Sunshine over Wildflower Cottage

When it comes to feel-good romantic stories you can’t beat Molly Johnson.

Sunshine over Wildflower Cottage tells the story of Viv who takes a job at Wildflower Cottage animal sanctuary. She’s actually hiding a very big secret, but finds herself growing more attached to the place and people every day. Alongside this we also follow the story of her mum, Stel, who is embarking on a new romance; but will it be as disastrous as her previous relationships have all proven to be?

What starts out as a light-hearted book also actually carries some very heavy themes about abusive and controlling relationships, particularly shown through the sub-plot.

One of my favourite things about Molly Johnson’s stories is that they don’t just focus on romance but also on the power of female friendship and support, and this one is no different. In fact I’d be inclined to say this is a story that is far more about friendships than it is about romance and it is this that makes it well worth a read.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Imagine a world where women are more powerful than men, where girls possess the power to generate and control electrical charges. Would the world be very different, or would it be strangely familiar?

This story starts with a series of letters between Naomi and Neil, who is writing a semi-fictional historical book, based on how women came into power and the world before that happened. We are then given the main body of story, which starts in the present day, or thereabouts. We begin with the Day of the Girls, where 15 year old girls around the world discover an incredible new power. They soon awaken this power in older women, and the world begins to change.

The Power follows several characters during this period of change: Roxy, the tough daughter of a London crime gang leader; Allie, or Mother Eve as she becomes known, full of spiritual belief; Politician Margot and her daughter Jos, who struggles to maintain her new powers even with the help of her mother’s influence; Tunde, a male reporter, who tries to record and report the most dramatic events, even when it puts his own life in danger.

This is a fantastic story and it is told so well. It takes everything we know and assume about gender and turns it on its head. It is shocking, and disturbing at times, certainly not always a comfortable read, but it is thought-provoking and fast-paced. For me, possibly the best part of the book is when we return to the letters at the end. Despite the shocking events described in the rest of the novel, it is these letters that really hit home with the overall message of the story and challenge our thinking about gender.

And the ending of the story? It was perfect. The final line was absolutely spot-on in terms of impact. 

Trust me, this is a book well worth reading.

Pop Goes The Weasel by M.J.Arlidge

Pop Goes The Weasel is the second DI Helen Grace novel by M.J.Arlidge. It’s a fast paced thriller with lots of shocking and gory details that can easily be read in a few sittings.

Southampton is shaken by a series of distressing murders. Men are having their hearts cut out following encounters with a mysterious prostitute. DI Helen Grace and her team need to track down the serial killer before anyone else dies, but they’re all still reeling from the personal trauma surrounding their last encounter with a multiple murderer. Can they find the woman before anyone else dies?

This is an easy-to-read, fast paced thriller with a good plot that pulls the reader through the book quickly. Fortunately, unlike in the first DI Helen Grace book, there are a few less details about how amazing she looks. If I had to offer a criticism it would probably be the darkness of the book: this is one of those stories that gives you a pretty bleak view of the world. Barely anyone in it experiences much happiness in life. However, if you’re looking for something shocking and dramatic, but that you don’t have to think too much about, this is a great choice.