I received a copy of this audiobook from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story demonstrates the claustrophobic and immersive qualities of psychological suspense so well. It begins with a traumatic incident in Regi’s life. The reader knows this is important but not why. Regi’s painful past and mental health issues define her and make everyday life difficult. Her housemates are younger but supportive. The story believably depicts Regis’ OCD, but its repetitive nature is emotionally draining on the reader and slows the pace.
The narrator produces an excellent interpretation of the story and its nuances.
Regi is a complex character, an unreliable protagonist with secrets. The suspense building is good, there are menacing undertones, and some clever changes in plot direction that keep the listener guessing. The focus on social media gives this story an immediacy and relevance.
Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.
Elianor Paine is a Magistrate of the Peace in the Kingdom of Trist and a republican secret agent. She has 6 days to subvert her investigation, supplant war-hero Lord Vile, then coerce his adult children to start a revolution before her masters discover the truth and have her killed. Just how far is she willing to go? And can she change the world without changing herself?
Keith Crawford is a retired Navy Officer, a disabled veteran, a Doctor of Law & Economics, a barrister, a stay-at-home Dad, and a writer. He has written for collections of scholarly works, academic journals, and newspapers including The Economist. He has had more than thirty plays recorded or produced for stage, been listed in a variety of short story competitions (in spite of his hatred of short stories), and runs a radio production company, www.littlewonder.website, which regularly runs competitions promoted by the BBC to help find, develop and encourage new writers.
In 2014 he was lecturing at Sciences Po in Paris and negotiating a contract to write a book on banking regulation when he and his wife discovered to their delight that they were due to have their first child. Rather than writing more work that would only be read by his poor students, and then misquoted by politicians, he decided he would do his bit to stick his fingers up at the patriarchy and stay home to look after his own kids rather than the grown-up kids of rich people. Two more children swiftly followed. Keith has discovered that if you recite Stick Man backwards you get the lyrics to AD/DC’s Highway to Hell.
This (looking after the kids, not satanic rites with Stick Man) allowed him to support his wife’s career, which appears to be heading for the stratosphere, and also gave him the space to write about swordfights and explosions. And spaceships. All of which are more fun than banking regulation. As an extension to his work in radio production, he set up his own small press, and his first novel, Vile, is due to be published in December 2019. More novels will swiftly follow, like buses in countries that don’t privatise the bus companies.
Popular lifestyle blogger, Libby Cartwright, is being boggled by business when help shows up in the shape of gorgeous but shy, Charlie Richmond. Libby’s determined to keep it at ‘just good friends’ – she’s dated someone from ‘Corporate Land’ before and it didn’t end well. As she and Charlie begin spending more time together, Libby is starting to waver – until she discovers something which makes her question if she’s ready for love.
Still reeling, she suffers another blow as her blog is attacked in a national newspaper, for promoting unachievable perfection. Libby knows it’s not true – but the only way to prove that is to strip off the armour she’s been wearing for years.
Is she brave enough to show the world she’s far from perfect? And will Charlie be by her side if she does…
‘That’s it! I am totally going to
jail. I’m going to get it wrong, owe thousands, not be able to pay, and go to
jail!’ I flung myself backwards with an overly dramatic sigh and lay sprawled
on the paperwork I had been looking at. ‘And seriously? Me in an orange
jumpsuit? I don’t care how on trend they are; I could never pull that off!
Orange is so not my colour.’
Amy topped up her wine glass before reaching a hand down to
grab my arm, tugging me in the direction of the sofa. I slid along the floor
for a few moments in my prone position, like some sort of beached, four-legged
starfish, until I eventually bumped into the furniture.
‘I think that’s more America, hon,’ she said, yanking me
upwards. ‘I’m not sure what ours are like. Something much more subtle, I
expect. And don’t worry. I’ll hide a file inside the first cake I bring you.
You’ll be out in no time.’
I paused in my clambering from the floor onto the sofa, and
gave her a look. She made a sawing motion with one hand, accompanied by an
over-exaggerated wink as she held out my wine glass. Flopping onto the couch, I
took the glass and swigged a large mouthful, before laying my head back onto
the soft cushions.
‘Seriously though. I really don’t know what I’m doing with
this. I thought I was handling all this business stuff OK until now.’
‘And you are!’ Amy interjected. ‘Your blog is doing
amazingly well! I can’t believe the difference in a year – it’s incredible!
Seriously, Libs, you should really be proud of yourself.’
I sighed. ‘Thanks, Ames. And I am, and of Tilly. I couldn’t
have done it without her. But I’m so frustrated! I’ve taken on this insane
learning curve and, for the most part, got the hang of things. I think. But
this?’ I kicked a piece of paper with my bare toes. ‘This, I just cannot get my
head round! Why does tax have to be so bloody complicated? They send you this
stuff so that you are supposedly able to do it yourself, but write it in the
most confusing language possible! How is that even remotely helpful?’
Amy just shook her head and took another sip of wine.
‘So, what are you going to do?’
‘I don’t know. I guess I need to start looking for an
accountant.’ I twiddled the wine glass stem in my hand.
Amy leant over and bumped her head gently on my shoulder.
‘You know; it is OK to ask people for help sometimes. We can’t all be amazing
at everything. Creating all this in such a short space of time is brilliant,
Libby. Finding that you need some extra expertise in one area is perfectly
acceptable, and perfectly normal.’
‘I guess.’ I put the glass down. ‘Before I forget, I have
something for you.’
Immediately, Amy sat up straighter in anticipation and her
eyes watched me as I crossed to the other side of the room and picked up a
small, but fancy, cardboard bag with intricately twisted rope handles and a
swirly script logo on the side. Walking back over to the sofa, I plopped the
bag down on Amy’s lap.
‘Did I ever tell you that going for it with this lifestyle
blog business is the best thing that you’ve ever done?’
I laughed. ‘You just like the freebies.’
‘True,’ Amy agreed, before letting out an ‘ooh’ of pleasure
at the eyeshadow palette and perfume she’d just pulled out of the bag.
‘But thanks anyway.’
time. Oh!’ Amy’s eyes shone like those of a child who’d just won pass the
parcel. ‘Really? I can have this?’ Without waiting for confirmation, Amy began
excitedly spritzing the exclusive new perfume copiously on pretty much every
pulse point she could reach, including mine.
I lifted my wrist up to take another waft of the fragrance. It really was
gorgeous. I smiled as my friend rummaged in the bag, unwrapping the various
goodies from their pretty tissue-paper packaging. The cosmetic companies often
sent more samples than I could possibly use so I always made sure my assistant got
some to review and regularly ran giveaways on the blog, as a thank you to my
readers. But occasionally I still had extra goodies left over. Amy always loved
a good freebie so when I had something spare, it meant I got to make my best
As the fumes of Amy’s fragrance enthusiasm began getting a
little pungent, I pushed myself up and padded over to the doors that led out
onto the balcony. Grabbing the handle, I slid the door to the side.
Immediately, a warm breeze rushed in from the sea, dissipating the perfume, and
bringing with it the screech of seagulls intertwined with chatter and laughter
from the nearby bars and restaurants in the marina. I stepped out, grabbing a
wide-brimmed, slightly battered straw hat off the nearby console table, and took
a seat on one of the two wooden steamer chairs that resided on my balcony. Amy
followed me out, wine glass in hand, the gift bag now swinging off her wrist.
If I was honest, the furniture was a squeeze and a trendy
little bistro set would have been a better, more sensible option. I’d made the
classic mistake of ‘guesstimating’ that they would fit perfectly on the
balcony. They didn’t and I’d ended up building them in situ like some sort of
furniture Jenga, which had proved to be the only way of getting them both to
fit on there. But I loved them. I didn’t want a trendy little bistro set. The
loungers were super comfy with full-length padded cushions, and reclined just
enough without touching the glass. I could sit out here and read in comfort,
watching the boats sway and bob gently in the marina, listening as the sound of
waves bumping against the harbour wall carried across the water. Even in
winter, when the wind howled and the sea reared up before crashing down
forcefully onto the nearby beach, I would happily sit out here, wrapped up
against the cold, just absorbing it all.
There was definitely no need for coats and scarves this
evening. It seemed that spring had decisively handed off the baton early to
summer and the new season was away and running. The evening was warm and the
breeze soft as Amy and I, now having inelegantly climbed onto our respective
loungers, sat back and sighed happily.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A lovely, slow to ignite friends to lovers and opposites attract romance, in a contemporary setting. Libby is a lifestyle blogger, whose popularity is now making her serious money. Worried about tax issues she eagerly accepts Charle, a friend of a friend’s offer to look over her accounts, She is accident-prone, bubbly and creative, the antithesis of Charlie who is climbing up the corporate ladder and is introverted,
Mutual attraction, proximity. and an unanswered need for someone special in their lives draws the couple together. Firstly into friendship and after much ado, romance. Both are reticent about commitment and their self-worth making them more alike than they first appear.
Libby experiences some of the negative aspects of celebrity status and social media and wants to prove that her blog is a true reflection of her and not a facsimile. Doing this is risky both from a business point of view and personally, and she wonders if people will like the true Libby, with #NoFilter.
This story has a likeable rom-com element and complex realistic protagonists. The romance is very slow-paced. which some will find frustrating.
There is also a message about the power of social media, and how it affects those who live their lives on it. There is a significant move away now, from unrealistic and negative media portrayals of self-image, especially for the young. Maybe its time for us to be more circumspect about what we share of our lives, and not try and constantly strive for an unrealistic ideal, that is probably not even real anyway?
A gently romantic, thought-provoking read.
Guest Post – Inspiration for #No Filter – Maxine Morrey
I wasn’t an early embracer of the whole social media scene. I joined Twitter to see what it was about but didn’t really use it, barely going on it. Facebook had never had any appeal for me, but writing full time meant having a ‘business’ presence on there was kind of required.
Instagram, however, was a different matter for me.
As a photography fan, this platform appealed as a place to share and view
interesting pictures, and perhaps connect with others who shared similar interests.
It still took me a while, joining four years after its launch. But it was really
about the opportunity to practice photography skills and share them. I wasn’t
bothered about the Like count. It was just fun. And I think this was true of a
lot of users at this time. That was the point – just having fun.
But somewhere along the line, things seem to have become a bit skewed. And there are times when it’s not fun at all– in fact, it’s the very opposite. Some users are experiencing a lack of self-worth, jealousy, violence, self-harm and heartbreakingly, even suicide. It was actually this side of things that gave me the inspiration for the book that would become #NoFilter.
Bearing in mind I write romcoms, I can see that this isn’t exactly what people would call a perfect match. But this is what many people miss about the romance genre – especially the critics, the majority of whom have never even dipped a toe into the scene before dismissing it as unworthy of their, or anyone else’s attention. Many romcoms and romances tackle subjects which are quite serious, but they do it in a way that makes it accessible, and relatable. Yes, my books have a non-negotiable happy ending but that doesn’t mean the characters have led Pollyanna lifestyles. There’s more to these books than meet the eye if people bother to look.
The spark for #NoFilter was reading a report about the increase in reports of self-harm since the advent of social media, and how the growth of the two correlated. This was both shocking and saddening. We’ve all heard of cyberbullying and trolling and how intrusive that can be, especially to school-age children. Once our home was a sanctuary away from the school bullies. Now, unless you’re offline entirely – something that seems almost impossible, if not anathema to a generation who were practically born with a mobile phone in their hand – it’s very hard to get away from.
But it’s not just others who bully. And you certainly don’t have to be of school age to be a victim. Sometimes the biggest bully is the one inside our head, and unfortunately, social media, especially the image focused channels have only given these more power. These problems are not exclusively female either. Men are certainly not immune to doubting their self-worth, but there has always been an added pressure on women when it comes to how they present themselves and how others perceive them.
Once it was the glossy magazines being berated for presenting aspirational images impossible to actually achieve. Not because there aren’t women just as stylish, intelligent and beautiful out there. But because the images laid in front of us weren’t genuine. The real person- a model, a woman already been singled out for her aesthetically pleasing appearance – has been made up, dressed and photographed in the most flattering way possible. And then begins hours of photo editing. In some cases, four or five different women are amalgamated to make one ‘perfect’ one. No wonder we feel like we’re not good enough – the image we’re aspiring to sometimes isn’t even one person! Even children aren’t immune from the photo editing suite – what sort of message that sends, I hate to contemplate.
So, battling against these perfect images on the
newsstand was bad enough but in the back of our minds, many of us knew these
were tweaked and toned and literally, perfected. But somehow, when it comes to
social media, we seem to forget. All of a sudden there are these ‘normal’ women
– not movie stars, or models – just regular women looking absolutely flawless.
And that seems a lot more real than the glossy magazines. Which is a lot more
The truth is a vast majority of the images on Instagram are not real. They’re just as fake as the magazines. The amount of photo editing apps available is staggering, with an enormous number dedicated specifically to selfies. It’s basically plastic surgery for your photograph and it can get addictive. When selfies are continuously filtered and edited, they are a representation of that person – but most certainly not that person. However, as we scroll through, seeing one perfect face and body after another, that logic doesn’t always make it through and instead, our own self-worth takes a mental pounding. That’s the danger and it’s only getting worse.
Social media is not a bad thing. It’s supposed to be
fun, and it can be. It can also be supportive. Being a writer is a very
solitary job, but social media has enabled me to be in contact with others in
the same position and being able to gain and give support via these platforms
is brilliant. The same goes for hobbies – you might not know anyone in your
‘real’ life that finds the same things as you interesting but social media
enables you to find a community and I know people who have made long and strong
friendships via it. It’s not evil. But it does need to be used with caution.
No one is perfect. But you are perfect as you are. If there’s anything that’s making you doubt that, then it may be time to do a bit of detoxing. Accounts that make you question your self-worth need to go. Press that unfollow and feel the pressure lift. Find the next one and do the same, and the next.
Replace these accounts with others that don’t adhere
to the editing obsession and instead bring you joy. They’re just as interesting
and encourage a world and a belief that is far, far more
Maxine Morrey is a bestselling romantic comedy author with eight books to her name including Winter’s Fairytale and the top ten hit The Christmas Project. She lives in West Sussex. Her first novel for Boldwood, #No Filter, will be published in November 2019.
December 2018, and free-spirited influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans.
Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth.
Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who’ll listen.
June 1936, and fourteen-year-old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . .
The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.
An atmospheric story, that is deeper than it first appears, following Bo and Zac, two Instagram social influencers to the beautiful but forbidding Norwegian fjords in wintertime. There they meet Anders their mysterious guide and his fiercely independent grandmother, Signy.
The story is told from Bo’s point of view as she faces up to her demons, and questions whether she really is living the dream with Zac, or just running away. Signy’s story told in flashbacks to 1936 is simple, but devastating, and helps understand her fighting spirit and her willingness to face physical hardship to achieve the solitude she needs.
The contrast between the virtual world Bo lives in and the grounded world Signy inhabits is the lynchpin of this story, which explores relationships, the power of social media and the many secrets the story’s characters’ are keeping.
There is an underlying menace in both timelines, reinforced by the danger ever present in the mountainous region. There is poignant romance brought to life by believable characters and situations.
Out of tragedy comes hope and an understanding of love and the true meaning of sacrifice.
An unusual festive story with many layers to engage the reader and a hopeful ending.
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan – Pan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.