Book Review – Surviving Execution by Ian Woods

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SYNOPSIS

Imagine being condemned to death for murder, when even the prosecutors admit that you didn’t actually kill anyone. This is what happened to Richard Glossip, a death row inmate who was convinced largely on the testimony of the self-confessed killer of motel owner, Barry van Treese. Despite this shocking turn of events, the state of Oklahoma is still intent on executing him, raising international outcry and controversy.

Ian Woods, a reporter for Sky News in the UK, came across the case one quiet afternoon, and has tirelessly campaigned ever since to bring the injustices Glossip has faced to the world’s attention. He has even served as an invited witness to Glossip’s three scheduled executions – all of which were stayed at the last possible moment. This is the gripping true story of the case, and their turbulent friendship, written by a man with unparalleled first-hand knowledge and access. A tense mix of Dead Man Walking and Making A Murderer, Surviving Execution combines the very best in true-crime writing with a searching exploration of our most barbaric punishment.

 

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REVIEW

I can safely admit that Surviving Execution is like no other book I’ve read before! Ian Woods provides a first-hand account into the trial and penultimate death penalty sentence of motel manager Richard Glossip, in a way which forces the reader to question not only Richard’s innocence but more broadly the death penalty as a form of punishment.

I loved the way the chapters were arranged – by giving a brief history of capital punishment in America and across the world, Woods sets the scene for just how severe Glossip’s sentencing is and why it became so controversial. I felt myself going through the same rollercoaster of emotions as the spectators to Glossip’s ever-changing fate, which made the book such a page turner.

I also grew extremely fond of the maturing relationship between Wood and Glossip as they bonded on a personal and professional level. To have got to know Glossip so well over the years ensured the book felt personable and had a sophisticated level of detail which left no clue unturned or opinion ignored. I was therefore disappointed that their relationship took the turn that it did at the end, as I’m sure Woods was after building a friendship he valued.

Overall, this is easily a 5* read and one I will be thinking about for a long time!

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Book Review – The Patriots by Sana Krasikov

The Patriots

 

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SYNOPSIS

Growing up in 1930s Brooklyn, Florence Fein will do anything to escape the confining values of her family and her city, and create a life of meaning and consequence. When a new job and a love affair lead her to Moscow, she doesn’t think twice about abandoning America – only to discover, years later, that America has abandoned her.

Now, as her son Julian travels back to Moscow – entrusted to stitch together a murky transcontinental oil deal – he must dig into Florence’s past to discover who his mother really was and what she became. He must also persuade his own son, Lenny, to abandon his risky quest for prosperity in the cut-throat Russian marketplace. As he traces a thread from Depression-era America, through the collective housing and work camps of Stalin’s USSR, to the glittering, oil-rich world of New Russia, Julian finally begins to understand the role he has played – as a father, and as a son.

 

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REVIEW

If you are a lover of historical fiction / family history this is definitely the book for you. The reader is taken on a journey through Stalinist Russia from the eyes of an American citizen whose life is completely and utterly transformed by her decision to restart her life elsewhere. I’ve read mixed reviews of main character Florence on Goodreads, but personally I found her brave and determined, particularly in her old age where she sticks to her morals and never gives up on the country which gave her her biggest tests yet also some of the best years of her life. I can understand how this is frustrating to some, but I think it made her all the more likeable as a character.

I loved the way the chapters were arranged, alternating between Florence’s perspective of her life, and her son Julian’s own journey learning all about his mother’s past in order to understand the woman who made him the person he is today. While I agree that the depth of information on his quest to seal an oil deal did sidetrack the reader a little from the main message of the novel, I could see why this was included and thought it added some much-need substance to Julian as an individual rather than solely as Florence’s son.

Throughout the novel we watch Florence grow up, we see the USSR transform alongside its people, and we witness familial relationships fracture and redevelop across geographical barriers. Sana Krasikov has done a fantastic job in exploring a multitude of different cultures and perspectives without losing a clear and consistent plot line, which ended with the most poignant scenes and messages.

I would without a doubt give this novel 5 stars and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of reading!

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Book Review – The Woman Who Met Her Match by Fiona Gibson

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SYNOPSIS

Could the right man for her future be a boy from her past?

After yet another disaster, Lorrie is calling time on online dating. She might be single in her forties, but she’s got a good job, wonderful children and she’s happy. This, Lorrie decides, is going to have to be enough.

That is, until she receives a very unexpected request from France. Antoine Rousseau, who had once turned a lonely French exchange trip into a summer of romance, wants to see her – after thirty years.

But Lorrie is a responsible woman. She can’t exactly run off to Nice with the man who broke her teenage heart… can she?

 

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Review

I must be completely and utterly honest. I don’t enjoy ‘rom-com’ style novels, often finding them predictable and cheesy. HOWEVER. After reading The Woman Who Met Her Match, I can safely eat my words and start to delve into the world of rom-com fiction more deeply. I absolutely LOVED this book, and it has completely changed my opinion of this genre as a whole!

Firstly (and most surprisingly for me), I actually laughed out loud at Lorrie and her escapades. Her dodgy dates with potential suitors had me giggling into the pages as I willed for Lorrie to see the humorous side in her failed attempts at romance. That she could still find the positives in life despite the death of husband David is of huge credit to Lorrie’s optimistic nature, meaning I was willing her nothing but the best the entire way through the novel.

 I thoroughly enjoyed the way this novel was written and how the chapters were arranged. Although there were certainly cliffhangers, these weren’t dragged out long enough to make for uncomfortable reading. The concept of each chapter portrayed Lorrie’s primary anxieties and worries at that time which really helped me to connect with her as a career-driven mother and a hopeless romantic. We experience Lorrie’s journey at a relaxed yet engaging pace, meaning I finished this book within 24 hours and really didn’t want to put it down!

Without giving away any spoilers, I could not have been happier with the way this book ended. It was a conclusion I had been championing the whole way throughout, and one which I thought may not happen with the arrival of other potential suitors towards the end. It’s not often I say this about a novel with such confidence, but the ending just felt ‘right’. I finished the last page with such a warmth in my heart that I’m sure replicated exactly how Lorrie felt as her dating dilemmas finally came to an end.

If you are after a humorous, heartwarming novel of second chances and new beginnings, this is definitely the book for you. I would recommend it in a heartbeat!

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Book Review: The Party by Robyn Harding

The Party

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Synopsis

One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.

Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah – a good girl with excellent grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, movies and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

But things do go wrong, and Hannah’s party quickly turns into the stuff of nightmares. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s life begins to unravel. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are exposed, and the truth about Hannah is revealed.

The Party takes us behind the facade of the ideal family, exposing the betrayals and moral lapses that occur behind closed doors – and the secrets that children and parents keep from themselves and one another.

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Review

Admittedly, before this book caught my eye in the shops, I’d actually never heard of it before or read any other novels by Robyn Harding. All I can say is this – I’ve seriously been missing out!

I was extremely impressed with the diversity of characters and background stories in the novel. The contrast of those who on the face of things seemed to have the perfect life – be it Kim and Jeff with their huge house and close-knit family unit, or teenage ‘it girl’ Lauren – with characters like Lisa and her woes as a single mum or Tony with his mid-life crisis and adultery, allowed Robyn to cleverly create a masterpiece in which each person’s very foundations were shaken all through interacting with each other. Although I could see the good intentions in her, I found myself tearing my hair out sometimes over main character Hannah; her high school experience was definitely relatable but her determination to be part of the ‘cool’ crowd really started to frustrate me! It’s not often I feel this emotion of exasperation when reading, which in itself is huge praise to the character development in The Party.

I thought it was both extremely ironic and also a very powerful message that Hannah and Ronnie showed more maturity than their elders after the tragic events which occur at Hannah’s birthday party. They showed that there are more important things in life than money – friendships and wanting the best for those you love. After this, I felt a glimmer of hope that the horrors of Hannah’s birthday could be put to one side and for life to continue the way it had been for all involved.

However, the ending of The Party took a completely different path than I thought it would! It was refreshing for the author not to take the easy way out and give every character their fairytale ending, which also left a huge opportunity for a sequel. Lauren’s deceitful and vindictive ways had certainly rubbed off on Hannah by the end of the book, and although it pains me to say it this gives Hannah a unique and powerful personality that I’d love to explore in greater detail.

This a novel I would most certainly pick up and read again, and I can’t wait to read more from the talented Robyn Harding!

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Reading Slumps, Life Updates and New Beginnings | the weekly chit chat #1

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Hi guys! This seems like such a casual introduction after I’ve been AWOL for the last few months. Truth is, life has changed in more ways than one!

Brace yourselves, but my last blog post was LAST AUGUST. Where have I been? Well. To kick start with the bad news, I’ve had a major reading slump. I’ve found it almost impossible to willingly pick up, let alone enjoy, any of the books sitting in my TBR pile. But I’ve tried not to give myself a hard time, because there are some huge reasons for this..

I have a new job! 

I’m 6 months into my new role in recruitment, and I’ve learnt SO much in the last few months! I’ve been super busy and working long hours, so while this does mean blogging has had to take a back seat for me while I found my feet and settled in, I’m now raring to go and so excited to get rolling again.

I’m now an Auntie!

By far my favourite bit of news of 2017 – I now have a gorgeous baby nephew! My sister gave birth to the most perfect little boy in September, a week before my birthday (the best birthday present ever, right?), and I have been OBSESSED with him ever since. I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like to but every time I do he’s grown so much and got even cheekier!

I moved out!

My final bit of big news – I now have my own flat! I lived on my own at university for 3 years so coming home to my parents’ house (while I love them so much) was quite difficult. This was one of my biggest goals for 2018 so to have achieved it before 2017 even ended was a HUGE high for me. Plus, I’m only five minutes down the road from them so I can always pop home whenever I like!

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So, that’s all the big goss out of the way and hopefully explains where I’ve been for the last 6 months. Although I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself in putting together a blogging schedule, I’m going to be posting much more frequently, interacting with other blogs, and doing a post every Sunday to catch up with how the week has gone.

All in all, it’s great to be back!

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Book Review: Unforgivable by Mike Thomas

Unforgivable

Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Publication Date: 27th July 2017
Genre: Crime and Mystery

 

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Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation. An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside. But this isn’t the middle East – this is Cardiff…

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will Macready and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out…

Macready is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman.

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon Macready must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.

 

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I wanted to read Unforgivable because of the atrocious terror attacks that we’ve seen in the UK this year, as it deals with the sensitive topic of terrorism in Cardiff, particularly the response of the police force and the challenge of staying one step ahead of the perpetrators. I can happily say that I was not disappointed!

Unforgivable gives a chilling fictional narrative of the mindset behind these horrific acts, delving into the reasons and justifications behind the perpetrator’s decision to commit such atrocities. It’s impossible to go into much more detail about the plot without giving away some of the most fascinating and shocking twists and developments in the police investigation, but if you love books centred around crime with a fast-paced plot development, then this is the book for you!

Will Macready is an incredibly likeable character, whose complicated relationship with his wife and brother provided another element to the storyline which both allowed a break from the intense central thread of terrorism, and also permitted me to get to know Will and invest in him as a person. I feel like I definitely would have benefitted from reading Ash and Bones beforehand (the first book in the DC Will Macready series) so that I could understand why Will wasn’t given as much responsibility in this novel, but it didn’t affect my overall understanding of the plot and I quickly picked up on the events of the first book.

Unforgivable kept me guessing until the very end – I was convinced I had the right suspect throughout the whole novel, and I was very wrong. This was one of the things I loved about this book, as it is one of the only crime and mystery novels I have read this year which successfully made me suspect an innocent character!

I can’t wait to read more by Mike Thomas, and to see what happens next for Will Macready.

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#PRHJobHack Day!

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I’ve been a little quiet on the blog for the past few days because I’ve literally been run off my feet! I was in Sheffield for my graduation last Thursday and Friday (I’m no longer a student, aaah!), and then I headed straight to Derby early on Saturday morning for the #PRHJobHack event, hosted by Penguin Random House. Safe to say it’s been one of my favourite weeks of 2017 so far!

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For over a year now I’ve known I want to work in the publishing industry. Not only do I love books, but I love the editing/copywriting parts of my University degree, so I know that this particularly industry is one I’d adore to work in! However, as I live up North and the publishing hub is in London, it’s difficult to make those connections and really get an insight into what the publishing industry is all about. I’ll admit it – the lack of publishing job opportunities where I live has me feeling quite defeated at times! I’m always on the lookout for events and workshops related to publishing so I can inch myself forward in my job search. So, as soon as I heard about the Job Hack day that Penguin Random House put on in four different locations across the country, I immediately applied, and I was lucky enough to be accepted!

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Penguin Random House (as I’m sure you’re all aware) is one of the UK’s leading publishing houses, which is home to fantastic authors such as Paula Hawkins. The JobHack day was designed to give anyone interested in the publishing industry a chance to experience what each particular job role involves, and what you can expect on a day-to-day basis. Throughout the day, we got to learn about what an editorial assistant gets up to (my personal favourite!), as well as listening to lovely representatives from marketing and publicityHR and audio book production. It was great to get an insight into each of these different avenues and to see how each division of the Penguin Random House team comes together with their individual roles to produce some of the UK’s – and the world’s – most cherished books.

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There were a series of engaging and interesting workshops put on during the day, including creating a publicity campaign for a new book, choosing an editorial assistant to hire based on their CV, and planning and recording our own audio books. My personal favourite was putting together our own publicity campaign for a lifestyle and mindfulness guide, which made me consider lots of potential issues with promoting different genres of novels which I hadn’t ever considered before! Each activity was both interactive and informative, and showed just how lovely the team at Penguin Random House truly are. There were also some great bookish freebies, and penguin-shaped cake pops to take home!

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I would passionately recommend the experience to those of you who are considering a career in publishing, or simply want to learn how books go from a manuscript to a finished product. I was able to meet some lovely people with the same interests as me, and it solidified my desire to work in the publishing industry!

These events are few and far between, but do keep an eye out for the next Job Hack day hosted by Penguin Random House! It really was an enriching and enjoyable day for those who love all things bookish.

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