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So, I've decided to take a blog break.

Currently I'm not sure as to whether this will be a permanent thing or just for a few months, but recently it's come to my attention that there is way too much going on in my life right now in terms of work, my own writing and other hobbies for me too keep it up, and that something has to go.

I've been book blogging for quite some time now - the best part of a decade actually - and I've loved it. It's been a great outlet, a great place to share my love of books with others, read ARCs of upcoming releases, and meet some fantastic people, such as authors, publishers and fellow book lovers. I've always been a big reader and so being able to blog about one of my biggest passions has been amazing.

That said, it does take up a lot of time, and currently, it's time I don't have much of. I have a full-time job, and I'm also a writer. I'm going to be starting a new novel soon. Promoting a novel takes up a lot of time too. Add to that other interests, such as exercise and reading (and being a book blogger, there is always a huge TBR pile), and it doesn't leave me with much time to wind down after a busy week. Book blogging can often feel like an additional job. Sometimes, I'm exhausted.

After recently taking up another sport-related hobby I have decided that if I want to do it, then I will need to give up something else. And sadly, it seems as though book blogging will have to be The One.

I've been blogging about books for a long time now, and I would much rather give it up than run a blog that's practically inactive. I have spent a long time reading and sharing and being part of a fantastic community but for now, I'm going to have to take a step back.

Thank you for reading, and goodbye for now!

Elle x

PICKS: Five Upcoming Thrillers

It might only be the start of the year, but there are so many fantastic-looking books coming up in the next few months, including some great thrillers. If you're looking for an edge-of-your-seat psychological read then here's a selection of five thrillers to watch out for!

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll (released May 15th)
Brett and Kelly Courtney are the shining jewels in a New York-based reality TV show called Goal Diggers. One of the most popular shows on American national television, its fiercely competitive cast of five self-made women are defined by their success, beauty and ruthless drive to reach the top by whatever means necessary.

The Courtney sisters’ rivalry goes skin deep despite the blossoming business they have built together that helps disadvantaged women in Morocco. Harbouring bitter jealousies and dark secrets about their manufactured screen lives they’re joined by three other hyper-competitive women who all have their own agendas. And the latest season promises sparks to fly in the quest for even higher ratings.

Vicious backstabbing, scathing social media attacks and finely-tuned scripting draw in the viewing public every week, all orchestrated by the show’s omnipotent producers. But even they don’t know that season 4 will end in murder...

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (released February 8th)
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.

It’s about a jealous wife, obsessed with her replacement.

It’s about a younger woman set to marry the man she loves.

The first wife seems like a disaster; her replacement is the perfect woman.

You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.

You will be wrong.

The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne (released March 8th)
You trust her with your family. Would you trust her with your life?

Mark and Melissa Cain are thrilled to have found Jade, a babysitter who is brilliant with their young children. Having seen her own house burn to the ground, Jade needs them as much as they need her. Moving Jade into the family home can only be a good thing, can’t it?

As Mark works long hours as a police officer and Melissa struggles with running a business, the family become ever more reliant on their babysitter, who is only too happy to help. And as Melissa begins to slip into depression, it’s Jade who is left picking up the pieces.

But Mark soon notices things aren’t quite as they seem. Things at home feel wrong, and as Mark begins to investigate their seemingly perfect sitter, what he discovers shocks him to his core. He’s met Jade before. And now he suspects he might know what she wants …

Mark is in a race against time to protect his family. But what will he find as he goes back to his family home?

Under the Sun by Lottie Moggach (released July 13th)
Anna gave up everything she had in London - her flat, her job, her friends - to run away to Spain and live the dream with the handsome, complicated artist she had fallen in love with. They were building a life together, renovating a beautiful finca in the mountains - but then Michael left, with little more than a note to say goodbye, and Anna's future crashed around her ears. Now she runs a bar in the sleepy beach town of Marea, surrounded by British expats who moved out to find their own place in the sun and are secretly as homesick and stuck as Anna now feels. 

When a local man, Simon, offers to rent her house, Anna hopes it will pave the way for her escape. But Simon is not who he says he is, and it soon transpires that his tenants are a group of African migrants that Anna fears he may be exploiting. When a dead body washes up on the beach in mysterious circumstances, Anna realises she alone has the power to unravel the truth... Gripping, poignant, witty and brilliantly observed, Under the Sun is an unforgettable novel about heartbreak, identity, migration and finding a place to call home.

The Pact by S.E. Lynes (released February 27th)
You made a promise to your sister. It could destroy your daughter. 

The Daughter 
15-year-old Rosie lies in hospital fighting for her life. She’s trying to tell her mother what happened to her, and how she got there, but she can’t speak the words out loud. 

The Mother
Rosie’s mother Toni has a secret. She had a traumatic childhood, and she and her sister Bridget made each other a promise thirty years ago: that they could never speak the truth about what they went through as children, and that they would protect each other without asking for help from others, no matter what…

Rosie was Toni’s second chance to get things right: a happy, talented girl with her whole life ahead of her. Having lost her husband in a tragic accident, Toni has dedicated her life to keeping Rosie safe from harm. 

But Rosie has plans that her mother doesn’t know about. She has dreams and ambitions – of love, of a career, of a life beyond the sheltered existence that her mother has created for her. But the secrets Rosie has been keeping have now put her life in danger. 

The Pact
In order to save Rosie, Toni may have to break her lifelong promise to her sister… and open doors to her past she hoped would remain closed forever. 

PICKS: Five Women's Fiction releases for February

It's February; a brand new month, and with it comes some great new books. Here's the SH selection of five, including new reads from Tracy Bloom (author of the No One Ever series), and Shopaholic author Sophie Kinsella.

Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson
Willow’s mother Rosie isn’t like the other mums. She wears every colour of the rainbow, has midnight feasts, and sends Willow to school covered in paint.

Meanwhile, Rex is the sort of father who checks Willow’s homework, has a rule for everything, and would never dream of playing in the dirt.

Now Rosie and Rex live in different places, Willow knows her mum needs her even more. But Rosie’s multi-coloured way of looking at the world can be overwhelming. These days, it feels like Rosie is spinning off her axis – and taking Willow with her. As if, one day, Rosie might disappear for good.

And what would happen to Willow then?

The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans
Tony and Althea Wilde. Glamorous, argumentative ... adulterous to the core.

They were my parents, actors known by everyone. They gave our lives love and colour in a house by the sea - the house that sheltered my orphaned father when he was a boy.

But the summer Mads arrived changed everything. She too had been abandoned and my father understood why. We Wildflowers took her in.

My father was my hero, he gave us a golden childhood, but the past was always going to catch up with him ... it comes for us all, sooner or later.

This is my story. I am Cordelia Wilde. A singer without a voice. A daughter without a father. Let me take you inside.

The Last Laugh by Tracy Bloom
‘I’ve googled it, how to die,’ Jenny says to Maureen. ‘It was full of climbing this mountain, swimming that sea, becoming a marathon runner and raising millions for charity.’

‘Sounds like bloody hard work. You can make it more fun than that surely?’

Jenny discovers her days are numbered at the same time she discovers her husband is having an affair… 

Frankly, her life was tough enough already. Two tricky teenagers, her mother’s constant complaints, friends who aren’t up to the job and a career which has been spiralling downwards since she won ‘Sunseeker Tour Rep of the Season’ twenty years ago. 

And now this: a cheating husband and a death sentence.

Enough is enough. Jenny vows to keep both catastrophes a secret. She takes her life – and death – into her own hands and decides to live as she did when she was happiest… in 1996. She plans a spectacular 1990’s themed party in place of a wake that she herself will attend. But will she be able to keep her secrets for long enough to have the party of a lifetime? 

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other's sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it's casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years... and panic sets in.

They quickly decide to create little surprises for each other, to keep their relationship fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me - anything from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to photo shoots - mishaps arise with disastrous and comical results.

Gradually, the surprises turn to shocking discoveries. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all...

Woman Last Seen in her Thirties by Camille Pagan
At fifty-three, Maggie Harris has a good marriage and two mostly happy children. Perpetually anxious, she’s also accumulated a list of semi-reasonable fears: falling air conditioners, the IRS, identity theft, skydiving, and airbag recalls. But never once did Maggie worry that her husband of nearly thirty years would leave her.

On the day Adam walks out the door, everything that makes Maggie secure goes with him. Only then does she realize that while she’s been busy caring for everyone else, she’s become invisible to the world—and to herself.

Maggie cautiously begins to rebuild her life with a trip to Rome, a new career, and even a rebound romance. But when a fresh crisis strikes and an uncertain future looms, she must decide: How much will she risk to remain the woman she’s just become?

BOOK REVIEW: When My Ship Comes In by Sue Wilsher

I’m not a huge reader of historical fiction, however I do have a fondness for wartime fiction, and stories set in the 1950s, which has seen me gain quite a collection and to seek out books from new authors. It’s especially interesting to delve into the lives of women; women who worked, women who raised families, women who would strive to keep themselves and their families together during times of much poverty and sorrow.

When My Ship Comes In is the debut novel from Sue Wilsher. It had been on my to-read pile for some time, mainly because I was waiting for a weekend to devote to it. Once I had finished it, I wish I’d read it much sooner, because it’s such a brilliant book.

It’s 1959, and Flo Blundell is scarcely managing to make ends meet. Living in a cramped tenement flat near Tilbury Docks with her short-tempered husband Fred, young son Mikey and twin teenage daughters Babs and Jeanie, Flo earns money cleaning the upmarket cruise liners, as she struggles to keep the family fed and clean. After all, her mother always told her about the importance of keeping a family together. Yet Flo holds a secret dream of taking the children and escaping on one of the huge liners, to travel to Australia and begin a new life away from Fred’s violent hand.

But her dream is shattered when Fred’s drinking, and his short fuse, result in him losing his job at the Tilbury docks – and with it the flat in the Dwellings. However, the family is saved from inevitable poverty when Fred manages to land a job at the nearby leather factory, Monday’s.

Working at Monday’s seems like a dream in itself – the workers are trained well with opportunities for promotion and college, there are dinners and dances and social clubs, and the family find themselves in a new house full of modern gadgets that Flo had never imagined she’d own. There’s also the Young Wives Club, run by boss’s wife Maggie, who seems to take a liking to Flo.

Things are looking up for the Blundells – that is, providing that Fred puts an end to his drunken, violent ways. Any more trouble and the family will be out for good…

Meanwhile, Babs and Jeanie are adhering differently to their new lives at Monday’s. Babs is in awe at the attention from boys, and her talent at sewing. Jeanie on the other hand is quiet and studious, and jumps at the chance to get an education. Living in the shadow of her confident sister has never really bothered Jeanie that much, until a boy comes into her life and changes everything…

This is a wonderful novel about women with dreams, held back by those around them and society’s ideals. The book opens with a powerful scene, and immediately we get an insight into Flo’s situation. The reality of her coping, living day to day in a tiny bedsit with a family to take care of. She hadn’t intended to get pregnant so early, but it’s what life dealt her and she has worked hard. And when the opportunity arises for Flo to be a career woman and better herself, it seems the world is against her. A situation which a lot of women faced in the 1950s. Flo is a strong woman, willing to go against the odds to keep her family safe and cared for. Even when certain obstacles threaten to hold her back.

When My Ship Comes In is so hard to put down. It’s an emotional, gripping journey, a fantastic debut, and I loved every page. I’m looking forward to more from Sue Wilsher in the future.

Rating: 5/5

SERIES NEWS: Laura Lake returns in Last of the Summer Moet by Wendy Holden

Laura Lake, heroine of Wendy Holden’s brilliantly funny 2017 novel Three Weddings and a Scandal (previously published as Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings – personally I prefer the original!) returns in August for the next instalment in the series.

In Last of the Summer Moet, Laura’s back, and standing in as the editor of a glossy society mag. This time she’s dealing with her somewhat crazy BFF whose new country life isn’t going to plan...

Laura Lake, deputy editor of glossy mag Society, has been promoted to the hot seat while her boss recovers from 'exhaustion' in rehab. Finally she's in charge, but who can she share the free jollies with?

Not her international glamourpuss BFF Lulu, who's left Knightsbridge for Britain's poshest village. Lulu's busy living the good life at her new pile Riffs, a ex-rock star's ex-country mansion.

But not everything in her guitar-shaped garden is lovely; Lulu's attempts to join the hunt, act in the panto and grow the biggest marrow are blocked by the snobbish locals.

Who does she call on for help? Journo extraordinaire, Laura Lake...

BOOK REVIEW: Mummy With Benefits by Marilyn Bennett

I came across Marilyn Bennett’s novel Mummy With Benefits – The Fall From Grace on Netgalley, and was intrigued by the synopsis. It seemed like a fun, somewhat quirky tale of a journey into new motherhood. Main character Grace is about to become a mum, and she still isn’t completely sure which of her two friends is the baby’s father. Sure, Grace’s current setup isn’t exactly the perfect family life she imagined – but does it have to be?

Let me just state before I begin that this is going to be a bit of a strange review. The main reason? I just couldn’t finish this novel. And I absolutely hate giving up on books. Before I go on, I need to point out that I didn’t give up on it because it’s a bad book – not at all.

The blurb sounded great. The opening instantly hooked me. Marilyn Bennett has a great writing style that I fell for straight away; witty, real, with added humour. However, at the beginning of Mummy With Benefits I found myself confused as to what was going on. Characters appeared who, it seemed, had already been established; events were referenced that had not yet happened, mentioned as though I should have known about them already. I checked my Kindle, wondering if, in my haste to board my train home, I’d accidentally skipped a chunk of the novel. I hadn’t, but after a quick look on Goodreads and Amazon, it became clear what the issue was.

Mummy With Benefits is not a standalone novel. It is, in fact, a sequel to Marilyn’s previous book, Granny With Benefits.

Sadly, I hadn’t read Granny With Benefits, and wouldn’t have requested the sequel had I known what it was, simply because I hadn’t read the first. And judging by other reviews, I wasn’t the only one left confused by this book (although I did get to nearly 20% before giving up entirely). I just couldn’t finish it, and not because I didn’t like it – I WANTED to like it. I enjoyed the beginning, so much so that I now want to read the first book as well as this one. But there was just so little context that there was no point in carrying on.

I have read a few books which have been part of a series, in which previous events and characters are briefly explained so that you can pick them up without having to read the previous ones. Mummy With Benefits is not one of these books. Which isn’t at all a problem, IF readers are made aware from the start that this is a sequel. In this case, that fact is not made clear on the cover or book information, causing some readers to dive in and become quickly baffled.

That said, Mummy With Benefits is a fast-paced and fun book up to a point, and I know I would have enjoyed it had I read book one. Which I am now planning on doing, as like I said, I enjoy Marilyn Bennett’s writing style and I don’t want to miss out on what might be an excellent series. Until then, I’m going to give this book 2.5 stars, only because having not read the book entirely, it’d be unfair to give it a higher rating at this time. It’s definitely one to revisit though!

Rating: 2.5/5

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

NEW YEAR, NEW READS: Five January women's fiction releases

It's a brand new month - the first of a brand new year! Now that the Christmas festivities have passed, it's time for the fresh, new feeling of a new chapter (or two! Or, y'know, thirty). I'm talking books as well as resolutions here...

Kicking off 2018 with the first selection of the new year, here are five upcoming releases to look out for this month.

This Love Story Will Self Destruct by Leslie Cohen
This is the classic tale of boy meets girl: Girl…goes home with someone else.

Meet Eve. She’s a dreamer, a feeler, a careening well of sensitivities who can’t quite keep her feet on the ground, or steer clear of trouble. She’s a laugher, a crier, a quirky and quick-witted bleeding-heart-worrier.

Meet Ben. He’s an engineer, an expert at leveling floors who likes order, structure, and straight lines. He doesn’t opine, he doesn’t ruminate, he doesn’t simmer until he boils over.

So naturally, when the two first cross paths, sparks don’t exactly fly. But then they meet again. And again. And then, finally, they find themselves with a deep yet fragile connection that will change the course of their relationship—possibly forever.

Follow Eve and Ben as they navigate their twenties on a winding journey through first jobs, first dates, and first breakups; through first reunions, first betrayals and, maybe, first love. This is When Harry Met Sally reimagined; a charming tale told from two unapologetically original points of view. With an acerbic edge and heartwarming humor, debut novelist Leslie Cohen takes us on a tour of what life looks like when it doesn’t go according to plan, and explores the complexity, chaos, and comedy in finding a relationship built to last.

Faking Friends by Jane Fallon
Best friend, soulmate, confidante . . . backstabber.

Amy thought she knew everything there was to know about her best friend Melissa. Then again, Amy also thought she was on the verge of the wedding of her dreams to her long-distance fiancé.

Until she pays a surprise trip home to London. Jack is out, but it's clear another woman has been making herself at home in their flat.

There's something about her stuff that feels oddly familiar . . . and then it hits Amy. The Other Woman is Melissa.

Amy has lost her home, her fiancé and her best friend in one disastrous weekend - but instead of falling apart, she's determined to get her own back.

Piecing her life back together won't be half as fun as dismantling theirs, after all.

Still Me by Jojo Moyes
Lou Clark knows too many things . . .

She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London.

She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to meet someone who's going to turn her whole life upside down.

Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it'll hurt.

Lou won't know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything.

Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews
After splitting up with her cheating ex, Ruby Brown is ready for a change. She's single again for the first time in years and she's going to dive into this brave new world with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. The last thing she's looking for is a serious relationship.

Mason represents everything Ruby wants right now: he's charming, smooth and perfect for some no-strings-attached fun, and yet Ruby can't help feel that something is missing. Joe on the other hand is kind and attentive, but he comes with the sort of baggage Ruby wants to avoid: an annoyingly attractive ex-wife and two teenage children.

And though Ruby thinks she knows what she wants, is it what she needs to be truly happy? It's about to get emotional in Million Love Songs.

Between Me and You by Alison Winn Scotch
When their paths first cross, Ben Livingston is a fledgling screenwriter on the brink of success; Tatum Connelly is a struggling actress tending bar in a New York City dive. They fall in love, they marry, they become parents, and they think only of the future. But as the years go by, Tatum’s stardom rises while Ben’s fades. In a marriage that bears the fallout of ambition and fame, Ben and Tatum are at a crossroads. Now all they can do is think back…

A life of passion, joy, tragedy, and loss—once shared—becomes one as shifting and unpredictable as a memory. As the pieces of their past come together, as they explore the ways love can bend and break, Ben and Tatum come to see how it all went wrong—and wonder what they can do now to make it all right.