The Mummy Bloggers by Holly Wainwright

The Mummy Bloggers is a fun read that brilliantly portrays the competitive world of parenting blogging through three different characters. These characters are all up for the Blog-ahhs award for best blog for which the winner receives a $500,000 dollar prize and could launch them into the blogging stratosphere.

The first character we come across is Elle – The Stylish Mumma, has an enviously immaculate house, two seemingly perfect children and a pristine, gym honed appearance clothed in expensive attire. She is married to Adrian, an older man who was once married to second blogger Abi. Abi goes by the name ‘The Green Diva,’ online and is vastly different to Elle. She is an advocate of attachment parenting, lives in a farmhouse with her partner Grace and lets her children run around freely. She is also an advocate of anything green and eco-friendly and this is reflected in her lifestyle and family’s diet. Abi is known for her shocking controversial statements to increase followers to her blog. Abi’s partner Grace is the sister of third blogger, Leisel, who’s blog, ‘The Working Mum,’ praises parents who are just trying to do the best they can, whilst juggling a busy career. She is the least extreme of the three bloggers and the most universally relatable.

The book takes you into these character’s lives in the run up to the awards ceremony. It is in turns both hilarious and shocking as to the lengths that some of the characters go in order to be in with a chance of winning the award! Nothing it seems is out of bounds, as they furiously approach the deadline for the ceremony. You get to learn about the characters’ back story, so you understand perhaps their reasons though one of them is inexcusable really! (You’ll have to read it to find out what I’m referring to).

Overall, The Mummy Bloggers is an entertaining read that is scarily true to real life you follow parenting blogs, or to be honest ever browse through Instagram, you’ll recognise some of these characters for sure! Luckily there are as many Leisel’s out there as there are Elle’s and Abi’s which is a relief. Social comparison doesn’t help either parents or social media users in general when they try to compare what they think is a perfect or ideal way to live. It is much more refreshing when people can see examples of parents who do a good enough job and show that life is far from perfect rather than trying to perpetuate an interior designed idyll that is far from real. The Mummy Bloggers highlights this and is a refreshing read which will be perfect for a Summer break!

We Can See You by Simon Kernick

We Can See You by Simon Kernick is a thrilling read. Brook Connor is a successful self-help author who finds her life turned upside down one day when her daughter is kidnapped for a ransom of $250,000 dollars.

Things start to get very complicated indeed once her husband Logan Harris becomes involved in the negotiations. She starts to become suspicious of him, once she discovers he has been having extra-marital affairs, one of which is has been with a very dangerous woman.

Brook then finds herself being framed for a murder and the kidnap of her own daughter. This forces her to go renegade and try to find her daughter without the police’s help as she realises that they suspect her and would hinder rather than help her investigation.

There are so many twists and turns in the story that were completely unexpected. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat as you race through the book to find if Paige is recovered safe from harm as you start to see just how ruthless and amoral the people are who were involved in the crime.

This is the first Simon Kernick book that I’ve read and will certainly not be the last. With a quote on the front from Peter James, describing Kernick as ‘…the master of the adrenaline-fuelled ride,’ I knew that the book would be good from the start. It is lovely to discover an author and find that they have a great back catalogue of reads so that you can peruse these too! I would definitely recommend that you read this, especially if you are a fan of grip-lit, psychological thrillers or crime. Especially if you enjoy books resourceful and strong female characters as that is certainly what you find here in the personification of Brook Connor. A great read.

The Book of Wonders by Julien Sandrel

The Book of Wonders: The perfect feel-good novel for summer 2019! is a definitive up-lit read that tells the story of Thelma, a career-obsessed mother and her twelve-year-old son Louis. Thelma’s world is turned upside down when she is out with Louis one day in their hometown of Paris. Louis gets run over and ends up in hospital in a coma. As a consequence of this tragic accident, Thelma decides to quit her dissatisfying job and spends all day at Louis’s hospital bedside.

Thelma discovers Louis’s Book of Wonders, his notebook, where he has recorded his hopes and dreams for the future. As Louis is unable to carry out these dreams and wishes himself, Thelma decides to carry them out for him then record them and play them back to Louis in hospital so he can experience them second-hand. Of course, the results of her endeavours are both hilarious and nerve-wracking (depending on the kind of task that it is).

The Book of Wonders is at times heart-breaking (you’ll need tissues) and at other times joyful. The plot is simple but highly effective and the characters are very well drawn. It is no surprise that it has done hugely well in France. Comparisons have already been made with Eleanor Oliphant and the subject matter and excellent characterisation by Sandrel will I’m sure, ensure that it does just as well in the UK and across the world.

The most powerful message that you take away from this book is that life is too important to spend time working in a job which you despise and where no one really appreciates you. Time should instead be spend with friends and family that you love and respect and who love and respect you in turn, as life is short. The ending of the book itself is unexpected and a lovely touch (I won’t spoil it by giving it away). The Book of Wonders is a definite must read that will touch your heart and restore your faith in humanity.

Skin by Liam Brown

Skin is the third dystopian novel I’ve read recently so I feel like I’m on a dystopian roll at the moment but realise that the increase in dystopian fiction is due to the state of the world we’re living in which looks increasingly uncertain and bleak. In times of heightened uncertainty, a desire for control takes over and control is one of the key themes in Skin. Skin is the fourth book Liam Brown has published and it is an assured and confident read.

Skin is set in a future UK. A global virus has wiped out many populations and martial law prevails. It turns out that the virus is caused by touch as people have become allergic to other people’s skin dander. The only remedy for survival is to live in completely incubated sterilized rooms separate from family members. To ensure the population continues, women donate eggs to a fertility service that are artificially fertilised by donor sperm. People are not really allowed to venture outside as it is considered too dangerous, but if they do so, they must wear a full hazmat suit and spend time afterwards in a quarantine room at the entrance of their home.

We observe Angela, a middle aged mother of teenagers, the fitness crazed Amber and the surly computer obsessed Charlie. She works from home in marketing and her husband, Charlie works for a firm that creates virtual reality experiences for rich clients. They communicate once a day through a computer screen.

The prospect of having an opportunity to venture outside by joining the neighbourhood watch team is too great a chance for Angela to miss and she relishes the opportunity to do so. On one of her patrols she notices how much nature has taken over the ruined landscape of the city. She meets the rebel, Jazz or Jason Freeman, an alternative young man who lives in an abandoned school and wears no hazmat suit. Is he perhaps the answer the world has been looking for? A person immune to the deadly virus? I can’t really say anymore without giving the game away but I will say that this is a thrilling read that is beautifully written. It certainly brings up a lot of questions and is relevant to today’s society in that we are becoming an increasingly digitised world but levels of loneliness and social isolation are increasing too in kind. It seems the more connected we become to our screens the more disconnected we become from one another. This is a huge message that pervades through this book though there are others too that you’ll have to discover when you read it for yourself!

Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Fallen Angel concerns mysterious past events surrounding the Temple family, who return to their Portuguese villa for a final holiday after the death of their family patriarch, Max. The story is set in both the present day and in 2002, the year of Niamh Temple’s disappearance. Niamh went missing as a young child and there are echoes here of the Madeline McCann case.

Speculation is rife amongst the characters in the story as to what actually happened to the little girl. There are moments in the book where almost everyone who was present in 2002 is a suspect. Matriarch Celia Temple is an extremely narcissistic character. She used to be an actress on British television in the 1970s and still sees herself exactly as she was then. Her husband Max was also an unlikeable character, a psychology professor who became famous by appearing on a TV show debate debunking conspiracy theories.

The Temple’s have three grown up children. Marion the eldest is the kindest but is viewed as being too homely and weak by her mother. She is married to Ken, a plumber who is handsome but who Celia feels is beneath her socially. Robbyn the son, is also seen as a disappointment. He is a bit of a drifter and is easily taken advantage of by other people. Ivy, the youngest of the Temple clan has a successful career in PR and is distant and aloof with her family. Despite her career success, Celia seems to have a strong dislike to Ivy in particular that is out of proportion with her general dislike of her children overall.

Into this toxic miasma, the present day situation introduces: Kirsten, the new young wife of villa neighbour Vince and their son baby Arron. Accompanying them is Amanda, a Canadian Au Pair. Amanda serves as a detective who starts to look into the past to see what really happened in 2002.

I think that the setting of this Mediterranean paradise (that is really rotten to the core because of the people involved), is excellent and compellingly written. There are many twists and turns to the narrative and it went in a direction that I did not expect and could not foresee which is a great sign of a very strong psychological thriller. I recommend that you pick up this book as a chilling holiday read.