Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls

 

“Three girls. Three tragedies. One unthinkable secret.
The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.
But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or can there only ever be one?
All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.”

FINALLY – a book I can review in real time – hoorah!  This was out last year, but a lovely friend just let me borrow it – and it’s good!!!

It cycles between Quincy’s current life – written in the first person – and historic events, written in the third person.  I liked this different style of writing (but I am such a geek!)

Quincy lives in New York, and I enjoyed that it felt quite familiar having been there a few times recently.  The descriptions of Central Park in particular were great – both in the daytime and at night.  I can imagine it being a very different place after dark – but I don’t plan to find this out.

I liked Quincy and was rooting for her from the start – although sometimes she needed a bit of a shake!!

The story twists and turns significantly – in a good way – and some of the twists are very unpredictable – particularly towards the end – but it kept me intrigued and consequently I devoured it in just a few days.

The descriptions of some of the crimes are quite gruesome – needed for the story – but still quite vicious, so don’t read this book if you’re of a sensitive disposition!!

I’m not sure where this will fit into my 2018 Reading Challenge as yet. One of the categories is a female author writing under a male pseudonym – but this is the exact opposite!  Riley Sager is a gender neutral name chosen by a male author who had previously been published, but apparently felt this new genre would be more readily accepted as a ‘female’ author.  Interesting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Distinct lack of book reviews!!

I didn’t want you all to be concerned (I know, I over think my own importance!) that I wasn’t reading at the moment. What with being lent advanced copies of books by Netgalley and a lovely friend in the industry,  I keep reading books that I can’t immediately review, as blog posts are embargoed until nearer their release date.  It is severely hampering my blog stats – but never mind, come the summer, I’ll have a plethora of posts about new books!!

However, I do need to start ticking off categories in my 2018 Reading Challenge, as I’m running out of ways to shoe horn in books I’ve been given – but I’m my mother’s daughter, and can’t resist a freebie…….

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Letters to Iris by Elizabeth Noble

Letters to Iris

 

I am trying to be a bit more selective about what advanced review copy books I request from Netgalley – partly so I don’t get stuck with any more duds – but also because I want to be able to read them and give timely feedback so that I have a good reviewer rating and so when something I’m desperate to read comes along I can be approved!  (I am naturally a total geek too……)

Anyway – I saw this on there, and it really appealed so I decided to request it and was accepted (it still makes me do a happy dance every time this happens)

Here’s the blurb:

“Tess has a secret – one which is going to turn her life upside down in just nine months’ time.

The only person she can confide in is her beloved grandmother. But Iris is slipping further away each day.

Then chance brings a stranger into Tess’s life.

Gigi’s heart goes out to Tess, knowing what it’s like to feel alone. She’s determined to show her that there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

As their unlikely friendship blossoms, Tess feels inspired to open up.

But something still holds her back – until she discovers Iris has a secret of her own. A suitcase of letters from another time, the missing pieces of a life she never shared.

Could the letters hold the answers that Tess thought lost for ever?

An uplifting, unforgettable story about keeping secrets, taking chances and finding happiness where you least expect it.”

 

Initially the stories of Tess and Gigi appear completely separate and you’re not sure how they’re going to meet up – but then about 25% of the way through, they meet at a care home they both have relatives at. The care home sections were quite relevant to me, as my maternal grandmother has become a resident of one recently – so now they are much more on my radar than ever before.

I was immediately intrigued by both Tess and Gigi’s stories – I found both interesting, in completely different ways.  Tess writes to her unborn child – and that made me think about my own pregnancies – in a fond, reminiscing kind of way!

The book made me laugh – and cry – which is always good.  Whilst Tess and Gigi are the main characters, the supporting characters are also great and well rounded.  I particularly liked Tess’s friend Holly (whose daughter is a similar age to my eldest, and so was probably the character going through the most similar issues to me) and also Gigi’s daughter in law Emily – who was just lovely.

I won’t give too much of the story away (I loathe reviews that do that) and it is reasonably predictable – but in a comfortable and safe way, with some twists and turns along the way.  It does, as you expect from the start, encompass the whole ‘circle of life’ (sung in a Disney way, obvs!)

Now being a bit of a geek, I thought the book was really well written – it felt like it had been written with care and attention to detail and language.  Sometimes I feel some modern books seem a bit ‘disposable’ and have been written quickly by the author – this felt like it had been lovingly crafted rather than banged off to meet a deadline. (I hope you understand what I mean and I don’t sound like a total snobby weirdo?!?)

A big thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for my free advance review copy in return for my honest opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims

Why Mummy Drinks

I arrived home from work the other evening to find that our lovely nanny had left a copy of this book on my desk to read.  I’m not sure if it is a bit concerning that she chose a book called ‘Why Mummy Drinks’, I’m hoping she realised it was a novel and wasn’t giving me a self help book?!?!?

Another friend had raved about this last year – and I have read some of Gill Sims Facebook posts about ‘Peter and Jane’ which spawned this book – so I was looking forward to it.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Why Mummy Drinks is the brilliant novel from Gill Sims, the author of the online sensation Peter and Jane.

It is Mummy’s 39th birthday. She is staring down the barrel of a future of people asking if she wants to come to their advanced yoga classes, and polite book clubs where everyone claims to be tiddly after a glass of Pinot Grigio and says things like ‘Oooh gosh, are you having another glass?’

But Mummy does not want to go quietly into that good night of women with sensible haircuts who ‘live for their children’ and stand in the playground trying to trump each other with their offspring’s extracurricular activities and achievements, and boasting about their latest holidays.

Instead, she clutches a large glass of wine, muttering ‘FML’ over and over again. Until she remembers the gem of an idea she’s had…”

I have to say I enjoyed it straight away!  There have been other books written about motherhood – Hurrah for Gin‘s springs to mind immediately as one I’ve reviewed – and they were good, but in this, Peter and Jane are 8 and 6 – almost exactly the same age as my youngest two children, and so it was sooooo much more currently relevant than newborn related books.

As well as laughing (and shaking in an attempt not to wake my sleeping husband)  – I was nodding in total agreement (I have a 6 year old who still wants to keep taking the lovely pink Calpol and not to have to have the 6+ version. Equally I have a 14 year old who insists on still taking the 6+ sweets style Calpol rather than proper paracetamol tablets – I’m not sure 6+ Calpol is designed for period pain…….. )

The book is written in the style of a diary – school year diary not calendar year diary – and all the major events are covered!  Christmas was a particular favourite for me – but I won’t ruin it for you by telling you what happens.  There was also a family trip to The Savoy – which we did last year (and the stress about not having WAG style luggage was real!) – and the swimming pool, that we loved, got a mention too.

Savoy bathrobes
Giving the Savoy bathrobes some good press for once!

There are people in it – from the school gates / friends / family – who you will recognise IMMEDIATELY.  Clearly I’m not going to name names (well, not unless you buy me a gin or two!) but you will totally recognise people you know.   I texted one of my sisters as I was part way through the book as I knew she’d love it (and she never reads my book review blog posts – how rude!) and she downloaded it instantly – and then texted me to complain she was not getting through any of her ‘to do list’ for the weekend as she loved it so much she couldn’t put it down!!

It’s a bit sweary, there’s a recurring alcohol theme throughout, it’s fabulously middle class and suburban – and just bloody brilliant!  It reminded me of the TV programme Motherland that covered similar topics (but I have to say, I think ‘Why Mummy Drinks’ is better, and I preferred Ellen to Julia as the main character.)

I’m not sure where this will fit into my 2018 Reading Challenge – but I don’t care!  It was worth going off piste because it was so good.  And I am DELIGHTED there is to be a sequel so we can find out what happens to Ellen, Simon, Jane and Peter next – in Why Mummy Swears which is out in July – hoorah!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

A new deli opened in our village at the end of last year – Gin & Pickles.  I love it very much and am a loyal customer already – coffee & cake in the morning, lunchtime platters of cold meats and cheese, and evenings filled with gin have already featured in my visits.  Let alone the huge quantities of take away items we acquire most weeks to enjoy back at home!  I thought I couldn’t love it any more – until I popped in the other day and the lovely owner, who’d seen a couple of friends recommend this book to me on social media, gave me her copy to borrow!  Gin, pickles – and books to borrow – practically heaven on earth?!?

The Keeper of Lost Things

I had high hopes for ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ as lots of people had recommended it, so here’s the blurb:

“Meet the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’…
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…”

My high hopes were not disappointed – it is a truly lovely book.

The relationships, initially between Laura and Anthony, but then between Laura, Freddy and Sunshine are great.  Reasonably predicable but the interactions develop in a lovely and endearing way, and you want the best for all of them.

The story of these characters – and the house, Padua, which is practically a character in itself, are interspersed with stories from decades earlier about seemingly unrelated characters called Eunice and Bomber.  You kind of guess they’re going to end up converging – but I didn’t work out exactly how this would happen until very near the end of the book (I won’t ruin it for you!) The chapters set in a care home – well, two different care homes – were particularly poignant, as my Nan has recently become a care home resident.

There are also stories in italics – which ‘could’ be how the items that Anthony has been collecting were lost – but for the bulk of the book you’re not quite sure if they are his imagination or actual facts.

It is not a difficult read – and you have to go with the coincidences, particularly at the end, but it’s a lovely, escapist, enchanting read – which I think would appeal to a cross section of all ages.

Sunshine is my favourite character – I’d like her to come round and make me ‘the lovely cup of tea’ and have a chat sometime.  (That will make sense once you’ve read the book!!)

This is fitting into my 2018 Reading Challenge category of “A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge”. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself and have ticked off two of the advanced categories without doing all of the initial ones – but we shall be optimistic for the next 9 and a half months!

Book Review: The Lido by Libby Page

The Lido

One of the advanced categories on my 2018 Reading Challenge was a book by someone with the same first or last name as you.   I then saw this debut novel reviewed (I suspect in Red Magazine, that’s where I get a lot of my book recommendations from) and finally saw I could get an advance review copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – it seemed so serendipitous that I had to read it!!

Here’s the blurb:

“Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how ordinary people can protect the things they love.”

It is such a really lovely book.  You are rooting for Kate from the start – she reminds me, in some ways, of Eleanor Oliphant – in the debut novel hit of 2017 ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’.  A loaner who struggles a bit with other people and who comes out of her shell as the book progresses.

Rosemary is similar in age to my Grandmother and honorary Grandmother – and reminded me in particular of my honorary Grandma – who despite being in her very late 80s is up for anything! This photo of Grandma on holiday in a pool with a beer would be very ‘Rosemary’ too!

Grandma

The book also looks back over the life and marriage of Rosemary and her husband George – it is such a fond and loving partnership that endured many many years – just like honorary Grandma and Grandad.

The main storyline of the book is the proposed closure of the lido in a Brixton Park by evil property developers (I say that with tongue firmly in cheek as it’s a hat I also wear when not reading books!!) but the relationships between the various characters and the community of Brixton really fills the story out.  The descriptions of Brixton – both the urban areas – but also the parks – are really evocative, even though it’s not a place I know at all.

I enjoyed the interaction between all of the different characters – but it’s the relationship between Kate and Rosemary that is vital to the story – and life changing for both people.  I can see how it could happen in real life too.

The community spirit was fabulous – and reminded me of the village where I live – not a suburb of London, but still with a wide cross section of people who often all pull together for local causes.

Kate’s relationships not just with Rosemary but with her sister, housemates, parents, colleagues are all explored – it’s so lovely seeing Kate blossom.

The ending was great – not exactly what I would have predicted either, which is always a bonus, and had me weeping (which isn’t difficult to be fair!!)

Overall this is a beautifully written book, which is an easy and enjoyable read – perfect for whilst lounging round a lido this summer maybe?!?

 

 

Book Review: Coming Home by Fern Britton

I was lucky enough to be part of Fern Britton’s blog tour for the book The Postcard last year, so when the publisher emailed to ask if I wanted an advance copy to review so that I could be part of the blog tour again, I did a little happy dance!

It was also perfect timing, as I could pack the book for our half term sojourn to the French Alps.  Reading a lovely book with a glass of vin chaud whilst watching everyone else hurtle down the slopes sounded perfect!  (This was on medical advice following a recent op – but let’s just say I wasn’t gutted that I couldn’t ski – and actually, I’m not sure the consultant specifically prescribed hot booze………)

In case you’ve been living under a rock Fern Britton is the highly acclaimed author of six
Sunday Times bestselling novels. Her books are cherished for their warmth, wit and wisdom, and have won her legions of loyal readers. Fern is a judge for the Costa Book Awards and this year has supported the Reading Agency by writing a short novel to encourage less confident adult readers. A hugely popular household name through iconic shows such as This Morning and Ready Steady Cook, Fern is a much sought – after presenter most recently presenting, The Big Allotment Challenge (BBC2), For What It’s Worth (BBC1), Culinary Genius with Gordon Ramsay (ITV) and her advent series Fern Britton Meets (BBC1). Fern has now also turned her talents to acting, with her new role in the stage musical Calendar Girls, which is directed by Gary Barlow. Fern lives with her husband, Phil Vickery, and her four children in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall. To find out more, connect with her on twitter @Fern_Britton and http://www.facebook.com/officialfernbritton.

 

Coming%20Home%20book%20jacket.jpg

About Coming Home:

“When the only place you want to be is home…

When Ella’s beloved grandmother dies, she comes back to the beautiful Cornish coast to heal her heart. There she finds her home again and discovers a new life, and new love … But she also opens a treasure trove of secrets. Sennen left Cornwall a young single mum but unable to cope. She left her children, her family and part of her. She’s spent the years hiding from her past, hiding from herself.  Now it’s time to come back. To Cornwall. To face her mistakes. To pray for forgiveness. To hope for a future with her daughter.”

Now, to paraphrase my previous post, there was an Eastenders style duff, duff, duff at the end of ‘The Postcard’ for Ella – so I’d hoped we’d be revisiting Pendruggan and her story – and that is the premise for this book, which I was very excited about!  I love the way Fern’s books set in this particular Cornish village have stories of different characters you’ve met before weaving in and out of storylines with new people – it’s so clever, and feels like you’re meeting up with old friends again.

I therefore had high hopes!

And boy was I not disappointed.

The book starts in current day Pendruggan – just after the previous book concluded – but also gives the back stories for the current characters by going back in time to the 70s and 90s. Each era is described so well – but just as I mentioned before, how Fern weaves in people from previous books, so she does with locations in these ‘historic’ settings.  The settings also move from Cornwall to Spain, London and India – and back again – with each area beautifully described (adds the Taj Mahal to the ‘to visit’ list!)

The reunion of Sennen with her daughter Ella and son Henry is not straightforward (but I guess it would be a bit of a dull book if it was!) and that is the crux of the book.  It explores the various parent / child / grandchild relationships really well – they are all so different.

I liked Ella and was rooting for her throughout the book.  Henry I wanted to slap quite hard on frequent occasions!!!

I don’t want to give away too many of the twists and turns – that would ruin the reading enjoyment for you – but it’s definitely worth it.

I’m also very pleased that the door has most definitely been left open for a further trip to Pendruggan in the future.  The whole series is a lovely, easy, escapist read – perfect for a Sunday afternoon, so download it now – or order a hard copy for next week!!

This has slotted beautifully into my Reading Challenge as a book I’ve been given (in lieu of an honest review).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Hide and Seek by M J Arlidge

Hide and Seek

 

“Prison is no place for a detective
Helen Grace was one of the country’s best police investigators. 
Now she’s behind bars with the killers she caught.

Framed for murder
She knows there is only way out: 
stay alive until her trial and somehow prove her innocence.

Locked up with a killer
But when a mutilated body is found in the cell next door,
Helen fears her days are numbered.

A murderer is on the loose. 
And she must find them.
Before she’s next . . .”

I’ve loved all of the previous books in the Helen Grace series by M J Arlidge – and have always pre ordered the next so it just magically drops onto my Kindle on publication date.  But I realised it was ages since I’d read Little Boy Blue and thought there must be a new one.  Seemingly my ordering in advance had failed massively and I’d missed 2 new instalments (along with some short stories I’d not noticed before) so I did a big Kindle purchase and stocked up!  And my next read was ‘Hide and Seek’.

I think this would stand alone – but you’d be missing out, so I would definitely recommend reading all of the 5 preceding books in the series if you can.  The back stories  of various characters are filled in as required – but clearly not in as much detail as if you’ve read the other books.

My initial worry was that it wouldn’t be as good as the previous books – with Ms Grace behind bars – and it would all be a bit ‘Bad Girls’ – but I need not have worried at all, it was as fabulous as the previous books in the series.

There are basically 2 stories running concurrently.  Helen in prison and the trials and tribulations that brings firstly with ‘normal’ prison life, but then with a serial killer loose in the prison!  At the same time, outside Holloway, Helen’s friend and colleague Charlie is investigating the man who framed Helen to put her away in the first place, in a bid to clear Helen’s name.

Both plot lines build to a simultaneous climax and really keep you on the edge of your seat.  It felt a bit different to the previous books – I guess due to the settings – but still just as much fun.

I am intrigued as to how the series will now develop – but it’s ok, I already have the next one to read!  It’s like binge watching TV box sets already having the subsequent instalment ready to go.

I think this will slot into ‘the next book in a series you’ve started’ in my 2018 Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

The Art of Hiding

 

“Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.”

This is another book I had as an advanced review copy last year and didn’t get around to reading – so I started it on a flight and enjoyed it from the start!

Initially I was a bit spooked – the main character is the wife of a construction company owner – like me (but unlike me she isn’t involved in the business at all – which is fairly fundamental to the story)  Her boys go to a school called Kings Norton School – and Kings Norton is the suburb of Birmingham where our construction company is based.  Whilst the school itself sounds quite like where our son goes (rugby is EVERYTHING!)   Then it turns out that Nina grew up in Portswood in Southampton – which is where I lived when I was at Uni (although I am slightly concerned how many novels this is now appearing in as a rough place to live #itwasaceintheearly90s) Let alone the fact that characters are called Tiggy and Fin(n)  – which are one of my friend’s kids’ names……….

It starts off as sad – if a little predictable – when the husband, Finn, is killed in a car crash.  It is then evident that he’s been keeping money troubles hidden from his family – and at the time of his debt he was £8million in debt.

Nina then has to sort herself out and stop being the SAHM whose most important decisions was what arrangements the florist was to deliver that week, to the survival of her and her kids.

I thought it a bit odd that she didn’t ask for any state help – surely there would have been some benefits / a hostel etc available to her – but that gets completely skirted over and she heads off back to her sister and  Portswood (honestly – it was a great place to live as a student – and Jesters, the nightclub us students used to frequent, even gets a mention!)

The story then follows Nina’s relationships with her sister and her sons as she learns to stand on her own 2 feet for the first time ever.  I enjoyed the relationship between Nina and Tiggy and how it changed over the course of the book.  Similarly Nina’s relationships with her two sons evolve quite significantly – and I found that quite emotional at times.

In another weird parallel universe thing, Nina ends up involved with a care home for the elderly.  Until 8 weeks ago I wouldn’t really have had a clue about such things – but my Nan is now a resident of a fabulous one – and so it resonated even more.

Overall this was an easy read that I enjoyed – although I am still quite spooked by all of the overlaps with my life!!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

The Austen Escape

I was lucky enough to be given an advanced review copy of this way back last summer – but because it didn’t fit into a category for my 2017 Reading Challenge – and I was still optimistic of completing it – I didn’t get around to reading it until now!!  I’m hoping this doesn’t count as a strike against me on the wonderful Netgalley!!

Anyway – enough of my soul searching – here’s the blurb:

“Falling into the past will change their futures forever.Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues-particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.”

I was concerned – a bit like when I read Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – that my lack of recent Austen reading would count against me as I wouldn’t pick up on the clever intertwining of old and new storylines and nuances in the characters etc – but I decided not to stress about that and just get on with reading it as a standalone book.

I also didn’t look into the author or publishing house before starting to read this (a mistake I won’t make again) – I was still at the stage of being delighted and honoured to have been permitted to read a book before it was officially published to decide if I should read it or not!!

I found this book soooooo dull.  It was boring from start to finish (but I did finish it as I hate to be beaten by a book)

The American style of writing annoyed me (why is it necessary to miss out words like ‘of’?) and the descriptions of Bath I found very poor (admittedly it’s a city I’ve been to lots – but I would question if the author ever had).

It was just soooo boring.

About half way through a friend pointed out this was published by a Christian publishing house subsidiary of Harper Collins.  I have to say that you wouldn’t know that from the content itself – it’s not preachy at all – but there is a definite absence of sex, drugs and rock & roll.  Not that I’m saying those are pre requisites for a good book – in fact my book of 2017 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine doesn’t contain any of them – but it was just so lame.  The most risque element was a ‘shoulder bump’.  I also felt the writing style was dull and insipid.

I persevered – but only because I don’t like to not finish a book (despite me saying I would not be beholden to any books this year!!)

I am unsure who I would recommend this to.  It was too modern for my Nan in it’s content – and not sure of anyone else who would appreciate such nothingness.

But – it has taught me to be more circumspect about what I accept to read going forward!

Thanks Netgalley for the advance review copy – and for the life lesson!!