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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Review: Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert @avonbooks @TaliaHibbert

Get A Life, Chloe Brown 
by Talia Hibbert


Publisher: Avon
Publish Date: November 5, 2019
iBooks
384 Pages
Series: The Brown Sisters #1
Genres: Contemporary, Romance


Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?


• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And... do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…


My Review:



As an avid list maker, how could I not fall in love with Chloe Brown?  And Red.  And Dani.  And Eve. Hibbert wrote these characters with such depth and goodness.  How Chloe navigates her daily life dealing with her fibromyalgia and chronic pain is a joy to see.  Her independence and snarky sense of humor really drew me to her from the beginning.  Then we have Red, who is another person whose hurt can't be seen from the outside.  We really get to learn about these two, watch their journey in revelations towards each other and the lives surrounding them.  And how one fateful day, after a near death experience, Chloe decides to "get a life" and who better to help her with that than the mysterious "bad boy", Red?


Ok, ok... so we all know how the enemies to lovers trope works so there's nothing surprising about the layout of this read and who we are ALL rooting for.  I've said this before and I'll continue to say it - it's about the journey getting there that really makes contemporary romance work for me.  There were a couple of moments where I thought I was going to get a tooth ache from the utter sweetness of some of their dialogue.  But really, how do you not love their flirting/banter for the most part?  I think the only instance that I didn't particularly care for is that added moment where something inevitably has to go wrong and I just don't quite buy why this particular part happened.  For me, I don't think it was entirely necessary and felt out of character.  Then again, I've been known to be short tempered and reactionary so..... ๐Ÿ˜

Listen y'all.  The author wrote a very tantalizing (hello sex scenes - *purr*) contemporary romance full of diverse characters dealing with their own inner turmoil.  We needs more of this very human and real type of read.  You best believe I've already bought Dani Brown's story and can't wait to learn more about this amazing family.

Now excuse me while I go find a cat to save out of a tree. ๐Ÿ˜‰

★★★★


Friday, August 7, 2020

#ATBR2020 Review: Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks @Jessmapreviews

Lisa, Lies, Lies 
by Adele Parks

Thank you Mira for this copy and stop on the blog tour.


Publisher: Mira
Publish Date: August 4, 2020
Paperback
384 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Domestic Drama, Suspense

LIES LIES LIES centers on the story of Simon and Daisy Barnes. To the outside world, Simon and Daisy look like they have a perfect life. They have jobs they love, an angelic, talented daughter, a tight group of friends... and they have secrets too. Secrets that will find their way to the light, one way or the other.
Daisy and Simon spent almost a decade hoping for the child that fate cruelly seemed to keep from them. It wasn’t until, with their marriage nearly in shambles and Daisy driven to desperation, little Millie was born. Perfect in every way, healing the Barnes family into a happy unit of three. Ever indulgent Simon hopes for one more miracle, one more baby. But his doctor’s visit shatters the illusion of the family he holds so dear.
Now, Simon has turned to the bottle to deal with his revelation and Daisy is trying to keep both of their secrets from spilling outside of their home. But Daisy’s silence and Simon’s habit begin to build until they set off a catastrophic chain of events that will destroy life as they know it.

My Review:


This domestic, suspenseful drama is...... not what I was wanting today.  Now, I'm not the first person to feel like this particular genre can get a bit repetitive but it's also a genre I typically love.  I mean, crazy is crazy and I love all kinds of crazy in a story.... 

In this particular story, the husband, not the wife, is the alcoholic.... only he remembers more things than people give him credit for - and this usually works out to his benefit.  And then of course, one fateful night happens which upends an already precarious situation.  For me, the issues I had with this one was that it was highly predictable and nothing new within this genre itself.  Again, I can usually be ok with this because I know what I'm typically expecting walking in.  However, the epilogue for this one killed it for me.  Wasn't there enough without that? Le sigh.

I enjoyed I Invited Her In by this author a lot more than this one but in looking at my review there - same observations: not "thrillery" enough for my taste and predictable.  However, I will say the author does write in a compulsive manner so the short chapters keep you engaged.  Though this one had some definite lulls within, I was definitely still compelled to see how everything played out.  And while I give props for going the extra crazy mile, I do think that sometimes less can be more and in this case more because uh-oh.

I'm definitely curious where Parks will take us in her next book as I'll definitely be reading it.  So far I'm 1:1 for her which really piques my interest for future works.

★★

Jessica's Review:


I read and really liked Adele Parks' previous release I INVITED HER IN, so I was curious to see what she would come up with for us next. This is a difficult one because I do like her writing style and how addictive those short chapters are, but something just didn't click for me.

The thriller and suspense genre seems to be saturated lately with books that feel repetitive and predictable. Or that could just be me because I mainly read this genre. Normally, it doesn't really bother me when things get predictable because the twists are usually what set the book apart from the others.

This book had twists aplenty and at the end it felt almost like it was too many. I know that this is an unpopular opinion for this book, and there are so many glowing reviews. So I think this is more of a case of a me as a reader thing and not the book. If you want a really compulsive and quick read, then this is one you need to add to your TBR


3 stars

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Review: Crazytimes by Scott Cole @13visions @grindhousepress

Crazytimes 
by Scott Cole

Thanks so much to the author for this crazy copy!


Publisher: Grindhouse Press
Publish Date: May 19, 2020
Paperback
116 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

You wake up Monday morning and everyone is crazy. Everyone was already crazy, though, right? But somehow things are worse today. People are angry, throwing chairs out of office windows, eating rocks, violently scratching their necks, and running naked through the streets. They’re killing each other for no reason and laughing through the carnage. The whole city is like this. And meteors are falling from the hazy skies above. How are you going to survive? Do you even want to? This isn’t just another manic Monday. This is Crazytimes.

My Review:


Well, if I ever feel like I'm having a bad day, I'll just think about Trey and the crazy Monday he had and realize it could be a LOT worse!  What would be my first clue my day was going to go from worse to flat out insane?  The crazy woman on the bus? Perhaps my boss staying underneath my desk to make sure I was doing work all day?  Most definitely would be the spring rolls and .. um, tea..... ๐Ÿ˜‰  Cole takes us on quite the Monday.  

If you're like me and love those scenes in Bird Box and The Happening where people just start going nuts, then this is going to be a fun ride for you.  Just when you didn't think it could get any crazier..... and I think what's great is that while we get a lot of gross horror (YAY), we also get some comedic moments that lighten the mood a bit.  Being in Trey's head while he goes about this day is actually quite fun.  I don't think I would've handled it as well as he did.  Maybe.  Yeah, nope.

★★★★

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin @megangoldin @stmartinspress


The Night Swim
by Megan Goldin

Thank you St. Martin's Press for this copy and stop on the blog tour.


In The Night Swim, a new thriller from Megan Goldin, author of the “gripping and unforgettable” (Harlen Coben) The Escape Room, a true crime podcast host covering a controversial trial finds herself drawn deep into a small town’s dark past and a brutal crime that took place there years before.

Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name—and the last hope for people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The new season of Rachel's podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. A local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season 3 a success, Rachel throws herself into her investigation—but the mysterious letters keep coming. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insist she was murdered—and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody in town wants to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases—and a revelation that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.


Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?




MEGAN GOLDIN worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. The Escape Room was her debut novel.


My Review:


Phew! This book is riveting and so very raw. For those who read The Escape Room last year by the same author, expect something very different with this read. This isn't a pulse pounding, fast paced thriller. This is a very heavy and character driven novel touching on the important topic of rape culture.

I'm not a podcast person but this book definitely makes me curious to possibly trying one. I enjoyed the podcast transcripts throughout this read (ok, so if podcasts were written, I'd probably read them but still not listen? Haha - it's so hard to say). I also enjoyed the dual timeline and different POVs. We certainly get an in depth look at rape culture and how different (but also the same) it is throughout the years. It was certainly infuriating to get through some of the moments in these pages.

“To tell you the truth, I don't get how we can almost unanimously agree that murder is wrong, yet when it comes to rape some people still see shades of gray.”

Goldin is clearly a very talented author. I love that the two books I've read so far from her are so very different. I'll certainly be getting The Girl in Kellers Way and keeping an eye out for her next read. I think she handled a very sensitive topic with respect and gave voice to her characters.

★★★★

#ATBR2020 Review: The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan @jessmapreviews

The First to Lie 
by Hank Phillippi Ryan


Publisher: Forge Books
Publish Date: August 4, 2020
Kindle Edition
304 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Suspense, Mystery
What happens when an undercover reporter gets in too deep? And when a practiced liar has to face off with her own truth—how does she choose her true reality?
Who will be the first to lie?
Bestselling and award-winning author and investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan delivers another twisty, thrilling suspense novel that will leave you breathless.
My Review:
FUCK YOU PHARMINEX!
end of review
JUST KIDDING!  But yay for a storyline about bringing down a big pharma company that doesn't represent itself or its drug(s) the way it should.  And then to use this towards women with fertility issues - let me just say that this makes my blood boil for a number of reasons.....  But while this is the main part of the book in terms of storyline, let's take a big look at the characters that seem to be the most interesting thing within these pages.
Ok, first of all, I didn't expect so many damn POVs and it took a while for me to get into this book because of it... and then once it all made sense, I did that open mouthed "huh" thing you do when that light bulb goes off over your head.  Now, I'm all for suspending some belief in any story that I read... but I do think this one may have *just* gone a little too far.  One character, maybe two but then..... what? Sorry readers, I can't say much more or it'll spoil this book for you and I refuse to do that.
Full of twists and turns you may or may not see coming, what you will find are motivated characters who will do whatever they need to in order to get to the bottom line.  While I found the book to be entertaining, I do think taking it down a notch or two in terms of the whose who would've helped me enjoy it more as a story rather than as one of trying to keep track of what was going on.  My first by this author and definitely wanting to try another.
★★★
Jessica's Review:


THE FIRST TO LIE is a new cat and mouse thriller about taking down one of the big pharma companies, Pharminex. It's no secret that these companies are corrupt and only look out for their best interests. In this case, they're preying on women that are desperate to conceive. I'd be lying if I said that this didn't make my blood boil just a little bit. 

Its hard to go into much of the plot without ruining any details and spoiling things. I did enjoy the pacing and the cat and mouse aspect. There were plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes as the events unfolded. What didn't work for me was all the different perspectives. Some got confusing to keep straight, and that did take away from the reading experience just a little. 

Overall, definitely a solid thriller and I would recommend it to those that want a quick read. I plan on picking up more from Ryan in the future!

 3.5 stars

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: Lisa, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks



Lisa, Lies, Lies 
by Adele Parks

Thank you Mira for this copy and stop on the blog tour.


LIES LIES LIES centers on the story of Simon and Daisy Barnes. To the outside world, Simon and Daisy look like they have a perfect life. They have jobs they love, an angelic, talented daughter, a tight group of friends... and they have secrets too. Secrets that will find their way to the light, one way or the other.
Daisy and Simon spent almost a decade hoping for the child that fate cruelly seemed to keep from them. It wasn’t until, with their marriage nearly in shambles and Daisy driven to desperation, little Millie was born. Perfect in every way, healing the Barnes family into a happy unit of three. Ever indulgent Simon hopes for one more miracle, one more baby. But his doctor’s visit shatters the illusion of the family he holds so dear.
Now, Simon has turned to the bottle to deal with his revelation and Daisy is trying to keep both of their secrets from spilling outside of their home. But Daisy’s silence and Simon’s habit begin to build until they set off a catastrophic chain of events that will destroy life as they know it.


Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North-East England. Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000 and since then she's had seventeen international bestsellers, translated into twenty-six languages, including I Invited Her In. She's been an Ambassador for The Reading Agency and a judge for the Costa. She's lived in Italy, Botswana and London, and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey, with her husband, teenage son and cat.

Author Website | Twitter: @AdeleParks | Instagram: @adele_parks |


My Review:


This domestic, suspenseful drama is...... not what I was wanting today.  Now, I'm not the first person to feel like this particular genre can get a bit repetitive but it's also a genre I typically love.  I mean, crazy is crazy and I love all kinds of crazy in a story.... 

In this particular story, the husband, not the wife, is the alcoholic.... only he remembers more things than people give him credit for - and this usually works out to his benefit.  And then of course, one fateful night happens which upends an already precarious situation.  For me, the issues I had with this one was that it was highly predictable and nothing new within this genre itself.  Again, I can usually be ok with this because I know what I'm typically expecting walking in.  However, the epilogue for this one killed it for me.  Wasn't there enough without that? Le sigh.

I enjoyed I Invited Her In by this author a lot more than this one but in looking at my review there - same observations: not "thrillery" enough for my taste and predictable.  However, I will say the author does write in a compulsive manner so the short chapters keep you engaged.  Though this one had some definite lulls within, I was definitely still compelled to see how everything played out.  And while I give props for going the extra crazy mile, I do think that sometimes less can be more and in this case more because uh-oh.

I'm definitely curious where Parks will take us in her next book as I'll definitely be reading it.  So far I'm 1:1 for her which really piques my interest for future works.

★★

Review: Different Seasons by Stephen King @scribnerbooks @stephenking @jessmapreviews #DifferentSeasons #ATBR2020 #chronologicallyking @kamiskorner

Different Seasons 
by Stephen King


Publisher: Scribner 
Publish Date: March 29, 2016 (first published August 27, 1982)
Paperback
608 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Short Stories, Horror, Thriller


A “hypnotic” (The New York Times Book Review) collection of four novellas from Stephen King bound together by the changing of seasons, each taking on the theme of a journey with strikingly different tones and characters.



“The wondrous readability of his work, as well as the instant sense of communication with his characters, are what make Stephen King the consummate storyteller that he is,” hailed the Houston Chronicle about Different Seasons.


This gripping collection begins with “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” in which an unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge—the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption. Next is “Apt Pupil,” the inspiration for the film of the same name about top high school student Todd Bowden and his obsession with the dark and deadly past of an older man in town. In “The Body,” four rambunctious young boys plunge through the faรงade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality. This novella became the movie Stand By Me. Finally, a disgraced woman is determined to triumph over death in “The Breathing Method."


My Review:




Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption ★★★★★ - I always hate reading something after I watch it because descriptions rarely match up and they didn't hear but the overall storyline was the same.  Does anyone else only hear Morgan Freeman narrating now? A fantastic read and now I want to go watch the movie again.

Apt Pupil ★★★☆ - It's so hard not to see Ian McKellen in my head the entire time I read this.  For me, this was a case of the film was better.  While the story definitely did pack a punch, I did feel it was a bit drawn own in places and jumped the shark a bit as I didn't quite understand how the two main characters ended up in the positions that they did.  One kind of made sense and the other... *shrug*


The Body ★★★★ - Ahhhh - I remember this movie so vividly from my childhood.  Of course, that blueberry pie scene is forever stuck in my mind.  King is fantastic at young kids and their coming of age.  As kids we tend to feel isolated at times and going on a journey together with your bests is always eventful.  I also appreciate fast forwarding so we see what may have happened once they're adults.

The Breathing Method ★★★☆ - The only one not turned into a film and the least talked about of the four.  Personally, I liked the creep factor in this one and I'm still curious about how exactly the club functions.  I think I may need to reread this one later and see if I pick up on some more nuances because I think subconsciously I like this one much better than I'm allowing myself right now.

This novella collection is superb and I'm glad I FINALLY got around to reading them.  Of course, there are slight differences in the novella to screen adaptations but nothing that makes that much of a difference, which was nice to read.

★★★★

Jessica's Review:



Of all the Stephen King novella/short story collections, DIFFERENT SEASONS is one of my favorites (a second to FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT). I think this one also has some of the most well-known novellas because of the films that came after them - I mean who hasn't seen Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption? If you're looking for a King book to start with, this would be up there on the list of recommendations!

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is one where I saw the film first. I'd be lying if I said I didn't hear Morgan Freeman's voice in my head while reading it (both times). Typically people either love the film or the book better and I think this was a case where I really enjoyed both.

I may be one of the few that hasn't seen the adaptation of Apt Pupil yet. I know a lot of people really like this one, but it wasn't one of my favorites in this collection. Novellas shouldn't feel like they have lulls, but there was a moment of that here. So I think that was the main drawback for me with the pacing. I definitely want to see the adaptation now!

The Body brought such a classic film adaptation with it. I can't think of anyone that I know that didn't love that movie. One thing that King excels at is the coming-of-age stories for kids and the journeys they go on in the process. I think everyone can imagine what this adventure would have been like with their best friends. If you loved the movie, then I recommend picking this one up - either in this collection or in the newly released standalone edition.

The Breathing Method was more creepy than the others and had some more mystery around it. The little bit that the synopsis gives I think is the perfect amount of information you need. A strange club and a woman absolutely determined to give birth - I'm not quite sure why people aren't fans of this one or why it's usually forgotten in this collection, but I did enjoy it!

Overall, this was a great novella collection and one of the King books that I would recommend if you loved the adaptations or if you're a fan of short stories. I know they aren't for everyone, but these are definite standouts.

4 star

Review: The Gunslinger by Stephen King #ATBR2020 #ChronologicallyKing @jessmapreviews @kamiskorner

The Gunslinger 
by Stephen King


Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: May 3, 2016 (originally published June 1, 1982)
Paperback
251 Pages
Series: The Dark Towner #1
Genres: Fantasy, Wester, Sci-Fi


The Gunslinger is the first volume in the epic Dark Tower Series.


A #1 national bestseller, The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations, Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.


My Review:




I have been recommended this series by SO many people and honestly, even I wonder why I haven't read these yet.  Then I remember I read The Gunslinger about three years ago and my memories included that I was meh about the whole thing and it felt like some strange acid flashback.  BUT, since I am doing #chronologicallyking for my King journey... I decided that I'm clearly going to continue the series so may as well give this another go.  Also, I need to talk to my 2017 self, because I don't quite understand why I rated it a 4... and then was excited that these last couple chapters must make up for the extremely slow first hundred pages or so like my young self was so adamant to tell everyone.  Nope.  I was wrong. ๐Ÿคฃ

To be honest, I did enjoy this second read a bit more because I at least knew I was going to go in probably getting confused again. Things did make more sense to me but I still did find it a bit slow and I suppose it's a starter book so we get to start knowing characters as the journey just gets longer and more epic as I have been told.  If I'm being completely transparent, I went to wikipedia after I turned the last page and read  about it there just to make sure I got everything correct.  And I'm happy to report that I did.  Don't get me wrong, it's not like this is truly that hard of a read to follow.  There's just a lot going on and the imagery is gorgeous so my mind would start daydreaming.  

I'm not mad I reread it but I don't think I'd ever read it again.  I realize this is a start to something truly phenomenal and all that.... I just wasn't wowed with it and am grateful there are many books afterwards in this journey that will make this foundation more appreciative down the road.  I can't NOT read them, that much I do know.  The more you read King, and especially in order, you start to really appreciate the nods to his other books... and big applause to King for giving just one more reason why you really just have to read them all.

★★★


Jessica's Review:



With the #ChronologicallyKing readalong we finally hit the beginning of the journey to the Dark Tower. I know that THE GUNSLINGER is typically the least favorite for most when it comes to this series, but I think the second time around I enjoyed it a little bit more. Simply because I know where this is leading us and I feel like I caught a few more things this time than I did the in my first experience with it. Starting this reread has me even more anxious to get to the second book!

This is a little bit slower than I remember it being, but that didn't ruin the reading experience for me. This review is going to stay short and sweet because I don't want to spoil anything, and please make sure you aren't going into this expecting the same story as the movie adaptation. I'm in the minority on this, but if you solely look at the movie from the stand point of it being an action/fantasy film, then it wasn't all that bad (in terms of the story, it definitely fell flat, but give me anything with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey and I'll watch it). My husband, who has zero knowledge of the books, really enjoyed it for the basic story. I hope this series gets the adaptation it deserves - and ideally in the form of a show and not one film.

3.5 stars

Friday, July 31, 2020

Blog Tour Spotlight: Playdate by Alex Dahl

Playdate
by Alex Dahl


It was meant to be your daughter's first sleepover.
Now it's an abduction.

Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, Lucia's mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and kissed her little girl goodnight.
That was the last time she saw her daughter.
The next morning, when Lucia's dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.
In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation. Who has taken their daughter, and why?




Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University. A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel, and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland, Bath and London. Her first thriller, The Boy at the Door, was a Sunday Times Crime Club star pick and was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger.

EXTRACT:


Elisa
Sandefjord, 19 October 2018

I’ve had the day off, cramming all the things I never normally have time for into the afternoon – highlights and a trim, nails, a half-hearted hour at the gym, and I’m almost late for pick-up. First, I got stuck in bad traffic by the E18 motorway exit, and then Lyder decided to throw a fit when I picked him up from nursery, dropping to the floor like a slab of meat, flopping around in my arms and rolling his eyes back as I shoved his limp limbs into his winter suit.

‘Stop it,’ I hissed, pushing his stockinged feet into his sheepskin boots before grabbing his lunch box, an enormous cardboard artwork and his nursery folder in one hand, my other hand half-dragging my son out the door. ‘Come on!’

In the car, Lyder whines about the fact that I haven’t brought him a snack.

‘Everyone else gets raisins after nursery,’ he wails. ‘Or carrots. Or biscuits. Carl gets biscuits, the kind with chocolate bits in them, it isn’t fair…’ I block out his thin voice droning on and on. It’s been a long week and I feel the beginnings of a headache at the back of my skull. I press my finger to the spot that hurts, staring at a red light taking forever. Three minutes left until pick-up time. Four minutes before Aud, the sour-faced woman running the after-school club starts stabbing my phone number with her long acrylic nails.

The light turns green and I drive fast down the last few quiet suburban roads to Korsvik School, making Lyder giggle nervously in the back seat at the squeal of the tires. I pull up in front of the school and hand Lyder my iPhone, his face breaking into a surprised smile. It’s 4.29 – I made it.

‘I’ll be right back,’ I say, and hurry across the school yard to the brightly lit red wooden building.

‘Mamma!’ squeals Lucia and runs towards me. She jumps into my arms and I kiss her soft golden hair. ‘You’re late.’

‘No, I’m right on time, actually.’

‘Can I go home with Josephine?’

‘Who’s Josephine?’

‘She’s a new girl in my class. Can I? Please?’

‘Not today, sweetie. You know we have to arrange playdates ahead of time, it’s just easier.’

‘Her mom said it’s fine. They’re waiting, in the cloakroom.’

‘Sweetheart…’

‘Please, Mamma.’ Lucia points through the open doorway to the changing area shared by first- and second-graders.

I sigh and go through with her. A little girl wearing a beautiful pink quilted Moncler jacket and moon boots sits on the bench in the far corner, next to an equally chic-looking mother.