Book Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

“The four winds have blown us here, people from all across the country, to the very end of this great land. And now, at last, we make our stand, fight for what we know to be right. We fight for our American dream, that it will be possible again.”

Set to be released on 2nd February, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah is set in Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods. The crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life.

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Book Review: The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward

“Killing things is hard, sure, but keeping them see and alive is much more difficult. Oh boy, do I know about that.”

Set to be released on 18th March 2021, The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward tells the story of a serial killer, and a stolen child. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think. Ted lives in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street. All of these things are true, yet they are all lies… You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.

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READALONG: Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

“I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like… happens.”

The 2020 book Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid follows a young black babysitter, Emira Tucker, who is confronted while watching two-year-old Briar one night, when a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping. A small crowd gathers, and a bystander films everything. Her boss, Alix Chamberlain, resolves to make it right. But Emira is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

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Book Review: The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor

“500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death. 30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace. Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide.”

Set to be released on 21st January, The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor follows the new Reverand of Chapel Croft, Jack Brooks, and her teenage daughter Flo, who are hoping to make a fresh start with a new job and a new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten. And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome. Yet right away, Jack has more frightening concerns. Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls? Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages? And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself? Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo. But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest…

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BLOG TOUR: The Missing Woman by Georgina Cross

“It’s like straight out of a thriller book. / Where do you think I got the idea from?”

Set to be released on 6th January 2021, The Missing Woman by Georgina Cross is set on in a town with two halves. On one side, women like Sabine Miller live in their huge houses with their perfect lives and happy marriages. They are “the other woman”. Erica isn’t like them. She is a single mum, but she doesn’t envy their lives; not anymore. On the fourth of July, the whole town is gathered at the local pool when Sabine throws Erica a desperate look across the water and suddenly disappears. Running to the back gate, all Erica finds is a gold charm bracelet that Sabine dropped on her way out. Hours later, Sabine’s husband reports her as missing. The whole town begins searching the streets, calling Sabine’s name over and over. On the TV, Mark is begging for someone to bring his wife home. Erica was the last person to see her alive, but she doesn’t want the police to find out otherwise they’ll begin questioning her. She’s terrified that they’ll find out what happened the two apparent strangers years ago – something she’s never told anyone.

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Book Review: After The End by Clare Mackintosh

“Everyone has an opinion, yet the truth is that no one can really know what is right. No one can predict the future, and so all we can do is make a decision based on the facts we have, and—sometimes on what our heart tells us.”

After The End by Clare Mackintosh, published in 2019, follows parents Max and Pip – husband and wife, best friends, lovers, and the strongest couple around. But when their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son. What if they could have both?

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Book Review: This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

“Life is change. If nothing’s changing, you aren’t living.”

Sophie Cousens‘ 2020 new-year romance This Time Next Year follows down-to-earth baker Minnie Cooper and well-to-do Quinn Hamilton. They were both born on New Year’s Day at the same hospital, with Quinn being born minutes earlier to win the cash prize for being the first baby born in London in 1990. Because Minnie’s birthdays have always been unlucky since, she believes that it’s down to Quinn. So when they coincidentally meet on their thirtieth birthdays, Minnie sees only more evidence that fortune has continued to favour him. The handsome, charming business owner truly seems to have it all – including the perfect girlfriend. But if Quinn and Minnie are from different worlds, why do they keep bumping into each other? And why is it that each frustrating interaction somehow seems to leave them both hoping for more?

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My 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

Over the past couple of years, I have documented every film that I have watched and reviewed them all using Letterboxd. As a way to motivate myself to read more, I thought I would do the same for what books I have been reading, using Goodreads as a way to set myself a reading challenge every year.

I initially set my target as 25 books this year, but a few things happened that meant I reached this goal quite early on. Firstly, I had a baby, so this meant that I was awake at silly hours with plenty of time to read. Then, there was lockdown. Because of lockdown, I decided to join Bookstagram and NetGalley and get more serious about reviewing books. So now, instead of reading two books at most a month, I’ve been reading up to ten.

I upped my goal to 60 around halfway through the year, and still managed to pass that by reaching 74 books. This year has really rekindled my love of books, and I can’t wait to start 2021 with this new passion.

Here’s how my 2020 challenge went:

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Book Review: Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage by Katie Ginger

“It’s one thing to steal a recipe but another to steal a grandma. She probably doesn’t even have one anymore. I bet she devoured hers like a praying mantis.”

Published in 2019, Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage by Katie Ginger sees Esme’s world crumble when she loses her glitzy job on a top TV programme, her gorgeous boyfriend and her stunning London apartment, all in one fell swoop just before Christmas. Forced suddenly to move back to her sleepy home town of Sandchester, everything is looking bleak, despite the snow blanketing the roof and the fairy lights that twinkle in her rustic little cottage. That is until she reconnects with an old crush and finds herself unexpectedly getting swept away. But Joe, handsome and charming as he is, is not all he seems. Esme soon realises that he has a tragic past which he just might not be able to overcome. Surrounded by her loving family and supportive friends, Esme is determined to have a go at forging her own path, even if it all comes to nothing. But one question still lingers in her mind: will she find someone to kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas?

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Book Review: A Perfect Cornish Christmas by Phillipa Ashley

A Perfect Cornish Christmas is a 2019 book by Phillipa Ashley that follows Scarlett and Ellie, two sisters who head to the little Cornish town of Porthmellow after the reveal of a shocking family secret the year before has left the family feeling anything but merry and bright. When Scarlett found out that Ellie was only her half-sister, all she’s wanted since is to find out who her real father is. So she heads to Porthmellow, where she believes the truth of her birth is hidden. She just didn’t bargain on being drawn into the Christmas festival preparations – or meeting Jude Penberth, whose charm threatens to complicate life further. Everything will come to a head at Porthmellow’s Christmas Festival, but can Scarlett have the perfect Christmas this year? Or are there more surprises on the way?

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READALONG: The Appeal by Janice Hallett

“Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth? Do you dare?”

Set to be released on 14th January 2021, The Appeal by Janice Hallett tells a story through a series of documents – including emails, texts, and letters – relating to the events surrounding the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons, and the tragic death of one of its members. Another member is currently in prison for the crime. As the reader, it is your job to read through these documents to see if the killer has given themselves away. Will you accept the challenge? Can you predict correctly and save someone for being wrongly imprisoned?

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Book Review: A Wedding In December by Sarah Morgan

“But life goes on, right? You keep walking, even when your feet are bleeding and you can hardly stand upright.”

Published in 2019, A Wedding In December by Sarah Morgan is set in the snowy Aspen, where the White family gathers for their youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding. First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret about their own: they are on the brink of divorce. Rosie’s older sister Katie is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself. If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans. Meanwhile, bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiance but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived – how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget.

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Book Review: The Betrayal (Olivia Sinclair #1) by Terry Lynn Thomas

“Olivia Sinclair’s life fell apart on the day of her sixty-second birthday.”

Set to be released on 7th January 2021, The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas is the first in a planned Olivia Sinclair series. The story follows attorney Olivia Sinclair who is shocked to receive an anonymous video showing her husband Richard sleeping with someone else. After years of handling other people’s divorces, she thought she could recognise a marriage in trouble. She angrily throws Richard out of the home they share. But days later she’s arrested—for the murder of his mistress. Olivia knows she’s innocent but, with all the evidence pointing at her and an obvious motive, she must find the real killer to clear her name. She may be used to dealing with messy divorces, but this one will be her most difficult case yet. Olivia’s husband has already betrayed her: would he set her up for murder?

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Book Review: The Christmas Killer (DI James Walker #1) by Alex Pine

“As the snow begins to fall, the body count begins to climb…”

The 2020 thriller by Alex Pine, The Christmas Killer follows DI James Walker who is ready for a quiet family Christmas in the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey. But when he opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises that won’t be possible. Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half-frozen in the snow. As the blizzards descend, panic spreads through the remote Cumbrian village – there’s a killer amongst them, and with eleven more victims to go, anyone could be next.
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Book Review: The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain

“Beginnings and endings are all right, but it’s what happens in between that really counts, isn’t it?”

The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain was published in 2010 and follows Hattie who, after being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, is feeling a little lost. When her high-flying boyfriend announces that he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him, Hattie doesn’t know if up-ending her whole life is the right thing to do.

Luckily, her long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help. Dolly invites her to spend one last holiday in Dolly’s small, festive town of Wynbridge. Determined to give her a Christmas to remember, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer. But Hattie’s Christmas cheer has long since run out, so it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. With the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior starting to thaw, as Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet.

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READALONG: The Twelve Dates Of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

“People confused nostalgia with love and end up getting divorces or having affairs and all sorts. No, I think if you haven’t kept in touch for twenty years, there’s probably a good reason.”

The 2020 festive book by Jenny Bayliss, The Twelve Dates Of Christmas sees happily single Kate Turner take a chance on an organised event hosted by a brand new dating app service. But this event won’t see Kate on a single date. Over the month of December, she will be set up on twelve dates, each tailored to help her find perfect harmony. Between catching up with her oldest friend Laura, baking for her friend Matt’s cafe, holding down a flourishing career as a fabric designer, and taking care of her beloved dad, love hasn’t had a look in on Kate’s life recently. But Kate does love Christmas, so when Laura insists she signs up to the Twelve Dates of Christmas, she doesn’t need too much persuading. Twelve perfect festive dates with the area’s most eligible men – she’s bound to like one of them, right?

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Book Review: Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

“After ten years living in a city, it was strange not to see any streetlights or passing cars, the only lights coming from the main beam of my headlights and the stars in the sky, visible to me for the first time in forever. These roads had once been as familiar to me as breathing, but I found myself frowning with concentration, making my way cautiously, searching for the house I had vowed never to return to.”

Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters was originally published in 2019 and is the first in a trilogy of books that follows Beth Williams and set at her family’s Scottish estate, Glendale Hall. Beth hasn’t been home for ten years, not since she ran away at sixteen after falling pregnant. Rather than risk her family’s disapproval, she’s worked hard to build a life for herself and daughter Izzy. But now, she’s finally returning home. As Beth tries to mend her broken family ties and fights to bring the community of Glendale back together, she realises that the story she has told herself for a decade might well be a very different one from the truth. Even though she ran from Glendale, it has never left her heart. Neither has Drew, Beth’s first love. But will Beth be able to forgive her family for what happened ten years ago? And what will Drew say when he discovers the secret she’s been keeping from him for so long? Let’s hope Christmas can work its magic on Glendale Hall, because Beth’s going to need some help.

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Book Review: One Day in December by Josie Silver

“Despite the fairy-tale snowstorm out there, this isn’t Narnia. This is London, real life, where hearts get kicked and bruised and broken, but somehow they still keep beating.”

Released in 2018, One Day in December by Josie Silver sees Laurie fall in love through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day when she sees a man who she instantly knows is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic… and then her bus drives away. Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not until they “reunite” at a Christmas party when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend.

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Book Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best – well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”

Published in 2017, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty follows 29-year-old, newly engaged to the wonderful Nick and pregnant with her first baby. But that was ten years ago. When Alice slips in her step-aerobics class and hits her head, she wakes up to find that she has lost a decade’s worth of memories. Now she’s a grown-up, a bossy mother of three and in the middle of a nasty divorce. Just how many mistakes can you make in a decade? Can she ever get back to the woman she used to be?

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