – Joshua and Vincent Harper. Before long, aspiring ballerina Saskia finds herself lap-dancing in a London club to survive. A club run by the infamous Harper brothers. Saskia is now their property and they’re going to make her pay every penny back.
Teenager Lena Cona has fled a cruel and controlling marriage. She arrives in England with her newborn daughter, desperately relying on strangers for help. But she soon learns that not everyone can be trusted as she finds herself caught in the clutches of Colin Jefferies, a twisted individual obsessed with his ‘perfect dollies’. But when the sickening truth behind them is revealed, Lena is forced to fight for her life - and her baby’s.
When their worlds collide, Lena and Saskia form an unlikely friendship. But with the terrifying Harper brothers on their tail, as well as Lena’s vengeful and violent husband, can they escape with their lives?
The Taken is a gripping psychological thriller that grabbed my attention from the outset. With an emotive plot involving kidnapping and forced marriage, I found it both shocking and compulsive reading, unable to tear my eyes from the page. Having said that, I found some things predictable.
There are enough twists and turns to hold the reader's interest, and the sub-plots with Vincent & Joshua add another dimension to this tale. I'd like to thank Bookouture.and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy, in return for my honest revIew.
Self-published (January 4 2016)
Join us on the ride through a kaleidoscope of mystery and intrigue. In these ten tales of suspense, the lines between fact and reality blur, challenging one's notions of everyday life. Eerie, poignant, and at times inspiring, this collection of never-before-seen stories will transport you to a world where the supernatural abounds alongside the banal, and nothing is what it seems...
This collection of ten short stories contained some that I enjoyed now than others. There were a couple that I feel had the potential to develop into much longer pieces of work,
Elevator and Wunderkind. On the whole a good read.Thanks to the author for providing a review copy in return for my honest review.
Published by: Bookouture (September 9 2016)
When the body of a woman is found in a locked house, Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel is called in to investigate a seemingly impossible murder.
Faced with little in the way of leads and a journalist who seems to know more than she does, Jessica is under intense pressure to solve the case fast.
When a second body is discovered bearing the same hallmarks of the first victim, the investigation suddenly escalates. Jessica is on the hunt for a serial killer who willstrike again. Can she get to him before the body count rises? And is she prepared to put her own life in terrible danger to catch the murderer?
I requested this from NetGalley by mistake, eagerly clicking as soon as I saw the author's name and totally missing that it was US only. The Killer Inside was published in the UK as Locked In.
I really like Jessica Daniel as a character. She's not one of those completely ballsy female cops who can do it all with an a for attitude. Having said , she is a little bit inclined to wander in without calling for backup, but she's inexperienced and a little immature. I'm hoping she will grow in future books.
In terms of plot, there were some twists and turns, some red herrings, but I did guess the killer's identity fairly early on.
Thanks to Kerry Wilkinson, Bookouture and NetGalley for providing a review copy.
Published by: Ten Speed Press (11th October 2016)
Although I'm not an avid viewer, I have seen the odd episode of It's Me or the Dog and like Victoria Stilwell's approach. In The Secret Language of Dogs, Victoria invites us to look at the way that dogs look at us. Confused? Don't be. This is an interesting and insightful guide to reading your dog that little bit better. It's clearly laid out, in language we can all understand, and it helped me look at our dogs in a slightly different light. I'm sure fellow dog mums will love it!
Published by: Bookouture (11th July 2016)
Two ordinary women. Two damaged lives. One friendship that would save them both
Kit Mason has lived a life of unimaginable pain. An ex-prostitute, she has fled the clutches of an abusive pimp and now finds herself living hand to mouth in a new city, without anyone to help her.
Frances Thornton seems to be living the perfect life. A lawyer from a privileged background, her perfect façade hides the painful secrets that still haunt her.
Brought together by their attempts to conquer their addictions in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, the two women strike up an unlikely friendship.
But can they find strength in each other – or will the demons of their past catch up with them?
I was intrigued by this change in genre from crime thriller author Angela Marsons. The Forgotten Woman tells the story of the chance meeting of Fran and Kit, and their battles to overcome their demons.
While I didn't immediately identify with either of the main characters, I could appreciate that they were well written. The backgrounds of the characters was intriguing, particularly Fran's. It felt like the author had drawn on personal experience, or carried out extensive research. Because of this, it was easy to picture the scene playing out in front of me.
I didn't think this was as good as the author's crime thriller series, but that is my preferred genre.
Special thanks to Kitty French and Bookouture for providing a review copy, via NetGalley.
Published by: Bookouture (13th July 2016)
When I first started reading Melody Bittersweet I wasn't really sure what to expect, and was a little dubious. I certainly wasn't expecting the delightfully funny, riotous romp of a tale that ensued.
Melody is a fantastic complex character, whose personality leaps off the page.Supported by a brilliant cast of secondary characters, Melody quickly became my new best friend and someone to be admired. The laugh-out-loud moments just don't stop!
Well written with an eye for detail, Melody Bittersweet and the Girls' Ghostbusting Agency is a book that really took me by surprise and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who enjoys a damn good read!
Published by: Bookouture (21st October 2016)
A gorgeous country house hotel, a liberal dusting of snow, a cosy weekend away…what more could Lizzie ask for at Christmas?
Every Christmas Lizzie promises herself that things will change and she will leap into the new year a new woman. And yet here she is again, at the beginning of December and nothing is different. Her girls have grown up and left home, her husbandHenry is slumped in front of the TV and she is alone in the kitchen, seeking refuge in the cooking sherry and talking to her Gary Barlow calendar. She’s also been very diverted by handsome new neighbour Marcus and she knows she shouldn’t be …
So when best friend Ann suggests a weekend away in the country, Lizzie jumps at the chance. Will this Christmas escape give Lizzie some much needed perspective and allow her to mend her marriage? Or will Marcus prove to be too much of a distraction?
A funny feel good festive read about rediscovering the magic of Christmas - just the thing to curl up with on a cold winters night.
This was my first Xmas read of this year and was an ideal way to ease into the cosy, Christmassy feelings these festive books bring about.
I found main character Lizzie likeable and believable, even if I didn't really identify with her very much. Best friend Ann is great too, and the pair bounce off each other nicely. Lizzie did seem a little naive at times, which I found slightly frustrating, but that is my only criticism of the character.
I found parts of the story predictable, but that doesn't really matter with this type of fiction, as long as some things are still a surprise! I like that it is a very human story and definitely not all sugary sweet, so it feels very realistic.
Thanks to Christie Barlow and Bookouture for supplying a review copy, via NetGalley.
Published by: Ten Speed Press (6th September 2016)
From bestselling author Rebecca Katz comes this collection of 60 recipes for pure, cleansing soups intended to renew and restore.
In Clean Soups, author Rebecca Katz teaches readers how to incorporate wholesome stocks and soups into their everyday eating so they can detox and feel energized year-round. The book includes foundational broths, blended soups, and traditional healing soups, as well as a 2-day cleanse and information that outlines how to incorporate soups into everyday living. Rebecca also lays out the building blocks for creating delicious and balanced soups, guiding readers to create their own concoctions. Rounding out the book are recipes for soup toppers that can be mixed and matched to enhance and change the flavor of every soup in the book.
I really enjoy a good bowl of soup and much prefer to eat pure, unprocessed food as it makes me feel so much better than how I feel if I eat lots of unhealthy, processed foods loaded with strange sounding artificial ingredients.
The recipes included may appear a little daunting to people who aren't used to cooking from scratch, but if they've already purchased the book I'll assume they have the motivation to actually cook the recipes too. Of course, there are lots of nifty gadgets that make it all a lot simpler too.
I've made a few soups from this book and I've really enjoyed them. I prefer a blended soup, so it was different for me to leave some in a chunky style, but I found them very tasty so I've learned that I like chunky soups too, and found them really filling.
The 2-day cleanse detail is a nice added bonus that seems to fit in well with the clean eating ethos and something other soup books probably wouldn't contain, so could well be this book's USP.
Special thanks to Ten Speed Press and NetGalley for providing an ARC in return for my honest review.
Published by: CHBB Publishing (19th August 2016)
Two years have passed since her willing return to the DSD, and Wynter Reeves is no longer the timid girl who only wanted to blend in. Strong, confidant, and in control of her once debilitating powers, the world trembles at her feet while news of what she’s capable of spreads like fire among the State’s enemies. As the death toll rises and Dr. Richter further warps her into a weapon of war, Wynter is forced to embrace the daunting reality of what she’s become. With the remnants of her humanity hanging on by a shoestring, she must choose between the one sacrifice that could lead to her salvation or the dark path of destruction from which there can be no return.
Torn between two sides of a war she never asked for, will Wynter find her freedom, or will she be doomed to remain a monster forever?
This follow-up to last year's Ultraxenopia had an awful lot to live up to. It was great to finally catch up with Wynter and see what was happening in her life, now that she was back at the DSD.
It was a bit of a shock at first that two years had gone by since the end of Ultraxenopia, but I soon forgot about that as I was immediately sucked into the story. Wynter is now the State's killing machine and seems resigned to this fate, although she does remember some of the person she was before she was turned into a weapon. I don't put spoilers in my reviews and I'm having trouble with this one already! Suffice to say there is lots of action, a few characters from the first book make an appearance, including Dr Richter, who is determined to recapture his ultimate weapon. There are also some new characters that Wynter is rather suspicious of at first. Conversely, people are suspicious of Wynter. She is determined to prove that she is not the monster people perceive her to be.
M.A. Phipps has, again, written a compelling novel that grabs you from the very outset.It is intelligently written and utterly captivating, making it impossible to put down until you have finished the entire book. It is also quite emotionally diverse. I cannot wait to see where the story picks up in book three!
Published by: Bookouture (23rd September 2016)
Since splitting from her husband, Charlie’s life has been stuck in a rut. Best friend Mercedes will do anything to put a smile back on Charlie’s face and so draws up a bucket list of things to help Charlie recover her mojo.
Sure enough, as Charlie works her way through the list, belly dancing and bungee jumping, she makes new friends and even begins to attract some male attention.
Journalist Jake gives Charlie butterflies but he almost seems too perfect – there must be a reason why he’s single. Perhaps Rob would be a better bet – yes he’s short and he drinks too much - but a girl can’t have everything can she?
The final challenge on Charlie’s list looms large. Can Charlie complete it and prove to herself that life is for living, whatever may have happened in the past? And can Jake get through to Charlie and stop her from settling for the single life or, the wrong man?
I don't read an awful lot of chick lit, but I know I can rely on the Bookouture authors to provide some much-needed light relief when I need a break from my beloved crime and psychological thrillers. Award-winning writer Carol E. Wyers is a new author to me, but I am familiar with her name, having recently found a copy of Life Swap in a local second hand book shop.
The premise of this novel is fabulous; two best friends agree to work their way through each others' Carpe Diem list, their version of a bucket list, undertaking the challenges. As Charlie works her way through her challenges, each more scary than the last, she gets into all sorts of trouble, often with hilarious results. I laughed so much whilst reading this book, it's got such a feel good factor!
Charlie and best friend Mercedes seem like a couple of women I'd be friends with, and their relationship is so easy to relate to. Other characters simply add to the enjoyment, particularly adorable Bert. My only criticism would be that I worked out very early on what would happen, but I think this is acceptable in the genre, and the only thing that made me give it less than 5*.
Thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for providing an ARC in return for my honest review.
Published by: Kensington Books (July 26 2016) (hardback)
"I was fourteen when I fell in love with a goddess. . ."
So begins the testimony of Noah Calaway, an ex-lawyer with a sideline in armchair criminal psychology. Now living an aimless life in an inherited cottage in the English countryside, Noah is haunted by the memory of the beguiling young woman who left him at the altar sixteen years earlier. Then one day he receives a troubling phone call. April, the woman he once loved, lies in a coma, the victim of an apparent overdose--and the lead suspect in a brutal murder. Deep in his bones, Noah believes that April is innocent. Then again, he also believed they would spend the rest of their lives together.
While Noah searches for evidence that will clear April's name, a teenager named Ella begins to sift through the secrets of her own painful family history. The same age as April was when Noah first met her, Ella harbors a revelation that could be the key to solving the murder. As the two stories converge, there are shocking consequences when at last, the truth emerges.
Or so everyone believes. . .
I devoured Debbie Howells' debut, 2015's The Bones of You, so when I had the opportunity to read a review copy of The Beauty of the End, I jumped at the chance.
Upon meeting Noah, I was a little wary as I wasn't sure whether he would turn out to be trustworthy or not. He comes across as quite needy and clearly still has very strong feelings for April. Strong, verging on the obsessive. He finds out impossible to resist trying prove her innocence, the pull of her is just too strong, even lying in a coma.
The chapters tell the story from different perspectives: Noah's; Ella's; and the young Noah, who tells of his love of April. I found this confusing in a couple of places and had to double check whose point of view it was, but that's likely nothing to do with the writing and everything to do with my compromised attention span!
I enjoyed the way the story built, layer upon layer, with twists along the way, but I did manage to work out a couple of things from the clues and words left unsaid. Having said that, the final twist was something I'd not forseen - it was quite a shock!
Ella's story, told via sessions with her therapist, added more depth and structure, and of course I was trying to guess how she fit in.
Once again, Debbie Howells' masterful storytelling and great attention to detail make for a deeply compelling psychological that I highly recommend.
Special thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book, in return for my honest opinion.
Publisher: Scribe Publications; (14 July 2016)
Source: Real Readers
When a young woman is shot dead in his apartment block, disgraced former police officer Leo Junker is one of the first on the scene. Examining the dead body, he notices that the woman is clasping a cheap necklace - a necklace he instantly recognises. Despite being warned off the case, Leo sets out on a rogue investigation to catch the killer, uncovering a series of frightening connections between the murder and his own troubled youth in Salem, and forcing him to confront a long ago incident that changed his life forever.
After a rather rocky start, I decided to persevere with The Invisible Man From Salem, because I had heard such good things about the author, and the story had really appealed to me.
The Leo Junker of the present day is in a sorry state. Suspended from the police force and with a penchant for knocking back tranquilizers with shots of absinthe, Leo is suddenly transported back in time when a piece of evidence ties him to this current case. Leo's teenage years are told in the present time and first person, which I an not usually a huge fan of, but the younger Leo is more optimistic, relatively sober, and not yet reliant on pharmaceuticals to get him through the day. He is also very well written, and nothing is lost in the translation. This is where the plot began to sink its claws in and I started wondering what the rest of this book held for the maverick cop.
All in all, this was an enjoyable read but, for me, the 'wow' factor was missing. Special thanks Scribe, Real Readers and the team at nudge for providing me with a copy of this book, in return for my honest review.
Published by Ten Speed Press (30th August 2016)
From the author of the brilliant "A Modern Way to Eat," who was dubbed "the new Nigella Lawson" by "The Times," comes this beautiful collection of 150+ delicious and inspiring weeknight vegetarian recipes.
EATING HEALTHY ISN T ALWAYS EASY when you re coming home late at night and tired. In this genius new collection of vegetarian recipes, author Anna Jones tackles this common problem, making nourishing vegetable-centered food realistic on any day of the week. The chapters are broken down by time, with recipes that can be prepared in under 15, 20, 30, and 40 minutes, so no matter how busy you are, you can get dinner on the table, whether it be smoky pepper and white bean quesadilla, butternut squash and sweet leek hash, or chickpea pasta with simple tomato sauce. With evocative and encouraging writing, A Modern Way to Cook is a truly practical and inspiring recipe collection for anyone wanting to make meals with tons of flavor and little fuss.
This is a fantastic book for making quick meals full of yummy plant-based goodness. The recipes are arranged according to how long they take to prepare and cook. It's all so simple, the only way you could go wrong was if you didn't have the ingredients in the first place!
There are beautifully clear photographs to accompany almost every recipe, and suggested alternatives to vary the dishes too. This is being hailed as the best vegetarian book of recent years and claims to contain recipes to tempt even the most die-hard carnivore, and I can see why. There are recipes here that my meat-eating husband would enjoy, and I'm personally looking forward to trying the ones I've not already made.
Published by: Mira UK (19th May 2016)
From the moment Liverpool teenager Jess stars in the school musical, she knows that she’s GOT to be a star. Fast forward a few years and the closest the now 22 year old Jessica has got to stardom is as a children’s entertainer – which is where she meets Jack, uncle to the spoiled 5 year old birthday princess, who spots Jessica’s talent and offers her a job with a record label. But that means that she’ll have to leave her family and her home and move to London – where she quickly finds that the streets aren’t quite paved with gold. And as she spends her days making tea for bitchy PR girls and her nights in a mouldy studio flat, Jessica wonders if leaving Liverpool for London has been a terrible mistake.
Attending an industry party – unfortunately only to serve canapes – Jessica’s fortunes suddenly change when Vogue, the singer due to perform at the event drops out. Before she knows it, Jessica volunteers to stand in and takes centre stage. After a dazzling performance, she is surrounded by people wondering who this amazing new talent is. What’s more, her star turn has been captured by the press and she has become an overnight sensation.
Plunged into the crazy world of glitz and glamour, Jessica’s life is transformed but as her star rises, she loses touch with her roots. Jessica’s teenage dreams of stardom may have come true, but at what cost?
Remember My Name is a delightful romp through the life of Jessy; an ordinary young woman quickly catapulted into the guise of Jessika, the newest pop star on the planet, simply by being in the right place at the right time. Oh yeah, and by having a rather fab voice too! We follow Jessy as she tries to adapt to the demands of her new life and still find time for her family, friends and herself. Time she just doesn't seem to have enough of...
I suspect that there are more than a few parallels with the author's personal experiences here. The story seems very real and the emotions raw. The clever use of description makes it impossible not to feel for Jessy and the impossible situation she finds herself in. Having said that, this is certainly not a literary read, but it isn't marketed as such. I think it would greatly appeal to the YA/NA market.
The characters are easy to relate to - Jessy herself is likeable and believable, and other characters like Jessy's sister Becky and fellow singer Vogue are instantly likeable. Others, such as Patty, are slow burners and take a while to get to know. This book definitely puts you through the emotional wringer. I laughed out loud, snorted, gasped, shouted, and appeared to have something in my eye...
Special thanks to Mira UK and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.
Published by: Bookouture (15th July 2016)
The perfect wife. A fairytale family. Don’t believe your eyes…
Jeanie and Matthew are a happily married couple who both have teenage children from previous relationships.
No one said it would be easy to raise a blended family under one roof but Jeanie and Matthew are strong. They will make it work.
And whilst Jeanie’s step-daughter Scarlett rejects her, Jeanie will just have to try harder to win her over.
But Jeanie has a past. A terrible secret she thought she’d buried a long time ago. And now, it’s coming to the surface, threatening to destroy her new marriage.
Someone is playing a terrifying game on Jeanie and she must put a stop to it once and for all.
After all, a fairytale needs a happy ending … doesn’t it?
Each chapter in this psychological thriller is told from the perspective of new wife, Jeanie, or her sister, Marlena, with Jeanie focusing on what is happening in the here and now, whilst Marlena has a more reflective view. It was useful to get some insight into the sisters' childhood and the ways in which it must have affected their views and actions in their lives and relationships.
As Jeanie encounters strange goings-on at home, the intelligence of Claire Seeber's writing shines through, leaving the reader as bewildered as Jeanie. The clever plot twists shift your focus this way and that, until you have absolutely no idea who is responsible for what, who is innocent and who, ultimately, is guilty.
Although I enjoyed the story as a whole, there were a couple of parts I found hard to get into. There is an awful lot going on and lots of different points I felt could have been explored further, or omitted all together, to make the story more concise. But, no doubt I'm being overly critical.
I thought the characters were quite well developed, and I really liked Jeanie. Although she was a pleaser, she also had a little bit of fighting spirit too, and the combination worked. I could picture each of the characters really well too, the descriptions were so good. Each little mannerism and personality trait came through, it was like the whole book played out in front of me. The descriptions of the environment, the houses and grounds, were fantastic too. I felt as though I could see each of the rooms and the gardens. I distinctly remember feeling the same way about a previous book by the same author and being very impressed by her writing. Claire Seeber is definitely one to watch.
Special thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader's copy, in return for my honest review.