Goodreads Reviews

Zenka by Alison Brodie

 

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Zenka by Alison Brodie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vell, vat vas a lot ov vun! Or, in non-Zenka style, that was a lot of fun!

Zenka is a Hungarian pole dancer and she works at a club owned by Cockney gangster Jack Murray. Now, it turns out that Jack has a son he’s desperate to get to know, to be a father to, and Zenka is going to help him with this rather unconventional mission.

She’s going to befriend Nicholas, Jacks long lost son, possibly seduce him in the process, and get him toughened up to be the son of a gangster. A man to fear.

What follows is a story that had me absolutely creased up laughing many, many times. To describe the setting, characters and plot, I would say it was reminiscent of something along the lines of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Zenka is a kind hearted, sassy woman and she does her best to get father and son reunited, but it’s not going to be easy. And, oh blimey, she has some pretty crazy ideas!

Nicholas can’t believe his luck when Zenka enters into his life, a life that has changed dramatically since he came home and discovered his flat had been vandalised.

Alison Brodie has written a super funny and touching story about the perils of crime, a families past, and how not to dispose of a corpse or two. I’m finding it tricky to give this book a one genre slot, it is predominantly a crime thriller, but it has romance and gritty British humour in the mix too.

I loved every character in this book, they are all so very different from each other. Zenka’s voice is mainly heard in letter format every few chapters or so, her Hungarian accent being written phonetically so the reader can really hear her attempt at speaking English. This took a bit of getting used to, but after a few chapters, it vorked incredibly vell.

Jack is a typical Cockney gangster who’s use of rhyming slang and ‘wide-boy’ attitude made him likeable but I was initially wary of him. He’s a hard man, but as the story progresses, his softer side emerges as his history is revealed and I really warmed to him.

The best thing about this book for me, was the relationship between Nicholas and his flat mate Jason. These two had me in stitches with their hilarious bickering and witty one-liners. When things start to get REALLY complicated, and these two find themselves in the middle of something they shouldn’t be, the authors choice of dialogue and the character reaction was superb. At one point I literally had tears rolling down my cheeks because the whole scenario was so hysterical! It just tickled me pink!

This read ticked many a box for me, it had a few violent and aggressive scenes, balanced out by a clever storyline with a few plot twists along the way, a little touch of romance, and a lot of laugh out loud moments. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’d like to read more by Ms Brodie.

My only complaint is I’m not a big fan of the cover art. The author has told me she’s going to be changing it soon, which I’m glad for because I’m not keen on seeing a characters clear photo/picture on a book cover. I want to visualise how they look in my own way and not have a face already given to me from the start. Characters, for me, kind of materialise as I’m reading about them. Chapter by chapter a characters features start to form in my minds eye, and usually by about half way, I’ve established what they look like. But apart from that minor moan, I thought Zenka was a hoot!

I’d like to thank Alison Brodie for sending me an electronic copy of this to read in exchange for an honest review. It was a pleasure.

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Goodreads Reviews, Psycho -Thrill

The End of Lies by Andrew Barrett

The End of LiesThe End of Lies by Andrew Barrett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The End of Lies, the end of excitement, the end of gasping and cringing, and the end of my first FIVE STAR 2018 book!

What a book to start the year off with. First of all, I’d like to thank Bloodhound Books for sending me a copy via Instafreebie to read in exchange for an honest review.

The End of Lies is a gripping psychological thriller with so many twists and turns that it left me in bookish turmoil! Here’s the synopsis:

“My name is Becky. I arrived home to find my husband, Chris, stabbed to death and a gang of men ransacking our house.

Turns out that Chris has something that belongs to them. And if I want to stay alive, I have to find it and return it. They have given me seven days. And a beating.

There is nowhere to hide and no time left to look. So I will stand my ground as the deadline approaches. All I have is a head full of lies and a very bad plan.

This is my story.”

Andrew Barrett took me on a fast-paced, roller coaster ride from the moment I started. This is not a simmering thriller that slowly builds tension as you go, this is full steam ahead leading to total overdrive as the conclusion looms.

The plot was tight and organised, the characters I loved to hate and hated to love. The main protagonist, Becky, was an absolute joy, she was ballsy and dry-witted. The antagonist, Savage, was wonderfully awful, he truly was that perfect ‘baddie’.

The writing was stylish and quirky, with short, sharp, shock chapters. The setting was in Yorkshire, UK, so the scenes and dialogue were relatable for me, I do love a bit of British grit! Initially, the chapters alternated between before and after Chris was stabbed, but as the plot unravelled, the present was the main timescale. Heading towards the finale brought more past events into the story to tie the conclusion into a neat little package.

This was an action packed, gripping and rather violent story. There’s a fair amount of swearing with some very brutal and bloody moments that enhanced the fear factor and gave it an edge.

I was thinking of giving this 4 stars, because surely my first 2018 read wasn’t going to be 5 star literary perfection. But I had no gripes, no niggles, the characters were fantastically drawn, the plot was thrilling and the ending was so satisfying. Did I see any of those twists coming? Nope! It was outstanding. My next read has a very hard act to follow.

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Books about books, Goodreads Reviews

Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland (A 2017 top read)

Lost For WordsLost For Words by Stephanie Butland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say? I’m lost for words!

Loveday on her passion:

‘Anyone who’s worked in a bookshop for longer than an afternoon will tell you that people buy books for all sorts of reasons. There’s the simple love of books, of course: the knowledge that here is an escape, a chance to learn, a place for your heart and mind to romp and play’.

I read that statement, and I was sold. I knew I’d love this book.

Stephanie Butlands story started out as a quirky, cute little read. So bookish and perfect for anyone who has a penchant for books about books.

Lost for Words is the name of the book shop where our main protagonist works. Loveday (yes, that’s her wonderful name, and strangely my kindle auto corrects it to the word library, which pleases me) is a sweet, quiet soul, who has wonderful relationships with books and words, but humans, well, that’s a different matter altogether.

Loveday on people:

‘I don’t really do ‘nice until you prove you’re not’– I find it saves time to work it the other way around, in the normal way of things’.

She spends her days working in the second hand book shop, reluctantly dealing with customers and colleagues, just wanting to be left to immerse herself in books. They’re her escapism, for which I completely get. She’s so passionate about poetry and stories, her body is a canvas of book~quote tattoos. Wow, I just love that!

As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Lovedays introverted personality is the product of a childhood trauma, and she’s dealing with it. That’s until strange packages start to arrive at the shop, and Lovedays world is turned slowly upside down.

All the characters in Lost for Words are so convincingly real. Loveday has so many endearing qualities, she’s funny, dry and full of wit. But she doesn’t even realise it, she’s adorable. Archie, her book shop boss had me visualising Sir Ian McKellen playing the part. And Nathan. Lovely gorgeous, bonkers Nathan, with his DM’s laced up all wrong, he is a magical, mystical character. And rather bookishly good looking I’d imagine.

The chapters range from ‘Poetry’, ‘History’ and ‘Crime’, with various timelines that steadily combine to form the ‘bigger picture’ and pull the reader in with emotionally charged realism. I felt as though I was ‘people watching’ in this book. At times I was THAT ENGROSSED that I felt as though I was hiding at the end of the bookshop, (among the Classics) ear-wigging everything that was going on!

Everyone and everything sat very vividly in my mind, and that is a sure sign of superb writing.

Lost for Words is an enlightening, powerful and rather heartbreaking read. There’s lots of life~lessons in here as well as laugh out loud moments. Bad stuff happens to good people sometimes, and there’s nothing you can do about it apart from accept it and move forward.

For those of you who enjoyed Gail Honeymans ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, I urge you to give this book a go. I found a few similarities throughout the story, which I loved because Honeymans book was brilliant. And so is this.

I’m going to give this a 4.5 star rating, rounded up to 5 stars as 4 isn’t enough. And it’s going on my ‘best of 2017’ Goodreads shelf.

I’d like to thank the author, Stephanie Butland, Zaffre Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.
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Goodreads Reviews, Historical, Lisa's Book Life

Anne Boleyn: A Kings Obsession by Alison Weir (A 2017 top read)

Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession (Six Tudor Queens #2)Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bravo!!!! All the stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Historical fiction is quickly becoming my favourite genre, particularly when I find a royal gem like this. I requested this from NetGalley, half expecting to be turned down, as Alison Weir is an established author. But, lo and behold, I got accepted, and I was delighted!

Anne Boleyn was Henry’s second wife out of the six. Their relationship was an uphill struggle from the outset as Henry was still married to Katherine of Aragon for the best part of their courting, which caused controversy among the masses. This painted poor Anne as a harlot and whore. She was neither. In fact, she was a sassy, educated, well travelled woman who certainly knew what she wanted out of life. But back in the 1500’s, women generally weren’t to be seen as having an opinion to voice. They were there to help secure families’ futures, the most important thing of course was to have a son, and in royalty, an all important heir.

Alison Weirs historical knowledge shines from page one. She portrays the era with pinpoint perfection, every minute detail brought to living colour with ease. What I found most satisfying was that the basis of the story was factual. The author achieved an in-depth history lesson that was fascinating because the characters actually existed. She gave them their own part to play, and added their personalities, reactions and mannerisms based on her fantastic knowledge as a historian. The vision she had as a fictional author brought together an accurate depiction of events with drama and passion to make for a truly memorable read.

I’ll be honest in saying that it wasn’t the easiest read for me at times. At around half way through I had to stop for a while, in fact, for well over a week, because it was getting heavy. Not to hold, as it was on my kindle, (the physical book is a satisfying 544 pages) but heavy on the politics and religion. That was by no means a bad thing, because during the Tudor period, England was going through some very tough times, and Henry Tudor was responsible for a huge amount of uproar and change, so it was necessary and relevant to the story. But in order for me to get full enjoyment from it, I really did need that break. I’m not the best at taking in political plots and religious intricacies, and on various occasions I found I wasn’t connected to what I was reading. That, however, did not have any adverse effect on the story flow, it didn’t make me enjoy it any less, if anything, it made me more determined to finish it.

On finishing, I discovered at the end a ‘Timeline’ and a ‘Dramatis Personae’ or character list which really helped fill in a few gaps due to me not quite connecting or understanding certain areas of the book.

All in all, this is a fantastic read which I recommend to any fan of British History, it’s not the easiest, but it’s well worth persevering with because Alison Weir is an incredible author whom I shall be reading much more of in the future.

I’d like to thank the author, Alison Weir, the publisher, Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.

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Goodreads Reviews

The One by John Marrs (A 2017 top read)

The OneThe One by John Marrs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Previously published as A Thousand Small Explosions

Absolutely superb! How the hell did you even come up with this Mr Marrs? And the fact that it was on my NetGalley wishlist, and you granted me my wish! You’re my FairyGodfather!

What we have here is five different stories combining into one delicious chomp-a-thon. Five characters each experiencing the roller coaster ride of their life because they’ve been matched with The One. That person who is supposed to be made for them. Hearts and flowers eh? Um, nope.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this! It was chocablock full of cliffhangers. Nearly every short chapter ended like I was left precariously dangling over the edge. Leaving me no choice but to take off from the last woah there! from one of the other four POV ‘s.

It was enormously entertaining, there was touching moments, humorous moments and absolutely no effing way, what the….. moments!

This is, without a shadow of a doubt going on my Favourite Books of 2017 shelf.

It was destined to get 5 stars from me from about chapter 5. IT WAS THAT GOOD

Read it. I recommend this to everybody.

I’d like to thank the author, John Marrs (aka FairyGodfather), the publisher, Penguin Random House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review. The pleasure was all mine!

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Goodreads Reviews, Humour, Lisa's Book Life

Sweetpea by C J Skuse (a 2017 top read)

SweetpeaSweetpea by C.J. Skuse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I don’t want to talk any more about today. I just want to overeat and shit myself and die. Or shit myself after I die. Apparently that happens. And when you give birth too. Ugh. What a world.”

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day, her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples and squashes her sliced loaf, to the driver who cuts her up on her way to work. And then there’s the people who really deserve to die.

This story had me roaring with laughter like the mad woman I am. It is 100% my kind of humour, for which I am 100% not sorry for. It’s certainly NOT your average humour, and it could very well offend and disturb a lot of people. But not me, I loved it!

So, in order to try and lead a relatively normal life, Rhiannon, creates The Act. This is basically her way of fitting in with her colleagues and her group of friends. (aka ‘The PICSO’s’. You’ll have to read it to find out what that stands for. It’s absolute class, and everyone has a PICSO or ten in their lives!) They have no idea that she is a psychopath with uncontrollable murderous tendencies.

The story is told in diary format, which I love because it’s so easy to follow. What I loved about it most of all though was the humour. It was dark, deeply disturbing and very un-pc. Worryingly, I heard my own thoughts countless times throughout!

“Got on the scales first thing – still not lost the Christmas poundage. Googled ‘West Country Liposuction’. Can’t afford it. Had an eclair.” (Yes! Cake IS the answer!)

Had I have read this in a public place, I’d of got very strange looks because I was laughing and snorting and nodding my head in agreement all the way through. Rhiannon, you’re a gem, albeit a murderous one!!

Without giving too much away, here’s a couple of tasters of her many Kill Lists which cropped up throughout the story;

1. People who walk in groups along the pavement so no one else can get past, like they’re fucking in Reservoir Dogs. (Why do people do this?!)

2. Middle-class people who believe it’s their God-given right to bring their babies into restaurants and allow them to squawk all through a meal. (Ugh, don’t get me started on this one!)

3. Interrupters. (Yep, totally agree!)

I know it’s a pretty harsh attitude to have, but I’m certain loads of people think these things, the older I’ve got, the less tolerant I’ve become, so these felt very relatable for me! Not to the extent that I want to kill anybody though, I’d like to point out!! Rhiannon, you’re my kind of girl. But I value my life far too much to be your friend!

C J Skuse has created incredibly believable characters with such depth and imagination that every single one of them stood out for one reason or another. Sweetpea was an absolute joy to read. However, it certainly won’t be for everyone because there’s violence, profanity and stuff that is quite simply, very, very wrong. But, for me, entertainment-wise, it was very, very right. I just hope the author will be writing another instalment, because, damn it, that ended on a cliff-hanger! I need to know what happens to Rhiannon next!

This gets a well-earned 5 stars from me, mainly because I can’t stop thinking about it and I end up chuckling to myself!

Oh, and here’s what would be on my Kill List, just for the record;

1. Boasters.

2. Upstairs neighbours who think it’s a grand idea to have laminate floors with insufficient underlay and 3 tap-dancing kids.

3. People who lick the wooden stick of an ice lolly.

4. The previous tenant of MY flat, who insists on getting ‘payday loans’ under MY address with no intention of paying it back. YOU DO NOT LIVE HERE ANY MORE. THEY WILL FIND YOU. AND KILL YOU. Or maybe just insist you pay it back in manageable instalments of £1.21 a month.

I’d like to thank the author, C J Skuse, and the publisher, HQ (UK), for the opportunity to read this via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The pleasure was all mine!

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Goodreads Reviews

My Sweet Friend by H A Leuschel

My Sweet FriendMy Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading a collection of short stories by the same author earlier this year, I was looking forward to reading this novella, but I had a feeling that Manipulated Lives would be a hard act to follow.

My Sweet Friend is a deep, and slightly dark look into the dynamics of friendship and how people aren’t necessarily what they seem. Manipulators are often clever, devious people who lie and do whatever is needed for their own ends. H.A. Leuschel once again hooked me by her subtly complex characters that have an intriguing depth.

Told in alternate chapters by the two main characters, the story follows Alexa and Rosie and their close friendship. They are work colleagues as well as best friends, and after Alexa takes some time off from work, we get to see that something between the two women isn’t quite ringing true.

The author is excellent at portraying characters that are flawed by their past. The friendship here is proved to be deceitful, manipulative and fake. I enjoyed that I was unable to pinpoint who was being manipulated by who until about half way through. When the characters back stories fell into place, and their true colours started to show through, I was dying to find out how the story would pan out.

The writing style felt fresh and breezy, like the location in which it was set. For me, there’s always something so lovely about France, but the author creates a backdrop of beauty for something that’s altogether rather unsettling.

My only complaint is when I got to the end, I felt disappointed that I couldn’t continue reading. There is so much to this story that could be elaborated and built upon, that’s my problem with novellas, they’re just not long enough! (Stating the obvious I know, but that’s why I don’t read many stories under 300 pages!)

Overall, I enjoyed this novella immensely, I am just hoping that Helene will write something along these same lines that is at least 300 pages, so I can sink my teeth right in. Her short stories are a delicious snack, and I’d really like a proper roast with all the trimmings!

HUGE thanks to the author for the opportunity to read this novella in exchange for an honest review, as always, it was a pleasure.

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