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, 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.

*gifted

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, 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, Scottish Reads

The Black Dog

Declan dreams of becoming a writer. It’s a dream that helps him escape the realities of his life – going through the motions at college and stacking supermarket shelves part-time, whilst fighting a battle with the ever-darkening thoughts in his head.

He has his pet Labrador for companionship and his best friend-turned-mentor, a pseudo-intellectual who works as a greenskeeper at the local municipal golf course, both of which help keep the worst of his anxieties at bay. But following a drunken row with local gangsters, Declan’s worries threaten to spiral out of control.

James Cavani – Declan’s idol and his hometown’s claim to fame – is a renowned writer, director and actor. But despite his success, his past hasn’t relinquished its hold of him, and through his younger sister’s battle with drug addiction, he finds himself returning to a world he thought he had escaped.

At face value, their lives couldn’t be more different, but perhaps fate has a way of bringing kindred spirits together – and perhaps each holds the other’s redemption in their hands
.

I’m a huge fan of Kevin Bridges’ comedy, which tends to feature comedic tales. Based on his stand up, I viewed him as a gifted storyteller. So I was beyond excited to read his first work of fiction and I was not disappointed!

The characters in this book were excellent.
Declan was just a wee lamb! Trying to hold it all together but struggling with anxiety and doubt. I loved his character growth. His mum and sister were amazing too. Doof Doof was the friend that everybody needs! He was just such an amazing character and supportive friend. I know he was more of a side character but he was my favourite character and I want only amazing things for him.

Even the ‘baddies’ felt realistic. I’ve read so many books that feature Scottish gang culture and they’ve all handled the topic so well. It would have been so easy to make them caricature gangsters. While these gangsters had some moments of hilarity, it didn’t detract from the very realistic threat of danger. There was a point where I was just chuckling away and then remembered that it probably wasn’t going to end well because ‘baddies’ were likely to do bad things. They did but it did include quite a few laughs.

I’ve never enjoyed a scene involving a running race quite as much as in this book! I genuinely cried with laughter.

I found this book to be heartwarming and hopeful while covering some quite tough topics such as; gang culture, violence depression, and fear. There were enough moments of laughter to lift me out of the sadness, this is something I very much enjoy in a book that covers gritty topics.

The only negative I have from this book was that I’d have loved chapters instead of parts. This is purely due to my inability to put a book down mid-chapter. This resulted in a couple of later nights for me as I needed to finish the part. This is definitely a ‘me problem’ and not an actual issue with the book but I know a lot of others feel the same about chapters. So be prepared and don’t start reading just before bedtime unless you’re happy to pause midway through a part. I do feel that the decision to use parts instead of chapters made sense as the parts each covered a very distinct part of the story.

This was such an enjoyable book. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Happiness is Wasted on Me

Cumbernauld was built to be the town of the future…that is, if the future looked like a really rubbish episode of Doctor Who. It’s also home to Walter Wedgeworth, a child stuck in a uniquely dysfunctional family controlled by the tyrannical Fishtank, whose CB Radio aerial is a metal middle finger to all the neighbours on Craigieburn Road. When 11-year-old Walter discovers the corpse of a baby inside a cardboard box, he resolves to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen. But the child’s fate haunts Walter, bringing him into conflict with the world around him. Walter’s journey will lead him from childhood to adulthood; school, college, bereavement, Britpop, his first job, Blackpool, the Spice Girls, feuds with his neighbour, and finally…face-to-face with a child killer. Taking place in the 90s, Happiness Is Wasted On Me is a genre-blending tale that spans a decade in the life of Walter. It’s a coming of age tale, a family drama, a mystery, and a biting dark comedy. Ultimately, it’s the story of how even the strangest people can find their way in the world.

This was my bookclub book for May/June for the Scottish Bookclub. I don’t know if I would have picked it up otherwise, and I’m so glad that I did! I really enjoyed this book and ended up giving it 4 stars.

Looking at the blurb, I was worried that this book was going to be a very depressing read. I was concerned that it was going to go down the route of ‘depressing tale of a Scottish childhood’, which one of my least favourite types of Scottish fiction. This wasn’t the case. The book did cover some extremely difficult topics including: infant death, physical and mental abuse, poverty. In spite of this, the book included so many moments of dark humour which provided a comedic lift out of the sadness. I cried with laughter with the granny on the stairs!

The characters were so realistic. I felt for Walter, he was such a tormented wee soul! I found myself finding some relatability in him, especially with his school pals. His love of his local library brought back warm memories of many a day of my own spent in Peebles library. I do feel like the climax of this book was very much in alignment with one of the Nancy Drew novels that he enjoyed so much.

Fishtank was an absolute tyrant, I hated him so much. He was so much more than a cartoon villain, he really did feel like he could have been real. He probably was but I’m lucky enough not to have come across anyone like him.

My favourite character was Donnie! This was Walter’s older sister who was his closest family member. She was just so exciting as a character and had led a thrilling life. I have heard that she may have been moulded around the author’s own sister (who sadly passed away) and I think that she was given the best story arc which is a lovely memorial.

This book was set over a ten year period over the 1990s and early 00s, I absolutely love reading books set during this time period! I found this book to be jam packed full of nostalgia and it gave me the warm and fuzzies.

This was such an enjoyable book that was filled with moments of heartbreak and sadness but peppered with moments of sheer hilarity.

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish June Wrap Up

I know I’m a little bit earlier than usual but here is my Reading Scottish wrap up for June. I read the, what is now, standard 4 books by Scottish authors. I had a pretty wide variety of genres this month; contemporary, post apocalyptic/dystopian, and fantasy. I really enjoyed having this variety as these books really showcased how Scottish fiction is so much more than just a few genres. Even my two contemporary reads were so different-both regarding content and structure. Also, these were all debut adult fiction , this was not planned but does make me very happy to have a secret theme. Secret even to me!

I read the following books:

📚 Happiness is Wasted on Me by Kirkland Ciccone

🐉 The Flames of Albiyon by Jean Menzies

💊 The Pharmacist by Rachelle Atalla

🐕‍🦺 The Black Dog by Kevin Bridges*

*gifted

Wrap up vlog where I give reviews

If you’ve read any Scottish fiction recently, I’d love to hear all about it!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Single Taken Cursed

Heard enough happily ever afters? In Single Taken Cursed, Scottish comedy writer Nicki reveals some of her worst dating exploits. From a guy impersonating Zac Efron to another pretending to be a farm animal, you’ll discover the bizarre and exhausting side of single life.

As told in stories like “The MLM tool” and ‘No Dealer’ this account of contemporary dating is evidence that it could indeed always be worse.

I did not plan to read this book in one sitting. I’d planned to just dip in and read one or two of the stories…cut to a couple of hours later and I’d finished the book and had cried off my eye cream (I was reading in bed with all my lotions on, it was Friday night and I was feeling wild!). This was absolutely hilarious and I have to give this 5 shiny stars.

Like Nikki, I have had many a disastrous date en route to finding my lobster. I love funny reading stories about the dating game as it reminds me so much of conversations with my friends when we were single and looking for love. This book was written is such a friendly way that it felt like chatting with a pal, or reading an agony aunt page in Bliss magazine. It was such a joy to read.

I laughed so hard during this book! I am about the same age as the author so I loved the references to Bebo, MSN messenger, blue hair mascara, the gorgeousness of Nick Carter (who has aged like a fine wine!). The nostalgia made me so happy! It’s so fun for me to read something set in the 00s/2010s that I get to relate to. There were also references to empties and Pizza Hut dates but I wasn’t cool so didn’t get invited to empties nor did I have a Pizza Hut date until I was in my mid 20s, so it was nice to read about what I had missed out on.

This book is set in Scotland and took place in familiar locations to me which is something I always enjoy in a book! I started my dating life after moving to uni in Glasgow round about the same time as some of these stories so it felt pretty relatable. I did have the fear that one of these stories may have been about an ex of mine and may have gotten hiccups for laughing so much at the prospect! After finishing the story I am now certain that it wasn’t but it was that sort of book where there was something just so relatable about it.

This gave me so many laughs but also some moments of boking! I gagged at the bathmat story but hey, he was still a gentleman. The spot story genuinely made me gag! I was not sad about my lack of teenage dating during that tale.

This was such a fun and entertaining book about the dating perils of millennials over the years. It was light and enjoyable to read. I finished it during one evening because I didn’t realise how long I’d been reading until I was at the end.

I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely loved it! At the end of the book it says that the author plans to release four more books in 2022, I plan to read those books.

Vlogs

A Week of Reading

Don’t be deceived, Aberdeen is rarely this bright

Im trying something different today and made an actual vlog. This gives the illusion that a. I go outside a lot and b. That Aberdeen is sunny and bright. Don’t be fooled, it was just that one weekend and now Aberdeen is back to being grey and drizzly.

I don’t mean to boast but I really did have a productive Bank Holiday weekend last weekend. So many lovely nature walks and so many amazing books!

I decided to treat myself to 4 days of reading. What a treat!

I read, and finished, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, Other Peoples’ Clothes by Calla Henkel, and A Silent Voice Speaks by Trishna Singh. I also started Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie.

Plus steam cleaning my entire house because I have a new cleaner, I didn’t vlog that though.