Brief blogs for busy bees

Recent Posts

Review: Scared To Death by Anthony Horowitz

Review: Scared To Death by Anthony Horowitz

“Why go digging up the past when all it will give you is dust in the eye?” Scared To Death is the first Anthony Horowitz book I’ve ever read, which should be impossible because he’s published so many. I’ve been recommended both the Alex Rider series and […]

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Discovered in 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Discovered in 2018

Hey guys! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is another fun topic, especially because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone last year and discovered quite a few new authors who became instant favourites. I think some of you will be surprised that I waited […]

Review: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Review: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

‘This is the true core of human nature. When we’ve lost the strength to save ourselves, we somehow find the strength to save each other.’

California has been experiencing a drought for a while. The Tap-Out has led to the introduction of the Frivolous Use Initiative – fining people for watering their lawns or throwing water balloons – among other things, but it’s too little, too late. The damage has already been done.

Although it’s a surprise when water stops running through the taps, it feels inevitable. The government brings in desalination tanks to filter the saltwater from the ocean, so Alyssa and Garrett’s parents head down there to try and get their family some water… But they don’t come back.

Luckily, their next door neighbours are doomsday preppers whose son has a huge crush on Alyssa. Kelton offers them water to get them through the day, and after a couple of harrowing events they – along with Jacqui, a girl they meet during an encounter with some “water zombies” – head across the country in search of the family’s Bug-Out.

Dry is thrilling because it feels realistic. With devastating wildfires breaking out across California every year, destroying huge swathes of the land and taking lives, the idea of a drought being so bad that all water completely dries up isn’t that bizarre. As the events unfold, you remain gripped and unable to put the book down because you just can’t wait to see what happens next, the same way that it’s difficult to turn the live coverage on TV off when a natural disaster is unfolding.

As well as jumping between multiple perspectives (primarily Alyssa and Kelton, but with more introduced) there are also ‘snapshots’ laced throughout the story, adding layers to the world and drawing you even further in. Following people trapped in airports, stationary cars jammed on the freeway and pilots unable to help thousands in need, the depth of world-building and attention to detail is astounding.

If you can, I highly suggest setting aside a chunk of time before you start reading Dry, because as soon as the tension starts building it’s very hard to pull yourself out of the story. I made the mistake of picking Dry up in the middle of the night when I couldn’t get back to sleep, and I ended up staying awake for three hours to finish it – it was impossible to resist turning another page, and another, and another…

You’ll find your mouth drying out and feel thankful for every bit of liquid you drink while you’re reading it. It’s also made me much more careful with water; I’ve never been particularly wasteful, but I’ve found myself taking shorter showers and using the tap less throughout the day. If everyone who reads Dry makes the effort to cut down on their water usage even by a little bit, it’ll make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.



Review: The Last by Hanna Jameson

Review: The Last by Hanna Jameson

Jon Keller never though he’d be at a conference in a hotel in Switzerland when the world ended, but that’s exactly how it happens. One moment, he’s having a hotel breakfast, the next there’s a woman screaming at her phone, devastated to learn that there’s […]

Review: Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

Review: Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

There’s something different about Clementine, and Jago is the only one who can see it. He ceaselessly bullies her at school and before long Clem snaps, shoving him across the room with an unnatural strength. Clementine is suspended, so her father takes the opportunity to […]

Top Ten Tuesday: Most anticipated 2019 releases

Top Ten Tuesday: Most anticipated 2019 releases

It’s been a while since my last Top Ten Tuesday post, but I’ve decided to start taking part again now that 2019 has begun. Hopefully I’ll keep be able to keep on top of it this year, as I’ve missed reading all of your lists each week!

This is a really fun topic to return on: ten of the most anticipated releases for the first six months of 2019. I haven’t been keeping up with bookish announcements as closely as I used to, so I’ve had to do a bit of research for this post, but I’m now thinking that 2019 is going to be one of the best years that YA has seen for quite a while.

Here we go!

10) Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron

I loved Sophie Cameron’s debut novel Out of the Blue, and I’m hoping that Last Bus to Everland will also incorporate magical realism throughout. The blurb makes me think I’m probably right – a boy is whisked off to somewhere called Everland, a ‘knock-off Narnia’, by his artist friend – so I’m looking forward to discovering whether there is any magic to be found in this story. Publishing May 14th.

9) Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

I’m still halfway through State of Sorrow, which I started right after it was released, but I’m planning on finishing it before the sequel, Song of Sorrow, is released. The first book in the series was on course to be one of my favourite books of last year, but I started reading it just before I gave birth, and reading physical books has been much harder since Miss Grabby Hands arrived. Publishing March 7th.

8) The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree would be higher up my list if it was shorter, but I find its length highly intimidating. Clocking in at over 800 pages, it’ll certainly take me a long time to read, but it took Samantha Shannon even longer to write, and I’ve been following her progress on Twitter for so many years that Priory already feels like one of my favourite books. Publishing February 26th.

7) On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

I’m in the small minority of people who haven’t read The Hate U Give yet, but I’m hoping to get it done before On The Come Up is released (or, at least, before I read it). This is likely to be one of the biggest releases of 2018, so I’m going to prioritise reading this one so I can actually join in on the conversation surrounding it instead of hiding in a spoiler-free cave! Publishing February 5th.

6) King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars is a conflicting one. I absolutely loved Nikolai Lantsov’s character in the Grisha trilogy, but Ruin and Rising – the third book in the series – ended up being one of the most disappointing books I’d ever read. I’m excited to see more of Nikolai, but I’m desperately hoping that a certain someone won’t make an appearance… Publishing January 29th.

5) Proud

The LGBT+ anthology Proud has been one of my most anticipated releases since it was announced, but I’m even more excited about it since my request to read it was accepted on NetGalley. A lot of authors I really admire have contributed to this anthology, and I’ve always been a sucker for short stories, so I have high high hopes for this book. Publishing March 7th.

4) Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard

Fierce Fragile Hearts is a companion novel to Sara Barnard’s debut, Beautiful Broken Things. I’ve been a fan of Barnard’s writing since reading her debut, so I’m sure you can understand how excited I was when she announced that she was returning to the characters I originally fell in love with. Publishing February 7th.

3) A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven

A Girl Called Shameless is the sequel to The Exact Opposite of Okay, which was one of the best debuts I read in 2018. Laura Steven’s writing style is very easy to relate to, the way she crafts her characters making them so realistic that they practically walk off of the page, and I’m looking forward to meeting up with Izzy again and seeing what happens next in her story. Publishing March.

2) Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

I read Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes in the summer, and it was one of the best YA contemporaries that I’d ever read. I’m not a huge fan of hiking or camping, so Serious Moonlight is likely to be even more up my street, as it follows a protagonist who is obsessed with mystery novels. Any reader is a friend of mine. Publishing April 16th.

1) The Wicked King by Holly Black

I’ve read a lot of Holly Black’s books, but The Cruel Prince is easily the best of them. As soon as I finished it I was dying to pick up the sequel, The Wicked King, which is actually released TODAY! My copy is in the post at the moment, and I’m hoping to read it as soon as it arrives, because I can’t wait to see what happens to Jude and Cardan.

I hope you enjoyed this Top Ten Tuesday. Did I feature your most anticipated release, or was it missing from my list?



Review: Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Review: Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Courtney Aloysius Cooper IV is in love with his best friend, Jupiter, but there’s not likely to be a Jupe-and-Coop romance anytime soon, because Jupiter is gay. He’s always struggled to accept this fact, but his girlfriends have found their closeness even harder to accept, […]

Let’s try this again, shall we?

Let’s try this again, shall we?

Hey everyone, First of all, Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed spending Christmas with your families and didn’t have to work too hard. In case you hadn’t already guessed, I vastly underestimated the reality of working in retail during the Christmas months: I’ve […]

Blog tour: Where The Truth Lies by M.J. Lee

Blog tour: Where The Truth Lies by M.J. Lee

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Where The Truth Lies blog tour. I’ve teamed up with Canelo quite a few times this year, and I’m glad I was invited to participate in the blog tour for this book, because it’s a corker. It’s the first of M.J. Lee’s novels that I’ve read, but I certainly think I might have discovered a new favourite author in this one, as his writing style is highly absorbing.

More on that later, though. First of all I want to tell you a little bit more about When The Truth Lies, and share an excerpt which introduces Ridpath’s character beautifully and will have you running to add the book to your basket.

Where The Truth Lies by M.J. Lee

The case was closed. Until people started dying… The unputdownable first DI Ridpath crime thriller from bestseller M.J. Lee. 

A killer in total control. A detective on the edge. A mystery that HAS to be solved.

DI Thomas Ridpath was on the up in the Manchester CID: a promising young detective whose first case involved capturing a notorious serial killer. But ten years later he’s recovering from a serious illness and on the brink of being forced out of the police. Then people start dying: tortured, murdered, in an uncanny echo of Ridpath’s first case.

As the investigation intensifies, old bodies go missing, records can’t be found and the murder count grows. Caught in a turf war between the police and the coroner’s office, digging up skeletons some would rather forget, Ridpath is caught in a race against time: a race to save his career, his marriage… And lives.

When a detective goes missing everything is on the line. Can Ridpath close the case and save his colleague?

Here’s that excerpt I promised:

“How’d it go?” His wife was taking off her coat in the hallway, shouting through to the living room.

He was reading the blue file given to him by Margaret Challinor. She was right. A coroner’s officer did everything and anything: from informing families about the death of loved ones to attending crime scenes, investigating cases to chasing down witnesses, visiting mortuaries to liaising with doctors. The job was a glorified social worker cum private investigator cum general dogsbody.

She appeared in the doorway, her straight black Chinese hair still damp from the rain. “Didn’t you hear me? How’d it go?”

He looked up from the blue file. “Charlie Whitworth and John Gorman are looking out for me, but the deputy chief has ‘reservations’.” He formed his fingers into sarcastic quote marks.

“What does that mean?”

“It means they want me to be the coroner’s officer for three months.”

“What does one of them do?”

He held up the blue file. “I’m just finding out. But it should be a less stressful job, with regular hours. An easier life.”

“You’re not getting a desk job at headquarters? The least they owe you is a desk job.”

Ridpath shook his head. “I asked for one but there are none available. The cutbacks…” He looked away from her and back to his job description, hoping she would forgive him for the fib.

She sat down on the couch opposite. “You didn’t ask, did you? You asked to go back to work as a detective.”

How did Polly always know when he was lying? She would have made a great copper.

“Tom, you promised me.” She reached out to touch his hand. “Your health, it-”

He shrugged the hand off his arm. “The doctors said I was fit to work. I’ve been prodded and poked like the last buttie in the chip shop for the last nine months, Poll. I’ve been running and working out for the last three. Feel that.” He flexed his biceps. “Strongest I’ve ever been.” His voice softened. “I’ve got to get back to work. Can’t stand doing nothing anymore.”

“Can’t stand being around me, you mean?”

“It’s not about you. I can’t stand being treated like a child.”

“I’m just worried about you. The doctor said if you get a cold or flu, it could be dangerous.”

“He also said I was fit for work.”

She raised her voice. “Fit to go back to work. Not fit to run around Manchester chasing bloody nutters.”

A silence like a shroud of fog settled between them. Outside the window, the soft patter of pain on the cobblestones of the patio he had laid last week. Inside, the clock on the mantelpiece ticked loudly. Upstairs, the dull thud of his daughter’s music shook the ceiling.

Ridpath finally broke the silence. “I went into Eve’s bedroom this evening. She’s got pictures of half-naked Chinese men on her walls.”

“They’re not pictures of half-naked men. They’re pictures of half-naked boys. Korean boys.”

He looked at her, as if to say give me a break.

“It’s BTS, the latest Korean boy band. The craze is going around all the schools at the moment. Half my class wants to go to Korea. The other half haven’t got a clue where it is. At least it helps me teach geography.”

“I don’t like it. She’s only ten, for God’s sake.”

“She’s ten going on twenty-three. Girls grow up quicker these days.”

“I still don’t like it.”

“Well, if you want her to take them down, you can ask her yourself. I’m not going anywhere near that minefield.” She stood up. “Fancy a cup of tea?”

He put down the file. “Nah, I’m going to walk the dog.”

“We don’t have a dog.”

“He’s going to get walked anyway.”

She leant over and kissed him on the cheek. “Quiz night at the Horse and Jockey?”

He nodded.

“I thought you’d had enough of coming second?”

“Those bloody students can’t win every week. Anyway we’ve got a new team member, appeared on University Challenge a few years back.”

“So you and your mates have brought in a ringer?”

“Not a ringer. A buzzer. Could beat them tonight.”

“Can you drop in the offie on your way back from the pub, get some milk?”

He looked around for his coat. “I still don’t like those posters.”

“Well, if you want to start World War Three…” She left the rest of the sentence unfinished.

“What is it with girls today?”

“Oh, Mr. “Girls’ should know their place and it’s behind the sink” is showing his face, is he?”

“It’s not that, she’s only ten. They’re supposed to be into Barbie and stuff.”

“You’re treading on thin ice…”

He opened the door. “I’d better tread on it on the way to the pub. And it’s the naked men I worry about…”

“Naked boys, actually.” There followed a long sigh. “If you want, I’ll have a chat with her and see if she can’t find some different posters.”


“And wrap up before you go out. Wear the wool fleece with your coat over the top. And don’t forget to wear a scarf, the thick blue one…”

He made a face at her.

There was another long silence between them. This time it was Polly who broke it. “I don’t want to lose you, Ridpath. Eve doesn’t want to lose you. I don’t know what I’d do if…”

He reached over and held her tight. “I know, Poll, I know.”

If you’re interested in reading more about Where The Truth Lies, click on the cover above to check it out on Goodreads.


About the author: 

M.J. Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a university researcher in M.J Leehistory, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the north of England, in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning advertising awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and the United Nations.

While working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarters of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in the 1920s.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practising downhill ironing, single-handedly solved the problem of the French wine lake, and wishing he were George Clooney.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, and I hope you enjoyed this stop on the Where The Truth Lies blog tour. Another huge thank you to Ellie at Canelo for inviting me to participate, and make sure to check out some of the other bloggers who have posted recently – there have been some great posts in the past week, and I’m sure there will be during the rest of the tour too.

Have you read any of M.J. Lee’s other novels, and if so where would you recommend I start?



Blog tour: Before I Find You by Ali Knight

Blog tour: Before I Find You by Ali Knight

Hello there, and welcome to my stop on the Before I Find You blog tour. Sorry for the radio silence over the past couple of weeks: we’ve moved home and trying to get WiFi installed has been a nightmare, so it’s been a blogless fortnight for me. […]