Nowhere To Run : a list of books set in isolated locations

With most of the world’s population self-isolating and not being able to go anywhere, I thought I’d put together a wee list of books set in isolated locations. Let’s face it, things could always be worse. You could be somewhere with a murderer on the loose, for instance. Or zombies. Or one of my worst nightmares, on a ship, surrounded by nothing but water. 😱😂

These ten books were some that popped up in my head straight away when I thought of isolated places. I’m sure there are many more.

Anywho, off we go!

Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide.

The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but is preparing to strike again… and again…

Of course, I’m kicking things off with the brilliant Agatha Christie. I haven’t read that many of her books yet but this is definitely a favourite.

A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway … until the bodies start piling up. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul. Soon, though, a body turns up–surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. They can’t leave, and with no cell service, there’s no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it’s their first time away. For others, it will be their last.

Note to self : never book a break at a remote lodge in Winter

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up.

Island. Water. Never going to happen.

This was meant to be the perfect trip.

The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.

A chance for travel journalist Lo Blackwood to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse, and to work out what she wants from her relationship.

Except things don’t go as planned.

Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.

Exhausted, emotional and increasingly desperate, Lo has to face the fact that her sleep problems might be driving her mad or she is trapped on a boat with a murderer – and she is the sole witness.

Anyone want to know the odds of little old me ever getting on a cruise ship?

1939: Europe is on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd, a servant girl, boards an ocean liner for Australia. She is on her way to a new life, leaving behind the shadows in her past.
For a humble girl, the passage proves magical – a band, cocktails, fancy dress balls. A time when she is beholden to no one. The exotic locations along the way – Naples, Cairo, Ceylon – allow her to see places she’d only ever dreamed of, and to make friends with people higher up the social scale who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man who she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings. 
But Lily soon realises that her new-found friends are also escaping secrets in their past. As the ship’s glamour fades, the stage is set for something awful to happen. By the time the ship docks, two of Lily’s fellow passengers are dead, war has been declared and Lily’s life will be irrevocably changed.

Like I said, ships are a bad idea.

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world? 

As far as doom scenarios go, it can’t get much worse than this.

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves. 

Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil. 

As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence. 

Islands are clearly a popular isolated location. This one has no men. Doesn’t sound too bad 🤔

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast. 

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Oh, look! Another island! And a wedding party go wrong. At least there’s champagne 😂

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. 

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. 

Iceland. Always brings the goods. I know, it’s an island too. Sounds so pretty though. Not that Agnes is in any way able to appreciate that. Such a great novel! Read it! I’ll pimp it until I’m blue in the face!

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Quite possible the worst case scenario? All alone on another planet with no means of escape EVER! I don’t know about you but suddenly this self-isolation stuff doesn’t sound so bad, huh?

If you have any suggestions, please do leave them in the comments and I will be more than happy to compile a new list next week with your ideas. Or heck, do a post of your own. That works too!

Have you read any of the books on this list? Would you like to?

I have more lists planned over the next few weeks. I mean, I’m not reading so I might as well make lists, I guess. 😉

Stay safe and take excellent care of yourselves! xx

I Am Dust by Louise Beech | @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks | #IAmDust #recommended

Author : Louise Beech
Title : I Am Dust
Pages : 340
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : February 16, 2020 (ebook)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

| MY THOUGHTS |

Let me just tell you up front that this review, if I can even call it that, will not do this novel any justice at all as Louise Beech’s novels always leave me speechless. I Am Dust is one of those stories that left me in need of a breather, some time to reflect, to let it all sink in before even trying to compile thoughts and put words to what I was feeling. But as I start writing this review, I’m still very much speechless and the only word my brain seems to be able to come up with is WOW.

One of the many joys in picking up a book by Louise Beech is that you never know what to expect. This extremely talented author criss-crosses and combines genres like no other. The one thing you CAN always count on is truly glorious and beautiful writing. And quite possibly the need for tissues at some point or other.

I didn’t read the book description so all the information I had to go on was right there on the stunning jacket of my proof copy. (Which I just realised you can’t see on the cover I used on top of the page)

A haunted theatre, a murdered actress, three cursed teenagers, a secret that devastates them all …

Little else was needed for me to be absolutely sold on this book from the get-go. A psychological thriller then? And maybe, just maybe, no tissues required this time around? Ha! It becomes clear quite quickly that no, of course this isn’t going to be your typical run-of-the-mill psychological thriller. This is Louise Beech after all!

Twenty years ago, actress Morgan Miller was found dead in her dressing room at the Dean Wilson Theatre during the run of the musical Dust. Rumour has it she’s been haunting the theatre ever since, looking for her killer. Now, the theatre’s most successful play is making a comeback. But who would want to take on the iconic role of Esme Black? As a fan of the original Dust musical and now working as a theatre usher, Chloe Dee is right in the thick of things.

Ah, the bright lights of the stage. Yet, this story isn’t all glamour and glitter. Definitely not for a theatre usher and I truly enjoyed seeing things from Chloe’s perspective. Her uniform, the jobs she needs to do, the way she’s almost invisible to the audience. It all stands in stark contrast to the adoration the actors receive.

I Am Dust is a haunting tale of jealousy and ambition with a dose of teenage angst, unrequited love and a dash of witchcraft. I found myself utterly mesmerised by all of it, as if I was under a spell. Immensely gripping, hugely addictive and fabulously atmospheric, this novel just swept me off my feet from the very first page and I wasn’t at all able to put it down. Without giving anything away, there is a sense of foreboding throughout. That feeling you get when you just know things will probably not end well but I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out.

I see it as a personal challenge not to reach for the tissues when I read one of Louise’s books and I was convinced I was going to nail that particular challenge this time around. But no. Sucker-punched in the final pages, right there in the feels, as the kids would say? Check! I swear she does it on purpose. Reaching the end of this wonderful story, flipping that final page and realising there was no more, I felt quite bereft. I was sad to say goodbye to these characters, sad that their stories had reached their conclusions, sad that the magic spell had been broken and I found my two feet planted firmly back into reality again.

Louise Beech is an author who needs to be on everyone’s bookshelves. She’s an author who leaves everything on the page and as a reader you feel it from the top of your head to the tips of your toes but mostly, way deep down in your heart. I absolutely loved this book and you can rest assured you’ll be seeing it again on my list of “books of the year”.

Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the stunning review copy!

I Am Dust will be published in ebook format on February 16th, with the UK paperback to follow in April.

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

The Liar’s Daughter by Claire Allan | @ClaireAllan @AvonBooksUK @SanjanaCunniah | #blogtour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Liar’s Daughter by Claire Allan. My thanks to Sanjana at Avon for the opportunity to join and for the review copy!

Author : Claire Allan
Title : The Liar’s Daughter
Pages : 336
Publisher : Avon UK
Publication date : January 23, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Joe McKee – pillar of the Derry community – is dead. As arrangements are made for the traditional Irish wake, friends and family are left reeling at how cancer could have taken this much-loved man so soon.

But grief is the last thing that Joe’s daughter Ciara and step-daughter Heidi feel. For they knew the real Joe – the man who was supposed to protect them and did anything but.

As the mourners gather, the police do too, with doubt being cast over whether Joe’s death was due to natural causes. Because the lies that Joe told won’t be taken to the grave after all – and the truth gives his daughters the best possible motive for killing him…

| MY THOUGHTS |

Something tells me I will never stop enjoying stories about dysfunctional movies and hoo boy, is this a dysfunctional family.

Joe McKee is dying and he wants nothing more than having his family around him. His sister Kathleen, his daughter Ciara and Heidi, the daughter of a woman Joe used to live with. But Ciara and Heidi would much rather be as far away from Joe as possible. As much as Joe appears to be liked by the Derry community, Ciara and Heidi know the real man behind the mask. And then Joe dies but doubt is being cast over whether his death was due to natural causes. Or did someone help him on his way?

I must say, this was a bit of an uncomfortable read. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what caused the tension in this household. I was constantly wondering what I would have done had I been in Heidi’s or Ciara’s shoes. Could I put my own life on hold to take care of a dying man who failed to protect me? Or would I simply walk away and leave him to his own devices?

This is not a fast-paced story but the slower pace really works here and I still ended up reading this book in one sitting. If there’s anything Claire Allan does well, it’s writing an addictive page-turner and The Liar’s Daughter is definitely that. Not only do we get this incredible insight into the psychological impact of the dark and disturbing secret Ciara and Heidi have been carrying around with them, but there’s also the mystery surrounding Joe’s death to solve. My attempts in trying to figure things out were constantly muddled by a cast of quite unlikeable characters. It could have been anyone, it could have been no-one. I just didn’t have a clue and was left guessing until the end, desperate to find out.

With tempers flaring and paranoia rearing its ugly head, the suspense and tension build up to an almost unbearable level. As I said, this is an uncomfortable story to read but it’s also immensely gripping and I flew through the pages as if my life depended on it. The Liar’s Daughter is a dark, powerful and twisty psychological thriller that will keep you glued to the pages.

The Liar’s Daughter is available to buy in ebook format. The UK paperback will be published in July.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Claire Allan is a Northern Irish author who lives in Derry~Londonderry.

She worked as a staff reporter for the Derry Journal for 17 years, covering a wide array of stories from court sessions, to the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday, health and education and human interest features.

She wrote her first novel in 2006, to mark her 30th birthday and it (Rainy Days and Tuesdays) was subsequently published and became an instant bestseller in 2007. Claire wrote seven further women’s fiction novels between 2007 and 2015.

In 2016 (when she turned 40) she decided to change genre and try her had at domestic noir. Her first domestic noir novel, Her Name Was Rose was published by Avon/ HarperCollins in 2018 and became a bestseller in the UK, Canada, Australia and was a USA Today bestseller. It was subsequently nominated in the Dead Good Reader Awards in 2019. Claire has followed up on the success of Her Name Was Rose with Apple of My Eye and Forget Me Not.

Claire still lives in Derry with her husband, two children, two cats and a very spoiled puppy.

Truth Hurts by Rebecca Reid | @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @BeckyShort1

Author : Rebecca Reid
Title : Truth Hurts
Pages : 362
Publisher : Transworld
Publication date : January 23, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Poppy has a secret. 

It was a whirlwind romance. And when Drew, caught up in the moment, suggests that he and Poppy don’t tell each other anything about their past lives, that they live only for the here and now, for the future they are building together, Poppy jumps at the chance for a fresh start.

Drew says he has nothing to hide.

But it doesn’t take long for Poppy to see that this is a two-way deal. Drew is hiding something from her. And Poppy suddenly has no idea who the man she has married really is, what he is hiding from her or what he might be capable of.

Drew is lying.

Which is more dangerous, a secret or a lie?

| MY THOUGHTS |

Prince Charming on his white horse sweeps down-on-her-luck young woman off her feet …. wait, sorry, wrong story. Although I must admit I did wonder for a minute if I had accidentally wandered into the wrong genre.

Poppy is fired from her job as a nanny in the middle of a night on Ibiza. With nowhere to go and no means of returning to England, she ends up in a bar by the road and this is where she meets Drew. He’s a fair bit older than her, attractive and apparently money is no issue. I mean, come on, every young girl’s dream, right? What follows is a whirlwind romance. However, Drew suggests they don’t tell each other anything about their past, to live in the present, and nothing about their past is important to them in the here and now. Now, I don’t know about you but I was hearing a deafening alarm bell in my head at that point. Because, yes, Poppy has a secret but surely Drew wouldn’t make a suggestion like this if he didn’t have something to hide as well?

On their return to England, Poppy is indeed living the dream. Fancy house, no need to work but why do the people in the village avoid her? What is it about this house? What is Poppy hiding? And is Drew everything he seems to be? So many questions!

Truth Hurts is one of those books you end up carrying with you everywhere because once you start reading, it’s incredibly hard to put down. It’s extremely addictive and captivating. While quite a bit of it is somewhat of a gushy love-fest for a non-romantic like myself, there is a constant sense of impending doom. A little threatening vibe, a ticking bomb you know will explode at some point but you don’t know when and you don’t know why.

Poppy’s secret is revealed bit by bit through flashback chapters. While I didn’t particularly like her, it was easy enough to sympathise with her and especially with the way she felt like a fish out of water in this new life of hers. Drew, on the other hand, remains a mystery and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why he so blatantly refused to talk about his past. Just imagine how odd it would be to be in a relationship with someone and not even know which school they went to, which subjects they learned or where they grew up.

Rebecca Reid manages to build up the suspension bit by bit until you’re flipping the pages faster and faster and then ….. There’s a delicious sting in the tail that completely blew my socks off! Full of intrigue and mystery, Truth Hurts is an extremely engrossing and gripping psychological thriller with a dash of romance that even I, lacking that romantic bone in my body, heartily approved of and the kind of book that tempts you to just read one more chapter. And then another one.

My thanks to Becky at Transworld for the review copy!

Truth Hurts is available to buy!

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

Beast by Matt Wesolowski | @ConcreteKraken @OrendaBooks | #recommended

Author : Matt Wesolowski
Title : Beast
Series : Six Stories #4
Pages : 242
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : February 6, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

In the wake of the “Beast from the East” cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger Elizabeth Barton had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as “The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged “cult,” were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a “prank gone wrong.” However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses—people who knew both the victim and the three killers—to peer beneath the surface of the case.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Goodness gracious me. What do they put in Matt Wesolowski’s food?!

Another year, another episode in the absolutely brilliant Six Stories series. If you’re not reading this series, I’m judging you like you wouldn’t believe. And if this fourth book in the series doesn’t get under your skin and make you think about the truly warped-up world we live in these days, there is something really wrong with you.

Scott King, our not-so-much-elusive-anymore online podcaster, travels to the, quite frankly, utterly miserable town or Ergarth to delve in to the case of Elizabeth Barton’s death. Elizabeth was twenty-four years old and a successful and popular vlogger when she was found murdered inside, what locals refer to as, The Vampire Tower. Three young men were found guilty of her murder. The “who” seems to have been solved, but what about the “why”?

Murder, a vampire legend and a young dead woman at the centre of it all. It has all the ingredients of a gripping thriller right there, doesn’t it? But there is so much more to it than meets the eye. Beast is a story of hidden truths, of secrets, of labels and masks and more than anything, of the most horrific manipulation and Matt Wesolowski once again manages to prove that the monsters we all fear are sadly very much real. It brings to the fore the power some people are able to exert over others, the power of social media and the growing dangers of modern society’s almost unhealthy obsession with “likes” and “followers”, while all the while showing that most people will only see what they want to see.

Obviously I don’t want to give anything away but there is something to be said for an author who somehow makes a reader feel compassion for those who at first glance don’t seem to deserve it. Beast is immensely compelling and a true page-turner with each of the six stories and points-of-view giving the reader an opportunity to try and figure out for themselves what went on in the tower that night and why. I had a bit of an inkling but the truth ended up being far more devastating than I could ever have imagined and at the end of this thrilling ride, what I was left with the most, was this overwhelming feeling of sadness.

This is one of those series that just keeps getting better and better. With impeccable writing, believable characters and folklore combined with a modern scenario, there is so much to love about Beast. Dark, disturbing and thought-provoking, Beast is an impressive addition to the series; a must-read like its predecessors, and you’d better believe you’ll be seeing this book on my list of “books of the year” in December. Just outstanding! Way to kick off my year in style, Mr. Wesolowski. I can’t wait for more!

My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my fabulous review copy!

Beast is available to buy in ebook format. The UK paperback will be published in February.

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

My Top 20 Favourite Books of 2019

What a year! This list has been nearly impossible to put together. I’ve read so many incredibly brilliant books in 2019 and it’s been a real battle trying to narrow it down to 20. I do so apologise to the authors whose books I had to drop from the list (not that you know who you are 😂) but lines must be drawn somewhere and I’ve had to be utterly ruthless.

Note : These were all published this year.

So, without further ado, in random order except for the top 4, here are my Top 20 Favourite Books of 2019.

John Marrs – The Passengers [my review]
Phoebe Locke – The July Girls [my review]
Jo Spain – Dirty Little Secrets [my review]
Taylor Jenkins-Reid – Daisy Jones and the Six [my review]

Kia Abdullah – Take It Back [no review]
James Delargy – 55 [my review]
Søren Sveistrup – The Chestnut Man [my review]

Anita Frank – The Lost Ones [no review]
Stacey Halls – The Familiars [no review]
Elizabeth Letts – Finding Dorothy [my review]

The Orenda Collection 😂

Sarah Stovell – The Home [my review]
Will Carver – Nothing Important Happened Today [my review]
Doug Johnstone – Breakers [my review]
Helen Fitzgerald – Worst Case Scenario [my review]
Louise Beech – Call Me Star Girl [my review]
Thomas Enger – Inborn [my review]

4. Ruth Ware – The Turn Of The Key [my review]
3. Rowan Coleman – The Girl at the Window [my review]
2. C.J. Tudor – The Taking of Annie Thorne [my review]

| And Novel Deelight’s Book of the Year award goes to ….. |

If you read my review back when I posted it, this will not really come as a surprise. I have to say The Taking of Annie Thorne (!!!!!! infinity) and The Girl at the Window came incredibly close and I almost had to resort to drawing straws to pick a winner. Such a hard choice to make but The Whisper Man just had that little bit of an edge. [my review]

So, there you have it. Thoughts? Suggestions? Criticism? 😂

As 2019 is coming to an end, I want to say a huge thank you to all the fabulous authors and publishers for an absolutely outstanding bookish year! Thank you to YOU, my lovely fellow bloggers and readers for your enthusiasm, your support, your comments and for sharing the book love. ❤️

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you on the other side when I’ll be taking a look at what 2020 has in store for the book world. Until then, stay safe, be merry and keep reading. xx

The Home by Sarah Stovell | @sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks | #recommended

Author : Sarah Stovell
Title : The Home
Pages : 303
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : November 28, 2019 (ebook)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

When the body of pregnant, 15-year-old Hope Lacey is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away. 

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking revelations and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Oh …. goodness gracious me. Devastating doesn’t even begin to cover it. Wow!

It’s been a while since Sarah Stovell’s last offering, Exquisite, and while I thoroughly enjoyed that one when I read it, I’m just going to go right ahead and say that The Home is on a completely different level and most definitely worth the wait!

On Christmas morning, the body of a fifteen year old girl is discovered in a churchyard. Hope was a resident at The Home, a place where three young girls lived. Three girls who have been severely affected by violent and disturbing pasts. But what happened to Hope?

I wasn’t at all able to figure out what happened to Hope and to be honest, I wasn’t even really trying. I became so utterly absorbed by these girls’ lives that solving that particular mystery almost became secondary. Despite knowing what happened to Hope, I oddly found myself wishing for a happy ending throughout, which is a credit to Sarah Stovell’s amazing writing.

This incredibly powerful story about the lives of Hope, Annie and Lara will get under your skin and will be impossible to forget. These three girls are so realistic and believable, they almost jump from the pages and you want to reach in and help them in any way you can. It was abundantly clear to me from the very first pages that this book would leave me completely and utterly broken and it did. It is so extremely dark, brutal and raw that I often couldn’t decide if I should keep reading or maybe take a break, have a breather and trawl YouTube for some funny clips.

It should almost go without saying that this is one incredibly uncomfortable book to read. It’s harrowing, it is insanely disturbing, it is shocking. It’s positively heartbreaking but also immensely gripping and compelling. It hurts, people. It’s really, really painful in that way where it feels someone has reached into the very core of you, pulled out your heart and stomped all over it. And yet there is also a sliver of hope and love throughout, amidst all this darkness.

The Home will draw you in from the start and not let go. It will haunt you and linger in your mind for eternity. It will leave you with a lump in your throat and it will make you admire Sarah Stovell for tackling such hard topics in the most exquisite (see what I did there?) way possible.

I have no more words left. Completely and utterly broken. 😭

Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my review copy!

The Home will be available to buy in ebook format next week. The UK paperback will be published in January.

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The Other Daughter by Shalini Boland

Author : Shalini Boland
Title : The Other Daughter
Pages : 270
Publisher : Bookouture
Publication date : November 5, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare. 

Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.

Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past. 

Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child. 

And she will stop at nothing to get her back…

| MY THOUGHTS |

You can always expect Shalini Boland to deliver a tense story that will keep you hooked throughout and The Other Daughter does exactly that.

Every parent’s worst nightmare comes true for Rachel when her two-and-a-half- year old daughter, Holly, is abducted from a shopping mall. Now, nine years later, Rachel has moved away, picked up the pieces of her life and has a new partner and a new family. But then Kate and her family move into town and when Rachel meets Kate for the first time, Rachel’s life comes tumbling down around her. Because she is absolutely convinced that Kate’s daughter Bella is her very own missing daughter, Holly.

And off we go to find out if Bella really is Holly. Rachel is quite obviously the character to root for. She is going to stop at nothing, which is completely understandable. Yet I couldn’t help but think some of her actions were a tad on the dubious side. But it all does make you wonder what you would do in a situation like that.

Is Rachel imagining things? Is her conviction that Bella is her daughter driving her somewhat paranoid? What is Kate hiding? So many questions and the answers take quite a long time in coming. This story is one big puzzle, often switching between “then” and “now”, and I had a really hard time trying to put the pieces together. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have bothered because I couldn’t have predicted the outcome at all and it absolutely boggled my mind.

The Other Daughter is a twisty, gripping and addictive story that I devoured in one afternoon. Granted, there were moments where I felt I needed to suspend belief somewhat and I wasn’t entirely sure if things actually made sense in the end but I enjoyed it anyway. This is yet another suspenseful read from Shalini Boland and once you pick it up, you will not want to put it down.

The Other Daughter is available to buy!

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

The Ex-Girlfriend by Nicola Moriarty | #blogtour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Ex-Girlfriend by Nicola Moriarty. My thanks to Sriya at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join and for the review copy!

Author : Nicola Moriarty
Title : The Ex-Girlfriend
Pages : 385
Publisher : Michael Joseph / Penguin
Publication date : October 31, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

SHE WANTS HIM BACK. SHE WANTS YOU GONE.

Luke is the one. After everything she’s been through, Georgia knows she deserves someone like him, to make her feel loved. Safe.

The only problem is his ex-girlfriend. Luke says Cadence is having trouble accepting their break-up, but Georgia thinks there’s more to the story. She has the feeling someone is watching her.

So when everything starts to go wrong at work, at home, in her old friendships and her happy new relationship with Luke, Georgia starts to feel afraid.

It’s becoming clear Cadence wants what she has. But how far will she go to get it? 

| MY THOUGHTS |

My Ex-Girlfriend is one of those books that is hard to review without giving anything away so this might quite possibly be one of the shortest reviews I’ve ever written.

Girl meets boy in bar, after having been stood up by a Tinder date. Georgia and Luke’s romance is one of the whirlwind kind. But Georgia knows she has finally found the one. Luke is everything she could possibly want in a boyfriend. Except for the fact that he can’t seem to shake his crazy ex-girlfriend, Cadence.

Now, I read a lot of books from the psychological thriller and suspense genre and I’m not entirely sure I’d put this book in that particular category. On top of that, I have a truly suspicious nature. So I pretty much figured out where things were heading right from the start. Yet that didn’t mean I wasn’t invested in the story. I often caught myself rolling my eyes, urging the characters to see what I was seeing or practically imploring them not to do certain things.

Personally, I prefer my psychological thrillers a lot more on the gripping side, which is something I felt was lacking somewhat in The Ex-Girlfriend. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining and quickie read and Nicola Moriarty tackles a range of subjects from mental health issues to depression to self-harm. It’s remarkably easy to imagine how a stalker can drive you to the brink when you’re already feeling vulnerable.

And really, that’s all I’m going to say. Very sorry but I’ve already had to delete certain things because they came too close to spoiler territory. I will say that things turned out quite a bit more harrowing than I expected them to and if there are lessons to be learned from this story, they are to stay as far away from the dating scene as you possibly can and never trust anyone. Ever. You’re welcome.

The Ex-Girlfriend is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Nicola Moriarty lives in Sydney’s north west with her husband and two small daughters. She is the younger sister of bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying teaching at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.

Close To You by Kerry Wilkinson | @kerrywk @bookouture

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Close To You by Kerry Wilkinson. I have an extract to share with you all today but first, let’s see what Close To You is all about.

Author : Kerry Wilkinson
Title : Close To You
Pages : 284
Publisher : Bookouture
Publication date : October 17, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

I pinch the screen to zoom until I’m staring at the face of a ghost. A man with very short hair, staring directly at the camera with piercing brown eyes. 

He is as he was when I last saw him: wrinkles around the corners of the eyes and a knowing smirk. That’s the expression I see when I can’t sleep. 

My body tenses. It can’t be him. It’s not my ex-husband. It’s not David. 

I know that better than anyone because he didn’t walk out on me. 

He didn’t disappear two years ago and he’s not a missing person. 

I know that for a fact because I’m the one who killed him.

| EXTRACT |

THE NOW

SUNDAY

There’s nothing quite like a good hypocrite. The people surrounding me, not to mention myself, will spend our day-to-day lives telling people about the benefits of moderation. A small glass of wine contains around 120 calories, so moderation is the key. Let’s be moderate, people. Nothing wrong with a glass or two here or there, but let’s hold back on downing half-a-bottle a night, yeah? Let’s not even dream of putting away a full bottle of Asda’s own £4-a-bottle white on a Friday night. That’s probably 800 calories right there and all your good work will be for nothing. All true – but none of that stops our room of ‘fitness professionals’ putting away the booze like a meteor strike has been pencilled in for tomorrow afternoon.

The waiter ambles around to my side of the table and reaches for my glass. His bottle is angled ready to dump another couple of hundred calories, but I place one hand over the rim and wave him away with the other. ‘Not for me,’ I say. His lips twitch into something close to a smirk and then they instantly arch down again. Assuming he works at this hotel most Friday and Saturday nights through November and December, he’ll have seen this over and over. Grown adults who are one step away from teenagers in a park sharing a bottle of cider. It really is not for me, though – not tonight in any case. My relationship with alcohol is like my mother’s with back-to-back episodes of her favourite soaps. A brief taste and I’m slumped in a chair, drooling for the rest of the night.

The bloke two seats away from me has no such hang-ups. He manages a leisure centre but has that hipsterish, waxy beard-look about him, as if he’d rather be running his own craft brewery. He motions the waiter over and gleefully eyes the white nectar that’s emptied into his glass. When it’s nearly full, he raises it in my direction: ‘To us,’ he declares. I waft my almost empty glass of water towards him. ‘To beards,’ I reply. He either doesn’t hear me, or doesn’t care, as he downs half his glass in one go.

This is the problem with these sorts of awards dinners – the seating plans are thrown together like an expressionist’s painting of an orgy. It’s all a vague collection of limbs and there are dicks everywhere. Even though it’s a ceremony and not strictly a Christmas party, it is December – so the room is decorated with various wreathes and tinsel. There’s a giant Christmas tree in the corner and twinkly lights zigzagging across the ceiling. There was turkey for dinner, but, now that’s cleared away, the booze is flowing and it’s time for the main event. Well, almost time.

I am fighting back the yawns as the comedian compère is busy making himself laugh, which at least makes it one person who’s enjoying the act. Someone else on my table described him as ‘old-school’, which is essentially code for ‘a bit sexist’. A decade back and there would’ve been a few racist jokes thrown in for the old-timers. His act is drawing a mix of muted laughs, awkward silences and brainless cackling from a handful of people who’ve either been lobotomised or had too much to drink. When the comedian reaches for his water, he trips on the mic stand and gets the biggest laugh of the night. Life offers nothing quite as funny as a stranger falling over and then pretending it hasn’t happened.

When his act is done, there’s an excited hum to the room. This is the reason we’ve paid £80-a-head for bad food and unfunny comedy. On the stage at the front, some bloke in a suit is messing around with the PowerPoint display that’s being beamed onto the screen. He’s obviously making a hash of it because that’s what blokes in suits do. He jabs at a laptop, looks gormlessly to his mate off to the side, holds up both hands, and then has a hushed argument with someone else who ends up plugging in a cable. A slide finally appears, displaying ‘Eighth Annual UK Fitness Professional Awards’. It’s not exactly the BAFTAs and, as I sit through a series of prizes being awarded, I start to question a few of my life choices. I’ve done some bad things in my time, one in particular, but I’ve never stumbled onto a stage and thanked ‘God, the Queen and my Mum’ for allowing my branch of Total Fitness to win gym chain of the year. Most people here are of the eye-rolling variety. We know this is a farce, but it’s also the game we play. For personal trainers like me, winning these sorts of awards means more offers of work, more appearances, better contracts, perhaps even a book deal.

I’ve more or less switched off when my best friend, Jane, leans over to me. She’s more excited than I am: ‘Is this your award?’ It takes me a second to catch what she’s said but, when I look up, I realise that she’s right. Jane hasn’t said much all evening, although she doesn’t really know anyone. I would have come with Andy, but he’s busy with his scout troop. That sounds like a euphemism, but isn’t – there really is a scout troop. I was happy to come by myself, but Jane said she’d be my plus-one and that was that. I could have mentioned a midwinter trip to the Antarctic with Piers Morgan and she’d have still volunteered to come. I think that’s what happens when there’s a 16-month-old at home. Any excuse for a night away. She won’t say it out loud, but she’s definitely missed work since giving up her job to have Norah.

The slide on the screen has changed to read ‘Personal Trainer of the Year’ and then ‘Seven Nation Army’ pulses in the background as Steven, the organiser, runs through a list of the nominees. Before today, I’d only met him via emails. He has that comic-book airline-pilot-look going on. All neat hair, stiff upper lip and moustachy. There are five of us nominated for the award, with our photos flashing across the screen as our names are announced. ‘Jason McMahon’, whose head is like a cork atop a barrel, gets a big cheer from his table. The next three names get polite applause and I tense as my own face appears on the screen. It’s one of the shots from my portfolio, the one that I convinced myself was a good idea after reading a New Year, New You article and, presumably, temporarily losing my mind.

‘ And finally,’ Steven says, his moustache practically audible, ‘after all she’s been through, Morgan Persephone.’There’s a gentle wave of applause that gets louder as people realise who I am. He’s pronounced my name wrong, making it rhyme with ‘telephone’, instead of ‘per-sef-oh-knee’. A shiver creases along my back, but not because of the mispronunciation. After all she’s been through. Maybe they are; maybe they’re not – but I can feel everyone watching as I give the watery, closed-lip smile that I’ve become so good at over the past couple of years. I can sense the whispers, if not hear them. People telling those next to them that my husband disappeared two years ago.

There is mercifully little time to dwell as Steven rips open the envelope like a kid with a Christmas present. And the winner is…’ He pauses, thinking he’s Simon Cowell waiting to tell some Mariah wannabe that she’s one step closer to being a little-known answer to a pub quiz question.

‘…Morgan Persephone.

’Steven gets my name wrong again and there’s a second or two in which I can’t quite take in what he’s said. It’s like we’re in different time zones with a slight delay. Jane leans in and gleefully hisses, ‘You won!’ – and then I find myself clambering to my feet. Jane adds a quick ‘Smile!’, which is when I realise I’m stumbling blankly to the front, like a drunk at closing time. I wave to a pair of women I don’t know on one of the front tables, largely because they’re clapping and cheering. I’ve seen those award shows, where winners guff a load of nonsense about not expecting their victories. This isn’t that. I had an inkling ever since the nominations went out in a barely noticed press release a couple of months back. I suspected I’d probably win, if for no other reason than everyone loves a good redemption story. That doesn’t prepare me for the wall of noise, all from strangers. The eruption is disorientating and hard to prepare for.

I head onto the stage and Steven passes me a golden trophy that’s in the shape of a treadmill. I expect it to be heavy, but the metal is plasticky and cheap. No matter – it’s the title that counts. A weird thought creeps into my mind that I’m going to need new business cards. ‘Personal Trainer of the Year’ sounds a lot better than ‘Personal Trainer’.

Everything is a bit of a blur – but it’s been like that since it all happened with David. After all she’s been through. Sometimes it feels as if someone else is steering the ship and I’m watching myself go through life. Not now. In this moment, I’m completely aware that nobody wants to look like the bitch who prepared a speech in advance. I run through the mental list of things to say while attempting to make it seem as off-the-cuff as possible. I remember to thank the organiser Steven; the gyms where I work and a few other industry types. To an untrained eye, it probably seems as if I know what I’m doing. That’s the game, really. That’s life. Nobody cares if a person actually knows what they’re doing, as long as they look like it.

When I’m done, Steven re-takes the mic and I hustle back to my table while shaking hands like a low-level Royal opening a community centre. When I get to my seat, more people come over to offer congratulations and pass across business cards, like I’m a hooker heading to a London phone box. I know very few faces, only a handful of people from the speaking circuit. Jane gives me a hug, but it’s awkward because we’re both sitting. The drunken leisure centre manager downs the rest of his wine and winks. There are more nods and waves and then, finally, Steven hushes everyone and continues onto the next category.

It’s late and, despite the rush of the past few minutes, I have to stifle a yawn. I’ve never really got these people that can do all-nighters. I’m a drowsy mess after about 11 and, with my trophy in hand, the hotel bed is calling. Steven runs through the nominees for Fitness Brand of the Year and, after another blast of ‘Seven Nation Army’, he names the winner. There’s a big cheer from the table at the front and then, after a chaotic speech with half a dozen people trying to talk over one another, the ceremony is finally put out of its misery. Jane uses the table to push herself up and is clear-eyed as she rubs my upper arm. ‘You deserve this,’ she says. ‘It’s only an industry award.’ ‘Your industry, though. It’s amazing… especially after everything you’ve been through.’ There’s that line again…

She smiles and then adds: ‘Are there photos?’ ‘I hope not.’ Jane nods over my shoulder, to where Steven is beckoning together the winners. ‘I’ll keep an eye on your bag,’ she says. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I’m back to my wedding day. Back with David. I have to blink away the moment. I think of him every day – but it’s never the Saturday we married; it’s always what happened at the end. Someone says, ‘Where is everyone?’ and then it’s all, ‘Stand here’, ‘Look there’, ‘Smile’, ‘Don’t smile’, ‘Point there’, ‘Laugh’, ‘Roll over’ – and so on. Possibly without the rolling over. There are around thirty winners in all and we’re divided into various groups for the picture-taking on the stage. At the rear of the room, the staff bustle back and forth clearing the tables. Steven continues to take photos, but Jane and others are there, too, with their phones. Nothing can happen nowadays without it being captured and sent to the cloud. Steven asks all the winners to smoosh closer together. I make sure I’m angling with my left side away from him, hiding the purple-brown scar at the base of my neck from the camera’s unrelenting gaze. He takes a few more photos and then puts his camera down.

We’re all ready to stop tensing our muscles when Jane calls, ‘One more’ and then she clicks a final photo or three. After that, we are finally done. Everyone offers weary smiles and drifts back to their colleagues. One of the other winners asks if I want a drink to celebrate, but I’m already batting away yawns. Sex and chocolate are good – but there’s nothing quite like a good sleep. Before I can get back to the table in order to collect my bag, Steven corners me at the edge of the stage. He is wearing the looks of a man who’s relieved it’s all over. ‘Congratulations,’ he says, rubbing my arm while he does so. I’d tell him to stop, but it already feels awkward. ‘Thank you.’ ‘I know it’s been hard after everything you’ve been through.’ ‘Yes…’ I almost reach for the mark on my neck. I used to rub the scar all the time – but I’ve been working at stopping myself for months now. Stephen’s stare flickers across it without lingering. He leaves my arm alone long enough to smooth his moustache, even though it doesn’t look like a hurricane would put a hair out of place. There is a moment in which he angles forward and I wonder if he might try to kiss me. Perhaps it’s ego on my part. I brace myself to flinch to the side, but he slants away at the last moment to whisper in my ear. ‘I voted for you,’ he says. ‘Thank you.’ ‘You’ve been very brave about everything. ’He speaks as if I’ve done a lengthy stint in Afghanistan and am finally back in Blighty. I don’t know what to say, so give him a slim smile and a half-hearted ‘thanks’. He pats my shoulder and then disappears off to talk to someone else.

Back at the table, the leisure centre manager has disappeared, along with the remnants of the table wine. Jane hands me my bag and we step to the side as the staff continue to clear the tables to make way for a dance floor. ‘You look tired,’ she says. ‘This isn’t really my thing,’ I reply. Jane finishes her water and passes the empty glass to one of the staff. I’ve only had a single glass of wine and she’s not had any alcohol at all. We’re a right pair of lightweights. I’m only thirty-three but can sense my teenage-self disapproving. ‘I’ve got to head back,’ Jane says, ‘I don’t like being away from Norah for a night… not a whole one, anyway.’ We’d spoken about this beforehand and brought two cars. I’m staying at the hotel where the awards are taking place, while Jane is driving home.

She starts to fish into her bag: ‘Do you want to see the photos?’ ‘How do I look in them?’ ‘Fit.’ ‘Let’s see then.’ She retrieves her phone from her bag and flicks through the images before passing it across. The device is one of those plus-sized ones that’s closer to a TV than a phone. Give it a few years and mobiles will be the same size as the bricks that used to pass for phones in the 80s. I suppose fashion really is cyclical. I refuse to use the word ‘phablet’. I’d bring back capital punishment for inventing words like that. 

The thing about a photograph full of fitness professionals is that we are, by definition, fit. Almost everyone in the picture will have to stay in shape as part of the job. That brings a natural competition. Almost all the women are wearing tight, low-cut tops or dresses, while the men are in custom-cut slimming suits. Everyone is flexing their arms, either subtly or not. At one time, everyone desired the biggest muscles; now it is all about getting lean. I glance at Jane’s photo and clock myself at the side. I’ve got my back straight, chest puffed up, chin solid, smile fixed. Give it the old tits and teeth. Half of us are turned towards Steven’s camera while the others are looking towards Jane. It’s all quite the mess. I’m about to hand the phone back when I spot a face at the very back. It doesn’t belong to the group, it’s not one of the winners, it’s simply there.

A man with very short hair, facing sideways but staring directly at the camera with piercing brown eyes. My body tenses and I can’t quite take in what I’m seeing. I pinch the screen to zoom until I’m staring at the face of a ghost. He is as he was when I last saw him: wrinkles around the corners of the eyes and a knowing smirk. That’s the expression I see when I can’t sleep. ‘Are you OK?’ I glance up to see Jane frowning in my direction. She has released her hair from its bun and the curly waves have dropped to her shoulders. She seems ready to leave. ‘Yes, um…’ My gaze flicks to the screen once more. ‘Could you send this photo to me?’ ‘Sure. ’Jane takes back her phone and swipes around the screen until she says ‘Done’.

The thing is, I recognise the man in the background of the photo. How could I not? It’s just that it can’t be him. It’s not my ex-husband. It’s not David. I know that better than anyone because he didn’t walk out on me. He didn’t disappear two years ago and he’s not a missing person. I know that for a fact because I’m the one who killed him.

I don’t know about you but that certainly got my attention! I’m sure you’d like to find out more so why not go ahead and grab yourself a copy of Close To You today!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Kerry Wilkinson has had No.1 crime bestsellers in the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Singapore. He has also written two top-20 thrillers in the United States. His book, Ten Birthdays, won the RNA award for Young Adult Novel of the Year in 2018.

As well as his million-selling Jessica Daniel series, Kerry has written the Silver Blackthorn trilogy – a fantasy-adventure serial for young adults – a second crime series featuring private investigator Andrew Hunter, plus numerous standalone novels. He has been published around the world in more than a dozen languages.

Originally from the county of Somerset, Kerry has spent far too long living in the north of England, picking up words like ‘barm’ and ‘ginnel’.

When he’s short of ideas, he rides his bike or bakes cakes. When he’s not, he writes it all down.