#BookReview: Because of You by Helene Fermont | @HeleneFermont @BOTBSPublicity #BecauseOfYou

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About the Book

When Hannah and Ben meet at a friend’s party, he knows she’s The One. But Hannah’s in an intense relationship with Mark and planning to return to her native Sweden to embark on a teaching career.

Desperate to make Ben fall in love with her, rich spoilt heiress Vanessa sets in motion a devious string of events that ultimately changes the course of four people’s lives indefinitely.

Hannah is the love of Ben’s life, yet Vanessa will stop at nothing to claim the man she is convinced is her destiny.

 

My Thoughts

Because of You spans 36 years of Hannah Stein’s life – from being a teenager on a gap year in London through until her middle years. It was wonderful to read a book with a long timeline, it was refreshing to get to stay with these characters and see how their lives changed over the years.

I very much enjoyed reading about the older members of Hannah’s family – particularly her grandmother Zipporah, and the older lady, Ella, that Hannah stays with when she first moves to London. I loved how they guided Hannah through her early adulthood and tried to keep her secure without crowding her. I loved Hannah’s relationship with her parents and brother too, it was nice to read about such close bonds within a family and to explore how roles change as everyone gets older. I don’t think this is often covered in novels as the usual short time span doesn’t allow for seeing how everyone ages and changes so it was refreshing and enjoyable to follow all the characters lives in this book. It was moving to see Hannah’s parents age to read about how that then changed the relationship – it comes to us all in life but it’s not often in  contemporary fiction that we get to see people go from still quite young and full of vitality through to old age and all that comes with it. Seeing Hannah become the age her parents must have been at the start of the novel brings it all around full circle.

There is a darker side to this novel – mainly from Hannah’s boyfriend Mark when she first arrived in London and after a while we see that he’s becoming quite controlling and then obsessed with her. Later in the novel Hannah suffers at the hands of an obsessive colleague who won’t take no for an answer. Because of You doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and, although at times the storylines were hard to read, it was actually good to see these issues covered in contemporary fiction because these things do happen to people in real life.

Because of You is a great mix of contemporary fiction and noir. I’d recommend this novel to anyone who loves long novels that are cross genre. I’ll certainly be looking out for more books by Helene Fermont in the future, I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Because of You is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Born into a bilingual family (Swedish/ English) Hélene Fermont enjoyed an idylic childhood on the outskirts of Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city and major cultural hub. Growing up in the 1970s she had a brief musical career on Swedish TV and radio. Hélene lived in London for over 20 years but has recently returned to Sweden. Hélene is a former teacher, a practising psychologist, and currently the author of three novels, all of which are psychological suspense with a nordic noir flavour. Her fourth novel is coming soon!

You can find Helene Fermont at the following sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helenefermontauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/helenefermont

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenefermont/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/helenefermontwriter/

 

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#BookReview: Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald | @FitzHelen @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #WorstCaseScenario

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About the Book

Mary Shields is a moody, acerbic probation offer, dealing with some of Glasgow’s worst cases, and her job is on the line.
Liam Macdowall was imprisoned for murdering his wife, and he’s published a series of letters to the dead woman, in a book that makes him an unlikely hero – and a poster boy for Men’s Rights activists.

Liam is released on licence into Mary’s care, but things are far from simple. Mary develops a poisonous obsession with Liam and his world, and when her son and Liam’s daughter form a relationship, Mary will stop at nothing to impose her own brand of justice … with devastating consequences.

 

My Thoughts

Mary is a probation officer and she works hard but she’s fed up and moody at dealing with all she has to put up with. Liam is a man who was put in prison for the murder of his wife but he’s about to be released and Mary is to be his probation officer. Liam becomes something of a fascination for Mary and this leads to trouble!

I’m going to start this review at the beginning… the opening line to Worst Case Scenario is this:

Every time Mary tried to relax in the bath, a paedophile ruined it.

and I was hooked from this very moment on! How can you not be intrigued? And how can you not want to know more? It’s one of the best openings to a book that I’ve ever read and I just knew this was going to be a riot of a novel!

I love Mary Shields! She’s moody and annoyed and she’s dealing with the menopause and all that comes with that; her patience is at rock bottom and on top of that she barely even cares that it’s so! I’m at the very beginning of this menopause journey but I could so identify with Mary and the short fuse that she seemed to be permanently on. I know that I care less and less what people think these days and Mary is that to the Nth degree!

Worst Case Scenario is a dark book but it’s also hilariously funny. One minute I was horrified at what I was reading and the next I was properly laughing out loud. Helen Fitzgerald really captures how hard I imagine it must be working in the probation service when people are expected to take on more and more work but do it in less and less time whilst making sure that no one is re-offending. We see the seriousness of this and it’s never belittled but Mary goes down a dark path in her growing obsession with Liam and this is where the dark humour comes in!

Mary finds herself growing attracted to Liam as she reads sections of his book of letters but at the same time she’s infuriated at him, and the other men she is dealing with at work, and their inability to just do what is asked of them. She just wants to quit her job and be done with it. Her husband is an artist and has been discovered so it seems that she may be able to afford to give it all up soon. This leads to her caring even less about what people think of her professionally. Mary’s life increasingly spirals as the novel goes on. She drinks more and smokes more joints, she’s careless with her webcam and she just isn’t bothered.

I loved Worst Case Scenario! It’s so different to what I was expecting but it’s the most brilliant, messed up and hilarious book I’ve read in ages. It’s such a perfect book, it’s very funny but also moving at times. It does take things to another level in some ways but in others it’s a book that you can identify with or you find you know someone a bit like a person in the book. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable (rather like the menopause!) but it really will really make you laugh out loud too. It’s impossible to do this book justice, I simply adored it! Please just go buy a copy and read it, you absolutely won’t regret it!

Many thanks to Orenda for my copy of this book, and Anne for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Worst Case Scenario is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Helen FitzGerald is one of thirteen children and grew up in country Victoria. After graduating with honours in English and History she left Australia to go travelling, meeting and marrying Scots-Italian journalist, Sergio Casci, along the way. They live in Glasgow and have two children.

 

 

 

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#BookReview: 10 Things to do Before You leave School by Bernard O’Keeffe | @BernardOKeeffe1 @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Ruby has had a difficult year to say the least. Just before she started Sixth Form, her father died from a heart attack. In the difficult months that followed Ruby became so depressed that she attempted suicide. She missed a lot of school, but now she’s about to go back and she’s worried. Is she well enough to get through her final year? Will the depression return? Should she apply to university? The night before term begins, Ruby finds something that makes the prospect even more daunting: an envelope addressed to her in her father’s handwriting. Inside is a list: ‘Ten Things I Hope You Do Before You Leave School’. It makes no sense. She can’t understand why he’d want her to do these things, let alone whether she’ll be able to do them.As Ruby navigates her way through UCAS, parties, boyfriends and A-Levels, she decides to give the list her best shot, but her efforts lead her into strange situations and to surprising discoveries. Will Ruby survive her last year at school? Can she do the ten things on The List? Will doing them make any difference?

 

My Thoughts

10 Things To Do Before You Leave School is the story of Ruby. She has had a really awful year – her dad died suddenly, which led to her becoming increasingly depressed and she attempted suicide. The novel opens with her making her return to school and we see all the anxiety that goes with that. Right before she goes back to school she finds an envelope with her name on and it’s written in her dad’s handwriting. Inside is a note of ten things he hopes she’ll do before she leaves school.

This is such an incredible novel and one I’m so glad that I read. Ruby is such a believable, real character and I could feel her pain throughout this book. She carries so much guilt about her father’s death and she’s still grieving his loss. Then she’s dealing with her recovery from depression and trying to come to terms with her suicide attempt. Not to mention all the normal teenage stuff that all teens deal with – boyfriends, school and exam pressures,  wanting to fit in. She has such a great attitude considering all she’s been through, or perhaps even because of it, and I was rooting for her to find her way through it all. It’s many years since I was Ruby’s age but I can remember what it felt like to be a teenager. I also had a very hard time during my A-Levels and really empathised with Ruby as a result.

I still haven’t got that study habit back, that feeling that I’m reading properly and that everything’s going in the way it used to. Maybe it’s the drugs. Or maybe (and this is a more frightening thought) what’s happened has changed me for good and I’ll never be the same again.

I know the pain of losing a parent, albeit I was in my 20s when my mum died. It changes you in so many ways to lose someone who you believed would somehow always be there. Facing life knowing your parent won’t be there makes everything different and Bernard O’Keeffe really captures the sense of loss.

I loved the relationship that Ruby has with her younger brother. They are typical siblings who argue and wind each other up but they also absolutely have each other’s backs. They are there for each other when they need to be and I adored that.

I found it interesting that we don’t get to see what’s on the list Ruby finds right away. We see her thinking about it and wondering how on earth she’s going to ever be able to do all of these things. We then see her going about her life and at certain points in the novel we see one of the things on the list as she ticks it off. At first I was frustrated because I wanted to know what was on it but actually I really appreciated seeing Ruby achieve each item and to have the satisfaction along with her that she’d accomplished something. I did wonder if the list would come to be something else that added pressure to her when she’s already quite fragile but it really does help her. It made me wish I’d had a list when I was her age and that something outside of myself had propelled me to the things that scared me, or that I didn’t have the confidence to do. I won’t spoil what’s on the list or whether Ruby manages to complete it but there are difficulties along the way, which made this book all the more real for me.

I recommend this book to everyone but particularly to teenagers – it’s a book that I wish I could have read when I was that age. It’s raw and honest and moving but it also gives you hope. I loved it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

10 Things to do Before You leave School is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Bernard O Keeffe Author Picture

After graduating from Oxford, Bernard O’Keeffe worked in advertising before training as a teacher. He taught for many years, first in a North London comprehensive, then at Radley College, where he was Head of English, and most recently at St Paul’s School in London, where he was Head of Sixth Form.

He has reviewed fiction for Literary Review and The Oxford Times and, as an editor of The English Review, has written over a hundred articles for A Level students on subjects ranging from Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle to Jane Austen and Shakespeare. In 2013 he published his first novel, ‘No Regrets’.

 

Website: http://www.bernardokeeffe.com/

Twitter : @BernardOKeeffe1

 

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#BookReview: Take Me To The Edge by Katya Boirand | @Katyahazel @Unbounders @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

FIVE WORDS IS ALL IT TAKES TO PROVOKE A CHAIN OF CREATION. That is what Katya Boirand discovered the first time she asked a friend for five words and then turned them into a poem, using the words and the subject as her inspiration. This spark started a movement, and soon Katya was asking friends and strangers alike for their five words of choice. Take Me to the Edge is a selection of these poems, sitting alongside a portrait of each subject, in this stunning and joyous celebration of language, connection and art.

 

My Thoughts

Take Me To The Edge is a collection of poems which all stem from just five words that different people in Katya Boirand’s life had given her. The words are random and often seemingly completely unconnected but Boirand has taken these words and written some gorgeous poems that are collected together in this beautiful book.

The book itself is a lovely hardback and it felt like a real treat to sit down and read. Each poem is on a double page spread with one side being the poem and the other a stunning photograph of the person who gave her the five words. It really is a delight to read the poem and to take time to appreciate the fabulous photography too.

I adored the interconnectedness throughout this book in that the poems each come from five words a friend has given her. Then the photo of her friend is taken in such a way to encapsulate  the poem that came from those words. It was such a special experience to notice this and it really made me slow down to take each page in.

There are poems, like the one taken from Matt McCabe’s five words, that had a greater effect on me when combined with the fabulous photo of him on Westminster Bridge in London – it really made me stop and ponder the poem a little longer, and to think of the importance of the words ‘Fold fear beneath love / Feel peace in its prime‘. There are poems like the one created from Trish Campbell’s words that captivated me. This poem is one I read quite a few times and really sat and thought about. The photo of Trish in the sea is so perfect in combination with the poem that it brought a lump to my throat. Then there are the poems that feel really intimate, such as the poem that gave the collection its title, using words from Naurija Ziukaite – ‘Ah love, my one / I implore you / Take me to the edge‘. All so different and showing so many aspects of what makes us human.

The poems cover a wide scope but there is such a connection to the ones that went before and the ones that came after because of how they came to be. They are a snapshot of each person’s life but also of life in general and I certainly found there were a few poems that really spoke to me.

I love that at the back of the book there is a brief biography of each person who contributed five words, along with the five words they had given Boirand. When I discovered this I immediately went back and read each poem again, whilst referencing against the words they had picked. This was such a lovely thing to be able to do and I really appreciated that on getting to the end of the collection there was more for me to learn.

The thing I loved most about this book was the pure joy that I found in reading it. It’s a beautiful object, with stunning photographs and gorgeous poems. It’s a celebration of life and it was a welcome escape from all the trials and tribulations of the world we’re living in at the moment. I definitely recommend this book, I know I’ll be buying copies as gifts for people that I know will love this every bit as much as I did.

Take Me To The Edge is beautiful, captivating and a wonderful escapism!

Many thanks to the Unbound and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Take Me To The Edge is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Katya Boirand Author Pic

Katya Boirand is an actress, dancer, writer and poet. She has travelled the world but now has roots in London. Take Me to the Edge is her first poetry collection.

 

 

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#BookReview: Song of the Robin by R. V. Biggs | @RVBiggs @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

The whispered voices and unsettling dreams were puzzling enough, but when the visions began, disquiet crept into Sarah Richards’ heart.

Living a joyless and unfulfilled existence, Sarah’s life, however, is ordered and routine. But one autumn morning she sees a figure waving to her, the figure of a man more ghostly than real
Several times he appears, but is the spectre harmless, or are his intentions malevolent?

Disturbed and intrigued, Sarah endeavours to understand the mystery, to identify her unknown stalker.

But with each visitation, she becomes ever more bewildered, and as her ordered life begins to unravel, she questions the reality of all that she knows, and with mounting horror, even her own sanity.

My Thoughts

Song of the Robin is a novel about Sarah who starts having unsettling visions and losing track of time. Her life seems very unhappy and unfulfilling, and she becomes increasingly focused on the person in her visions rather than her real life.

I found I sympathised with Sarah from the start as she’s stuck in an unhappy marriage with a man who doesn’t seem to have much respect for her. She’s increasingly on her own and feeling frustrated with how much she has to do around the house. The visions she has are creepy and unsettling to read about as it’s not clear what’s going on initially – is it a ghost, is Sarah hallucinating, is she ill? As the book progresses I became frightened for her as her life seems to descend out of control. Her friend tries to get her to see a doctor but Sarah is too lost in trying to work out who she is seeing and hearing in her visions to be able to help herself. I suffered with PTSD for many years and one of my symptoms was absences where time would pass and I would literally have no concept of it. This isn’t what is wrong with Sarah but it gave me a real connection to her as I know how frightening it is to one minute be in one place and another to realise you’re somewhere else with no memory of getting there. This aspect of the novel is very well written and I was absorbed in it.

I gradually began to work out what might be happening to Sarah but I didn’t really get it right. It was so unsettling as flashes of her visions began to make some sense to me but I could never fully put my finger on what was going on. I loved that it kept me guessing until all was revealed.

Alongside the storyline with Sarah’s visions we learn more about Sarah’s life. She lost her mum a while ago and she misses her terribly. There is a moment in the book when she goes to visit her mum’s grave and something happens that brings her immense comfort. I admit I cried at this point in the novel. My mum died a decade ago and I still miss her – sometimes I can still smell her perfume and I find it so comforting. I highlighted the section in the book and I will re-read it on the days when I feel in need of some solace. There is a real exploration of the strong bond we have with loved ones, even when they’re no longer with us, throughout this novel. There is a sense that we will always find our way back to the people we love in one way or another and I adored the way these parts of the book were written.

The writing in this novel is beautifully descriptive. Some of it is set in Scotland and I could visualise the landscape as if I was right there with the characters. I do love when setting in a book is done well, and it’s wonderful to feel like I’ve experienced a place that I’ve never been to before.

This book was so different to anything that I’ve read before and I’m so glad I took a chance and read it. This is one of those books that’s hard to define but it has something in it for everyone – it’s a mystery, it’s creepy at times but it’s also really comforting and beautiful. Song of the Robin is a book that I loved and I’ll be recommending it to everyone I can!

Song of the Robin is a captivating, mysterious and brilliant debut novel. I will certainly be looking out for more of R. V. Biggs’ work!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Song of the Robin is out now in ebook and paperback and is available here.

 

About the Author

R V Biggs Author Photo

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie, and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and six grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favorite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health NHS trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for Song of the Robin was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequel Reunion, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing however is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

 

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#BookReview: The Forgotten Sister by Caroline Bond | @Bond2Caroline @CorvusBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

To lose your family is heart-breaking.

To be forgotten by them is unforgiveable.

Cassie and Erin are sisters. They are close – in age, looks and personality – but there is one crucial difference: Cassie is adopted.

At seventeen, Cassie sets out to find her birth mother. She is hungry for the truth, but she discovers her adoption was far more complicated than even she could have imagined. In uncovering her birth identity Cassie learns that her adoptive parents have kept a terrible secret from her her whole life, a secret that now threatens to destroy everything she has ever held dear.

 

My Thoughts

The Forgotten Sister is the story of Cassie, who was adopted by her parents when she was two. She’s had a happy, safe life with them but she is beginning to wonder about her birth mother. This leads to secrets and lies being uncovered and life as Cassie knew it could be about to be destroyed.

This novel is told predominantly in the present day, with some flashbacks to a few years previously. It opens with Cassie’s parents getting a phone call that she’s been hurt and then goes back to four months previously. I was gripped by this novel right from the beginning. The characters are all so real and believable and I was intrigued by how they got to where they were.

Cassie is such a great character. She has a normal relationship with her parents, and a close relationship with her younger sister Erin. She has a boyfriend who her parents don’t fully approve of so there is some normal teenage sneaking around but on the whole she’s honest with her family. Then one day she realises she wants to know more about her birth mother but when she asks her parents she senses that they’re not telling her the whole truth. Her parents do go down the route of trying social services to see if her mother can be found but in the meantime Cassie takes things into her own hands. Cassie now has secrets and she becomes very determined to do what she has to to find her birth mother. She develops quite an attitude at times, but whilst I could see how reckless and naive she was at times I never stopped sympathising with her.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be adopted and to not know anything about your birth parents. The moment Cassie has the realisation that she doesn’t know if there are any illnesses in her family was startling to me, and I really felt for her as she reacted with shock at all the things she doesn’t know, and might never get to know.

I did feel for Cassie’s parents too. They made a decision when they adopted Cassie and have had to live with that ever since. I was shocked at the way they behaved at times but over the course of the novel I could see that they had done the best they could with the place they were in. What initially seemed like a cut and dry situation actually had many degrees to it, and this is what gave this novel its strength.

Ultimately, this is a novel that explores what makes a family, and how keeping secrets – even with the best of intentions – will always have consequences down the line. I felt that this novel was a very real, and emotional look at adoption from many angles and I really appreciated the insight it gave me.

The Forgotten Sister is a powerful and emotional novel that is very readable; it will linger in your head long after you’ve finished reading. I recommend it!

Many thanks to Corvus Books and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Forgotten Sister is out now in ebook and paperback and is available here.

 

About the Author

Caroline Bond Author Picture

Caroline Bondwas born in Scarborough and studied English at Oxford University before working as a market researcher for 25 years. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds Trinity University, and lives in Leeds with her husband and three children. Her first novel, The Second Child, was published in 2018.

 

 

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#BookReview: Breakers by Doug Johnstone | @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks #TartanNoir #Breakers @annecater

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About the Book

Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.

On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.

With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too.

 

My Thoughts

Breakers follows Tyler, a seventeen year old boy, who is living in a really deprived area. His mum is a drug addict and incapable of looking after her family so Tyler is take care of his little sister Bean. He also has two older siblings, Barry and Kelly, who drag Tyler into their life of stealing from rich people’s homes. One night a burglary goes wrong and Tyler doesn’t know how to cope with what’s happened.

Early on in the novel Tyler is along with his brother and sister scoping out a home to burgle and Tyler had a bad feeling as soon as he starts going through the family’s belongings. Something isn’t quite right. Then the worst happens and the homeowner arrives home and Barry stabs the woman and leaves her for dead. At this point I was so angry with what they’d done but very quickly we see that Tyler has a conscience. He was forced to go along on the robbery and he tries to make right what has happened in the small way he can without implicating anyone. Tyler knows that if anything happens to him that his little sister will be taken into care and he refuses to let that happen to her.

This is a novel that shows the level of deprivation that people are living in, it was hard to read at times as Tyler has clearly taken on all responsibility for a sister that is only ten years younger than him. He hasn’t had much of a childhood and now at the point when he should be out with his friends and finding his feet in the world he’s having to be a parent to his sibling. He never begrudges anything that he does for Bean though, and she clearly trusts him to look after her so their bond is a beautiful thing in that shone through all the darkness in their lives. I never expected to feel so attached to Tyler. I soon had him weighed up and I was rooting for him all the way through this novel. There were moments when I could have cried for him, and moments when I wanted to swoop in and help. Mostly I was in awe of his ability to take care of his sister and his mum, and to never let his own fears and worries fall on their shoulders. He never loses compassion for his mum either, in spite of the mess she’s in and I found that incredibly moving. He gets frustrated with the situation she’s in but he never punishes her for it, he knows he might lose her to the drugs but part of him never lets go of the hope that she might one day find her way out.

Sometimes Tyler needs some time and space away from the weight of his family dramas and he breaks into houses for some peace, and to experience a short time of seeing what someone else’s family might be like. On one of these break-ins he meets Flick and they form a friendship. The contrast between Tyler and Flick’s lives was stark to begin with. Her family have money and Flick seemingly has everything she could possibly want. As the book goes on it’s apparent that they have more in common than it first appeared as both are looking for someone who understands them and accepts them for who they are. It seems like each may have found the person they need and I was willing for them to find a way to be together.

This is such a hard-hitting and devastating novel but it has such heart, which gives it a beauty that I wasn’t expecting. I knew I was going to like this book before I even started reading it but I didn’t expect that I was going to love it quite as much as I did. I finished reading this a few days ago and I feel like my love for it is just grown stronger. I keep thinking about Tyler and hoping he’s okay. It’s a book that gave me so much more than I was expecting and it’s left its mark on my heart. I now want to read everything that Doug Johnstone has ever written!

Breakers is fast-paced, gritty and dark but there is hope at its centre. I found this novel impossible to put down and I’m in awe of how good it is. I highly recommend it, it’s absolutely brilliant!

Many thanks to Orenda for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Breakers is out now in ebook and available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

 

About the Author

Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His ninth novel, Fault Lines, was published by Orenda Books in May 2018. His previous books include The Jump, shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Novel, Gone Again, an Amazon bestseller, and Hit & Run (2012) which was an Amazon #1 as well as being selected as a prestigious Fiction Uncovered winner. His work has received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, William McIlvanney, Megan Abbott and Christopher Brookmyre.

Doug was recently Writer in Residence with William Purves Funeral Directors. He is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow, and was RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh 2014-2016. Doug was also Writer in Residence at the University of Strathclyde 2010-2012 and before that worked as a lecturer in creative writing there. He’s had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies, and since 1999 he has worked as a freelance arts journalist, primarily covering music and literature. He is also a mentor and manuscript assessor for The Literary Consultancy and Emergents in the Scottish Highlands.

Doug is one of the co-founders of the Scotland Writers Football Club, for whom he also puts in a shift in midfield as player-manager. He is also a singer, musician and songwriter in several bands, including Northern Alliance, who have released four albums to critical acclaim, as well as recording an album as a fictional band called The Ossians. Doug has also released three solo EPs. He currently plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a crime writing supergroup featuring Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste.

Doug has a degree in physics, a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism, and worked for four years designing radars. He grew up in Arbroath and lives in Portobello, Edinburgh with his wife and two children.

 

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#BookReview: The Tapestry Bag by Isabella Muir (Narrated by Penny Scott-Andrews) | @SussexMysteries @penandrews @rararesources #TheTapestryBag

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About the Book

In the quiet seaside town of Tamarisk Bay,the police appear to be doing little to find Zara.  Her friend Janie decides to make it her mission to track her down.   It’s the ‘swinging sixties’ and Janie fears that Zara may be mixed up with drugs, alcohol, or worse.  As Janie explores the strange circumstances of Zara’s disappearance, she starts to question the truth about Joel’s death.

Janie runs the mobile library and has a passion for crime fiction, especially Agatha Christie.  Can Poirot help Janie solve the mystery of Zara’s disappearance?

As she looks for clues Janie comes across some unsavoury characters who each have a reason for wanting Joel dead.  Can she untangle the web of lies and find out the truth?

 

My Thoughts

Janie is a young woman who reconnects with her old friend Zara but then soon after something terrible happens and Zara disappears. Janie then makes it her mission to discover what happened to her. Janie is passionate about crime and mystery novels, in particular Agatha Christie, so she uses her knowledge gleaned from these books to help her solve Zara’s disappearance!

I listened to this book on audio (from Audible) and I was very quickly drawn into the story. I felt like the narrator, Penny Scott-Andrews, really captured Janie’s spirit and personality and brought her to life. Janie is young, and a little naive, but she’s also enthusiastic and wants to be a part of things. Early in the novel we learn that Janie has recently re-connected with her old school friend Zara and the two women begin having fun getting to know each other again. I felt like Janie really was in awe of Zara and it brought out the younger side of her as she was back looking up to Zara and wanting to be confident like her. Janie is happily married and Zara has a boyfriend Jamie and all seems great until something terrible happens and Zara retreats into herself. Janie immediately goes to Zara’s aid and helps her through the heartache but then one day Zara disappears, and leaves no trace of herself behind.

Janie quickly becomes frustrated with how little the police appear to be doing to find Zara and so she starts to follow her own leads, inspired by her beloved Poirot! I loved this part of the book because Janie is the kind of amateur detective that I think I would likely be. She finds clues and pieces together elements of what might have happened but she struggles to put it all together. I think in part due to her naivety over what some people are actually capable of. She is such an endearing young woman though and I loved reading about her.

There is a real sense of time and place in The Tapestry Bag, which I also adored. It’s set in the 60s, which I hadn’t been aware of when I started listening but I soon felt like I was immersed in that time period. The location is a small seaside town called Tamerisk Bay and I felt the novel captured what it is to live in a small town. It really worked as Janie tries to uncover what happened to Zara whilst also not wanting all and sundry to know she is playing amateur detective! This all added to my love of this novel.

As I was coming to the end of this book I was delighted to realise that there is another book featuring Janie and I already cannot wait to read, or listen, to it. It’s wonderful to discover a new (to me) author whose writing was exactly what I needed when I read it, and who now is going to be a must-buy author!

The Tapestry Bag is a brilliant and gripping mystery novel, which I utterly adored and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Tapestry Bag is out now on audio book and is available here.

 

About the Author

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Isabella Muir is the author of a popular Agatha Christie style crime series – the Sussex Crime Mysteries. These Agatha Christie style stories are set in in the sixties and seventies and feature a young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke, who has a passion for Agatha Christie. All that Janie has learned from her hero, Hercule Poirot, she is able to put into action as she sets off to solve a series of crimes and mysteries.

Her latest novel – The Forgotten Children – takes her writing into another genre.  Still focusing on events in the 1960s The Forgotten Children tells the story of the injustices experienced by thousands as a result of the British child migrant policy.

Isabella has been surrounded by books her whole life and – after working for twenty years as a technical editor and having successfully completed her MA in Professional Writing – she was inspired to focus on fiction writing.

Aside from books, Isabella has a love of all things caravan-like. She has spent many winters caravanning in Europe and now, together with her husband, she runs a small caravan site in Sussex. They are ably assisted by their much-loved Scottie, Hamish.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMuirAuthor/

https://twitter.com/SussexMysteries

https://isabellamuir.com/

 

About the Narrator

Penny Scott-Andrews trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. For many years she performed in The West End, as well as on the fringes of London, Brighton and Edinburgh. She also has plenty of touring experience playing leading roles, such as Gwendoline in The Importance of Being Earnest, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Olivia in Twelfth Night. However, she is at her happiest in the recording studio and has had the pleasure of recording dozens of audiobooks and radio dramas.

Twitter: @penandrews

 

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Giveaway to Win 1 x Audiobook of The Tapestry Bag (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494221/?

 

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Samantha Henthorn! Author of #CurmudgeonAvenue | @SamanthaHfinds @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Today I’m delighted to welcome Samantha Henthorn, author of Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue, to my blog to share with us ten things about herself!

 

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me

One: I used to be a psychiatric nurse. There is a long, boring story here… After twenty year’s service, the NHS decided to retire me because I have MS. However, nursing has gifted me with the skill of observation. I am a ‘people person’ one who knows a lot about people – even ‘nincompoops’ like the ones who live in my romantic-comedy-drama series Curmudgeon Avenue.

Two: I have only been to France twice during my life, even though most of Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenueis set in France. I went to Brittany when I was eleven years old on a family holiday. And Rocamadour – another family holiday this time with my husband’s family. Plenty of wine was required on the latter holiday, and this is reflected in the book.

Three: Staying with the French theme, I cannot speak French. My high school French was lurking inside me, willing me to be one of those clever bilingual folk. So when I retired, I attended a two hour per week French course at my local library. This was a wonderful experience, the teacher was amazing. Despite this I am still unable to speak French and as time goes on, I am forgetting even more. I do remember the teacher talking about how, in France, bread is bought twice a day. I missed an hour following this statement, imagining my life as a French woman, dragging myself on my mobility scooter to the shop and back – twice! If you do happen to read Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue, you would find *slight spoiler alert* that French speaking skills were not required. And anyway, one of my proof readers lived in France for a year (with full command of the language).

Four: I had a great Auntie Edna when I was little, and she was nothing like the character Edna in my book. Auntie Edna was actually my dad’s auntie. Sadly no longer with us, but memories of her are. Dad tells me that she ‘married beneath herself’ (admit it- you love archaic phrases like this), to his mother’s brother. Whenever she opened her handbag, the room would fill with perfume – even to this day I have tried to recreate this glamour. Auntie Edna taught me how to put lipstick on when I was seven years old, by ‘smacking my lips together’. I chose the name Edna for my character because she is an absolute horror and do not know any living person with this name – (I once accidentally called a horrid character Elaine, I know an Elaine in real life, she’s lovely).

Five: Auntie Edna taught me how to make Radcliffe h’ors doevres. Or rather, mini cheddars with a squirt of Primula cheese dotted on each one (Primula with ham if you can get it) and presented on a serving plate. Perfect for impromptu parties, camping, or simply coming home tipsy and hungry. Radcliffe h’ors doevres feature heavily in the Curmudgeon Avenue series. Other brands of cheese crackers and spread are available.

Six: I’m very happily married, I really am. Although many of the characters in my series are either unhappily married or in an on/off entanglement, this is not based on anything that is happening to me. *Had to put this in because Mr Henthorn is always really concerned that ‘people will think it’s about him’ – it isn’t. (Rolls eyes).

Seven: I hardly ever say ‘well fancy’ and if I do, I’m joking or writing it in dialogue. Ahh vernacular within prose, a punishing mistress. I do sometimes have a feeling of self doubt; do people think I’m stupid? Do I sound stupid? I cannot help, and wouldn’t want to change where I’m from. I love Manchester, in particular the northern parts, Whitefield and Radcliffe (where the Curmudgeon Avenue series is set) and Bury, where I’m from. I enjoy our quirky way of saying things, our sense of humour. I have aimed to breathe Manchester life into my characters.

Eight: I’m studying a creative writing degree with the Open University and this helped me to decide that the Curmudgeon Avenue series should be witness narrated. ‘Walls have ears’ so this four storey terrace witnesses what goes on with the intertwined lives of its residents and narrates the series. The example of witness narration that the Open University quoted was The Great Gatsby… hark at me stylizing myself on a modern classic!

Nine: One of my books, 1962 is about cycling and I don’t even own a bicycle. This novel was inspired by my dad’s love and obsession with cycling. He seemed to have a special language dedicated bicycles and in turn, that inspired me.

Ten: I am covered in tattoos. The final fun factoid about me is that I have been ‘collecting artwork’ … Covered is perhaps an exaggeration, but I am inked! Usually only visible during the summer months, when jumpers and socks can be discarded my skin boasts a strawberry plant and butterflies on my foot and ankle. A large cherry blossom on my back and a pin-up-girl nurse on my arm (tasteful in full Gabardine cape). None on my face.

 

About the Book

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When Genevieve Dubois returned to Curmudgeon Avenue, this opened up the opportunity for Edna to realise her long held dream of escaping to France. But as Edna embraces all things European, Genevieve appears to be shying away from her French roots.
Meanwhile, returning to Curmudgeon Avenue for the third time, the wind had blown in the truth about the tall, handsome stranger and although Harold and Edith had been relieved to discover that he is neither an elephant detective, nor a fraud investigator, Toonan had been a little disappointed that he was not interested in her either. Matteo Dubois was looking for his mother, Genevieve Dubois, and although he did not find her on Curmudgeon Avenue, you have probably guessed that he is about to cause a disturbance- FINALLY! There is hope that the set of nincompoops that live here currently will move out, and leave me in peace! Edna had already escaped with Genevieve to France, which was a real shame for me, because Edna was one of the less annoying ones. This delightful third off-beat comedy romance book in the Curmudgeon Avenue series will make you smile.

 

About the Author

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Samantha Henthorn was born in 1970something in Bury, England. She has had short stories and poetry published in magazines. Her books include the Curmudgeon Avenue series (The Terraced House Diaries and The Harold and Edith adventures). ‘1962’, ‘Quirky Tales to Make Your Day’ and ‘Piccalilly’

She has two cats, one dog, one gorgeous grown up daughter and one husband. When not reading or writing, she is listening to heavy metal and would be thrilled to bits if someone read her books.

Blog : samanthahenthornfindstherightwords.WordPress.com

 Twitter: @SamanthaHfinds

 

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Book Review: Between the Regions of Kindness by Alice Jolly |@JollyAlice @Unbounders @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Coventry, 1941. The morning after one of the worst nights of the Blitz. Twenty-two-year-old Rose enters the remains of a bombed house to find her best friend dead. Shocked and confused, she makes a split-second decision that will reverberate for generations to come.

More than fifty years later, in modern-day Brighton, Rose’s granddaughter Lara waits for the return of her eighteen-year-old son Jay. Reckless and idealistic, he has gone to Iraq to stand on a conflict line as an unarmed witness to peace.

Lara holds her parents, Mollie and Rufus, partly responsible for Jay’s departure. But in her attempts to explain their thwarted passions, she finds all her assumptions about her own life are called into question.

Then into this damaged family come two strangers – Oliver, a former faith healer, and Jemmy, a young woman devastated by the loss of a baby. Together they help to establish a partial peace – but at what cost?

 

My Thoughts

Between the Regions of Kindness is a novel that follows several characters, and is set in two timelines – 1941 during the Blitz and 2003 in the run up to the beginning of the Iraq war. The novel opens in Coventry in 1941 and in the aftermath of a bombing Rose goes to her friend’s house and shockingly finds her dead. Here Rose makes a decision that has ramifications throughout the years that follow. In 2003 we follow Lara, Rose’s Grand-daughter as she tries to come to terms with her son’s decision to go to Iraq on a peace mission.

The novel really explores the experience of being a mother – some of the women to their grown children and another woman to her unborn baby. Jay is a troubled young man and we first know of him through his mother Lara’s perspective and as she goes into his bedroom it becomes increasingly clear that she is at a loss. She doesn’t understand why her son has gone off on a peace mission, and she didn’t have any idea that he was even planning to do this. She is stunned and gradually, over the course of the novel, she comes to know more about why her son was doing what he was doing. She only really gets to know her son in his absence and through very sporadic communications with him while he’s away. This contrasts so stunningly with the young Rose and the decision she made in 1941 when her and her daughter Mollie were living through the Blitz.

I was most affected by Jemmy, a young woman who has recently lost a baby and is now pregnant again. The loss of her first baby was heart-breaking to read about – I know what this loss feels like and the way it is explored in this novel was so honest and real. Soon after we meet Jemmy we learn that she’s pregnant again but she’s unable to feel the joy she felt before, there is just so much fear eating away at her. Her increasing desperation to keep this baby safe was palpable and I was hoping along with her that she would get a happy ending this time.

There is also an exploration of the stories that run through a family and how each generation hears parts of them and tries to understand how they came to be. Rose’s daughter Mollie (Lara’s mother) had a troubled youth and it impacted who she came to be as grew older. There are many tales that she tells such as the time she fell off a roof and throughout the novel it seems to Lara that these are embellished or possibly not even true. We do get to find out the truth of the stories, but also about what made Mollie who she is.

Then there is Oliver, a man who used to be a faith healer but after life has dealt him some blows he’s not sure he has any power to heal anymore. There are things that happen around him that made me wonder if he could heal but for me his real power came in the muddling along of his budding friendship with Lara. Sometimes it’s not in an actual healing that someone begins to be mended but it’s the having someone who will listen and be there, no matter what you throw at them that starts to heal someone.

Between the Regions of Kindness is ultimately a novel about resilience, about how we have to find a way to pick ourselves back up when the worst has happened. It’s about how people have to be vulnerable, have to let others in so that they can help us find the way through our pain, and conversely people have to let us see the person underneath the brave face so that we can help them. The exploration of grief is palpable at times but Alice Jolly’s writing is so beautiful that you just have to keep reading.

I adore the cover of Between the Regions of Kindness, it just immediately shows that even in the darkest moments new things will grow. Flowers will appear, and kindness will be shown (sometimes from the most unlikely sources but it will be there). It really is a wonderful cover and is so perfect for this stunning novel.

I loved Between the Regions of Kindness! It’s quite a chunky book but I still read it over the course of two afternoons, it just pulls you in from the opening chapter and keeps you under its spell until long after you’ve finished reading. It’s impossible for me to do any kind of justice to this novel in my review but if you take away one thing from reading my rambling thoughts it’s that this is a book not to be missed. I would recommend this to everyone. It’s rare to find a book that has so much depth and beauty while at the same time never shying away from the really harrowing parts of life. It’s a stunning book, one I am so glad I had the chance to read.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book and my invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Between the Regions of Kindness is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Alice Jolly is a novelist and playwright. She has published two novels with Simon and Schuster and has been commissioned four times by the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. She has also written for Paines Plough and her work has been performed at The Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden and The Space, East London. In 2014 one of her short stories won The Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize. Her memoir Dead Babies and Seaside Towns was published by Unbound in July 2015, and won the PEN Ackerley Prize 2016. She teaches creative writing on the Mst at Oxford University.

 

You can follow the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

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Baxter’s Requiem by Matthew Crow | @mattthewcrow @CorsairBooks #BaxtersRequiem @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Mr Baxter is ninety-four years old when he falls down his staircase and finds himself resident at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home.

Baxter is many things – raconteur, retired music teacher, rabble-rouser, bon viveur; but ‘good patient’ he is not. Indeed, Melrose Gardens is his worst nightmare. Then he meets Gregory.

Greg is just nineteen years old, but he has already suffered a loss so heavy that he is in danger of giving up on life before he even gets going. Seeing the boy’s pain, Baxter decides to take him under his wing.

Together they embark on a spirited journey to the war graves of Northern France, for Baxter to pay tribute to the love of his life; the man he waved off to fight in a senseless war; the man who never returned.

As Baxter shares his memories, Gregory starts to see that life need not be a matter of mere endurance; that the world is huge and beautiful; that kindness is strength; and that the only way to honour the dead, is to live every last second we have while we’re here.

 

My Thoughts

Mr Baxter is 94 years old and not happy to be a resident at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home. Greg is 19 and ends up working at the care home where he meets Baxter. Initially it doesn’t seem possible that a directionless young adult and forthright Baxter would get along but somehow they forge a connection.

I started reading this after lunch one day and I literally didn’t put it down until I’d turned the last page later on that afternoon. I was pulled into this story from the opening pages and I just had to keep reading.

I had a soft spot for Baxter from the start, he gives off a grumpy vibe but you can see very quickly that he has a great sense of humour. There is a moment very early on in the book when Baxter has a chat with his doctor about music and I properly laughed when I read it. My husband loves jazz and I can’t bear it so me and Baxter were like kindred spirits from the off!

‘”Are you fond of music?”

“I like jazz.”

“So that’s a no then […] If you can’t carry a tune then learn a f*cking trade”.

Baxter also has a real caring side for those who are struggling, he doesn’t show it all the time but you can sense it’s there. Greg made my heart ache; it’s so awful to read about a young person who is carrying so much on his shoulders. He has been through the most awful loss and he has no one in his life that he can talk to. His dad has shut down and won’t face up to things and so Greg is on his own with his grief. He ends up working at the retirement home and Baxter immediately realises that Greg isn’t just a sullen young man but is actually in such pain and torment.

‘[Greg] felt like there was a lifetime of conversation inside him, somewhere, and hoped that one day he’d find a companion who would encourage it to emerge.’

The friendship that grows between Greg and Baxter is heartwarming, I absolutely adored seeing them getting to know each other. It’s never mawkish despite the heartbreak that each of them has gone through – Matthew Crow hits the most perfect tone in the way these two men get to know more about each other. Baxter begins to bring Greg out of himself a bit more, and Greg seems to brighten Baxter’s days without even realising he’s doing it. Alongside this present day story we get to hear Baxter’s back story and I was enthralled. He found the great love of his life as quite a young man and for a while they lived in a cocoon in Baxter’s house. They were hopeful that one day they could go out as a couple but for that moment in time they were just so happy to have found each other. But then the war broke out and Thomas is called up. I shed tears when this happened, and again when he actually left. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to see your soul mate go off to war not knowing if you’ll ever get them back home with you again.

“When she passed […] it blew through me like a f*cking hurricane. Nobody understood, you see. Nobody had lost what I had lost. We’d all suffered, granted. But grief, it’s a different shape for everyone”.

“It’s a different size, too.”

Over the course of the novel we learn more about Greg’s story and, for me, it just began to feel like Greg and Baxter were destined to meet. Their paths crossed at a time when they both had a growing need for closure, for someone who would make time for them and they forged a beautiful friendship. I loved how Baxter helped Greg gain a bit more confidence to make friends with people around the home. It was wonderful to meet Winnifred – I want to be her when I grow up!

I almost didn’t sign up to read this book for the blog tour because I find it really upsetting to read about men lost in the war. My late Nan lost her first husband in the Second World War and finding the ‘missing presumed dead’ telegram about him after she died was one of the most heartbreaking moments in my life. It still makes me want to weep when I think about it all these years later. I’m so glad that I did pick Baxter’s Requiem up though because the tears I cried whilst reading it were cathartic and healing, and ultimately this book has a lot of joy radiating from its pages too.

I read this book a few weeks ago now and I still keep thinking about Baxter and Greg. They are two wonderful characters that I won’t ever forget! Baxter’s Requiem is one of those really special books that steal a piece of your heart, it’s now firmly on my favourites shelf and it will be a book that I re-read. It’s beautiful and moving, heartbreaking but also life-affirming… there just aren’t enough superlatives to do it justice, I just urge you to please go read it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corsair for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Baxter’s Requiem is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Matthew was born and raised in Newcastle and began freelancing for newspapers and magazines whilst still at school, writing about the arts and pop culture.

He has written four novels, Ashes and My Dearest Jonah – the second of which was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize for Literature – and one book for young adults, In Bloom, which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and the North East Teen Book Award, and listed in the Telegraph’s Best YA of 2014 List.

His fourth book, Another Place, is also be for young adults and was published by Atom in August 2017.

Matthew’s most recent novel, Baxter’s Requiem, was published in September 2018 by Corsair.

 

You can follow the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon | @VandaSymon @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #TheRingmaster #SamShephard

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About the Book

Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand

Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…

Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

 

My Thoughts

I adored getting to know Sam Shephard in Overkill and I’m thrilled to have the chance to share my thoughts on the brilliant second book in the series featuring her, The Ringmaster!

The Ringmaster follows Sam as she investigates the murder of a university student. In the course of the investigation Sam ends up looking in to the circus that’s in town as it seems possible that there is a link. Sam has recently been promoted and has moved to Dunedin but her superior officer isn’t happy with this and makes Sam’s work life difficult but she is determined to prove herself.

Throughout The Ringmaster I loved seeing Sam build a working relationship with her fellow Officer Smithy and hope to see more of him in future novels. I also enjoyed seeing her tentatively embarking on a new romantic relationship. Sam is such a down to earth woman – she isn’t perfect but she’s very likeable and works really hard – so that seeing her go about her day having the sort of mishaps that happen to me at inopportune moments just really endears her to me. I feel like I could be friends with her. I said in my review of Overkill that I thought I might have found a new detective to fill the Kinsey Millhone-shaped hole in my life and now I can absolutely confirm that I absolutely have! Sam Shephard is such a brilliant character!

The opening of The Ringmaster is shocking, perhaps not quite as shocking as the opening chapter of Overkill, but very nearly! It seems a young woman may have been lured to her death and there’s something so terrifying and devastating about the idea of someone being killed like that by someone they trusted and cared about.

The Ringmaster is a novel that really explores at how it is to be other, to feel on the outside, to be marginalised. Sam is new to the Dunedin and made to feel like an outsider at work, she’s also having to stay with her friend Maggie’s family so doesn’t have a home of her own at the moment. The circus workers that get questioned over the murder are of various nationalities and this seems to heighten suspicion around them regarding the murder. I know what it is to other and it’s so hard when you feel that people have pre-judged you on something you can do nothing about. My circumstances are very different to the workers from the circus but I still felt an empathy for them as they tried very hard to fit in.

I struggle with understanding circuses that use animals, it doesn’t sit right with me at all. I was felt particularly sad reading about Cassie the elephant in her enclosure. In one part of the novel something really awful happens at the circus, which leads to heartbreaking scenes and I found myself in tears at this part of the book. Vanda Symon has such a brilliant way of writing scenes such as this though – she doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of the situation but at the same time there is a real sensitivity to her writing that makes me want to keep reading.

The Ringmaster has an underlying tension running through it as you look with suspicion at quite a few characters wondering if they might be the murderer. I enjoyed the psychology aspect of the investigation as Sam, with help from Maggie, tries to profile the murderer in order to try and get a lead in the case. This is definitely a whodunnit crime mystery but it’s also very much a whydunnit so even if you think you know who the murderer is you’ll still have to work out the why. I loved that there was more than one element and it certainly kept me on my toes as I was reading. The why was more of a shock to me than the who but I was still left utterly reeling by the end!

Vanda Symon is such a brilliant writer who brings something really fresh to crime fiction, a genre that I read a lot of but Vanda’s books really do stand out in the crowd.  The Ringmaster is an emotional, powerful and gripping novel. I loved it and highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Orenda for my copy of the book and to Anne for the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Ringmaster is out now and available here.

 

I’ve previously reviewed Overkill, the first book in this series, here.

 

About the Author

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Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

 

 

You can follow the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: Amazing Grace by Kim Nash | @KimTheBookworm @HeraBooks @rararesources

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About the Book

She’s taking her life back, one step at a time…

Grace thought she had it all. Living in the beautiful village of Little Ollington, along with head teacher husband Mark and gorgeous son, Archie, she devoted herself to being the perfect mum and the perfect wife, her little family giving her everything she ever wanted.

Until that fateful day when she walked in on Mark kissing his secretary – and her perfect life fell apart.

Now she’s a single mum to Archie, trying to find her way in life and keep things together for his sake. Saturday nights consist of a Chinese takeaway eaten in front of the TV clad in greying pyjamas, and she can’t remember the last time she had a kiss from anyone aside from her dog, Becks

Grace’s life needs a shake up – fast. So when gorgeous gardener Vinnie turns up on her doorstep, his twinkling eyes suggesting that he might be interested in more than just her conifers, she might just have found the answer to her prayers. But as Grace falls deeper for Vinnie, ten-year-old Archie fears that his mum finding love means she’ll never reconcile with the dad he loves.

So when ex-husband Mark begs her for another chance, telling her he’s changed from the man that broke her heart, Grace finds herself with an impossible dilemma. Should she take back Mark and reunite the family that Archie loves? Or risk it all for a new chance of happiness?

 

My Thoughts

Amazing Grace is the story of Grace who is separated from her husband and is trying to re-build her life along with her ten-year-old son Archie and dog Becks. She’s ambling along in life – she has a nice house and a job she enjoys but she’s not feeling very fulfilled and her life is lacking some sparkle. Then one day Vinnie arrives and it might just be that Grace is going to get a chance at happiness.

I loved Grace from the minute I started reading this book. She’s so easy to identify with and I was rooting for her to get her happy ending from the start. She’s such a warm person and someone who wants to do right by the people she loves but she ends up spreading herself a little thin at times. I also adored her friend Monica who decides to help Grace makeover her life with a new wardrobe and some matchmaking!

Grace’s ex-husband Mark is such an arrogant, smarmy man and Grace is left agonising over whether she should forgive his affair and give him another chance because in doing so she’d no longer have to share custody of their son and she could be with Archie all the time. I was hoping she would give herself time to think about this became Grace is clearly way too good for Mark. I’m not a violent person but he really made me want to slap him at times in this book!

Vinnie on the other hand is a wonderful man who seems to just want the best for Grace.  I have to admit that I was a little suspicious of him for a while as he seemed almost too good to be true. I soon decided that he was genuine and I was rooting for him and Grace to get together. I loved seeing Grace getting to know him though and finding her feet on the dating scene again. It’s not easy putting yourself out there after a long-term relationship and Monica’s ‘help’ wasn’t always the most useful (although some of the dates did make me giggle!).

Amazing Grace has some really moving, heartfelt moments throughout as Grace is still very much missing her mum who died a few years previously. I really felt for her as she so badly wanted to hear her mum’s voice or to ask for some advice. There is one moment in particular with Grace and her mum that made me sob when I read it but it was healing, happy tears. I really could identify with Grace, I still miss my mum so much and Kim Nash captures the loss of a mother so beautifully and poignantly. Amazing Grace retains its lightness throughout – Kim has such a deft way of writing heartache that shows the reality of it without it ever feeling heavy.

Kim has a huge talent for writing characters that feel so real – everyone in this book feels like someone I might bump in to. It takes real care to make even the more peripheral characters memorable but Kim does it brilliantly! The older couple that she met in the park for example are so vivid in my mind even now, and they were only in the book for a few pages.

Amazing Grace is one of those really special books that I will treasure. It made me snort with laughter, and it made me shed a few tears but most of all it made me feel happy, smiley and comforted – I adored every single second that I spent reading it. It’s an amazing book, one I would recommend to absolutely everyone. Amazing Grace is one of my favourite books of the year and I now can’t wait to read whatever Kim writes next!

Many thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources and Hera Books for my copy of the book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Amazing Grace is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Amazin Grace - Kim Nash author photo

Kim Nash lives in Staffordshire with son Ollie and English Setter Roni, is PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture and is a book blogger at www.kimthebookworm.co.uk.

Kim won the Romantic Novelists Association’s Media Star of the Year in 2016, which she still can’t quite believe. She is now quite delighted to be a member of the RNA.

When she’s not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog, reading, standing on the sidelines of a football pitch cheering on Ollie and binge watching box sets on the TV. She’s also quite partial to a spa day and a gin and tonic (not at the same time!) Kim also runs a book club in Cannock, Staffs.

Amazing Grace is her debut novel with Hera Books and will be out on 10th April 2019

Connect with Kim on Social Media here:
Twitter: (@KimTheBookworm) https://twitter.com/KimTheBookworm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimTheBookWorm/
Instagram: @Kim_the_bookworm

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

Amazing Grace Full Tour Banner

55 by James Delargy | @JDelargyAuthor @simonschusteruk @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.

He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.

Heath is a serial killer.

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

Gabriel is the serial killer.

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

 

My Thoughts

55 is a novel about a quiet town in the middle of nowhere in Australia that has not one but two men turn up at the small police station on the same day each claiming that the other one kidnapped and planned to murder him, and that they would have been victim number 55! Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins has a huge job on his hands as he listens to each story and tries to work out what on earth is going on!

Gabriel walks into the station first and he’s believed to be the victim he says he is and dealt with accordingly as his statement is taken. A short while later Heath turns up at the same police station and tells an almost identical story, and this leaves the police with a serious problem on their hands. Who is the killer and who is the victim? Or are they both killers? Or could they possibly both be victims?

Chandler is really frustrated when a more senior police officer arrives to take charge of the case. We soon find out that Chandler and Mitch used to be really close when they were younger but their friendship ended badly. This novel is told in two timelines – the present day and a few years earlier when Chandler and Mitch were helping search for a man missing in the wilderness. This was a great way to tell the story as we get to find out how close they were and how things went wrong alongside where they are now. It also felt at times like things in their friendship were mirroring elements of the story in the present day which had my brain ticking over even faster trying to see if there were any connections.

I really liked Chandler and never stopped wanting things to work out for him throughout the novel. It felt like he was always trying to do the right thing and to be fair with his staff and his family but was torn in so many directions. I think his story had me almost as tense as the main one about Gabriel and Heath because I so wanted him to be okay.

I spent the whole novel swapping and changing my mind about who I thought the guilty man was. The reveal about whodunnit is shocking – the mystery twists and turns at great pace throughout the novel but when we find out it’s almost like slow-motion as your brain takes in what happened! I’d worked out a small element of the story but nowhere near enough to fit it all together. The final pages of this novel were gobsmacking! This book has one of the best endings to a thriller that I’ve read in a really long time, it’s one of those endings that made me sit in silence for a few minutes after I put the book down trying to process it. And even now, weeks later, I still keep thinking about it!

I was drawn to this book as soon as I read the blurb, it was irresistible to me. I’m so happy to say that this novel totally lives up to the blurb and is such a unique take on a serial killer thriller novel! This is a perfect book for readers who think they can always work out whodunnit as this one will keep you guessing until all is revealed! I don’t think I’ll ever forget this book and I’m sure it will be on my best books of the year list – I highly recommend it! It’s fast-paced, addictive and utterly brilliant!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to take part on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

55 is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

James Delargy Author Photo

 

James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland but lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives.

He incorporates this diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. He would like to complete a round-the-world series of novels (if only for the chance to indulge in more on-the-ground research).

His debut thriller, 55, will be published in June 2019 by Simon & Schuster and 17 other international publishers.

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

55 Blog Tour Poster

Audio Book Review: Chickens Eat Pasta by Clare Pedrick (narrated by Colleen MacMahon) | @ClarePedrick @matadorbooks @audibleuk @rararesources

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About the Book

Not just another romance, but a story of escapism, coincidences, friendship, luck and most of all… love.

Chickens Eat Pasta is the tale of how a young Englishwoman starts a new life after watching a video showing a chicken eating spaghetti in a mediaeval hill village in central Italy.

“Here I was, 26 years old, alone and numb with boredom at the prospect of a future which until recently had seemed to be just what I wanted.”

Unlike some recent bestsellers, this is not simply an account of a foreigner’s move to Italy, but a love story written from the unusual perspective of both within and outside of the story. As events unfold, the strong storyline carries with it a rich portrayal of Italian life from the inside, with a supporting cast of memorable characters. Along the way, the book explores and captures the warmth and colour of Italy, as well as some of the cultural differences – between England and Italy, but also between regional Italian lifestyles and behaviour. It is a story with a happy ending. The author and her husband are still married, with three children, who love the old house on the hill (now much restored) almost as much as she does.

Chickens Eat Pasta is Clare’s autobiography, and ultimately a love story – with the house itself and with the man that Clare met there and went on to marry. If you yearn for a happy ending, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a story that proves anything is possible if you only try.

 

My Thoughts

Chickens Eat Pasta is the memoir of Clare Pedrick detailing her life as she came out of a relationship break up and on something of a whim bought a run-down house in Italy. She fell in love with the place after seeing a video of chickens eating pasta in a hall in Italy and she immediately makes plans to go there!

I was drawn to this audio book as soon as I saw the gorgeous cover, and once I read the blurb I started listening immediately! This is a gorgeous book that really draws you in to Clare’s story from the very start. I could see how she decided to move to Umbria without a huge amount of thought and planning – it can feel irresistible to make changes after life has turned out different than you expected.

You know from the blurb that things work out for Clare in Italy but whilst I was listening I was so caught up in her life as it was being recounted that I felt I didn’t know how her story would end. I was enthralled by her relationships with the locals, and her romantic interest. There are also some mouth-watering descriptions of food throughout this book that made me want to seek out some recipes!

The narrator of this audio book is Colleen MacMahon and she does a wonderful job. The brilliant writing by Clare combined with the excellent narration by Colleen really give this memoir life. All the characters, and the description of the place were so vivid and I adored it. As a side note I discovered on twitter that Colleen also painted the stunning picture that is the cover image on this book!

If you don’t often read non-fiction, this would be a perfect place to start because it reads with the ease of fiction and you do get completely absorbed in the Clare’s story.

Chickens Eat Pasta made me feel like I was right there with Clare in Umbria, it gave me such a vivid and evocative depiction of the place and the people. I loved listening to this book and I miss it now I’ve finished it. I can’t travel anymore but listening to this book gave me some wonderful escapism and I adored it. I definitely recommend this book.

Many thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the blog tour invitation and my audio copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Chickens Eat Pasta is available as an audiobook from here.

 

About the Author

Chickens Eat Pasta Author Photo

Clare Pedrick is a British journalist who studied Italian at Cambridge University before becoming a reporter. She went on to work as the Rome correspondent for the Washington Post and as European Editor of an international features agency. She still lives in Italy with her husband, whom she met in the village where she bought her house.​

You can follow Clare on her Facebook Book Page, her own Facebook page and on Twitter.

Read her blog about life in Umbria here

 

Giveaway to Win an audiobook copy of Chickens Eat Pasta (Open Internationally)

  • Winner gets to pick between audible and ibooks audio code

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494211/?

 

You can find the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

Chickens Eat Pasta Full Tour

Book Review: Sleep by C. L. Taylor | @CallyTaylor @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_K #sleep

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About the Book

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

 

My Thoughts

Anna was involved in a fatal road accident, she was the driver and ever since then she is struggling to sleep. She has nightmares, and is struggling to get back to any kind of normal. She decides that she needs a fresh start and takes a job at a hotel on a remote Scottish Island. The novel then becomes something of a locked room mystery as seven guests check in and they are all at the mercy of the weather and somewhat trapped there. Anna is convinced that one of guests wants to harm her but she doesn’t know which one!

The seven guests that arrive on the island soon after Anna began working at the hotel all have their own secrets and all appear shifty at one time or another. I had my suspicions early on but I was completely wrong (which I loved, it’s great to be surprised in a thriller). I really enjoyed seeing the back stories of the characters unfold alongside the tension and drama of the storyline ramp up. It’s definitely a book that has you on the edge of your seat!

Anna is a sympathetic character, it’s hard not to feel for her after everything that she’s been through. I didn’t feel that she was always a reliable narrator though as there is that fine line between paranoia and someone actually being out to get you and I wasn’t sure of her thought processes. I was always on her side though and was hoping she’d come through this and find happiness again.

This novel keeps coming back tot he issue of guilt. Anna is burdened with guilt even though the accident wasn’t her fault, she knows she should have been more aware and it’s haunting her. Then there are the people who feel like they’re doing the right thing but they’re not and should feel guilty. And then there are the people who have done us a perceived wrong and we think they should be consumed with guilt but they appear not all that affected. I think most people fall on a scale of guilt for things they’ve done – whether it’s things they meant to do or not. Sleep really makes you think about guilt and it’s handled so brilliantly!

I loved that this novel had layers to it and every time I found out a new bit of information I was re-thinking what I’d previously thought. There is one central story that the novel focuses on but you get to see how that leads to other things happening, there are consequences that are unexpected when people are trapped together and they all have their burdens. The end of this novel was gobsmacking and left me reeling but it was the perfect ending.

Sleep is absolutely brilliant, I just couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. I’ve loved all of C. L. Taylor’s books so far but I have to say that this is her best one yet, I highly recommend it! It’s tense, gripping and so hard to put down!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Sleep is out now and available here.

 

Links to my reviews of C. L. Taylor’s previous novels:

The Escape

The Missing

The Fear

 

About the Author

Cally Taylor is an award-winning English author of romantic comedies published by Orion Publishing Group, and more recently, a Sunday Times Bestselling author. As C.L. Taylor, she publishes psychological thrillers through HarperCollins.

 

 

You can find the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

Sleep_BlogTourP1

Book Review: Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech | @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks @annecater #CallMeStarGirl

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About the Book

Tonight is the night for secrets…

Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after twelve years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

 

My Thoughts

I’m a massive fan of Louise Beech’s writing so I was thrilled beyond words to read Call Me Star Girl for this tour.

Call Me Star Girl is the story of Stella who is about to do her last ever late night radio show and she wants her listeners to share their secrets so that she can share hers. We get her story told in two timelines – the time around the murder and the present day. Stella was left by her mother as a young teenager and it’s something that she’s struggled with all of her life since then. Her mother Elizabeth is the other narrator of this book – it’s told alternately between them so we gradually get to fill in the back story of Stella’s life and to see what made her who she is.

Stella is in a fairly new relationship with Tom and she is very insecure about it. She’s convinced that one day he’ll realise that she’s boring and she’ll be left alone again. I felt so sorry for her as I learnt this about her. She clearly just wants to feel happy and secure with someone and will do anything to try and have that. Her relationship with Tom escalates and I worried about how it was all going to work out for Stella.

Stella works on a late night radio show and always feels okay about walking home alone. But then one night a book is left for her in reception with an intriguing note that doesn’t make sense to her, and later she finds that that same night a young woman was murdered in an alley nearby.

This novel is haunting! From the very beginning there is an uneasiness that settles around you as you read and yet you just can’t put the book down. This is Louise’s first crime thriller and she brings to it her incredible way of writing characters that are so real and believable. No one writes characters like her.

I felt really unsettled as Stella’s last show progresses. It’s clear that Stella is feeling on edge about being in the studio alone and she’s never felt that before. The murder is playing on her mind, it having happened so close to where she works and it feels like an element of paranoia is working its way into her thoughts. The writing is so evocative – I felt like it was me in that studio, I could feel the darkness encroaching and felt as if someone were right there waiting to attack.

Louise always works in an element of coincidence that often seems incidental but causes a huge shift for the characters it affects. In this novel there is more than one coincidence and the way these are threaded through the novel and how the strands interweave and separate again is so incredibly done. Throughout this novel there are stars – Stella is the first and her mother’s perfume in the bottle with the beautiful star top is the second and also a lot of of this novel is set at night and Stella likes to open a window to let the cold in. It is so emotive then that at its heart this is a novel about fate (things being set in the stars). As you get further into the novel it seems like Stella is on a collision course with fate – the way her mother abandoned her and came back and then Tom comes into her life and it seems like things might get better. Fate has her plan and things often happen outside of us, outside of our control but it’s like it was destined for certain things to converge.

The thing I love most about Louise’s writing is the way she always makes me feel such strong emotions as I read. I wondered whether it would be the same with Call Me Star Girl, which being a thriller doesn’t seem like it would but it absolutely does! I cried, I felt uneasy and tense; I also laughed at the idea of news being reheated (and as an avid listener of late night radio I shall forever think of the repeat news bulletins as reheated!).  Oh, and it made me so happy to find Bob Fracklehurst in this book! I just fell in love with this novel, and with Stella.

Call Me Star Girl is my top book of the year so far, it deserves all of the stars! It’s stunningly beautiful at the same time as being satisfyingly dark and gripping; it’s impossible to put down (and I really do mean impossible because even though it’s a couple of weeks since I read it, I still keep thinking about it). It’s stolen a piece of me. I can’t do it justice in this review but please just go read it for yourselves, I promise that you won’t regret it!

Many thanks to Anne at Orenda Books for my copy of this book and the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Call Me Star Girl is out now in ebook and is available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

I’ve previously reviewed these books by Louise Beech:

How to be Brave

Maria in the Moon

The Lion Tamer Who Lost

 

About the Author

Louise Beech Author Photo.jpeg

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a GuardianReaders’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

 

You can follow the rest of the tour at the following stops:

call me star girl blog poster 2019

Book Review: The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby | @novelcarolyn @noexitpress @annecater #randomthingstours

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About the Book

Cora was born in a prison. But is this where she belongs?

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood.

Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

 

My Thoughts

The Conviction of Cora Burns follows Cora in late 1800s Birmingham as she tries to find her place in the world. She’s just been let out of prison and has been offered a position as a housemaid in the home of Thomas Jerwood but she is haunted by memories of her past, and is desperately seeking answers.

Cora is born in prison, then raised in the workhouse. She has a forceful personality and struggles to reign herself in. While at the workhouse Alice Salt comes into her life and this friendship greatly impacts Cora. Later the girls become separated and something happens that leads to Cora being imprisoned.  The novel begins with Cora being released but then goes back and forth in time between then and a few years earlier when she was a child. Interspersed with those chapters are journal entries from Jerwood about his scientific studies, and occasional reports from a doctor who is using hypnosis to try and get a mute woman to speak again.

This novel was set in the late 1800s and this comes through so vividly. The sense of time and place was so richly drawn, I could envisage the streets and the prison, the homes of the wealthy and the slums. It’s all so beautifully described and woven through the rest of the plot.

This is very much a novel looking at nature versus nurture and I found this fascinating.  I really enjoyed the scientific excerpts throughout this novel. I did a sociology module at college years ago and read about Lombroso’s work on how to identify criminals  by their facial features so it was interesting to see this being referred to in this novel. I often wonder about how people come to do evil things – are they born that way or made that way? Looking at this through Cora’s life was brilliant because she’s such an interesting character and while she has done awful things, and she’s not always likeable, there is something about her that made me want her to find answers and to get her life together. I couldn’t help but have sympathy for her, even though I couldn’t condone all of her actions.

I don’t read many historical novels as I always think I don’t enjoy them but this book was an incredible read! I was engrossed from the opening chapter and I got completely lost in the novel. I loved the way it was written in two timelines and with scientific documents interspersed – I was engrossed in every aspect of the story and I just couldn’t stop reading once I started! I adored this book and keep finding myself thinking about it ever since I finished reading it. I feel sure that this will be one of my favourite books of the year so I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to No Exit Press for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Conviction of Cora Burns is out now and available here.

About the Author

Originally from Sunderland, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’s College, Oxford before working in social housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language.

Her debut novel, The Conviction of Cora Burns, (previously titled Half of You) was begun in 2013 on a writing course at Faber Academy in London. The novel has achieved success in several competitions including as finalist in the 2017 Mslexia Novel Competition and as winner of the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award.

Carolyn has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

CURRENT Cora Burns BT Poster

Book Review: Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F. Ross | @dfr10 @orendabooks #HeadyHeights

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About the Book

Welcome to the Heady Heights

It’s the year punk rock was born, Concorde entered commercial service and a tiny Romanian gymnast changed the sport forever.

Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks’, and now dreams of hitting the big-time as a Popular Music Impresario. Seizing the initiative, he creates a new singing group with five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. Together, they make the finals of a televised Saturday-night talent show, and before they know it, fame and fortune beckon for Archie and The High Five. But there’s a complication; a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC known as The Tank are all on his tail…

 

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest in starting this review and say that I don’t really know where to start with describing Welcome to the Heady Heights as it was so unlike anything I’ve read before but I can say that I absolutely loved it!

The novel follows Archie Blunt as he seems to go from one lot of trouble to another. He’s trying to look after his dad but he loses his job as a bus conductor and gets on the wrong side of people that he really shouldn’t have annoyed. The only thing that keeps him from being in serious trouble with some people is that he knows where the metaphorical bodies are buried. He’s not always the most likeable character and yet you can’t help rooting for him to succeed in life.

Archie finds a new job and discovers he’s to be a driver to Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks. This leads to him unwittingly saving his life and finding himself in the position of being able to ask a favour. This then leads to Archie trying to put a band together to perform on Heady’s TV talent show and chaos ensues! I loved the process of Archie finding the members of his band and trying his struggle to get them to behave. The group trying to chose a name was so funny, it had me properly laughing to myself as I was reading it!

Glasgow is like a character in its own right throughout this novel. I’ve never been there but I could visualise it all so clearly and now feel like I know it so well. The use of Scottish dialect throughout the novel is also brilliant. I found myself reading the whole novel (not just speech) in a Scottish accent.

Welcome to the Heady Heights really does capture a point in time – when life was hard, people were struggling and women were still second-class citizens. The beauty in the novel is how it shows all sides of life. I felt so sorry for Barbara, the WPC, who is treated like a scivvy by her male colleagues, even the ones of similar rank but she is determined that she will achieve things within her career. No one makes it easy for her but she keeps going.

I loved how this book was set in the 70s and yet it felt like it was also gently mocking the modern era of reality TV and how it’s ended up being so fake and staged. It also made for uncomfortable reading at times as we see a group of men who all have their seedy secrets, some of those secrets being very disturbing and way worse than just seedy. These men aren’t named but the descriptions of the ones who aren’t main players in the novel are definitely recognisable. This is so much more of a commentary on how society has ended up where it is now than I was expecting but it made for such a fascinating read.

This is a novel that feels impossible to define but it’s utterly brilliant. It’s gritty and disturbing, it’s funny and poignant and just so readable! I found this hard to put down because I just couldn’t see how it was all going to turn out for Archie and I was desperate to find out! This is definitely an author I want to read more of and I’ve already bought a couple of his other books and I can’t wait to read them! I highly recommend Welcome to the Heady Heights!

Many thanks to Orenda Books for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Welcome to the Heady Heights is due to be published on 21 March and available to pre-order here.

 

About the Author

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David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His debut novel The Last Days of Disco was shortlisted for the Authors Club Best First Novel Award, and received exceptional critical acclaim, as did the other two books in the Disco Days Trilogy: The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas and The Man Who Loved Islands. David lives in Ayrshire.

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie | @alisonbailliex @Bloodhoundbook

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About the Book

More than thirty years after thirteen-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.

When modern DNA evidence reveals that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona?

Soon Sarah and Tom find themselves caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and everyone is a suspect.

The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears.

 

My Thoughts

Sewing the Shadows Together is about Tom, whose younger sister Shona was raped and murdered when they were teenagers. He still carries the guilt of not being there to protect her and it haunts him in the present day many years later. Sarah was Shona’s best friend and she is also still haunted by the loss. Tom and Shona meet again at a school reunion and while Tom is back in Edinburgh they find out the man convicted of killing Shona has been cleared with modern DNA techniques.

This novel is set in the present day but those chapters are interspersed with recollections from the past in the lead up to, and aftermath of, Shona’s murder. I loved the story being told in this way as I wanted to see how everything would connect up. I had my suspicions about who had really killed Shona, and while I can sort of claim that I guessed right I would really be fibbing a little bit as I suspected a lot of the people in this book!

Tom is such a great character. His life has clearly been hugely affected by the death of his sister. He’s lost his ambition to achieve big things in life and instead has been floating along aimlessly seeing what happens. It definitely felt like his life would have been so different had his sister not died. I really felt for him because losing someone young, when you’re also still young, is profoundly affecting and it changes you. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to lose someone in such a horrific and traumatic way though.

I also really liked Sarah. I did feel that she is something of a doormat within her family – she puts up with a distracted husband, a domineering mother, and is somehow not up to speed with what is happening in her (grown up) children’s lives. She is always doing her best though and she really does care. I can see how she ended up as she is, it’s that juggling act of trying to keep everyone happy and it so often being at the expense of yourself. I was rooting for her and hoping that she would find some happiness for herself.

Apart from Tom and Sarah I didn’t particularly like anyone in this novel but I do so enjoy reading about unlikeable characters. It worked so well in this book as it gave a lot of potential suspects. Everyone in the novel is well-rounded and there is a complexity to the characters – no one seemed all bad or all good and so it made it harder to figure out whodunnit.

Ultimately, Sewing the Shadows Together is a brilliant crime novel. It has a depth to it and while the solving the crime is the central plot there are other things going on that add interest and make this book near impossible to put down! I bought this book when it was first published but didn’t read it until recently and I’m really kicking myself for leaving it so long. It is such a brilliant debut and I’ll definitely be looking out for more of Alison Baillie’s novels in the future!

Sewing the Shadows Together is gripping, engrossing and an all-round brilliant read! I highly recommend it!

I purchased my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Sewing the Shadows Together is out on 12 March and available here.

 

About the Author

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Alison Baillie was born in Scarborough of Scottish parents and lived in County Durham, Somerset and the Yorkshire Dales before going to university in Scotland. She then taught English in several Edinburgh secondary schools before moving to Switzerland where she still lives now. She’s taught English as a Foreign Language in Finland and Switzerland.

When she stopped teaching full-time, she fulfilled a life-time ambition and wrote Sewing the Shadows Together, a psychological suspense novel inspired in part by events when she was teaching in Scotland. She is fascinated by the way we are influenced by the events of our past and has now written a second novel, A Fractured Winter, set in Switzerland, Scotland and Yorkshire.

She has two sons and three grandchildren and is proud of their international roots, having a mixture of Scottish, Swiss, Polish and Finnish heritage. As well as spending time with them, she loves travelling, walking in the mountains and by the sea, reading and writing.

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

Sewing the Shadows Blog Blitz

Book Review: Past Life by Dominic Nolan | @NolanDom @headlinepg @annecater #RandomThingsTours #PastLife

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About the Book

Waking up beside the dead girl, she couldn’t remember anything.
Who she was. Who had taken her. How to escape.

Detective Abigail Boone has been missing for four days when she is finally found, confused and broken. Suffering retrograde amnesia, she is a stranger to her despairing husband and bewildered son.

Hopelessly lost in her own life, with no leads on her abduction, Boone’s only instinct is to revisit the case she was investigating when she vanished: the baffling disappearance of a young woman, Sarah Still.

Defying her family and the police, Boone obsessively follows a deadly trail to the darkest edges of human cruelty. But even if she finds Sarah, will Boone ever be the same again?

 

My Thoughts

Past Life is about Abigail Boone who is suffering from amnesia following a traumatic incident where she was abducted and held for days before being found. Doctors haven’t been able to treat her memory loss so now she’s just trying to pick up the pieces of her life and to move on as best she can. She’s lost her career in the police, and her relationship with her husband and son is floundering as she has no memories of either of them. Boone decides that the best thing she can do to find herself is to get back to trying to find the young woman she was searching for at the time she herself went missing.

Abigail Boone is such a brilliant character. She has her flaws – she’s stubborn, she doesn’t listen to advice and she throws herself into situations without really considering the consequences but I loved her fierce determination! She tries so hard but can’t seem to find a way through to her past and so focuses on the here and now and what she can do. I really admired this trait.

‘Identity can be proved with papers, but how do you prove self? How do you measure a person, seek evidence of what they might be? Only in the past, Boone concluded, and in that thing constructed by the past that we call a mind.’

Boone is trying to find Sarah Still, who has been missing for a long time now but Boone feels sure that she was on the right track to finding Sarah before she was attacked. This leads Boone to meet Roo, the woman she was held with, and I adored the relationship that grew between these two women. They are so different to each other and there is something of a language barrier at times but the way they overcame this and developed a respect for each other was so great to read about. The friendship they have, along with Boone’s friendship with Tess (a woman Boone helped while still in the police force and has kept in touch with), were the anchors that Boone needed in a time where she no longer connected with the people she was close to before.

I felt that Boone’s stubborn need to find Sarah, rather than being home and trying to connect with her family, perhaps came from the fact she now knows what it is to be missing. Boone is there but she’s not there; she doesn’t know who she was before and the only reference points she has are what other people have told her. Sarah is physically missing from her life but the person she left behind wants her back as much as Boone’s husband Jack and son Quin want Boone back.

This is a gritty novel, and it’s very dark in places but it’s so believable and it’s very well written. There is an air of melancholy that runs through the novel but it never feels depressing. The brilliant Boone, along with Tess and Roo, keep you hooked and I felt like I was right along with them throughout this story. I so badly wanted all of them to come out of it and be okay.

Past Life is such a brilliant and gripping crime thriller but it’s also an excellent exploration into what makes a person who they are. What is left to cling to when you’ve lost who you are, or when you’ve lost the person you love. There is so much depth in this book, and there were moments that felt so profound to me that I had to put it down for a few moments just to process what I was reading. My disability took my physical abilities from me so while I still know who I am, I can’t be who I was before so I felt something of an affinity with Boone. This book came to mean such a lot to me and I know it’s one that will stay with me. It’s very rare for me to connect so much to a crime thriller but Past Life is something special.

This is one of those really compelling books that you just can’t put down – I simply had to know how it was all going to turn out for Boone! She’s such a real, authentic character that I felt bereft when I turned the last page of this book. I still keep thinking about her and wondering how she’s getting on. This is a book that I won’t forget and I think Past Life may well make my best books of the year come the end of December! It’s gritty and gripping, thrilling and very difficult to put down… plus Boone will steal your heart! I highly recommend this book!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne from Random Things Tours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Past Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Dominic Nolan Author Picture

Dominic Nolan was born and raised in north London. PAST LIFE is his first novel.

 

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Past Life Blog Tour Poster

Book Review: Are You The F**king Doctor? by Dr. Liam Farrell | @drlfarrell @annecater #RandomThingsTours #IrishMed

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About the Book

‘General practice is the great unknown. We stand on the cusp of the beyond. Science takes us only so far, then the maps stop in the grey areas of intuition, imagination and feelings: here be dragons. Lurching from heart-breaking tragedy to high farce, we are the Renaissance men and women of medicine; our art is intangible. Anything can walk through our door…’

Family doctor, Irishman, musician, award-winning author, anarchist and recovering morphine addict, Liam became a columnist for the BMJ in 1994. He went on to write for many major publications, winning a series of prestigious awards; in 2005, he was the first doctor to win Columnist of the Year in the Periodical Publishers Association awards.

The book contains a selection of Liam’s best work, from his columns, blogs and short stories.Brilliantly funny, glittering with literary allusion and darkly wicked humour, this book is much more than a collection of stand-alone anecdotes and whimsical reflections, rather a compelling chronicle of the daily struggles – and personal costs – of a doctor at the coalface.

 

My Thoughts

Are You The F**king Doctor? is a collection of Dr Liam Farrell’s columns and blog posts from over a period of many years. The collection is comprised of the humorous and the moving, along with some short stories inspired by his experiences as a GP.

The opening of this book was unexpected as Farrell writes very openly and honestly about his becoming addicted to morphine, and his subsequent journey to getting off it. It initially seemed a little odd to me to open the book with this story but actually it was great to see such honesty right from the beginning and to have a real insight into the man behind the following chapters. As I got further into the book it felt that knowing the author’s own medical struggles meant I warmed to him as he wrote about his patients, especially the ones that somewhat tried his patience at times!

I loved the way that this book was full of humour and the way that Farrell uses humour to get his point across to his readers. The repeated references to the over-use of antibiotics, and to patients who seek antibiotics for every ailment they suffer from made a strong point, but it’s done in such a tongue-in-cheek way that it didn’t feel like being lectured to.

The pressures of being a GP are apparent throughout this book. It must be so frustrating to have such a short time for consultations and then to have that compounded by some worried well patients bringing a long list with them, while there are other patients that really do need more time and it just isn’t there. There is a piece that shows just how hard it is being a junior doctor in a hospital when Farrell was on duty in one department and called for a consult from another department. In a roundabout way he was told that he was doing both of those roles and to get on with it. The piece is written in a humorous way but it really did bring me up short to think of working under those pressures.

One of my favourite recollections in the book was the reference to his elderly aunt, who was rather difficult, and the Wii! I completely agree with the idea of putting Wiis in all old people’s homes – they are wonderful for giving people a fun way to gain better balance and strength. There is also an amusing moment when a patient reveals her new baby daughter’s name. It seems she’s unknowingly named her after a medication (although her husband may well have known)! This whole post made me giggle to myself!

I wasn’t expecting so many literary references when I started this book but I very much appreciated them. Many of the references I knew of but others I didn’t and it sent me off looking into them – it’s always brilliant when a book leads you to seek out further learning and insight.

Dr Liam Farrell really shows the other side of medicine – it gives such an insight for patients into what doctors have to deal with on a daily basis. This is such an engaging read and has something in it for everyone to enjoy and get something out of. It’s so honest, very amusing and downright brilliant! I definitely recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Are You The F**king Doctor? is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Dr Liam Farrell is from Rostrevor, Co Down, Ireland. He was a family doctor in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, for 20 years, and is an award-winning writer and a seasoned broadcaster. He is married to Brid, and has three children Jack, Katie, and Grace.

He was a columnist for the British Medical Journal for 20 years and currently writes for GP, the leading newspaper for general practitioners in the UK. He has also been a columnist for the Lancet, the Journal of General Practice, the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News. He wrote the entry on ‘Sex’ for The Oxford Companion to the Body.

On Twitter he curates #Irishmed, a weekly tweetchat on all things medical, which has a global following. He also co-curates #WritersWise, a regular tweetchat for writers, with novelist Sharon Thompson.
He was the medical columnist for the BBC Radio Ulster Evening Extra 1996-98; presented the series Health-Check for Ulster TV in 2002, and was medical consultant for both series of Country Practice in 2000 and 2002 for BBC Northern Ireland.

His awards include Columnist of the Year at Irish Medical Media Awards 2003, Periodical Publishers Association of Great Britain 2006 and Medical Journalist’s Society, London 2011, and Advancing Health through Media at the Zenith Global Healthcare Awards 2018.He was shortlisted for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Competition in 2008.

 

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Doctor Blog Tour Poster

Book Review: Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff | @SarahDavisGoff @TinderPress @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Raised by her mother and Maeve on Slanbeg, an island off the west coast of Ireland, Orpen has a childhood of love and stories by the fireside. But the stories grow darker, and the training begins. Ireland has been devoured by a ravening menace known as the skrake, and though Slanbeg is safe for now, the women must always be ready to run, or to fight.

When Maeve is bitten, Orpen is faced with a dilemma: kill Maeve before her transformation is complete, or try to get help. So Orpen sets off, with Maeve in a wheelbarrow and her dog at her side, in the hope of finding other survivors, and a cure. It is a journey that will test Orpen to her limits, on which she will learn who she really is, who she really loves, and how to imagine a future in a world that ended before she was born.

 

My Thoughts

Last Ones Left Alive is the story of Orpen as she seeks to find a way to survive in the dystopian world she now lives in. She had been somewhat sheltered and protected from the skrake by her mother. Maeve made sure that Orpen knows how to fight, how to survive but Orpen has never had a need to put what she’s learnt into practice until now. Maeve has been bitten and Orpen has had to leave the safety of the only home she’s ever known and risk what is out there in the wider world.

This isn’t my usual kind of read but I absolutely loved it. Orpen is such a great character – she is so feisty and tenacious and I was rooting for her all the way through the book. She is so determined to survive and to find a way to thrive in this new world.

This novel is really bleak a lot of the time but never depressing because of Orpen’s strength. The dystopian landscape of Slanbeg is devastating, nothing is as it was before, and the fear of the mysterious skrake is ever present. I found the monstrous creatures terrifying, it certainly kept me on the edge of my seat whenever Orpen had to stop and rest for a while. Orpen has learnt how to kill though and she is fearless in her fight to survive, she will do whatever it takes to save herself.

Orpen is ultimately trying to find Phoenix City; she has heard her mum and Maeve whispering about it, and she’s read about it in snippets of papers she’s found when looking for food. This takes on an almost mythical feel in the book as Orpen struggles to find any reference on the road to this place.  The sense of isolation and loneliness, and also the frustration she feels at seemingly being so close and yet so far from her where she wants to get to is tangible.

I really connected with Orpen over the loss of her mother; it’s an awful thing to lose your mum, especially when you’re young. I did feel like there were parallels to the grieving process in the battle with the very real skrake. The way you can never feel okay when grief is still so raw because the moment you relax it hits you again with full force. Eventually you have to find peace with the loss and accept that you can’t have the person back, you have to learn to live without them. It felt as if Orpen’s journey was mirroring this experience and she was growing stronger and coping better as time moved on.

I loved the exploration of humanity throughout Last Ones Left Alive. Maeve has done what she can to teach Orpen how to survive – she’s taught her how to kill the Skrake and made sure she has skills in finding food and shelter but no one has taught Orpen about what it is to be truly alone, and how to hold on to who she is in the midst of being on her own. She becomes quite brittle and fierce in her approach to potentially meeting other survivors, it’s as if she’s forgotten how to build relationships. Some of it is the all-consuming focus on the basic need to survive but I think part of it is that she has learnt how to protect herself so well that she no longer knows how to let people in. I was rooting for her to survive but also to get to a place where she could find some happiness and peace.

Last Ones Left Alive is a book about the inherent desire to survive, but also to thrive in the environment we find ourselves in. It’s brutal and heartbreaking at times but it’s also beautiful and impossible to put down! I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to Tinder Press for my copy of the book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Last Ones Left Alive is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Sarah Davis Goff

Sarah Davis-Goff was born and raised in Ireland. After going to college in the US and UK, she eventually returned, and now lives in Dublin. Last Ones Left Alive is her debut novel.

 

 

You can find the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce | @Harriet_Tyce @Wildfirebks @PublicityBooks @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.

Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

 

My Thoughts

I literally squealed with delight when a surprise copy of Blood Orange arrived at my house a couple of months ago. It was one of my most anticipated books for 2019 and I’m so thrilled to say that it was even better than I expected it to be (and I was expecting it to be amazing!).

Blood Orange is about Alison, a barrister who is rising through the ranks of her profession and has just been given her first murder case. She is married with a daughter and it seems she has it all. Alison isn’t happy though – she’s involved in a messy affair and she drinks too much. She wants to have it all but she can’t seem to get it all together.

I went into this novel expecting to dislike Alison but I actually found myself feeling sympathy for her from very early on in the book. She’s a complex character and I could see how she got herself into the situation she was in. She wanted to be ‘one of the boys’ at work so regularly goes out drinking with colleagues to try and further her career but somewhere along the line she lost her ability to say no to one more drink. Her affair is complicated, she doesn’t have control of the situation and the man she’s involved with is very aggressive in his treatment of her and she thinks she likes it.  Alison does have a toughness to her, along with a vulnerable side and I think this is why I felt for her. She’s not a victim, she has a voice and while she doesn’t always speak out when she might, you always know she’s capable of it. All of the characters in this book, Alison included, have traits that are really unlikeable but they’re all flawed in very human, and very believable ways, it made it all the more chilling to read about them.

Alison is working on defending a client for murder and this is her biggest case to date. I found it fascinating to read about Madeleine, the woman accused of murder, and to see the gradual unfolding of what happened and why. There are some parallels between Madeleine and Alison and it left me feeling increasingly unsettled about how easy it is to one day be one person in one situation and the next to have crossed a line that you can’t come back from. The scary thing about this book was the way it all happens in such a way that you can see how it could happen to anyone.

Blood Orange is a prescient novel for the #metoo era. It looks at issues around consent and where the line is between rough sex and rape. Whilst not the main storyline it’s something that does run through the novel and it’s so well done – it makes you think without it taking over the novel. It’s not just within the affair Alison is having, but also who that man is also seeing and within Alison’s marriage. There is a subtle line whereby her husband wants to help and support her but then sometimes he seems really quite cold towards her, it’s clearly complicated and something of a mess.

The novel opens with someone engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation but we don’t know who the person is. As I was reading I would forget about the prologue and then certain things happened that had my brain ticking over wondering who it was. The ending of this novel was utterly shocking and I genuinely didn’t see it coming. I felt like I was watching a car crash in slow motion and was powerless to look away. It was such a perfect ending and was so fitting for this brilliant novel!

Blood Orange is such a compelling read – I found that I just couldn’t put it down once I started reading. It made me uncomfortable at times but in the way all the best books do, it unsettled me but I couldn’t stop reading for a second (and nor did I want to!). It’s a novel about toxic relationships, and people, and the tangled webs we weave and the way we become so entangled in them that eventually there may well be no way out. There is no doubt in my mind that Blood Orange will be in my best books of 2019, it’s a phenomenal debut and I already can’t wait to read whatever Harriet Tyce writes next! Go buy a copy of this book now, you won’t regret it!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Blood Orange is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Harriet Tyce Author Picture

Harriet Tyce is the author of Blood Orange, a psychological thriller due to be published by Wildfire in the UK and Grand Central Publishing in the US in February 2019.  It will also be published in a further eleven countries, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Spain.

She grew up in Edinburgh and studied English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University before practising as a criminal barrister for the next decade.  After having children she left the Bar and has recently completed with distinction an MA in Creative Writing – Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia. Blood Orange is her first novel.

 

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Blood Orange Blog Tour Poster

 

#BookReview: My Last Lie by Ella Drummond | @drummondella1 @HeraBooks @BOTBSPublicity #MyLastLie

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About the Book

New beginnings. Old secrets.
Theo and Pilar. The perfect couple.

Successful, beautiful and very much in love.
Until a year ago – and the tragedy that nearly tore them apart.
When their baby died, a part of them died with him.
Now they’re trying to rebuild themselves, moving to a stunning house in rural Cornwall.
But someone knows all their secrets – and will stop at nothing to disturb their fragile peace.

Theo and Pilar are about to learn that you can try to hide – but you can never outrun your past.

 

My Thoughts

My Last Lie is a novel about Theo and Pilar, told from Pilar’s perspective. They’ve been through a terrible tragedy that led to Pilar having a breakdown and now they’ve moved to a new house in a new area and are trying to re-build their lives. There’s something unsettling about the house though, and Pilar begins to feel rattled by the situation.

My Last Lie opens with a car accident that leads to Pilar’s baby being stillborn. The novel then moves forward a year with Theo and Pilar moving in to their new home in Cornwall. They’re both clearly still trying to find a way through their grief, and Theo is protective over Pilar. I did find him a bit contradictory at times and couldn’t quite weigh him up – he seems a devoted husband but then he buys a house for his wife that she has never seen before and immediately tells her he has to be away over night once a week while his business gets sorted out and fully moved more locally. This is at a time when she’s still finding her feet and feeling vulnerable and alone so it seemed a bit unfair of him.

Pilar is clearly still very affected by the loss of their baby, and the time she spent in hospital recovering from the initial grief and trauma that she’s been through. I felt like I was right there with her in this big new house, it sounds like such a stunning house and yet it felt a bit unsettling. When odd little things begin to happen I wasn’t sure whether Pilar was an unreliable narrator due to everything she’s been through, whether Theo somehow secretly blamed her for losing their baby and was trying to gaslight her and make her think she was losing her mind, or whether someone had taken against this couple and wanted to scare them off. This made for a great, thrilling read as I could never quite make my mind up. The unease is there from the beginning but it slowly creeps up until the point when you feel like you’re holding your breath wondering how it’s all going to turn out!

My Last Lie is a novel that keeps you on your toes. The people in the village all have their own secrets and dramas, which made me wonder if any of them has a connection to Pilar and Theo and could wish them ill. There are also a few red herrings thrown in throughout the novel which keeps you guessing about what’s going on and I loved that.

I very much enjoyed this book, it kept me hooked all the way through. It’s a gripping, intriguing and thrilling read – I recommend it! I’m really looking forward to seeing what Ella Drummond writes next, I’ll definitely be first in the queue to buy it.

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

My Last Lie is out today and available here.

 

About the Author

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Ella Drummond recently signed a two-book deal with Hera Books. Her first psychological thriller, My Last Lie will be published in February 2019 and is available for pre-order now.

She lives with her husband on the island of Jersey and you can follow her on Twitter @drummondella1 and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EllaDrummondWrites/

 

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

20th FEB_ Nicki's Book Blog My Chestnut Reading Tree Nemesis Blog Rather Too Fond of Books 21st FEB_ Cheekypee Reads And Reviews Hooked From Page One Ginger Book Geek Novel Deelights 22nd FEB_ Jennifer - Tar Heel Re

#BookReview: All the Little Lies by Chris Curran | @Christi_Curran @KillerReads

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About the Book

After a lifetime of secrets how far would you go for the truth?

An unputdownable new psychological thriller, full of twists you won’t see coming, from Chris Curran.

Your whole life has been a lie…

One email is all it takes to turn Eve’s world upside down. It contains a picture of her true birth mother, Stella, and proves that Eve’s entire life with her adoptive parents has been a lie.

Now she must unravel the mystery of Stella’s dark past. But what Eve finds will force her to take enormous risks, which put her – and her new-born baby – in immediate danger…

 

My Thoughts

All the Little Lies is a thriller about Eve. She is married and heavily pregnant when she sees a newspaper article about a woman that she knows must be her birth mother. She has been raised by her adoptive parents but has never been told anything much about the woman who gave birth to her. This leads Eve to start asking questions and the life she thought she knew begins to unravel!

I’ve read and enjoyed Chris Curran’s previous novels but All the Little Lies is definitely her best yet! I was gripped from the opening chapter and was under this book’s spell all the way to the end! The novel is told from two perspectives – Eve in the present and Stella in the past. Some of the other characters feature in both time lines, which is great because you see what they’re telling Eve in the present but you also hear what Stella was going through and how they made her feel.

This novel is a slow-burn but the pacing is exactly right because you need time to see all the threads of the story and to see how things begin to fit together. It also gives you the sense of what Eve is going through – the way it can be slow to find information about something that happened a long time ago. I really felt like I was right along with her in the search for answers.

I loved how Eve’s story alternates with Stella’s and so you get a picture slowly forming of what happened. I felt so sorry for Stella. She had a difficult upbringing and when she finds herself pregnant, alone and short of money she struggles to see how she will cope with a baby. David part owns the gallery that shows some of Stella’s paintings and he offers her help. I think he always meant well but the way Stella’s story unfolds from here is initially heart-breaking and ultimately shocking!

As this novel goes along I became more and more distrustful of just about every character! I was questioning everyone’s motives and trying to work out who had things to gain or lose if Eve were to find out certain things. I did think Eve was too trusting of people at times but I could understand why; she was vulnerable and hurt and was looking for someone who would be completely honest with her. She desperately wants to believe that when she asks questions that people are telling her the honest truth. I was so sympathetic towards her and was hoping there would somehow be a happy ending for her.

The title, All The Little Lies, is one of the most perfect I’ve seen! I loved the way that all the little lies add up in this novel to be much bigger, life-altering lies. You can see how someone does something and justifies it at the time by telling themselves they’re doing it for the best of everyone involved. But then it leads to more lies and then more, and it spirals out of control into a huge lie of which there is no way out!

All The Little Lies is such a great thriller! It’s a brilliant story with great characters and a plot with twists and turns that have you reading just one more chapter (and one more, and one more… until you look up and find it’s 2am!) because you just have to know how it’s all going to work out for Eve. It’s gripping, engrossing and so hard to put down! I definitely recommend this book!

I received a copy of this book from the author. All thoughts are my own.

All the Little Lies is due to be published on 15th February and can be pre-ordered from here now.

I’ve previously reviewed Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran

A previous guest post from Chris Curran – Crime Series or Standalone

 

About the Author

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All the Little Lies is Chris Curran’s fourth psychological thriller for Harper Collins Killer Reads. She lives in East Sussex and writes, standing up, in a room with no view. When inspiration falters she finds tea (Earl Grey, hot) and a bout of ironing are very therapeutic. In breaks between books she dusts, cooks, walks by the sea and reads – but mostly reads.

Find her at https://chriscurranauthor.com/

Twitter @Christi_Curran

Instagram: chriscurranwriter

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

ATLL tour asset3

 

#BookReview: East of England by Eamonn Griffin | @eamonngriffin @unbound_digital #randomthingstours @annecater #EastOfEngland

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About the Book

Dan Matlock is out of jail. He’s got a choice. Stay or leave. Go back to where it all went wrong, or simply get out of the county. Disappear. Start again as someone else.

But it’s not as simple as that.

There’s the matter of the man he killed. It wasn’t murder, but even so. You tell that to the family. Especially when that family is the Mintons, who own half that’s profitable and two-thirds of what’s crooked between the Wolds and the coast. And who could have got to Matlock as easy as you like in prison, but who haven’t touched him. Not yet.

And like Matlock found out in prison, there’s no getting away from yourself, so what would the point be in not facing up to other people?

It’s time to go home.

 

My Thoughts

East of England follows Dan Matlock as he gets out of prison after serving two years for causing the death of a man. He’s expecting his dad to meet him but no one is waiting for him. What follows is Dan trying to track down his dad whilst also laying a trail so that the family that caused him to be locked up can find him, and that past can be put to rest once and for all!

This isn’t my normal type of read but I very much enjoyed this book, it was so hard to put down and I read it in a couple of sittings! Dan Matlock is such a great character, one that will stay with me. He’s so much more complex than I thought he was going to be and I really appreciated that. I loved how he’s seeking to avenge himself by whatever means necessary and yet he always makes sure to look after people who need looking after. He takes time with people who he sees are lonely, even when he doesn’t have the time to give.

We follow Dan over the course of a week as he gradually gets closer to the day when things from the past will have to be put right. He immediately gets work as a debt collector with an old mate Chris, and starts scoping out the Minton and Corrigan families so he can lay a trail for them to find him. There is a great creeping undertone of menace as this novel goes on, it’s unsettling because you know the situation will come to a head and it’s just a matter of when and how. The reveals when they come are shocking, and at times violent, but it’s all in keeping with the build up.

The novel is set in the present but we also get flashes of the past and what led to Dan been put in prison, and also some really moving stories of Dan with his dad. Gradually you get a fuller picture of who Dan is and how he ended up in the situation he’s in.

The sense of place in this novel was spot on. Griffin makes Lincolnshire feel like another character in this novel – the feel of the county was done in such a way that I felt I could see everywhere he describes, I could smell the seaside and the fish and chips. It brought the book alive for me and I got so lost in it that it was like watching a film.

East of England is dark and gritty novel, that has some really moving moments in amongst the heavier stuff. I found this book near impossible to put down, and am so thrilled to discover that a second book featuring Dan Matlock is planned! I definitely recommend this one.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

East of England is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Eamonn Griffin Author Pic

Eamonn Griffin was born and raised in Lincolnshire, though these days he lives in north-east Wales.

He’s worked as a stonemason, a strawberry picker, in plastics factories (everything from packing those little bags for loose change you get from banks to production planning via transport manager via fork-lift driving), in agricultural and industrial laboratories, in a computer games shop, and latterly in further and higher education.

He’s taught and lectured in subjects as diverse as leisure and tourism, uniformed public services, English Studies, creative writing, film studies, TV and film production, and media theory. He doesn’t do any of that anymore. Instead he writes fulltime, either as a freelancer, or else on fiction.

Eamonn has a PhD in creative writing with the University of Lancaster, specialising in historical fiction, having previously completed both an MA in popular film and a BSc in sociology and politics via the Open University. He really likes biltong, and has recently returned to learning to play piano, something he abandoned when he was about seven and has regretted since.

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following stops:

East of England Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Senseless by Anna Lickley | @annal_writes @unbound_digital #Senseless #RandomThingsTours @annecater

senseless cover

About the Book

Beth’s partner, Dan, inexplicably vanishes from her life and nine years later she is still struggling. In the intervening years, she has learnt British Sign Language (BSL) and got what she thought would be her dream job, supporting deaf students in college. However, she finds she still feels dissatisfied with just about everything: from working life to sex life, domestic life to social life, it’s as if the traumas of her past will forever mar her future.

Through her work, Beth meets a group of strong-minded, pragmatists who show her how they’ve adapted to challenges of having a disability.

Is Dan’s disappearance the primary source of Beth’s sadness? Can her new friends help to shift her perspective on dealing with life? Will learning BSL prove to be significant after all? And what really happened to Dan? The answers may be quite unexpected.

 

My Thoughts

Senseless is a novel about Beth, who has been through a lot in her life and is struggling to find her place. She works supporting deaf / blind students in college using BSL (British Sign Language) but the job isn’t as satisfying as she hoped – she’s always been asked to do things that aren’t part of her job, or is expected to be able to sign things at short short notice for a student and is frustrated that the student is missing out. Beth also has difficulties in her personal life – her partner Dan walked out on her a few years ago and she still doesn’t know why or even where he went and if he’s okay.

Senseless is  a novel told through the viewpoint of two characters, Sam and Beth, although it is more about Beth as her story is told in the present and the past. She has had a really tough time when she was younger and it’s something that she’s never really dealt with. You gradually get to find out and understand why Beth is the way she is, she has had a lot to cope with. She self-medicates with alcohol and sex. Beth really struggles emotionally through this novel with what she wants in life. She thought her job would bring her joy but things aren’t what she hoped for. I felt really sad for her, and was really hoping she would find contentment in her life. She’s a really likeable character and easy to identify with. Sam is another interesting character, I very much liked him and his attitude to life. He is a firefighter but hasn’t been feeling well. He wants to confide in his girlfriend but she doesn’t seem to notice that he’s struggling. Eventually he finds out what is wrong and his life is changed.

There is such great representation of disability in this novel, particularly what it’s like to be deaf but also other forms of disability such as MS and needing to use a wheelchair. I loved how Anna Lickley seamlessly raises awareness of disability throughout her novel but in such a way that you don’t feel there is an agenda. I’m disabled and use a wheelchair, so I could really identify with Sam in particular and how he felt about his increasing reliance on other people and on aids such as his wheelchair. I very much appreciated how he is such a well-rounded character and the mentions of his disability are only there when relevant and are only one part of him. I really identified with how it feels to be in a wheelchair and forever having to shout to converse with your partner or a friend, who is always behind you as they push you. This is one of the things that upsets me the most about my condition – I never get to be alongside my husband when we’re out together anymore.

‘… spoke into he air : it was weird having the person you were speaking to walking behind you.’

Anna Lickley really shows in Senseless what it is to lose a sense, or a part of your physical self to disability but also, and perhaps more importantly, how every other part of you is still the same as it ever was. Disabled people have relationships, have sex, want to socialise and do all of the same things as everyone else. I also loved the exploration of how society often sees disabled people as victims but it is so often not how we see ourselves. I’m incredibly stubborn and refuse to give in for example, and in this book the character with MS says if he has to be known as anything in relation to his condition it would to be a struggler rather than a sufferer, and I can empathise with that. The novel really draws together the way we all have our difficulties – be they a physical disability or the real unhappiness that Beth feels.

Beth ends up going on a weekend break to a horse-riding school for the disabled to act as a support worker to Paula who is deaf blind. The horse riding part of the book was so brilliant. It shows how there are times when everyone, no matter what is going on in their lives can find common ground. I really enjoyed seeing how everyone adapted and how it helped Beth to open herself up to the possibility of what life might have to offer her if she gives herself a chance.

Senseless is a novel for everyone – it’s a well-written book filled with really well-rounded characters. The exploration of how everyone is dis-abled in a way by whatever difficulty they have in life is fascinating. It’s not always easy for anyone and we all need to take more time to really see other people.

Senseless is such a brilliant read – it’s got a great storyline, with believable characters and you get completely invested in their lives. I laughed and I cried while reading this book, it really is a special novel and one that will stay with me. I found this hard to put down and will definitely be looking out for more of Anna Lickley’s writing in the future! I urge everyone to go buy a copy of Senseless and to read it asap!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Senseless is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Anna Lickley Author Picture

 

Anna Lickley’s adult life has been moulded by the challenges of adapting to disability. She was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) in the 1990s and went deaf soon after, while at university. She then began to learn British Sign Language to help with communication and loved it immediately, becoming fluent enough to teach it.
In the last seven years, Anna’s vision has deteriorated and she is now registered deaf–blind. That and other health complications led her to stop working. Although sad to leave a job she loved, she is now relishing having more time to write and much of her writing is greatly influenced by her desire to share the realities of living with disability.

 

 

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

Senseless Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell | @DredaMitchell @BloodhoundBook

Dreda Say Mitchell - Spare Room_cover

About the Book

Home Is Where The Nightmare Is

Beautiful double room to let to single person

Lisa, a troubled young woman with a past, can’t believe her luck when she finds a beautiful room to rent in a large house. The live-in owners are a kind and welcoming couple. Everything is fine until she finds a suicide note hidden in her room. But when the couple insist this man didn’t exist and that Lisa is their first tenant, Lisa begins to doubt herself.

Compelled to undercover the secrets of the man who lived in the room before her, Lisa is alarmed when increasingly disturbing incidents start to happen. Someone doesn’t want Lisa to find out the truth.

As the four walls of this house and its secrets begin to close in on Lisa, she descends into a hellish hall of mirrors where she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not as she claws her way towards the truth…

Did this room already claim one victim?

Is it about to take another?

 

My Thoughts

Spare Room is a novel about Lisa, who on moving into the spare room of Jack and Martha’s home begins to notice disconcerting things. She finds a suicide note, seemingly written by a previous tenant, down the back of her bedside table. She’s also very suspicious of Jack, believing him to be trying to make her so uncomfortable that she’ll leave.

Wow, this book is fast-paced! It opens with a prologue where a man is about to take his own life, and then moves to Lisa coming to view a room in the house. I was gripped from the very beginning and I couldn’t put this book down.

Lisa is clearly troubled. Early on there are hints that she had an eating disorder when she was younger, and she has trouble making friends and forming romantic relationships. She has odd behaviours at bed time too, which made me really curious about what was going on with her. She quickly becomes certain that Jack is trying to frighten her but because we only see things from her point of view, I wasn’t sure how much was him being vile and how much was Lisa being paranoid. I loved the fact that Lisa isn’t always likeable in this book, it meant that while I felt sorry for her I could see that she does have potential to be very manipulative to get what she wants. It made her more real, she’s not just a stereotypical victim.

Lisa becomes increasingly fixated on finding out who lived in the spare room before her. Her need to know begins to encroach on her life, and all her thoughts come to revolve around what happened to him. The more she wonders about him the more she becomes suspicious of Jack and Martha. I couldn’t work out how it was all going to turn out for anyone.

I didn’t trust a single person in this book, it felt from the start like there are lots of secrets to be uncovered! Lisa’s parents seemed very odd to me, I couldn’t put my finger on why to start with but I just wasn’t sure of them. Jack and Martha are a strange couple, they have very strict rules for Lisa while she’s living in their house and they seem very cold to her. It seemed odd to rent out a room in your house to a stranger if you’re not comfortable with a stranger living in your house.

Spare Room was chilling at times, and while the weird happenings in the house Lisa moved in to were really unnerving, the most chilling thing for me was the lies people were prepared to tell in order to keep up the pretence of their own lives even if it does harm to others.

Spare Room is a really twisty (and twisted!) novel and I found it impossible to put down! I started it quite late at night and it was one of those ‘just one more chapter’ books where you end up staying up way past bedtime to finish it because you simply have to know how it’s all going to end! This was my first novel by Dreda Say Mitchell but it definitely won’t be my last!

Spare Room is gripping, dark, twisty and almost impossible to put down! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Emma at Bloodhound Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Spare Room is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

dreda say mitchell

Dreda Say Mitchell is an award-winning, bestselling crime writer, broadcaster, campaigner, and journalist. Since her sixth book she has been co-writing with Tony Mason. She is the author of eleven novels, with her debut awarded The CWA’s John Creasey Dagger. She has been a frequent guest on television and radio including Question Time, BBC Breakfast, Newsnight, Victoria Derbyshire, The Stephen Nolan Show, Front Row and Woman’s Hour and numerous others. She has presented Radio 4’s Open Book. Dreda was named one of Britain’s 50 Remarkable Women by Lady Geek in association with Nokia. She was the 2011 chair of the Harrogate Crime Fiction Festival. Dreda and Tony’s work is currently in development for TV. She was born and raised in the East End of London where she continues to live.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.dredasaymitchell.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DredaMitchell

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DredaSayMitchell

 

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this blog blitz at the following blogs:

spare room blog blitz

 

#BookReview: The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden | @LumsdenRich @TinderPress #RandomThingsTours @annecater #BillyBinns

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About the Book

At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time.

As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a lifetime of hope and heartbreak.

This is the story of an ordinary man’s life, an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.

 

My Thoughts

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is the story of 117 year old Billy as he begins to look back over his life, and the people he’s loved over the years. His life is nearing its end and he wonders whether he can truly remember the feeling of being in love one more time.

This novel is beautiful! I was immediately taken from the opening of the novel when Billy lists who his loves have been and a little about them. I really wanted to know more about these people and from that moment on I barely put the book down!

I loved the way that major events are touched upon in this novel as we move throughout Billy’s Life, it really brings it home just how old he is and how much life he has lived.

The loves in Billy’s life are often fleeting, and some – one in particular was heartbreaking – I had to put the book down for a moment while I composed myself as it did make me cry. There’s a real delicateness to the writing at times that really makes you pause, it’s stunning. It’s apparent that some of the difficult times in Billy’s life are things he has brought on himself but at the same time there’s an awareness that we were all young once and did silly things. He never meant the pain he sometimes caused to others.

Billy’s memories are interspersed with his life now in the old people’s home, and you can see how muddled he gets. He’s not always sure what is now and what was then, and he remembers things differently at different times. I found it really emotional seeing how Billy had clearly imagined other outcomes to get himself through the really difficult periods in his life, and now as an old man he muddles his real memories with the imagined stories. It was heartbreaking when I found myself smiling at a happy memory and then later realising what had actually happened, but in the end there was real solace in the fact that Billy remembered the imagined happy outcome over the most tragic loss. It was as if his forgetfulness was protecting him in the end, I found that so comforting.

I read this novel around the anniversary of my mum’s death and was worried it might be too much for me but actually it was a really good book to read. My mum never got to be even half Billy’s age but she had her share of heartbreak, and it makes me so sad to think of the loneliness she suffered from being divorced in the last years of her life. There was solace in reading Billy’s story though and the sense that in the end there is peace with who we are and how we ended up where we are.

I was expecting this novel to be a love story and it was, just not the way I was expecting. It was a very real story of love – it shows true love in all its complicated and messy ways. The person Billy loved the most was part of the relationship he messed up the most but the love he had for that person never wavered over the years. That is so true of how life can be. Even when you find the one it’s not always smooth sailing. I loved Billy’s ability to keep going though – even when things go wrong and he’s on his own dealing with loss and heartbreak he isn’t afraid to try again, to look for someone new.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is a story of resilience; of finding a way to go on after the worst has happened. It’s a wonderful look at a very human man – one who has made mistakes but has learnt lessons from the people he’s loved and lost along the way. There is real beauty in this book and I adored it!

Many thanks to Anne of RandomThingsTours and Tinder Press for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

richard lumsden author picture

 

Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include Downhill, Sightseers, Sense & Sensibilityand The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions. THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is his first novel.

 

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following stops:

six lives of billy binns blog tour poster

#BookReview: The Suspect by Fiona Barton | @figbarton @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

the suspect cover image

About the Book

‘The police belonged to another world – the world they saw on the television or in the papers. Not theirs.’

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling. This time it’s personal.

And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

 

My Thoughts

The Suspect is the story of two teenage girls who go missing on a gap year in Thailand. Their parents are desperate for news of them, and the police soon launch an investigation. In the meantime journalist Kate Waters is on the case trying to track the girls down too. This case feels somewhat personal to Kate as her son has also been travelling in Thailand for the last couple of years and only calls home very infrequently.

Kate Waters is back in The Suspect – she is one of my favourite characters in all the series / linked books that I’ve ever read. She is a force to be reckoned with whilst also having a softer side to her. I love her determined nature and her approach to following leads in a story, she always feels like a real person to me. In The Suspect we see more of the pressures of her personal life as her eldest son Jake is off travelling and she worries about him but also knows he’s an adult and has to be allowed his freedom. However, when the two teenage girls go missing in the same part of the world she has a gradually nagging feeling about her son.

We also get the perspective of Alex’s mum, and through her we see how Rosie’s parents are coping too. The anxiety and distress that the parents are in was palpable at times, while at others we see one of the parents covering up things that he has done which made me want to slap him at times!  We also get to see the detectives on the case and see how the police investigation into the disappearance is going. I was happy to see Bob Sparkes back in this book, he’s also such a great character!

Interspersed between these chapters we get to hear from one of the missing girls in the time leading up to their disappearance. Alex is much more reserved than the girl she’s travelling with and over time the tensions build and their friendship begins to crack. Rosie was a last minute replacement on this trip when Alex’s best friend pulled out and it’s clear that these two girls didn’t have much in common from the start. This adds to the sense of foreboding that something bad is going to happen.

Fiona Barton opens The Suspect with the parents’ anguish over these girls and then gradually through the different perspectives the blanks get filled in about what happened to the girls, and how the investigation into their disappearance is going. I love how we are thrown into the middle of the story in many ways and then have to work our way outwards along with Kate and the police to figure out what has happened.

The Suspect can be read as a standalone but I definitely recommend reading the previous two books first because you get to know Kate really well that way. In this third novel featuring her the case becomes much more personal, and I loved that I already knew her and so was completely invested in wanting her to be okay.This was a much more emotional read at times than I was expecting but I felt so involved in what was going on in this story, it was so believable.

The Suspect is Fiona Barton’s best book yet! I was engrossed from the opening chapters and I didn’t want to put it down for a minute! It’s one of those brilliant novels that gives you the time to get to know the characters whilst at the same time moving the plot along at such a pace that you just want to keep reading to know what’s going to happen. The pacing was absolutely spot on and this is such a brilliant read!

The Suspect is a suspenseful, gripping and heart-rending read! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Bantam Press for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

The Suspect is due to be published on 24th January and is available to pre-order here.

 

About the Author

fiona barton author picture

Fiona Barton’s debut, The Widow, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been published in thirty-five countries and optioned for television. Her second novel, The Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller. Born in Cambridge, Fiona currently lives in south-west France. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. While working as a journalist, Fiona reported on many high-profile criminal cases and she developed a fascination with watching those involved, their body language and verbal tics. Fiona interviewed people at the heart of these crimes, from the guilty to their families, as well as those on the periphery, and found it was those just outside the spotlight who interested her most . . .

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

the suspect blog tour poster

#BookReview: Into the Silent Sea by Claire Stibbe | @CMTStibbe @annecater #randomthingstours

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About the Book

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

When Clodagh Shepherd’s curiosity gives way to obsession, her thoughts turn to revenge.

In the wake of her husband’s affair and subsequent disappearance, Clo makes an impulsive decision to befriend the beautiful stranger who has stolen her life. Answering an ad for a home help, she moves into the home of her husband’s mistress and is immediately drawn into the chilling reality behind the idyllic façade of Hamptons Life. Central to her terrifying nightmare is a deadly secret–a secret someone will kill to keep.

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, this thriller is non-stop! Clodagh and her husband Ryan split up after she discovered his affair, and in the wake of that Clo decides to apply for a housekeeper job at his mistress’ home!

At the very start of this novel it’s clear that Clo has been beaten by her husband and has been left feeling quite anxious about how he’s treated her and about his affair. She very quickly decides that she wants the upper hand and so begins her mission to find the woman he cheated with and to inveigle her way into her life. She also wants to know where her husband has gone and thinks this woman holds the answers she needs.

I did find the opening chapters a little difficult to get my head around as the pace of this novel ramps up really quickly and I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. But once Clo finds her husband’s mistress and decides to apply for a job in the same house I was utterly gripped!

Once Clo gets the job as home help the book really takes off. It’s clear right away that while Clo isn’t being honest about who she is that Marion is naturally wary of her. I felt like neither woman could be trusted and so begins something of a game of cat and mouse between them. It was fascinating to read how they were with each other because some female friendships start off with women being very distrustful of each other and in this novel that just seems to grow. There is an appearance of friendship but it doesn’t ever feel very real. I found myself utterly engrossed in the novel wanting to know how it could possibly end!

To heighten matters further Clo and Marion have a look of each other, and I could sense there would be increasing tensions around this – especially from Clo, who knows that Marion had an affair with her husband. It must be horrendous to be confronted with a younger version of yourself in that way. I did have some sympathy for Clo over this but I’ll be honest, it was short-lived!

There is also something very unsettling about the house Clo moves to, and it’s not just her relationship with Marion. The owner has a strict routine of when he’ll be there and what he expects of all of his staff. It felt very oppressive, even though it’s a beautiful house on the beach. There is an escalating claustrophobic feel to it and it really adds to the atmosphere.

There is a lot of paranoia throughout the book, and it unsettled me as I was reading – I couldn’t be sure of what was real. I loved this aspect of the book because it kept me on my toes, I could never get complacent about what I thought might happen. Clo seems to be in control at some moments but then not at others so I was never sure if she was to be trusted. There are twists and turns throughout this book and the end when it comes had me reeling!

Into the Silent Sea is a dark thriller and it definitely proves that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! It’s a real rollercoaster of a read – it’s unpredictable, gripping and thrilling! I recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Claire Stibbe for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Into the Silent Sea is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Claire Stibbe is the author of the Detective Temeke Crime series – The 9th Hour, Night Eyes, Past Rites, Dead Cold, Easy Prey. Winner of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards for crime mystery, silver medal winner of The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, her books have also been Amazon bestsellers, reaching the #1 spot in the top 100.

She is also a reporter for Stand True 4 Blue, which features a Nationwide Newsletter dedicated to law enforcement, a member and graduate of the Citizen Police & BSCO Sheriff’s Academy. A former journalist and magazine editor, she now lives in Utah with her husband and son.

These books provide donations towards the counseling of single mothers after suffering from domestic violence and post-traumatic stress.

Find out more about Claire at http://www.clairestibbe.com/

Twitter @CMTStibbe

Sign up to Claire Stibbe’s New Release Mailing List here: http://eepurl.com/bqCQhv

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn | @r_welbourn @unbound_digital @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Is it possible to keep secrets in the age of social media? When someone lives their entire life in the spotlight, what could they possibly hide from you? Ideal Angels explores just that. It s the story of one man, one woman, one week. They meet, fall in love, and never look back. Eloise s phone is never far away, furiously cataloguing their ups and downs. But there are always shadows, lurking just out of reach. The moments after the camera flashes, unseen, uncaptured. The threat of an inescapable doom. How much can one person change you? How much can one person be your downfall?

 

My Thoughts

Ideal Angels is about an unnamed protagonist who lives a normal, fairly underwhelming life going to work and coming home, spending a lot of his time alone. Then on a night out he meets Eloise and immediately feels a connection to her. They swap numbers and the next time they meet up things become intense very quickly. Eloise is obsessed with social media and records every little detail of their time together. He isn’t keen, he doesn’t use social media but he allows her to keep taking photos because he is infatuated with her.

I found myself swept up in Ideal Angels from the opening pages. It’s written in a stream of consciousness style a lot of the time so you very quickly get inside the narrator’s head and come to understand why he is the way he is. He maintains that he’s okay alone and doesn’t need anyone but he radiates loneliness. I worried for him when he met Eloise, it felt from the off that he was going to get his heart broken. She’s so vivacious and spontaneous and he just isn’t so I felt she would quickly pull away from him and he would be distraught. There is a sense of melancholy even in the happiness he has found, like he has the fear of it ending even as it’s just beginning. I think most of us can identify with that feeling – that moment when you know you’re in love with someone, and the realisation that you are so vulnerable now, so out there to be hurt.

I loved reading about these two falling in love over the week they spend together in this novel. There are moments of real joy and happiness, and I was rooting for it all to work out. The protagonist becomes more accepting of Eloise’s need to be sharing everything about their life online, yet is steadfast in his not wanting to be online himself. It’s as if he’s decided that as long as he’s not looking at her online profiles then it’s not like she’s really sharing every minute detail of their lives.

I can totally see how social media is an obsession for Eloise and why she needs to keep up her profile, and to play to her ‘friends’. We all want to be liked and these days having lots of twitter followers makes us feel part of things: validated. I first joined twitter almost ten years ago in the worst moments of my life, I was lonely and I had no one. There was always someone online to talk to, and it was such a friendly place back then. I still have friends now that I made back then, one of them became my husband! In the end twitter got too big, it was impossible to keep up and people were less and less chatty, it felt like shouting into a void. I tweeted less and less – I became much more like the protagonist in Ideal Angels, social media was something I was aware of but didn’t really participate in. It’s a double-edged sword – it can make you feel part of something, but it can also make you even more aware of how lonely and isolated you really are.

On a side note I loved the references to Hull in this book. I felt like I was right there with the protaganist and Eloise as he shows her where he grew up. I remember when the shopping centre stripped out all the interesting shops on the top floor and made into a cinema. And I spent many a night at the Welly back in the day. Perhaps it’s in part that I know those places but I really connected with how removed he felt that everything had changed. I guess we can all understand how sad it is to go back to a place from our past and find nothing is the same, we can’t keep things the same except in our memories. This seems like such a poignant moment for me, the realisation that the Eloises of this world are perhaps desperately trying to hold on to everything but it’s not possible to have that much control. Life moves on, things change. Social media isn’t always about people showing off to their followers, sometimes it’s trying to preserve something in order to feel like you have meaning.

In the end we come to see that both of these characters are struggling in their own ways. Eloise appears to be living a happy full life but really there’s no substance to the instagram side of her and she has insecurities underneath. As I came to see there were cracks under the surface I could see how these two people connected with each other so quickly and how they fell for each other.

From the very beginning of this novel I felt like I was going to get my heart broken by these characters, and this feeling lingered even in the happy moments. This novel is such a mirror of how life can be – it’s hard to live in the moment, and when you let yourself relax and be happy at the good life has brought you there can be such a sting in the tail.

This book is so prescient in the social media age we live in, and also with regards to its look at mental health. It’s a stunning novel and one that has really got under my skin, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished reading. I loved the wry humour that runs through it, and also the beautiful way with words that Robert Welbourn has in his writing. And even though this novel broke my heart in the end, I completely and utterly fell in love with it. I can already say for sure that Ideal Angels will be one of my favourite books of 2019 because it’s such an incredible novel.

Ideal Angels is prescient, stunning and unforgettable! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Ideal Angels is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

robert welbourn author pic

Robert Welbourn is Yorkshire born and bred – he’s lived there almost all his life, and now written a book set there. He’s had a passion for books as long as he can remember, and has been writing his whole life. His favourite authors are Bret Easton Ellis and Stephen King, and he cites Ellis as his number one influence.

He studied English Literature at Salford University, and this confirmed that he wanted to spend his life working with books. He currently works in marketing, but is hoping to spend his life telling stories.

Twitter@r_welbourn

 

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#BookReview: The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola | @Anna_Mazz @TinderPress @annecater

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About the Book

From the author of The Unseeing comes a sizzling period novel of folktales, disappearances and injustice set on the Isle of Skye, sure to appeal to readers of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites or Beth Underdown’s The Witch Finder’s Sister.

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach, and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother many years before.

 

My Thoughts

Audrey Hart is a young woman who has left London to travel to Skye to work collecting folk tales from the local area. Her late mother had also been interested in folklore and had traveled to areas nearby so she is also wanting to know more about her. She moves in with Mrs Buchanan, the lady who she’ll be collecting the tales for, and begins to settle in. Soon after her arrival she finds a body on the beach and from this point on real life begins to blur with the folklore for Audrey.

The Story Keeper is a fantastic novel. The writing is wonderful and so atmospheric. I felt the oppressive atmosphere in a small place where people are very insular and don’t want to share their lives and their stories with incomers.

Audrey is a great character. I was in awe of her travelling from London to Skye on her own in a time when this would have been a scary and courageous thing for a young woman to do alone. I felt for her at the lack of a mother in her life, I know what it’s like to lose your mum and could see how lost she was and how at the root of everything she was looking to find a sense of her mum somewhere. As Audrey began to get more and more drawn into the folklore and to see some of the happenings that the islanders spoke about I was really hoping that she was going to be okay. I was rooting for her to be able to make a home and a life, and to feel settled again.

There is so much mystery in this novel and I loved how it was possible to find yourself believing that there must be something in the folklore as the horrible things happening on the island were so similar to the stories, whilst at the same time the rational side of your brain is thinking that there must be another reason for the coincidences and odd happenings.

I got so absorbed in this novel and felt really jolted when real life brought me back to where I was. It’s not often that a novel captures me to that degree and it was wonderful to be so enthralled. The Story keeper is a brilliant, atmospheric and utterly gripping novel and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours and the publisher for my copy of The Story Keeper and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Story Keeper is out now in hardback and ebook, and can be pre-ordered in paperback here.

 

About the Author

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Anna is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels, which have been described as literary crime fiction or historical crime, explore the psychological and social impact of crime and injustice. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.

 

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#BookReview: Good Samaritans by Will Carver @Will_Carver @OrendaBooks @annecater #SixBottlesOfBleach

 

 

About the Book

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach.

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…
And someone is watching…

 

My Thoughts

I was thrilled to be offered a copy of Good Samaritans as based purely on the cover I knew this was a book that I simply had to get my hands on. I then read the blurb and knew this was going to be a brilliant read – I was so right!

Good Samaritans is told from multiple perspectives in short chapters and gradually you get a picture of what makes each of these characters tick. Hadley is suicidal and doesn’t know how to make her feelings stop. Seth can’t sleep and just wants someone to talk to (even though his wife is upstairs, he want someone else someone random to listen). One night a crossed wire leads these two characters into each other’s lives. We also get to know Ant, who actually works for the Samaritans. He began volunteering after a friend of his hanged himself while they were on holiday together. He’s clearly not coping in his own life and is desperately trying to help others in order to make himself feel better. 

Alongside this two bodies are found in separate locations in Warwickshire and Detective Sergeant Pace is desperately trying to solve the murders. He can’t see how they can be connected but at the same time both bodies have been bleached and wrapped in plastic in the exact same way. His perspective through the book was brilliant. I’m really hoping that he will show up in another novel because I found him fascinating and I’d love to know more about his past.

From the premise it initially seems like one or two of these characters are going to be good samaritans and help someone but clearly with two bodies turning up someone is not all that they seem! I was so intrigued by this and I kept changing my mind about each character and wondering whether any of them could actually be trusted. It’s such a twisted book! Its very dark at time but there are elements of humour in there, there is also a fair bit of sex but it all makes for such a brilliant thriller!

I knew from the first couple of pages of this novel that I was going to love it and I wasn’t wrong! It’s a book that grabs you from the start and it honestly doesn’t let you go until after you’ve finished reading it. There are real shocks in this book – when one character gets murdered I was so not expecting it and it actually made me gasp in surprise! It’s impossible to work out the twists and turns of this book so I suggest you sit back and just enjoy the ride! I had my suspicions about one of the characters and I was sort of right but had no idea about anything else so the end was a shock!

Good Samaritans is so dark and twisty, and it’s utterly brilliant! This is definitely going on my favourite books of 2018 list and I’m already keen to read whatever Will Carver writes next but in the meantime I highly recommend this book!

Many thanks to Anne and Orenda Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Good Samaritans is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

 

Will Carver lives in Reading, though his younger years were spent in various parts of West Germany. He is the author of four books in the JANUARY DAVID thriller series – GIRL 4 (UK: Arrow, 2011), THE TWO (UK: Arrow, 2012), DEAD SET (UK: Arrow, 2013) and THE KILLER INSIDE (UK: Arrow, 2013).

Carver likes to work his body as much as his mind and runs his own fitness and nutrition company, though he prefers to talk about his writing more than how he consumes adequate protein as a vegan. 

 

 

 

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#BookReview: Supernova Hangover by Emma Jones @MsEmma_Jones @Unbound_Digital @Unbounders @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Two girls meet on a train with a shared mission to have it all…

Toots Silver, a young, local news reporter from the North West, lands in London with little more than her ambition. Against the odds, she talks her way into a dream job at a celebrity magazine, riding high on a new craving for showbiz gossip.

The shimmering nightlife of Cool Britannia lures her into an exhilarating, twilight world – and an explosive affair with an A-list interviewee. But the comedown forces her to confront the soulless desires of her generation.

In New York, she’s on the trail of the defining exclusive of her age. But conflict erupts between personal integrity and journalistic ruthlessness – which might jeopardise the success that will secure her position in a looming post-millennial world.
Can you live the high-life, without it getting you down?

 

My Thoughts

I’ll admit that I was drawn to this book by the fact that Emma Jones was the editor of Smash Hits magazine – this was a must-read for me in my early teen years! I’m really pleased to say that I very much enjoyed Supernova Hangover!

Supernova Hangover is about Toots Silver, a local news reporter in Manchester who manages to blag her dream job editing a brand new magazine in London. The novel is set against the backdrop of the 90s and Cool Britannia, and Toots falls into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. She loves the life she has made for herself but soon reality begins to bite when she starts to question the integrity of what she’s doing. The novel opens with her leaving a funeral and finding all the paparazzi cameras pointing at her. It’s such a great opening because immediately I wanted to know who Toots was and why the media were so interested in her when there were clearly famous people at this funeral.

I did find Supernova Hangover a little difficult to get into at first but once I got into it I found I didn’t want to put it down. I got completely engrossed in Toots’ life and in her affair with the A-list star, and I wanted to know how it was all going to turn out for her.

Toots isn’t always a likeable character but she’s human and real and believable. She makes silly mistakes, she shows poor judgement at times and she’s not always the friend she should be to her best friend Rachel but we’ve all, albeit perhaps to a different extent, been there when we were younger. Life suddenly becomes exciting so reason and loyalty can go out of the window for a while. Toots is seduced by her new lifestyle and getting to mix with the rich and famous – I feel like I would have lost myself a bit if that had happened to me when I was her age. I loved reading about Toots even when I didn’t always like her and that’s the mark of a great character for me.

The other characters in this book can seem a little over the top at times but this is part of the joy of this book because some people really were like this in the 90s – everyone seemed to be image-obsessed and wanting to be one of the cool ones. People were riding high living a hedonistic lifestyle and believing they were invincible. Roddy, who gives Toots her big break, seems quite unreal for most of the book but at the same time I could see him as a real person. We’ve all seen people in the media who appear just like him.

I loved seeing how Toots grew as the novel progressed. She begins to find her feet and to find her voice, she wants to do more to help her family and then faces a real dilemma over whether to break someone’s trust. I enjoyed seeing her relationship with Clay throughout the novel and seeing how she grew in confidence in dealing with him. There were some really beautiful moments between them, that made me love them as a couple but then the spell would break again. Their relationship was kind of representative of the late 90s and early 00s in the end – it was amazing until it wasn’t.

I very much enjoyed Supernova Hangover – it was a nostalgia trip back to the 90s but also a really great read about fascinating characters. It captures the highs, the comedowns and is an all-round fabulous read! I loved it and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Unbound and Anne at Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Supernova Hangover is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Emma Jones is a former editor of Smash Hits magazine. As a news and showbusiness reporter, she worked for the Sunday Mirror, Mail on Sunday and the Sun. Emma became the youngest ever Fleet Street columnist whilst at the Sun. Television work includes live presenting for Channel Four and ITV. Emma’s Radio contributions range from Woman’s Hour to the Today programme. Her career has seen her interview stars including Britney Spears, George Clooney, the Rollings Stones, and Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor. Her writing also appears regularly in the New European newspaper and on Byline. She has four children and lives in London.

Supernova Hangover is her first novel.

 

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#BookReview: The Lingering by S.J.I Holliday @SJIHolliday @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #TheLingering

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About the Book

Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…
At once an unnerving locked-room mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.

My Thoughts

The Lingering is a novel about Jack and Ali, who are moving to a commune that has been set up in an old psychiatric hospital. I felt that there was something a bit off about Jack and Ali as soon as I started reading this novel but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Neither of them were particularly likeable from the start but I loved finding out more about who they are and why they are at the commune. Ali is abrasive; she seems to want to fit in but at the same time doesn’t seem to want to make any effort to get on with people. Jack seems to want to make things work at the commune but he struggles with it.

The novel is told in two timelines: in the present day with Jack and Ali and the other members of the commune, and in 1955 through diary entries by a doctor who was investigating the way patients were being treated at the asylum. This makes for a fascinating read, seeing things in both timelines and wondering if one time strand connects to anything happening in the present.

I really loved the way this novel was written. There are members of the commune who firmly believe the house is haunted and one resident, Angela, is on a mission to find proof of the ghosts. I was apprehensive reading this book because I’ve lived in what seemed be a haunted house when I was younger and there were some really odd things that happened there that seemed to be without logical explanation. The clever thing about The Lingering is that it can be seen as a ghost story but it can also be seen as a novel about people who are under a lot of stress and beginning to lose their sense of reality. Some things can be explained either way and other things are so unsettling as your brain begins to mull over which it can possible be. It’s the way that ghosts can be considered a supernatural element doomed to forever be in the old psychiatric hospital, or they could be the mind’s manifestation of what people expect to experience to be in a building such as this. Perhaps the building has just absorbed all the lingering pain and sadness from an earlier time.

There is a real look at coercion and control throughout The Lingering and this was fascinating. I loved the psychological elements and discovering how a character has been coerced and why, but away from this storyline it also fitted in to how what we believe can have such an impact on how we view a situation.

There was so much more in this novel than I was expecting and I loved that it genuinely shocked me when the reveals start to come. It’s not often that I don’t see what’s coming in a novel but this one had me reeling on more than one occasion! I have to be honest and say that I don’t usually like reading scary books but The Lingering is so compelling that even when I was feeling really unnerved I just had to keep reading, I simply had to know what was going on! That’s the mark of a great book – when it keeps you hooked even when you want to hide behind the sofa!

The Lingering is a brilliant novel that has so many levels to it. There are twists and turns, and it is creepy at times but at its heart it’s a look at the psychology of what makes us think the way we do and how easily, and unwittingly, we can be drawn into someone else’s twisted web. I loved this book and I keep finding myself thinking about it even thought it’s now weeks since I read it. The Lingering is creepy, disturbing and utterly brilliant! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Lingering is out now and available here.

About the Author

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S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home’, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and the festive serial killer thriller The Deaths of December. Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, inspired by her fascination and fear of ghosts. You can follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday or visit her website: sjiholliday.com.

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#BookReview: Perfect Bones by A. J. Waines @AJWaines @BloodhoundBook

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About the Book

Is the killer on the loose…or standing right beside you?

When art student, Aiden Blake, witnesses a gruesome attack on a London towpath, the police need him to identify the assailant without delay. But there’s a problem: refusing to leave his canal boat and traumatised by the shock, Aiden is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone.

In a desperate bid to gain vital information before Aiden’s memories fade, The Met call in Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, Dr Samantha Willerby, giving her only seven days to get a result. When Aiden finally starts to communicate through his art, however, the images he produces are not what anyone expects and before Sam can make sense of them, another murder takes place.

With her professional skills stretched to the limit and the clock ticking, Sam strives to track down a killer who is as clever as she is – someone who always manages to stay one step ahead.

The third book in the Samantha Willerby series, Perfect Bones is a tense and creepy psychological thriller that will send your pulse racing. It can easily be read as a stand-alone novel and will appeal to fans of authors like Nicci French, Mark Edwards and Lisa Gardner.

 

My Thoughts

Firstly, I want to wish AJ Waines a very happy publication day! Perfect Bones is out today and I’m delighted to be sharing my review.

Perfect Bones is the third book in the Samantha Willerby series but it can be read as a standalone. This time Samantha is called in to help art student Aiden who is so traumatised by a crime he has seen that he’s now mute. The police need his eye witness testimony so Samantha is desperately trying to help Aiden communicate before the killer strikes again.

Perfect Bones is told in the present as Samantha works with Aiden to try and recover what memories he has of the attack, but it is interspersed with seemingly unconnected chapters of women going to mysterious meetings. It’s initially unclear how these might be connected to the main story but it keeps you hooked to find out.

I know what PTSD is like but I was fascinated to see how a psychologist works with a patient who is rendered mute from the trauma. It was so interesting to see the various ways people can be encouraged to communicate what they’ve been through. AJ Waines clearly knows this area very well and it comes through so authentically. The police aren’t so sympathetic to Aiden, in part because they are desperate to catch the killer before anyone else is harmed but it felt like there was a lack of understanding that it wasn’t Aiden being difficult when he doesn’t communicate. This all felt very believable and realistic and gave a rounded picture of how mental illness is viewed.

Samantha is such a strong character but she’s also very human. She’s sometimes a bit rash, and she occasionally goes beyond what she’s required to do for a patient and I love this about her. She’s so believable and feels like a real person to me. I loved catching up with her and I already can’t wait for the next book to see what she’s up to next!

The tension in this novel is there from the start and it ramps up as the book goes along. It was a book I didn’t want to put down once I started reading, and I kept thinking about it when I wasn’t reading. So much so that I even had a dream relating to the gruesome assault after reading this right before bed and that’s never, ever happened to me before! My brain was whirring away as I tried to work out whodunnit but I didn’t manage to figure it out so AJ Waines I salute you in keeping me guessing right to the end – it doesn’t happen very often in a book but this had me stumped!

Perfect Bones is one of my favourite crime/psychological thrillers of the year; it’s a fast-paced, engrossing novel that will keep you hooked from start to finish. I definitely recommend picking up novel (and indeed the whole series)!

Many thanks to Emma at Bloodhound Books for my copy of Perfect Bones. All thoughts are my own.

Perfect Bones is out now and available here.

I’ve previously reviewed Lost in the Lake by AJ Waines, which you can read here if you’d like to.

 

About the Author

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AJ Waines is a number one bestselling author, topping the entire UK and Australian Kindle Charts in two consecutive years, with Girl on a Train.

Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, the author now writes psychological thrillers and murder mysteries full-time, with publishing deals in UK, France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and Canada (audio books). In December 2017, she signed a UK two-book deal with Bloodhound Books.

AJ Waines has has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and been ranked a Top 10 UK Author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

The author lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband.

 

 

 

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#BookReview: Roar by Cecelia Ahern @Cecelia_Ahern @FictionPubTeam #HearUsRoar #Roar

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About the Book

I am woman. Hear me roar.

Have you ever imagined a different life?
Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided?
Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

The women in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Cecelia Ahern so I squealed with joy when a copy of Roar arrived at my house, along with an invitation to be part of the blog tour. I’m so happy to say that Roar exceeded all of my expectations and I completely and utterly adored it!

Roar is a collection of thirty inspiring, quirky and powerful short stories; all are written from the viewpoint of unnamed women and each examines a different facet of female experience.

I loved how the protagonist in each of the stories remains unnamed as it really allowed me to get engrossed in the story and to either remember what it was like to be in a similar situation to the woman, or to imagine how she must feel.

I think this might be the first time I’ve ever read a short story collection and loved every single story. Some affected me more than others but each one stands distinct and on its own; each story is memorable and none have become muddled in my head since I finished reading.

It’s near impossible to pick a favourite story but I think if I was pushed to choose one it would be The Woman Who Was Pigeonholed. It just really spoke to me how all the women were put in neatly labelled boxes and despite having many other elements to how they were, they were mostly judged on one trait. The ending of this story made me smile, and I could so identify with it because I have pushed from being seen as weak and disabled to being seen as tenacious and determined.

I also loved The Woman Who Was Swallowed Up By The Floor And Who Met Lots Of Other Women Down There Too. We’ve all been in that situation where we’ve done something embarrassing and just want the ground to open up and swallow us, and this story explores that. I love how we get to see what has embarrassed other women and how it makes you see that your own embarrassment isn’t that bad, and that it can be got through.

The Woman Who Walked In Her Husband’s Shoes was also incredibly powerful and is definitely food for thought. I kept thinking about this story for ages after I read it, it’s one I think everyone should read.

Each story in this collection is brilliant, and the joy of the book is that everyone who reads it will connect to something different in it depending on their own life or their emotions at the time. There is real power in this collection as a whole, but also in each individual story. It’s a wonderful book that can make you read one story and connect so closely with the character, and then the next story you perhaps haven’t had the experience but you feel like you’re standing with that woman and that you can better understand the women in your life that have had the particular experience. It feels like a book to treasure, and I know that I will read this book again and again. Perhaps when I need a boost I will return to a particular story and remind myself that I am woman, hear me roar!

I’ve already sent a copy of this book to my oldest friend and I know I will be buying copies for other people for Christmas this year. I urge you to grab a copy and read it, it really is an incredible collection!

Roar is a thought-provoking, empowering and beautifully written book and I adored every single minute that I spent reading it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Roar is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Photo credit: Matthew Thompson

Cecelia Ahern is one of the biggest selling authors to emerge in the past fifteen years. Her novels have been translated into thirty languages and have sold more than twenty-five million copies in over forty countries.Two of her books have been adapted as major films and she has created several TV series in the US and Germany.  She and her books have won numerous awards, including the Irish Book Award for Popular Fiction for The Year I Met Youin 2014. PS I Love Youwas awarded two Platinum Awards at the 2018 Specsavers Bestsellers Awards, for UK and Ireland.

Cecelia lives in Dublin with her family.

 

You can find the rest of the blog tour at the following stops:

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#BookReview: Christmas Spirit by Nicola May @nicolamay1 @rararesources

Christmas Spirit

About the Book

It’s two days before Christmas – and Evie Harris finds herself both manless and jobless. After a chance encounter with handsome Greg (and egged on by her toy-boy-eating friend, Bea) she agrees to work at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day.
Striking up an unlikely friendship with homeless Yves, Evie begins an unwitting journey of spiritual awakening, all set against the sparkling winter backdrop of London landmarks.
A New Year’s Eve revelation is on its way . . . but will it leave Evie with a happy heart, or will she allow the pre-Christmas past to dictate her future?

 

My Thoughts

I’m delighted to be helping out on the blog tour for Christmas Spirit today and sharing my review of this gorgeous novella!

Christmas Spirit is about Evie. It’s almost Christmas and she’s utterly fed up having just split up with her boyfriend. On a night out with a friend a man asks her to help out at the homeless shelter over the festive period and Evie is persuaded to say yes; this decision changes her life!

I adored this book! First off I was utterly delighted to find that Christmas Spirit is set entirely between Christmas and New Year! I can’t help but be disappointed when there isn’t much mention of the holidays in a supposedly festive book so I can assure readers who feel like me that Christmas Spirit has all the festive feelings you could want in a novella!

I really felt for Evie throughout this book, especially around her sadness at having lost her beloved mum. I know how much harder everything feels when you no longer have a mum to turn to so I was rooting for her from the start. Breaking up with a boyfriend and not being able to call your mum makes it really tough. I was glad that Evie had such a good friend in Bea, she is such a great character and I knew she would make sure Evie was okay.

I was intrigued when Evie first met Yves; it seemed very apparent that there was something special about him but it wasn’t what I was expecting. He opens Evie’s eyes to all the beauty that is still around her, despite her loneliness and her recent break up. The way we get to see London throughout this novella is just magical.

The very end of this Christmas Spirit had me sobbing, it was so perfect and so beautiful and it just made this book really special for me. It’s made this a novella that I won’t ever forget and it will be on my list of Christmas books to re-read in the years to come.

Christmas Spirit is a beautiful, romantic and heart-warming novella and I highly recommend you grab a copy to read over Christmas!

My thanks to Rachel of Rachels Random Resources for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Christmas Spirit is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Nicola May lives near the famous Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.  Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks – and, naturally, enjoying a flutter on the horses.

Nicola likes to write about love, life and friendship in a realistic way, describing her novels as ‘chicklit with a kick’.

She has written eight novels, with Christmas Spirit being her first novella.

 

Follow Nicola May

Website – www.nicolamay.com

Facebook –https://www.facebook.com/NicolaMayAuthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/nicolamay1

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/author_nicola/

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare @HoratioClare @EmmaFinnigan @EandTBooks #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

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About the Book

As November stubs out the glow of autumn and the days tighten into shorter hours, winter’s occupation begins. Preparing for winter has its own rhythms, as old as our exchanges with the land. Of all the seasons, it draws us together. But winter can be tough.

It is a time of introspection, of looking inwards. Seasonal sadness; winter blues; depression – such feelings are widespread in the darker months. But by looking outwards, by being in and observing nature, we can appreciate its rhythms. Mountains make sense in any weather. The voices of a wood always speak consolation. A brush of frost; subtle colours; days as bright as a magpie’s cackle. We can learn to see and celebrate winter in all its shadows and lights.

In this moving and lyrical evocation of a British winter and the feelings it inspires, Horatio Clare raises a torch against the darkness, illuminating the blackest corners of the season, and delving into memory and myth to explore the powerful hold that winter has on us. By learning to see, we can find the magic, the light that burns bright at the heart of winter: spring will come again.

 

My Thoughts

I was drawn to The Light in the Dark as soon as I was offered a copy for review, it felt like serendipity and now I’ve read it I can say it really was the perfect book at the exact moment I needed to read it.

The Light in the Dark is a diary of the slow journey into winter – beginning with autumn and the months leading up to Christmas arriving, which brings some lighter moments, before the long, dark months that are January and February.

I used to love this time of year as the nights draw in and you can enjoy all the cosiness of closing the curtains and lighting a scented candle etc but ten years ago a very traumatic thing happened in my life and ever since then the darker nights and colder weather make me feel very down. Clare writes of an awful thing that happened on his mother’s farm at a similar time of year and while it’s completely different to my own story, it felt like it mirrored a lot of my own emotions about this time of year. The way that life is a struggle anyway for many of us as the days get shorter and then to have something terrible happen in these months somehow makes it all feel even worse. Clare captures this all so well, it brings a lump to the throat.

There’s real beauty in this book even when the subject matter is more melancholy. I loved the way you can feel the change into winter through the writing, with the break in the depressive feelings as Christmas arrives. Then there’s the long, seemingly never-ending January days, where the memories of how oppressive that month can feel at times really comes through on the page.

‘This loathsome ball of negativity, clamped to my ankle by a chain of self-loathing, follows me around. It is like being stalked by a ghoul. Turn your gaze outwards, I keep telling myself. You do not matter, other people matter, the land matters, the sky and the world. If only you would get out of the way of your own view!’

I really appreciated how open and honest Clare is about his own feelings of depression and how his work environment, and the never getting to see much daylight in the winter months, make his emotions so much harder to cope with. I could identify with so many of his thoughts at this time of year, and it helps to know you’re not the only one. This book is never depressing or maudlin though; it’s stunningly written and Clare has such a lyrical way of writing that this lifts the book through the darker moments. This book brought me such solace and it made me feel less alone in my winter melancholy.

There are so many beautiful passages in this book that evoke such wonderful imagery; Clare really does have such a brilliant turn of phrase. I highlighted quite a few paragraphs, and also found myself reading some aloud to my husband which I’ve never felt compelled to do before. This line was one of my favourites –  it says so much in so few words:

‘A solar panel farm gazes darkly at the clouds, its feet in water.’

The Light in the Dark is a beautiful, moving and poignant meditation on the changing of the seasons. It gave me solace as the nights draw in ever faster and left me with a sense of hope for the spring to come. I adored reading this book and I know it will be one I read again in the years to come. I’ll definitely be buying copies for friends and I’ll be recommending it every chance I get. It’s a beautiful book and one I won’t forget!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

The Light in the Dark is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Horatio Clare Author Picture

Horatio Clare is a writer, radio producer and journalist. Born in London, he and his brother Alexander grew up on a hill farm in the Black Mountains of south Wales. Clare describes the experience in his first book Running for the Hills (John Murray 2006) in which he sets out to trace the course and causes of his parents divorce, and recalls the eccentric, romantic and often harsh conditions of his childhood. The book was widely and favourably reviewed in the UK, where it became a bestseller, as in the US.

Running for the Hills was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Horatio has written about Ethiopia, Namibia and Morocco, and now divides his time between South Wales, Lancashire and London. He was awarded a Somerset Maugham Award for the writing of A Single Swallow (Chatto and Windus, 2009).

 

You can find the rest of the stops on the tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: So Here It Is by Dave Hill @Unbounders @SladeNews #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

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About the Book

‘No Slade = No Oasis. It’s as devastating and as simple as that’ Noel Gallagher

Slade’s music and style dominated and defined the 1970s. With six consecutive number one singles they were the UK’s number one group and sold millions of records all over the world. At their peak, Slade enjoyed success and adulation not seen since The Beatles. Now, for the first time, the man whose outlandish costumes, glittering make-up and unmistakable hairstyle made Slade the definitive act of Glam Rock tells his story.

Growing up in a council house in 1950s Wolverhampton, Dave always knew he wanted to be a musician and in the mid-sixties, with Don Powell, founded the band that in 1970 would settle on the name Slade. Their powerful guitar-driven anthems formed the soundtrack for a whole generation, and their Top of the Pops performances, led by their flamboyant, ever-smiling lead guitarist, became legendary.

But So Here It Is reveals that there’s much more to Dave’s life than Top of the Pops and good times. Packed with previously unseen personal photos, the book uncovers surprising family secrets, tells the inside story of the original band’s painful break-up, explores Dave’s battles with depression, his decision to reform Slade and go back on the road and his recovery from the stroke that threatened to cut short his career.

 

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read and review So Here It Is for the blog tour as I grew up hearing Slade all the time as my Mum was a huge fan. Obviously I love Merry Christmas Everyone, and that song has been a part of Christmas ever since I was a young child, but my Mum loved everything they ever did so I feel like I know their music fairly well. I was also a huge Oasis fan back in the day so to hear Noel Gallagher say that without Slade there would be no Oasis made this book an absolute must-read for me. I’m so pleased to say that I loved it.

It was fascinating to read about Dave Hill’s early years growing up on a council estate. I was impressed that his dad was ultimately so agreeable to him joining a band and throwing everything into it. I really enjoyed reading about how Slade got together and how they became famous. It’s funny to get your head around the fact that they had songs in the charts and had appeared on Top of the Pops but Dave Hill was still living with his parents. It’s also hard to comprehend the fact that they were still doing gigs up and down the country, perfecting their craft and growing their fan base after they were deemed to be breaking through in the music industry. It clearly took a lot of very hard work to reach a level of success in the industry back then but it obviously paid off for Slade.

I really loved discovering snippets of info and interesting facts about Slade, and other bands and people they came into contact with over the years that I hadn’t heard before. It made me smile every time they bumped into someone who was either famous then, or about to be famous. It never ever felt like name dropping though, it’s written in such a way as it’s just who they happened to meet at any given time. It’s also fascinating to pick up on just how many bands have said that Slade had influence on them.

Slade had their tough times too. Dave Hill writes about the horrific accident that seriously injured drummer Don Powell and that killed Powell’s girlfriend. I knew about the accident but I didn’t realise the impact it had on Powell and how the band had to adapt to the issues it left him with. I also hadn’t realised that Slade had such a tough time trying to break America and the effect it had on their fan base in the UK while they were off in the USA. Dave Hill is very open about how difficult it was for him when Noddy Holder decided enough was enough as far as Slade was concerned. It clearly left Hill at quite a crossroads and unsure what to do next. Thankfully, he was given some good advice and he took it, and Slade continues to this today!

Dave Hill is very candid in this book. I didn’t know that his mum had struggled so much with mental illness and to read about the effect this had on him was very moving. His love for his mum really comes through, it’s obvious her illness had a profound affect on him but also that she loved him and he loved her. Hill is also very open about his own struggles with depression later on in his own life, and how he worked to get himself healthy again.

So Here It Is is a warm, candid and all-round brilliant memoir and I highly recommend it! It’d be a perfect read for Slade fans, music fans in general and actually for anyone who enjoys reading fascinating memoirs! Just go read it, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

I received a copy of this book from Unbound via Random Thing Tours. All thoughts are my own.

So Here It Is is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

DAve Hill Author pic

Dave Hill was born in a castle in Devon, the son of a mechanic, and moved back with his parents to Wolverhampton when he was a year old. He bought his first guitar from a mail order catalogue and received a few lessons from a local teacher before teaching himself to play. Although he is left-handed, he has always played right-handed. He worked in an office for Tarmac Limited for over two years before becoming a full-time professional musician.

He originally played with drummer Don Powell in a band called The Vendors, which became the The N’ Betweens. When Jim Lea and singer Noddy Holder later joined, the band renamed itself Slade.

In the 1970s, Slade were the biggest band in the UK, and went on to have 23 Top 20 hits and six number one singles. Three of these singles entered the chart at number one (an achievement that even eluded the Beatles). Released in 1973, Merry Xmas Everybody went on to sell a million copies and has charted every year since. Slade’s film Flame is still cited to this day as one of the all-time great music films. Dave’s outlandish costumes, hair styles, shoes and make up, also made Slade one of the visually defining groups of the Glam era.

After the break-up of the original band, Dave Hill has helped and supported local and national charities and eventually reformed Slade with Don Powell. Twenty-five years later, they are still regularly touring the world, playing to hundreds of thousands of fans. In 2010 during a concert in Germany, Dave suffered a stroke, from which he made a fully recovery.

Dave married his wife Jan in 1973, and they have three children and four grandchildren. They still live in Wolverhampton. In 2016, Dave turned 70, and it also marked the 50th anniversary of Slade forming.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

So Here It Is Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Dead in Venice by Fiona Leitch (Narrated by Deryn Edwards) @fkleitch #audiobook @audibleuk @annecater ‏#RandomThingsTours

Dead In Venice Cover

About the Book

Bella Tyson is a famous 40-something crime writer suffering from writer’s block ever since a bitter divorce two years before. When a fan offers her the use of an apartment in Venice, Bella jumps at it, hoping a change of scene will have her writing again. Once there, she soon meets Will, a charming Englishman, who shows her around the city.

Enchanted by both Will and her new surroundings, Bella decides to write a supernatural murder mystery and begins researching local legends and the city’s more sinister side, including an illicit visit to the island of Poveglia, spooky former home of Venice’s asylum. Soon Bella uncovers more than she has bargained for and finds herself enmeshed in a series of gruesome real-life murders that uncannily mirror the legends she is researching.

As she and Will join forces to investigate, real life and local lore merge disconcertingly – for nothing in Venice turns out to be what seems, including Will….

My Thoughts

I jumped at the chance to be on this blog tour as I very much enjoy listening to audio books and I loved the sound of Dead in Venice, it sounded like it might be something a bit different for me. I’m so glad that I did because the audiobook more than lived up to my expectations!

Dead in Venice is about Bella, a crime writer who has terrible writer’s block and is desperate to come up with an idea for her next novel. When she gets offered an apartment in Venice she jumps at the chance and is immediately excited at the possibilities for it to spark a new idea for a novel. Soon after her arrival she meets Will and it seems as though things might be looking up for her…

I must start be saying that the narrator, Deryn Edwards, is brilliant. She really captures the mood of the novel perfectly and it very much felt like she inhabited the characters, especially that of Bella. I’ll definitely be looking out for more audio books narrated by her.

I loved how we got to see Bella’s false starts when she was attempting to come up with an opening to her novel at the beginning of this book. The way she put herself into her book and then goes off on tangents is brilliant. It brought real humour to a novel that I wasn’t expecting and I adored that.

Once Bella gets to Venice she finds herself caught up in a real life murder and this finds its way into her writing. The whole novel that Bella is writing gets swept along by the increasingly bizarre murders she finds herself in the vicinity of. It was utterly engrossing and a really different take on the thriller genre. I didn’t work out whodunnit or why but I did find myself suspicious of each of the characters as the novel progressed. I even wondered at one stage, in the same way I’ve always wondered about Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, whether it could actually be Bella committing the murders that she then fictionalises!

The murders in Dead in Venice are quite gruesome and supernatural but the novel is written in such a way, with the reader seeing it through Bella the novelist’s eyes, that it never feels too much. The fictional novelist is fictionalising it further for the reader, and I found this really clever and interesting. It is a bit creepy at times as the murders Bella encounters seem to be mirroring a book that she is reading for research but hearing how Bella reacts to the situations she finds herself in just has you desperate to keep listening to find out what might happen next. I don’t particularly like being scared or feeling creeped out but I honestly just couldn’t put this audio book down!

Dead in Venice is so brilliantly written and fully immerses the reader in the novel. I’ve never been to Venice but Fiona Leitch brought it to life in this book. As I was listening to the audio I could completely envisage the setting as if I was right there with Bella. I could hear all the sounds and smell all the smells as I was listening and I felt as if I was right there in Venice with Bella.

Dead in Venice is such a quirky, fascinating novel. I got completely and utterly lost in the novel, it was brilliant escapism for me on a day when I wasn’t feeling too well. It’s a novel full of mystery and intrigue mixed with a hint of the supernatural and a dash of humour. I listened to the whole book in one afternoon and I absolutely loved it! I’m already eagerly anticipating whatever Fiona Leitch writes next but in the meantime I highly recommend this audio book! It’s one of my favourite audiobooks of the year!

I received a copy of the audio book from the author via Anne at Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

Dead in Venice is out now and available here.

About the Author

Fiona Leitch Author Picture

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London, Cornwall and New Zealand she’s finally (for the moment) settled on the sunny South Coast of England, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Her Westminster-set romantic comedy, ‘Parliamentary Affairs’, was recently optioned by an up and coming LA producer, and her action comedy ‘Lost in Berlin’ was a finalist in New York’s Athena IRIS Screenwriting Lab 2017. She’s also been shortlisted for the BBC Writers Room. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ has just been shortlisted for the Audible New Writing Grant, while her short horror story ‘Tinder’ was selected for the Twisted 50 Volume 2 anthology, published Spring 2018.

You can find the rest of the stops for the tour at the following blogs:

Dead in Venice Blog Tour poster

#BookReview: The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre @classicpenguins #giveaway

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About the Book

Tessa Quayle has been horribly murdered on the shores of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya, the birthplace of mankind. Her putative African lover, a doctor with one of the aid agencies, has disappeared.

Her husband, Justin, a career diplomat and amateur gardener at the British High Commission in Nairobi, sets out on a personal odyssey in pursuit of the killers and their motive. His quest takes him to the Foreign Office in London, across Europe and Canada and back to Africa, to the depths of South Sudan, and finally to the very spot where Tessa died.

On his way Justin meets terror, violence, laughter, conspiracy and knowledge. But his greatest discovery is the woman he barely had time to love.

 


 

On 27 September 2018, Penguin completed its nine-year project to publish twenty-one of John Le Carré’s novels as Penguin Modern Classics, making him the living author with the greatest number of works awarded this classics status. The last book to be published as part of this project is The Little Drummer Girl, which is also soon to be shown in a brand new BBC TV adaptation! To celebrate this wonderful project I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour to showcase this series of books. Today I’m reviewing The Constant Gardener and am also going to be running a giveaway where one lucky reader will win a brand new copy of this novel!

 

My Thoughts 

The Constant Gardener is one of those novels that I’ve known about, and wanted to read for such a long time so I’m delighted to have had the chance to read it for this blog tour. I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner though because I loved it; I devoured it and have been thinking about it ever since I finished reading it.

The Constant Gardener is a novel about the murder of Tessa Quayle and her companion, and the quest to discover what exactly happened to them and how it came to happen. As her husband Justin delves further into the story we find that it’s all linked to terribly unethical pharmaceutical companies and what they’re doing in Africa. It is dark and twisted, and so engrossing that you just can’t stop reading.

This is a novel that keeps the reader on their toes; it’s twisty and you find that you’re not always sure who you can trust. I kept thinking I had it all worked out and then there would be another strand of the story that got woven in and I was suddenly unsure again. It’s like a giant puzzle where the pieces gradually start fitting together and you being to see the whole picture. At times I felt like I was so caught up in the story that I was there with Justin in the heat and feeling his confusion and his thought processes as he strove to discover the truth of what had happened to his wife.

I was expecting this novel to be thrilling (and it most definitely was), I was also expecting it become a tangled web (and it did) but I wasn’t expecting it to bring up so many emotions in me as I was reading. I really came to care about Tessa and wanted to know what had happened to her, and even though we know from the start that she is dead I still wanted a different outcome for her as we learn more and more about her in the flashbacks and through things left behind. It definitely left me with the feeling that we don’t always know as much as we think we do about the people we love but that doesn’t necessarily make them, or us, a bad person.

I’ll be honest and say that while I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time, it’s been the main le Carre book that appealed to me. I think it’s partly because novels about espionage haven’t really jumped out at me before. However, after reading The Constant Gardener and absolutely loving his writing style I definitely have the le Carre bug and want to read all of his work. I have a copy of The Little Drummer Girl here and plan on reading that before the new adaptation hits the screen, and then I think I’ll go back to the beginning and read my way through all of le Carre’s work!

The Constant Gardener is gripping, stunningly written and will have you engrossed from start to finish (and beyond)!

I received a copy of The Constant Gardener from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

 

About the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931 and attended the universities of Bern and Oxford. He taught at Eton and served briefly in British Intelligence during the Cold War. For more than fifty years he has lived by his pen. He divides his time between London and Cornwall.

 

 

Giveaway!

 

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This gorgeous new paperback edition of The Constant Gardener by Penguin Modern Classics is out now and can be ordered here. Penguin Modern Classics have very kindly given me an extra copy of the novel to be given away to one of you so if you’d like the chance to win, please enter by leaving a comment below telling me why you’d like to read the book.

Terms and Conditions

The giveaway is open in the UK only and will close on 15th October at 23.59 (UK time). I will put all the entrants’ names in a hat and ask my husband to randomly pick a winner. I will contact the winner after the giveaway has ended and must receive a reply back within one week or I reserve the right to pick another winner. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties. After the book is sent to the winner I will delete the data I hold. I’m not responsible for any loss or delay of the prize within the postal system.

 

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Perfect Liars by Rebecca Reid @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @BeckyShort1 #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

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About the Book

They have it all. And they’ll do anything to keep it that way.

Sixteen years ago, at an elite boarding school secluded in the English countryside, best friends Nancy, Georgia and Lila did something unspeakable.

Their secret forged an unbreakable bond between them, a bond of silence. But now, in their thirties, one of them wants to talk.

One word and everything could be ruined: their lives, their careers, their relationships. It’s up to Georgia to call a crisis dinner. – she knows there’s nothing that can’t be resolved by three courses in her immaculate kitchen.

But the evening does not go as planned.

Three women walk in to the dinner, but only two will leave.

Murder isn’t so difficult the second time around…

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when a copy of Perfect Liars arrived through my letterbox as it sounded like exactly my kind of read. I’m so pleased to say that I loved this book and so was absolutely delighted to then be invited to review it for the blog tour!

Perfect Liars is a story of toxic friendship. It’s a dual timeline set in the past when Georgia, Nancy and Lila were at boarding school together, and in the present where they come together again at a dinner party organised in an attempt to smooth over the cracks.  The three women are jointly carrying a secret from their school days and are desperately trying to keep the past hidden whatever the cost.

I was drawn to Perfect Liars as soon as I first heard about it because female friendships fascinate me and reading about them always makes for an engrossing novel. There is something about the way teenage girls bond, often united in their dislike of something others are doing and how this can keep them bonded long after they’ve really stopped liking each other all that much. Negotiating relationships with women within a circle of friends can be really quite complex at times and can be a bit like treading on eggshells , and that’s without the drama that has gone on with the three women in this novel! Rebecca Reid takes the female friendships in her novel to extreme lengths but the roots of the friendship and the underlying dislike of each other was so believable and really quite true to life in many cases.

None of the characters in this book were hugely likeable but they all had complexities that meant I couldn’t entirely dislike them all of the time. I had times where I felt sympathy and understanding for aspects of their lives and at other times I wanted to scream at them to do the sensible thing. I do enjoy a novel where the characters are a real mix of complicated and infuriating at times and sympathetic at others so Perfect Liars really hit the spot for me!

I honestly couldn’t put Perfect Liars down once I started reading it. It had me hooked from the opening pages and it’s stayed in my mind in the weeks since I finished reading it. It’s such a great novel about female friendships, about the bonds that hold people together and the desperate levels people are taken to when they feel like a ‘friend’ may be about to betray them! I highly recommend Perfect Liars and I’m already excited to see what Rebecca Reid writes next!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book, and to Anne of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Perfect Liars is out now in ebook and is due to be published in paperback in February 2019. It can be ordered here.

About the Author

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Rebecca is a freelance journalist. She has a column for the Telegraph Women’s section, works for Metro Online and has written for Marie Claire, the Independent, the iPaper, The Guardian, Indy100, LOOK and the New Statesman among others.

Rebecca is a regular contributor to Sky News and ITV’s This Morning as well as appearing on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, LBC, BBC News 24 and the BBC World Service to discuss her work.

She graduated from the University of Bristol with a BA in English & Drama in 2013 and from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA in 2015. She lives in Kentish Town with her husband.

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#BookReview: Narcissism for Beginners by Martine McDonagh @MartineM_Writer @unbounders @annecater

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About the Book

Meet Sonny Anderson as he tips headlong into adulthood. Sonny doesn’t remember his mother’s face; he was kidnapped at age five by his father, Guru Bim, and taken to live in a commune in Brazil. Since the age of ten, Sonny has lived in Redondo Beach, California, with his guardian Thomas Hardiker. Brits think he’s an American, Americans think he’s a Brit.

When he turns 21, Sonny musters the courage to travel alone to the UK in an attempt to leave a troubled past behind, reunite with his mother and finally learn the truth about his childhood. With a list of people to visit, a whole lot of attitude and five mysterious letters from his guardian, Sonny sets out to learn the truth. But is it a truth he wants to hear?

 

My Thoughts

Narcissism for Beginners has such a fab cover and a brilliant title and I’ll admit that this is what drew me to the book.  I have to say that I’m so glad I decided to give it a go because it’s such a brilliant read, I loved it!

Sonny has just turned 21 and his world has just been turned on its head. He’s living with his guardian at Redondo Beach in America but on his birthday he is given some life-changing information involving money and his past, and the past of his parents. Sonny has to find the courage to travel to the UK to try and piece together the story of how he came to be and how he ended up where he is.

I went into this book knowing very little of what it was going to be about and I fell in love with the novel very quickly. Sonny is such an interesting character – he has a quirky personality and some traits that I could really identify with but ultimately he’s a really nice guy who just wants to know where he comes from.

Sonny’s guardian Thomas has hidden five letters in his bag, which slowly unveil more truths for Sonny to get to grips with. He also has a list of people that knew his parents and he decides to visit them in the order that they were involved in his family’s lives. On top of all of this Sonny is obsessed with Shaun of the Dead and really wants to make time to visit locations from the film while he’s in England.

The whole novel is told in the form of a letter to his mother and this allows us to have real insight into what Sonny is thinking and feeling as he discovers more and more truths, some of them painful and uncomfortable, about her and his father. What I loved was how he came to connect with some of the people he meets. It initially felt like Sonny was a bit of a loner and would perhaps struggle to make friends but over time to see him form bonds with some of the people he meets was wonderful.

Narcissism for Beginners was such a balm for my soul when I read it. I could really identify with some of what Sonny was going through in the sense of trying to find a place in the world when you don’t have a traditional family as such. I was rooting for him to find where he could be himself and belong in the way that I’ve found my place in the world.

Narcissism for Beginners is such a quirky, off-beat, coming of age novel that will have you rooting for Sonny and feeling all of the feelings as you progress through his story. I will be shouting from the rooftops about this wonderful book, I highly recommend it! A massive five stars from me!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

Narcissism for Beginners is due to be published in paperback on 20th September and is available for pre-order here.

 

About the Author

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Martine McDonagh’s latest novel, Narcissism for Beginners, is longlisted for the 2018 People’s Book Prize and in 2017 for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize. It is published in Germany as Familie und andere Trostpreise (Family and other Consolation Prizes).

Her first novel, I Have Waited and You Have Come, was described as ‘cataclysmically brilliant’ by author Elizabeth Haynes, and praised in the Guardian and Red magazine. Martine had a successful career in the music industry as an artist manager and devised and ran the MA Creative Writing & Publishing at West Dean College in Sussex.

 

You can find the rest of the blog tour stops at the following blogs:

Narcissim for Beginners Blog Tour poster

 

 

#BookReview: The Girl in His Eyes by Jennie Ensor @Jennie_Ensor ‏@BloodhoundBook

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About the Book

Her father abused her when she was a child. For years she was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim…

Laura, a young woman struggling to deal with what her father did to her a decade ago, is horrified to realise that the girl he takes swimming might be his next victim. Emma is twelve – the age Laura was when her father took away her innocence.

Intimidated by her father’s rages, Laura has never told anyone the truth about her childhood. Now she must decide whether she has the courage to expose him and face the consequences.

Can Laura overcome her fear and save Emma before the worst happens?

 

My Thoughts

Today is publication day for The Girl in his Eyes so I’m thrilled to be sharing my review and helping promote this incredible novel!  I was drawn to The Girl in his Eyes as soon as I first heard about it and am so pleased to say that it was all that I hoped it would be.

Laura is carrying the awful secret of what her father did to her when she was younger and it’s affecting her to this day. She struggles to be in the family home and is distant from her mum and brother as a result. One day she finds out that her dad is taking a young girl for swimming lessons and she realises that she may have no choice but to confront what he did to her.

The Girl in his Eyes is told from multiple perspectives: Laura, her mother and her father. I was unsure how I was going to feel reading the dad’s point of view knowing what he did to his daughter and how his mind seemed to work. However, Jennie Ensor has dealt with the issue of abuse in such a sensitive way that I found it gave balance to the novel to know his thought process (as disturbing as it was to read).

I could really sympathise with Laura and I agonised with her over what she should do about her dad. It’s all too easy to say that victims should speak out but it’s so much more complex than that. Laura didn’t want to upset the rest of her family, particularly her mum, and worried that she wouldn’t be believed because her father gives such a convincing performance as a nice, normal family man. She is trying to hard to make a life for herself now she lives away from the family home she grew up in but her anxiety every time she goes back to visit brings it all back to the surface again; it’s a wound that isn’t allowed to heal.

Laura’s mother’s viewpoint was the one that I found affected me more than I was expecting, and this surprised me. I swung from being utterly disbelieving that she hadn’t had any inkling of what her husband was doing to their daughter, to feeling a sense of sadness for her as she tried to process and re-evaluate her marriage. There is a small moment in the novel when she sees a large spider out of her eye corner  and is terrified so immediately throws a huge book on top of it and stamps it down. She then leaves it there until someone comes home and she gets them to deal with it. This moment gave me goosebumps because that was when I really understood her and felt sorry for her. It’s such a tiny moment in the book but it showed me how her mind works when it came to dealing with things she truly can’t cope with.

The Girl in his Eyes is a very prescient novel. We are in the wake of the #metoo movement and are having our eyes opened to the abuse that goes on behind closed doors. This novel is about one woman and her father but the way the novel explores how Laura is still dealing with the trauma as an adult and the choices she makes are so important for society to understand. People who have been abused and traumatised sometimes deal with it by taking control in ways that can be hard for others to understand. I very much appreciated how Ensor explores this aspect of Laura’s life.

This isn’t always an easy book to read due to the subject matter and it feels unsettling at times but it is absolutely worth reading. I wasn’t sure how I felt about reading it to start with but I ended up reading it all in one sitting, and it did make me cry in places but I’m so glad that I read it. Ensor handles the subject of child abuse so sensitively; there is nothing graphic or gratuitous in the novel; it is much more a look at how it leaves people feeling and the affect it has on people’s lives. She has done an exceptional job to confront child abuse in such an honest and real way without it ever being too much to read.

The Girl in his Eyes is an incredible novel that will really stay with me. It’s such an important novel about the lasting damage of sexual abuse but it’s so beautifully and sensitively written that you’ll find yourself utterly absorbed in the story and won’t want to stop turning the pages. I read it in one sitting because it had me gripped from the opening chapter! This is a book that everyone should read; I highly recommend it.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

The Girl in His Eyes is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Jennie Ensor lives in London and has Irish roots. During a long trip overseas she obtained a Masters in Journalism and began her writing career as a journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to accidents in the mining industry. Her debut novel BLIND SIDE was published by Unbound in 2016. In January 2018 her short story ‘The Gift’ was placed in the Top 40 of the Words and Women national prose competition. Her poetry has appeared in many UK and overseas publications, most recently Ink Sweat and Tears. She sings in a chamber choir.

 

 

You can find the rest of the blog blitz at the following stops:

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#BookReview: How We Remember by J. M. Monaco @RedDoorBooks

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About the Book

Upon Jo’s return home after her mother’s death, she is shocked to learn of an unexpected inheritance and her mother’s diary. Jo thought she could put to rest her darker past until an entry implies the messy aftermath of an uncle’s sexual advances towards her when she was fifteen. Like the diary, Jo’s memory of events is full of gaps, but one thing is certain – she will never regain what was lost. What is the full story of what happened between Jo and her uncle? And what is the diary not telling us about Jo’s mother’s troubles with him? How We Remember traces the effects of alcoholism, mental illness and abuse on one Irish-Italian-American, working-class family. As Jo’s first-person narrative weaves together past and present stories, she creates a portrait of her family’s life and her own as she faces new decisions amidst the tragic consequences of mismanaged grief. Full of moments of light and dark, Monaco’s debut novel – set during a week that anyone would dread – provides a mesmeric narrative portraying the pain of grief, the tenuous nature of memory and the earth shattering effect that the death of the `glue’ of a family can cause.

 

My Thoughts

I have to start this review by admitting that I was initially drawn to How We Remember by the gorgeous cover! I’m happy to say that when I read the blurb it equally drew me to the novel and I was very keen to read it.

How We Remember is a novel about an Irish American family and how they deal with secrets, mental health and grief. It centres around Jo who was assaulted by her Aunty’s husband when she was fifteen and has been carrying the damage from that around with her ever since. She’s now in her 50s and her mum has died, and this has brought up a lot of memories and also discoveries about how her mum felt about the assault all those years ago.

Jo is a very successful university lecturer – she got her degree at an Ivy League college defying the odds of her working class background. I found that there were times in this book were she felt distant from me, like she wasn’t being entirely open in how she was feeling but mostly I really felt for her. I could identify with a lot of what made her who she is and was willing her on to deal with her issues and find a place of peace. Her mother’s death brings back all the pain of how her family dealt with the assault by her uncle (by marriage). No one ever knew the full story of what happened, or chose to not grasp the full story so as a result they don’t understand why it still hurts Jo so many years later.

I could really empathise with Jo over her grief for her mother. It’s so hard to be the one that has to deal with everything after a death, while everyone else does nothing under the veil of claiming not knowing how to do anything. I’ve been there and it’s hard. The family dynamics in these parts of the novel were so real for me and I really appreciated how well J. M. Monaco captured how a family can be, and how grief heightens everyone’s true personalities and feelings.  I could feel Jo’s exhaustion and despair and hoped she would come through.

I was rooting for Jo and her brother to find a way to be friends. It’s incredibly painful when you lose your parents and then the family just disintegrates. Her brother has his problems and they manifest in a different way to Jo but ultimately they’re both coming to terms with the way their lives have turned out.

How We Remember is ultimately a novel about grief for not just who we lose but for what we lose when others don’t hear and support in the appropriate way. It’s a raw and visceral novel that really gets under your skin. I highly recommend it if you love books about family dynamics.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

How We Remember is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

My writing identity is JM Monaco. Friends here in the UK tell me the surname sounds unique and somewhat exotic. Outside this little island I know this isn’t the case.

I am a fiction writer with a particular soft spot for North American fiction, probably because my formative and university years took place in the USA. While England has been my home for well over twenty years now, there’s something about the birthplace where my extended family and some friends still reside that has a strong pull. If I could, I’d spend solitary blocks of time there in a quiet lake cottage in the northeast pondering my ambiguous relationship with that landscape. I’d write up a tumultuous storm that may eventually take the shape of a draft for a novel or multiple stories, then come back to the UK where I could clean it all up in edits with my husband and children surrounding me with love and endless offers  of tea and healthy meals. As this can only happen in fantasy, here in the southwest of England, UK, is where I stay, holed up in a drafty north-facing study/writing room, often gazing out at the rain and rolling my eyes when I hear my daughter shout, ‘What’s for supper tonight?’  Reading, thinking, writing, are all interrupted with the demands of others, the good and bad, life’s routines, a bit of excitement here and there mixed with the mundane. This is where stories are born. Oh, but wouldn’t it be heaven to have that nice little place by the lake.

(Bio taken from J.M. Monaco’s blog)

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

#BookReview: Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia @MejiaWrites @QuercusBooks @ellakroftpatel

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About the Book

Ten years after a boy and his father went missing in the wilderness of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the boy – who is no longer a boy – walks back out of the forest. He is violent and uncommunicative. The authorities take him to Congdon Mental Institution in Duluth, on the edge of mighty Lake Superior.

There, language therapist Maya Stark is given the task of making a connection with this boy/man who came back from the dead. But their celebrity patient tries to escape and refuses to answer any questions about his father or the last ten years of his life. In many ways he is old far beyond his years; in others, still a child.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world – but at what cost to herself?

 

My Thoughts

I was beyond excited to be offered a chance to read and review Leave No Trace as Mindy Mejia’s previous novel The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman became one of my favourite books when I read it (you can read my review here if you’d like to).

Leave No Trace follows the story of Maya, a former patient of a psychiatric hospital, who is now a trained speech therapist working in the same hospital. One day a new patient is admitted and as he seems unable or unwilling to communicate Maya is assigned to him. The patient is Lucas who as a young boy went missing with his father and is now back as a young adult and everyone wants to know where he’s been and what’s happened to his father.

Maya is a fascinating character and I was intrigued by her from the start. She’s had a tough time of it as her mother disappeared when she was ten and ever since then Maya has been trying to understand why her mum left and what might have caused her to leave. I think it’s this sense of loss and not knowing that made Maya become so involved in Lucas’ case, she can see something in him that might lead her to understand how people can just up and leave. I’m always drawn to books about loss, I find it cathartic to read about characters that are searching for a lost loved one or dealing with grief so I was really drawn to Maya. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have a mum walk out and for a child to not know where she’s gone but I could really identify with the pain and the sense of loss. Mindy Mejia really does get to the heart of her character and explores what makes people who they are.

Mindy Mejia has such a beautiful writing style and, as with The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman, I found myself utterly absorbed in it.  It’s a slow burn and yet at the same time a fast read – I didn’t want to put it down once I picked it up and it flows so well. I was desperate to know if they’d get Luke well or find his dad, or if we’d ever know what happened to Maya’s mum but at the same time I was very much enjoying the writing and finding out more about these characters. It’s not about the twists and turns but the way the novel ended was still a huge shock to me!

Leave No Trace is ultimately a novel about friendship, about love and loss and about trying to find redemption and healing. I loved it and feel like it will be a novel that will stay with me. It’s compelling, atmospheric and near impossible to put down!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Leave No Trace is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Mindy received a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Hamline University. Apart from brief stops in Iowa City and Galway, she’s lived in the Twin Cities her entire life and held a succession of jobs from an apple orchard laborer to a global credit manager.

 

 

You can find the rest of the blog tour at the following stops:

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#BookReview: The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks @AnneCater

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About the Book

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…
Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

 

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Louise Beech so I was beyond thrilled when invited to read and review The Lion Tamer Who Lost for the blog tour.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is the story of Ben. He’s dreamt of going to Africa to volunteer on a lion reserve and the book begins with him having achieved this dream. It’s clear that Ben is unhappy and troubled though and that perhaps how he came to be in Africa is not how he dreamt it.

It’s also the story of Andrew. Andrew has a wish box and he truly believes in making wishes. He feels certain that if you wish for something very specific then it will come true.

I adored this novel more than I can even say! I love novels that explore the idea of fate and destiny and the idea that perhaps there is a person out there who we’re destined to meet. That the person will keep showing up in our lives until we meet at the right time. Ben and Andrew’s paths keep crossing until one day they finally get talking and they instantly click.

I loved that this book is set both in Zimbabwe and Hull; Louise Beech has such a wonderful way of really capturing a location and making it so real for her readers. I know the parts of Hull mentioned in this book really well but I’ve never been to Zimbabwe and yet each place felt equally vivid in my mind. I could smell the lion enclosures, I could taste the mud coffee in Africa and I felt like I was there.

The real beauty in this novel is in the characters. Ben and Andrew felt like real people to me and I miss them now I’ve finished reading. I loved seeing how they met, how they got together and how they fell in love. It was so beautiful. I was hoping Ben would find a way to come out to his dad, and that somehow it would all be okay.

It was incredibly moving how we see the lions in the reserve being nurtured to health and gradually gaining more and more freedom, it contrasted with the scene of lions in the circus. I couldn’t help but feel that the different stories of the lions was mirroring the times that the LGBTQ+ community have gone through. It certainly seemed to echo the pain of love and loss, of losing yourself and slowly finding yourself again that Ben goes through in the novel.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost broke my heart on more than one occasion as I was reading. I can’t bear it when people can’t accept two people who love each other just because of their own prejudices, so that made me tearful. The novel builds and builds and goes back and forth in time through Ben and Andrew’s story until we find out what happened and the way their story turns out had me sobbing my heart out. I can’t remember the last time I cried like that reading a book.

There is so much more that I could say about this book but I don’t want to risk any spoilers; this is one of those incredibly special books that doesn’t come along very often and you need to discover it for yourself.  The comparisons to Maggie O’Farrell are entirely justified – The Lion Tamer Who lost affected me deeply in the same way that O’Farrell’s After You’d Gone did. You know you have a special book in your hands when it makes you feel all of the feelings and it never, ever lets go of you even long after you’d finished reading.

I will never forget these characters or this story and I know I will revisit this book in the future. It’s such a stunningly beautiful, heart-rending read; one that will take a piece of your heart. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is now one of my most favourite books and I will be shouting from the rooftops for everyone to read it!

I received a copy of this book from Orenda Books and Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is out now in ebook and is due to be published on 20th September and is available here.

I’ve previously reviewed two novels by Louise Beech: How to be Brave and Maria in the Moon.

About the Author

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Louise has always been haunted by the sea, even before she knew the full story of her grandfather, the man who in part inspired novel How to be Brave. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – where from her bedroom window she can almost see the waters of the River Humber, an estuary that inspired book, The Mountain in my Shoe.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism, and a one year column called Wholly Matrimony about modern marriage.

Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was released in 2015 and got to No 4 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart, and was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015. This novel came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story.

Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was released in 2016 and was inspired by her time with children in care. It explores what family truly means, and how far we will go for those we love. It longlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize.

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at these stops:

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