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.

Reviews

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.

Reviews

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

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

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!

Reviews

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!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Quaker

The Quaker is watching you…

It is 1969 and Glasgow has been brought to its knees by a serial killer spreading fear throughout the city. The Quaker has taken three women from the same nightclub and brutally murdered them in the backstreets.

A detective with everything to prove.
Now, six months later, the police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. They call in DI McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands. But his arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair.

A killer who hunts in the shadows.
Soon another woman is found murdered in a run-down tenement flat. And McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city – and his life – forever…

As most of you know, I like to read Scottish fiction. However, I very rarely read Scottish crime fiction (or I think that I rarely read it). This seems so silly because Scottish crime is basically a genre of its own! So in addition to reading more Scottish fiction, I’ve started being more open to reading crime fiction.

While I don’t read a lot of crime fiction, I do enjoy the occasional true crime podcast. This book was inspired by a true crime case that I was familiar with- Bible John.

I enjoyed McCormack and the way that he didn’t try to get the department to like him. They were there to do the job and he wasn’t looking for friends. However, I did enjoy the moments of friendship that did pop up as they were so unexpected.

Due to the time period where this novel took place, there were quite a few times where I felt uncomfortable with the way that the police handled things. I assume that was realistic but base most of my knowledge of vintage police procedures on episodes of The Bill and the epilogue series of Prime Suspect. The way that the police treated suspects was horrible and definitely not ok, this made me feel very uneasy but may have been historically accurate.

The plot had two interweaving storylines; the murder and a heist. As a general rule, I hate heist novels but there are exceptions to the rules. This book was one of those exceptions.

The Murder storyline was just so compelling and I was hooked and just so keen to find out who was responsible for these horrific crimes. When the novel branched away from the crime that influenced the story, my interest continued to grow as I was so intrigued. The heist was an enjoyable story too. The actual heist was relatively short but the fall out from it continued throughout. It was enjoyable trying to work out how the two plots would merge. This just kept me guessing!

I was wondering how close to real life this book would be. In real life, we still don’t know who was responsible for the hideous crimes. I genuinely expected this to end without finding out who the murderer was. I was so happy to get the reveal. While there were some hints along the way, I did not see twists coming!

I really did enjoy this book and I do plan to read the sequel as I’m excited to see what happens next for McCormack. I lived in the East End of Glasgow for a long time and enjoyed recognising a lot of the areas.

Reviews

A Dowry of Blood

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A Dowry of Blood is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

I feel like I saw this book everywhere last October, maybe I just think I did because I saw it somewhere and knew I wanted to read it. I am very happy to tell anyone who will listen, that my favourite classics are Dracula and Carmilla. I like my classics to be gothic and bloody…despite feeling faint if I even think about veins for too long. There’s something about a gothic vampire story that calls to me like a siren’s call. This book promised to be a retelling of Dracula through the eyes of his bride and it delivered. I found this book to be utter perfection!

The book started with Dracula (who is not names during the book because it’s not about him) finding a dying peasant woman who he ‘rescues’ and takes as his bride. The book the covers events from their meeting in the 15th century, right up until the 20th century. I really enjoyed that the book covered such a span of time and included some very interesting locations during some very exciting or dangerous times.

Actually, the book started with a very exciting statement that hooked me right away.

I loved Constanta as a character. I enjoyed her character growth from 15th century peasant to the Bride of Dracula and living in various grand homes. I wanted only good things for her. She was so protective and caring. I respected her attitude towards feeding only on those who mistreated women and children. My heart broke for her when the veil dropped and she started to see her husband for who he was. I enjoyed her relationship with her found family and how much they cared for each other.

This book was beautifully written. While the book took the format of a memoir or journal, it was almost lyrical. I just devoured this book and could not put it down. This was a relatively short book and I read it over an afternoon because it was just so compelling.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ebook in exchange for an honest review. I now need to get myself a physical copy as I can see me rereading this book again and again.

Reviews

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul lives Kim Jiyoung. A thirtysomething-year-old “millennial everywoman,” she has recently left her white-collar desk job—in order to care for her newborn daughter full-time—as so many Korean women are expected to do. But she quickly begins to exhibit strange symptoms that alarm her husband, parents, and in-laws: Jiyoung impersonates the voices of other women—alive and even dead, both known and unknown to her. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, her discomfited husband sends her to a male psychiatrist.

In a chilling, eerily truncated third-person voice, Jiyoung’s entire life is recounted to the psychiatrist—a narrative infused with disparate elements of frustration, perseverance, and submission. Born in 1982 and given the most common name for Korean baby girls, Jiyoung quickly becomes the unfavored sister to her princeling little brother. Always, her behavior is policed by the male figures around her—from the elementary school teachers who enforce strict uniforms for girls, to the coworkers who install a hidden camera in the women’s restroom and post their photos online. In her father’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s fault that men harass her late at night; in her husband’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s duty to forsake her career to take care of him and their child—to put them first.

Jiyoung’s painfully common life is juxtaposed against a backdrop of an advancing Korea, as it abandons “family planning” birth control policies and passes new legislation against gender discrimination. But can her doctor flawlessly, completely cure her, or even discover what truly ails her?

I bought this book quite some time ago as I’d heard so many good things about it. I had been told that it would annoy me, so I put off reading it. Who wants to be annoyed by a book? However curiosity got the best of me and I did read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was such a quick read, I finished it over one afternoon.

I completely understand why my friends thought that this book would annoy me. This book was jam packed full of unfairness, sexism, and misogyny. At the same time, this book was based on and inspired by real life and experiences. So while I was annoyed by this, it wasn’t the book that annoyed me. Society and the expectations annoyed me.

This book covered the life of Kim Jiyoung who was a somewhat typical character. I viewed her as a sort of ‘every woman’, if that makes sense? As a reader, I didn’t feel like I really got to know a lot about Kim Jiyoung but I got to experience what they went through as a woman in South Korea. Her experiences could be relatable to so many!

I am a Scottish woman and have lived my whole life in Scotland, so I can’t vouch for the experiences of women in South Korea. However, the author carried out so much research, this was so much more than an opinion piece. The author included their sources and this just increased…perhaps not enjoyment but it certainly was appreciated. I don’t usually enjoy books about unfairness based on gender but I did enjoy this book. I suspect that this may be due to the book almost toeing the line between fact and fiction.

My heart broke at multiple points during this book. Kim Jiyoung was so smart and hardworking and had achieved so much with their academic life…yet they were expected to exist as solely a wife and mother. This would be fine if that was what she wanted from life but she didn’t. She was just expected to accept her fate.

I really enjoyed the way that the women in this book were united and supportive of each other. I liked that they watched out for each other while being terrified of the consequences as they would be viewed as being in the wrong despite clearly being victimised.

I very much appreciated this book as it was such an eye opening read. This book really made me think! I don’t know if I liked it as it wasn’t really a book that was intended as entertainment but it was thought provoking and really made me feel. This book has stuck with me and I do keep thinking about this. I do recommend reading this but be prepared to feel angry!