Review: The Spider in the Corner of the Room by Nikki Owen (#1 Project Trilogy)


Published by Harlequin/MIRA, 4th June, 368 pages, £7.99

Quick Description: Psychological thriller, suitable for YA and over, deals with Asperger’s syndrome, the justice system, espionage, drugs and memory.

Plot: Plastic surgeon Dr Maria Martinez has Asperger’s. Convicted of killing a priest, she is alone, in prison and has no memory of the murder. DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she’s innocent. Then she starts to remember…
A strange room. Strange people. Being watched.
As Maria gets closer to the truth she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight not only to clear her name but to remain alive.

Once in a while I like to branch out from the romance genre and write reviews for books that I feel deserve them, like Weightlesswhich was a mega-brilliant YA piece.

I do like a good psychological thriller sometimes because I don’t like too much gore and violence. I think this novel hits the right notes in terms of mental and physical balance. It is very action-packed and there are some punchy fight-scenes, but its not freakishly brutal. It definitely takes paranoia to another level, making the reader want to scan the room for any hidden ‘spiders’. I actually was a bit hesitant about reading a book that might have spiders in it. I know, I know. But fellow arachnophobes would understand ;).

Anyway, the ‘spider’ and its position is more of a symbol for Maria’s state of mind: its too small to tell, so is it really there or not? Is this real or not?- basically. Maria has Asperger’s, a condition that I was not familiar with. I think the author provides a good insight into it after some solid research. She captures the heightened sensitivity, hyper-intelligence, and inflexibility. We feel for Maria’s state of confusion, panic and anxiety as she finds it difficult to socialize and follow orders in prison. Something that frustrated me was how characters kept trying to stop her from saying or doing things and treat her as if she is crazy. So I was definitely rooting for her.

The novel is split into two settings. It starts with Maria in prison, but also shifts to a later date where she is undergoing therapy and recounting her time there. The two periods start to weave as the past catches up to the future. Within these time-frames, there are also flashbacks, some related to her childhood but some disturbing she cannot figure out why they are there. So the author cleverly allows us to live out Maria’s mental state and be completely disorientated in the mess of her memories. I was constantly dizzy- did that just happen? Seriously what is going on right now? 

Apart from being compelling and intriguing, I loved how the novel was very unpredictable. The author teases out revelations which are like POW POW, but I would never have guessed them. The mystery just gets bigger and bigger. And the characters surrounding Maria; her prison inmates, her therapist, her lawyer and her own family get harder and harder to trust. And here’s another thing, it gets difficult at times to trust Maria as well. She is constantly accused of having impaired memory and even questions herself. As she gets closer to piecing the puzzle together, she gets closer to the ‘spider’, but is it really there??

This is what I love. Not a simple find-and-solve, but a deep, complicated scramble and double-back. Bring on book 2!

Connect with the author:

Many thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin for my review copy! x


Review: These Days Are Ours by Michelle Haimoff


Published by Penguin Books, September 2014, 304 pages, £7.19

Quick description: young rich New Yorker freaking out after college, an insight into the post-9/11 generation.

Steam?: not much, but definitely PG rated content.

Plot: Only six months has passed since 9/11 and New York is still reeling from its devastating after effects.For Hailey, living back with her parents in their Fifth Avenue penthouse after graduation, life feels like a struggle – to find a job, to come to terms with her new post 9/11 home, and to create a new identity in the adult world she finds herself thrust into.Whilst all those around her seem to be doing so well -Katie is already working at Morgan Stanley, Randy and Jess seem content to stay out all night and party like they are still students – Hailey is desperate for something more. She just doesn’t know what. And to top it all, Michael Brenner, the man she feels sure is the one for her, always seems just out of reach.But when she meets Adrian, a recent Brown graduate who is wildly different from her privileged milieu, she finds her world view turned upside down and begins to realise that there is more to life and love than she ever believed. 

This is another great revisit to the old bookshelf like Coco’s Secret and The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House.

This novel is totally up my alley and would resonate with anyone in their early to mid-twenties. It is thoughtful, engaging and absolutely right. This is not about a little rich girl constantly whining. This is about a young women whose structured life-list has dwindled to two more boxes to tick: get a job and get married. On the outside her life seems fantastic. She can go out till dawn at fancy clubs drinking Mandarin Tonics, go for a luxury brunch and if she really wanted, have her mum make that call that would get her a job. But she wants to be somebody with a sense of purpose, and finally achieve something by herself, not wasting away at an empty penthouse. There are also so many crappy issues swimming around and plenty for the reader to chew on. She is in love with someone who is too perfect he is unreal. She tries to deal the massive rifts in her family and on top of that struggles with the tremors of uncertainty that 9/11 had created.

I am not an Upper East Sid-er or a Chelsea girl but I have definitely not been roughing it all my life. So I get how Hailey feels when the pressure is there to succeed, especially when the odds are stacked in your favor. As graduates we KNOW right? We are in a hotpot of expectations: comparing, asking, waiting…  Its funny how situations haven’t really changed since the early 00’s. The author captures all these feelings very well.

The novel is structured with no chapters, but paragraph breaks, which really captures the never ending fragmentation. Hailey’s thoughts drift back and forth between dark memories, make-belief scenarios and dreams of the future. The writing is super witty at times, with very sharp dialogues. I loved this line of Hailey’s: ‘Even if I handed her the stack of cover letters I sent out since I graduated, or mentioned all the second round interviews I’d gone on, or all the hours I spent perusing the Times, Hotjobs and Craiglist, they’d still picture me in my pajamas padding around this apartment all day’ (p.27) (I totally get you girl).

It was really interesting getting an insight into a post-9/11 world and the New York elite; their lives are so shiny but suffocating. I never realised that you can live in a big city but still feel like your in a small neighborhood where everyone knows everybody’s business. But this novel is not all gloom. Hailey’s hopes are restored towards the end, especially in the form of Adrian, who breezes in like fresh air.

Connect with the author: @michellehaimoff

Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass (The Selection Series Book 2)

Great sequel
Great sequel

Published by Harper Collins UK Children’s, April 23 2013, 352 pages, £6.33)

Quick Description: Fantastic sequel to the dystopia/fairytale series.

Steam?: pretty much the same as the first book- passionate moments but nothing graphic.

Plot: *Spoilers* look away if you have not read The Selection 

The Selection gets fierce as rivals stake their claim on the prince. Six girls, one life-changing prize… America Singer will leave her pre-destined life for a world of glamour and luxury, if she wins…

But surviving The Selection is tough. Rivals are battling to become Prince Maxon’s bride as the threat of rebel violence just beyond the palace walls escalates into war.Only six girls are left and sworn friendships are tested to breaking point. America’s feelings for Maxon grow stronger, but she suspects darker mysteries in his royal past. With ex-lover Aspen waiting for her in the shadows, where do her loyalties truly lie?

This is a brilliant sequel to the first book, and I pretty much devoured it in one sitting. The competition is now down to only 6 girls and tensions are turned up a notched. I can almost feel the subtle animosity and jealousies crackling. Plenty of things happen for us get stuck in. The contestants are tested even harder for their suitability for the Crown. I was on America’s side from day one and really wanted to see everyone go down. However, a few surprising events start to unfold- we learn a bit more about Marlee’s background and get a good glimpse into the darkness of Illea and their royal family. Prince Maxon’s affections also start to waver and he turns out a more complicated character than we thought. Meanwhile, America gets her hands on some historical material that asks more questions than answer them.

The main point in this novel is that America is confused; as anyone would be really. She struggles with her feelings for Maxon and Aspen, both different (but gorgeous) men who offer her different things. She gets very close to losing them both as they start giving out ultimatums. She started the competition only wanting her normal life with Aspen, but now everything has changed and she can’t look back. She doesn’t know whether she wants the Crown or not, or whether she can actually do it. She is scared, determined, and love-sick all at the same time. The author conveys this mash-up very well, but the ‘I don’t know’s start to get a bit frustrating after a while.

The increased rebel attacks terrify everybody, but also bewilder America who starts seeing clues and patterns. What I really want to know is, what the hell is going on with the country? And who are we really afraid of- the rebels or the royals?

Connect with the author: @kieracass

Review copy courtesy of Netgalley. Thank you!

Review: The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

Mystery with a capital M
Mystery with a capital M

Published by Penguin, 28 August 2014, 512 pages, £7.99

Quick description: Mystery and romance novel, set in two different time periods, will leave you HOOKED.

Steam?: Some intense moments.

Plot: It’s 1965 and eighteen year-old Rosie Churchill has run away to the beautiful but run-down Castaway House in the seaside town of Helmstone. But when she uncovers a scandal locked away in the walls of the old house, she soon comes to realise that neither her own troubled past nor that of the house will stay buried for long. . .

In 1924 fresh-faced Robert Carver comes to Castaway House to spend a languid summer in the company of his much wealthier cousin, Alec Bray. But the Brays are a damaged family, with damaging secrets. And little does Robert know that his world is about to change for ever.

As Rosie begins to learn more about Robert, the further she is drawn into the mysterious history of the house, and their stories, old and new, entwine.

Like with my previous review of Coco’s Secret by Niamh Greene, I have been revisiting the old book shelf and seeing what has been left behind. Many books that I have currently lined up for me won’t be published till June so I need to do some filling in the meantime. But Castaway provides pretty good filling.

This novel is BRILLIANT and it got me so HOOKED. I don’t want to say too much about the plot in case of spoilers, because the mystery pretty much kicks in on page one. If you want a well-written mystery that deepens with every page and some romance splashed in, trust me blindly and get it. I would recommend an eBook version, because its quite a thick book and I hated leaving it behind during my commute.

The chapters alternates between the two protagonists; Rosie in the 60s, Robert in the 20s, and one place, Castaway House. Rosie is a young women who is trying to piece together her life after a terrible incident which has left her confused and frightened. Robert is also young and naive, with little knowledge of love and desire. As he immerses himself into the Bray’s troubling issues, Rosie starts piecing together the end of his story and discovering the start of her own.

I loved how the author entwined the time zones together in a fluid motion. The mystery is teased out gradually, but not in an aggravating pace. The reader gets enough to be curious and craving more till the end. I also loved how well the author captures the youth of the Rosie and Robert; the vulnerability, the awkwardness, the energy and the daring strength. There were certainly some passionate moments to get snared in. Great detail had also gone into the secondary characters, and they are more significant than at first glance. (wink)

The revelations are surprising, and the issues are resolved in unexpected ways. Rest assured, you will not have typical ending. You will, hopefully as I have, face more mysteries in terms of the enigma and ever underestimated power of love.

Connect with the author: @StephanieLam1

*COVER REVEAL* This Is One Moment by Mila Gray

I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in the cover reveal for Mila Gray’s (aka Sarah Alderson) latest book, This Is One Moment. As you well know I fell in love with Come Back to Me  and am super pumped for a follow-up. The cover is in the same style as its predecessor- bold, intense,but also young and fun. Its out by Macmillan 10/09/15, £7.99, £5.99 (eBook).

The steamy, romantic follow-up to Come Back to Me
A forbidden romance.

A wounded Marine who thinks he’s beyond saving.

A girl who’s determined to prove him wrong.Didi Monroe’s waited her whole life for the type of romance you see in the movies, so when Hollywood heartthrob Zac Ridgemont sweeps her off her feet, Didi believes she might finally have met the one.While Zac’s away filming for the summer, Didi begins her internship at a military hospital in California. There, she meets wounded Marine Noel Walker. Frustrated on the outside and broken on the inside, Walker’s a pain-in-the-ass patient who refuses all help.

Yet Didi can’t help but be drawn to him, and though he’s strictly out of bounds it soon becomes impossible to ignore the sparks flying between them.

As the attraction simmers into dangerous territory, Didi finds herself falling hard for a man she knows is going to break her heart. Because Walker doesn’t believe in love or happy ever afters. So what possible future can there be?

Then tragedy hits, shattering both their worlds, and Didi is forced to choose between fighting for love or merely falling for the illusion of it.

From Mila Gray, author of the bestselling romance Come Back To Me, comes a devastatingly beautiful, compelling and sexy story about the meaning of love and the heartbreak of loss.

“A captivating, heartfelt and sexy romance about the power of a love that won’t let go” – Liz Bankes, author of Irresistible

“A perfect, heartwrenching love story” – Weaving Pages

“The sexiest, most romantic book I’ve ever read . . . I couldn’t put it down” – Becky Wicks, author of Before He Was Famous

“This book was just PERFECTION and I cannot recommend it enough!” –

About The Author
Mila Gray is the pseudonym for author Sarah Alderson. Having spent most of her life in London, Sarah quit her job in the non profit sector in 2009 and took off on a round the world trip with her husband and tutu-wearing daughter on a mission to find a new place to call home. She now lives in Bali.
She is the author of YA novels Hunting Lila and Losing Lila, as well as a further four novels and several short stories.
www.milagray.comFor further information please call 020 7014 6000


Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess


Published by Macmillan Children’s, 21 May 2015, 192 pages, £3.79 (Kindle)

Plot: Olivia Grace is completely average. Or so she thinks . . . until Her Royal Highness, Princess Mia Thermopolis turns up at her school one day and whisks Olivia away to New York City! In a limo, no less! Where you can eat all the cookies you want and the ceiling lights up pink and purple – like a disco! But discovering that your father is actually the Prince of Genovia is quite a shock. Especially since it means you’re a descendent of the Kingdom of Genovia, and a princess. Olivia’s got a lot to learn about her long-lost family – and everyone’s got a lot to learn about her! Olivia chronicles her transformation from ordinary girl to princess in her notebook, with illustrations from Meg Cabot, who studied Fine Arts as an undergraduate.

This book is the first of the two new Princess Diaries published this year- WOOP. Thank you so much Macmillan and Net Galley for approving my request! See my hype on Meg Cabot, romance, YA extraordinaire and one of my all-time favorite authors. If you have been following Princess Mia for half your life, then this is a lovely quench to a 6 year starve.

This book is seriously CUTE. Such a lovely story about a young girl finding self- confidence in her abilities. Olivia triumphs over bullies, embraces who she really is and has a fairy-tale ending. The illustrations add a nice touch- I love the one of Grandmere.

As this book is aimed for a younger audience and is quite short (I finished it in an hour, probably less if I wasn’t fawning over the pictures), I would recommend it only to Princess Diaries fans if you are over teen years. Otherwise, this book is perfect for young girls of a fluent reading ability.

I CANNOT wait for Princess Diaries 11, coming in June………………….


Romance Novels: Why are we ashamed to read them?

1950's Romance
1950’s Romance

Romance novels dominate as the biggest selling genre in the UK and US. There is no question that they are hugely popular. I love reading romances. They leave me feeling deeply satisfied and happy. Hillary Clinton also confesses that she enjoys reading them ‘‘for pleasure’’ (KTR 2010). According to RWA (Romance Writers of America), a professional organization made up of 10,000 writers, the annual total sales value was $1.08 billion in 2013. This means the fiction genre taking up the largest chunk of the US consumer market at 13%.

However, these books are surrounded by a culture of shame. They are dismissed and mocked as trashy, smutty, and women’s porn. Hannah Burnett, from the University of Georgia, acknowledges this ‘shame of the heroine as being an object of desire and [her own] real shame of reading a book about desire’ (2013, 141). We writers and also readers put ourselves down. That’s why one of my favourite authors, Meg Cabot, started off with a penname, and why I have opted for one too. I remember my optician telling me that her daughter was an author. Excited on her behalf, I asked her what kind of novels her daughter writes. She replied, ‘‘Oh, just those romance, chick-lit type of books’’, as if this fact was a low-point. But why exactly do we feel, or are made to feel, ashamed when taking pleasure in romance?

I believe, and so does Professor Linda J. Lee, of the University of Philadelphia, that the reason is ‘simply because it is women’s fiction’ (2008, 52). If this is the case, then the problem goes quite deep. Romances are written by women, for women. RWA confirms that 84% of women are romance book buyers in the US in 2014. (Nielsen Romance Buyer Survey). Yet, romances are excluded from serious literary publications like The London/ New York Review of Books. There has also been very little academic research on this genre. Trust me I know, after having scanned my university database before my library card expired.

Noah Berlatsky writes a compelling article in about the disturbing connection between genre and gender: ‘Romance is seen as unserious and frivolous because women are seen as unserious and frivolous’ (Feb 2014). He argues that this particular attitude is linked to the attitude that prevents certain high-brow venues publishing and reviewing more women writers.

So are we ashamed to be openly feminine?

All romances share a formulaic plot parallel to fairy-tales: two characters meet, there is tension, they ultimately embrace sometimes in the form of a love-scene, and there is conflict which resolves itself with a happy ending involving marriage and children. There are many subgenres, such as regency (my favourite), historical, paranormal, western and contemporary, but all centre on the notion of love. Reading about fairy-tale endings might imply that women are naïve, unintelligent and weak to want things like marriage. But I know that reality and books are separate entities. I read romance because it is a great stress-reliever and the predictable endings offer a feeling of stability.

The term ‘romance’ usually conjures up a traditional ‘bodice-ripping’ book covers with a muscular hunk and a swooning woman whose clothes are falling apart. Many readers are put off and embarrassed by these images because they suggest shallow, dominant-submissive relationships and even rape fantasies. These concepts came to represent the entire genre and also justified the scornful attitude towards them. I remember my friend referring to romances as ‘‘those gross ones that fill half the library and are taken out by old women’’.

Best-selling regency
Best-selling regency

Professor Rita Hubbarb claims that many of the older romance novels from the 1950s did lean this way. Using the example of Sweet Waters by Rosalind Brett, published by Harlequin in 1955, she sums up the heroine as constantly virginal with low-esteem, while the hero as always successful and domineering (2009, 117). Thankfully, attitudes are changing. From the 1980s, female characters are liberated and depicted equal to men. I read about women who are smart, strong-minded and respected by their suitors, for example in Educating Caroline by Patricia Cabot and Come Back to Me by Mila Gray.

However, this post-Fifty Shades era is a mixed one. Its phenomenal success has brought the attention of ‘paper-back’ fiction to non-romance publishers and encouraged a flood of female writers, like Sylvia Day and her Crossfire Series, published by prestigious Penguin. But it has also cemented stereotypes and shoe-horned the category of romance as erotica. Now many people think that all romances include bondage.

What also nags is why novels like Pride and Prejudice, which follow the romance plot, are considered ‘greats’ and not Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James? Is it the sex? There is plenty of sex in many critically acclaimed novels, for example The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq, one of the books on my MA course list. Or is it more the sexual satisfaction from the heroine’s point of view that receives some sniggers? When women admit to reading romance, they are also implying that they are in touch with their sexuality.

Is it also the low calibre of writing? Many romances are written in simple and clumsy styles, usually the eBooks going for less than a £/$1 on Kindle. But you get both the good and bad mash-up in all genres. I recently read a book nominated for the Man Booker prize which I thought was awful.

Is it also the fact that classics have been around too long to be questioned? This precisely is the mind-set that people have about literature and gender that is both stubborn and damaging. Women readers do not want to be seen as silly, indulging in overtly sexual and submissive fantasies that make them look frustrated, lonely, or a ‘spinster’. But do you see the irony? If you enjoy romances and hide it then you are repressing a part of yourself and that is being submissive in itself.


Berlatsky, Noah. (2014) ‘‘Highbrow media’s sexist blind spot: Romance novels’’, Feb 25. Accessed April 17, 2015.

Burnett, Hannah. E. (2013) ‘‘Shame game: Romance novels and feminist shame, a mad lib for collective feeling’’, in Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, 23:1, pp. 140-144.

Hubbarb, Rita. C. (2009) ‘‘Relationship styles in popular romance novels, 1950 to 1983’’ in, Communication Quarterly, 33:2, pp. 113-125.

KTR. 2010. “Townterview Hosted by KTR,” 2 December. Accessed April 17, 2015.

Lee, Linda. J. (2008) ‘‘Guilty Pleasures: Reading Novels as Reworked Fairy Tales’’, in Marvels & Tales, Volume 22, Number 1, 2008, pp. 52-66.

Romance Writers of America (RWA). (2015) “Romance Writers of America website.” Accessed April 17, 2015.

Coco’s Secret by Niamh Greene


Published by Penguin Books, Aug 2013, 356 pages, £3.49 (Kindle)

Quick Description: Heartwarming tale of a woman’s search for meaning.

Perfect for: lazy weekends

Steam?: minimal

Plot: With a name like Coco, she thinks people expect her to be as exotic and glamorous as the famous designer, not an ordinary-looking small-town antiques dealer who could win an award for living cautiously. But when a vintage Chanel handbag turns up in a box of worthless bric-a-brac, Coco’s quiet world is turned upside down. Where did it come from? And is it just coincidence that it’s the same bag Coco’s late mother always wanted for her? When Coco discovers a mysterious, decades-old letter hidden in the bag’s lining, she sets off on a quest to piece together the story behind it, stumbling across secrets that span three generations as she goes.

Could the beautiful Chanel bag be about to teach Coco more than she wants to learn? Or will it show her just where her heart can take her if she lets it lead the way?

This book was lingering on my book shelf for a while. Its cover gave off signals of a light chick-lit read. So when I picked it up a few days ago, feeling ill and wanting a nice read, I carried on engrossed for many hours. I finished it within a day.

The beginning packs a punch and the sense of sadness remains in the background of the novel. But this isn’t a sob fest. The characters find the courage to move on and embrace the present. There is plenty of mystery that keeps the reader interested, not just involving the bag but also Coco and her family. The two emotional and intense stories start to intertwine, resulting in painful revelations. If you are someone who believes in fate and signs then you would completely understand this novel.

Coco is someone who many can relate to. She is kind, smart, hard-working, but is she too comfortable? She reaches a point in her life when she starts getting reality check-outs from her friends and family. Is she living life the fullest? Is she in denial about some things?

Whilst there is romance, the novel is more about Coco’s love for herself, her family and of life. The quest of the bag leads her to some unresolved issues of her past, making comical turns and reaching heart-warming moments- proof that a Chanel bag has powers (when can I get my hands on one??).

Connect with the author: @Niamh_Greene

Review: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Quirky high school romance
Quirky high school romance

Published by Harlequin Teen/ Mira Ink, 384 pages, April 13th 2015, £6.99 (Amazon).

Quick description: Quirky and witty story of contemporary high school shenanigans.

Steam?: none-graphic, some heat and tender moments.

Plot: Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be clichés so they even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school.

Some of the rules have been easy to follow; But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green.

It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

So, many people are comparing this to works by John Green. As someone who has not yet read The Fault in Our Stars etc, I can safely say that I enjoyed this in its own right. It is pretty brilliant writing. The dialogue is very witty and sharp as a razor. All the characters, not just the protagonists, are hilarious. There were certainly laugh out loud moments that turned a few heads during my reading.

That is not to say that the novel is light-hearted. There area few seriously intense moments. Dave and Julia are so determined to be ‘original’ during high-school that they completely ostracize themselves for 4 whole years. I mean I totally get that. It brought back my own memories. At that age you are so desperate to be unique and different. You don’t feel connected to the ‘in-crowd’, so you are OK brushing them away as unintelligent and ‘cliche’. Ignore them before they can ignore you. As Dave and Julia find out, this mentality doesn’t really last and happiness is only temporary.

What the protagonists do not realize, is that they are an ultimate cliche. A boy and girl who are childhood best friends, with the boy harboring a life-long crush? Where have we encountered this before?- Er I don’t know, everywhere! What is up with American high schools and boy-girl best friends… And the bucket-list activity fits perfectly as a Disney TV movie.

As the friends start ticking down their list, they embark on a roller coaster of interesting emotions, unearthing complicated issues that have been kept at bay for 4 years. Their different reasons for being social out casts become clear, but this realization leaves themselves to re-think their life choices. This amounts to an unexpected and totally un-cliched ending, which I honestly found a little abrupt and confusing.

The novel did actually remind me of Indy teen movies: Juno, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I can see Dave being played by Dylan O’Brien and Julia by Chloe Grace Moretz. I know, cliche much?