For Samantha Miller’s young fans – her ‘girls’ – she’s everything they want to be. She’s an oracle, telling them how to live their lives, how to be happy, how to find and honour their ‘truth’.
And her career is booming: she’s just hit three million followers, her new book Chaste has gone straight to the top of the bestseller lists and she’s appearing at sell-out events.
Determined to speak her truth and bare all to her adoring fans, she’s written an essay about her sexual awakening as a teenager, with her female best friend, Lisa. She’s never told a soul but now she’s telling the world. The essay goes viral.
But then – years since they last spoke – Lisa gets in touch to say that she doesn’t remember it that way at all. Her memory of that night is far darker. It’s Sam’s word against Lisa’s – so who gets to tell the story? Whose ‘truth’ is really a lie?
‘You put yourself on that pedestal, Samantha. You only have yourself to blame.’
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Idol is a compelling and insightful contemporary story that explores current issues through the unreliable narrator Samantha, a phenomenally successful lifestyle and social media influencer. Her books are bestsellers, she has millions of social media followers, and her company is about to be made into a public corporation. Still, when a voice from the past challenges her latest expose, the foundation of her life and reality crumble devastatingly.
Dark and disturbing, many of Samantha’s experiences are challenging to read, but they show how she became the person she is. Perception, manipulation and reality are all effectively questioned in this addictive story. Relatable characters draw the reader into a world of judgement and lies. The brilliantly flawed individuals make it hard to like them in many cases.
I like the believability of the story and its contemporary relevance.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The opening chapter gets the reader’s attention in this story of relationships and self-discovery. Emmy is a believably flawed protagonist who learns what matters to her when she returns to her home town amid sadness and scandal. The shallowness of celebrity status and the intrusiveness of social media are explored. The story is set in the prelude to Christmas with the focus on a local pantomime. This book showcases quintessentially British humour, which I loved balanced with moments of poignancy. The romance is secondary to the family drama and Emmy’s self-realisation journey.
The characters are varied and relatable, and the festive setting gives the story an extra sparkle.
Portia MacIntosh is a bestselling romantic comedy author of 16 novels, including The Plus One Pact and My Great Ex-Scape. Previously a music journalist, Portia writes hilarious stories, drawing on her real-life experiences.
Global box office sensation, Ruby Locke, is a long way from her Yorkshire roots. Together with her fiancé, movie heartthrob Tyler Harrison, they are Hollywood’s new glitterati.
Overnight, however, Ruby’s life implodes when her social media accounts are hacked with a multitude of vile posts, turning her into an international pariah. Even Tyler breaks off their engagement.
Confused and heartbroken, Ruby escapes to the beautiful island of Sicily to avoid the media scrutiny and clear her name. With only a Yorkshire Terrier to comfort her, Ruby is befriended by a handsome neighbour and slowly begins to heal.
But who is this mysterious man and what are his intentions?
When her Sicilian hideaway is compromised, Ruby is once again forced to relocate, this time to the stunning Isle of Skye.
In the tranquil cove of Glentorrin, Ruby is left questioning not only who wants to destroy her career, and why but also if celebrity lifestyle is really for her…
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Ruby’s success is threatened when her social media accounts are hacked. With no effective, quick way to clear her name, she loses more than her reputation. Her career falters, and her relationship folds. Serious threats force her into hiding in Sicily.
Ruby finds friendship and self-realisation and possible romance, but not everyone is what they seem, and she has to run again. In Skye, she finds community support and friendship, and the reader is returned to the setting of the first book in this series. Ruby is likeable, if a little naive, but you empathise with her. The romance is a slow burn but lovely. The community dynamic is authentic, and the story is contemporary and relevant.
This is an entertaining romantic story with a mystery to solve, adventure and beautiful settings that immerse the reader in island life.
Lisa Hobman has written many brilliantly reviewed women’s fiction titles – the first of which was shortlisted by the RNA for their debut novel award. In 2012 Lisa relocated her family from Yorkshire to a village in Scotland and this beautiful backdrop now inspires her uplifting and romantic stories.
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set in Leeds and the surrounding area, this is a gritty noir style police procedural with an originally crafted detective. Joe Romano believes in justice for all, and for him, that includes criminals that are murdered. Seen from the point of view of the murderer, this story is disturbing and gritty, but it gives the reader insight, into the antagonist’s motivations, from the onset. The story then follows Joe’s viewpoint as he investigations a missing person case turned to murder, in a hostile ethos.
This is a twenty-first-century police investigation exploring political extremism and vigilante justice. Trial by social media is also an issue. It has an engaging pace and plot that keeps the reader turning the pages.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Eternal Forever is a cosy mystery with contemporary themes. It explores the possibility of leaving a legacy of yourself online after death, which is a thought-provoking concept. It has lots of characters whose connections are not immediately apparent. Themes of cyberbullying, reality celebrity and social media influencing draw the cast of characters together and shine the spotlight on the dangers of this online world.
At its centre is a murder and an amateur sleuth couple who investigate this. The mystery is well-written, and the contemporary edge makes this a cosy mystery for a wide audience.
Most people know crazy cat ladies are a ‘thing’, but I’m a proud crazy guinea pig lady! I love fun in the sun and plenty of cocktails. My happy place is flip flops. I write stories to keep me company – my characters ensure I’m never lonely and always smiling (when I’m not tearing my hair out!)
A witness with no victim. A crime with no crime scene…
When crusading journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video of an apparent murder on a London train, she thinks she’s found the story to revive her career. But she can’t find a victim, much less the killers, and the only witness has disappeared. Wary she’s fallen for fake news, she begins to doubt her instincts – until a sinister call suggests that she’s not the only one interested in the crime.
Michael Stringer deals in information – and doesn’t care which side of the law he finds himself on. But the murder on the train has left him exposed, and now he’ll stop at nothing to discover what Lydia knows.
When their paths collide, Lydia finds the story leads through a nightmare world, where money, power and politics intersect … and information is the only thing more dangerous than a bullet.
A nerve-shattering and brutally realistic thriller, Blood Red City bursts with energy and grit from the opening page, twisting and feinting to a superb, unexpected ending that will leave you breathless.
I received a copy of this book from Orenda Books in return for an honest review.
This is an edgy, urban thriller with an action-driven, pacy plot.
Lydia tired of being sidelined investigates a video detailing a crime. She realises if genuine it has the potential, to mainstream her career. There’s relentless suspense. A sense of menace pervades every page.
Michael Stringer is an enigma. An information mercenary, he wants to know what Lydia knows. The London setting adds authenticity to the story. The story uses sensual imagery well making the events and locations easy to imagine.
The author creates an ethos of mistrust. It’s difficult to establish the truth, and who to believe. The ending answers all these questions with the possibility of a future investigation.
Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling (2016) and Cold Desert Sky (2018); the Guardian have called the books ‘Pitch-perfect American noir.’ A lifelong Londoner, in 2020 Orenda Books will publish his first novel set in his hometown, Blood Red City. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London. Rod lives with his wife and family and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters.
‘She had me at Bonjour! Warm, funny, deliciously French…this lovely story filled my heart with sunshine’ Jane Linfoot
Imagine yourself in beautiful France with the sun warm on your face and a glass of wine in your hand…Jojo’s French Escape is the perfect summer read!
Trapped in paradise…
For twelve months JoJo Grant has been hiding from a secret too shameful to share. And whilst her sanctuary might be the beautiful French countryside, JoJo has a horrible feeling that her peace is about to be shattered…because bursting into her life is the hottest celebrity chef around – Callum O’Connor.
Callum knows all about JoJo’s past, her time as a reality star, the scandal that has dogged her, but he isn’t sure why she’s still hiding? After spending time with JoJo, it’s obvious to him that she has nothing to be ashamed of – she just needs to be a little braver… But as much as JoJo likes Callum, he thrives on the glare of the outside world. Can JoJo let go of her past…with Callum by her side?
I received a copy of this book from the author and One More Chapter in return for an honest review.
The perfect start to the weekend a lovely escapist summer read set in France. Romance, friendship and lots of dogs make this an uplifting read with red hot romance and a motivational ethos.
JoJo, an ex-reality star, betrayed by her boyfriend, spent the last year in France, under the radar, recovering. A new celebrity chef is visiting. The disgrace and infamy, of her former life, threaten to engulf her.
Callum and JoJo’s unlikely romance is passionate. Both are wary, but their physical attraction soon deepens into an emotional involvement neither expected. There are many love scenes in this story, all well written and part of JoJo’s acceptance of her true self.
This story explores the power of reality tv and social media and its costs. The ending is powerful and uplifting.
Lorraine Wilson writes flirty, feel-good fiction for One More Chapter – a Harper Collins imprint – and is unashamedly fond of happy endings. She loves hearing from readers and feels incredibly grateful to be doing the job she always dreamt of.
She splits her time between the South of France and Cambridgeshire and is usually either writing or reading while being sat on, walked over or barked at by one of her growing band of rescue dogs.
Jess’s life was turned upside down when her blog went viral. Now, with hundreds of thousands of followers, Jess is now navigating the trials and tribulations of a world online.
Being a mummy blogger was original an escape, but now it seems to be turning into a career. And after one wrong post on her social media channels, Jess discovers that life in the spotlight isn’t always peachy.
With a new baby on the way, the possibility of starring in a reality TV show and a husband who’s struggling with his wife’s new-found fame, Jess has a lot going on.
Jess needs to decide whether this is everything she wanted it to be or whether this is all a bit too much for her? Can Jess persevere against the haters, rise up above the pettiness and find the perfect balance of life in the real world and life online?
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus- Aria in return for an honest review.
Mum’s Big Break is another enjoyable chapter about Jess, her family and her life as a successful mummy blogger. Now a ‘celebrity’ social influencer Jess finds that blogging isn’t the escape it was. Amusing anecdotes and an insiders insight into the world of mummy blogging and social influencers make this a delightful read.
Mum’s Big Break is a contemporary, engaging, and humorous story about life as a mummy blogger.
Excerpt From Mum’s Big Break – Louise Emma Clark
Truthfully, she’d been a bit surprised by how much time had been demanded by the staff at the hotel, but it was too late now. She’d accepted the holiday and she had to do the work – even if that meant being dragged away from her sunbed to listen to a monologue about the interior design decisions behind an overwhelmingly brown conference hall.
It was a few hours before she was able to say her goodbyes and scurry back to the pool, but when she arrived, Chris and Bella were nowhere to be seen. Looking down at her phone and realising it was now midday and Bella had probably been tired and grouchy, she made her way up to their room.
She’d never set eyes on a hotel suite before this holiday, let alone stayed in one, and when they first arrived and were shown to their room, it had taken them a good five minutes to explore, eyes wide with shock. There were two bedrooms, joined together by a large lounge. Wardrobes opened up to reveal storage space the size of small rooms just for their clothes and shoes. Everything inside the suite was perfectly matched in hues of dark wood and warm tones of caramel-brown, and vast, floor to ceiling windows showed off the view to its absolute best.
From their balcony, they could see the whole of Jumeirah Beach stretched to the left and right of them. The white sand, the colour of the sea a perfect reflection of the cornflower-blue sky above, hotels dotted along the coast, the impressive Burj Al Arab hotel shaped like the sail of a boat to their right, and a big wheel that seemed to be sat on its very own island to their left.
Looking directly down from their balcony to the hotel grounds, a series of pools stretched invitingly in front of their hotel.
‘Seven pools, to be exact,’ their concierge had informed them on that first night. ‘Three general pools that everyone can use, one saltwater pool, one shallow pool for children, one adult-only pool, one pool for swimming laps, and a swimmable canal that connects them all.’
The biggest pool was directly below them, with the words ‘THE MERRYGOLD’ stamped on the bottom in large, black letters. And as swimmers disturbed the surface of the water, the letters shimmered and danced in the sunlight.
It was, without doubt, the most impressive hotel that Jessica had set foot in.
In fact, the room alone was so inviting that Jessica was quite tempted to spend the full week inside it, relying on room service and gawping at the views, but with a nearly-two-year-old in tow, that was never going to happen.
Jessica made it back to the room and stood in front of the heavy mahogany door with 3008 monogrammed in gold letters, pulling her key card from the pocket of her bag to unlock it. As the light flickered green, she pushed the door as gently as possible.
‘Sssshhh,’ Chris hissed, turning towards the door from his armchair. ‘F**k’s sake, Jess, please don’t wake her!’
‘Seriously?’ Jessica whispered. ‘What was I supposed to do? Beam myself through the door?’
Chris rolled his eyes.
‘You know,’ Jessica continued. ‘This hotel room is nearly as big as our house. She’s got her own room, Chris! You’re sat out here lording it up with your iPad and she’s fast asleep in her own room, with the door closed. How was I ever going to wake her?’
‘Lording it up with my iPad?’ Chris repeated slowly. ‘Good one. That’s obviously what I’ve been doing while you’ve been swanning around conference rooms for the last couple of hours…’
‘Oh whatever,’ Jessica said, shaking her head. ‘Anyway, what have you been doing while I’ve been gone? Has she been OK?’
‘No,’ Chris said. ‘She’s been a bit of a bloody nightmare actually. She was tired and hungry, and she wanted Mummy as soon as you disappeared. We waited for as long as we could, as I thought it would be nice to have lunch together, but I needed to give her something to eat in the end. Not that she enjoyed the chips I ordered her… Most of them ended up on the bloody floor, so she’s probably gone to bed hungry.’
Louise’s blog, Mum of Boys and Mabel has over 100k followers. Having moved to Dubai with her family she’s now back in the UK and is enjoying writing. From Mum with Love was her debut novel.
From the author of the acclaimed novel The Borrowed, a very timely and propulsively plotted tale of cyberbullying and revenge, about a woman on the hunt for the truth about her sister’s death.
Chan Ho-Kei’s The Borrowed was one of the most acclaimed international crime novels of recent years, a vivid and compelling tale of power, corruption, and the law spanning five decades of the history of Hong Kong. Now he delivers Second Sister, an up-to-the-minute tale of a Darwinian digital city where everyone from tech entrepreneurs to teenagers is struggling for the top.
A schoolgirl – Siu-Man – has committed suicide, leaping from her twenty-second-floor window to the pavement below. Siu-Man is an orphan and the librarian older sister who’s been raising her refuses to believe there was no foul play – nothing seemed amiss. She contacts a man known only as N. – a hacker, and an expert in cybersecurity and manipulating human behaviour. But can Nga-Yee interest him sufficiently to take her case, and can she afford it if he says yes?
What follows is a cat and mouse game through the city of Hong Kong and its digital underground, especially an online gossip platform, where someone has been slandering Siu-Man. The novel is also populated by a man harassing girls on mass transit; high school kids, with their competing agendas and social dramas; a Hong Kong digital company courting an American venture capitalist; and the Triads, market women and noodle shop proprietors who frequent N.’s neighbourhood of Sai Wan. In the end, it all comes together to tell us who caused Siu-Man’s death and why, and to ask, in a world where online and offline dialogue has increasingly forgotten about the real people on the other end, what the proper punishment is.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.
A detailed, technical crime thriller set in HongKong. Nga-Yee doesn’t believe her sister committed suicide. Did someone provoke her untimely death? With no close family, Nga-Yee focuses all her grief on getting justice for her younger sister. Referred, to the enigmatic ‘N’ she’s unsure if she can trust him. Desperation forces her, to forge an unlikely alliance with the Hacker, who has many faces and even more secrets.
The plot uncovers cyberbullying, educates in the art of hacking and cybercrime and reveals some hard to like characters. The pacing is good, and although it plunges into technicality in parts, this is integral to the story and lets the reader learn things at the same pace as the main protagonist Nga-Yee. The plot has many twists and layers, and though you many guess part of the story, the ending may still surprise you.
Nga-Yee is a courageous woman, who is easy to empathise. N is eccentric, intelligent and streetwise. Although lacking in social graces, his actions recommend him, and his loyalty redeems his lack of social grace.
The atmospheric setting and cultural references are engaging and the story balances the factual and crime investigation with the emotional side of its characters well. The ending is satisfying and positive.
Chan was born and raised in Hong Kong. He has worked as a software engineer, game designer, manga editor, and lecturer. Chan wrote made his debut as a writer in 2008 at the age of thirty-three, with the short story The Case of Jack and the Beanstalk which was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of Taiwan Award. Chan re-entered the following year and won the award for his short story The Locked Room of Bluebeard.
Chan reached the first milestone of his writing career in 2011 with his novel, The Man who Sold the World which won the biggest mystery award in the Chinese speaking world, the Soji Shimada Award. The book has been published in Taiwan, Japan, Italy, Thailand and Korea.
In 2014, Chan’s crime thriller The Borrowed was published in Taiwan. It has sold rights in thirteen countries, and the book will be adapted into a film by acclaimed Chinese art film director Wong Kar-Wai.
‘Second Sister‘ has acquired a six-figure film deal with Linmon Pictures in China. The book will be published in the US in 2020 and rights have been sold to China, Korea and Japan.
Jeremy Tiang’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, Esquire and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He has written four plays and translated more than ten books from the Chinese. Tiang lives in New York.