Reviews

REVIEW!! The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji, translated by Ho-Ling Wong

The Japanese cult classic mystery

The lonely, rockbound island of Tsunojima is notorious as the site of a series of bloody unsolved murders. Some even say it’s haunted. One thing’s for sure: it’s the perfect destination for the K-University Mystery Club’s annual trip.

But when the first club member turns up dead, the remaining amateur sleuths realise they will need all of their murder-mystery expertise to get off the island alive.

As the party are picked off one by one, the survivors grow desperate and paranoid, turning on each other. Will anyone be able to untangle the murderer’s fiendish plan before it’s too late?

Originally published in 1987, Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders is considered a cult classic in its native Japan and is credited with reviving interest in the traditional puzzle mystery format, inspiring a new generation of Japanese crime writers.

Now re-issued by Pushkin Vertigo with a translation by Ho-Ling Wong, the novel pays homage to several Golden Age crime classics, most notably Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Despite some misgivings, several of the most prominant members of the K-University Mystery Club head to the now deserted island of Tsunojima in an attempt to solve the myterious triple murder that happened there six months previously. Setting up camp in The Decagon House – the only remamining part of eccentric architect Nakamura Seiji’s Blue Mansion complex – it isn’t long before the group begin to suspect that they may not be as alone on the island as they thought.

Meanwhile, back on the mainland, former club member Kawaminami Taka’aki receives a sinister note signed by Nakamura Seiji – “My daughter Chiori was murdered by you all”. But Nakamura Seiji was one of the Tsunojima victims, and has been dead for six months.

Alternating between Kawaminami’s investigations on the mainland and the increasingly sinister events taking place on the island, The Decagon House Murders offers an homage to Christie’s original whilst creating a uniquely twisty and cleverly plotted mystery all of its own. Replete with references to Christie’s classic – and to the detectives and writers of the wider Golden Age milieu – the novel still manages to innovate and there are a number of intricate twists on well-worn formulas.

I particualrly loved the way that the novel wears its antecedants and inspiration on its sleeve – the writing is incredibly self-aware and delights in being knowingly referential without this ever feeling like a distraction from the plot. Readers familiar with Golden Age crime will delight in picking up on references as much as they’ll enjoy the fiendishly clever mystery that has been created with the bones of the crime fiction it pays homage too.

Because for all its referential playfulness, The Decagon House Murders is a twisty and enjoyable mystery in its own right. With its contained setting and cast, dual narrative and dual timeline, there’s plenty of space for red herrings, plot twists and sudden revelations. Although I did guess the ‘who’, I have to admit the ‘how’ still surprised me – and there was an enjoyable twist at the novel’s close that I did not see coming!

I also really enjoyed getting to know the characters – especially Kawaminami and his fellow ‘detective’ Shimada – and was impressed by how well drawn each of the detective club members felt, despite some of them only being in the story for quite a brief period of time.

If you don’t enjoy classic or ‘Golden Age’ crime, The Decagon House Murders probably isn’t going to convert you – it honours the genre and conforms to many of its tropes, albeit in a knowingly playful way. Fans of the classics of crime fiction will, however, find much to enjoy here and the book makes for a fantastic introduction to Japanese crime fiction, or to crime fiction in translation. As a fan of the genre, I really enjoyed The Decagon House Murders and look forward to reading more of Pushkin’s translated Japanese crime classics very soon!

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji is published by Pushkin Vertigo and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery. My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley UK for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Shadow in the Glass by J J A Harwood

Once upon a time Ella had wished for more than her life as a lowly maid.

Now forced to work hard under the unforgiving, lecherous gaze of the man she once called stepfather, Ella’s only refuge is in the books she reads by candlelight, secreted away in the library she isn’t permitted to enter.

One night, among her beloved books of far-off lands, Ella’s wishes are answered. At the stroke of midnight, a fairy godmother makes her an offer that will change her life: seven wishes, hers to make as she pleases. But each wish comes at a price and Ella must to decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay it.

Offering a dark take on Cinderella, J J A Harwood’s debut novel The Shadow in the Glass provides a compulsive and twisted fable that underlines the message ‘be careful what you wish for’.

Seventeen-year-old Ella used to be ‘Miss Eleanor’, adopted daughter of the beloved Mrs Pembroke. With her benefactor’s death however, she is forced below stairs – reduced to being the lowly ‘Ella’ and at risk from both the lecherous attentions of her former stepfather and the cruel bitterness of Head Housemaid Lizzie.

Ella’s escape from her new life of drudgery and servitude is the library. In stolen moments late at night, she locks herself away and disappears into books. But when she picks up The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, a visitor appears. A black-eyed woman who promises that she patch together Ella’ tattered dreams and grant her seven wishes – for a price. Entering into a Faustian pact, Ella soon discovers that the power of the black-eyed woman is all too real – and that there are consequences to making your wishes come true.

Combining elements of Marlowe’s Faustus with the folk tale of Cinderella and then setting them against the backdrop of Victorian London, The Shadow in the Glass is a darkly sinister tale with a complex protagonist. Whilst I sympathised with Ella and her situation, I struggled to warm to her – although I found her story no less compelling because of this. That J J A Harwood has managed to retain this interest in the fate of a character who is, in many ways, unlikeable (and, for me, became more so as the novel progressed) is a testament to the pull of the plot, which sees Ella being increasingly forced to enact her Faustian bargain – and increasingly tormented by the consequences of having made it.

The novel is a little slow to start – Harwood takes time establishing Ella’s situation and introducing the household she is living within, as well as her background and her former life above stairs. But once the pact has been made and the black-eyed woman introduced, the pace picks up rapidly as Ella finds herself making a wish, only to suffer the unintended consequences and be forced into calling on her black-eyed ‘fairy godmother’ to try and overcome these. By the end of the novel, the action is relentless, with Ella increasingly finding the events she has wrought spiralling away from her – and the reader left wondering if she will ever be able to regain control over her own narrative. There’s also a punchy and sinister twist to the tale that reminded me of Laura Purcell’s Bone China, and made me really question the story that had preceded it.

I did find a few elements of The Shadow in the Glass slightly predictable. The romance – and its consequences – were of little surprise, and some of the moments where Ella’s situation goes from bad to worse did feel like they’d come straight out of a Dickens novel. This is, however, unsurprising given the way in which the novel pays homage to so many genres and, to be fair, the twists that Harwood provides give a unique spin to the more cliché elements of Ella’s story. I particularly enjoyed the way in which each incident is used to examine the overarching theme of power – who holds it, what they do with it, and the consequences of using it maliciously or unthinkingly.

The Shadow in the Glass is a compelling take on an old tale and brilliantly combines elements of fairy tale and folk narrative with the atmosphere of the Victorian Gothic to provide a contemporary twist on a classic story. Although I had one or two minor niggles, the ending provided a brilliantly biting sting and the narrative became more compelling as the novel progressed. Fans of Laura Purcell’s modern gothic novels are sure to find much to enjoy and The Shadow in the Glass marks J J A Harwood out as an author to watch for.

The Shadow in the Glass by J J A Harwood is published by Harper Voyager UK and is available now from all good bookshops and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, and Waterstones.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 28 March 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Book Tags

The 20 Questions Book Tag

I’m back this week with another book tag thanks to my lovely Write Reads friend Noly over at The Artsy Reader, who very kindly tagged me in The 20 Questions Book Tag.

As there’s twenty questions to get through, I’d better get going!

1. How many books are too many books in a series?

If I’m honest, I’m not a big reader of series. I prefer standalones because I don’t have to worry about keeping pace with the release of the next book, or falling behind and risking spoilers if I don’t manage to read the latest title straight away. One a series gets past 3/4 titles, I do find it a little intimidating to jump in and begin reading unless the books all work as stories in their own right (as with Agatha Christie’s Poirot or Miss Marple series, for example).

That said, my bookish buddy Fiona, who blogs over at Fi’s Biblio Files, has recently introduced me to the Chronicles of St Marys series (11 books, 15 short stories, a spin-off series, and counting!) and re-introduced me to Rivers of London (9 novels, several graphic novels, and several short story collections to date) and I am enjoying working my way through those – albeit very slowly!

2. How do you feel about cliffhangers?

It very much depends on the book. I think cliffhangers and ambiguous endings have to be very carefully implemented and controlled to be done well and to not leave the reader frustrated. When they are done well however, a good cliffhanger can leave you desperate to read more – as with The Inheritance Games, which wrapped up one story and then dangled another at the end which I just cannot wait to get to!

3. Hardback or Paperback?

There are some GORGEOUS special edition hardbacks out there – the independant bookshop edition of Emma Stonex’s wonderful The Lamplighters being my most recent favourite – so I do treat myself to those if I really want to read a book and think it will be a ‘keeper’. The introduction of £12.99 hardbacks for some fiction titles in the UK has also made them much more affordable. Paperback is probably still my preferred reading format though as it’s easier to carry around a paperback than a hardback – and easier on the wrists if the book is a chunkster!

4. Favourite book?

A VERY difficult question as it does vary from day to day. I’m going to go with J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings though as that’s the book I re-read most frequently. I don’t actually read a lot of high fantasy but there is something about Tolkien that just sweeps me away to my happy place every time I pick the book up.

5. Least favourite book?

I don’t really have one. I made my peace with DNF’ing books I don’t enjoy a long time ago – so if I think a boook is utter bobbins then I probably won’t finish it! There are a fair few books I’ve read that I find deeply problematic but that’s a different question and one that needs more time and space to answer than I have here!

6. Love triangles, yes or no?

Not really a trope I enjoy, no. I think it gets overused a lot and is often done in quite an insensitive way.

7. The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?

I had to put Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women down for a bit – not because it isn’t brilliant (it is) but because my headspace was not in a great place and the injustice of what happens to those women, as well as the way in which their experiences resonate with the everyday sexism so many of us face on a daily basis, was making me both very sad and deeply angry. I’ll go back to it when I’m in a better space because I think it’ll be a very important book.

8. A book you’re currently reading?

I’m currenty reading K. J. Maitland’s The Drowned City for a blog tour in April – it’s a historical mystery-thriller set in England during the reign of James I. I’m also reading Emily M. Danforth’s Plain Bad Heroines for the ‘Conquer a Conker’ weekend, and am very slowly making my way through Samuel Richardson’s HUGE epistalory novel Clarissa with my university book group. Am really enjoying all three!

9. Last book you recommended to someone?

I’ve been raving about Emma Stonex’s The Lamplighters to anyone who will listen – it’s just fantastic.

10. Oldest book you’ve read?

Difficult to say as I read a lot of ancient bardic literature for my PhD, much of which is thought to come from a much older oral history. It’d probably be one of the Greek classics though – The Odyssey, The Iliad and The Aeniad are favourites, as are the tragedies of Euripedes.

11. Newest book you’ve read?

I’ve read a few that aren’t published yet for blog tours and as ARCs – so probably those! The Drowned City comes out on 01 April, and I also have some Netgalley titles that are April/May releases.

12. Favourite author?

I don’t really have one! There’s a lot of authors that I enjoy and whose work I seek out – Margaret Atwood, Sarah/Rhiannon Ward, Jess Kidd, Maggie O’Farrell, Kate Atkinson – but I wouldn’t say any one author stands out as a ‘favourite’.

13. Buying books or borrowing books?

Both! I am a big fan of my local library and think that libraries are vital – and often undervalued – parts of our local communities. I am also a big supporter of independant and high-street booksellers and try to support them as much (and as often) as I can.

14. A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love?

For many and varied reasons I have issues with a few popular series -most notably Harry Potter and Twilight. Nothing against those who love them but they’re not – or at least no longer – for me.

15. Bookmarks or dog-ears?

Bookmarks every time. I’m not saying that I have never dog-earred a book but I do usually try to use a bookmark. I have some really pretty ones that I have acquired over the years so it seems a shame not to use them!

16. A book you can always reread?

The Lord of the Rings! Apart from that though, I do re-read Agatha Christie a lot – especially the Miss Marple novels and short stories – and also Jane Austen. They’re my go-to re-reads if I am suffering a reading slump or a book hangover.

17. Can you read while listening to music?

Only if it doesn’t have words. I have a playlist of classical music and game/film soundtracks that I like to listen to while I am reading – it’s all super chill so adds to the cosy ‘book fort’ vibe. I love reading on the sofa, snuggled under a blanket with a hot drink, some relaxed music, and my cat for company!

18. One POV or multiple POVs?

It really depends on the book. Some books need a single point of view to keep the narrative tension, or need an omniscinet narrator who provides a distance in perspective. Others need more than one point of view for exactly the same reasons! I think the key thing if you’re going to change perspective is that there is a reason for it – there’s nothing worse than a POV that feels as if it is there for the sake of it.

19. Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?

I can read a book in one sitting but I very seldom have the time to do so! Between the PhD, work, and family/life stuff, it usually takes me several days to read a book – and sometimes a few weeks!

20. Who do you tag?

I know a lot of people have already been tagged in this but I am going to add:

Fiona at Fi’s Biblio Files

Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek

Haadiya at Her Bookish Obsession

Danni at For Books Sake

Sammie at The Bookwyrm’s Den

A big thank you again to Noly at The Artsy Reader for tagging me!

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

REVIEW!!! The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

They say we’ll never know what happened to those men.

They say the sea keeps its secrets…

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by true events, Emma Stonex’s The Lamplighters is a mystery, a ghost story, a folk tale, and a lusciously written literary love story all rolled into one compulsively readable package.

Alternating between 1972 and 1992, the novel tells the story of three lighthouse keepers and their families. Principal Keeper Arthur has spent most of his life on the lights, although his warmth and efficiency hide a personal tragedy that is threatening his seemingly idyllic marriage to Helen. Assistant Keeper Bill has never felt settled either at home or at sea – although his wife Jenny adores their coastal lifestyle and busy family home. Vince headed to the lights to escape from his dark past – although he worries that despite his fresh start and his new girlfriend Michelle, it may still catch up with him.

All three men are stationed on The Maiden – an isolated rock lighthouse surrounded by nothing but the sea, the wind, and the things that whisper in the night – and all three go missing one seemingly ordinary day in 1972. The women in their lives – Helen, Jenny, and Michelle – are left with no explanation for their vanishing. Was it an accident? A murder? Or something more sinister and beyond the realms of the ordinary? When a writer approaches them to seek their stories, they are forced to confront the secrets of their own lives – as well as the darkness that may have lain within the hearts of the men they loved.

Emma Stonex has deftly weaved several voices, timelines, and interconnecting plot strands together in The Lamplighters, skilfully controlling each one to maintain tension whilst never leaving the reader feeling lost or disconnected. Instead, the novel is compulsively readable – grabbing hold on the first page and pulling you in like the sea pulls on the rocks around The Maiden itself.

Each characters is written with depth and realism, their voices jumping from the page. I adored gentle, erudite Arthur – a man lost in his past and unsure of his future in a world where lighthouse keepers are a dying breed – and empathised with his brisk and practical wife Helen, unsure of how to connect to a man who seems to love the sea more than he loves her. Jenny and Bill were more difficult characters – both prickly in their way – but Stonex allowed me to empathise with them for all their sharp edges and to share in their hopes, dreams, and frustrations. And I really felt for Vince and Michelle – two young people just trying to leave the mistakes of the past behind and begin anew. By the end of the novel, I felt like I had got to know all of them – and the ending, when it came, felt like saying goodbye to old friends.

I also felt as if I got to know The Maiden. Lonely and forbidding, the rock lighthouse on which Arthur, Bill and Vinnie are stationed is a much a character as the men and women whose lives revolve around it. Stonex perfectly captures the pull and allure of lighthouses, as well as the dark compulsion of the wild seascape that surrounds them. Alternating between wonder and dread, the novel is thick with atmosphere throughout, and interspersed with lush, vivid descriptions of the sea in all of its wild and terrible beauty.

As you can probably tell, I ADORED The Lamplighters – it’s definitely an early contender for my Books of the Year list and is a definite 5-star read for me. Although based on the story of Eilean Mor on the Flannen Isles – from which three keepers vanished in 1900 – Emma Stonex has crafted a novel that is uniquely her own and that resonates with a powerful sense of love, loss, and humanity. Her deft handling of the supernatural elements of her tale mean that the human stories resonate without being undermined, creating a story that is both compellingly suspenseful but also heart-breakingly moving. A must read and a 5-star recommendation from me.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is published by Picador and is available now from all good bookshops and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery. My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley UK for an advanced e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Zöe Wheddon

All fans of Jane Austen everywhere believe themselves to be best friends with the beloved author and this book shines a light on what it meant to be exactly that.

Jane Austen’s Best Friend: The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd offers a unique insight into Jane’s private inner circle. Through this heart-warming examination of an important and often overlooked person in Jane’s world, we uncover the life changing force of their friendship.

Each chapter details the fascinating facts and friendship forming qualities that tied Jane and Martha together. Within these pages we will relive their shared interests, the hits and misses of their romantic love lives, their passion for shopping and fashion, their family histories, their lucky breaks and their girly chats. This book offers a behind the scenes tour of the shared lives of a fascinating pair and the chance to deepen our own bonds in ‘love and friendship’ with them both.

As an avid reader of Jane Austen’s work, I have often felt myself wishing I could get that little bit closer to this somewhat enigmatic author. The lively wit that rises from each page of Austen’s novels and letters often seems wildly at odds with the modest woman depicted in many of the biographies we have of her, and in the image of the retiring ‘Aunt Jane’ that her family were so keen to promote after her death. It is easy to wonder what Jane Austen was really like – and what it would be like to take a turn about the room with her or have her as a dinner party guest.

Zöe Wheddon is equally captivated by this and, in Jane Austen’s Best Friend, has turned to an overlooked figure in Jane’s life to help bring us closer to the author and her world. Martha Lloyd was Jane’s lifelong friend and who, Wheddon argues, may have known the writer as well as – and in some ways better than – Jane’s sister Cassandra, her more acknowledged confidant. Starting with Martha and Jane’s childhood, Wheddon moves through the lives of these two women, using surviving correspondence, diaries, and other archival records to depict a lasting and deeply important friendship that had a lasting and meaningful impact on both parties involved in it.

It is clear that Wheddon has done her research and, despite the occasional lack of concrete evidence (not all of Martha and Jane’s letters have survived), she examines what is there in almost forensic detail, connecting the small, seemingly trivial, moments of Jane and Martha’s lives into the wider picture of their life and times, including the impact and influence that this may have had upon Jane’s beloved novels. Wheddon’s enthusiasm for her subject really comes across in the book which is, for the most part, told in a lively and accessible way despite the wealth of both time and material covered.

Despite reading several biographies of Austen, I’d never really heard much about Martha Lloyd before. The role of friendship is often overlooked in biographies – especially of pioneering female writers – and Jane Austen is often portrayed as a writer bereft of friends, immersed wholly in the life of her family and a few close family acquaintances. It was therefore both heartening and interesting to see this reframed and to discover the impact that a close and long-lasting female friendship had upon the lives of these two women.

In fact if I had one quibble about the book it was that the focus was, at times, too much on Jane and not enough on Martha. Martha Lloyd appears to have been a lively and fascinating woman in her own right and I sometimes felt that this was explored only in so much as it accounted for development or influence in Jane’s life or writing. I understand that many readers will be attracted to this book because of the Austen connection but, for me, I’d have liked more chapters like the final one, which examines Martha’s life after Jane’s death. I also found some of the connections Wheddon makes between Martha and specific elements or incidents within Jane’s writing slightly tentative although I found her overall argument in favour of Martha’s influence to be a strong and compelling one.

Because of the Austen focus, it’s unlikely that this biography will appeal to those not already interested in Austen herself. And I’d probably recommend reading a biography of Austen (my preference is for Lucy Worsley’s excellent Jane Austen at Home, but there are many others) in order to get the most out of this book. For Austen aficionados however, Jane Austen’s Best Friend offers an interesting new way of navigating well-trodden territory, spotlights an overlooked figure within Jane’s life (and an interesting woman in her right!) and convincingly argues that we should consider the lasting influence of such a significant friendship when we read and appreciate Jane Austen’s work.

Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Zöe Wheddon is published by Pen & Sword and is available from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing an copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 06 March so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Book Tags

BOOK TAG!!! The Sunshine Blogger Award Tag

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring while spreading sunshine to the blogging community. A big THANK YOU you to Miki from A Writing Soul’s Story for tagging me!!

How does it work?
  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog

So, without further ado, let’s get answering those questions that Miki has posed me!

What book/series best describes your family dynamic?

Probably the Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice. Like the Bennet’s, my family is very close and loving – and although I’m an only child I grew up surrounded by cousins, aunties, uncles and family friends who weren’t related but were treated like relatives anyway!

A bit like the Bennet family, we were constantly in and out of each others houses and lives – something that can be a bit annoying when you’re an introverted bookworm in a family full of extroverts (honestly, I can totally empathise with Mary Bennet) – but, like the Bennet’s we love each other dearly, always look out for each other, and never stay mad at each other for long.

Now that I’m married and in a house of my own, my life is a bit more like that of Lizzie and Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley (although sadly without the extremely large house and the potfuls of money) in that in non-Covid times, me and my husband enjoy a quiet life interspersed with plentiful visits to/from family and friends.

If you could choose a song describing your favourite character, what would it be?

I don’t really have a favourite character so that’s difficult to say. I definitely feel like particular books have soundtracks but I have too many favourite books and favourite characters to pick a particular song for any single one of them.

If your favorite book couple lived next door, would they offer you a cup of sugar if you were in need?

My favourite book couple are Crowley and Aziraphale from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. I know some people don’t consider them a ‘couple’ in the traditional sense (because the ‘romance’ is not overt) but I’ve always seen the book as a love story and one of its strengths is that as a reader you can define that love between the characters for yourself. And if they lived next door to me? Aziraphale would definitely offer me a cup of sugar – he’s an angel after all! Plus we’d have great fun talking about books! Crowley would probably try to act all scary and refuse but then when I returned to the house, I’d miraculously find I did have sugar in the cupboard after all.

What type of tea best fits the character from your last book?

The last book I finished was Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Zöe Wheddon (I’m on the blog tour for it in March so look out for my review). So I imagine a cup of fine Lady Grey tea, taken with a slice of lemon.

Would the family from your favourite classic novel be the kind who decorates for the winter holidays in October, or would they be more traditional?

I’m going to go with the Bennet’s again for this one. And I think there would probably be a row about it if I’m honest. Mrs Bennet, Lydia and Kitty would be ready to put up the Christmas decorations in about August, whereas Mary would think this hugely unnecessary and be advocating for restraint until at least December. Mr Bennet would retreat to his study until the whole thing blew over, Lizzie would be the wry observer and, as usual, it would be left to poor Jane to find a compromise!

That said, Christmas wasn’t celebrated to quite the same extent in Regency England so if we’re talking about a real family in Austen’s time then they would definitely be more traditional. Celebrations over the twelve days of Christmas only.

Does your favourite villain have a pet?

Sort of. I have a soft spot for Loki (both in the Marvel comics/movies and in the mythology). And he doesn’t have pets but the gigantic dog Fenrir is, according to the mythology, one of his children. As is Jormungandr, the world-serpent. And Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse that he gifts to Odin. As with most mythologies, the pantheon of Norse Gods has a complex family tree…

Do you spend a lot of time marketing your blog?

Not really. I certainly don’t pay for any marketing, much to Facebooks’s annoyance! I’m pretty active on Twitter and I’m part of a few excellent blogging networks which help with sharing/boosting posts. But my blog is my hobby so any work on it has to be conducted around the demands of my work and home life.

If you have a book bestie, do you share tastes or are you at opposite ends of the spectrum?

Yes! I have a couple of very good bookish friends who share similar tastes to me. My best friend Jen and I have what we like to call a ‘shared library’ and are constantly recommending books to each other, passing on books we think we’d each like, and loaning out books. We don’t always love the same things but I’ll always check out a book that Jen recommends. I also have a very good friend called Claire who regularly recommends and loans me books. Plus my Mum and I have quite similar taste – especially for crime fiction – so we regularly share in book recommendations (and books) too!

Do you do buddy reads?

Yes! I started buddy reading with the lovely gang over at The Write Reads. They have monthly readalongs (so far we’ve read The Devil and the Dark Water, Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Rebecca, and we’re currently reading Cemetery Boys), plus I’m part of buddy reading groups for a readalong of The Lord of the Rings (one of my favourite books so a re-read for me) and the Rivers of London series.

I’m also part of an in-person book group at my local Waterstones, as well as a university book club!

How many books are on your TBR right now?

I stopped keeping a TBR some time ago. I have a LOT of unread books on my shelves and having a formal TBR was making me feel as if reading was a chore. I read a lot of books for blog tours/review, as well as for university (I’m an English Literature PhD student) so I wanted to be able to read by whim whenever I wasn’t reading for those purposes. I generally only make TBRs for specific readathons these days, as well as for when I go on holiday.

What is the most relaxing book you have ever read?

Difficult to say as I don’t think there is just one. My go-to comfort reads are The Lord of the Rings, the novels of Jane Austen, and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series – I re-read from that selection regularly and they’re the books I reach for if I’m in a reading slump. I also found Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive a remarkable book – as someone who suffers with my mental health, it was a vitally important read for me and, in a strange way, very relaxing. It gave me permission to feel the way I feel sometimes – and, along with Lord of the Rings, helps remind me that there is always light in dark places.

I tag:

And my questions are as follows:

  • Why did you start your blog?
  • Do you have a trope that you particularly love reading in books?
  • And conversely, any tropes that you particularly dislike or avoid?
  • Other than on your blog, do you keep any form of reading journal or track your reading in any way?
  • What was your earliest reading memory?
  • What is your favourite thing about being a book blogger?
  • Do you take part in readathons? And do you have any favourites?
  • What is your favourite snack to have whilst you’re curled up with a book?
  • Do you read seasonal books (e.g. reading Christmas books at Christmas or Ghost Stories at Halloween)?
  • Do you have any non-bookish hobbies and, if so, what are they?
  • And finally, tell me about an under-rated book that you’d love to make more people aware of.

Thank you again to Miki from A Writing Soul’s Story for tagging me! I know a lot of people have already done this tag so apologies if I tag anyone who has already been nominated! And while I would love to read your posts, no obligation at all – this is just a bit of fun! And as usual, if I haven’t tagged you and you want to do this tag, just jump right in!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

REVIEW!!! The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved?

In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .

Despite being permeated with the sultry heat of a long summer afternoon, The Long, Long Afternoon did not take a long, long time to read. Instead journalist and editor Inga Vesper’s debut novel whips along with a page-turning quality that belies the suffocating atmosphere radiating from its pages.

Beginning on hot summer afternoon in 1959, the novel opens with housewife Joyce Haney standing in her picture perfect suburban garden , contemplating whether or not she should water the pots on her patio. A few pages later and Joyce is missing, the only remnant of her existence a bloodstain on the kitchen floor and two terrified children. Joyce’s distraught husband can think of no reason why anyone would wish to harm his wife. And her neighbours in the manicured suburb of Sunnylakes say that any disappearance would be very out of character. But behind the respectability of their coffee mornings and art classes, the women of the Sunnylakes Women’s Improvement Committee might no more about Joyce Haney than they’re letting on. And as the investigation continues, the Haney family’s ‘help’, Ruby Wright, quickly realises that something terrible may have happened to her mistress…

The characters in this suburban thriller are all brilliantly drawn and I loved finding out all the secrets hidden behind the respectable facades and well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes. I particularly liked the character of Ruby Wright, the Haney family’s ‘help’. Overlooked because of the colour of her skin, Ruby’s position as an outsider in the Sunnylakes community confers on her distinct advantages when it comes to investigating what happened to Joyce. After all, no one checks their conversations if it’s only the help listening in do they? And I really felt for Ruby as she has to choose between keeping her head down (and keeping her job) and pursuing her suspicions that someone in Sunnylakes may have deliberately harmed her employer.

Whilst Joyce’s disappearance remains the focus of the book, Inga Vesper has done a fantastic job of weaving in the racial tensions and politics of suburban America in the late 1950s, and I got a real sense of the varying constraints placed on different members of the community. From the daily prejudices Ruby faces as a black woman who refuses to let her intelligence be dismissed, to the stifling constraints required of a suburban housewife, the novel deftly weaves discussions of race, class and gender together to create a multi-layered mystery packed with atmosphere and period detail.

Whilst I didn’t find the ‘whodunnit’ especially surprising, The Long, Long Afternoon did keep me hooked right up until the end. Alternating between the perspectives of Joyce (in the past), Ruth, and investigating detective Mick, the story offers plenty of unexpected twists to throw the reader’s initial suspicions off course. And even though I did guess who lay behind Joyce’s disappearance, the explosive ending offered last minute twists and turns worthy of a thriller!

The Long, Long Afternoon combines the vivid atmosphere and lush writing of literary fiction with the pace and twists of a thriller to create a rich and compelling read that is perfect for whiling away your own afternoon with! With its suburban setting and noir-ish feel, fans of classic hard-boiled fiction will find a worthy modern take on the genre here (and one that comes with a delightfully feminist twist), whilst historical and literary fiction lovers will relish the well-told mystery and precise sense of place.

The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper is published by Manilla Press and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org and Wordery. My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Dark Truths by A. J. Cross

When a headless body is discovered on a popular jogging trail, Detective Inspector Bernard Watts and his team are plunged headlong into a baffling murder investigation. Why would someone stab to death a young woman on her daily run – and take her head?

When a close examination of the crime scene results in a shocking discovery linking the present murder to a past crime, criminologist Will Traynor is brought in to assist the police. Aware of Traynor’s troubled past and already having to deal with inexperienced rookie PC Chloe Judd on his team, Watts is sceptical that Traynor will bring anything useful to the investigation.

He’s about to be proved very wrong …

Dark Truths – billed as a ‘forensic mystery’ – is the first in a new series featuring criminologist Dr Will Traynor. Those familiar with A. J. Cross’s previous Kate Hanson series will encounter some familiar faces – despite being a Will Traynor mystery, the majority of Dark Truths is told from the perspective of DI Bernard Watts, formerly of the same Cold Case unit as Hanson – but, for those (like me) new to Cross’s writing, Dark Truths provides a perfect jumping off point in the form of a solidly crafted police procedural with an interesting focus upon the forensic aspects of police work.

Opening with the disturbing murder of a young woman on a popular Birmingham jogging trail, DI Watts and his team are plunged into the investigation of a possible serial killer when further body parts are found nearby. Suddenly finding themselves with a recently killed headless corpse and a killing field of historic skulls, Watts reluctantly seeks the assistance of forensic psychologist Dr Will Traynor. Traynor has a well-deserved reputation for brilliance – but the tragic murder of his wife ten years prior has also left him lacking in focus, difficult to work with and, on occasion, entirely unfocused on the matter at hand. Adding to Watt’s problems is rookie PC Chloe Judd. Keen, clever and overly quick to jump to conclusions, Judd’s constant questions and outspoken personality make her a challenging partner for the observational and somewhat stoic Watts. Aiding Watts and his team are pathologist Dr Connie Chong, head of forensics Adam Jenner and geoscientist Jake Petrie – supporting characters that, along with Traynor, help add the forensic element to this forensic mystery.

Cross combines a largely likeable and interesting mix of personalities with a skilfully plotted drama that offers plenty of revelations and twists. I enjoyed the focus on the day-to-day aspects of police work, from the manning of tip lines and organising of public appeals to the painstaking fingertip searches of fields and hedgerows. It was refreshing to read a book in which an investigation is depicted in real-time – forensic evidence can take days, even weeks to process, and the post-mortem results are not instantaneously available to the investigating team – as well as one where the pressures of man-power, office politics, and budgetary constraints limit the action that can be taken at any one time. This realism is well-handled however and is never allowed to slow the plot down – instead it gives characters an opportunity to interview key witnesses, or allows a moment during which their backstories or personal interactions can be developed.

I did have one minor niggle with Dark Truths – PC Chloe Judd was, for me anyway, an annoyance every time she stepped onto the page, especially at the beginning of the book. Whilst she mellowed by the end, it was frustrating to see a determined and career-focused female character somewhat stereotypically depicted as abrasive, difficult and, at times, downright unprofessional. She also seemed somewhat inconsistent – veering between making some good analytical points and jumping to increasingly rapid and wild conclusions – and it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I began to feel as if her character was there to be anything more than either a sparring partner for Watts or a way of integrating exposition of the finer points of forensic police investigation. I hasten to add that Judd’s portrayal by the end of the book is much better – she mellows as a character and develops as an investigator to the extent that I’d like to see her return in future books in the series – but I’d be lying if I said that her initial characterisation did make getting into the initial chapters of Dark Truths more difficult for me.

The forensic aspects of Dark Truth might not be for everyone – those who enjoy their crime with a heavy thriller twist might find the action a tad slow in places – but personally I found the depiction of these aspects one of the most fascinating aspects of the book. A. J. Cross is an experienced forensic psychologist herself and her experience in the field really comes across in this novel – although, crucially, she never lets the story become bogged down in detail, instead adding just enough to add depth whilst also moving the plot along. I also really enjoyed the ‘cold case’ aspects of the book and the way the present-day murder added to the discovery of more historic crimes – and increased the complexity of the case that Watts and his team are handling. Having read Dark Truths, I’m keen to go back and read Cross’s earlier mysteries which, I believe, focus more on this cold case aspect.

Overall Dark Truths is a solidly constructed and skilfully written police procedural with an interesting focus on the forensic aspect of police work. It introduces a largely likeable team of investigators who, by the end of the novel, have begun to work together in a way that bodes well for future instalments in the series – and with one of two mysteries within the character’s personal backstories remaining tantalisingly unsolved. Fans of Val McDermid’s Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, Ellie Griffith’s Ruth Galloway books – and of TV shows such as Criminal Minds – will find much to enjoy in Dark Truth‘s intelligent blend of forensic mystery, psychology, and police procedural, and I for one am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Will Traynor, DI Watts, and their colleagues.

Dark Truths by A. J. Cross is published by Blackthorn Books and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Emma Welton from Damppebbles Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 27 February 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Deity (Six Stories #5) by Matt Wesolowski

Online investigative journalist Scott King investigates the death of a pop megastar, the subject of multiple accusations of sexual abuse and murder before his untimely demise in a fire … another episode of the startlingly original, award-winning Six Stories series.

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died.

But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Whose remains – still unidentified – were found in the ashes? Why was he never officially charged?

Anyone who has followed The Shelf for a while will know that I am a HUGE fan of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. The previous novels – Six Stories, Hydra, Changeling and Beast – have all been five-star reads for me and have consistently appeared on my Best Books of the Year lists. I love the podcast format in which the books are written as well as Matt’s subtle inclusion of supernatural and horror elements into the central mystery – so of course I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the tour for Matt’s latest in the series, Deity.

As with previous titles in the series, Deity sees online journalist Scott King investigating a specific case over the course of six episodes, speaking with six different people to gain six alternative perspectives on a series of events. In this instance, Scott is looking into the life of recently deceased pop megastar Zach Crystal. Wildly popular and with a devoted, almost cult-like fandom around him, Zach Crystal seemed untouchable. But dark rumours about Zach’s private life – and about the visits he hosted for teenage fans at his remote mansion in the Cairngorms – have begun to swirl around his legacy. As Scott delves into Zach Crystal’s life – and his death – questions arise about the nature of fame, the cult of celebrity, and the dark blurring between fantasy and reality.

Like all of Matt’s previous Six Stories novels, Deity combines the page-turning pace of a thriller with though-provoking and topical content. The series has never shied away from covering controversial or topical subjects but Deity is probably the darkest yet. Even a passing knowledge of recent pop culture will suffice to see that there are some chilling similarities between the behaviour of the fictional Zach Crystal and some of the events that have been bought to life in the wake of the #MeToo movement, as well as following the deaths of some of pop and rock’s biggest stars. As such, the novel provides thought provoking content on the nature of hero worship and celebrity culture, examining the extent to which the pedestals we place people on protect their behaviour from prying eyes.

Each ‘episode’ of Deity provides another perspective on the life of Zach Crystal, slowly peeling back the layers to reveal the truth of the man that lies behind the manufactured pop star myth. Complicating this are rumours of a supernatural entity that lurks in the forest surrounding Zach’s Scottish mansion. Could it be that this dark creature is responsible for the tragic deaths of two young fans? Or even for the death of Zach Crystal himself, killed at his home in a devastating fire? And what exactly has happened to Zach’s sister and niece, fellow residents of Crystal Forest and apparently his closest allies? Finding the truth will take Scott King on one of his darkest journeys yet.

Matt Wesolowski has done another fantastic job of really ramping up the atmosphere in this novel. There’s some fantastically oppressive and brooding passages and you get a real sense of the fear and uncertainty that some of the characters face, as well as the resignation, anger and frustration felt by others. The use of multiple perspectives means that long shadows – some supernatural and some all too real – are cast over other narratives and there are several moments when you think you might have arrived at the truth before being whisked down an alternative path or made to see testimony in a new light. It makes for a spectacularly wild ride and a page turning read – I devoured the book in the course of a weekend before turning right back to the start for a more measured re-read to take it all in.

Another fantastic addition to the Six Stories series, Deity is a fantastically dark and atmospheric novel that will chill and delight in equal measure. For those new to the series, it makes a brilliant jumping off point (although I’d urge you to go back and start from the beginning – all the books are fantastic) whilst fans will be delighted to have another story from this master storyteller.

Deity by Matt Wesolowski is published by Orenda Books and is available now in ebook and will be published in paperback on 18 February 2021 with pre-orders available from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 28 February 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Bad Habits by Flynn Meaney

Alex is a rebel from the tip of her purple fauxhawk to the toes of her biker boots. She’s tried everything she can think of to get expelled from her strict Catholic boarding school. Nothing has worked so far – but now, Alex has a new plan.

Tired of the sexism she sees in every corner of St Mary’s, Alex decides to stage the school’s first ever production of The Vagina Monologues.

Which is going to be a challenge, as no one else at St Mary’s can even bear to say the word ‘vagina’ out loud . . .

Full disclosure: I signed up for this blog tour because the blurb and PR release made me snort the cup of tea I was I drinking at the time. And, further full disclosure: that has not been the only laugher based accident that has occurred during the course of reading Flynn Meaney’s hilarious YA contemporary novel Bad Habits.

Bad Habits follows Alex, a junior year student at St Marys Catholic Boarding School. St Marys is a place of tradition. They love peace and quiet, wholesome extra-curricular activities, and hockey. Alex is the opposite of this. With her brightly coloured hair and biker boots, she’s never more than a day away from a new uniform violation and the opening page of the novel sees her hanging off the side of the male-only dorm long after curfew.

Safe to say Alex and St Marys aren’t exactly a match made in heaven. And Alex would love nothing more than to kiss the place goodbye once and for all. But despite her very best efforts (and boy, has this girl tried!), she just can’t seem to expelled. But when a tampon-buying trip results in an (unsuccessful) attempt at ritual humiliation, Alex sees an opportunity. If TAMPONS cause the girls of St Marys to blush and the boys to jeer, what would happen if VAGINAS were placed front and centre of the St Marys Feminist Club’s first ever stage production. One battered copy of The Vagina Monologues later and Alex has a plan…

As you can hopefully tell from that description, Bad Habits is a fresh and fun take on contemporary YA. The contrast between the free-spirited and sparky heroine Alex and the constraining tradition of the environment in which she finds herself provides endless sources for humour throughout the book. What I really liked though was how this humour does not come at the expense of anyone else’s beliefs. Alex is determined, forthright, sassy and fiercely feminist – but her feminism isn’t the only kind depicted here and, as she learns along the way, there are other ways and other methods that are equally useful in furthering the cause and smashing the patriarchy.

In fact, Alex has as much to learn about St Marys as St Marys has to learn about Alex and, whilst this is very firmly Alex’s story, I really enjoyed seeing her development as she begins to interact with other students (and even some of the staff) and learn more about their own beliefs and perspectives. In particular, I really liked Alex’s roommate Mary Kate. Quiet and studious, Mary Kate seems to be everything Alex is not (and reminded me a lot of myself at that age – I wish I was an Alex but I was definitely more of a Mary Kate!) but she has her own deeply rooted determination and it was wonderful seeing the way in which her character comes to compliment Alex’s over the course of the novel.

The writing is fast and fluid, with plenty of action and humour to keep the pages flying – I tore through the book in less than a day and I was laughing out loud regularly throughout. The humour of Bad Habits might not be for everyone – Alex is loud, occasionally crude, and certainly extremely opinionated – but I really enjoyed it and it was refreshing to read about a young women prepared not only to speak her mind but also to reflect on and change her opinions when she feels she’s been correctly challenged – and to stand by them and back them up with evidence when she knows she is right.

I’m so glad that being part of The Write Reads gang has re-introduced me to contemporary YA. Although Bad Habits is somewhat out of my usual comfort zone of YA mystery/thrillers (and has a high school/college setting that I am usually very wary of), I really enjoyed this fun and fast-paced novel, which has plenty of humour alongside some extremely important messaging about equality, sexuality, and the importance of being true to yourself.

Bad Habits by Flynn Meaney is published by Penguin on 11 February 2021 and is available to preorder now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher and Netgalley UK for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to The Write Reads for inviting me onto and organising this blog tour. The tour continues until 20 February 2021 so do check out the other stops along the way for more reviews and content!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!