Monday, 18 October 2021

What I read in May 2021 {Monthly Reading Round Up}

(This post contains a book that was gifted to me it has been marked with a *

Inclusion and reviews are entirely my decision and any thoughts are my own.)

I am just a little behind on my reading round up posts at the minute. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will have got caught up and shared all the books I have read so far this year. I'm just starting where I left of which was back in May when I hit my highest amount of books read in a month with 11 whole books finished! 

I think it really helped that I loved every single book and several of these books kept me hooked right in from the beginning. Which has made it hard to choose my favourites this month. It's these favourites that I will be sharing a more detailed review on in this post. I will also write the outline story for all the books included, my more in depth reviews are all over on my GoodReads if you want to see what I thought more closely. 

Northern Spy- ★★★★★

by Flynn Berry

When I first picked this book up I had prepared myself to see a different view on Northern Ireland or missing pieces from the story that you would only notice or find if you actually lived here in NI. I however was very pleased to find out just how wrong I was and the American Author has done an incredible job telling this story.

Tessa is Northern Irish woman who works as a producer for the Belfast office of the BBC, A very British TV service. It is set in 2019 and Northern Ireland has regressed back into the conflict that was supposed to be left behind after The Good Friday Agreement. The latest news on a new IRA raid is broadcasting in the evening news. An armed gas station robbery in Templepatrick, that's when Tessa's sister Marian, is suddenly on the screen wearing a balaclava over her head. 

Now Tessa is force to face questions of herself, her mother, the police and she must find out if her sister Marian joined the IRA. How did she do it, when did she do it and most importantly, at least for Tessa is Why did she do it? Tessa must find the answers and she will have to make some big decisions, the biggest being which is more important to her, what she really believes in and her values or her family. Is she willing to risk it all to keep her family?
I ploughed through this book, I just couldn't put it down. It's a fast paced story which keeps you wanting to find out what comes next. I really had the impression this storyline would follow along with some of the more publicised events of the troubles but I have to hand it to Flynn Berry it was very much different. 

 Tessa's story, her back story and her beliefs are all modernised, she isn't someone who has no desire to mix the cultures of Catholics and Protestants together. She is a Catholic woman with a good standing job in the BBC, British TV. If your from Northern Ireland or just have a good understanding of the troubles then you will know that is a huge deal for a character in a book with the events that Northern Spy has. The most impressive part for me is how well Flynn Barry created a timeline of really plausible events. 

I live in Belfast, I have been to many of the places this books events are set in, I have swam inside Anderson Town Leisure Centre and stood inside St George's Market. I can effortlessly place myself in the shoes of each character, follow their footsteps and feel their surroundings with my own experiences. The effect of this experience is that I know just how real every word of this book can be. It may have been set two years ago but the IRA very well could lead a fight for Irish Independence in the modern age. This story could still one day be a future that Northern Ireland faces which makes reading this all the more incredible, heartbreaking and terrifying in good measure. 

I highly recommend you read this book if your from here, even if your not it's a gripping read that will keep you turning the page. One of my favourite books this year.

Asking for a Friend - ★★★★☆

by Andi Osho

Three best friends start playing a dating game after Simi (the one who's always falling for the guy on the first date) gets her latest "it's not you, it's me" speech. The game is born in the hope that Simi will see the reasoning of her friends and date so that she finds someone she is really happy with and not just settling for it'll work because I really want it to. 

Simi has her own ideal ending for the game, she wants Jemima (the one who had her heart broken and has sworn off men forever) to get back in the dating game and to start finding her own happiness again. Not to mention she's on a deadline to add some romance into her latest book or risk being fire all together. 

Jemima isn't so convinced the game is for her. That's until Megan (the one with the 10 year plan and her friend with benefits) suggests that the game will give her the inspiration her novel desperately needs. Jemima is also hoping Megan will ditch her 10 year plan that she has been religiously stuck to for years now and find someone that doesn't fit inside her perfectly constructed box. 

The dating game? Well that's the best part, they must all find perfect dates for each other, plus they have to ask them out for their friend so that no woman gets left behind. 

But will it all actually go to plan?

This is a really enjoyable read with lots of friendship drama thrown in, the fact the main characters are all women of colour just added to the story for me. 

A Deadly Influence - ★★★★★

by Mike Omer

A hostage negotiator for the NYPD, Abby Mullen is highly trained in how to deal with a crisis. She doesn't think anything can phase her now, She's an expert in getting everyone out of a situation safely. When she gets a call from Eden Fletcher however, things begin to change. Eden's little boy has been kidnapped and the ransom has been set to $5 million. An impossible amount on a waitress salary. 

Abby and Eden know each other, they happen to be two out of three survivors from the Wilcox Massacre which was the end of the infamous Wilcox Cult. Since then their lives couldn't have been more different, one grew up in the care system while the other in the arms of a loving family. The past is something that Abby has hidden inside her own mind, locking away the awful memories of her time inside the cult. She just can't seem to escape from them when things start coming up and reminding her of her life before. She's growing more and more sure that Eden just isn't sharing the whole truth with her.

Will they find Eden's son and uncover the truth behind his abduction?

In my opinion this book is a must read! It involves elements of over sharing on social media and delves into the darker side of what can go wrong. The inclusion of cults just makes it all the more secretive and the added layer of drama keeps the story moving in a great way. I loved this book and have just discovered the second in the series has been released, it's now on my must read list! 

The Girls In The Attic - ★★★★★

Marius Gabriel

What would you do if you had been a German soldier in WWII and returned home, injured to find your mother has taken in two Jewish girls, she's helping to hide from the Nazi's?

That is the scene a wounded soldier called Max found upon arriving home. He had suffered a severe head injury and been discharged from service. Of course Max immediately wants to report the two women to the SS in his town. 

Despite his great desire to rid himself of the two Jewish women, Max simply can't do it. Through living with the two bright young women Max is forced to really start questioning the Nazi Regime. He had joined up the army to try to atone for the sins of his father, an Anti-Hitler fanatic who died for his beliefs. The tale of The Girls In The Attic follows Max, his mother and the two women as they navigate through their lives in Nazi Germany with two hidden Jewish women while being a decorated Nazi soldier. We follow them through the final stages of the war when the fighting itself is brought straight to their door steps and is happening on every side of them. The Nazi rule is coming to it's close. 

Surely this will be the end of their plight? 

I have to say that this was an incredible read, I simply couldn't put it down once it got going! We've all at some point learnt about the Nazi regime in schools as part of history. We focus on the long facts about how Germany became the Nazi state, the soldiers, the war, the concentration came and we even learn of a few famous Germans who saved countless Jewish people from Hitler's grasp. There is however much of the fear, the hiding and more left out, we don't learn of the daily life of hiding Jewish people. We don't think about the long periods of time without being outside these people suffered through. All of this is shown in detail throughout The Girls In The Attic, it's a heart-breaking read that contains some incredibly joyous moments at a time in the world when life was controlled and fear ruled. There is a love story hidden within this story, it's beautiful, poetic but most of all it's a reminder that all people are people, nobody is worth less than anyone else. This is a lesson we still need to learn today. 

Another must read!

This Time Next Year - ★★★★★

by Sophie Cousens

Would you have an answer if someone asked "What do you want to be doing this time next year?", it's a question Minnie's best friend Leila asks everyone she is with one New Year's Eve each year. A fairly simple question of what you want in exactly one year's time.

At the end of 2019 Minnie has no idea what the world will look like for her in the future, she's expecting her pie business to finally hit it off and move forward. What she wasn't expecting was Quinn, his mother and the rest of the year that came with it. Minnie made plans to end her year at a New Year's Eve party with her boyfriend's friends. She was prepared for her yearly curse to rear it's ugly head once again. You see Minnie has the worst luck on New Year's Eve, which happens to be the day before her birthday. 

It all began when she was born 1 minute after another child who happened to be the first one born in London in 1990. This baby was Quinn, who's mother had stolen Minnie's name!  Of course Minnie never expects to be stood watching the sunrise on January first with the one and only name stealer Quinn when the night starts to go horribly wrong. 

This was another book I really enjoyed reading, it was a feel good, rom com and I loved it! This book got quite a lot of hype last year and I can certainly see why! I was laughing, crying, getting frustrated, sad and every other emotion you can think of along the way during this read. 

Dead Inside, Dead Wrong, Dead Perfect and Dead Secret - ★★★★★

by Noelle Holton

Please be aware there is a trigger warning of Domestic Violence and Murder in these books.

One of my favourite series this year! DC Maggie Jamieson is the lead character, in the first book Dead Inside she has joint a brand new task force to deal with the ever increasing amount of Domestic Violence in the area. The dead bodies of abusers start showing up and without any leads the taskforce is searching desperately for the answers.

During the second book, Dead Wrong DC Maggie Jamieson has been called back to her old team, when a murderer behind bars after confessing his crime to her. It's been two years and the new murders are just the beginning of this story! 3 women have been missing without the police realising for the last 2 years. Can they finally answer the unanswered questions from the original case? 

By the third book, Dead Inside DC Maggie Jamieson investigates a murder with some eerie circumstances. The victim has been disfigured, had an outfit change and looks remarkably like someone she knows. Can they figure this case out and get the person responsible before more people are hurt?

In the final book (so far) Dead Secret, We follow DC Maggie Jamieson as she tries to figure out a confusing case. A young man has been found murdered with a constellation of black dots drawn on his cheek. Right around the same time a Domestic Violence survivor has shown up at a new refuge in the Domestic Violence task force's area. She won't speak but is desperate for help. Just days later, DCI Hastings still hasn't shown up for work and DC Maggie Jamieson uncovers a connection that sends the case in completely different direction.

I have been purposely vague in the description of these books, I read them all together because I simply had to know what came next. They are a wonderful read and I enjoyed every single word! I was shocked, happy, sad and everything in between. The characters all feel like a huge family which I'm being given the inside scoop on! They are fantastic and I recommend the series if you enjoy detective based books. 

Love Locked Down - ★★★★★

by Beth Reckles

*This book was gifted to me in turn for a review on GoodReads .* 

In the Beginning of a new virus outbreak, a whole apartment block goes into lockdown. The world outside just keeps on going while those locked inside the apartment block might just be about to have their lives changed forever.

It all begins on a Sunday morning when all the residents of the apartments in London Lane wake to find a notice posted under their doors, informing them that the building is on a 7 day quarantine and nobody will be allowed to come inside or leave the building. Love Locked Down follows the lives of those inside 5 of the apartments. Ethan and Charlotte are a new couple who end up locked on either side of the door Charlotte had been packing up her childhood home for her parents to sell, she returns to find she's no longer allowed inside. 

While Imogen and Nate have had a one night stand, only to wake and find that it's going to be repeated for another 7 days! Imogen had been sneaking out when she discovers she locked inside with the man she tried to leave asleep in his bed.

Isla and Dan are another new couple who are going to be putting their relationship through some hoops that neither was quite ready for.  It wasn't what either of them expected one month into their relationship. 

Even the longer of relationships of 4 years can be put to the test in quarantine. One pineapple pizza sized test reveals that Zach and Serena have a few things they can't hide away from any longer. 

Which leaves just Liv who tried to call off the wedding prep weekend she had planned for her best friend. Now she is stuck inside with the bridezilla and two complete strangers for an extra 7 days of wedding preparations in her tiny one bedroom apartment. Can the four women survive a week inside the small, messy apartment together. 

It was a hilarious read which had be in fits of giggles! This one doesn't release until next year and was originally called Lockdown on London Lane, this has now been changed. I think this book makes a perfect way to look back on the year 2020 when life for everyone was literally turned upside down. 

I really liked that there was so many diverse characters, each with different jobs, lives, wealth, abilities and the fat their lives have just been put on pause. It was wonderful that the author included a range of employers who had differing opinions on working through lockdown or not too. 

I highly recommend this read when it comes out in 2022! It is a great Rom-Com

The Mixtape - ★★★★★

by Brittainy Cherry

Oliver has lost his twin brother and band mate. Now he's trying to please his fans and trying to find himself. Oliver is trying to drink away his problems, along with his grief. The problem is he's not good at it, his problems follow him where ever he seems to go. Not to mention the paparazzi who are determined to catch him at his lowest low. He just happens to walk into Emery's bar on that lowest night.

Emery is feeling totally alone, she is raising her daughter as she struggles to hold her job bartending at night to pay her bills and not lose their home. Emery has no support system to fall back on, any unexpected expense or added bill will throw their whole world upside down on them. 

While drowning in her own problems, Emery helps Oliver to lose the crowd of fans and paparazzi. The two are each scared by their own loss. Can the two navigate the world around them and find a love that will outlast it all?

This was a true feel good read, there was so many moments of sadness but it was also full of equally joyous moments too. I loved all of the characters, especially Emery's daughter! A great read.

I do realise how lucky it has been during the month of May to read 11 books that have been incredible, so much so that I still remember each in October! I haven't managed to read as many books since then but I will be doing another update to hopefully cover the months between June and August soon.


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