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The Blurb:

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

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My thoughts: 

Well…I loved the premise of this book. Slightly dystopian, slightly sci-fi (not heavy sci-fi, so don’t be put off if that is not a genre you like), and fairly believable, I thought there was so much potential. The book follows five people – Mandy, Christopher, Jade, Nick and Ellie – who all find their match. The stories are all completely separate and are told in alternative chapters. The chapters themselves are short and choppy, and almost all of them seemed to end on a cliffhanger of sorts, which had the effect of making me want to read on and find out what happened. Unfortunately this did get a bit tired after a while, and some of the events and dialogue felt like it was out of a wildly melodramatic soap opera. What started out as almost a feasible situation soon turned into the ‘that would never happen’ category. But STILL, I found it compelling enough to read on.

I didn’t think many of the characters were particularly likeable – although Jade was the most sympathetic of the lot. There’s no doubt that John Marrs can think of a good twist, but there were just so many of them. Some of them I certainly didn’t predict though, and that it always a good thing.

For all that irked me, I did want to read the book and never actually got bored – more a case of eye rolling a lot!!

I would probably give something else by this author a try, as I think the initial idea was an excellent one. But one final note – there were so many spelling and grammar mistakes in this book that I can’t help hoping that he has better editors for his future work!

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Sci-fi, dystopian fiction, drama

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emma

This was always going to be an interesting read for me in one sense or another. This books is a new version of Jane Austen’s Emma (a modernisation of each Austen novel was written for a Harper Collins series and this was the third of that series). Emma is not only my favourite Austen novel, but quite possibly my favourite novel of all time by any writer. I’m always intrigued by book and film remakes/reboots/reimaginings/retellings or the numerous other re-whatevers that are around so I sorted of looked forward to reading this, while also approaching with some trepidation.

Anyway…to condense the storyline for anyone who is not familiar, Emma Woodhouse is a privileged young lady who gets pleasure from trying to organise her friends lives and relationships, and fancies herself as an expert matchmaker. However, her meddling is about to result in a few life lessons learned for Emma…

Honestly, having finished this book I am  not sure WHAT to make of it. I definitely didn’t hate it – McCall Smith has a gentle and genteel style of writing, which makes it easy reading, and this book more or less stays true to the original storyline. However, it never really sits well in the modern age. The characters still seem stuck in the original era, but whereas in Austen’s novel, there is sparkling wit and humour, and Emma seems quite a modern young lady, here she seems old-fashioned and something of a snob. Austen wrote that Emma was a heroine who nobody except herself would like (I actually love Emma’s character, flaws and all) and McCall Smith seems to have actually created this very Emma. There is nothing particularly warm about her, nothing to make the reader understand her or root for her, and attempts to remind us that it is set in the current day – mentions of modern technology, modern transport etc – do seem awkwardly shoehorned in, just to remind us that this is indeed a modern retelling. Thus, even if you take this as a novel on it’s own merits and try to block out thoughts of the original, it still doesn’t quite work.

I would have liked more Knightley in this one – he barely features – and less padding at the beginning; at almost 100 pages in and Harriet Smith still doesn’t warrant a mention!

So overall an interesting experience. I’m not disappointed that I read it, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to Austen lovers, unless like me, you’re curious to see how the story sits in a modern setting.

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If you knew your future…would you want to change it?

Jess Mount logs onto Facebook one day, and is horrified to see tributes to her posted from 18 months in the future, suggesting that she has died. Is there some kind of magic at work? It is an evil prank, or is Jess losing her mind? As she falls into a whirlwind romance with a new boyfriend, she hurtles towards her seemingly unstoppable fate and wonders if she can do something to change it. But when her timeline shows her that she has a child and she falls in love with her future son, she wonders if she even wants to change the future…

I thought this book had a really interesting premise and started out well. I would definitely say that the writing flowed well and made it an easy read despite some of the subject matter. However, I started to get annoyed with Jess quite early on, especially as all the important plot points were so clearly signposted and there were so many obvious things she could have done, but didn’t even think about (if and when you read this book, that sentence will make so much more sense!) I’m not sure that we ever really got to know Jess or her new boyfriend Lee, which made it harder to empathise with her. The story is told mainly from Jess’s point of view, with the occasional chapter written from the point of view of Lee’s mom Angela (who I couldn’t stand). There were also the Facebook posts and private messages, which somehow didn’t work for me; it was clear that they were there to fill in details for the reader, which meant that people said things that simply did not ring true. Intermittently, there were chapters from 2008 – eight years before the book is set – which take place just after Jess’s mother passed away, and I’m not sure what these added to the plot or if they were even necessary.

Most annoying to me was the fact that the Facebook posts were never explained. This just felt like laziness on the part of the author, and the ending was so quick that it felt rushed out.

I wouldn’t say I hated this book – I’d probably try another book by the same author – but I don’t feel that it lived up to it’s early promise.

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Listened to as an audiobook narrated by Napoleon Ryan.

Andrew Sumner is having a run of bad luck, but he believes that it is at an end when he meets the beautiful and captivating Charlie. The two of them begin a very intense relationship and are smitten with each other, but Charlie’s irrational jealousy causes problems between them. When things start going missing from Andrew’s flat, and his friends start being attacked – or worse – he starts to wonder if Charlie could be behind it…could the woman he loves really be a murderer….?

I am really in two minds about this book. There was a LOT that annoyed me, and that was before I even got to the ridiculous ending. First of all, there were continuity errors (I guess that is what you would call them; certainly if this was a film that is what they would be). For example near the beginning of the story, two characters go into a cafe in a railway station to have a chat, but halfway through it becomes a pub. In another part, two characters decide to get drunk on two bottles of gin which somehow turn into vodka. Okay, these things don’t impact on the story, but they annoy me and I feel that if I noticed them without looking, any half decent editor should have done as well.

Additionally, Andrew as a protagonist was just…blah. I couldn’t understand why any woman would become obsessed with him, although there’s no accounting for taste. More than anything he just seemed unbelievably stupid for putting up with so much of Charlie’s irrational behaviour, and largely (it seemed) because she was adventurous in bed. The ending was the biggest let-down. I don’t mind a good twist, but this was so mad as to be just plain stupid, and asked the reader to discount everything that had gone beforehand.

As a narrator Napoleon Ryan was fine when he was being Andrew – and as the book is narrated by Andrew, that was most of the time. But female voices are NOT his forte. In particular, Charlie’s voice just made her sound like a caricature out of a bad sitcom.

Yet – despite all this, I did find that the story rattled along at a good pace, and at one point I even found myself wanting to extend a long run so I could see how one particular subplot played out. So I do believe that Mark Edwards is capable of creating solid tension and mystery, even if his way of resolving things seemed to have come completely out of left field.

Would I listen to or read another book by this author? Well yes, I probably would. But I liken this one to eating junk food. It’s pretty enjoyable at the time but even while you’re consuming it, you know it’s not really that great, so it’s not something I would probably recommend to a friend.

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This was my most recent ‘listening while running’ audiobook, and the first book by Lucy Diamond I had read/listened to in any format.

There are four main characters – best friends India, Eve, Jo and Laura. They are all at a leisurely lunch to celebrate India’s birthday when they witness a horrific crash. The emotions it stirs up in each of them causes them all to take stock of their life. India is devastated to hear about one of the young victims of the crash, which strikes a chord with her due to her own personal history; Eve, always calm and in control, finds herself unsure of how to deal with the worrying lump she has found in her breast; Jo uncharacteristically jumps headlong into a new relationship which moves at lightning speed; and Laura, who has wanted a baby for years, feels the maternal pull more deeply than ever. As life changes for each of them, the one constant is their friendship and support for each other.

I liked this book more than I probably expected to. I think I was expecting a fluffy chick-lit novel, and while this is definitely aimed at a female readership, it actually wasn’t fluffy, and it addressed real life problems – health issues, past sorrows, changing relationships and new families – in a respectful way. I find it hard to choose a favourite character as happily all four women were very likeable.

The audiobook is narrated by Clare Wille, who did a good job of bringing all the characters to life and making them all distinctive. I don’t think the ending brought too many surprises, but it was satisfying and appropriate to the story which had gone before. Overall, this was a pleasant surprise and I would definitely read or listen to more books by Lucy Diamond.

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Alison, Jeff and their 15 year old daughter Katherine, have a happy and charmed life. They have money, security and genuinely love each other. Katherine is a school lacrosse star, an excellent student, and a popular girl. She is also the absolute centre of her mother’s universe – so that universe feels torn apart when one day a man knocks at their door and tells Alison that Katherine is the biological daughter of him and his deceased wife – it turns out that there was a mix up at the hospital, and that Alison and Jeff are the biological parents of his daughter Olivia. Even worse, Katherine may have inherited the gene that caused the cancer which killed his wife.

The family are thrust into a nightmare as Katherine comes to terms with new siblings, a new history, and worst of all trying to decide whether to take the test which will determine whether she has the dangerous gene.

I wanted to read this book for two reasons – first I thought the premise sounded really interesting. Second, I had read another book by Adele Parks many years ago, and had really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, The Stranger In My Home turned out to be a bit of a let down.

I listened to the novel as an audiobook, read by Rachel Atkins. Overall her narration was good, but there were a lot of whispered parts which made it difficult to hear, and I had to go back a little on quite a few occasions to listen again. (Now, admittedly I listen to my audiobooks when I’m out running, so there is traffic and other outside noises around, but I doubt that I am particularly unusual in listening to a book outside.)

The main reason I couldn’t really enjoy the book was the main character. Alison is the narrator for the most part – there is the occasional flashback to her early life, which is an attempt to explain her devotion to her daughter…I say devotion, but it’s actually more like an obsession. Of course mothers love their children more than it is possible to express, but my goodness this was one obsessed mother. And she never missed an opportunity! By the end of the book I was quite sick of hearing Katherine’s name.

The other problem was that after the initial shock, the book slowed down to a snail’s pace and for ages nothing really happened except teenagers being moody and Alison obsessing about her daughter. In the last part of the book, there is a sudden plot twist, which unfortunately struck me as preposterous, but nonetheless did come as a complete surprise. But for me it was much too little and way too late.

I didn’t hate this book enough to give up on it, but for some reason I feel able to listen to audiobooks even while finding them less than enjoyable. And despite my more scathing than I intended review, it wasn’t awful. it was just far from what it could have been and basically underwhelming.

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This is the story of two New York sisters – Meghan Fitzmaurice is America’s favourite breakfast television anchor, while younger sister Bridget is a social worker, trying to help women from the Bronx projects find a better life. The sisters are good friends, and life seems to be coasting along nicely – until the day that Meghan, not realising that she is still on air, swears on live television and her career and personal life both go into freefall.  The fallout affects not just Meghan, but her husband Evan and their teenage son Leo.

Narrated by Bridget, the story takes in not just the aftermath of Meghan’s error, but is also a love letter of sorts to New York, and a history of the two sisters’ lives as well as their relationships with the men – and other people – in their lives.

I wasn’t too sure what to make of this book. On the one hand, I definitely think Anna Quindlen is a talented writer and I found myself reading large chunks in one go which is always a good sign (a bad sign is when I put a book down after a few pages and look for something else to distract myself). On the other hand….I felt slightly removed from the action. This was not one of those books where you feel excited to find out what will happen next and neither did I really care about any of the characters. Although the on-air gaffe was entirely unbelievable, the incredible over-reaction to it was not so much. I didn’t warm to Meghan much at all, and possibly this was because the story was narrated by Bridget – even though Bridget is possibly her sister’s biggest supporter. I think it was an interesting idea to have the sister as the narrator, but it would have been quite nice to see Meghan’s point of view, even if perhaps they alternated chapter narrations.

From other reviews I’ve read it seems that fans of Quindlen’s other books were largely disappointed with this one. For me, this was actually the first book of hers that I’ve read and I would probably be interested in trying another on the back of it.

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