Gnomon – Nick Harkaway


Hmmmm…..I loved this book when I first started reading it – it’s really the sort of thing I go for often and it sounded really good – and it is, sortof?

The book is set in a futuristic Britain, one that is under strict surveillance by ‘The Witness’ – nobody can commit a crime without it being seen – even committing a crime is impossible as the system can pick up on thoughts, and bring you in for ‘fixing. Any mental health issues are cured – everyone is perfect. A completely open and safe country. Almost…

Our opening character is an investigator, Mielikki Neith, who is tasked with finding out who from ‘The Witness’ killed Diana Hunter – a lady who has somehow managed to stay off grid, and whom ‘The Witness’ were trying to ‘fix’. Sounds good, and it was at this stage.

Meilikki dives into Diana’s memories and personality (the system can download it into her brain), and finds she has hidden herself into four different personalities – the task of trying to fix her whilst she hid in all of these caused Diana’s death.

The book is one big puzzle in which we hear the story of each of the personalities to try to find meaning – there is apparently a message left for Mielikki by Diana which she has to find and all will be revealed..

At least I think that’s the plot….I just lost it if i’m honest. I followed the stories, I enjoyed them, but then I just got confused when we went somewhere new, and I forgot who was who, and who connected to the other, etc. It’s just too complex for a pick up and read for a couple of hours a day. I think this book needs someone who will sit down all day with it, or over a weekend and just plough through it with no distractions, ie dinner to make in an hour, the other half watching ‘Endeavour’ in the background. Then again, for me, even if I’d sat down and ploughed through it I think I still would have really struggled.

So, if you like a good heavy complex book, then this is absolutely for you. Unfortunately, it was not for me.


Black Dawn – Mallory McCartney

I loved this book! We first meet with Emory Fae, a young girl, leading a normal life on earth until two soldiers appear at her apartment and whisk her away to Kiero where it turns out she is the heir to the throne, and is dragged straight into the Black Dawn rebellion, and a plot to overthrow the king.

This is a big page turner – the plot twists and turns, love, hate, betrayal- it has it all and you never know what’s coming next. Who is really telling the truth? Are the rebels doing what is right for Emory and Kiero? Who knows?!

This is the first book in the series, and I for one can’t wait for the next instalment – what a cliffhanger!!!

My thanks to Netgalley and Clean Reads for this copy

I still dream – Jame Smythe

Living in the age that we do, I found this book quite scary to be honest, but also incredibly touching and moving, and human.

Our main character is Laura Bow, and we join her as a teenager, doing all the usual teenage things, spending all day with her mates at school then chatting all night to them on the phone about what happened at school – same thing I did, however, Laura clearly is a little younger than me as she has the internet at home – albeit the screetchy dial up connection that I remember from my MSX (yeah, I had one of those, not an amstrad….), and you had to pay for it via the phone line (I’d forgotten all about that!).

We discover that Laura is quite clearly an IT genius, using internet chatrooms to seek advice occasionally when coding her own AI “Organon” – using it initially as someone to talk to – as therapy – after her dad disappeared without explanation.

We follow Laura through her life, leaving school, her first job, love, marriage, dealing with dementia, pregnancy, death, betrayal, as well as always wondering what happened to her father and why he disappeared. Oragnon is always there, asking what she wants to talk about, and occasionally asking other questions Laura does not know how it knew how to do – scaring her a little.

I’m not going to give away the plot more than what I already have done. It’s a really good book – it makes you think about how we use AI in our lives, and the consequences – especially considering what has happened recently with our information on a certain social media platform, and (for those in england) GDPR which surprised and worried me about how many companies have my email address, but have been silent for years.

We have Siri, Alexa, etc which we just shout at to do something for us or find something out for us, play some music, etc….it’s just the start, and this book makes you realise it could be terrifying if it all goes wrong. But it also will be amazing if it doesn’t…..

It’s ironic as I finish this post, Siri reminds me that my countdown is up to take something out of the oven.

My thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins for a copy of this book.

Ottercombe Bay (2)- Gin and Trouble – Bella Osborne

I stumbled on this book via Twitter and i’m really pleased I did. I have to admit that I haven’t read the first book – only a short sample, so I was a little bit worried going straight into the second one incase it made no sense. Luckily the sample gave me enough background to piece things together, although I probably will go back and pick up the full first book to fill in the gaps!

Our main character is Daisy, who has returned to her tiny seaside home town after a death in the family, and has inherited an old railway station (I have some blanks here!) which she wishes to turn into a gin bar/hot chocolate shop (what a fab idea by the way….). Daisy expects to be doing this all by herself, but her friends Tamsyn (think Alice from Vicar of Dibley – RIP), Jason, and Max have other ideas and all pitch in.

However, as the title suggests, there is trouble…

This is a really nice read- quite short so it’s a days read. One of those books you sit down to with a massive cup of tea (or hot chocolate actually!) by the window and watch the snow*. I took an instant liking to all bar two of the characters – one because I’m siding with Daisy, and the other one i’m not telling why because of I don’t do spoilers

I am going to complete the series of books quite quickly because quite honestly, its a really good read, and you left me with that cliffhanger….SERIOUSLY??!!!!!

My thanks to Netgalley and Avon Books

*watch the supermarket delivery man almost fall into the garden – sorry, really should have cleared the steps…)

The Eye of the North – Sinead O’Hart

I love this book!

I mean seriously – who isn’t going to love this book? The book’s synopsis tells us that Emmeline Widget – our star -has never left Widget Manor – her parents are scientists who mysteriously disappear and she is packed off on a ship, befriended by an urchin stowaway named Thing, and then is kidnapped by the “sinister Dr Siegfried Bauer” who wants to summon a legendary monster from the deep.

I knew from the very first page that this was really my sort of book and I just hoped that it lived up to my expectations. It did.

I started this book in an airport in Tromso, and didn’t put it down again (well, barring changing flights, eating, finding trains, etc) until I reached home 16 hours later.

Emmeline is a really likeable character and I absolutely adored her from the very start – the author has clearly put a lot of thought into the characters, how they interact with each other and how we should feel about them. I thought Emmeline was just great – Thing has a surprising back story that I would never have guessed and which warmed him to me more and more as the story progressed. Of course Dr Bauer was evil…I hated him…

It’s this sort of book that makes me wish I was middle grade again and not an adult. It’s really good fun, a great story, the characters are wonderful and it’s very well written. I will certainly be looking out for this author again….I’m going to name my next house Widget Manor – just watch!!

My thanks to Netgalley and Little Tiger Group/Stripes Publishing

The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert


I found this a pretty unusual book. It is a fairy tale, but from an angle I wasn’t expecting – and it’s pretty enthralling – dark, and pretty creepy…

Alice and her mum have spent their lives running – everywhere they go bad luck followed them so they constantly moved house, lodged with friends, etc, etc, never really putting down roots.

We learn that Alice’s grandmother is a very reclusive and famous author (whom Alice has never met and who her mother does not allow her to talk about), although she has only written one book – one very elusive book that it is impossible to get hold of and has a huge cult following for some reason that Alice can’t quite grasp. When Alice’s grandmother dies all alone at her estate – the Hazel Wood things begin to get very dark and creepy- her mother is stolen by characters from her grandmothers book, and despite all of her mother’s warnings throughout her life never to contact her grandmother she goes in search of her.

I really enjoyed this book – it really gave me the creeps! it’s very dark, and it sets a creepy atmosphere from the very beginning. You’re always on the edge of your seat, and it is a page turner.

If you like dark fairy tales, and you like to be really creeped out then this book is for you!

#TheHazelWood #NetGalley

My thanks to Penguin Random House uk Children’s Publishers and Netgalley

The Cottingley Secret – Hazel Gaynor

You’ve probably already heard, or you will have if you are about my age (*cough* 40) about the story of the two young girls back in 1917 who claim to have seen fairies and took photographs of them. There have been numerous tv programmes about it, and so many articles in the newspaper, so I have grown up knowing about this. If you google Cottingley Fairies you will find a huge amount of information on the story.

The two young girls who photographed the fairies are cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright. Frances left her home in Cape Town to return to  Cottingley in Yorkshire when her father is drafted into the army, and meets her elder cousin Elsie who first shows her the small beck at the bottom of the garden. Frances becomes enamoured with the beck and spends every moment she can there. One summer day she sees the fairies, but promises to herself not to tell anyone, however Elsie notices something is wrong with Frances and gets her secret out of her.

The girls then go on in search of the fairies, and what follows is the famous “is is true, did they fake it” tale which we all know well.

As this is a re-imagining of the story, there is another half to the tale. Enter Olivia Kavanagh – the granddaughter of one of the characters in the main story. Her life is not going particularly well and she brings a different dimension to the story when she finds newspaper cuttings, photographs, etc relating to the story.

I have to admit that I wasn’t overly keen on Olivia and I would have preferred just to stay with the two girls – but this is of course, a fictional book, which I did very much enjoy reading, and I did at times struggle to put down.

After reading this book I asked myself if I believe in the Cottingley Fairies? Yes, actually, I do.

My thanks to Netgalley & HarperCollins UK for this copy.

The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

“Do you remember when you believed in magic?”

If this tagline makes your heart warm, then read this book, it really won’t disappoint you.

You know when a book makes you warm and happy, and it goes straight into your heart and you know it’s never going to leave you, and every time you remember it it just makes you want to pick it all up and read it again. You want to be in the book, live it? Well, that very rarely happens to me, but this book does. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to go back to real life.

The story is set in 1917, with Cathy, a teenager who finds herself pregnant and being forced to go along with her parents plans to deal with her ‘shame’. She decides to take matters into her own hands though when she spots a job article in a paper looking for staff and asking “are you lost, are you afraid, are you a child at heart?” –  well Cathy really is, and runs away to Papa Jack’s Emporium.

We then enter an absolutely magical, beautiful world – one of toy soldiers, paper trees, runnerless rocking horses, and oh the dog – who could every forget about the dog? The emporium opens every year on the day of the first frost and closes again when the first snowdrop is found. In the time between Papa Jack and his sons Kasper and Emil create the magical toys…..

I wanted this story just to stay happy and wonderful and heartwarming but it doesn’t. There is after all a war on, and not just between Kasper and Emil’s toy soldiers, this tale gets very dark, and we are torn apart with love and loyalty for each character.

I’m not going any further into the story, but it’s beautiful – it’s heartbreaking, it’s magical and just amazing. Robert Dinsdale writes so beautifully – I just can’t put into words how wonderful this book is – it will live with me forever, and if this is the last book I ever read then I can’t think of a better book to end on.

My thanks to Netgalley and Ebury Publishing

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

My word – what a book. This certainly isn’t a slow starter – the author throws you  straight into the action with a bang!

We enter the story in an age of lavish balls, household staff, dinner invites and dancing – which in my personal opinion is exactly the era that I want to be in for a good old murder mystery.

Our opening character is Dr Sebastian Bell – who has just escaped from the woods to Blackheath House after a terrifying ordeal. Arriving dirty, confused, and frightened, he realises that he has been here before, in fact, he is well known, and was invited here for “The Masquerade”, along with numerous other guests.

I’m not one for giving out spoilers, but this story really keeps you on your toes – twists, turns, you really never know what is going to hit you next – literally… A truly gripping thriller – quite honestly – nobody is who they seem. I found myself mouth open in shock at least twice.

This book was in my wish list, and I’m so pleased I got a copy of it early. It really is a spiffing fine book! I shall be purchasing numerous copies at Christmas for the family as it’s a no brainer. EVERYONE will love this book!!!!! I shall be keeping my eye on this author for his next book. I am a fan..

My thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC



Wicked Cometh – Laura Carlin

If you enjoy a good old Victorian, high drama, mystery,  with a bit of romance thrown in, then this book is right up your street. Set in Victorian London, we meet Hester, a young girl who was brought up in a reasonably wealthy family, and well educated, but tragedy struck and she ended up in the slums of London, ‘adopted’ by their old gardener.

Strange things are afoot in the slums, people are going missing, posters appearing on walls, and people are never seen again….something is going on…

Without spoiling….events lead Hester to the Brock family, a wealthy family, who decide to ‘experiment’ on Hester and see if it is possible to educate this ‘slum girl’ – her upbringing is unknown to them but Hester sees this as a way to get back onto her feet and have a better life. Hester is tutored by Rebecca Brock, an unmarried member young female in the family.

Hester discovers that Rebecca is already looking into the disappearance of her maid, and together they start looking deeper into where people are disappearing to, drawing them deeper and deeper in…

I really enjoyed this book – I do love the Victorian era and this book takes you right into the back alleys and yards to the big houses with servants -it takes quite a few twists and turns – especially at the end, and I found myself constantly surprised and unable to put this book down in parts because I just had to know what was going to happen next! One of the final plot twists is a biggie, and I was left open mouthed in shock – if that’s what the author intended, then she got it from me…

It’s quite a short book as well, I managed it in just over a weekend, and I’m a slow reader (and have a problem sitting down for more than 10 minutes at  time!), so it’s one you could sit down and get through in a day if you put your mind to it.


My thanks to Netgalley & Hodder & Stoughton for this copy

On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrick Groen, 85 years old

This is the second diary by Hendrick Groen – I reviewed the first one a while ago and absolutely loved it. It’s an unashamed take on Adrian Mole, but the author is a octogenarian in a care home in Amsterdam.

Hendrick’s second diary is just as good as the first one, although now we already know the characters and the friendships, and the story develops further. The ‘Old but not dead club’ are still charging around on day trips and coming up with new ways to expand their lives – as well as causing as much havoc for the management as they can!

We are introduced to some new characters as inevitably there is a reasonably high turrnover, but thankfully the new arrivals do not replace our much loved friends.

However, death is inevitable when the residents are over 80, and the book deals with this in a caring yet amusing way. As with the first book there is heartbreak and love, lots of funny moments, and quite a few sad ones.

To sum it all up – if you haven’t read the first book – please do so – it’s hilarious and heartbreaking and genuinely warms your soul. While you’re doing that, make sure you pick up the second one as well because I guarantee you will be itching for more. If you liked Adrian Mole then you will love this. If you hated him (as I did as a child – i really should try again), then you’ll love it as well.

I am wondering if there will be a third – I don’t know if I want one to be honest. Hendrick is 85 after all. I’m not done with this diary yet – I  want more and I want to hear what else they are going to get up to…..but….what’s going to happen? I don’t want Hendrick to ‘sign off’…I don’t want it to end that way. This book has a piece of my heart – a warm fuzzy piece….

On a personal note, and maybe I shouldn’t say this, but my mum is elderly and was refusing to go into sheltered accommodation, and to be honest, I wasn’t all that up for it, but reading the first diary actually helped turn my mind around a little – she’s now in sheltered accommodation and absolutely loves it – and they are all a bit naughty sometimes….

My thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK