read and reviewed books in winter 22-23

Books read and reviewed in winter 2022

Another season has passed and it’s traditionally the time I read a lot. I tend to have a couple of weeks off work over Christmas, so that’s a lot of reading I can get in. Here’s some of the books I’ve read and reviewed this winter.

It’s also the new year which means time for a new Goodreads challenge. In 2022 I blew my 70 books target out of the water with an insane 122 books read. I do read a lot of romance novels but do intersperse when with crime, psychological thrillers, chick lit, and the occasional autobiography. But I read a couple of romance series which keep me going a lot faster than single books, because I can’t wait to get onto the next book.

You can find all the books I’ve read over on my Goodreads profile.

Books read:

  • December 13
  • January 19
  • February 14
read and reviewed books in winter 22-23

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Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothchild

Blood Sugar retells the story of Ruby, an unlikely murderer, who’s killed 3 times during her life starting age 5, and now charged with the murder of her husband who she loved. It’s a story of a lonely life with few friends. Except for one, a former college friend whose bond with Ruby won’t waiver when she needs it most.

Ruby’s a psychiatrist who helps others with their worries and emotional confusion, so why can’t she hold back on her own murderous urges. She insists she didn’t kill her husband, but she has no guilt or concerns from having killed before. So has she really hidden her innocence from us, the reader.

This book makes you remember that anyone, even kind people, who help people, and love animals can have evil in them. I’m sure most people have wished at some point that there was someone who’d not crossed their path, but killing someone for whatever reason would stop most. It makes you wonder how Ruby could think it’s possible or acceptable, whatever her reasons.

An interesting book, and you rarely read a thriller written from the murderer’s view.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A Bookshop Christmas by Rachel Burton

Classic romance story inside a romance book. The setting is a bookshop full of romance fans, with former book editor Megan bringing author Xander Stone in for a book launch and signing. After a rocky start their attraction emerges, although they struggle to get over both of their past relationships and issues with their working lives. Throw in family, Christmas, changing situations, and great friendships. But who’s the person who lets Xander’s secret out.

Every romance novel is helped by a hero or herine that’s likeable and Megan is. You want her to win at life and love, and Xander feels like the perfect man for her. Despite Xander’s seeming rudeness, he’s also likeable and you can’t help but want to see them together.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Match by Harlan Coben

I was pleased to find this Harlan Coben, one of his I’ve not read. Wilde was a ‘mowgli’ mystery boy of the woods, who still semi lives out on the land, while having his ‘family’ to look in on and support him. He’s decided to use genealogy sites to find his parents, then stumbles across a famous but disgraced half brother who’s disappeared, expected committed suicide. Alongside we hear inside a vigilante secret group who punish cruel internet trolls. What’s the link and who’s going around killing people?

There are some complexities, I did struggle to keep up with the genealogy percentages of who could be related to who and how. Wilde’s an appealing character, as are those closed to him, and it’s interesting trying to work through the answers as Wilde finds them out.

I was surprised I didn’t guess the correct answer to who was going round murdering, but I was close. But it’s a good book, fast moving, switching from one text to another to explain between the different storytellers.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Faking Friends by Jane Fallon

Read Faking Friends and you’ll be relieved you don’t have friends like Melissa who wishes she had your career and husband.

Amy’s gone through life having been overshadowed by Melissa’s overconfident bragging. But she wants to get back on her when she finds she’s the one who’s been betraying her by moving in with her husband while she’s working abroad. We find out about their back story from childhood, how Amy’s found her acting life, and then her confidence since leaving her husband but not telling him or her best friend while she plots her revenge with the help of other friends.

But moving on is’t straightforward with love or work, especially with Melissa out there.

Amy does what we probably would all like to do to someone who wrongs us, but it’s a bit uncomfortable reading. She does fight back with integrity when things go too far. And it doesn’t all turn out badly in the end. It does make you wonder what you’d do in that situation.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Last Summer by Karen Swan

Once I started reading this, I wasn’t sure about it – I’m not really a historical fiction fan. But I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. It’s set on St Kilda, a old Scottish highland isle in the 1930s where they’re living in the old ways, getting food and materians from the harsh land to live and pay rent. But while they’re waiting on an evacuation (voted for by the islanders) to move to the mainland, an earl and his son come to visit with the latter building what would be an inappropriate classwise connection to Effie, a young woman trying to prove herself doing the male jobs in order to make enough to keep herself and her father.

Their connection pulls you along, and you wish for the class divide to not be there for them, but we understand that Effie is part of the island.

But what happens when the man, who is in charge of collecting rents and keeping the islanders in check for the isle’s owner, decides he wants Effie to be his wife.

Once they leave the island, Effie finds herself escaping the hard life the others reach, with the Earl taking her on to work for him. But will his son, Lord Sholto and Effie be able to stop the pull of their attraction, when it wouldn’t be suitable.

I really enjoyed the book, you wonder how people could want to stay and live that way on the island. It’s interesting how we seen how Effie is still so wild and different even to those working downstairs in the Earl’s stately home. How will she find her happiness.

It was a bit confusing, trying to work out who’s who, and remembering who wore what. The end of the book felt a bit sudden, and I had to rack my brain with who did end up being Effie’s saviour. There’s almost another story to be told…presumably where the next book in the series goes. I’d rather have it all in one complete story, but I suppose this keeps people reading on to the next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Tenant by Angela Lester

All the way through this, to the reader it’s obviously what it happening to Kate, a mature student who’s moved in with Amy for a house share, but finds herself getting tired, ill and then being accused of doing things at night that she’s got no awareness of, with Amy insinuating she’s drinking too much.

Her confusion increases, her ‘illness’ increasingly impacting her new friendships at college, and her work. Eventually she starts to wonder, and we read the climax where she uncovers the truth.

It’s a fast moving book I couldn’t put down despite the irritation that Kate was oblivious to what was causing her to unravel throughout.

The friendships seemed a little strange – Kate was down to earth, while her new music friends were stereotypical pretentious, all about music types. I’m not sure Kate would really have been drawn into their friendship group if this was real. But it’s a novel, and we can accept this as the truth is discovered, and Kate’s normality is returned as others suffer.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson

In one flat, lonely Lachlie, on rehab leave from the army living in one flat and wondering what meaning his life has, and whether his leg and body will ever recover enough to be normal again. Bethan’s living opposite, with her 3 year old son, starting again, in a new job, trying to earn enough to live and pay off debts left by a previous partner. They start a conversation through messages in their windows with a friendship and connection growing between 2 lonely people.

Through their conversations which then grow to speaking across a hedge, they both gain confidence and meaning from the belief and strength the other brings for them. But will they be confident enough to share their secrets, their guilt, their imperfections and take the step forwards rather than running away.

I loved this book, and sobbed my way through parts as they let go of the bad parts from their past, growing and finding their people. Of course there’s a happy ending, that’s what we want with a romantic chick lit book. And Miranda Dickinson delivers again.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Paris Secret by Karen Swan

A story of emerging family secrets. From art agent Flora’s own family trying to help her brother’s threat of a prison sentence, to her work in Paris discovering and then cataloguing the art found in an closed up apartment belonging to the famous Vermeil family. What are the family secrets, why is the art there, and what is the history.

Set against the glamour of rich young socalites and family reputations in France, and war tragedies, Flora uncovers the truth, and both families have to decide what to do to clear their names and live with their heads held high.

The Paris Secret was an interesting read, poignant in places hearing about the Jewish suffering in Nazi times, and where artwork ended up. I love learning more about history through novels, and there’s plenty to get stuck into with different relationships and family dynamics, through working relationships and emotional responses to the various issues throughout the book. It’s a book for romantics, but also those interested in history, but also crime.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Strange Appeal of Dougie Neil by Keith A Pearson

A different book, for starters it’s written from a male perspective. And not the classic hero, an under average looking Dougie who’s a gentle soul, but who’se not been handed out the best cards in life. Unlucky in love, working for the last 20 years in the local government waste department, with not much enjoyment in life other than his bird watching and a good cafe lunch with his colleague.

With a bit of magic (or curse?), Dougie’s appeal to women changes and he finds his life surprisingly becoming harder and more complicated.

Ultimately this is a book about finding yourself, being who you are and true to yourself. A nice read, and good to read something from a male perspective.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Just Like Heaven (Smythe-Smith Quartet book 1) by Julia Quinn

After reading the Bridgerton series last year I wanted to read more Julia Quinn Regency era books, so started the Smythe Smith series with Honoria’s story. These run in tandem alongside the Bridgerton series, so it’s great to read links between some of the characters across the 2 books.

Just like Heaven is the story of how a childhood unwitting adoration blooms in adulthood, how friendship changes, and family is key – whether having your own belonging in a large family, or finding your way into belonging within a family who made you feel part of theirs thanks to a childhood school friendship.

I really enjoyed this, and it’s certainly a fast read as most of this type are. I liked the confident sassy Honoria’s character, and the realisation of both her and her hero Marcus’ love for each other.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Secret Couple by J.S Lark

A book I couldn’t put down, because I wanted to know if Alice would come to her senses about Luke, a secret younger man who knows so much about her yet keeps his own back story quiet. She finds herself drawn in and played by him..a theme that’s continued in previous relationships – her first husband she was found not guilty of killing him due to the abuse she’d suffered, and claiming self defence. Luke comes into her life asking for her to become his solicitor in case he needed her in future, after she’s separated from her cheating husband.

It’s a disturbing relationship, she’s hooked on Luke and the excitement and surprises he brings to their relationship she initially tries to push back on. But Alice can’t help but be drawn in to the complex relationships and trouble he seems to bring to his life.

I did guess part of the ending, but not all of the timescales and planning that took place.

Alice is a flawed character, seeming to be weak, drinking too much, avoiding hearing what her family would recommend and support her in, while being drawn into another troubled situation. Despite her being in legal work, she seems to let a lot of dubious behaviour go which I find strange. She seems to draw trouble towards her in many of her relationships, and it’s an uncomfortable read in places.

I don’t think I really enjoyed the book because I disliked the main characters, but I was hooked in wanting to see what happened in the end.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

Reading The Push as a mother was a hard read. It reminded me a little of The Ice Twins. There’s quite a bit of the now, and history back before even the main character Blythe was born.

Blythe comes from a family where the maternal line isn’t great at motherhood, and she herself has issues switching between whether she wants to be a mother or not. She feels like she should so becomes pregnant with her husband, but struggles to bond with daughter Violet who’s very much a daddy’s girl. But Blythe is conflicted between whether her daughter is as evil as she believes when children are hurt at nursery, or things happen at home. A child dies and Blythe worries of her young daughter’s involvement.

Her concerns are put down to her lack of bond with her daughter by her husband and others but Blythe gets pregnant and realises with their son that she is a good mother, and the bond is there between her and little Sam straight away. Are they actually the perfect family.

Tragedy happens and her marriage crumbles with Violet pulling further away, and her husband creating a new family. But is his new child safe? Blythe acts strangely and secretly to get close to his new partner to warn her.

Is it just Blythe with mental health issues and hang ups in her grief, or is there truth in what she’s been saying all along.

The Push is a haunting read I couldn’t put down. You feel for Blythe with such a poor parenting example in her childhood apart from a friend’s influence. You wonder what else she could have done to have her voice believed. But also what help should have been awvailable to someone with post natal issues, and a husband who didn’t seem to support. What would you do if you had a daughter like Violet.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fake Law: The truth about justice in an age of lies by The Secret Barrister

If you can make it through the heavy subject and all the legalese, Fake Law is a really interesting read. It was slow going but if you’ve any interest in the law and how it’s decided in and out of court, and how the media and policitians spin the it, what they exclude to rile up the public and influence justice, it’s a fascinating read.

Include the truth and full story being renowned serious crimes, human rights cases and down to personal injury claims, readers will all recognise the stories. The book certainly makes you think about what you previously thought about these well known cases.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Just a girl standing in front of a boy by Lucy-Anne Holmes

Previously broken Jenny is trying to get her life on track with her best friend Philippa and flatmate Al by her side. Then her estranged mum appears wanting to bond again after her father had an affair. Gorgeous Joe comes into Jenny’s life making her wonder about her fiance Matt, seemingly perfect but disliked by her friends and mum.

Using her Smiling Fanny Manifesto list, encouraging strangers by leaving notes, Jenny tries to navigate life, love and relationships with family before its too late. with a great friendship, laughs, tears and repairing hurt from the past, Jenny comes out stronger the other side despite more terrible things happening as she goes.

An easy chick lit read, great supportive friends, and the right people ending up with their perfect love.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Bad Mother’s Diary by Suzy K Quinn

Written in diary format it makes it a fast book just to pick up and read whenever you’ve got some time.although I read it in a couple of hours. It’s the diary of new mum Juliette who’s lost her way during maternity leave, has a rubbish out of work actor fiance father of her daughter, and leaves him at the altar when she finds out he’s been sleeping with her best friend.

Going back home to her parents’ she takes up running, gets coaching from her former friend turned gorgeous rich businessman Alex who always seems to be there to help, and strives to improve her life and outlook on motherhood and relationships.

I loved this book. It’s down to earth, laugh out loud funny, and you want to slap her former fiance for being useless.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Truth or Date by Portia MacIntosh

Ruby is on an ongoing dating treadmill without any success, and a partner in crime best friend Millsy trying to ‘help’ her. But why does she keep dreaming and thinking about annoying flatmate Nick who’s got a girlfriend already.

Once Ruby realises she actually fancies her flatmate, it’s time to put a plan into action to turn him off his girlfriend and draw him in to her instead.

There’s some really funny moments in this book, but I did find some of the characters irritating. There’s with way too much drinking going on (I’m obviously getting too old to read about drunken and immature book characters). I still enjoyed the read, and it’s nice to see the initially ‘boring’ guy becoming the hero.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Library by Bella Osbourne

If you’ve not read The Library then I definitely recommend it. Awkward teenager Tom tries to stay away from home and his alcoholic father by heading into the library, and by chance meets Maggie an elderly lady in her 70s. They strike up a friendship which helps both of them. Maggie with her farm, reducing her loneliness as she’s still mourning the emptiness of life without her son. Tom finds he gets confidence in learning skills on the farm and in the kitchen, while starting to stand up for himself against his father, and finally talking to the girl he’s always admired from afar Farah.

But their saving grace, the library, is under threat of closure so they pull together the community to save it, while hoping to improve their own lives and family relationships, while helping Tom’s father to stop drinking and become a father again while Tom needs to get through his GCSEs and avoid working in the local dog food factory.

This is a heart warming book. There’s hard topics in the book, from bullying, alcoholism, family loss and hardship. But it’s lovely to see how Tom and Maggie’s relationship grows despite seeming an odd pairing, and how they grow into the best people they are. Community spirit and self belief are important themes in the book, and you might need a tissue while reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

kindle and glasses

The Twelve wishes of Christmas by Ruby Basu

If you’re a fan of a Christmas romance movie Hallmark style, then you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a Christmas romance movie within a book.

Sharmila gets invited to stay and experience an American small town Christmas by an older man she’d met and connected with, after he left her his house to stay in and 10 Christmas tasks to expierence while staying in the town. But his nephews and niece don’t want her to inherit the actual house and shares in his company so try to prevent her from completing the activities set for her.

Sharmila comes out of herself with the welcome from the town as she takes part in their Christmas activities in completing the set wishes. She wonders why Zach (who’s part of the family trying to put her off), blows hot and cold when she’s sure there’s an attcaction.

Sharmila and Zack are classic Christmas romance hero and heroine, with the obviously relaionship development and connection. If you want an easy going Christmas plot that makes you smile at the end, then try this one to keep you going inbetween watching Christmas movies.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Feud by Gemma Rogers

Yet more flawed lead women in thriller books. In The Feud, ambitious Kay has been dealt a hard deal by the men in her life. Husband Jonathan leaves her and seems to be turning nasty, turning the teenage twins against her while moving in a younger replacement girlfriend. She works in a misogynistic male dominated workplace, being overlooked for promotion and being set up to look bad and be ousted.

Then to top of a bad day, she makes the mistake of standing up for herself after a man cut her up on the way home. Simon Fox is the wrong person to fight back against, and the feud starts.

Kay isn’t going to let men step all over her anymore, and stands up to protect her family and home.

I’m not a fan of Kay at all. Yes, she finally stands up and improves her life, she’s managed to bring up 2 good children. But while she has a great friendship, there’s way too much drinking. It seems to be the norm for 30-40 something women in these type of books. It would be nice if someone writes a book where they’re not a heavy drinker.

Otherwise, it’s a good book, I enjoyed the story. And it’s quite terrifying how some of the things that happen could easily happen if a bit of road rage set off a chain reaction.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Before we Grow Old by Clare Swatman

A story of soulmates, separated by unfortunate events happening to good people back when they were young, but finding each other when circumstances work some years later once they’ve tried families and had children. But what’s the reason for Fran and Will’s reunion?

With all those years apart, they make up for lost time, working through their teenage bucket list they wrote together.

Before we grow old is a book of love, family, moving on and sadness. I cried several times as the story was told with some parts a little close to home.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

An intense read, flitting between Janey’s childhood and Catherine’s contemporary life as a barrister. 2 very different lives with Janey being drawn into the strange folklore tradition of thanking the bees at the Hunter’s home and chapel, with her joining Kitty in being one of the ‘Beloved Girls’ as part of the ceremony.

What’s the relationship between Sylvia, the mum, and Janey’s father? The odd relationship and interactions between the Hunter family who seem to Janey to have a wonderful life in the country, but not everything is how it seems. Who will rescue who?

What are Catherine’s concerns in her current life? She’s struggling with a particular case at work, she’s pulling away from her family, and keeps seeing someone from her past.

This is a haunting book, a little confusing at first trying to work out the different links between the 2 families. I didn’t get the twist in it which was a surprise, and I usually prefer the questions being tied up neatly at the end of a book. This didn’t quite answer my question in Catherine’s current life, but it was an intriguing read, and one I felt I had to race through in one day to keep up with the story

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What might have been by Holly Miller

A clever book, reminiscent of the film Sliding Doors. The moment where Lucy having lost her job and is drowning her sorrors, gets chatting to stranger Caleb, before spotting her ex Max outside the bar. Does she choose to leave the bar and take her chance to get back with Max and make steps to go for her career, or leave their relationship in the past and stay where she is.

The book is split into Stay or Go, and run through Lucy’s alternative lives in parallel. It’s a little confusing to keep up with at first, but works.

I was definitely erring towards one life over the other, and I expected them to converge and end up with the same result. We don’t see that stated in the end, although the reader can imagine that may happen at some point past the end of the book.

A nice enough read, with generally likeable characters.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What books have you been reading or listening to over the last few months?

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