Reviews, Scottish Reads

Bury Your Secrets

One Saturday afternoon, three friends head north for a long weekend. On Monday, they will return home, having buried a body in the woods.

For Hazel, reeling from the discovery of her long-term partner’s infidelity, a getaway to a remote coastal village with her best friends, Mickie and Claire, seems like the ideal remedy. And when a local man, Aidan, takes a shine to her, Hazel wonders if she’s ready to move on.

Within hours, however, Aidan is dead, leaving Hazel and her friends with a dreadful choice: to come clean or mount a cover-up. Determined to protect Hazel at all costs, the friends forge a desperate pact.

But secrets have a habit of catching up with you – and of testing the bonds of friendship to their limits. And Hazel is about to find out that, no matter how much she might wish otherwise, you can’t bury the truth forever.

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you’ll know that I love reading Scottish fiction. I absolutely leapt at the chance to read this psychological thriller! I must admit that I have been getting more and more into the darker side of Scottish fiction and I’m loving it. This was a rather dark novel; more than just being about a murder, there were so many dark moments within all of the relationships in this book.

The book started with a trio of pals being involved in the death of a man who was a walking red flag. I actually liked that as I’d have been pretty sad if the victim didn’t seem like a baddie. I don’t enjoy books where the victim is a nice person as then I’m just sad. This set my mind whirring with all of the possibilities to come.

I didn’t like any of the characters. In this sort of book, the enjoyment came from the unravelling of the story so it wasn’t important to have likeable characters. Hazel was boring and so passive. Mickie was very intense and annoying. Claire was passive aggressive and controlling. In addition, Hazel’s partner was also a total tool. Aidan’s sister was also creepy. Full of unpleasant characters.

The characters kept making such terrible decisions which I feel made them feel very realistic. Humans are flawed and I can totally forgive these choices based on the super stressful situations that they were in. Although Hazel honestly did just seem like a liability from start to finish.

I must admit that I guessed about 6 different endings and was wrong EVERY TIME! This made me so happy as I really was kept guessing right up until the end. There were a fair few moments where I gasped and shouted at the characters (who couldn’t hear me based on this being fiction!).

I was left with a few questions regarding how some characters knew things that they had no way of knowing. I felt like there were some missed reveals.

This was a very thrilling read for me and I really enjoyed it! Thank you to Love Books Tours for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blog, Vlogs

Reading Vlog

This last week I have been participating in the Summer Mixtape Readathon. This has been such a fun week and I’m so excited that there’s one more week to go.

My weekly reading vlog

This readathon involves reading books that match up to some very summery songs. I’m not a summer loving person, so this has been an excellent way of feeling involved in the summer excitement that my friends have had.

Unfortunately, shortly after filming my previous vlog, I tested positive for coronavirus. This meant that I didn’t manage to read as much as I usually would. However, I did manage to read two books which ticked off 2/5 of the book related prompts so I’m very much on track! Plus, the two books that I read also technically tick two more of the prompts so I’m entering a new week feeling very positive about reaching my reading goals.

The Readathon Prompts

Influencer Island

FYRE FESTIVAL meets HUNGER GAMES in this dark psychological thriller about a social media competition that turns deadly.
Welcome to Influencer Island, an experience for ten competitors to travel to paradise and compete for social media glory. Overnight, millions of users send off their submission videos, hoping for the chance to party with the biggest influencers and celebrities in the world.

Or so they thought…

By the time the contest went offline, over a dozen influencers were declared dead or missing. No winner was announced. The only hope for a conclusion lay in an unaired podcast produced by Cal Everett, a young reporter with his own mysterious connection to the murderous contest creator, Wyatt James.

As listeners will soon discover, James designed Influencer Island to be more than a battle of social media wits. If the contestants hope to survive, they will have to answer the question at the very heart of the competition: How far would you be willing to go for fame?

I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games series so I was so interested by the concept of this book. I also remember the absolute wreck that was the Fyre Festival and enjoying the tell all documentaries about it. So I was very excited going into this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The plot was wild! Yet I could totally see it happening which says quite a lot about the culture of social media and influencers. Influencers aren’t necessarily a new thing as even before social media there were people trying to sell their lifestyle through magazines and tv. Social media provided standard humans with the ability to become influencers which resulted in the current ‘phenomenon’ which Google informed me started in 2009.

I loved the format of this book. It was basically a transcript of a podcast which I found to be very easy to consume and resulted in a super fast paced novel that just kept me hooked. I’ve read a few novels written in unusual formats and this is one of the better ones. The plot of this book meant that it just worked so well in this format. I’d totally have listened to this podcast if it happened in real life. However I’d much rather it didn’t because just wow!

I don’t know if I liked any of the characters. I don’t think that it was important to find them likeable. I don’t think I’d have had any interest in any of their public profiles. I liked the way that the characters reacted to their situation, some embracing the idea of harming their competitors and some being actual human beings and not being so keen.

The island location sounded absolutely horrific! I loved finding out more about the island and the more that I found out, the creepier it felt. This book was pretty violent and I’m not usually one for gore. However I felt that the gore wasn’t gratuitous. A lot of scenes hinted towards the violence more than describing it in detail which may be why I enjoyed it so much.

I loved the way that Carrie’s brother and Cal’s father contributed to the story. At first I was a little confused about their relevance and then I was so excited when everything started to come together. I did not guess what was happening but I was happy to just enjoy the ride!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I will be looking out for more books by this author as I just loved the concept.


The Book of Gothel

Everyone knows the tale of Rapunzel in her tower, but do you know the story of the witch who put her there?

Haelewise has always lived under the shadow of her mother, Hedda—a woman who will do anything to keep her daughter protected. For with her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, Haelewise is shunned by her medieval village, and her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, of an ancient tower cloaked in mist, where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.

Then, Hedda dies, and Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the legendary tower her mother used to speak of—a place called Gothel, where Haelewise meets a wise woman willing to take her under her wing.

But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the Church strives to keep hidden. A secret that unlocks a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles behind the world Haelewise has always known…

I was so intrigued by the blurb of this book as I absolutely love both fairytale retellings and villain origin stories. This book sounded like it would fulfil both of those tropes and I was excited. However, I feel like the blurb lied to me a little. Or perhaps I misunderstood and expected there to be more about Haelewise being a witch and more references to Rupunzel. However, Rupunzel didn’t appear until about 85% through the book and it was a very ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moment. This was more of a historical fiction novel with some magical elements as opposed to a retelling/origin story. I am not generally a big fan of historical fiction set in our world so the limited amount of magic and fairytale elements left me feeling a little disappointed.

I have to say that Haelewise was one of the most infuriating protagonists that I’ve read about in a wee while. She had zero sense of self preservation and just wanted everyone to trust her. She instantly trusted strangers and would tell them her secrets in the hope that they would share theirs…this was a logic that I just couldn’t fathom. She also seemed incapable of understanding very basic instructions. Haelewise made some really odd choices which resulted in her being in more danger than she was already in. I appreciate that she was 17 but a. She’d been through a lot in her young life and at the beginning of the book, she seemed more mature and b. This book took place in the 12th century so I would have expected her to have been less huffy when things didn’t go her way.

I really enjoyed the sense of rebellion among the women. I liked the tower and the purpose of the tower as well as the magic of the area of Gothel. I would have loved to have known a bit more about The Mother.

This was an ok book, as historical fiction, it was enjoyable enough. If you like historical fiction then this may be for you. If you’re looking for a Rupunzel/Mother Gothel origin story, this wasn’t it.

There were some sexy times in this book that made me queasy. One of the participants had been in a cell for at least a month and definitely wasn’t bathing during that time. It gave me the ick. Especially as they washed the next day!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review

Vlogs, Wrap Ups

July Wrap Up

July turned out to be a very busy reading month. I read 21 books! Some were rather short and most of these books were read during the first 3 weeks of the month as I then caught coronavirus and mainly slept during my spare time instead of reading.

My Wrap Up Vlog

I’ve been toying with the idea of not sharing my ratings in reviews. So this month I’ve rated them in a slightly different way, I don’t know if I prefer this but we shall see!

Books I loved

A Dowry of Blood – S.T. Gibson*
Fangs – Sarah Andersen
Last Night at the Telegraph Club- Malinda Lo ✨
Our Wives Under the Sea – Julia Armfield
What Happens in Dubai- Sophie Gravia*

I Liked as a Friend 😺

At Bertram’s Hotel- Agatha Christie
Hold Your Tongue- Deborah Masson
Instruments of Darkness- Imogen Robertson
A Kind of Spark- Elle McNicoll
Leah on the Offbeat- Becky Albertalli
Like a Charm- Elle McNicoll
Love is Worth Fighting For- Effie Kammenou*
The Quaker – Liam McIlvanney
Show Me Who You Are- Elle McNicoll

Not For Me 😿

Another Time, Another Place – Jodi Taylor
Dark Earth- Rebecca Stott*
Grand Theft Astro- Scott Meyer
Just One Damned Thing After Another- Jodi Taylor
When I Was Ten- Fiona Cummins

Non-Fiction 👩‍🎓
Hook Them or Lose Them- D. Leitao
Sidesplitter- Phil Wang


Book Recommendation of the Month, Reviews

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

A story of love and duty set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare.

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

This is a book that I’ve been interested in reading for a while. My friends and I met up a wee while ago to do a book swap and I’d like to thank my lovely pal for loaning this book to me. I will return this when I no longer have The Rona and can go outside. This book was an absolute delight.

I loved Lily! I thought that she was just such a sweet girl and so caring towards her family. Her friends, I felt, were so realistic for a friend group in high school. Her group of friends all seemed to surround one very bossy queen bee and Lily usually went along with the group as she was reluctant to cause drama. I enjoyed her meeting with Kath and bonding over being super smart and the only girls in their class for super smart people.

Lily’s life seemed to change after befriending Kath. I enjoyed her character development and that she stood up to her bossy friend despite that fact that this resulted in her group shunning her as punishment. Lily just bloomed!

Kath introduced Lily to The Telegraph Club which was a local lesbian bar that Lily had wanted to visit. I really enjoyed joining Lily on her journey of self discovery. The same for Kath too. It was really nice seeing them realise more about themselves and meeting other lesbians.

This was a real coming of age kind of romance. This was one of the sweetest romance stories I have read in a long time. I was rooting for Lily and Kath. All the while knowing that this time period wasn’t ideal for two women in love and just waiting for something bad to happen.

There were a lot of found family elements which just warmed my wee soul!

In addition to this being a love story, there were a couple of other plots running through the book; the fear of deportation and the fear of communism. Lily’s father, a respected doctor, was facing deportation despite having citizenship. There were also suspicions of communist organisations within their society. These are two topics that I haven’t really read a lot of before and found to be very interesting.

I actually didn’t know a lot about the political situation of the US in the 1950s so this book was very eye opening. There were a lot of resources provided at the end of the book so I did fall down a bit of a rabbit hole afterwards.

I found this book to be both heartwarming and heartbreaking. I thoroughly enjoyed it! This was definitely my book recommendation of the month!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

What Happens In Dubai

Everyone’s favourite Glaswegian girl is back!

After having her heart well and truly broken, Zara Smith is more interested in fun than forever. But she’s starting to wonder if she’s slept with every (somewhat) eligible bachelor in Glasgow… and if there’s such a thing as too much fun?!

With competition ramping up in Glasgow, Zara and her friends at Individualise can’t pass up an opportunity to promote their aesthetics clinic – especially not when it involves an all-expenses-paid trip to Dubai! It’s THE summer destination for the sexy, rich and famous. Cue sun, sand and disastrous flirtations for everyone. But it’s okay because what happens in Dubai stays in Dubai, right?

I preordered this book the second that preorders were available. I’ve been super excited about this book for months. Imagine my excitement when I saw this book on NetGalley! I promptly requested to read an advanced copy of this book and was delighted to be accepted. I absolutely loved A Glasgow Kiss and was super excited to return to Zara and her escapades.

I was so giddy to read about Zara’s return to the dating game. I expected hilarious results and I was not disappointed. The book took a whole 6% before I was full on cackling! I apologise to my neighbours who surely heard my loud laughter. I tried to stifle it but honestly, I couldn’t hold it in.

I really enjoyed the gang’s wee trip to Dubai. It was so interesting to read about a lavish and glamorous holiday, especially after the last few years! This gave me a better insight into the awesome relationship between Zara and her colleagues, they really were like a wee family.

I loved getting to see Zara get to prove that she was an intelligent business woman. It could be so easy to just think of Zara as just a fun loving, party girl but she was so much more than that. She may not have showered as often as socially acceptable but she was really driven and was willing to take a risk in order to succeed. I also loved getting more time with Ash. I enjoyed the dynamic of having Ash in the flat.

I just found myself rooting for Zara to just have excellent things happen to her. I found myself shouting at the book trying to stop her from making some choices but I appreciate that I can’t control what happens in books.

This was such a wonderful sequel as it had everything that I’d loved from the first book; it was utterly hilarious and kept me guessing as I never knew what Zara was going to get up to next. I also loved the wee found family vibe going on at the clinic

I don’t think I’ll ever eat sweetcorn again and now have a new fear of getting sand in awkward places. Heavily recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the first book

Huge thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ebook in exchange for an honest review. I’m definitely going to tab for when I need a giggle

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish- July Wrap Up

What an excellent month of Reading Scottish! I read 6 books by Scottish authors in July. This was a big surprise to myself as I’d miscalculated and was convinced that I had read 5.

My Reading Scottish Wrap Up Vlog

This month I read some gritty Scottish crime novels: The Quaker – Liam McIlvanney and Hold Your Tongue- Deborah Masson. These books were set in Glasgow and Aberdeen, respectively, and having lived in both of those cities I felt like I got an extra little something from them. Turns out I’m a huge fan of Scottish crime featuring serial killers.

After all of the serial killer reading, i needed something a bit cheerier. I had been recommended Elle McNicoll as an author and since their entire back catalogue was available on Amazon prime, I ended up reading all three of their books. I enjoyed A Kind of Spark, Show Me Who You Are, and Like a Charm. These were delightful middle grade books.

I rounded off my month of Scottish reads with What Happens in Dubai by Sophie Gravia*. You may remember my cackling while reading A Glasgow Kiss which was this author’s previous novel. This was just as hilarious and I cackled once again.

If you’ve read any excellent Scottish fiction that you’d recommend, please let me know in the comments.


Reviews, Scottish Reads

Hold Your Tongue

A brutal murder.
A young woman’s body is discovered with horrifying injuries, a recent newspaper cutting pinned to her clothing.
A detective with everything to prove.
This is her only chance to redeem herself.
A serial killer with nothing to lose.
He’s waited years, and his reign of terror has only just begun . . .

If I’m being entirely honest, I almost put this book down with the aim to never return to it. However, I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on it because I ended up really enjoying it. Now I’m ready to read the sequel and I intend to go and see the author do a reading at the Central Library.

Firstly, I need to address why I thought I needed to give up on the book. Near the beginning of the book, there was a flashback which described an extremely violent act which gave me the boak. It made me feel so nauseated but this was literally just a sentence or two and once I got past that, I was in for a good time.

I really enjoyed the setting of this book. Some people may not enjoy reading about a serial killer on the prowl in the city that they live in but the familiarity of the locations really enhanced my enjoyment. I especially loved that this book took place in winter, we’ve been having a heat wave and I just loved reading about the snow and slush on the streets that I frequent.

The murders were seemingly random and I really enjoyed trying to work out what linked them. This book was like a puzzle! I was so excited and a little bit smug when I worked out the link between the victims. Especially as I worked it out before the protagonist.

I don’t know if I liked the characters. At first, I really disliked most of them. I hated the way that some of the characters interacted with each other. I’m not into reading books about toxic work environments. I’ve lived that and don’t need it in my fiction. The toxicity was resolved which was good because that really did take away a huge part of my enjoyment.

This was a very interesting and well written crime novel. It was so full of mystery and intrigue. My interest was held from start to finish. While I worked out the links between the victims, I didn’t know who the killer was or why they were tormenting the women of the city. I really enjoyed the reveal as it took me by surprise.

I always think that I’m not really into crime novels from the police perspective but this book really was an enjoyable read. I really enjoyed getting to try to work out the crime and the police detectives didn’t annoy me, other than being unable to work together. Often I find that detectives bend the rules which irks me on fiction because these are the people I expect to stick to the rules, that’s what usually annoys me in police detective stories. That wasn’t an issue in this book though which I’m so please about.

I’m so excited to find out what happens in the next book and to read more book about fictitious crimes in my home city!


Our Wives Under The Sea

Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home.

Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp.

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from Julia Armfield, the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep deep sea

I bought this book back in March and planned to read it shortly after the initial purchase. However, life happened and I didn’t pick it up until this month. I’m so angry that I could have loved this book months ago but I’m happy to have loved it this month. I really did enjoy this book.

This was such a short book which was told in dual narrative which alternated between Miri and Leah. Leah had participated in a deep sea mission in a submarine and had returned…changed. Miri, her wife, was struggling to come to terms with the changes that her wife was going through.

The element of mystery just grasped my attention and kept me turning the pages. I read this book during an afternoon because I just couldn’t put it down, it was also relatively short.

I felt so sorry for Miri. Leah had basically been missing and returned back to home, months later than expected. Leah didn’t talk about what happened but clearly something had happened. Miri struggled to make sense of the changes to her wife as she just didn’t know what was happening or what had happened.

I really enjoyed the combination of chapters set during the current time and chapters set in the past, as well as chapters set in the submarine. Ever so slowly, all was revealed and I really enjoyed that. I did not see the twist coming at all and was taken thoroughly by surprise. I gasped at multiple points during this book.

The chapters in the submarine just felt so claustrophobic! The whole book felt so chilling and ominous throughout. This is a book that I can see myself rereading during October when I convince myself that I want to be scared.

This is the second book that I have read in recent history that featured deep sea exploration and this was my favourite of the two. I am not into the idea of navigating the depths of the sea but there’s just something about books and the sea that intrigue me. I think it’s the mystery of the sea, we don’t know what is down there and that gives me chills!