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The Girl in the Ice: Detective Erika Foster Crime Thriller, Book 1
The Girl in the Ice: Detective Erika Foster Crime Thriller, Book 1
Offered by Audible Ltd

5.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced, gripping and a brilliant start to a brand new series!, 12 Jun. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review the audio version of this novel. I listen to a lot of audio books but I don’t usually review them, this is the first! I find it easy to follow audio books but have to admit that I’ve never listened to a crime/thriller novel before as I worried it would be harder to keep track of the characters.

I loved listening to this novel. The narrater, Jan Cramer, has done a brilliant job of bringing great characters to life. She does a different voice for each character and this made the novel so easy to follow, I soon knew which voice belonged to which character and could relax and enjoy listening to the novel.

The novel as a whole is great – it kept me engrossed and I found that when I stopped listening for the day I was couldn’t wait to get back to it. I found Erika Foster really interesting as a character and although she falls into the trope of troubled detective to a degree, it didn’t feel like a stereotype. Her character, and what she had been through, felt completely believable and the way she was coping felt very realistic and that was a refreshing change from a lot of crime/detective novels.

I found the whodunnit element very good too – I only worked out who the killer was shortly before it was revealed and I think that was the point the reader is supposed to realise. I loved that I hadn’t been able to work out who it was earlier – I had my suspicions at various points in the book but I wasn’t sure.

The novel itself is a brilliant start to a new series and I’ll absolutely by buying the next book. I’ll also definitely look out for audio books narrated by Jan Cramer in the future.

If anyone reading this review has never listened to an audio book before or, like me, was put off listening to a crime novel in case it’s harder to follow as an audio book then please consider this one. The characters are so well written that you can tell them apart plus Jan Cramer’s narration is such that all the voices sound different from each other so you very quickly know who’s speaking. It’s a brilliant audio book all round.

I rated this audio book 4.5 out of 5 and I’m very much looking forward to reading, or listening to, the next book in the series.

I received a complementary copy of this audiobook from Audible via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the Ice is published by Bookouture. It’s out now and available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats.


The Treachery of Trains
The Treachery of Trains
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light-hearted but with a real depth to it - a mix of women's fiction and mystery! I loved it!, 20 May 2016
I’ve been wanting to read this book for a little while so when I was offered a place on the blog tour I jumped at the chance!

Sky is an ordinary young woman trying to get on as best as she can but life hasn’t been easy. Sky was very close to her mum so when she died Sky’s life began to unravel. Instead of making rational decisions to deal with her mum’s affairs she tries to keep everything as it was. To compound the loss, her best friend who is also her flatmate and work colleague decides to leave all of a sudden and Sky doesn’t really know where she’s gone or why. Sky is left feeling completely alone and lost.

I really liked Sky, I have to admit that I did find some of the things she did a bit over the top but it was all in keeping with her character. She is quick to react to situations but doesn’t always react in a rational way. She seems to be someone who always wants to do her best though and that made her easy for me to identify with. I also felt sorry for her that she was in such a sad place after losing her mum and I was rooting for her to get a happy ending.

The mystery of what happened to Vanessa became quite central to the plot and that kept me turning the pages as I wanted to know what had made her leave so suddenly. I was never sure of her character from the way she was described in the early part of the novel, it felt like Sky was seeing her through rose-tinted glasses because she was lonely after her mum died. I couldn’t wait to find out whether my judgment was correct and the novel then became quite the page turner.

There was some funny and light-hearted moments in the novel. I loved when Sky and Diederik were searching for Mouse in the cellar, it made me laugh. The potential romance element with Diederik was gorgeous too, I so wanted things to work out for them.

The title of this book added to my intrigue about where things were going to end up for Sky as I couldn’t see what this book had to do with trains being treacherous (or how trains can even be treacherous), but when I got to the part of the book with the photo of Sky’s mum it all began to make sense. I’d never head of the treachery of an image before but I loved the way it was used and described in this novel. It all then began to make some sense of the title too – the way Sky got the wrong train, a train that wasn’t what it appeared to be, and ended up in a place that she hadn’t mean to go to, that also wasn’t what it seemed to be and yet it ultimately led her to end up where she was destined to be.

I really enjoyed this novel, it was light-hearted but with a real warmth and depth to it – a mix of women’s fiction and mystery, which worked very well together and kept me hooked. I would definitely recommend it. It’s something a bit different and is very easy to get completely engrossed in. I rated it 5 out of 5.


Tapestry
Tapestry
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful short story collection, I highly recommend it!, 20 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Tapestry (Kindle Edition)
I’ve had Tapestry on my Kindle for a while and have been very much looking forward to reading it.

This collection of short stories is excellent. I’m not someone who reads a lot of short stories, as I’ve always preferred a longer read but I’m starting to really enjoy and appreciate collections like this one that are a bit more interlinked.

I enjoyed all the stories in the collection but if I had to pick a favourite it would be the first story, Never-Ending. It just really got to me and it’s stayed in my head after I’ve finished reading.

The thing I loved most about this collection was the way each story ended. They all end with a sentence or two that really sums up the story and gives you something to think about. Elle Turner really makes you think about what words mean and what other words that are similar could have been used but the one she picked is subtly implying something else. The idea that something isn’t ‘forever, it’s just never-ending’ really got to me. The subtly of the words and the massive difference between wanting to be somewhere and feeling trapped and suffocated there. It made the stories quite poetic and added that something extra to them.

The title of the collection really gives a sense of cohesion – these stories are individual but they interweave. Some of the stories are happy, some are sad and some are somewhere in between but they all come together. Some characters re-appear in other stories, others only appear in the the one story but there is a sense of how life would go on for each person.

I very much enjoyed this collection and highly recommend it, even if, like me, you think short stories aren’t really for you, give this book a go because it might surprise you. I rated this book 4.5 out of 5.


The Ice Twins
The Ice Twins
Price: £4.86

4.0 out of 5 stars A creepy, unnerving novel that will get you in its clasps and won't let you go until you've finished reading!, 20 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Ice Twins (Kindle Edition)
I have avoided buying The Ice Twins for so long because I was convinced it was going to be too scary for me (I openly admit that I’m a complete and utter wimp!) but I’ve continued to be intrigued by it so when I saw it in a recent Kindle book sale I decided to buy it.

I started reading it straight away just to see what it was like and I literally didn’t put it down again until I’d finished reading! This book is so fast-paced and has so many twists and turns that there really isn’t a good place to stop, and to be honest nor did I really want a stopping place as I was desperate to know the truth about which twin had died!

I found this book intriguing from the start; the idea of giving birth to two completely identical twins and there being no way at all to tell them apart is such a great basis for this novel. Sarah was encouraged by a nurse to have one of the twins subtly tattooed with a small dot just so they would always know which one was which but Sarah and Angus, understandably, didn’t want to mark either of their perfect daughters in any way. So, they decided to always dress them in at least one item of clothing of a particular colour – so one twin always had a yellow item and the other always had a blue item. The sense of foreboding from this early point on in the book was great though because it is quite obvious that as soon as the twins were old enough they would love playing tricks on people and swapping clothes etc, which is what they had begun to do during the summer in the year that Lydia died.

This book does require the reader to suspend disbelief a little because when you have two young children who have enjoyed swapping identities and one of them dies, it seems very odd to me that you would take the word of the surviving twin about who had died. Children are unable to fully comprehend death or the idea of forever so cannot be trusted in a situation like this because to them it could all be a game. I was happy to suspend disbelief though as I wanted to see where the novel went from here.

The family decide to move to a very remote island that Angus has recently inherited. It’s a very bleak, atmospheric place that needs a lot of work doing to it, and works perfectly for this novel. The sense of isolation and despair mirrors perfectly the grief and conflicted emotions that Angus and Sarah, and Kirstie were feeling at this point in time.

It’s hard to review this book without giving any spoilers but what I loved was the way all the characters played their part in the confusion about which twin died so as the layers of the story were gradually pulled back I was never sure who to believe. It seemed plausible that these parents had actually buried the wrong child but it seem equally likely that Kirstie was just continuing on with her childhood game and didn’t understand the terror she was causing in her parents.

I loved the psychological elements of this book, the idea of identity and how it isn’t necessarily a fixed thing. It was great how the family were being haunted by Lydia, or Kirstie, whichever one of them was actually dead, but it was written in such a way that this could have been a ghost story, or it could have been sheer hysteria that they got swept up in, or it could have been a mix of the two. At times it was a little like a modern day Turn of the Screw – the way that someone could be being haunted, or they could be mad or, and this is perhaps the most scary idea, they could be experiencing both. Just because someone is paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not right about the strange, seemingly unexplained things that are happening around them.

It was brilliant how, as the novel began building towards the climax, I began to question absolutely everything, I was so wrapped up in it that I felt I was right there with the characters and unsure what was real and what was not. The interchanging personality of the surviving twin, be it Kirstie or Lydia, just heightened it. The ending of the novel was brilliant, it’s one of those endings that will stay with me for a really long time.

The Ice Twins is a very creepy, unnerving novel and once it has you in its clasps it won’t let go until long after you’ve finished reading! I rated this novel 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.


The Midnight Watch: A gripping novel of the SS Californian, the ship that failed to aid the sinking Titanic
The Midnight Watch: A gripping novel of the SS Californian, the ship that failed to aid the sinking Titanic
Price: £5.69

5.0 out of 5 stars An accomplished debut, it had me utterly enthralled from first page to last!, 20 May 2016
I’ve been interested by stories of the Titanic ever since I was a young child. I think my fascination grew from an afternoon spent with my Great-Grandad, who was a young boy when the Titanic sank and he remembered it happening. Not only that but he had kept a couple of newspaper cuttings from the time and he showed them to me. My interest in the Titanic has never gone away – I’ve read a lot of books about it, both fiction and non-fiction, and have seen the movies and quite a few documentaries over the years.

I first read about David Dyer’s new novel on Carrie’s Book Reviews blog a few weeks ago and immediately pre-ordered it. Dyer has taken a look at the Titanic story from a different angle; the focus of this novel is on the actions of the nearest ship to Titanic when she hit the iceberg, the Californian. I’d heard about this before reading the novel but Dyer’s meticulous research mixed with his educated interpretations of what might have taken place that nice, add an extra dimension for me. It put a much more human face on the men who were working the midnight watch that fateful night. I was surprised to find I had some sympathy for the Second Officer, as he panicked and was scared to disturb the Captain but then when he eventually did, he was sent away.

A fictional journalist, Steadman, who has made a name for himself chasing bodies at disaster sites, misses out on the first bodies being brought back from the sight of the Titanic but he realises there is a much bigger story to be uncovered. He then refuses to let go in his quest to discover what happened on the Californian. He shows such tenacity and drive to get to the truth.

The journalist also gets to hear about some of the third class passengers who perished on the Titanic and is determined to not let these victims be forgotten. The novel covers the events on the Californian, the resulting investigation and inquest, and finally we get to read the story Steadman wrote. It is focused on a large family, who really did perish on the Titanic and he writes the story of what he thought may have happened to them that night, based on stories their neighbours had told him about them all. It’s an incredibly moving story, and one that made me shed a few tears on finishing the book.

There is so much detail in this book but it never becomes too much; Dyer has struck a perfect balance of fact and fiction. It felt like a really fresh look at the Titanic narrative too, the way it was done from another angle that hasn’t been covered in any of the fiction I’ve read to date. The way Dyer fictionalised real people and a real event but blended it so seamlessly meant it really gave the book such an authentic voice, which made it all the more powerful and all the more devastating. The idea that a human being could ignore the distress signals of a ship at sea leaves me speechless, it’s such a shocking dereliction of duty. Dyer doesn’t make a quick judgement in his novel though, it is left for the reader to interpret Lord’s behaviour as Steadman tries to put the strands of the story together from the accounts he’s heard. I was astounded at the arrogance of Captain Lord and there is no excusing what he did; the bit that I found hardest to grasp was how blasé he appeared to be about what happened that night. The Midnight Watch deftly explores the fallibility of witness testimony and memory, particularly memories of a traumatic night – a night that led to the death of 1500 people. It certainly felt that some people may genuinely have mis-remembered but others were complicit in keeping to the story they knew they should tell, even though it was at the expense of the truth.

It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel, it’s such an accomplished book. It had me utterly enthralled from the first page until long after I read the final page; I know it’ll be a novel that stays with me for a long time to come. I rated it 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.


Shame
Shame
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately a very inspiring book, 20 May 2016
This review is from: Shame (Kindle Edition)
I’ve been really drawn to non-fiction recently, and have picked up quite a lot of memoirs. Shame is about a muslim woman, Jasvinder, who ran away from home in order to escape an arranged marriage and was then disowned by her family. All Jasvinder wanted was to be with the man she loved and to be able to have a relationship with her family but the two were mutually exclusive in the religion she was born in to.

Shame is really quite a shocking read at times, it’s very hard to read about how Jasvinder was treated in her early life by her parents, and then throughout her life by her siblings. I understand that it is part of the culture she lived in then but it is still very hard to understand how siblings can turn their back in such a way.

The stories that Jasvinder has shared in this book about other muslim women are very shocking. I was horrified reading about her sister and what happened to her, and also the way that nothing could be done afterwards to try and help prevent it happening to other women.

The way that Jasvinder was so shunned by her community, even after she had married, was really uncomfortable to read. I found it incredible how Jasvinder found the inner strength to pick herself up time and time again and how determined she has been to make something of her life, and to give her children a better life than she had had.

Jasvinder is very open and honest in this book, she shares many aspects of her life even the ones that perhaps don’t show her in the greatest light. I really valued that honesty, it would have been easy for her to just write about the way she was treated by other people and not to mention her own actions. I think all the things that happened to Jasvinder and to her family, combined with the things that she herself did are what made her who she is now. I was in awe of her reading about how she worked so hard to set up a place for music women to get advice and help, and ultimately founded a place of safety where they could go. It’s such an incredible achievement and you can’t fail to be moved and inspired by this story.

Ultimately, this is a very inspiring read. Jasvinder worked hard to get an education despite all the odds and then she made it her mission in life to help other women who had experienced what she had. She has achieved such great things and is an incredible woman.

I rate this book 4 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Hodder via Book Bridgr in exchange for an honest review.


The Wacky Man
The Wacky Man
Price: £2.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing and yet very beautiful novel, 20 May 2016
This review is from: The Wacky Man (Kindle Edition)
I’ve seen The Wacky Man reviewed on a couple of my favourite blogs and I immediately added it to my wishlist. I was therefore thrilled when the publisher got in touch to offer me the chance to review this book for the blog tour.

The Wacky Man is a very powerful and moving novel. It’s an unflinching look at how childhood abuse, and abuse within a marriage, causes such damage – not just physical damage but the emotional impact. It shows how even once the bruises have healed and the perpetrator of the violence is no longer in the home, that the devastation remains for such a long time. It causes breakdowns between the victims because although each person lived through it, they all got broken in a different way and it can become impossible to put things back together.

I found some aspects of this book very difficult to read, some parts because there are small echoes of experiences in my own life and some parts because it was just so harrowing to read. At no point did I want to stop reading though as the novel just pulls you right in and doesn’t let you go. I wanted to know if Amanda was going to be ok, and was desperately hoping she would be. I have such a vivid image of her in my mind, she feels like a real person to me as she was so well written and this makes the novel feel all the more devastating.

Lyn G. Farrell’s writing style is incredible – to write about such harrowing things and yet make it so compelling, and at times, really quite beautiful is a rare talent. I can absolutely say that this is a book that will stay with me for a very long time to come, and I feel sure it will be in my top books of this year.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Legend Press in exchange for an honest review.


This Must Be the Place
This Must Be the Place
Price: £9.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There aren't enough superlatives to describe this novel... it's quite simply a masterpiece!, 20 May 2016
This Must Be The Place is a novel set across different time frames and continents featuring many different characters but it’s predominantly about the marriage of Claudette and Daniel – two people who have both been trying to run away from their respective pasts but the problem with running away is that things usually catch up with you eventually. Claudette settles in to a new life to a degree but is never able to be herself when outside of her home, and Daniel is just a damaged soul who wants to do the right thing but finds himself compelled to fix previous wrongs, leading to cracks in his current life. It is also a novel about how seemingly tiny decisions can alter the course of someone’s life in such a dramatic way; how a miscommunication or a seemingly small misunderstanding can set people on a course that there is no way back from. It’s about how history can almost repeat itself through the generations but if small things are done differently the outcome can be different.

Daniel has made a lot of mistakes in his life. He has an ex-wife who has prevented him seeing his two children grow up. He’s remarried and has two children with his new wife but one day he discovers something from his past and it sets him off on a tangent that can potentially destroy his marriage and ruin his life. He seems doomed to end up on his own and unhappy. Daniel is a good man at heart, but he’s also a man who made one mistake many years ago and this seems destined to be his undoing in his present. It’s quite apparent that he really should just leave well alone but, it proved impossible for him to resist the lure of what could have been.

Maggie O’Farrell has used speech, words and sounds to great effect in this novel. There are repeated references throughout the novel to the use of language and the way words sound. At times it’s done in a playful way, like when Rosalind ‘trumpety trumped’ off on her adventure just like Nelly the elephant, and at other times it’s done to draw attention to people’s inability to say what they mean and to show the heartache it can then cause throughout the years. It was a great irony in this novel that Daniel, who has failed so often to say the right thing at the right time; or has said the right thing but too late; or he’s just said completely the wrong thing, is a linguistic professor. Daniel spends his days working with language and thinking about words, and yet he seems incapable of communicating openly with the people closest to him. He cuts all contact with his best friend, he takes too long to write a letter to a girlfriend and the consequences are devastating, he tries to communicate with his first two children but his ex- wife seemingly has prevented it.

It is mentioned a couple of times that Daniel’s mother had taught him about the importance of a genuine apology to resolve any situation. Daniel uses this to almost manipulate his best friend in order to get information that he feels entitled to about the past. It was uncomfortable to see Daniel being so callous, but he was on the beginning of his path to self-destruction at this point and can’t make his way back from it. Daniel does grow as a person as the novel progresses. He learns from his children that he has to grow up, his eldest son Niall, in particular, becomes a parent figure to him and gets him through the darkest moments and Daniel does actually learn from this. There is an apology near the end of the novel that is completely spontaneous where Daniel says what he feels from his heart in the moment, with no aim to gain anything or to manipulate, it is just him stating what he sees as a fact and it is a beautiful thing to read.

There are numerous voices that are heard in this novel, and each new perspective adds depth to what has gone before, even when initially you are wondering how this can possibly be connected. The back and forth of the timeframe adds new layers to Daniel’s story and we get to understand him more and more. There are moments that foretell what is yet to come for the characters and it leaves you with such a sense of dread wondering when the rug will be pulled from under the character concerned. The little cliffhangers that occur at the end of some chapters are soon returned to and you get the answer you were wondering about but nothing is ever straightforward. It is how real life is, and Maggie O’Farrell is the master of capturing this – no one does it better than her.

Maggie O’Farrell’s writing is sublime; she writes in such a way that all of her characters feel like real people and there were many times when the conversation between characters was so realistic that I felt like I was listening in behind a door. This Must Be The Place is an incredible novel. There are multiple characters and multiple timelines and it’s all pulled together in a way that is just sheer perfection. There is so much heart in this book: it has humour and wit, heartache and healing, and it’s all just so real and believable. There is such beauty in the way Maggie O’Farrell writes – the way she uses language, the way she constructs each sentence. It’s stunningly beautiful.

I always feel bereft when I get to the end of one of Maggie O’Farrell’s novels and I always feel like I want to immediately go back to the beginning and read it all again and I was no different with this book. It’s an absolute joy to read, I read it in just two sittings as once I started it I just couldn’t bear to put it down. There are not enough superlatives to describe this book; it is quite simply a masterpiece!

I rate this novel five out of five, but I would score it much higher if it was actually possible to do so. I know right now that This Must Be The Place will be in my top 10 books of this year, it was quite simply outstanding.


Shtum
Shtum
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was pleased to receive a review copy of Shtum a few ..., 20 May 2016
This review is from: Shtum (Kindle Edition)
I was pleased to receive a review copy of Shtum a few months ago as there had been a lot of hype around the book and I was really keen to see what it was all about. I have to be honest and admit that for the first few chapters of this book I really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to keep reading, it just wasn’t holding my attention at all. I’m glad that I persevered though because once I reached the halfway point I did find this book a lot more engrossing.

I don’t really feel qualified to talk about the representation of autism in this book because it’s not something that I have any direct experience of, however I do have friends who have children that are autistic but are affected to a much lesser degree than Jonah, and I also have a family member who is profoundly mentally and physically disabled, albeit not from autism, so I do have a little understanding. Jonah was a great character to read about, it’s not often that autism, or any profound disability, is portrayed in novels so I commend the author for writing this book.

Throughout the novel I wanted to feel sorry for Ben and Emma at the situation they were in with their son but they weren’t particularly likeable characters, which made it harder to care. For most of the book Ben was so self-pitying that it was very hard to even tolerate him, and I didn’t feel that I ever got to know enough about Emma to form much of an opinion. I can imagine that having a profoundly disabled child would be a strain on most, if not all, relationships so the breakdown between Emma and Ben was understandable. It was very strange how Emma went about the break up but then perhaps it was done in this way to highlight just how impossible it was for her to deal with Ben anymore, given how wrapped up he was in his own thoughts and feelings.
The biggest issue that I had with this book is the way certain issues were written about; it wasn’t so much the obsession with bodily functions but the way they were written about. So many of these particular paragraphs should have elicited sympathy for the characters going through it, and the person who has to deal with it, but the way it was written made me really quite angry. It felt like these characters, who did not have control over their own bodies anymore, were being treated with absolute contempt by the person who should have loved and cared for them the most. I know how difficult it is to be a carer and I know how difficult it is to have to be responsible for another person’s bodily functions and yet it did not bring out any empathy in me, and I feel like it really should have done. So much of it just left me cold. Perhaps this is what the author intended but it made me want to stop reading rather than making me want to understand Ben’s point of view.

On a much more positive note, I adored the relationship between Jonah and his grandfather, Georg. There were some wonderful and tender moments between them that did melt my heart, it was quite clear that they had a strong bond and that they really understood each other. It was this relationship that kept me reading the book.

This novel is very focused on what it is like to have an autistic child but actually at its heart it is much more about people’s inability to communicate. Emma couldn’t even directly tell her husband that she was leaving him; Georg and Ben had never had a conversation about what it was like for Georg growing up, and Ben only found out snippets when he was listening in to conversations that Georg was having with Jonah. There was also Ben’s problems with alcohol, which was masking the issues he had facing up to Jonah’s problems. So it became apparent to me that Jonah’s inability to speak was actually representative of the entire family’s inability to communicate with each other, they were all stifled and closed off and actually although Jonah couldn’t speak he was probably the most expressive of all the characters in this book; he may not always have expressed himself in a way that society would deem appropriate but he did always make himself heard when he needed or wanted something, and that is more than can be said for the other main characters in this book, and for me, this was the most interesting part of this story. The idea that the boy who could not speak actually expressed himself more than those that could speak is incredibly powerful and is a lesson to us all about how we need to learn to communicate better and, more importantly, that we must learn to pay attention to people and to not always focus on the words people use but to really see what they’re communicating to us.

I struggled with rating this book because it wasn’t really a book that I could say I enjoyed as such but it did become a book that I found interesting and it did give me a lot to think about when I’d finished it. I think overall I am going to rate this book 3.5 out of 5.

I received this book from the Orion via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.


Wonder Cruise: One woman's romantic adventure of a lifetime
Wonder Cruise: One woman's romantic adventure of a lifetime
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A delightfully, charming novel, which I adored!, 20 May 2016
I jumped at the chance to read this book when I was offered it for review, I’ll be honest that as soon as I saw the gorgeous cover I felt sure I would enjoy this novel, and I was absolutely right!

Wonder Cruise was written and set in the early 1930s and is a wonderful insight into the way life was for unmarried women in that era. Ann Clements is a 35 year old spinster who has a dull job as a typist, and is very much influenced by her brother, Cuthbert, who is a vicar. He keeps Ann on a tight rein and she never goes against what he says. Then one day her co-worker tells her that she has won some money in a sweepstake and Ann is left feeling very discombobulated. She agonises over what Cuthbert will say but then in a moment of spontaneity she books a mediterranean cruise – her boss encourages her to go and she does it on a whim. Despite Cuthbert’s thoughts on the matter Ann defies him and goes anyway!

This is a novel about one woman’s awakening to what is out there in the wider world. Ann has led a very sheltered, very dull life and suddenly her eyes are opened to new countries, new people and she begins to see what could be if she just lets go. Ann soon goes from feeling incredibly uncomfortable on the cruise and wondering if she’d made a huge mistake to gradually changing aspects of her look and beginning to fit in. Initially, she changes her hair because she is far too hot with her long hair pinned up on her head, but then she invests in a new wardrobe when it becomes obvious that her new wool tweed suit is not going to be practical in the mediterranean heat. Ann doesn’t just choose practical clothes though, she gets swept up in the shopping experience and for the first time in her life she buys pretty clothes.

Ann begins to attract the attention of some of the men on the cruise and gets swept up in the romance – she dances with one man, and she goes ashore with another man. It’s delightful to see how Ann changes as the novel goes on. She begins to dread the end of the cruise, almost wishing she’d never gone on it because now she has to go back to her drab life knowing what’s out there in the world. I found myself feeling quite sad at the thought of her going back to her miserable spinsterhood life and living under her brother’s control for the rest of her life. I couldn’t see how it would be any different but I was so hoping that it could be. I’m not going to give any spoilers but I loved the climax to this novel, for a while it went in a slightly different direction than I was expecting for a novel written in the 30s which was wonderful.

This novel is of its time in the sense that some of the opinions are a little outdated, and I’ll be very honest and admit that in the opening chapter I did wonder if this was going to be a very quaint and staid book and perhaps not my kind of thing, but from the moment Ann wins the money in the sweepstake I just got completely swept up in her adventure. Ann’s story does have a relevance to modern life in the sense that we should all follow our dreams, that it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and see what is out there in the wider world. There was so much more wit and humour than I was expecting throughout, and the book does have surprises in store. I enjoyed every page and didn’t want the book to end.

I rated Wonder Cruise 4.5 out of 5, it’s a delightfully charming novel, which I adored. I highly recommended it I can’t wait to read more of Ursula Bloom’s novels.

I received this book from Corazon Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.


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