Posted in Ramblings

Almost Love by @oneilllo

Synopsis: When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.
So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.
Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.
But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.
And love is supposed to hurt.
Isn’t it?



Sarah isn’t a likeable character, in the sense that she represents those parts of myself I don’t like. She is incredibly, heart breakingly relatable, and anyone who disagrees has never been told by a friend that they are being selfish.
It’s an incredibly raw insight that Sarah has. It’s grounded, fueled by pain and unapologetic. Even when Sarah convinces herself of things that will come to pass with her relationship with Matthew, there’s part of her that knows that she is kidding herself.
While I didn’t like Sarah I’m aware that what I don’t like is part of the situation she’s in, so I loved her as I would a friend. I’d be there for her and help her through her pain… If she’d let me.

Matthew on the other hand is almost a shadow character; we don’t get to know much about him. This gives this character a two-fold purpose; it represents the shallowness of his intentions with Sarah, but more importantly, Matthew is a symbol for anyone who has been treated in this way and the wonderful thing about this novel; I no longer feel alone in it.


The narrative is this wonderful non-linear exploration of Sarah’s life with, and after Matthew. It gives a real sense of PTSD from the almost sociopathic relationship Sarah found herself in.
The resolution won’t a satisfying end for some people, but believe me, it’s so very real that it will haunt you for days after you finish the book. It’s not the ending anyone would want, especially Sarah. But as a reader, we have to remember, it’s not the end. It’s just the conclusion of this part of Sarah’s journey.

The Writing

Louise O’Neill doesn’t give us the books we want, she never has. O’Neill gives us the stories we need, and she does it so well that you will almost forget that the subjects in which she writes about would feel like a chore under anyone else’s penmanship.

With Almost Love, O’Neill gives us a strong voice that struggles to keep to social expectations and provides us with a look into a world some of us would never venture into without detracting from the narrative.

Its a wonderful third novel from the talented writer and while I will always wait impatiently for her next offering; I can’t deny that they are always worth that painful wait.

Posted in Ramblings

Mom and Dad (18) #MomAndDad



A teenage girl and her little brother try to survive a wild 24 hours during which a mass hysteria of unknown origins causes parents to turn violently on their own children.

The Good

Selma Blair is incredible as the titled ‘Mom’. Her character evolves in so many ways, and it is through artful subtleties that her character is able to catch you off guard and provide an anchor for Nicolas Cages’ ‘Dad’.

The entire cast is game in this wacky and near the knuckle blood fest. From the opening scene to the final blood splattered words, you will be on the edge of your seat in awe-inspiring disbelief.

The music in the film is also stunning. It is reminiscent of the 70s and 80s movie that Stranger Things has brought into the homes of every hipster. Only with Mom and Dad, it’s not ‘cool’ and ‘hip’, it’s chilling and atmospheric.

The Mad

Nicolas Cage. Damn, no one else could have fitted the role of ‘Dad’ better. This is the Nic Cage we have all been waiting for, even if we didn’t know we needed it. If there’s a line between caged animal and insanity, Nic flirts with it, buys it dinner and mounts it like he’s on heat. It’s a glorious sight; Nic Cage in full feral mode screaming ‘mother fucker’ as if he’s invented the word.

The plot that develops around his character is charmingly deep and rooted in adult fears. It’s easy to carve Nic’s performance out as a wacky comedic nut job trying to end the lives of his beloved children, but behind all the anger that exists before the epidemic starts is the heartbreaking truth behind the human condition; what happens when our dreams don’t come true?! Then of course he sings the Hokey Cokey…

The Ugly

This movie does not pull any punches with its gore. Think of all the things that Walking Dead and and Game of Thrones have backed down on (yep! Judith, I’m looking at you kid) and this film goes there.

In a role reversal almost- homage of the magnificent 1976 Spanish horror movie ‘Who Can Kill a Child?’, Mom and Dad retains all of the gore, all of the shock and all of the diabolical deaths.

Posted in Movie reviews

The Greatest Showman (PG)


The Greatest Showman (PG)
DVD release date: 14 May 2018
Run Time: 105 minutes

The Greatest Showman is a bold and original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and the sense of wonder we feel when dreams come to life. Inspired by the ambition and imagination of P.T. Barnum, starring Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman tells the story of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a mesmerising spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

The Good

From the opening cheers of ‘The Greatest Show’ to the encore of ‘Million Dreams’ this film hooks you in and invites you on a beautiful journey of love, inspiration, ambition and joy. It’s a perfect fairy tale with a brilliant, happy ending.

The cast is amazing, each wonderful choice works well on their own. However, the true beauty is in the way in which the cast work together. Hugh Jackman is proving that men do indeed age like a fine wine; his voice and presence are the perfect fit for the real life figure P T Barnum. He holds his own and reveals a motivation behind his fantastic visions. He is a true joy to watch. However, put him on the screen with Zac Effron and the audience are shown something so extraordinary that you’ll be wishing that they had more songs together.

The Bad

Some of the graphics look a little ropey and take you out of the film. It’s something that is not exclusive to this film and is becoming a regular occurrence.

I found some of the themes in which PT became almost ashamed of his Circus crew a little out of character, but it did add to the dramatic pull of the move and brought about the wonderful, and award winning, ‘This is Me’.

The Ugly

I didn’t half ugly cry. It wasn’t necessarily that it was sad, in fact it was the exact opposite. It was such an overwhelming uplifting movie that I couldn’t cope.

Posted in Ramblings

Bring me Back by @BAParisAuthor

From GoodReads:

A young British couple are driving through France on vacation when they stop at a service station. He runs in to use the restroom, she stays in the car. When he returns, her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside. No one ever sees her again.
Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is only a tiny part of his life now. Until he comes home from work one day and finds his new fiancée sitting on their sofa turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about, because his wife-to-be is the sister of his missing first love.
As more and more questions are raised, their relationship becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?

Finn! I don’t get what it is about Finn. I love him and hate him in equal measure which makes for the perfect protagonist. His quest to discover the truth brings in characters from his past; his ex-Ruby and his friend Harry. Both of whom are well rounded, if not a little stupid for giving Finn the time of day.
Ellen is the strangest character of all, and I spent the whole book trying to figure her out. She’s bordering on a Stepford-wife. I find myself itching to get inside her head to find out why she is with her sister’s boyfriend.
The plot grips you from the very first page and the reader it sent through a rollercoaster of past and present mystery that does not hold back. You can feel Finn’s conflict of emotions as he receives an item that makes him believe his girlfriend who went missing years earlier was back.
I want to tell you just quite amazing how the second half of the book is, but I can’t without giving away some aspects that came as a shock to me. The second half leads to such an amazing reveal that I want my memory wiped so I can read it again.

The narration is atmospheric and all consuming. I was at London Bridge reading one evening. Before I knew it, I was over halfway through the book, missed a ton of notifications on my phone and missed my friend arrive. Not many books have that power over me, and it’s all to do with B A Paris’ writing. It feels like you’re being let in on a confession and that if you break away, even for a second, the person talking to you will falter. A dare anyone picking up this book not to read it in one sitting; I predict it is impossible.

Posted in 2018, Reads of ..., Usborne

Orphan Monster Spy Blog Tour: Matt Killeen’s female hero ‪@by_Matt_Killeen ‬ ‪@Usborne ‬

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games


Contains Spoilers

Katniss Everdeen is a hero. It seems too obvious to mention. So successful has this character been in book and film form, so universal and ubiquitous has her effect been, that this blog might seem redundant. But leaving aside her personal influence on me – I’m a big fan, the kind of fan who collects dolls and first editions – she’s really a much more complex character than many “strong female” archetypes. Yes, she is strong and smart and gutsy but it is the root nature of that heroism that is worthy of note.

For a trilogy about a revolution, Katniss begins with no interest in starting one. That was never her intention. She was angry about lots of things, but the focus of that rage lay elsewhere. She was angry with her mother’s mental collapse, rather than explicitly angry at the system that allowed her father’s death. She has no love for the Hunger Games, but her only wish is to run away from it.

All Katniss wants to do is protect her sister, her de facto child. She doesn’t volunteer as Tribute with a view to winning or surviving. She believes that she is ending her life to save Prim’s. She isn’t aware of the power of her single-mindedness, or that her skill with the bow is a potential game-changer. The Tributes from District 12 die every single year – with one exception in 74 years, long before Katniss was born. Not for nothing is Haymitch an alcoholic mess. He’s helped send forty-six children to their deaths.

It isn’t that she doesn’t have a rebellious streak. The arrow aimed at the judges during training is a huge overreaction to being ignored. It isn’t a piece of calculation to up her score, although that is its effect. She snaps, as she does outside the hospital in District 8 before delivering a plot defining speech. But this anger is swiftly channelled into a will to survive. To get back to Prim.

She doesn’t begin to hate the Capitol, I mean really loathe its raison d’etre, until Rue is killed. Again, it’s her instinct to nurture – a traditionally “feminine” trait – that leads her to risk a loss. Rue is a surrogate for Prim and the Tribute’s murder is her sister’s death writ large. The funeral flowers are a direct act of rebellion, a funeral rite that interrupts the process of the games – her body cannot be collected while Katniss is there. This isn’t to bring down the Capitol, it’s to reassert some humanity. That, of course, is what makes it so dangerous. It’s interesting that the film chooses that moment to show a riot in District 11, the moment that she herself has crossed the Rubicon and become a threat.

The very second that she believes that both she and Peter can be saved she seeks him out, even though that makes her more vulnerable. She risks death again to get his medicine. Even the final moment with the nightlock, the moment that is the beginning of the end of Snow and the Capitol, does not come from a place of rebellion. She is not willing to kill, or have Peter die for her and he will not do the killing. The trick with the berries is just a way of saving both of them. The act of defiance that it represents is incidental.

When she meets the revolution – District 13 and its conspirators – she is suspicious from the off. For a start, it failed to protect all those she cared for. She suspects that, like every rebellion since the dawn of man, it will end in bloodshed and she’s right.

She only agrees to become the Mockingjay in return for promises of safety and rescue for those same people…and her sister’s cat.

The horrible irony by the end is that despite beginning the journey to save her sister, Prim dies as a result of rebel action. It isn’t that the Capitol – the Nazis or the Empire or whoever – shouldn’t be resisted, it’s just that warfare without compassion is temptingly effective and its cost cannot be calculated. Prioritising the ends, no matter the means, just proves President Snow right. This is a reality about conflict that is as true of World War Two as it is of the rebellion against the Capitol.

Katniss is a hero that changes her world because she cares, because she has an instinct to nurture. The skill with the bow, the determination, the righteous anger – attributes that could be described as male or masculine – are secondary. It is compassion that is the root of everything she does. It is why she is powerful.

Her final act – killing Coin – comes from that same place. She gives everything up at that moment, she can expect nothing but death. But there will be no more Hunger Games. The children of Panem, all of them, will be safe. It is the same deal that she made at the very start.

Posted in 2018, ARC, Reads of ..., Usborne

Book Review: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killen


Sarah has played many roles. Dutiful daughter. Talented gymnast. Persecuted Jew. Lost orphan. But now she faces her most challenging role of all. Now she must become the very thing she hates. For the only way she can survive as a spy at a boarding school for the cream of Nazi society is to become a monster like them. A monster who can destroy them.

Discover the girl who can beat Bond and Bourne at their own game, in this utterly addictive thriller from a jaw-dropping new talent.

Sarah and the Captain are two strong figures within this novel. Sarah has a flawed balance between bravery and naivety that could only be brought about from the time in which the book is set. There’s an empathy readers will have with the orphaned teen in a war-torn Berlin.
Sarah is given a new name and a new role to play, which allows her to come into contact with enemies of her own age. There are a number of characters readers will meet during Sarah’s mission, but it will be Mouse that you will take to your heart.
The Captain does take a back seat for most of the story, but he is an interesting character that I wish I’d gotten to know more. He has a mystery surrounding his character that will leave any reader begging for a sequel.
I cannot do the plot justice without spoiling it. So, all I will say is that it is a well written historical war story that will not let you catch your breath for a second. The second act takes place in a boarding school setting, that will forever change your ideologies of an education away from home.
The ending is haunting is the current climate. It doesn’t shy away from the brutalities of life outside of the war and the pressures of family. It seeps through slowly, but the reveal still hits you like a brick.
I have so much respect for Matt Killen. He has written such a strong female protagonist that is flawed and impassioned; layered within a story that it firmly placed within a researched history. Matt proves, with this one novel, that you don’t always have to stay within your comfort zone and write what you know.
It a compelling and emotion-fuelled read, that works well as a standalone. However, I’m hoping Matt has at least another story waiting for fans who will be undoubtedly begging once they read that final chapter.

Posted in 2018, ARC, Reads of ...

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

When I had the offer of reading a Mills and Boon novel I was flooded with so many emotions. I honestly didn’t know what to expect other than my own ideas I’d built up. I saw them as the romantic, adult version of Point Horror that I was reading as my nan raced through novel after novel. She borrowed from her local library and had a little symbol she would put on the inside back cover so she would never take the same book twice. It wasn’t only her; the books where covered in a variety of tag marks from literary borrowers.
I also knew my mum to partake from time to time; choosing to own hers outright. I’m gutted to say that I didn’t give them a second thought before passing them to a charity shop when she died a decade ago. The remorse has come from reading this novel, The Duchess Deal. A well written, passionate story with some wonderful characters.

Emma is an independent character who is living below her social class through mysterious circumstances. She is able to hold her own and is perfect agreement, on the most part, with her playmate, Ash. While I struggle to empathise with such a character and am jealous of her being swept off her feet, I did enjoy her spirit and fire when it came to dealing with her husband of convenience.
Ash, on the other hand, I fell in love with him right away. Self-loathing nobleman, a bit of gruff with a dash of elegance. I could see why Emma only needed a little nudging to agree to the match. It’s hard not to like this sort of character who seems to have everything, but is humbled through circumstance. Move over Mr Darcy and Mr Grey, there’s a new swoon worthy man on the shelf.

A plot such as this; a marriage of convenience may come across as farfetched in less abled writer’s hands, this plot is wonderfully fun and light-hearted. The time in which it has been set helps to establish the motives behind the convenience and the isolated insights into the couple’s thinking gives the romance its spring.
Obviously, there are obstacles the characters have to overcome as well as ensuring we see that there is chemistry between the two. It’s all done with precision and epic timing. I did find the ending a little rushed, but that is only my own sadness that the story had to end.

Tessa has a charm that brings this tale to life. She is able to pass between the Duke and Duchess’ view point with a delicate ease. The intimate sections of the story never feel forced or gratuitous; instead they flow organically into the plot and allow for comfortable, enjoyable reading.