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The Secrets We Keep By Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept‘The Secrets We Kept’ is Lara Prescott’s debut novel.

1956. A celebrated Russian author is writing a book, Doctor Zhivago, which could spark dissent in the Soviet Union. The Soviets, afraid of its subversive power, ban it. But in the rest of the world it’s fast becoming a sensation. In Washington DC, the CIA is planning to use the book to tip the Cold War in its favour. Their agents are not the usual spies, however. Two typists – the charming, experienced Sally and the talented novice Irina – are charged with the mission of a lifetime: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago back into Russia by any means necessary. It will not be easy. There are people prepared to die for this book – and agents willing to kill for it. But they cannot fail – as this book has the power to change history.

This book was quite the gripping thriller from the start with strong female leads, that really pull the reader in.

In this spy story, we see the what it was like to be a spy during the 1950’s, the repercussions, the drama and the dangers that being a spy involves. The story is seen from the narrative of women working as typists in ‘the Agency’ in America and on the other side of the world, there are the women who share their lives and views with the Russian author, Boris Pasternak: the man who wrote ‘Doctor Zhivago’.

The book was banned in Pasternak’s homeland, the USSR, but a plot by CIA operatives enables the manuscript to be smuggled out to Italy and published worldwide, leading to Pasternak being awarded the Nobel Prize for the book in 1958.

The novel primarily concentrates on the lives of two women, Irina and Sally, working in the CIA typing pool but who are also trained as spies. There was also the narrative from Pasternak’s lover Olga Ivinskaya, who went to prison for 3 years for her involvement with him.

Spanning over my years and seen through multiple perspectives, this book is the ideal story for history lovers and combines the right amount of history, intrigue and romance to keep the reader fully engaged in the story. Thoroughly researched and atmospheric with the intense locations, ‘The Secrets We Kept’ is a story of love and war and is quite a compelling debut.

Through the eyes of a number of different characters, the story of the book which caused such a worldwide sensation in the 1950s, the role of foreign agents in disseminating the work to the people, both in Mother Russia and abroad, and the impact of its international success on the author and those close to him, is gradually unravelled and as it is it seeps under your skin and enthrals you

You can buy ‘The Secrets We Kept’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops

We Met In December By Rosie Curtis

We Met In December’We Met In December’ is the latest book by Rosie Curtis.

This December, unlucky-in-love Jess is following her dream and moving to Notting Hill. On the first night in her new house-share she meets Alex, the guy in the room next door. They don’t kiss under the mistletoe, but there’s still a spark that leaves Jess imagining how they might spend the year together – never mind the house rule against dating. But when Jess returns from her Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started seeing Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into the man of her dreams – and, apparently, the woman of his. Jess is determined to move on and spend the year falling in love with London, not Alex – but what if her heart has other ideas?

If you’re a lover of fun, romantic stories, then this book is the perfect book to curl up with.

The story is seen through the eyes of newcomers to London, Jess and Alex. Both are at a new starting point in their lives, a new career path and a new home. They’re both new lodgers in the of Jess’s best friend fancy house in Notting Hill. One rule of Becky’s house is that there is to be no relationships between the housemates, but this is difficult when Jess and Alex are attracted to each other and have a connection.

The story progresses as the pair settle into their lives, Alex leaving behind his career being a lawyer and training to be a house whilst Jess joins a small publishing house and both deal with new unexpected feelings. As well as story being seen through their eyes, there is also the inclusion of smaller stories. Jess’s best friends Sophie and Gen are a fun injection into the story, as the 3 women progress in lives and the dynamics between the 3 of them makes for fun reading. Also Jess’s grandmother is a lovely character, a kind hearted woman who was there when Jess’s mother was away travelling. I loved Alex, a man who’s at a turning point in his life and is finding himself in a place where he’s at his happiest.

Reminiscent of a Richard Curtis film with a touch of Bridget Jones, ‘We Met In December’ is the perfect book to curl up during the dark nights. With glorious characters, setting and a festive feel, this book is ideal for fans of Giovanna Fletcher.

You can pre-order ‘We Met In December’ In December Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 3rd October 2019.

Filter This By Sophie White

Filter This ‘Filter This’ is the debut novel by Sophie White and it’s a fun and insightful story about the pressures and drama of social media.

Ali Jones is hell-bent on achieving her #lifegoals: 10,000+ Instagram followers and a win at the upcoming Glossie Awards. So when she inadvertently leads people to believe she’s pregnant and immediately gains thousands of followers, she realises that riding the ‘Mummy Influencer’ wave could be her ticket to Insta-success. But then Tinder Sam, Ali’s one-night-stand, resurfaces, determined to take his new role as baby daddy seriously. Elsewhere on Insta, Ireland’s biggest influencer (and Ali’s idol) Shelly Devine has it all — at least on screen. But beneath the immaculately curated feed, Shelly harbours a secret from her followers — and her husband — but who will be the first to discover what she’s been hiding? As Ali’s lies spiral out of control, and Shelly starts to take a hard look at her life choices, what will it take for them to realise what’s truly important before they lose what matters most?

The story is seen through the narrative of two women Ali Jones, an upcoming and aspiring influencer and Shelly Divine, one of Ireland’s most influential social media icons. Both women are at polar ends of the spectrum, one just starting out and the other is at the peak of her game. But both lives change dramatically and both women find themselves harbouring a secret that is detrimental to their careers.

After becoming a Wildcard at the Glossies Social Media Awards, Ali accidentally leads people to believe that she is pregnant after a cryptic post. Suddenly she’s in big demand, with brands wanting her face all over their products and the life that Ali had always dreamed off has become a reality. Meanwhile, Shelly has led her fans to believe that she has the perfect family and marriage, but it’s all quietly crumbling down around her as her husband tires of her lifestyle and there’s now another baby in the mix.

I genuinely loved this story with its bright and inviting cover, I gobbled this book up in one sitting as I joined Ali and Shelly on their social media journey.

Wittily written, the story reflects on the reality of social media, the pressure and demands to promote brands as well as to create a fake and artificial life. I really enjoyed the characters, both women are strong and are determined to make successful lives for themselves, they are also icons to their fans proving that influencers can lead successfully financially lives. I also enjoyed the location of the story. Set in the bustling city of Dublin, locations and venues stood out and I was able to make connections with them.

A keenly observed and relatable story about the world of social media and the pressures to maintain a perfect life, ‘Filter This’ is a fun and modern story that proves with filters and gradients, nothing is ever as it seems.

You can buy ‘Filter This’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

If You Were Here By Alice Peterson

If You Were HereAuthor of tear-jerkers and emotional rollercoasters, Alice Peterson is back with a new book called ‘If You Were Here’.

When her daughter Beth dies suddenly, Peggy Andrews is left to pick up the pieces and take care of her granddaughter Flo. But sorting through Beth’s things reveals a secret never told: Beth was sick, with the same genetic condition that claimed her father’s life, and now Peggy must decide whether to keep the secret or risk destroying her granddaughter’s world. Five years later, Flo is engaged and ready to pack up her life and move to New York with her high-flying fiancé. Peggy never told Flo what she discovered, but with Flo looking towards her future, Peggy realises it’s time to come clean and reveal that her granddaughter’s life might also be at risk. As Flo struggles to decide her own path, she is faced with the same life-altering questions her mother asked herself years before: If a test could decide your future, would you take it?

Alice Peterson is an author who is renowned for writing novels that will break readers hearts as well as staying with the reader long after reading the final page and her latest book is no different.

In this story we meet, Peggy and her granddaughter Flo, the pair of them have an extremely close bond after Flo’s mum called Beth suddenly passed away. It was only after Beth’s death that Peggy discovered that Beth was diagnosed with the terrible illness Huntington’s Disease. The same sickness that claimed her father’s life. Now, with this new knowledge, Peggy is trying to find the right moment to tell Flo that she might also be suffering from the hereditary illness. Flo is on the cusp of huge changes in her life, newly engaged and moving to New York, she is looking forward to her future, but it all falls down around her when Peggy reveals the news to Flo and there’s now a lot of uncertainty in her life.

From the very first page I was absorbed in this book, the multiple narratives through the multi generations give an insight into the illness and how it affected them all. The story is thoroughly researched and incredibly well written, as Flo is faced with a terrible decision, does she want to see if she has the illness or does she continues unaware.

Like Alice’s previous books, this book is another story that really strikes a chord with the reader. In this story, we meet a family who’s been heavily effected by Huntington’s. Once Flo knows the issue behind her mother’s death, she begins to put her own life into perspective and toy with whether she wants to know or not whether she has the illness as well. The story is seen through the narrative of Flo and Peggy, both terrified and unsure of the future. But Flo finds solace in her mother’s diary but also finds it daunting reading what her mother went through, knowing alone that she had Huntington’s.

Full of inspirational and heartwarming stories, this book is an uplifting and emotional story about the tragedy of Huntington’s and the impact that the terrible illness has had on lives. ‘If You Were Here’ is a compassionate and thought provoking story that really raises the awareness of Huntington’s disease and leaves the reader breathless on the final page of this life affirming story.

You can buy ‘If You Were Here’ from Amazon and is available from good bookshops.

Blood Song By Johana Gustawsson

Blood Song‘Blood Song’ is the latest book by Johana Gustawsson in the ‘Roy & Castrells’ series.

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her. Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre. Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

This is the first book in the Roy and Castrells series that I’ve read and it was a gripping introduction to the crime books. Spanning over many decades, the story has two parts. The present part deals with the horrific murders of Aliénor Lindbergh’s family and the other part deal with past crimes, one is is case Spain 1938 and the brutalities of Spain’s dictatorship.

The story is thoroughly researched and you can see the hard work that the author has put into the book. The vivid descriptions of the horror and genocides really strike a chord with the reader.

The story flowed seamlessly from tenses and really pull the reader in, whether it’s reading the atrocities of Franco’s dictatorship or the investigation into the murders of Aliénor’s family which finds the detectives spiralling into a journey of fertility treatments and the extent that people will go to produce a family.

The main characters French true crime writer Alexis Castells and profiler Emily Roy and I quite liked the relationship between the pair of them and how they were written in the story.

The complex and fast paced story spans over decades and travels over many lands before seamlessly coming in the end. A thrilling and unsettling story about fertility, child abuse and secrets, ‘Blood Song’ is perfect read for all crime lovers.

You can buy ‘Blood Song’ from Amazon