Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton | Review

Book Synopsis

An utterly wonderful début novel of love, crime, magic, fate and a boy’s coming of age, set in 1980’s Australia and infused with the originality, charm, pathos, and heart of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

The mind can take you anywhere you want to go.

Eli Bell’s life is complicated. His father is lost, his mother is in jail, and his step-dad is a heroin dealer. The most steadfast adult in Eli’s life is Slim – a notorious felon and national record-holder for successful prison escapes – who watches over Eli and August, his silent genius of an older brother.

Exiled far from the rest of the world in Darra, a seedy suburb populated by Polish and Vietnamese refugees, this twelve-year-old boy with an old soul and an adult mind is just trying to follow his heart, learn what it takes to be a good man, and train for a glamorous career in journalism. Life, however, insists on throwing obstacles in Eli’s path – most notably Tytus Broz, Brisbane’s legendary drug dealer.

But the real trouble lies ahead. Eli is about to fall in love, face off against truly bad guys, and fight to save his mother from a certain doom – all before starting high school.

A story of brotherhood, true love, family, and the most unlikely of friendships, Boy Swallows Universe is the tale of an adolescent boy on the cusp of discovering the man he will be. Powerful and kinetic, Trent Dalton’s début is sure to be one of the most heartbreaking, joyous and exhilarating novels you will experience. 

My Thoughts

If I had to describe this novel in three words they would be emotional, effortful and impactful in more or less equal measures.

After having read “Boy Swallows Universe” I feel that I am completely indebted to Trent Dalton! This book has all the components that make a really fantastic story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the experience of love and friendship, not forgetting the feelings of hope, desperation and failure. Trent Dalton has drawn a remarkable young narrator to adore in Eli, growing up in his vastly dysfunctional family. 

There were instances where this was a very difficult read for me, being as it was a little like sitting on a roller-coaster, however, it was extremely worthwhile even though, by my standards, it was a fairly lengthy novel. 

 I enjoyed “Boy Swallows Universe” so much and I’m hoping to read more by Trent Dalton soon…

[Thanks to Edelweiss, HarperCollins UK and the author, Trent Dalton, for my free ARC of #BoySwallowsUniverse in exchange for an honest review.]

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

Advertisements

The Lost Son by Prue Leith | Review

#TheLostSon @PrueLeith @QuercusBooks @MillsReid11

Book Synopsis

Gripping family drama from household name Prue Leith. Perfect for fans of Penny Vincenzi and Barbara Taylor Bradford.

The Angelotti family reels when the lost son, given up for adoption in the war, traces his birth family and returns to the fold, with devastating consequences.

As poverty-stricken newly-weds, Laura and Giovanni Angelotti were forced to put their first child – a boy – up for adoption. They have had other children since, and their first little Italian café has become a restaurant empire, but Laura is still haunted by thoughts of the baby she lost.

Tom is a successful businessman enjoying the fast-paced City lifestyle – until his best friend and business partner is killed in the 9/11 attacks and his world turns upside down. Searching for meaning in his life, he decides to track down his birth family: the Angelottis.

But Laura has been keeping an explosive secret about Tom’s parentage that means his reappearance in her life is bitter-sweet. She may have found her son, but will it be at the cost of everything it has taken her fifty years to build?

Advance Praise

Leith has really hit her stride as a writer and uses her own considerable catering experience . . . skilfully interweaving emotional drama with food fashions – Daily Mail

An enjoyable, well-written love story – Good Housekeeping

Prue Leith knows about colour and flavour and this has lots of both . . . a delicious family saga – Daily Mail on The Food of Love

My Thoughts

This is book three in a series named ‘The Food of Love Trilogy’ and it was such a delightful and emotional read! The other books are ‘The House at Chorlton’ followed by ‘The Prodigal Daughter’. “The Lost Son” is the only book from the food dynasty series that I’ve read and I was happy to have read it as a stand alone.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a devoted and loyal Prue Leith fan, I’ve read one of her books before – ‘The Gardener.’

This multi-generational family saga has something for everyone. It has love, ambition and achievement in spades and is incredibly uplifting. It also has strong themes centred around family discord, sexuality, loss, addiction and tragedy. It is about recognising vulnerabilities and personal improvement.

Prue Leith’s character development was enviable. All of the characters were very well drawn however, if I were to pick a favourite it would have to be Tom. He has had to deal with so much heartache in his life that it would be virtually impossible not to have a huge amount of empathy for him. Anna, although not without some of her own horrors and personal issues, was very likeable, warm, forthright and was very much her own person. Prue Leith’s portrayal of Jane and the other baddies, notably, Mario and to some extent, Susan, was perfect. Obviously, they were pretty hateful, but they added even more excitement and spark to create an extra dimension to the story.

There were many things that were fantastic in this book. As well as the beautiful character detail, the plot was really absorbing. It was fascinating to read the detail behind the family’s successful business adventures, all of them being food related. Some of the references to food made my mouth water – from cheese soufflé to Thai fish-cakes, roasted veal and orange, almond and polenta cake.

I was also particularly impressed by the way Prue Leith introduced more modern themes, brilliantly building on the family saga trope. The diversification into the street food scene was absorbing to read about and the enthusiasm of Anna and Sebele was really infectious. Again, the food delights were enticing – the Chicago sliders, Napoli pizza, and Peking ducked stuffed pancakes. The pacing was terrific and there was never a moment when I felt as though I was losing interest as is the case with some rambling sagas.

For me, Prue Leith showed such talent in this inspiring and delightful tale. This is one of my favourite kinds of romance – one written with imagination and with real characters who, though flawed, gradually develop a real connection with each other.

I really loved the story and the journey on which I was taken throughout ‘The Lost Son’ and I was rooting for Tom and his long lost family from the offset. Though there was so much loss, grief and angst this was nevertheless, a modern, classic saga that was deeply rewarding and so full of truth that I didn’t want it to end.

This would be a super book choice for fans of Penny Vincenzi and Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Thank you, Prue Leith. This was a great read and so extremely worthwhile. 

[Thanks to NetGalley, Quercus Books and the author, Prue Leith, for my free ARC of The Lost Son in exchange for an honest review.]

#TheLostSon #NetGalley

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor | Review

Book Synopsis

What if the people we trust are the ones we should fear? 

Zaffre’s biggest breakout thriller of 2019.

One in 100 of us is what the police call a ‘potentially dangerous person’ – someone likely to commit a violent crime. These people hide in plain sight, they can be teachers, doctors, holding positions of trust, of power.

Jessamine Gooch makes a living tracking the 1 in 100. Each week she broadcasts a radio show that examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent their perpetrators.

But when she agrees to investigate a missing person case involving a young mother, she is drawn into a web of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the safety of her own family. 

Set over a long, dark winter in London and perfect for fans of HE SAID/SHE SAID and Belinda Bauer, THE DANGEROUS KIND is at once a gripping thriller and a stunning portrayal of the monsters that live among us.

Advance Praise

‘Searingly relevant’ Gillian McAllister

‘An absolute triumph’ Holly Seddon

‘Originality oozing off every page’ Eva Dolan

‘Clever, unpredictable and beautifully done’ Liz Loves Books

‘Absolutely brilliant . . . a sophisticated, smart engaging thriller’ Jo Spain

‘Dark, disturbing, devilishly plotted’ Chris Whitaker

‘Urgent, relevant and completely unputdownable’ Martyn Waites

‘Dark and unpredictable’ Jenny Quintana

‘Brilliantly compelling’  T. M. Logan

‘A powerful, timely and unnerving thriller’ David Jackson 

Pages: Approx. 448

Publishers: Bonnier Zaffre

Date Published: 11th April 2019

Buy your copy now from:

Amazon | Waterstones

My Review

If I had to describe The Dangerous Kind in three words they would be harrowing, disturbing and frightening in more or less equal measures. It’s pretty much what I would expect from a thriller set in today’s modern society. But wow, what stunning, well-thought-out masterpiece!

After having read The Dangerous Kind, I feel that I am completely indebted to Deborah O’Connor! This book has all the components that make a really fantastic story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the experience of love and friendship, not forgetting the feelings of hope, the fear, the utter desperation and failure.

The title of the book is derived from a police classification of a ‘Potentially Dangerous Person’ (PDP) who is someone that has not been convicted of an offence but whose behaviour indicates that they are likely to commit one.

Set during the winter-time and spanning a period of ten-plus years, the book is told from different time periods and aspects, the first one being Jessamine Gooch, as well as Rowena and also Jitesh. Deborah O’Connor has drawn a great character in Jessamine, a former journalist now working at the BBC and hosting a long-running true crime radio series, ‘Potentially Dangerous People’. In addition, she volunteers at a helpline for victims of domestic violence and is the mother of her teenage daughter, all the while trying to cope with the various difficulties she has going on in her life.

Equally noteworthy is Deborah O’Connor’s portrayal of Rowena. Her heart-breaking story is told as sensitively as possible but her vulnerability and the level of her abuse she suffered, though implicit, is nevertheless exceptionally sorrowful to read and plays a central role to the unfolding drama.

Jitesh’s character has also been brilliantly drawn by the author, Deborah. A student who has been given an unconditional offer to join Cambridge University, he has decided to take a year out and work as an IT intern. However, even as a young adult, he has already suffered many of life’s difficulties, although he possesses a moral strength that left me no choice but to feel an enormous amount of empathy with him.

There were instances where this was a very difficult read for me and it was a little like being on a roller-coaster, with someone shouting “Do you want to go faster?” However, it was extremely worthwhile even though many of the subjects touched upon are so abhorrent. 

Deborah O’Connor was very brave to write about such a disturbing and unsettling subject matter like child prostitution. She impressively managed to do so with great sensitivity, thus making the story a little more palatable than it could have been. The story-line was masterfully crafted and showed originality. The separate stories were so superbly interconnected, making the novel fantastically compelling, all culminating in a thrilling and fulfilling ending.  

I cannot recommend this book enough and I feel so inspired enough by Deborah O’Connor’s writing ability to order another of her novels – ‘My Husband’s Son.’ 

Thanks to NetGalley, Bonnier Zaffire Publishing and the author, Deborah O’Connor, for my free ARC of The Dangerous Kind in exchange for an honest review.

My thanks also to Pigeonhole as I participated in their group read which was in stave format and was able to share my thoughts and comments with other readers.

#NetGalley #TheDangerousKind

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

Keep Walking Rhona Beech by Kate Tough | Review

Book Synopsis

‘Incredibly insightful, funny and poignant’ Helen Sedgwick

I get up. I go to work. I spend the whole day waiting for the words on my screen to make sense. In the commuter broth of the carriage home, tears run in hot lines to my jaw and for a minute or so, I let them.

Nothing has turned out quite how Rhona Beech thought: she’s been swapping one so-so job for another on an annual basis . . . and now her nine-year relationship has ended abruptly. When her lukewarm efforts to adjust to the changes in her life are thrown entirely up in the air by some unwelcome news, Rhona has to think again.

Her sardonic, funny, poignant attempts to find an answer to the questions she’s facing are helped by a cast of friends, strangers and trained professionals. Funny and tender, Keep Walking, Rhona Beech is a beautifully written and brilliantly observant satire on relationships, friendship and life

Previously published as Head for the Edge, Keep Walking by Cargo Publishing.

My Thoughts

I am always slightly uneasy when I look at a book and I ask myself “What ‘type’ of a novel is this?” The answer here is “A gratifying, moving and very comical one,” in more or less equal measures.

Although I would say that “Keep Walking Rhona Beech” is extremely amusing and, at times, positively hilarious, this is qualified by a feeling of great sadness, too. It’s a journey of loss, companionship, love and needing to be happy with your life, with or without a Significant Other. I am sure that most of us could identify with the protagonist, Rhona on some level, at least. I certainly know that I could, so much so that I found myself wanting to help her to break out of her life of monotony and dreariness. “Keep Walking, Rhona Beech” gives out the message that there is a need to be happy with yourself otherwise there may never be a happy ending.

In the novel, the reader is taken on a journey to experience, along with Rhona, her everyday struggles with her current life, as in her purpose, friendships, love and even her very identity. Rhona and her pals are just like the rest of us – likeable, flawed and sometimes perplexing. The journey ranged from the mundane to the downright outrageous that had the effect, at times, that I was Rhona. There were instances where this was a very difficult read for me, however, it was always convincing, credible and extremely worthwhile. 

I enjoyed “Keep Walking, Rhona Beech” so much and I’m hoping to read more by Kate Tough soon…

[Thanks to #NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and the author, Kate Tough, for my free ARC of #KeepWalkingRhonaBeech in exchange for an honest review.]

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

The Shadow Between Us

The Shadow Between Us by Carol Mason

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Carol Mason, the best-selling author of ’After You Left’ has written an incredibly moving and poignant novel in this slow-burn, very beautiful work of fiction.

Olivia moves to the pretty coastal town of Port Townsend, with her marriage on-the-rocks, and her life in pieces. She doesn’t know if things with her husband Mark are truly over, or quite why the phone call she longs for on her daughter’s birthday will never come.

After joining a letter-writing club held at her local cafe she meets Ned, an ex-soldier badly wounded in Afghanistan. This chance friendship revives unexpected emotions and memories she’d rather forget.

Can Olivia find the courage to confront what she’s hiding from and finally begin to heal the wounds that have torn her life apart?

Liv, as she is known to her husband, is an extremely intriguing character. Regularly displaying a cocktail of emotions, I could still really empathise with her. She could be caring and thoughtful one minute, but then be frank, blunt and very much to-the-point, the next moment. At times she was positively distant and unkind. She was not alone in her attitude and behaviour as some of the other characters in the story shared similar traits such as cafe owner Beth. For me, this added to and complemented this wonderful character-driven story.

THE SHADOW BETWEEN US was a very insightful and thought-provoking read about reflecting on the mistakes we sometimes make and finding hope in second chances. I very much liked the emphasis on letter-writing, reading and quotes from favourite books, running throughout the story.

The dialogue between Olivia and Ned was lovely and liked how they had an almost immediate connection. I was very keen to see how their relationship might develop. I found THE SHADOW BETWEEN US a very enjoyable read, helped by Carol Mason’s beautiful writing which has depth and substance. The ending was very fulfilling although with an unexpected twist. I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.

[Thanks to #NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing and Carol Mason for my ARC of #TheShadowBetweenUs in exchange for an honest review.]



View all my reviews

The Perfect Betrayal: The addictive thriller you won’t want to miss in 2019

The Perfect Betrayal: The addictive thriller you won’t want to miss in 2019 by Lauren North

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book has all of the qualities of the perfect psychological thriller. Deftly layered with emotion and suspense it starts off fairly slowly but the tension builds into a dramatic sequence of events.

The story is told predominantly from the point of view of the main character, Tess, along with snippets from her grief counsellor and brother-in-law. Tess’ conversations that she had with her late husband were heart-breaking. It was an incredibly emotionally charged book, well written and beautifully plotted and so cleverly constructed to help conceal major reveals in the natural progression of the story.

“The Perfect Betrayal” is my favourite type of psychological thriller – where the voices and thoughts of the characters and the reader’s own imagination complement the story. From the beginning, it is an absorbing and riveting novel as well as being massively addictive. The main protagonist, Tess, did not know who to trust and nor did I.

Highly recommended, this is a sad and harrowing story of grief, love and loss, with a fulfilling but shocking finish. Lauren North’s writing is just exquisite and I will be looking out for her next offering.

[Thank you to #NetGalley, Random House UK/ Transworld Publishers, and Lauren North for my free ARC of #ThePerfectBetrayal in exchange for an honest review.]



View all my reviews

The DNA of You and Me

The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a brilliantly unique debut novel about scientific discovery versus love. “The DNA of You and Me” begins when Emily Apellis, the protagonist, is told that she is to receive a great award in the scientific community. The author, Andrea Rothman, then takes the reader back to when Emily first started studying the science of smell and the choices she made along the way.

Justin McKinnon has hired new graduate student Emily to study the science, however, Justin hasn’t told Emily that two other scientists in the lab, Aeden and Allegra, are working on a very similar topic, and their findings may compete with Emily’s own research.

Emily is extremely focused and driven. She’s always been more comfortable in the science lab than making small talk with strangers. Unfazed by competition, analysing DNA data is her favourite thing. To Emily’s great surprise, her rational mind is unsettled by Aeden. As they shift from competitors to colleagues and then to something more, Emily begins to see a future where she may not end up alone. But when Aeden decides to leave the lab, it becomes clear to Emily that she must make a choice – will she follow her research or follow her heart?

Andrea Rothman’s writing style is quite special in this novel as she manages very nicely to create characters that could have been rather boring, though, in fact, were anything but. The same can be said for the story-line. For some, science is not necessarily the most riveting of subjects, however, there is a brilliant and a very appealing mix of romance, love and scientific detail in “The DNA of You and Me”.

Completing each chapter with a thought, appreciation, something to dwell on or ruminate about before moving forward, was a neat and clever touch by Andrea Rothman. This quick and pleasant read really holds its own and I recommend that you get a copy!

{Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins UK/ William Morrow for the free copy of this book and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}



View all my reviews

The First Cut (Doctors of Darkness, #3)

The First Cut by Ellery A. Kane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“The First Cut” is actually the third book in a series called the ‘Doctors of Darkness’, the first book being ‘Daddy Darkest’ and the second is ‘The Hanging Tree’. I don’t think this made much difference to my immense enjoyment of the book as plenty of back-story was provided.

‘Love Doctors’ Ian and Kate Culpepper are brutally murdered in their Carmel mansion on Valentine’s Day. To Ava, its fate because Ian left her for the perfect Kate four years ago. Then they made their home close to Ava, complete with their perfect house and their perfect daughter and their matching perfect smiles. It’s no wonder that Ava can’t stop watching or that she can’t let go… 

However, Ian is far from perfect, and Ava owes a debt too, for when they were together, they did an unforgivable thing – a dark deed that severed their marriage in two. Ava’s name is found inked in blood at the crime scene and someone knows what she’s hiding…

Ellery Kane has a very unique writing style that is perfect for this psychological thriller. Many of the characters, especially Ava, were so complex that, at first, it wasn’t easy to work out exactly how they contributed to the story. Eventually, as different aspects of the story were revealed, it all started to come together. This, though, is the foundation for a fantastic psychological thriller.

Overall, “The First Cut” is a sensational and thrilling read with lots of nail-biting and alarming moments that culminate in a fulfilling conclusion.

[Thanks to Hidden Gems and the author Ellery Kane for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.]






View all my reviews

The Perfect Stranger

The Perfect Stranger by Marin Montgomery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What an incredible journey Marin Montgomery took us on, through the lives of the characters in this novel!

Stella McKinney thinks her life is near-perfect, with her doting husband, a beautiful house and a flourishing business. When Grant, her adoring husband, starts to behave out of character and begins devoting more time to his career, Stella has reason to question his fidelity for the first time in their marriage. As Stella’s desperate attempts to find out the truth become an obsession, the last thing she expects is a perfect stranger to show up at her door. A beautiful woman has knowledge of intimate details about Stella and Grant with which no one else could possibly be familiar. With her marriage and idyllic lifestyle at stake, the only way to uncover the truth is to ask herself how well she really knows her husband and herself. As Stella discovers, sometimes the truth is downright terrifying…

I must mention how much I loved being at the couple’s Malibu beach house. Marin Montgomery’s beautiful writing style made this, for me, a magical place to be.

“The Perfect Stranger” is a story of wedded bliss, love, happiness and wonderful times. But it is also a very sad tale of anger, fear, hate, self-loathing and doubt when events start to take a down-hill turn.

The book is told mostly from the perspective of the main protagonist, in the third person and the characters were so well written and developed, that I was keen to follow their lives for all of them including those who had secrets and dubious intentions. On reflection, though, the most outstanding for me was sweet and scatter-brained Stella and Grant for his delightful charm.

Eventually, this suspenseful and intriguing thriller, which I happily recommend to lovers of this genre, comes to a wonderfully fulfilling conclusion. 

{Thank you to Hidden Gems and Marin Montgomery for a free copy and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}




View all my reviews

The Sheikh’s Christmas Family (Christmas with the Yared Sheikhs, #2)

The Sheikh’s Christmas Family by Leslie North

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Leslie North has written another adorable, racy, little romance!

Leslie, the critically-acclaimed author, has written more than two hundred books across forty-six series’ in the Romance, Young Adult and Suspense genres. Alluring from the very beginning, THE SHEIKH’S CHRISTMAS FAMILY is Book Two in the ‘Christmas with the Yared Sheikhs’ series. Book One is entitled ‘The Sheikh’s Christmas Fling’ and the title of the third book is ‘The Sheikh’s Christmas Lover.’

Its Christmas-time in Maatkare and Maia must make sure the Sheikh’s palace is decorated for all the holiday festivities. The decorating is the easy part. Yonas Yared, the youngest son of the family, is a bit more of a challenge. Maia knows she’s in trouble when she sees how wonderful Yonas is with her young son. Protecting her heart from the one man who makes her think naughty thoughts she shouldn’t is proving more difficult than she ever imagined.

Yonas will go crazy if he has to spend the entire holiday season with his family. He’d much rather be partying the nights away than stuck in the palace helping their new irresistible decorator. As events transpire to keep him in the palace, he’s surprised to realise he’s glad to be home and equally surprised to find that getting his serious little decorator into his bed is becoming more and more important. The problem is, once she’s there, he doesn’t want her to leave. And nothing in his life has ever scared him more.

Leslie North is very good at developing her characters where opposites attract and this novel is no exception. The meeting of carefree, party animal Yonas and Maia, who is sensible, focused and responsible, was explosive.

The storyline is easy to follow, with plenty of emotion, angst and tension. The chemistry between Maia and Yonas was electric and what was also great was the laughter and fun enjoyed within the family.

The SHEIKH’S CHRISTMAS FAMILY is an enjoyable and well-written romance with which to curl up on the sofa on a dark winter’s night or any time, really, with a mug of hot chocolate and it makes a fantastic holiday read.

{Thank you to #NetGalley, Relay Publishing and Leslie North for the free copy of this book and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}



View all my reviews