Catch-Up Quickies 39

First a quick explanation!

Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.

In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I have been scrunching some of my (overdue) NetGalley reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.

That’s the plan anyway, so let’s spring (groan!) into that TBR…

Title:  Book Lovers
Author:  Emily Henry
Publisher:  Penguin General UK – Fig Tree, Hamish Hamilton, Viking

Blurb:  Nora is a cut-throat literary agent at the top of her game. Her whole life is books.

Charlie is an editor with a gift for creating bestsellers. And he’s Nora’s work nemesis.

Nora has been through enough break-ups to know she’s the woman men date before they find their happy-ever-after. That’s why Nora’s sister has persuaded her to swap her desk in the city for a month’s holiday in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. It’s a small town straight out of a romance novel, but instead of meeting sexy lumberjacks, handsome doctors or cute bartenders, Nora keeps bumping into…Charlie.

She’s no heroine. He’s no hero. So can they take a page out of an entirely different book?

Review: I absolutely fell in love with this romance!

I love the realistic characters, the mockery of fiction tropes, the details about editing life. There is loads of witty banter, some genuinely emotional moments and some scorching hot almost-sex scenes… it really has everything I’ve ever wanted in a romance novel.

And to top it off, I laughed out loud on more than one occasion – loud barks of laughter that startled sleeping children and disturbed the dog – and cried actual streams of tears in places too – to the point that my pillow was wet!

I couldn’t stop reading from the moment I picked the book up until I had turned the last page.

This is the ideal romantic escape read for a book lover and is firmly in my top spot for romance reads in 2023.

Purchase Link: Book Lovers on Amazon

Title:  The House of Marvellous Books
Author:  Fiona Vigo Marshall
Publisher:  Fairlight Books

Blurb:  Tucked away in a near-derelict library in the center of London, The House of Marvellous Books is a publishing house on the brink of financial disaster.

With assistant Ursula asleep at her desk, head publisher Gerard going health and safety mad, and chief editor Drusilla focused on finding a supposedly priceless but famously missing manuscript, there is hardly anyone left to steer the ship. Young Mortimer Blackley, assistant editor, charts the descent of the House in his logbook as it lurches from one failure to the next.

Will mysterious Russian buyers, lurking in the wings, stop the ship from sinking at great cost to all? Or will Drusilla find the legendary Daybreak Manuscript and save the day?

With witty and sharp observations, Fiona Vigo Marshall draws upon a career spent working in small publishing houses to create a laugh-out-loud ode to the publishing industry.

Review: I thought I would love this book – it’s about books and publishing… what’s not to love?!

Sadly though, I found it to be rather meandering and pointless. I was reminded of Adrian Mole or John Kirkbride as the clueless diary-writer narrator, Mortimer, misses the obvious and struggles with understanding his friends and colleagues, but this book was lacking some of the charm and humour of those predecessors.

I did enjoy the insight into the inner workings of a small publishing house, but it was a bit of a depressing insight too, as little actual publishing appears to happen in the titular House and those books that do make it out of the door don’t seem to attract much attention from readers… with good reason!

It was a little startling towards the end when some of the most memorable characters suddenly started getting killed, off-page, in quick succession. This unexpected cull is followed by a speedy librus ex machina, before the book abruptly ends.

There was definitely some charm and humour to be found in the book in places, but it was just very difficult to keep following the story when there is little overarching, connecting thread to events and lots of Mortimer wittering on about Hugo, cake, photocopies, and every minor interaction he has with his colleagues.

If you imagine The Office but with less humour, or a low-budget soap opera but with less drama, then you wouldn’t be far from my impression of this book. But there are books in it and I love the cover and the title, so it’s not all bad.

Purchase Link: The House of Marvellous Books on Amazon

Title:  The People on Platform 5
Author:  Clare Pooley
Publisher:  Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Bantam Press

Blurb:  Get ready to hop onboard this summer’s unmissable book – the perfect feel-good and heart-warming read.

Every day at 8:05, Iona Iverson boards the train to go to work with the same group of people who she makes assumptions about, even giving them nicknames. As a seasoned commuter, she knows there are rules that everyone should follow:
· You must have a job to go to
· Don’t consume hot food
· Always pack for any eventuality
· You must never speak to strangers on the train

But then, one morning, Smart-but-Sexist-Surbiton chokes on a grape right in front of Iona. Suspiciously-Nice-New Malden steps up to help and saves his life, and this one event sparks a chain reaction.

With nothing in common but their commute, an eclectic group of people learn that their assumptions about each other don’t match reality. But when Iona’s life begins to fall apart, will her new friends be there when she needs them most?

Review: I’ve read quite a few of these found-family, heart-warming stories now, and have to say that this one thoroughly exceeded my expectations and easily surpassed my high bar for the genre.

The whole story is absolutely lovely – touching, funny and utterly gripping, as each commuter’s secrets are gradually revealed. I quite literally could not stop reading and walloped the whole book down in just a couple of hours. It has everything that you would expect or could want from this type of story: a set of very different stereotypes (posh yuppy, eccentric older lady, kind nurse, shy teen and so on) that all prove to have hidden depths; each character has their own struggles and they learn to trust and support each other; assumptions are made and first impressions are found to be erroneous; gradual bonding, leading eventually to a close-knit and quirky found family.

My only complaint was that I didn’t want to leave them all when the story ended!

Purchase Link: The People on Platform 5 on Amazon

Title: The Dark
Author:  Sharon Bolton
Publisher:  Orion Publishing Group


When a baby is snatched from its pram and cast into the river Thames, off-duty police officer Lacey Flint is there to prevent disaster. But who would want to hurt a child?

DCI Mark Joesbury has been expecting this. Monitoring a complex network of dark web sites, Joesbury and his team have spotted a new terrorist threat from the extremist, women-hating, group known as ‘incels’ or ‘involuntary celibates.’ Joesbury’s team are trying to infiltrate the ring of power at its core, but the dark web is built for anonymity, and the incel army is vast.

Pressure builds when the team learn the snatched child was just the first in a series of violent attacks designed to terrorise women. Worse, the leaders of the movement seem to have singled out Lacey as the embodiment of everything they hate, placing her in terrible danger…

Review: This is a thoroughly gripping thriller, and it didn’t matter that it was the fifth book in a series as it stands alone perfectly well with the background information given.

I was particularly interested in the incel storyline, as this is an aspect of human psychology that has long fascinated me, and Sharon Bolton’s exploration here was terrifyingly plausible. So much so, in fact, that I had to keep taking short breaks from reading because the fear and tension was affecting me in real life, but then I was unable to stay away for long and couldn’t stop thinking about the issues raised whether the book was in my hands or not!

There are underlying themes of power imbalance, politics and plausibility, with evil ideas masquerading under a thin veneer of civilised ‘concern’ and it was disturbing to watch how quickly the poison spread.

I had read and enjoyed The Craftsman by this author, but felt that this book was even better, and the dark, personal secret from main character Lacey’s past will definitely bring me back for more from this series… I can’t imagine how that will play out in future cases!

Purchase Link: The Dark on Amazon

Title: Meredith, Alone
Author:  Claire Alexander
Publisher:  Penguin Michael Joseph UK

Blurb:  Meredith Maggs hasn’t left her house in 1,214 days.But she insists she isn’t alone.

She has her cat, Fred. Her friend Sadie visits when she can. There’s her online support group, StrengthInNumbers. She has her jigsaws, favourite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the Tesco delivery man and her treacherous memories for company.

But something’s about to change.

First, new friends Tom and Celeste burst into her life. Then an estranged sister she hasn’t spoken to in years.

Suddenly her carefully curated home is no longer a safe place to hide.

Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door . . .

Review: This is a personal growth drama about dealing with trauma and the mental health issues that can spring from it.

Meredith has been trapped in her flat for years due to panic attacks brought on by a traumatic event in her past. Except that trapped sometimes feels like the wrong word for what is going on… she is drawn in, recovering, staying safe in her place of comfort. And as readers, we follow the story from the point where she begins to be ready to take some small steps back into the world, and witness her journey as she confronts her past and pushes herself through the present into a wider, brighter future.

Much of the story comes through non-chronological flashbacks that link to relevant events in the ‘current day’ plot, and some of the events are potentially triggering to some readers – parental abuse, rape, domestic abuse – but all is explored in a sensitive and ‘safe’ way.

This is a lovely, if not always easy, read and Meredith is very relatable, but I did find myself less emotionally involved than I had expected to be considering the subject matter and the quality of the writing. I wonder if perhaps that was because we only meet Meredith after she’s already begun the process of recovery, rather than getting to know her first?

Regardless of that, though, this is a heart-warming story that offers hope and encouragement to any readers struggling with their own mental health challenges.

Purchase Link: Meredith, Alone on Amazon

More really striking covers in this lot… plenty to brighten – or in one case, darken! – your shelves as spring draws closer and the reading light lasts longer.

I hope you find something you like the look/sound of. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Keep shining and happy reading! 🙂


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