#BookReview: Bouncing Back with a Bang by Geraldine Ward @GWardAuthor @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

“Life is full of twists and turns, stops and starts. Living on a bizarre rollercoaster, Geraldine Ward is now bouncing back with a Bang.”

In a poetry collection that aims to to rock the senses and fill the reader with powerful imagery and heartfelt truth, Geraldine Ward’s mixture of critical and realistic social observation and humorous asides, will fully involve you in her journey of self discovery and take you on the ride of your life.

“Geraldine Ward’s poems take a slanted look at this world. They skilfully shine a light on those things we wish were different, the abuse we suffer or inflict.” – Reuben Woolley, Editor of “I am not a silent poet.”

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be offered the chance to read and review Bouncing Back With A Bang as I’m trying to get back into reading poetry and it’s wonderful to find new poems to explore.

Bouncing Back With A Bang is a lovely collection of poems that cover a wide variety of topics. Some are more whimsical, some require reading through a couple of times to give you time to ponder the meaning. Some are straightforward and easy to understand but none-the-less pack an emotional punch. It’s a collection about bouncing back after difficult times and so there’s something for everyone.

I adored Flower Fairy, it was whimsical and it really took me back to those days in childhood when anything seems possible.

‘A pocketful of promises in her heart.’

The poem that really got to me though was Taken, which is about the aftermath of a miscarriage. I’ve sadly been through it myself and though it was many years ago now I still know how old that child would be, and which milestones they’d be reaching. This poem captures so well and so poignantly those feelings of a child that never got to be.

I read this collection before reading about the author and all through the poems in the book I was thinking of how brilliant they would be read aloud, performed. I’ve now discovered that Geraldine Ward is a performance poet and I would love to see her live one day. I actually finished reading this book and then went back and read it again out loud and it really gave me a different take on the poems, it brought out more emotions in me with some of the writing than it had when I read in my head the first time around so I definitely recommend doing that.

Bouncing Back With A Bang is a powerful and emotional read, I highly recommend it.

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

Bouncing Back with a Bang is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Geraldine Ward Author Picture

Geraldine Ward is an author, mother and performance poet. Her publishing credits include children’s poetry and fiction, most recently ‘Mark’s Magic Farmyard and Other Stories’, a novella about mental health called ‘Caring for the Carer’ and ‘Now’ poetry to name but a few.

She has had individual poems published in literary magazines including ‘The Blue Nib’ edited by Shirley Bell, ‘I am not a silent poet’ edited by Reuben Woolley and ‘Writers Cafe Magazine’ edited by Marie Lightman.

In November 2017 she was one of only three poets appearing on a pre recorded podcast for BBC Radio 4 Front Row, describing her writing process for National Write a Novel Month.

Geraldine’s hobbies include playing piano, song writing and singing and learning the ukulele.

Website: http://www.geraldineward.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @GWardAuthor

 

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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.

 

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

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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/

 

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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

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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).

 

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#BookReview: Love & Fame by Susie Boyt @SusieBoyt @ViragoBooks @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #Loveandfame

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About the Book

Susie Boyt’s sixth novel is the story of the first year of a marriage. Eve a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. Could it work? Should it work? Must the show always go on? This is a highly-strung comedy about love, fame, grief, showbusiness and the depths of the gutter press. Its witty and sincere tone – familiar to fans of Susie’s newspaper column – will delight and unnerve in equal measure.

 

My Thoughts

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really know what this book was about when I was offered a copy, but actually I’m quite glad that I didn’t. I try and avoid books about grief and loss at this time of year but reading Love & Fame recently and finding it such a brilliant and cathartic novel has taught me that I need to be more open-minded.

Love & Fame follows people from two different families. The first is Eve, a very highly-strung actress who is struggling to find her place in the world. The second follows twin sisters Beatrice and Rebecca, who are very different from each other but also very dependent on each other.

The opening of this book sees Eve packing for her honeymoon and the way her anxiety is presented on the page was so true to how anxiety really is that it had my own heart racing at the amount of thoughts running through her head. I’ve suffered very badly with anxiety in my life and this is the first time that I’ve read a novel that truly conveys what it feels like. There is a moment later in the book that struck such a chord with me that I had to briefly stop reading, it really brought it home to me that not everyone feels like this. I could really identify with Eve’s anxiety – the way sometimes something causes it and other times it’s just lingering there waiting to catch you out when you think you’re doing okay.

‘What made you think of that?’ he would say. ‘I don’t know.’ she would smile. ‘You know how I’m always thinking about everything.’ ‘How do you mean?’ ‘Well, all the things I’ve ever said, all the things that have ever been said to me and everything I’ve seen and thought and felt in my life and it all sort of whirls around in my head all day long, and often through the night and it’s constantly going. It’s probably the same for everybody.’ ‘Maybe,’ he said.

Eve has married a man who is writing a book about anxiety and this a huge source of panic to Eve. There is black humour in her panic but I could really identify with her and found myself giggling at how ridiculous it all can be, and how aware of the ridiculousness one can be, and yet still the anxious thoughts won’t stop. While on honeymoon Eve gets the devastating news that her beloved father has died, and this sends her into such a tailspin. Grief and anxiety make for a really messed up time.

‘I suppose in a way you are in the loss adjustment business,’ Rebecca said. ‘A listening loss lessener.’

Alongside this we meet Beatrice and Rebecca. They lost their mum twenty years ago when they were young children and have dealt with it in very different ways. Beatrice has become a therapist specialising in treating grieving children, but Rebecca has remained stuck in her grief. It’s manifested in control over her eating and she cannot bring herself to even try and move through the grief, she wears it like a jumper. In some ways neither of the women have fully allowed themselves to heal from the grief, it lingers in the background of their relationship.

‘People wanted you to be upset when bad things happened in life, but if you got too upset they couldn’t take it, she thought. You’re a failure. You’re disgusting. Sometimes the window of what was acceptable, when it came to mourning, was so small.’

Love & Fame is a real slice of life. Eve attempting to follow in the footsteps of her successful acting father but her then becoming so paralysed by anxiety that she can’t do it is so believable. It’s the essence of being human that we want to be perfect at what we do, especially when people know what our dreams are and are wanting us to succeed but sometimes that becomes a pressure and the cracks begin to form. Losing a parent that you’re close to is something that changes you so completely and makes you see everything in a different light. As heartbreaking as it is it can be the catalyst for you to re-evaluate life and to find the thing that makes you happy. Eve seemed to be slowly finding her way towards this path and I was rooting for her to get there all the way through this novel.

Boyt has captured the essence of grief so well. She manages to show the pain of it in such an honest way, while also showing how it is broken up by moments of humour in the way others behave towards you. My mum died right before my 30th birthday and one of the most painful things on the day was the birthday cards that had a PS saying ‘sorry for your loss’. It astounded me at the time that people would be so utterly insensitive but now I can see the humourous side – I can just imagine people worrying about what to write and then getting it so wrong! We often don’t handle grief or grieving people very well but harm is generally not meant and Love & Fame captured this so perfectly for me. I highlighted so many passages in this novel, which is something I rarely do and I know this will be a book I go back to again and again.

Love & Fame made me cry, and it made me laugh. I found paragraphs that I had to stop and read again before continuing reading because it is so beautifully written. It’s a quirky, funny novel about anxiety, loss and grief and I absolutely loved it! I will be shouting from the rooftops about this fabulous book; I know this will be in my favourite books of the year so I’m highly recommending it!

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

Love & Fame is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Susie Boyt is the author of five other acclaimed novels and the much-loved memoir My Judy Garland Life which was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize, staged at the Nottingham Playhouse and serialised on BBC Radio 4. She has written about art, life and fashion for the Financial Times for the past fourteen years and has recently edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories by Henry James. She is also a director at the Hampstead Theatre.
She lives in London with her family.

 

 

 

 

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#BookReview: Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour @JenLGilmour @rararesources @gilbster1000

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About the Book

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?

Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

 

My Thoughts

Isolation Junction is the story of Rose; a young woman who fell in love but is now trapped in a marriage with an abusive husband. She has two young children with him and feels utterly helpless and doesn’t know how she can ever escape the situation she’s in.

Isolation Junction isn’t quite what I was expecting, but that’s in a good way. I thought it might be focused on the abusive relationship in ways that would be very difficult for me to read, and while there is some focus on violent elements it’s done in a very sensitive way. The novel shows enough for the reader to understand why Rose needs to leave but it mainly focuses on why it’s so hard for a victim of abuse to leave. Gilmour makes sure that the reader understands the situation but without ever making it too hard to stomach.

Isolation Junction felt quite a didactic read to me: the reader is kept at a distance from the characters but it felt like this was a deliberate choice, as if Gilmour has chosen to give a true insight into an abusive relationship rather than trying to make the reader feel what it might be like to be a Rose. I got the feeling that Rose, and possibly the other characters in this book too, were amalgamations of real people rather than Rose been meant to feel completely real to the reader in and of herself. It allows the novel to show the reader what it’s like to be trapped in an abusive relationship in clear language without ever embellishing for the sake of drama. The book moves back and forth in time; some parts are in third person and others are first person from Rose’s perspective. This is clever because at times it allows the reader to be outside looking in but unable to help, and then at other times we’re inside Rose’s head and can feel all her conflicting emotions and pain.

I think it’s very hard for people who haven’t been in Rose’s shoes to understand why people don’t just leave but Gilmour really shows in this book why it’s so hard. People want to leave but they’re too scared of what might happen, they’re scared of losing their children or that they or their children may be harmed. Some people have nowhere else to go having being completely isolated from their family or friends. There are so many reasons and Gilmour highlights this so brilliantly. It’s almost as if a person isn’t choosing to stay so much as they feel there is too much risk if they attempt to leave.

If I’m to be completely honest there is part of me that wanted Rose to make a life for herself without the help of another man, but I can see why the book was written the way it has been. It really shows that there is life after an abusive relationship, that people can go on to form a new relationship and can break free from the cycle of abuse. Gilmour definitely leaves the reader with a sense of hope, and I think that is incredibly important for this book.

Isolation Junction isn’t always an easy book to read but it is an important book and one that I think everyone should read. It’s very honest, it’s heart-wrenching at times and is definitely a book that will stick with you! I recommend it.

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

Isolation Junction is out now and available in print and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

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Born in Yorkshire in the UK, I am a young, married mum with three children.  I am an entrepreneur, running a family business from my home-base and I have a large readership of other young mums in business for my blog posts.

From an early age I have had a passion for writing and have been gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years.  A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.  I hope that in reading my first publication- Isolation Junction, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.

(Author bio taken from: JenniferGilmour.com)

 

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#BookReview: The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet @TransworldBooks @RebeccaLFleet

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About the Book

No one lives this way unless they want to hide something.’

When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.

On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.

But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . .

 

My Thoughts

I was keen to get my hands on this book from the moment I first heard about it so I was thrilled when I was approved to read it from NetGalley.

The House Swap is a novel about a woman who on a whim posts her home on a house swap site and then months later she gets an alert that someone wants to swap for a week. She decides to do it and her husband are soon spending the week in Chiswick while someone spends a week in their flat in Leeds. Caroline and Francis are trying to rebuild their marriage after a rough few years but things aren’t all as they seem with the house swap.

I was expecting this novel to be darker than it was but even so it was definitely thrilling. I ended up reading it in one sitting over the course of an afternoon and I didn’t want to put it down in that time.

The characters in The House Swap aren’t particularly likeable, they all have issues and it makes them quite self-centred but I liked the book all the more for this. I was keen to find out what made them the way they were and if they were going to have any kind of redemption by the end of the novel.

There are twisty elements in this book, and I did work most of them out, but it was still quite the ride as I was reading it. It was deeply unsettling to think of a stranger in your home, while you’re in theirs, only you’ve left more of who you are in your home and they can find out all your dark secrets. I’ve always shuddered at the thought of house swaps. I know they’re increasingly popular but the idea of it is very unnerving to me (even more so after reading this novel)!

I found The House Swap to be a fast-paced read and I really enjoyed it. I’d recommend it if you like domestic novels with some thriller elements.

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

The House Swap is out now and available in hardback and ebook formats from here!

 

About the Author

Rebecca Fleet lives and works in London. The House Swap is her first thriller.

#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

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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:

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#BookReview: Snap by Belinda Bauer @BelindaBauer ‏@TransworldBooks @BeckyShort1 #snap #ManBooker #longlist

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About the Book

SNAP DECISIONS CAN BE DANGEROUS . . .

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she said. I won’t be long.

But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, Jack, now fourteen, is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was sent a copy of Snap as it’s a book that I’d already been eagerly anticipating and I’m so pleased to say that it more than lived up to all my expectations.

Snap is a crime thriller and is predominantly the story of Jack. The novel opens when he’s ten years old, his mother has gone missing and from that moment on he has had to grow up and look after his two younger sisters. Time the moves on and we’re back with Jack when he’s fourteen and still doing all he can to keep his family together and to stop the authorise discovering how difficult his home life is.

The opening of this novel was really quite chilling. The idea of a heavily pregnant mother having to leave her children in the broken down car at the side of a motorway while she walks to the nearest phone to seek help, is alarming. Then the reader realising that the children have been left for quite a long time and are starting to get worried – you just immediately have the horrible sensation that something terrible has happened but you don’t know what. When Jack decides they should all go look for their mum I had the most awful feeling of dread at what they might find. The combination of how young the children are,  the hot weather and knowing that their mum had possibly come to harm at the side of the road is disturbing. I knew from this opening chapter that this was going to be a novel that I couldn’t put down and I was right!

I was expecting Snap to be a well-written crime thriller with a real mystery at its heart, and it absolutely is, but it’s also so much more besides. There are moments in this book that took my breath away; the pain and grief these children felt at the loss of their mother was intense and so moving. There is a moment with a purse that was really brief and yet so powerful – I absolutely knew what the character was feeling in that moment and I sobbed reading that paragraph.

Jack is a wonderful character; he definitely won a place in my heart and is someone I hope might pop up in another book some time. He’s one of those characters where you can’t condone his actions but you can absolutely understand them; he was forced to be a parent whilst still a child himself and he was just doing the best he could. I was rooting for him all the way through the novel and hoping that he would be okay, that he would find some kind of peace with all that had happened to his mum.

I read Snap in just two sittings (and the only reason it wasn’t one was because I needed sleep) and haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished reading. It’s a compelling crime novel with a perfect mix of mystery and bittersweet, moving moments. I highly recommend that you grab a copy of this book!

Snap is my favourite crime thriller of the year so far, it’s brilliant!

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

Snap is out now in hardback and ebook and available here.

About the Author

Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa. She has worked as a journalist and screenwriter, and her script THE LOCKER ROOM earned her the Carl Foreman/Bafta Award for Young British Screenwriters, an award that was presented to her by Sidney Poitier. She was a runner-up in the Rhys Davies Short Story Competition for “Mysterious Ways,” about a girl stranded on a desert island with 30,000 Bibles. Belinda now lives in Wales.

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

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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

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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: Three Things about Elsie by @JoannaCannon @BoroughPress @BissCakes #ThreeThings

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About the Book

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

My Thoughts

Firstly I have to apologise for the fact that I read and wrote my review for Three Things about Elsie way back in January and I was absolutely certain that I’d published it on my blog. In doing some sorting out this week I discovered that it had gone back into my drafts folder. January is a tough month for me due to it being the anniversary of my mum’s death and I just hadn’t realised that WordPress had messed up. Anyway, here (finally) is my review for the wonderful Three Things about Elsie!

I’m a huge fan of Joanna Cannon’s writing so when the publicist for Three Things about Elsie offered to send me a copy I immediately said yes! I didn’t read it straight away because it felt like a book to be saved for the right moment, and I was right. It’s been near impossible to write this review for two reasons: the first being that I loved it so much and I just don’t have enough superlatives to use, and the second is that I feel like the novel is now interwoven with my own emotions.

The novel opens with Florence having had a fall in her flat within the care home that she lives and she’s waiting for someone to come and help her. As she’s waiting she begins to think about her friend Elsie, and a new resident to the home and her mind goes back and forth in time as she mulls over what might be going on. Florence has started to be a bit more forgetful and the past and present begin to merge in her mind so she has to try and untangle the mystery and to work out if there is danger to be feared from the new resident. Florence is such a great character; she is so real and I was absorbed in her story from the very beginning.

I started reading Three Things about Elsie at the weekend and I fell in love with the novel in the first chapter. A few chapters in and I’d already had a little cry. I knew this book was going to be special. I deliberately read it slowly because Joanna Cannon has a wonderful ability to perfectly capture the essence of people, to make you feel like you’re reading about real people. The way she gets turns of phrase so exactly right warms my heart.

Monday was the anniversary of my mum’s death and I knew that combined with Florence’s story that this novel might be too much, and yet I was drawn to continue reading. I sobbed through the final few chapters of this book, it completely and utterly broke my heart. And yet as I turned the very last page it was all the beauty in the book that came to the fore in my mind, it was all the paragraphs that made me smile and remember. It feels like this book climbed inside my heart and it gave me real solace over a weekend full of such sad memories.

Florence is a wonderful character, I’m sure that anyone reading this book will see elements of their own loved ones in her. There were moments where she reminded me of my lovely nan, who died before old age took anything away from her. The idea of Florence lying on the floor after falling made me think of my Grandma, whose memory is beginning to get a little muddled and who has had a couple of horrible falls. The way Florence holds the people she can remember so dear to her made me think of my mum, who when her cancer spread to her brain began to speak as if she were still in her childhood home with her mum and sisters. More than these things though it spoke to me because whilst I’m not elderly I am disabled and I have had horrendous falls and been stuck on the floor until someone could come and help me. I try to keep my phone on me at all times so that I can ring my husband but occasionally I’ve forgotten it and I can’t express how frightening it is to be lying on the floor unable to get up. Joanna Cannon captures this fear, and later the resignation so perfectly that at times it was like she was expressing my own thoughts.

There is a sense of loneliness in this novel that I wasn’t expecting. It hovers around the edge of the story but it’s definitely there. Older people like Florence, and vulnerable people, and people like me can so easily disappear to the edges of our own lives, and to the very, very edge of other people’s lives. There can be people around but many of them no longer see you as who you feel you still are. The outside of you might look older, or more disabled, but the inside is still the same. I felt such an affinity with this aspect of the book, and it makes me want to cry now writing about it and yet the sensitivity of the writing makes this a book that I know I will go back to time and again when I need to be reminded of the Handy Simons of this world.

Three Things about Elsie is an incredible novel; it will break your heart but it will also heal it. It will give you solace and smiles; and it will make you hold your loved ones, the people who still see you, a bit tighter. Without a shadow of a doubt this book will be in my favourite books of 2018 and I urge you to go buy a copy now, you won’t regret it!

I was sent a copy of this book by the publicist. All thoughts are my own.

Three Things about Elsie is out now and available here.

About the Author

Joanna Cannon is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, which has sold over 250,000 copies in the UK alone and has been published in 15 countries. The novel was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, shortlisted for The Bookseller Industry Awards 2017 and won the 2016 BAMB Reader Award. Joanna has been interviewed in The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Times, and Good Housekeepingmagazine, and her writing has appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Guardian, amongst others. She has appeared on BBC Breakfast, BBC News Channel’s Meet the Author, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5, and is a regular at literary festivals across the country including Edinburgh and Cheltenham. Joanna left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs – barmaid, kennel maid, pizza delivery expert – before returning to school in her thirties and qualifying as a doctor. Her work as a psychiatrist and interest in people on the fringes of society continue to inspire her writing, and Joanna currently volunteers for Arts for Health, an organisation bringing creative arts to NHS staff and patients. Joanna Cannon’s second novel Three Things About Elsie is published in January 2018 and explores memory, friendship and old age. She lives in the Peak District with her family and her dog.

#BookReview: Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner @Ronnie__Turner @HQDigitalUK #WhereIsBonnie? #LiesBetweenUs

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About the Book

Will they ever learn the truth?

Three people, leading very different lives, are about to be brought together – with devastating consequences . . .

John has a perfect life, until the day his daughter goes missing.

Maisie cares for her patients, but hides her own traumatic past.

Miller should be an innocent child, but is obsessed with something he can’t have.

They all have something in common, though none of them know it – and the truth won’t stay hidden for long . . .

My Thoughts

I’ve been eagerly anticipating Ronnie Turner’s debut novel Lies Between Us and I’m so happy to say that I absolutely loved it. I’m delighted to be sharing my review today for the blog tour.

Lies Between Us follows three characters: John, Miller and Maisie. John is a married father whose young daughter has gone missing and he’s desperate to find her. Miller is utterly creepy, the things we learn about his childhood behaviour were disturbing to read at times. Maisie is an ICU nurse who is caring for a man in a coma who’s been viciously assaulted. Something is linking these characters, but what is it?

This novel goes between the three main characters, and in three different timelines so it can seem a teeny bit confusing in the beginning but trust me if you go with it it has such a rewarding pay off! The tension is there from the beginning of the book, with John’s daughter going missing and it just continues to ramp up and up as you get further through the novel.

Miller was the most fascinating character for me, I was utterly unnerved by him and yet I wanted to know more about him. He is one of the creepiest characters I’ve read about in a novel and really got under my skin. It takes a deft hand to write a character as creepy as Miller and still have him be complex and believable throughout the entire novel so I applaud that. John was interesting to me too because he was so devoted to his daughter and desperately wanting to get her home safe, and yet I was never quite sure of him. I kept wondering if he was just too good to be true. I ended up being suspicious of just about everyone, and it felt like that came in a very natural way as Turner has written characters that felt so real to me. Maisie was the character that I connected with the least initially but as we get more of her back story I came to understand her a lot more.

I loved this novel, it’s very rare for me to be surprised by the reveals in a book but Ronnie Turner had me questioning everything that I thought I knew! I reached the stage of putting the book down for a minute just to try and work it all out, and I thought I had it and then something else happened and I was back to questioning it all. The moment where all begins to be revealed had my head spinning as suddenly it all began to slot into place. I loved that Turner kept me on my toes from start to finish!

Lies Between Us is a complex and compelling novel about obsession: it’s dark and twisty and impossible to put down! I already can’t wait to see what Ronnie Turner writes next! In the meantime I highly recommend Lies Between Us.

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

Lies Between Us is out now in ebook and available here.

About the Author

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Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. Ronnie now lives in Dorset with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. She is currently working on her second novel.

Twitter:@Ronnie_ _Turner

Facebook: @RonnieTurnerAuthor

Instagram: @ronnieturner8702

Website: www.ronnieturner.wordpress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/RonnieTurner

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

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#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.

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

#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:

Leave No Trace blog tour poster updated.jpg

#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:

The Lion Tamer Blog Tour Poster Final

 

 

#BookReview: Daisy Belle by Caitlin Davies @CaitlinDavies2 @Unbounders #DaisyBelle #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Summer 1867: four-year-old Daisy Belle is about to make her debut at the Lambeth Baths in London. Her father, swimming professor Jeffery Belle, is introducing his Family of Frogs – and Daisy is the star attraction. By the end of that day, she has only one ambition in life: she will be the greatest female swimmer in the world.

She will race down the Thames, float in a whale tank, and challenge a man to a 70-foot high dive. And then she will set sail for America to swim across New York Harbour.

But Victorian women weren’t supposed to swim, and Daisy Belle will have to fight every stroke of the way if she wants her dreams to come true.

Inspired by the careers of Victorian champions Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, Daisy Belle is a story of courage and survival and a tribute to the swimmers of yesteryear.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to read and review Daisy Belle for the blog tour as it sounded like such a wonderful novel. I’m so happy to say that I adored every single minute that I spent reading this book and it more than lived up to my expectations!

Daisy Belle is the story of Daisy who from a very young age is fascinated by her father and older brother’s swimming ability and she wants to be a part of it all. She learns to swim at age four and is soon taking part in her father’s increasingly elaborate shows. Daisy wants to be the greatest female swimmer in the world but she gets drawn to performing and diving too – all the time widening her skills and abilities.

This novel is set in the mid to late 1800s and Daisy is constrained by the societal norms of the day but she constantly pushes at her boundaries. From being a young girl through to adulthood she doesn’t accept why she has to be treated differently to men. She does get treated really badly at times in the novel by some of the men in her life and that was hard to read. She also struggles against her mother who believes that Daisy should be home with her and doing more lady-like things such as sewing. I was really rooting for Daisy to pull through the difficult times and to be happy.

I loved Daisy, she is such a great character – so ambitious and feisty but also so human and likeable. I could identify with some of her drive where swimming was concerned as I was obsessed with swimming as a child so it made me feel nostalgic for the water.

Daisy gets to do so many amazing things in this book and I could really imagine it all; the novel actually played like a film in my head and I felt like I was right there with her. The writing is so evocative; I felt myself holding my breath during the mermaid show and I was cheering her on when she finally got to attempt to make an attempt at a record for a long swim.

I found this to be a really inspiring novel in so many ways. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I’ll be vague but something happens to Daisy later in the novel and I could really identify with her and how she felt. I’ve been through something similar and seeing her keep trying in spite of what happened was so brilliant to read. It’s a good reminder of how we should never just give in and accept what life throws at us but instead keep pushing at the boundaries, whatever they may be.

I absolutely recommend this book; it’s a book I adored so much and I know I will come back to it and read it again in the future. It’s so charming and inspiring, it feels like a book that everyone will love. Daisy Belle is a real contender for my book of the year!

Many thanks to Anne at #RandomThingsTours and the publisher for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Daisy Belle is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She spent 12 years in Botswana as a teacher and journalist and many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, including a memoir Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘candid and unsentimental’.
Her novels include The Ghost of Lily Painter, a fictional account of the arrest and execution of two Edwardian baby farmers, and Family Likeness about the fate of ‘war babies’ born to African American GI fathers in England during World War Two.
Her non-fiction books include Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath, a celebration of 200 years of outdoor bathing, an illustrated history of the world famous Camden Lock Market, and Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames.
Her latest non-fiction is Bad Girls, and her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the lives of several Victorian aquatic stars, to be published by Unbound on September 1, 2018.
She is also a teacher and journalist, and was a regular feature writer for The Independent’s education and careers supplement. From 2014-17 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.

Her website is http://www.caitlindavies.co.uk/

Twitter: @CaitlinDavies2

Daisy Belle Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DaisyBelleSwimmingChampionoftheWorld/

 

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

Daisy Belle Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Overkill by Vanda Symon @vandasymon @OrendaBooks #NewZealandNoir

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About the Book

When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.
Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.
To find the murderer … and clear her name.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for Overkill as it sounded like such an intriguing novel. I do love a crime novel with a great lead character investigating the crime and I’m so happy to say that I loved this book.

Overkill opens with one of the most shocking and devastating prologues that I think I’ve ever read. Gabby is home with her baby girl when a man calls round to supposedly repair the phone line. He very soon makes it clear that Gabby is not going to get out of this situation alive but if she co-operates he will spare her daughter. We then follow Constable Sam Shephard as she investigates what is at first believed to be Gabby’s suicide but suspicions are quickly aroused that she may have been murdered.

I had goosebumps reading the opening of this book and I knew it was going to be a novel that I wouldn’t be able to put down. This is the first novel that I’ve read in a really long time that made me feel proper fear and horror at the situation a character was in; it’s such great writing that can make you have such a reaction to words on a page. For all the brutality of the prologue I needed to keep reading because the beautiful writing had me hooked.  I ended up reading this book in two sittings (and the only reason it wasn’t one sitting was because somewhere around 1am I fell asleep with my kindle in my hand!).

I love Sam Shephard! She is such a great, feisty character – she is a local woman and everyone knows her and likes her but she has her flaws. She’s passionate about her job in the police and can’t let it go when she is sure of the lead she’s following. Her emotions get the better of her at times during this novel but I could always understand why she was upset or angry and so kept on rooting for her. I believe this book is the first in a series and so I’m already very keen to see what Sam does next! I feel like Sam Shepherd could be just the character to fill the Kinsey Millhone shaped hole in my life!

There is a great sense of place in this novel. I’ve never been to New Zealand but Overkill gives such a sense of the place and I could visualise all the locations in the book. There are some great characters in this book but also a real claustrophobic feel to how everyone knows each other and nothing seems to be private. The locals are quick to close ranks but there is a warmth among them too. The moments of humour really balance the darker aspects in this novel and I very much appreciated that. Life is full of dark and light and a book that captures that is a wonderful thing to find!

I had no idea whodunnit until Sam was on the killer’s trail, it felt all the way through the book like I was along with her as she tried to put all the pieces together. I love that it kept me in suspense with all its twists and turns, and the red herrings along the way. This is such a compelling and readable book.

Overkill is fast-paced, twisty and impossible to put down! I think this might be one of my favourite crime novels of the year and I’m sure it’s a book that will stay with me. I’ve definitely found a new favourite character in Sam! This is absolutely a five star read and I highly recommend it!

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

Overkill is out now in ebook and can be pre-ordered in paperback here.

 

About the Author

Vanda’s first novel Overkill, was written while juggling the demands of a 6 month old baby and a two year old. She suspects the prologue to Overkill was written in a state of sleep deprivation induced paranoia brought about by middle of the night feeds and imagining every awful thing that could possibly happen to her family. None of them ever did. Reading that prologue still makes her cry.

A little time has elapsed and the six-month old and two-year old are now teenagers. As well as trying to raise two wonderful human beings, she has added three more Detective Sam Shephard novels to the series and written the stand alone psychological thriller The Faceless.

As well as being a crime writer, she hosts a monthly radio show on Dunedin’s Otago Access Radio called Write On, where she interviews local writers, and catches the odd international super-star if they’re in town.

And just to prove that she is a tiger for punishment, she has recently completed a PhD at the University of Otago looking at the communication of science through crime fiction – the perfect subject for a science loving crime writer. She has an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy and enjoyed a career as a community pharmacist and palliative care pharmacist before concentrating on her writing career.

Vanda has been involved with the New Zealand Society of Authors for many years, having been chair of the Otago Southland Branch. She is currently the Otago Southland regional delegate on the NZSA Board. Vanda was also the Chair of Copyright Licensing New Zealand.

When she isn’t writing, Vanda can be found digging around in her garden in Dunedin, or on the business end of a fencing foil. She has fenced since high school and still competes in national and international competitions. As well as competing she coaches, and because she likes to get involved, boots and all, is the president of Fencing South and on the board of Fencing New Zealand.

Vanda is a founding member of the Dunedin Crime Writers Association, whose raison d’etre is for its members to drink beer or wine and talk crime writing at their favourite pub.

(Author bio taken from: VandaSymon.com)

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

Overkill Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: The Psychology of Time Travel by @KateMascarenhas @HoZ_Books

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About the Book

1967.

Four female scientists invent a time travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…

2017.

Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future – a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…

2018.

When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, that strong reek of sulphur. But when the inquest fails to find any answers, she is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

My thoughts

I was first drawn to the stunning cover of The Psychology of Time Travel, it has to be one of my favourite book covers of the year, and then I read the blurb and knew this was a book I had to read! I was then thrilled when the publisher offered me a copy of the book to review and I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

The Psychology of Time Travel is a novel told from the multiple perspectives of the women who are either time travellers or are somehow affected by the time travelling that is happening around them. I loved this book. It starts off with the four female pioneers of time travel in 1967 and then things spread out from there. There is a real mix of characters in these women and it’s possible to see in the early days traits that will come into play later on. The one who becomes obsessed, the narcissistic one, the one who just wants to travel through time. It’s a female led book and it explores all the different facets of personality, and how power, or perceived power, affects different people in different ways.

We see one of the pioneers suffer a breakdown, and then the look into how time travel might affect a person’s mental health. It’s disturbing to see how mental illness was dealt with in the 1960s but we do get a sense of things having improved in the treatment of people in the present day. In a much later time line of 2018 we see a young woman be treated for PTSD and that fascinated me. I’ve suffered with PTSD and one of my worst symptoms was absences. I would be in a room and time would pass with me having no concept of anything in reality – I would be back in the situation that caused the trauma; it could be an hour or so at times that I lost. It was very frightening. To read about Odette experiencing this alongside reading the stories of time travel was such a great juxtaposition and a real sense of how the two situations are possibly not that far apart.

The novel was much more moving than I was expecting too and I did shed a few tears whilst reading. The idea of being able to visit people in the past who are no longer alive in the present is incredibly moving. There is a phone call later in the book that had me sobbing because I knew it was coming but I hadn’t known how it would come, and I knew how the character was feeling because there have been moments in my life where I would have given just about anything for a call like that. The exploration of how death of loved ones is for those who can just time travel back and see their loved one again in an earlier time was really interesting. Some of the time travellers become quite blasé about the death of others but some find such comfort in knowing they can go back. There is real heart in these parts of the novel.

I adored the way this book kept on rewarding the reader; it circles around in time and things you see earlier from one side, you see later from another and suddenly the puzzle fits together. It’s so clever, incredible and wonderful! This is a novel that will make you think, it will make you question your morals; at times it is a little disturbing but mostly it’s just an utterly brilliant read!

This book is so different to anything that I’ve read in a really long time and it’s definitely going to be a firm favourite of mine; I know I will re-read it. It’s enthralling and beautiful and just absolute perfection! I feel sure that this will be on my best books of 2018 come the end of the year. I highly recommend this book!

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

The Psychology of Time Travel is out now and available here.

About the Author

Kate Mascarenhas is a writer of speculative fiction.

Born in 1980, she is of mixed heritage (white Irish father, brown British mother) and has family in Ireland and the Republic of Seychelles.

She studied English at Oxford and Applied Psychology at Derby. Her PhD, in literary studies and psychology, was completed at Worcester.

Over the years she has worked as an advertising copywriter, bookbinder, doll’s house maker, and social researcher. Currently she lives in the English midlands with her partner.

(Bio taken from: amheath.com)

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

Psychology of Time Travel- Use this banner

#BookReview: No Place Like Home by @RebeccaMuddiman @BloodhoundBook

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About the Book

What would you do if you came home to find someone in your house?
This is the predicament Polly Cooke faces when she returns to her new home.The first weeks in the house had been idyllic, but soon Jacob, a local man, is watching her.
What does he want and why is he so obsessed with Polly?
In a situation where nothing is what it seems, you might end up regretting letting some people in.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for No Place Like Home as I’ve loved Rebecca Muddiman’s previous novels and so was certain that I would love this one. I’m so happy to say that this was a great read and I was gripped!

No Place Like Home is the story of Polly who has recently moved in to her new home and she is so excited to have a place that is all hers where she can feel cosy and safe. She has quite a dull life working an office job and keeping herself to herself but she’s also coping with her mum being recently moved to a nursing home due to a stroke. She visits her regularly and finds the situation really stressful and tough. On top of this she soon notices that a man keeps standing outside her house and staring in at all hours of the day and she is increasingly annoyed and then unnerved by him. Polly isn’t sure how to handle the situation but then things begin to escalate and she has to do something!

This novel is so twisted! It starts off like I expected it to as we get to know Polly and see how her life is and how she deals with Jacob watching her but as the situation escalates the novel becomes increasingly thrilling. The way this novel goes back and forth in time really heightens the tension as we begin to form a picture of how Polly ended up with Jacob obsessively watching her. I became more and more unnerved as the book went on but I could not put it down! It drew me in and kept me reading until the small hours of the morning because it reached a point where I couldn’t sleep until I knew how this book was going to end.

This is a hard book to review because you’re best going into it not knowing much more than it says in the blurb so I’m keeping this vague on purpose. The main thing you need to know is that this is a brilliant psychological thriller that will keep you on your toes all the way through. It’s a novel that will have you wondering how far you, or someone you might know, would go for what they want! I highly recommend it!

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

No Place Like Home is out today and available here.

 

About the Author

Rebecca Muddiman is from Redcar and has lived there all her life except for time working in Holland where she lived on a canal boat, and in London, where she lived six feet away from Brixton prison. She has a very boring day job, a degree in Film and Media and an MA in Creative Writing. In 2010 she won a Northern Writers’ Time to Write Award and the Northern Crime Competition in 2012. She is the author of two previous novels: STOLEN and GONE. She lives with her boyfriend, Stephen, and dog, Cotton, in a semi-detached house which they have christened ‘Murder Cottage’.

 

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

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#BookReview: Old Baggage by Lisa Evans @LissaKEvans @DoubleDayUK

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About the Book

What do you do next, after you’ve changed the world?

It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade.

Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant. Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gave speeches, smashed windows and heckled Winston Churchill, and nothing – nothing – since then has had the same depth, the same excitement.

Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies. Giving the wooden club a thoughtful twirl, she is struck by an idea – but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection with Mattie’s militant past, one which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to receive a copy of Old Baggage from the publisher as it’s a book I’ve been so keen to read. I was sure it would be a novel that I’d love (and I did love it so much) but I didn’t expect it to speak to me in quite the way it did.

Old Baggage predominantly follows Mattie Simpkins who was prominent in the suffragette movement but now it’s 1928 and time has moved on. However, she still strongly feels that the fight for equality for women is far from over. She lives with her old friend Florrie (known as The Flea) and the two women are a wonderful balance to each other.

I adored this novel! I’m fascinated by the suffragettes so this was always going to be my kind of book but I found that it was the things below the surface in Mattie that really got to me. There are a few moments in the novel where this strong, forthright woman really has to rally herself to show strength. She’s a real believer in putting her best foot forward and not allowing herself to dwell on things. However, someone comes into her life that has ties to her past and she begins to flounder. I found myself caught up in Mattie’s emotions and thoughts as she tried to assimilate her new world.

Mattie sets up a group for girls where they can learn all sorts of skills in a fun way that will help them learn to be strong, intelligent and free-thinking women. She firmly believes in motivating the next generation of young woman to keep fighting for equality and her life really revolves around this. The first member of her new group is her teenage housemaid Ida, who is a great character. I really enjoyed reading more about her as the novel progressed. Eventually more girls join up but there is trouble brewing as a much more organised and regimented group begins to form; a group that is deeply unsettling for what it represents.

The title of this novel is so apt: Mattie is referred to as an ‘old baggage’ in the novel as she is no longer a young woman. She also carries a lot of old baggage from her suffragette days, and now from the things she’s learning about her brother. There is also the general old baggage of how society was and how it was changing to finally give all women the vote, and the beginnings of a more equal footing.

All in all this is a wonderful novel. I loved every minute that I spent reading it and think it’ll be a book that I re-read in the future. The characters are all so brilliantly written and felt like real people to me, I miss them now I’ve finished reading. This is one of those really special books that I never wanted to end because I was enjoying it so very much. If you haven’t already read this novel I highly recommend you pick up a copy soon, it really is a fabulous read!

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

Old Baggage is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Lissa Evans grew up in the West Midlands. She comes from a family of voracious readers and spent most of her adolescence in the local library, thus becoming well read if not wildly popular.

After studying medicine at Newcastle University, she worked as a junior doctor for four years, before deciding to change to a career in which she wasn’t terrified the entire time; a job in BBC Radio light entertainment followed, and then a switch to television, where she produced and directed series including ‘Room 101’ and also ‘Father Ted’, for which she won a BAFTA.

Her first book, ‘Spencer’s List’ was published in 2002, and since then she has written four more novels for adults (one of which, ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’, was filmed in 2017) and three novels for children. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She still reads voraciously.

#BookReview: Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly @PaulaDalyAuthor ‏@TransworldBooks #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Haven’t we all wanted to pretend everything is fine?

Jane doesn’t like confrontation. Given the choice, she’d prefer to focus on what’s going well, the good things in life.

But when her husband, Leon, is brutally attacked in the driveway of their home, in front of their two young children, Jane has to face reality. As he lies in a coma, Jane must open her eyes to the problems in her life, and the secrets that have been kept from her, if she’s to find out who hurt her husband – and why.

Maybe it’s time to face up to it all. Who knows what you might find . . .

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Paula Daly so I jumped at the chance to take part in this blog tour for her new novel, Open Your Eyes!

Open Your Eyes begins with Jane and her husband Leon bickering about having to go to his mother’s house on his birthday; one of those silly rows that we’ve all had at one point or another. Their neighbour, who they have a long-running mild dispute with, comes over to moan about something and Jane goes in the house to get the beer they’ve forgotten. What happens next is utterly shocking – something happens to Leon and this family’s world is turned upside down.

Jane suddenly finds herself having to pick up the pieces of what’s happened while also trying to keep her children’s routine as normal, but at the same time dealing with the aftermath and coping with the fear she’s left with. Some of her decisions were odd to me but I know how your mind is thrown into utter disarray when something so shocking happens to someone in your family.

I loved all the references to writing in this book. Leon is a successful traditionally published author while Jane is a writer who is still looking for a publishing deal. She feels a bit belittled by her husband’s success but is determined to keep going. There is an element of her feeling diminished as a writer due to her husband’s success and I felt like this spread out into other parts of their life together. This all plays such a brilliant and unexpected part in this novel and I loved that element of it. Jane isn’t a confident woman and she hates confrontations of any kind but as the novel goes on she finds her voice and her ability to face up to the situations grows.

There are so many people to suspect in this book so it keeps you on your toes as you’re reading. As the book progresses and Jane and the police dig deeper into Leon and his history there are more and more potential reasons for what happened to him and more people who may have wished him harm. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t work out what had happened and I loved that I was in suspense until all was revealed. This book has such a brilliant ending; it’s definitely one that I’ll remember!

I raced through Open Your Eyes; it’s a compulsive read that will keep you up at night thinking ‘just one more chapter…’ until you turn the final page at 2am because you will get so drawn on that you simply won’t be able to rest until you know whodunnit and whydunnit! I loved this book and I highly, highly recommend it!

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

Open Your Eyes is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Paula Daly is the critically acclaimed author of five novels. Her work has been sold in fifteen countries, shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year award, and her books are currently being developed for television. She was born in Lancashire and lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children, and whippet Skippy.

 

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

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#BookReview: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena @sharilapena @ThomasssHill

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About the Book

We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

 

My Thoughts

I love Shari Lapena’s writing so I was thrilled to be invited to take part in this blog tour for her brand new novel, An Unwanted Guest! And I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

An Unwanted Guest is such a thrilling read! It begins with various people arriving through a bad snowstorm to Mitchell’s Inn, a beautiful hotel in a very remote location. As the guests begin to settle in for a relaxing weekend away the weather really begins to close in. Then what appears to be a fatal accident occurs and suddenly the guests are trapped and there’s a killer among them!

I’m going to start by saying that I read this novel in one sitting over an afternoon during this glorious hot weather and the writing was so good that I could sense the snow and I could feel the icy cold weather emanating from the pages. I was gripped from the beginning and got completely lost in the book. It really took me back to my early teenage years when I devoured Agatha Christie’s novels, usually reading one in an afternoon curled up in a corner hoping not to be disturbed by anyone.

An Unwanted Guest is an Agatha Christie-type locked room (or hotel in this case) mystery and it is so well done. From the minute the guests drove up to the Inn I was mulling over their character and wondering who was going to be in peril and who the killer might be. I did think I’d worked out who the killer was and although I was on the right lines I was never absolutely sure who it was and I didn’t see the ending coming at all!

This is such a compelling and gripping thriller; to have such a confined setting and a small group of characters but still to keep the excitement and the reader guessing all the way through is no mean feat. The tension builds from the start and as the book progresses I found myself increasingly on the edge of my seat wondering if anyone was going to get out of the situation alive!

An Unwanted Guest is so gripping, thrilling and completely unputdownable: I loved it so much! I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago now and I still keep thinking of it, I think it’s going to be hard to be beat for one of my favourite reads of the year come December!

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

An Unwanted Guest is out now in ebook and hardback and available here.

 

About the Author

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House, has been a Sunday Times and New York Timesbestseller. Her third book, An Unwanted Guest, is out in 2018.

 

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

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#BookReview: Do No Harm by L. V. Hay @LucyVHayAuthor @OrendaBooks

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About the Book

Till death do us part…

After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong…
Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives…

 

My Thoughts

I read Lucy Hay’s previous thriller, The Other Twin, last year and loved it (you can read my review here if you’d like to) so I was excited to be invited to read Do No Harm for the blog tour and immediately said yes!

This book is so gripping! I picked it up and it grabbed me from the start. It starts with Lily’s wedding day; she’s marrying Sebastian who seems to be a lovely man and the total opposite to Lily’s ex-husband Maxwell. There is a sense from the start that there is someone around the couple who has horrible intentions but you don’t know who or why. The obvious suspect to begin with is Maxwell but the book takes you on such a twisty journey and you’ll be constantly re-assessing who you suspect and who you can trust!

The chapters alternate between Lily and Sebastian’s perspectives, and in between there are short sections from someone who seems to have malicious intentions but creepily we don’t know who it is. This is such a great way of building tension and it had me suspecting nearly everyone in this novel and my thoughts on who was doing all the horrible stuff to Lily and Sebastian changed so many times. Ultimately, I did stick with suspecting one person and I was right but I didn’t work out how or why they did what they did. I’m sure I only worked it out in the end because a long time ago I had someone in my life who did something that this person did so my gut was screaming at me that the character was not to be trusted.

This book is a really compelling read. It’s such a great psychological thriller but it’s also such a well-written and well-researched book about the lengths and the ways that people will go to to manipulate and harm others. It’s very prescient with the gaslighting; the making people doubt their own thoughts and memories of things, and it gave me chills at times. The tension builds and builds as the novel progresses and at one point I was literally on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen!

Lucy Hay is a brilliant writer; The Other Twin was the first novel I read by her and it was so good but Do No Harm is even better so I’m already excited to see what Lucy writes next! Do No Harm is a sophisticated, disturbing and an utterly unputdownable psychological thriller! I urge you to grab a copy and read it right away!

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

Do No Harm is out now and available in ebook and paperback here.

 

About the Author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama ScreenplaysShe lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.

 

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

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The Things We Thought We Knew by @MahsudaSnaith @ThomasssHill

Today on my blog I’m very excited to share the brand new cover for the ebook of The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith! I read this novel last year and it has really stayed with me. It is one of those rare books that is on my shelf of books that I want to re-read in the coming months and I’m sure I will read it time and again in the years to come. If you haven’t already read it, I urge you to grab a copy and read it soon!

So without further ado, here is the gorgeous new ebook cover…

The Things We Thought We Knew - eBook Cover

To give you a better insight into how much I loved The Things We Thought We Knew, here is my review from last year:

My Thoughts

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of The Things We Thought We Knew for a little while now so I was thrilled when the publisher offered me an ARC to review recently. I’m so happy to say that this book was even more incredible than I was hoping it would be and I loved every minute that I was reading it.

I initially wanted to read The Things We Thought We Knew because I was fascinated to read a novel where the main character suffers from chronic pain, as it’s not something that is often found in novels. Mahsuda Snaith examines, in such a sensitive way, the complexities of pain – the way that pain can be physical and very real, and yet have roots to it that are emotional. I suffer with severe pain due to my spinal cord injury so am really drawn to books that explore pain in any way. In this book the character does recover early in the story but it’s the exploration of the reasons for her pain that moved me deeply. It takes a gentle hand to explore this without patronising people, like me, whose pain is unlikely to ever be better, and I really admire that in this book. Ravine ends up pretending about her physical pain but because I could see the other pain she was in I genuinely always felt sympathy for her – the physical pain that was real at one stage in her life became the only way she could block out the pain of her friend being gone.

‘There isn’t a constellation for pain, but if there were it would sweep over half the sky and be connected by a hundred stars.’

I was immediately drawn into the intrigue as to where Ravine’s best friend Marianne had gone. The novel opens in the present day and Marianne and her family have been gone from next door for a long time. Yet Ravine is in a state of limbo wondering where her best friend has gone. The picture of the childhood friendship of these two girls is gradually built up and I very much enjoyed reading this part of the book. It’s heartbreaking knowing that something pulled the two girls apart – the mystery of this had me hooked but it was more the way Ravine wrote about Marianne, a friend she clearly adored. These two girls had such a bond and Ravine lost herself when Marianne went away, and this affected me so deeply. This quote actually made me cry, it’s so poignant:

‘Even as a child I knew my life was rooted in yours. How am I meant to carry on when the roots have been pulled out?’

This is a coming-of-age novel about finding your place in the world, and about coming to an understanding of why people are the way they are. I really enjoyed reading about Ravine’s childhood as an asian girl growing up on a council estate in Leicester. The way it’s a multi-cultural city and yet a child can still stand out as being different because of the way her family express their beliefs, for Ravine it’s the way her mother dresses, and the way she has her dress. Ravine compares herself in childhood to her best friend Marianne, whose family is also asian but they dress in jeans and t-shirts and so fit in better. There are many memorable characters who live near Ravine, who are all so richly-drawn – even the ones we only hear about, such as the old lady across the landing from Ravine’s family. There is a real sense that everyone has their own problems to deal with and gradually through the book we get to see this. Ravine as a child, and then as a teenager stuck in her bedroom, doesn’t get to see the subtitles of why people are the way they are but we, the reader, really see the pain in what some people have to live through.

Ultimately though, this is a novel about memories; it’s a look at how we can, through no fault of our own, remember things differently than they were; it’s a look at how sometimes we choose to delude ourselves because the truth is just too painful to bear. It’s a novel about how we  protect ourselves from the most painful parts of life, it’s about how we survive when the worst thing we can imagine happens. It’s also a look at whether redemption ever comes, whether someone should suffer for what they’re perceived to have done or whether the pain they feel inside is enough punishment. Ravine’s pain is very, very real – some of it is physical and some of it emotional but all of it is real and she has spent a more than half of her life hurting. I was rooting for Ravine all the way through this novel, and she’s someone I absolutely won’t forget any time soon.

‘Memories pretend to leave you but they’re always there. Always ready to catch you off guard, to remind you that life is never as simple as what you happen to be dealing with at the time.

There is always the past, waiting to pounce.’

This novel is stunningly beautiful for so many reasons – the gorgeous writing and the wonderful turns of phrase, the brilliant and complex characters, and for the most heartbreaking descriptions of pain, in all its forms, that I’ve read in a long time. Very occasionally, if you’re really lucky, a book will come into your life at exactly the right moment and it will break your heart but then it will mend it again and make you feel so much better; this is that book for me. I am sure that this novel will be in my top books for this year, it’s definitely one I will remember and think about for a long time to come.

The Things We Thought We Knew is out now and I highly recommend you grab a copy as soon as you can!

The Things We Thought We Knew is out now and available here!

#BookReview: The Afterlife of Walter Augustus by Hannah M. Lynn @HMLynnauthor #WalterandLetty

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About the book

Walter Augustus is dead. His current state of existence has become a monotony of sweet tea and lonely strolls and after decades stuck in the Interim — a posthumous waiting room for those still remembered on Earth — he is ready to move on. Only when he is forgotten by every living person will he be able to pass over and join his family in the next stage of the afterlife. At last the end is tantalizingly close, but bad luck and a few rash decisions may see him trapped in the Interim for all eternity.

Letty Ferguson is not dead. Letty Ferguson is a middle-aged shoe saleswoman who leads a pleasant and wholly unextraordinary life, barring the secret fortune she seems unable to tell her husband about. However, when she takes possession of an unassuming poetry anthology, life takes on a rather more extraordinary dimension.

 

My Thoughts

Today I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Hannah Lynn’s The Afterlife of Walter Augustus.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Afterlife of Walter Augustus as it sounded like a book that is different to my usual reads. I’m so happy that I got the chance to read it though because I adored it.

The Afterlife of Walter Augustus follows two characters – Walter and Letty. Walter died a long, long time ago but he’s stuck in the interim part of the afterlife, which is where the deceased stay for as long as someone on earth remembers them. Walter just wants to be forgotten so that he can move on to the afterlife to be with his wife again. Letty is very much alive. She works hard, and lives a frugal existence with her husband. Letty is keeping a big secret though, and on top of that she one day acquires a poetry collection and this leads to her becoming a problem for Walter.

This book is wonderful: it had moments that made me smile and moments that took my breath away. There is a part of this book where two people meet in the athenaeum and I had to put the book down because I was crying so much. They were cathartic tears though. I really loved Hannah’s take on the interim afterlife and what it might be like for people who have passed on. I waiver on what I believe but I’d never really considered an interim and it really made me think. I often think of my lovely mum, and sometimes I can smell her perfume and for a brief moment it’s as if she is right there. It was weird to contemplate the idea of someone being stuck somewhere because they are remembered on earth but as I got further into the novel and met other characters I got great comfort from that. Walter is almost the exception in the interim – he is remembered many, many years after death because of a quirk of fate that made him a published author in his lifetime.

The Afterlife of Walter Augustus is a perfect blend of beautifully moving and very amusing. It is witty and charming, and a wonderfully heartwarming read. I highly recommend this book; it’s a five star read!

The Afterlife of Walter Augustus is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Hannah Lynn was born in 1984 and grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction. Her first novel, Amendments, was published in 2015, her latest novel, The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, is out July 2018. Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

You can find Hannah on the following platforms:

Twitter: @HMLynnauthor

Facebook: HannahLynnAuthor

Goodreads: Hannah_M_Lynn

 

Hannah Lynn is running a fabulous giveaway at the moment (until 31st July) where you can enter to win a Kindle Paperweight and a copy of The Afterlife of Walter Augustus! Find the giveaway here!

 

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

 

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#BookReview: A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward @sarahward1 @FaberBooks #APatientFury

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About the Book

When Detective Constable Connie Childs is dragged from her bed to the fire-wrecked property on Cross Farm Lane she knows as she steps from the car that this house contains death.

Three bodies discovered – a family obliterated – their deaths all seem to point to one conclusion: One mother, one murderer.

But D.C. Childs, determined as ever to discover the truth behind the tragedy, realises it is the fourth body – the one they cannot find – that holds the key to the mystery at Cross Farm Lane.

What Connie Childs fails to spot is that her determination to unmask the real murderer might cost her more than her health – this time she could lose the thing she cares about most: her career.

 

My Thoughts

I read and loved the first book in the DC Connie Childs series when it was first published and knew it would be a series I continued with. A Patient Fury is the third book in the series and I found it near impossible to put down once I started reading.

A Patient Fury begins a few months after the events of A Deadly Thaw with Connie back at work and a sense of the team being a little disjointed as the dust settles. I have read all three books in the series and would recommend doing the same but A Patient Fury could be read as a standalone as the main story is self-contained within the novel. In this book the team are called to a suspicious house fire where three people, Peter Winson, his wife Francesca and young son Charlie have died. The novel is predominantly told from Connie’s perspective but we do also get chapters from Julia, the adult daughter of the Peter. It also covers the present day and there are a few chapters from the past set around a mysterious disappearance.

I love Sarah Ward’s writing. I suspected who was behind the fire very early on but then there are twists and turns throughout the novel and I kept questioning myself. I felt like I was along with Connie as she doubted the working assumptions in the investigation that were made by the rest of the team. The main suspect in the story where the police are concerned made for an interesting story, but it was Connie’s suspicion that I was believing in. She isn’t convinced that it’s a murder suicide and thinks that someone else is involved but it’s proving it that is the problem. I was willing her on not to give up it because I was sure she was on to something but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it either. I loved the way I felt so involved in the novel, it’s a brilliant writer that can do that to this degree.

I really enjoyed seeing the development of Connie’s character in A Patient Fury, and to see how what she’s been through has affected her. It really does enhance the reading of the novel to know her back story and to be rooting for her. She’s a flawed character but she is so fiercely determined that you can’t help but be on her side.

The title of this novel is so perfect and fitting; the way the secrets and lies are uncovered as the plot moves along and we see how people are reacting in the present day – the undercurrent of bitterness and anger which all builds and builds somewhat patiently to fury.

A Patient Fury has quite a few red herrings, and just when you think you have the case solved, there is a reveal that has you questioning yet again in the most brilliant way. Each twist in this book is believable, and  the novel just builds and builds to the brilliantly chilling ending. I finished reading this book a week ago and I still keep thinking about it. I highly recommend this novel (and the series as a whole!).

My thanks to Emma Welton of damppebbles tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

A Patient Fury is out now and available in paperback and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

Sarah Ward

Sarah Ward is the author of three DC Childs novels, In Bitter Chill, A Deadly Thaw and A Patient Fury set in the Derbyshire Peak District where she lives. The fourth in the series, The Shrouded Path, is out in September. On her website, Crimepieces (www.crimepieces.com), she reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Sarah was a 2015 Amazon Rising Star and A Patient Fury was The Observer’s Thriller of the Month in 2017.

Find Sarah on the following links:

Twitter:https://twitter.com/sarahrward1

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

Sign up to Sarah’s newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bHNGHX

 

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

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#BookReview: The Break by Marian Keyes @MichaelJBooks @MarianKeyes #TheBreak

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About the Book

Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . . However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . .

 

My Thoughts

I love Marian Keyes – she’s always my go to author when I need a book that I know I’m going to get completely engrossed in. I’m so happy to say that The Break lived up to my hopes for it.

I’ll admit that it took me a couple of attempts to get into this book. The first time I picked it up I just wasn’t feeling it and I ended up putting it down. However, I picked it up again a few weeks later and found myself completely swept away by the story and the characters. I ended up really, really loving this novel and am so glad that I gave it another chance.

Marian Keyes is so good at exploring what makes people tick, and for always writing well-rounded, believable characters. I love the way I started off thinking Hugh was completely selfish and that Amy should have just told him that if he wanted to go then he should go and not come back. Over the course of the novel though we get to see more of Amy’s back story, and also come to see how the death of Hugh’s father has impacted him and it comes to feel really balanced. These two characters felt very real to me and I was curious to see whether their marriage would survive everything that had happened, not just while they were on a break but all of the things they’d faced in the years since they first got together.

Amy is feisty, and the part of her that feels downtrodden at times gets through because of her rise-above attitude. I felt that I could identify with a lot of her traits and was willing her on throughout the novel to grasp what made her happy. As the novel progressed I came to understand Hugh too, I don’t condone his running away and having a break from his marriage but I know how intense grief can make you feel the need to completely re-evaluate your life, and to explore what happiness is and whether the life you’re living is the best life you could have.

The issues of separation, and grief are dealt with so sensitively but also with the characteristic humour that you expect from Marian Keyes. She captures the reality of life so brilliantly. The Break was an emotional read at times, and I did shed a few tears but ultimately it’s a wonderful exploration of relationships in all their forms and I adored it! I highly recommend this book!

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

The Break is out now

 

About the Author

Marian Keyes’ international bestselling novels include Rachel’s Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story, Anybody Out There?, This Charming Man, The Brightest Star in the Sky, The Mystery of Mercy Close and The Woman Who Stole My Life. Two collections of her journalism, Under the Duvet and Further Under the Duvet, are also available from Penguin. Marian lives in Dublin with her husband

#BookReview: Friend Request by Laura Marshall @laurajm8 @LittleBrownUK

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

About the Book

Maria wants to be friends.
But Maria is dead . . . isn’t she?

When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past, her heart nearly stops.

Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.

Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty-five years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life with a terrible secret.

As Maria’s messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress. Trying to piece together exactly what happened that night, she soon discovers there’s much she didn’t know. The only certainty is that Maria Weston disappeared that night, never to be heard from again – until now. . .

 

My Thoughts

As soon as read the premise for Friend Request I knew it was one I had to get my hands on as soon as possible. It sounded so creepy and intriguing, and I’m pleased to say that I very much enjoyed reading it.

This is very a prescient novel with the way social media plays such a huge part in our lives now and it’s so easy to see a new friend request and because we recognise the name and profile photo we believe it’s who we’re told it is because how would we know otherwise? Louise gets a shock when she gets a friend request from an old school friend, who has been missing for twenty five years but she feels compelled to accept it and to find out what is going on. This really unnerved me because a few years ago I got a friend request from a boy I’d known at school, the photo was of him as a teenager and the name was correct… except I knew it couldn’t be genuine because my mum still lived in the town I’d grown up in and she knew he’d been tragically killed in an accident soon after we left school. It was very creepy. Obviously I reported the profile and it was eventually removed but it did make me wonder how many people, perhaps people who no longer had connections to our home town, would have been taken in by the profile. So it felt totally believable to me that Louise would want to know more about her old friend.

Friend Request is told in a dual timeline: one strand is the present day where Louise is increasingly unsettled by strange happenings and also dealing with messages supposedly from Maria. The other strand is back in 1989 and leads up to what happened to Maria’s disappearance. I loved how the picture of events was gradually built up and found this novel near impossible to put down as the tension ramped up.

A school reunion is organised and Louise feels compelled to attend, and this is the part of the novel where we also get the leaving party from 1989 so all the main people in the novel are at these parties across the years and I loved how it was all played out. It gave a sense of past and present being overlapped and you get a real sense of who these people were as teenagers and how quickly people can revert to those personality traits in stressful situations. By this point I didn’t trust anyone, and I wasn’t even sure Louise was telling the whole truth so I was on the edge of my seat reading it.

I read this book as I was trying to get out of a bit of a reading slump and it definitely got me out of it because I just didn’t want to put this book down until I knew what was going on. I read in two sittings and immediately recommended it to a friend who was looking for an unputdownable novel.

I recommend Friend Request, it’s a fast-paced novel that will keep you questioning who you can trust right through to the end!

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

Friend Request is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Laura Marshall grew up in Wiltshire and studied English at the University of Sussex.

In 2015 she decided it was time to fulfil a lifetime’s ambition to write a novel, and enrolled on the Curtis Brown Creative three month novel writing course.

Her first novel, Friend Request, was runner-up in the Bath Novel Award 2016 and shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2016. Friend Request was published by Little, Brown in the UK in 2017 and became a number one Kindle bestseller.

Laura lives in Kent with her husband and two children.

#BookReview: Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh @SSCav @OrionBooks @Orion_Crime #ThatBookThatHook

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About the Book

THE SERIAL KILLER ISN’T ON TRIAL.

HE’S ON THE JURY…

‘To your knowledge, is there anything that would preclude you from serving on this jury?’

Murder wasn’t the hard part. It was just the start of the game.

Joshua Kane has been preparing for this moment his whole life. He’s done it before. But this is the big one.

This is the murder trial of the century. And Kane has killed to get the best seat in the house.

But there’s someone on his tail. Someone who suspects that the killer isn’t the man on trial.

Kane knows time is running out – he just needs to get to the conviction without being discovered.

 

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist clicking to request Thirteen on NetGalley recently when the publisher offered it for just thirteen hours, and I was thrilled when I was approved. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages! I defy anyone not to be drawn to a book with the tagline this book has!

Eddie Flynn is called in to be second chair on a murder case. The accused is Hollywood movie star Robert Solomon, and the victims are his wife, also a huge star, and his security guard. There is so much more going on in this novel though when we find out there is a serial killer involved and he is on the jury!

This is such a fantastic premise for a novel and the idea that the killer is on the jury is so different and I couldn’t wait to start reading this book.

This is the first book I’ve read by Steve Cavanagh and I didn’t realise when I downloaded it that it was part of a series. It works fine as a standalone though, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. The book was so good though that I’ve already bought the previous books and I can’t wait to read them all!

Thirteen is such a fast-paced and engrossing novel; it’s one of those books that made me begrudge real life interfering with my reading time! The book alternates between the defence lawyer Eddie Flynn and the serial killer Joshua Kane, which is brilliant and really makes the tension ratchet up at quite a pace. It was fascinating to see the cat and mouse game play out as we see things through each of their perspectives and wonder who will come out on top. The end when it came was so good and so satisfying, it’s definitely a book that will stay with me!

I feel sure that Thirteen will be in my top books of 2018, it’s so different from anything else I’ve read in this genre and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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

Thirteen is out now in ebook and paperback available here.

 

About the Author

Steve Cavanagh is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and lawyer. He is also one half of the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. His latest novel, Thirteen, is out in ebook now and paperback in June.

#BookReview: The Date by Louise Jensen @Fab_Fiction @Bookouture

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About the Book

One night can change everything.

‘I know it as soon as I wake up and open my eyes… Something is wrong.’

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future. By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her.

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her. She can’t recognise her friends and family. And she can’t recognise the person who is trying to destroy her…

 

My thoughts

I’m a massive fan of Louise Jensen’s writing and always eagerly anticipate a new novel from her. I have to say that The Date is her best yet, I literally didn’t put it down once from start to finish!

The premise for The Date is utterly terrifying! Ali has been out on a date with a man she met on a dating site and the next morning she wakes up with her head bleeding, very little memory of what happened the previous night and when she looks in the mirror she no longer recognises her own face!

I had heard of face blindness before but rather ignorantly thought it was a condition where people found it difficult to remember faces of people they knew. I had no idea that it could be as serious as in Ali’s situation where she literally doesn’t recognise anyone – not herself, not her loved ones and not even actors in her favourite TV show. It sent chills down my spine to think of it and from this point on I couldn’t help but imagine how Ali must feel, and her fear got under my skin. I can’t remember the last time a novel made me as on edge as this one did!

Ali carries guilt from things that have happened in the past and this impedes her in making good decisions at times. I felt a real connection to her as the past was revealed – there is one part that actually made me cry. I had such empathy for her in that moment and it meant that I was rooting for her all the more as the novel went on.

As the book progresses we get the sense that something really terrible has happened and that Ali could be in danger but, like Ali, I found it difficult to piece it all together. I got swept along in her reasoning and felt like she was probably on the right track at times but then something else would happen and I would doubt myself again. I only partly worked out how it would end but mostly it shocked me, I wasn’t expecting it. The last page of this book gave me goosebumps and I felt glad I wasn’t home alone!

The Date is gripping, unnerving and an unputdownable read! I literally read it in one sitting as I just couldn’t put the book down until I knew how it was going to end!

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

The Date is due to be published in ebook on 21st June and is available here.

 

About the Author

louise-jensen

Louise Jensen is the Global No.1 Bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift & The Surrogate.

To date Louise has sold approaching a million books and her novels have been sold for translation to nineteen territories, as well as being featured on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List.

Louise was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers.

#BookReview: Knowing the Score by Judy Murray @EmmaFinnigan #KnowingTheScore

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About the Book

What happens when you find you have exceptional children?
Do you panic? Put your head in the sand? Or risk everything and jump in head first?

As mother to tennis champions Jamie and Andy Murray, Scottish National Coach, coach of the Fed Cup, and general all-round can-do woman of wonder, Judy Murray is the ultimate role model for believing in yourself and reaching out to ambition. As a parent, coach, leader, she is an inspiration who has revolutionised British tennis.

From the soggy community courts of Dunblane to the white heat of Centre Court at Wimbledon, Judy Murray’s extraordinary memoir charts the challenges she has faced, from desperate finances and growing pains to entrenched sexism.

We all need a story of ‘yes we can’ to make us believe great things are possible. This is that story.

 

My Thoughts

I was thrilled to be sent a copy of Knowing the Score as I’m a big tennis fan.

It’s always been apparent to me that the Murrays are a close family and that Judy is her sons’ greatest supporter. It’s seemed unfair to me over the years how she is perceived in the media as being pushy but until I read this book I had no idea how awfully she had been treated or how difficult it has been for her at times.

Murray has faced the sexism of being in a mainly male-dominated arena and has pushed through to succeed. She has made sure all the way through her career that she promotes other women and encourages girls to take up sport. I loved this aspect of the book, the way she carried on reaching for her goals even when she felt intimidated and when another door had been firmly slammed in her face. I wish it was more well known how much she has done for the tennis world, especially in how passionately she has worked at bringing more young girls into the sport. It was fascinating to learn about her own career as a tennis player, and to find out about the positions she’s held in the tennis world since then. She really is an incredible woman.

You get to see Judy Murray as a fully rounded person in this book. She openly shares the terror she felt on the day of the shootings in Dunblane, the emotions are tangible even all these years later. You get to see the love and pride she has for her two sons, and how she literally spent every penny she had, and then some, in order to help them strive for the goals they were setting themselves in the tennis world. Far from being a pushy mum, she has just always wanted to encourage them in the things they are passionate about. I also really enjoyed reading how she felt about being on Strictly and how much fun she had on that show.

I’m thrilled that Judy Murray has been able to share her story in her own words. She is an incredible woman who has fought for her two sons to have the careers that they wanted, alongside her own career as a brilliant tennis coach and mentor. She has made a point of bringing young coaches and players up with her; she has encouraged and inspired so many people within the industry.

I knew I was going to enjoy this book before I even started reading it but I wasn’t expecting to get so completely absorbed in it. This is a book that I will be keeping hold of as I’m sure I’ll want to re-read it in the future.

Knowing the Score is a must-read for all tennis fans, but for everyone else as well. If you love books about people who push to succeed, who empower and inspire others then this is the book for you. This is an inspirational, fascinating and very enjoyable read – I highly recommend it!

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

Knowing the Score by Judy Murray with Alexandra Helmsley is out now and available here.

 

#BookReview: The Fear by C. L. Taylor @callytaylor @AvonBooksUK #TheFear

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About the Book

Sometimes your first love won’t let you go…

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

My Thoughts

I am a huge fan of C. L Taylor’s novels; they’ve all been such brilliant reads but I have to start this review by saying The Fear is her best yet!

The Fear is the story of Lou who was groomed and kidnapped by a paedophile when she was 14 years old. It’s now 18 years later and Lou is still affected what happened to her; this is brought to the fore when she was to move back to her hometown to clear out the home of her late father. Lou finds out that Mike is now preying on another young teenage girl and she feels she must do something about it.

The Fear is a very prescient novel as it looks at young girls being groomed by a predatory man, and really makes you think about the fine line between protecting yourself and taking revenge. I loved the way this book made me think as well as being such a gripping thriller.

I picked this book up after having a few days where nothing was holding my attention and I felt I was heading for another reading slump but The Fear grabbed me from page one and I literally didn’t put it down until I’d finished it! There is a real undertone of menace in this book, it always felt like something awful was going to happen and it was tense waiting to see what that thing might be.

I found Lou to be a really intriguing character, and I hoped she would find some peace by the end of the novel. I know personally how the damage from your teenage years can be something that holds you back in some aspects of life until you’ve dealt with it. She is quite clearly damaged and this holds her back from forming relationships – both platonically and romantically. It was also interesting to see Mike’s wife’s perspective as the novel went along. I found her deeply unsympathetic and unlikeable for the attitude she held but I came to understand her thought process, and to see her grow too. By the end of the novel I felt like I’d come to know her and I had much more sympathy for her.

Some of the reveals in this book were things I’d guessed and others had me gobsmacked! I loved the way there were two parts to the ending of the novel: the first was satisfying and the second was a real shock! The novel is tied up perfectly though. It takes a great novel for me not to work out how it’s all going to end so it’s high praise for The Fear that it had me stunned as I read the final pages!

I highly recommend The Fear; it’s fast-paced, full of tension and it will keep you hooked until after you’ve turned the final page!

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

The Fear is out now and available here.

About the Author

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C.L. Taylor is the Sunday Times bestselling author of five gripping stand-alone psychological thrillers: THE ACCIDENT, THE LIE, THE MISSING, THE ESCAPE and THE FEAR. Her books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 20 languages. THE ESCAPE won the Dead Good Books ‘Hidden Depths’ award for the Most Unreliable Narrator.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014.

She started writing short stories in 2005 and was published widely in literary and women’s magazines. She also won several short story competitions. In 2009 and 2011 her romantic comedy novels (as Cally Taylor) were published by Orion and translated into fourteen languages. HEAVEN CAN WAIT was a bestseller in Hungary and China and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a feature film by JumpStart Productions. Whilst on maternity leave with her son Cally had an idea for a psychological thriller and turned to crime. She has also written a Young Adult thriller, THE TREATMENT, published by HarperCollins HQ.

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.

(Author bio taken from: cltaylorauthor.com)

#BookReview: Let Me Be Like Water by S. K. Perry @_sarah_perry @melvillehouse

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About the Book

Holly moved to Brighton to escape her grief over the death of her boyfriend, Sam. But now she is here, sitting on a bench, listening to the sea sway… what is supposed to happen next?

The solitude she had so craved leaves her feeling wrecked. Stranded. But after she meets Frank, the tide begins to shift. Frank, a retired magician who has experienced his own loss but manages to be there for everyone else. Gradually, as he introduces Holly to a circle of new friends, young and old, all with their own stories of love and grief to share, she begins to learn to live again.

 

My Thoughts

This book… oh, this book! I’m going to say right now that my words in this review can’t do justice to this book but I’ll do my very best…

Let Me Be Like Water is a beautiful and moving novel about a young woman, Holly, who moves to Brighton after her boyfriend’s death. She is clearly struggling and lost but then she meets Frank, an older man who is full of magic; he takes Holly under his wing and introduces her into his circle of friends.

I love the way the novel is told in vignettes and they alternate between the present and the past. In one moment we’re seeing Holly’s memories of her life with Sam, and then we see how she is now and what is happening in her life.

The parts of this book about Holly’s relationship with Sam leading up to what happened were heartbreakingly moving. How one moment we get to see their sheer joy and happiness, and another we see Holly’s utter heartbreak and pain. It reminded me of After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell in the way a single sentence has the power to take your breath away, or to make you stop reading for a minute because you can’t see through your tears. In my experience it’s rare to find a novel that really shows how grief is in all it’s visceral rawness, and without it ever being mawkish but Let Me Be Like Water really does get it.

‘What I want to know, Sam, is will I ever run out of things I wish I could tell you? Things that sit in my fingertips that you’ll never get to read there. What about the things you know would make me laugh? Are they really just gone?’

I really appreciated how this book follows the seasons, starting in Autumn, and takes the reader through the journey of grief: from those initial weeks when you can barely function to the point when you start to feel human again but are missing your loved one so much that it hurts. There is such delicacy in the way this novel is written, and such power in that delicacy.

‘I’m starting to miss you in a new way that feels like I’m being ripped into little pieces and hurled hard in your direction, only for the wind to pick up all the bits of me and fling them the opposite way.’

The sea is a character in its own right in this novel; the ebb and flow of the tides, the fierceness and the calm, mimics grief in many ways. Holly is drawn to the sea as she tries to work through her pain, and attempts to find a way to live without Sam. Sometimes she wants to curl up inside the sea, other times she throws stones and shouts but the sea is that permanent thing that is always there. A bit like grief: you learn to live without someone but you never stop missing them.

There is a real warmth and heart in this book too. Each of the people that Holly gets to know in Brighton is wonderful, they’re all unique and each of them helps to hold Holly up, as she helps them too. This side of the novel really felt so soothing and healing; to see that Holly was grieving but still accepted and loved by her new friends was wonderful. I especially adored Frank. I loved his magic tricks, but also how his very being seemed magical. He had had his share of pain in life and managed to channel it into reaching out to others who need someone.

‘I often see people sitting in their cars just watching the water,’ Frank said. ‘It makes me want to climb in there with them. I’m sure most of them are fine, but I always wonder if they’re sitting there because they’ve got no one to be outside with. I don’t think people should be alone by the sea’.

There is so much of life in this book. We see honest explorations of relationships, and of the things that make each of us human, each of the characters’ pain and insecurities. There are amusing moments, alongside the sadness, and we see the full spectrum of life in all it’s idiosyncrasies. Perry really does capture how life is in this novel. Let Me Be Like Water leaves the reader with some hope but it doesn’t magically fix everyone’s problems, and I adored it even more for that.

This novel broke my heart, but it also gave me joy: It’s a very poignant novel, and it was cathartic to read. It is so beautifully written that I read it all in one go, even as I had tears streaming down my face. The writing is poetic and stunning; I really don’t have the words to explain how much I adored this novel. This is my favourite book of the year so far and, to be honest, I don’t think anything will knock it from the top spot. Let Me Be Like Water has taken a piece of my heart; it is absolutely a five star read for me and I simply don’t have enough superlatives to describe it! Just go buy it and read it, you honestly won’t regret it!

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

Let Me Be Like Water is out now and available in hardback and ebook here!

 

About the Author

SK Perry © Naomi Woddis copy

S. K. Perry is a fiction writer and poet from Croydon.  In 2013 she was long-listed for London’s Young Poet Laureate and was Cityread Young Writer in Residence in Soho in 2014. Her writing has taken her all around the world leading creative writing workshops that develop emotional literacy, and explore mental health, memory, and healing from violence. She qualified on the Spoken Word Education Programme in 2015 with a distinction in the Goldsmiths Writer/Teacher MA, and is involved in mentoring young poets’ collectives in Hackney, Glasgow, and Tegucigalpa. She lives in London

Her first novel, Let Me Be Like Water, was shortlisted for the Mslexia Award and will be published by Melville House.

(Author bio taken from here)

 

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#BookReview: Tubing by K. A. McKeagney @RedDoorBooks @kamckeagney

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About the Book

Polly, 28, lives in London with her ‘perfect-on-paper’ boyfriend. She works a dead end job on a free London paper… life as she knows it is dull. But her banal existence is turned upside down late one drunken night on her way home, after a chance encounter with a man on a packed tube train. The chemistry between them is electric and on impulse, they kiss, giving in to their carnal desires. But it’s over in an instant, and Polly is left shell-shocked as he walks away without even telling her his name.

Now obsessed with this beautiful stranger, Polly begins a frantic online search, and finally discovers more about tubing , an underground phenomenon in which total strangers set up illicit, silent, sexual meetings on busy commuter tube trains. In the process, she manages to track him down and he slowly lures her into his murky world, setting up encounters with different men via Twitter.

At first she thinks she can keep it separate from the rest of her life, but things soon spiral out of control.

By chance she spots him on a packed tube train with a young, pretty blonde. Seething with jealousy, she watches them together. But something isn’t right and a horrific turn of events make Polly realise not only how foolish she has been, but how much danger she is in…

Can she get out before it’s too late?

 

My Thoughts

Tubing is about Polly, who one night has a random and unplanned sexual encounter with a stranger on a tube and this leads her into an initially thrilling but ultimately dark world. This is a thriller but it’s different to anything else I’ve read.

Polly is already a damaged soul and the world she gets into initially forms an escape for her. She is in a settled relationship but feels stifled by her partner and his close relationship with his sister, and she can’t seem to find the thing that would make her feel whole. She has a decent job but begins to let things slide as she becomes quite obsessed with finding the man she encountered on the tube. Polly does make some silly decisions and she was hard to like a lot of the time but there was something intriguing about her, and about why she becomes so fascinated by the world of tubing that made it impossible to not read on.

As Polly’s fixation with the man from the tube grows she finds herself in an increasingly scary situation. One day she witnesses something that is terrifying and soon finds herself spiralling into paranoia and anxiety. The book really ramps up the tension from this point on as you feel really unsure how much of her how she feels is just paranoia, or whether she really is in danger or if it’s even a mix of the two.

For the first half of this book I felt it was more focused on the erotic aspects and I was wondering if this is a book that I would classify as a thriller but the second half of the book was so fast-paced, intense and disturbing that it most definitely is a thriller. It got to a point where I just couldn’t put this book down as I just had to know how it was all going to end. The denouement of this novel was not what I was expecting, which I really appreciated. I do love it when a thriller surprises me!

Tubing is a book I’d recommend to anyone who is looking to read a dark, disturbing thriller with a sexy side to it.

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

Tubing is out now and available here!

 

About the Author

K.A. McKeagney studied psychology in Bristol before completing a Masters degree in creative writing at Brunel. She won the Curtis Brown prize for her dissertation, which formed the basis of her first novel Tubing. She has worked in London as a health editor writing consumer information as well as for medical journals. Her writing has been commended by the British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards.

She is currently working on her second novel.

 


 

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#BookReview: The Million Dollar Duchesses by Julie Ferry @JulieFerryBooks #MillionDollarDuchesses

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About the Book

On 6th November 1895, the beautiful and brilliant heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt was wedded to the near-insolvent Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough in a dazzling yet miserable match – it glittered above all others for high society’s marriage brokers who, in this single year, forged a series of spectacular, and lucrative, transatlantic unions.

The bankrupt and ailing British aristocracy was suddenly injected with all the wealth and glamour of America’s newest dynasties. Millions of dollars changed hands as fame, money, power and privilege were all at play.

 

My Thoughts

I hadn’t heard of The Million Dollar Duchesses before I was invited to take part in the blog tour but as soon as I read the synopsis I just knew this was going to be a book I enjoyed and I’m so pleased to say that I was right.

The Million Dollar Duchesses is such a wonderful and interesting look at the transatlantic marriage market in the late 1800s. It looks at how rich young American women, whose family wanted to be part of New York high society, were moulded to be wives for British aristocrats who had land and status but needed money to keep their family estates running. It also looks at the enterprising women who made a business out of teaching these young women and making sure they were introduced to the right people.

The level of research that the families of the American debutantes did about British aristocracy was staggering. It was all so carefully calculated to make sure their daughters made the best match in order to assure the family status. ‘… if she decreed it, the Vanderbilt millions would purchase a duke for their daughter. That was the least they could do’. This despite the knowledge that her daughter was already in love with an untitled man and wished to be married to him.

I loved reading about the parties and the fashions, although the amount of money spent was eye-watering at times! The detailed planning that went into organising an occasion was unfathomable to me but it was fabulous to read about. It was lovely to see some photos in the book too to really get a sense of the people and the locations.

I found it really interesting to read all the references to Edith Wharton’s novels and how she was inspired by some of the women written about in The Million Dollar Duchesses.  I’m now keen to re-read some of her novels to see how much she borrowed from the real women featured in this book.

The Million Dollar Duchesses is an utterly fascinating look at the upper echelons of American society in the latter part of the 19th century. I enjoyed every minute that I spent reading this book and I highly recommend it!

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

The Million Dollar Duchesses is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Julie Ferry Author Picture

Julie Ferry is the author of The Million Dollar Duchesses, a non-fiction book following he American heiresses that   into the aristocracy in 1895. She graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in English Literature and then upped sticks and moved to a tiny island between Japan and South Korea to teach English, where she quickly got used to being followed around the supermarket by her students. It was in Japan that she got her first byline and was quickly hooked. She was a freelance journalist writing for The Guardian and most of her favourite publications but always harboured dreams of seeing her name on the front of a book. Now, she’s managing to combine her love of writing and an obsession with interesting and largely unknown women from history, with the school run in Bristol, where she lives with her husband and two children.

 

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#BookReview: Keeper by Johana Gustawsson @OrendaBooks @JoGustawsson

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About the Book

Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.
London, 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?
Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down.

 

My Thoughts

 

I read Johana Gustawsson’s first novel Block 46 last year and it was an incredible read (you can read my review here); it made my top books of 2017and even now, months later, I still think about the novel! So when I was invited to read Keeper I jumped at the chance and I’m really pleased to say that it’s a brilliant follow-up!

Keeper is told in dual timelines: one during the time of Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel and the other in the present day where another serial killer appears to be back even though the police believed the killer was serving his sentence in Broadmoor. This novel features profiler Emily Roy and crime writer Alexis Castells again and it was so good to be back with them and seeing how they were after the last time they worked together.

I really liked seeing more of the relationship between Emily and Alexis. This case is closer to home because it turns out to have a connection to Alexis’ personal life, which puts her on a slightly different path in the investigation. Emily is very single-minded and once she’s on the track of something she very much focuses and it feels like she can’t let emotions come into it. It’s very apparent that Emily and Alexis do look out for each other though and I’m already really keen for the next book to be out so that I can be back with them both.

I loved in Block 46 how there was a connection between the two timelines, and Keeper is the same but again it had me beat! I thought I was on to something with connecting the dots and I was close but ultimately wrong. The ending had me stunned when the reveal came… this is one of those very rare books where the twist was genuinely something I didn’t see coming!

I have to mention the translator in this review. Maxim Jakubowski has translated this so well that it genuinely felt like I was reading a novel that had been written in english.

Johana Gustawsson is such a brilliant writer; there were moments in this book that turned my stomach as the writing was so evocative that it gave me a visceral reaction. I could sense the murky fog of whitechapel around me; I could smell the squalor of the living conditions and the rotting flesh. It’s not often that I feel so completely immersed in a novel but Gustawsson’s writing really gets under my skin. She takes her readers to the darkest sides of humanity and does it in such a way that you can’t look away even when it’s so dark and disturbing. Yet alongside this her writing is beautiful and so you simply can’t stop reading, even during the darkest parts.

Keeper is a deeply disturbing and unflinching novel that will leave you feeling very unnerved but it’s an utterly brilliant read and I can’t recommend it highly enough! I’m now eagerly anticipating whatever Johana Gustawsson writes next!

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

Keeper is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

 

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#BookReview: The Man on the Middle Floor by Elizabeth S. Moore @LizzyMoore19 #RedDoorBooks #TMOTMF

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About the Book

Despite living in the same three-flat house in the suburbs of London, the residents are strangers to one another. The bottom floor is home to Tam, a recent ex-cop who spends his days drowning his sorrows in whisky. On the middle floor is Nick, a young man with Asperger’s who likes to stick to his schedules and routines. The top floor belongs to Karen, a doctor and researcher who has spent her life trying to understand the rising rates of autism. They have lived their lives separately, until now, when an unsolved murder and the man on the middle floor connect them all together. Told from three points of view, The Man on the Middle Floor is about disconnection in all its forms; sexual, physical, parental and emotional. It questions whether society is meeting the needs of the fast growing autistic section of society, or exacerbating it.

 

My Thoughts

Well, I went into reading this book expecting it to be a fairly straightforward novel about a murder in a block of flats but I was wrong. The Man on the Middle Floor is so much more than that; it’s very hard to categorise the book but it is definitely a page turner!

Nick lives alone on the middle floor. He has Asperger’s Syndrome and is trying to maintain an independent life, he’s always looking for ways to add things to his routine without it becoming overwhelming. Tam lives on the ground floor and has recently lost his job in the police force so is struggling to find his place in the world. Karen lives on the top floor. She is a woman who is so engrossed in her research work on autism that she filters out everything else around her, including her own children. The lives of of the three people become intertwined as the novel goes on and it took a much more macabre turn than I was expecting!

Whilst this book is about a murder, it is also just as much about people and how we all have our ways of dealing with what life has thrown at us. There is a real feeling that Elizabeth Moore feels passionately about autism and that this was the catalyst for the novel. She deftly explores what makes us ‘normal’ and how easily people can become derailed from the acceptable norms of behaviour in society. We get to see the murder and what led to it happening but we also see how people turn to each other for comfort when it’s not how they’ve previously behaved. The focus seemed to centre on Nick as I was reading but it’s actually Karen that has stayed in my head more since I finished reading. She seemed to be so cold to her own children and in the way she sacrificed everything and everyone for her career but then couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I can’t condone her behaviour but at the same time part of me wonders how she is now (even though I know she’s not real).

Nick is the character that stands out the most whilst reading this novel though and the plot centres around him, the man on the middle floor. I don’t know a huge amount about autism, although I have read books about it in the past, but it seemed clear to me that Nick had a lot of problems in his life and that these contributed a lot to his obsessive behaviour rather than it seeming that all of his actions were just down to his autism. I could see where his need for order and calm came from, and had an understanding of that as someone who has had mental health issues in the past.

I really liked the way the book isn’t just about a character with autism and that is focused on three very different people who just happened to live in the same building but perhaps had more in common than they would realise. Karen has all but abandoned her children for her career, something which society still frowns upon and finds hard to accept. Tam is a man who is a bit lost and who seems to be looking for companionship and perhaps a family, which can often be portrayed as something that stereotypically more woman want than men. And Nick just wants order and calm, and to be allowed to just be without outside intrusion which is again something that others can find hard to understand. This novel really shows how we all have our problems and that whatever it is that makes one person’s life difficult may not actually be that dissimilar to what someone else experiences, albeit perhaps in a different way.

From the opening chapter of this novel I really wasn’t sure what I was reading but The Man on the Middle Floor certainly had me hooked from start to finish and I read it in just two sittings!  The novel really does hold a mirror up to the reader’s perceptions and leaves you really thinking about how we determine what normal is. If you like novels that are a bit different, that make you think and defy genre then this is the book for you; I certainly recommend it!

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

The Man on the Middle Floor is out now and available in ebook and paperback from here!

 

About the Author

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Elizabeth S. Moore has worked as a journalist since she won the Decanter Young Wine Writer of the Year at seventeen. She has written columns and articles on restaurants, politics, South Africa and all things foodie. She comes from a family that has given her a lot of writing material and is currently finishing her second book, having written the first after completing the Faber Write a Novel course and being approached by fourteen agents after reading an excerpt of her novel to industry professionals. Elizabeth lives in London with her South African husband and has three daughters and a son as well as two lazy Labradors.

(Bio taken from: ElizabethMoore.com)

 

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#BookReview: Wheelchairs, Perjury & The London Marathon by Tim Marshall @AuthorightUKPR ‏@Authoright

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About the Book

The top wheelchair athletes of today enjoy the same high-profile exposure and admiration as their able-bodied counterparts. This has come about partly through wheelchair participation in mass fun-running events such as the Great North Run.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon charts disability sports pioneer Tim Marshall MBE’s journey from the rock-climbing accident which left him paralysed, to becoming a trailblazer for wheelchair racing.

The fun-runs of the 1980s enabled wheelchair road-racing to flourish, and Marshall took part in marathons and half-marathons where wheelchairs were welcome to compete. This did not, however, include The London Marathon, from which wheelchairs were banned for the first two years. This is the story of how this prohibition was overturned, told from the competitor’s point of view. Tim and many others campaigned for the inclusion of wheelchairs in The London Marathon in the face of huge opposition from the organisers.

Finally, in 1983 the efforts of sportsmen and women, the press, the Greater London Council and members of parliament resulted in a breakthrough just ten days before the 1983 marathon, which at last agreed to wheelchair participation.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon for the blog tour as it’s a subject that is really close to my heart. I’m partially paralysed from a spinal cord injury in my neck and whilst the nature of my injury means I can’t self-propel in a wheelchair I’m always inspired by people who have pushed society to accept wheelchair users.

Tim Marshall suffered a spinal cord injury whilst rock climbing as a young man but he never lost his passion for life and taking part in sport. After his initial recovery period he undertook a research trip in America to look at how sports for wheelchair users was being approached and this led him to attempt to set up more opportunities for wheelchair users in the UK. This ultimately led to him pushing for there to be a wheelchair race within the London Marathon. The opposition that he faced is utterly staggering, I had to put the book down at a couple of points just in sheer shock at some of the responses he got from the event organisers.

Even though Marshall’s fight for a wheelchair race within the London Marathon is over thirty years ago now it was still shocking to read that one of the reasons for refusing him entry is because they didn’t want it to turn into a ‘multi-purpose jamboree’! I was gobsmacked reading this because the London Marathon allows fun runners in all their glorious outfits and yet it was the thought of serious athletes who happened to be wheelchair-bound that would throw the race into some kind of disrepute. I’m still reeling from this now. The organisers continued to give Marshall different reasons as to why wheelchair racers couldn’t be included each time he contacted them; all of them utterly unfounded.

The book also covers things like how wheelchair athletes came to have the more sporty wheelchairs that we’re used to seeing today as initially they were racing in their ordinary, every day chairs which were not dissimilar to the self-propelled wheelchairs you see people using today (although a lot heavier than we have now). I’d never really thoughts about how hard it would be to race in a chair like that with the wheels being straight and the high chance of your hand getting caught between your wheel and the wheel of the chair alongside you, or the lack of support for your body. I found it so interesting to read how sporting wheelchairs came to be and how the adaptations slowly came to be accepted by the racing associations.

Marshall’s passion to gain parity for disabled athletes and his determination to tell his story in the most accurate way possible really comes through in this book. I enjoyed the level of detail in the sharing of what remained of his correspondence with people relevant to his struggle, and to see how wheelchair racers were eventually accepted as part of the London Marathon.

I am so grateful for people like Tim Marshall because it is through them that society begins to shift its standpoint on how it views disabled people. Seeing the response in recent years to the paralympics, for example, and how nations have got behind their disabled athletes has been incredible. I will be watching the London Marathon this year with renewed appreciation of just how much perseverance it took to get wheelchair athletes racing alongside everyone else.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon is such an interesting read. It encompasses how Marshall discovered wheelchair sport, then onto how he, along with others, fought, and won, the right to race in the London Marathon. This is a fascinating, inspiring and important book. I really enjoyed reading it and it’s one I definitely recommend.

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

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon is out now in paperback and ebook from here!

About the Author

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Tim Marshall was born in 1946 and gained an M.Sc in Statistics from the London School of Economics, working at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris before taking up a position at Birmingham University. His lectureship in the Medical School followed by his appointment as Associate Professor in Epidemiology and Public Health ended with his retirement in 2006. He has enjoyed a lifelong love of sport including wheelchair racing, skiing and sailing.

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#BookReview: Her Mother’s Daughter by Alice Fitzgerald @AliceFitzWrites @AllenAndUnwinUK

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About the Book

1980: Josephine flees her home in Ireland, hoping never to return. She starts a new, exciting life in London, but as much as she tries, she can’t quite leave the trauma of her childhood behind.

Seventeen years and two children later, Josephine gets a call from her sister to tell her that their mother is dying and wants to see her – a summons she can’t refuse.

1997: Ten-year-old Clare is counting down to the summer holidays, when she is going to meet her grandparents in Ireland for the first time. She hopes this trip will put an end to her mum’s dark moods – and drinking.

But family secrets can’t stay buried forever and following revelations in Ireland, everything starts to unravel. Have Josephine and her daughter passed the point of no return?

My Thoughts

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Her Mother’s Daughter as I  very much enjoyed reading this novel.

Her Mother’s Daughter opens in 1997 with ten year old Clare excitedly awaiting going to visit her mum’s family in Ireland. She crosses off the days on her calendar as each day passes and is increasingly curious about meeting her grandparents. The timeline then goes back to 1980 and focuses on Josephine, Clare’s mum, as she leaves Ireland and her family behind. She moves away out of desperation to escape something and to try and create a better life for herself. Through the two timelines we get to see what has made Josephine the way she is, and also the impact it has on her daughter.

I’m often drawn to novels about mother and daughter relationships and always find them emotional so I was expecting this to be a novel that I would get engrossed in and would enjoy reading but I didn’t expect it have such a big impact on me. Alice Fitzgerald really shows the way that the things we do or say around children, or things that were done or said around ourselves as children, can cause such damage without us really being aware.  Clare is such a sweet girl but the way she takes on board her mother’s obsession with food and repeats the things she says without really fully understanding what her mother meant was shocking to me. It made me want to weep for her when each time she got to eat treat food she was constantly thinking of her hips and whether her thighs were chubby. There is also occasional use of a particular swear word that was really jolting because it’s the way Fitzgerald uses the word in the novel that made it so shocking and so sad at the same time. Out of the mouths of babes as they say.

The thing really broke my heart in this novel was the way that Clare so badly wants to make her mum happy, and Josephine so badly wants her daughter to love and adore her and yet they miss the mark somehow. Josephine is so damaged by her own childhood that she feels the need to be perfect and yet can’t seem to attain it, it’s always out of her reach and she can’t let herself settle for good enough. She also wants to compensate by helping her daughter be perfect but Clare is a child and children can’t be moulded to that degree – and in trying to make her perfect it has potential cause more harm. Clare actually becomes the mother to Josephine, and is also constantly moderating her behaviour to try and prevent her mum losing her temper or getting upset. It’s so sad to see a child so young already having to live on such a knife edge.

Josephine was hard to like when reading things from Clare’s viewpoint but as Josephine’s background and the reason for the pain she carries is revealed it felt impossible not to have sympathy for her. It doesn’t excuse how she treated her children but I still had compassion for her. The writing in this book really conveys the way that people can harm their children without realising purely because they are so damaged themselves, yet Fitzgerald also gives a real sense of hope that the chain can be broken. I very much appreciated this because it’s all too easy for us to blame who we are on who brought us up but we can break free of that and we don’t have to keep making the mistakes that were made by others before us.

Her Mother’s Daughter is beautifully written; it really draws you in and keeps you engrossed all the way through. I actually read it in one sitting because I just got so absorbed in it. It’s a heartbreaking novel but it does leave you with a real feeling of hope. I definitely recommend this book!

Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and Allen and Unwin for sending me a copy of the book and inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

Alice Fitzgerald

Alice Fitzgerald has worked as a journalist for six years. She has been published in literary journals, online at Refinery29 and Hello Giggles and in magazines including Hello!. Her Mother’s Daughter is her debut novel. Born in London to Irish parents, she now lives in Madrid.

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#BookReview: The Long Forgotten by David Whitehouse @d_whitehouse @EmmaFinnigan @PicadorBooks

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About the Book

When the black box flight recorder of a plane that went missing 30 years ago is found at the bottom of the sea, a young man named Dove begins to remember a past that isn’t his. The memories belong to a rare flower hunter in 1980s New York, whose search led him around the world and ended in tragedy.

Restless and lonely in present-day London, Dove is quickly consumed by the memories, which might just hold the key to the mystery of his own identity and what happened to the passengers on that doomed flight, The Long Forgotten.

 

My Thoughts

I’m going to start my review by saying how beautiful the cover of The Long Forgotten is, it really is gorgeous. Initially I saw the flowers and was drawn to looking at it some more and then I noticed the white whale that comes to play a small but also huge part in the story. It feels like a work of art and the more you look at it the more you notice, and it all connects so beautifully with the novel you’re about to read.

This novel itself is incredible! I picked it up early in the evening and I read from start to finish without taking a break because I simply couldn’t tear myself away from it. Everything about this book is incredible – the writing, the plot, the characters and it’s one that I know will stay with me.

The Long Forgotten is a novel about memories but it is also a quirky, mystery novel that will have you completely and utterly engrossed. The novel is told in two time strands. In one there is Dove who is a lonely man who one day starts remembering things that he knows never happened to him. This leads him to try and find out where these memories are from. In the other there is Peter who also seems lonely until one day he finds a love letter in a botany book at the library and it leads him on a quest to travel and find the flowers mentioned.

The Long Forgotten found me at just the right time. I’ve been having a big clear out in my home and have been pondering whether if I get rid of certain items I might end up forgetting the memories attached to them. So a novel all about memories and how we remember, how things become fixed in our memory really captured my imagination. This book explores the fallibility of memory too. When Dove firsts experiences the strange memories he seems to just know that they’re not his memories, but how? It’s as if somewhere in us we know when something is not our memory but at the same time are so prone to forgetting events from our own lives. Where do the lost memories go? Is someone else remembering them, or their own version of them? It felt at times that even though the plane crash that this book is hinged on was real within the novel that it was also a metaphor for how memories can just disappear and seemingly be gone forever.

I knew I would love the story around memory as soon as I read the synopsis for this book but I didn’t expect to love the exploration around the flowers and plants as much as I did. It was fascinating to read about these extremely rare plants, most of which I’d never heard of before, and to be with Peter on his journey to locate them all and to see them in the flesh. His story had echoes of Dove’s where Peter’s friend Hens, who encourages him to go find the plants, ends up stealing stories from him in order to attract women. This left me wondering about how some people do steal stories from others in order to make themselves seem more interesting, but how sometimes things we think about can become blurred in our own minds to the point that it’s possible to not immediately remember that a story isn’t yours, that it actually happened to someone else. I’ve been on the receiving end of someone telling a story of mine to me and genuinely thinking it was theirs and it was such a weird situation. I definitely felt an echo of this within The Long Forgotten.

This novel is full of strange connections and unexpected coincidences, which make it very quirky, yet it always felt believable. At times it was almost surreal in how the dots joined together but there was such heart throughout the novel that it was wonderful to turn the final page and see how it was all so skilfully woven together (even though getting to the end of the book did leave me feeling bereft at finishing it).

The Long Forgotten is a very quirky, incredibly moving and stunningly beautiful novel that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished reading it. I know it’s one I won’t forget and even though it’s only March I feel absolutely certain that this will be in my top books of 2018! I urge you to go buy a copy and read it right away, you absolutely won’t regret it!

My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, Emma Finnigan and Picador for sending me a copy of this book and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Long Forgotten is out now and available in hardback and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

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I have written three novels. The first, BED, was published in 2011 by Canongate in the UK and Scribner in the US.  It won The Betty Trask Prize 2012. The movie rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Film 4.

The second, MOBILE LIBRARY, was published in January 2015 by Picador in the UK and Scribner in the US. It won the Jerwood Fiction Prize 2015 and the TV rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Channel 4.

The third, THE LONG FORGOTTEN, will be published by Picador in March 2018.

I currently have a number of TV projects in development.

I have written for lots of newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, Esquire, The Times, The Observer Magazine, Sunday Times Style and many more. I’ve won awards for journalism from The Times, The Evening Standard, the PPA and the PTC. I am the Editor-at-Large of ShortList magazine.

(Bio taken from: DavidWhitehouse.com)

 

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#BookReview: The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon @HannahMMcKinnon #TheNeighbors

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About the Book

 

Abby looks forward to meeting the family who just moved in next door—until she realizes they’re the one couple who could expose her deepest secrets.

After a night of fun back in 1992, Abby is responsible for a car crash that kills her beloved brother. It’s a mistake she can never forgive, so she pushes away Liam, the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames—the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret, that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam moves into the neighborhood with his own family, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the terrible secrets they’ve both been carrying…

 

My Thoughts

The Neighbors is a novel about how the past and your secrets always catch up with you. A couple, Liam and Nancy, with a teenage son move in next to Nate and Abby and it turns out that there is a link between Abby and Liam with unresolved issues from the past. I love books that look at relationships and secrets and this book was so readable, I didn’t want to put it down from the moment I first started reading it. Some of the things in Abby’s past are clear from the start but there are other things bubbling around that I simply had to keep reading in order to find out what else there was to know. It becomes clear that other people in Abby’s life have their own secrets and it seems that at some point all will converge.

This is one of those books where I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the main character Abby because of what happened when she was younger, even when I couldn’t condone some of her actions later in the novel. It felt like the accident when she was younger had completely undone her, it had made her into a different person and someone she couldn’t even recognise anymore. It felt like even in the present day that she’d never fully come to terms with what happened, or really figured out who she was without her brother. There were elements of this that I could empathise with – I think losing someone close who is pretty much the same age as you when you’re young does change you, it certainly did me when my best friend died when we were 20. I always felt like I lost a part of me when she died and I’ve never been able to put myself back together how I was before and I could see that it was the same for Abby.

The novel has multiple narrators and goes back and forth in time so the picture of each character is gradually built up. I felt quite unsure as to how I felt about the other characters – they all seemed to have their flaws  and I kept going from liking them to disliking them and back again but I enjoyed being kept on my toes. Everyone in this novel did feel like a real person though; the flaws and the secrets and the way they all behaved felt very believable and while I didn’t always like how they acted, it did feel so human and real.

I very much enjoyed how this novel also explores guilt, and the way different people deal with the bad things they believe they’ve done. There is a definite sliding scale of how each of us feel guilt and it was interesting how this book looks at Abby and how she has such terrible guilt for her brother that is all-consuming but it doesn’t stop her consciously making decisions later on that have the potential to really hurt people emotionally. There is also the unspoken agreement that comes to pass between Abby and Liam not to let on to their respective spouses that they already know each other when they are seemingly introduced for the first time. I was interested to see how that played out in the subsequent chapters to see how each of them felt about the lie by omission.

There was a sense running through this book of fate and destiny – that there are people we’re destined to meet, and a course that we may well be on regardless of what we do to change things. Abby could have behaved differently than she did in the present day but it felt like she still had one foot firmly in the past and fate was pushing her towards the way her life might have been if the accident hadn’t happened. I always find the idea of fate fascinating, I’m never sure whether I believe in it or not but sometimes life takes you on a path with a series of events that makes you wonder occasionally.

There are elements of this book that I saw coming and others that caught me completely off-guard, which was great. I like a book that makes me start to feel comfortable and then pulls the rug out from under me and The Neighbors definitely did that.

The Neighbors is a domestic suspense novel that is very gripping, full of tension and a whole rollercoaster of emotions; I definitely recommend it!

 

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

The Neighbors is out now!

 

About the Author

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I was born in 1971 in Manchester, UK to British & Swiss parents. A year later they moved my older sister and I to Switzerland. Rather unsurprisingly I love mountains, chocolate and cheese… or mountains of chocolate and cheese, and my sister, of course.

After finishing commercial studies in Geneva, I worked as a PA for DuPont. A year later I moved to Neuchâtel and became the Purchasing Manager for an ultra-cool company that made motors for industrial and space applications.  Finding myself lacking in theoretical knowledge, I returned to university, studying part-time for a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. And then a friend of a friend introduced me to another friend who’d started up an IT recruitment business. Over the next fifteen years I rose through the ranks to become CEO.

Things outside of work were hardly boring. A chance encounter back in the dark ages of the Internet in 1999 led me down the aisle with Rob, my Canadian rock, five months later. Actually it was exactly ten weeks after we met face-to-face at the Saint John airport in New Brunswick, Canada – and we’re still married. True story. Our first son was born in 2003, followed by identical twin boys just sixteen months later, so I’m heavily outnumbered. In 2010 we all moved to Oakville in Ontario, Canada.

Maybe it was the failed attempt at a start-up company, or the fact I suddenly found myself in my forties, but one morning I decided to follow my oldest passion, started writing, and never wanted to look back. I write fiction for adults and dabble a little in kid-lit. Sometimes I think I’ll never have enough time to get all of the ideas out of my head and on paper. I also have a soft spot for short stories and mud runs. I love mud runs… hey, wait… that’s another story I could write…!

(Author Bio and Photo taken from: HannahMaryMcKinnon.com)

#BookReview: We Were The Salt Of The Sea by Roxanne Bouchard @RBouchard72 @OrendaBooks @givemeawave #saltofthesea

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About the Book

As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky…

My Thoughts

I’m going to be honest here and say that it was the stunning cover that first drew me to We Were The Salt of The Sea and after reading the blurb I knew I had to get my hands on the book as soon as I possibly could. I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to take part in the blog tour and I’m very happy to say that the novel more than lives up to the cover design.

This is a novel that straddles genres and that made it such a refreshing and gripping read for me. It’s in large part a crime novel; a woman, Marie Garant, is found dead in the ocean and the new detective Morales is pulled in to investigate. It’s also a mystery novel with an outsider, Catherine Day, turning up looking for her birth mother and trying to find herself in the process. It can even be described as a love letter to the sea, it’s clear that the author has a love of the ocean herself and it comes through so beautifully in her writing. I swear I could smell the ocean and the fishing boats as I was reading, I could hear the sea waxing and waning throughout the novel – the sea is as much a character in this novel as the people are.

You go to sea because it’s the only door that opens when you knock, because it keeps you awake at night. Every time you step ashore and into the crowd, you feel how different you are. You feel like a stranger. You go to sea because you’re a drifter among others and you only feel at home in the silence of the wind.

There is a real insular feel to Gaspé, the locals pull together and seem bemused by the outsiders that come to make a home there. There are some real characters in the village and I loved how they spoke. There are two people in particular that have a quirk of speech – one says the same word every time he speaks and the other uses a sentence whenever he is wound up about something. This brought the book to life because this is how real people speak, we all have our little quirks in our speech and it’s one of the things that makes getting to know new people so fascinating. I loved the way that I was new to this place and these people just as detective Morales was so I felt I was there with him trying to figure out how to get through the barriers to the real people. It felt like it was hard work for Morales at times but I was willing him to persevere because it seemed to me like he would find a way to be accepted given time.

It did feel like some of the characters in this book, particularly the women, were eluding me. We hear various people’s stories about Marie but everyone seems to remember her differently, and Catherine is enigmatic from the start. We know why she is in Gaspé but we never really get to know her; her and Marie are the essence of the story but they are impossible to grasp. I didn’t fully get a handle on who they really were but it was clearly how it was meant to be and it’s as if these two strong women were born of the sea and were always destined to go back there. Maybe they were part of the sea in some ways and as such were not meant to be really truly known, perhaps just like the salt of the sea itself.

Cyrille said that all truths were ever-flowing and elusive. Those who went to sea knew that anything atop the waves was forever breaking up and reforming. Differently. He said that the wind, the current and the ocean swell were insatiable; that you could never be too careful, even on a glassy sea. What was true in the here and now would make a liar of you not ten minutes later. He said the only reason we exist was the every-shifting lie that is life.

I didn’t expect this book to move me as much as it did. Novels that have mothers and daughters always get me but there was more than that in this book that brought a lump to my throat. I came to adore Cyrille and found his wisdom and his courage in facing what had to be faced really moving. I find that I’m still thinking of the novel and the people days after finishing it and even though I know these were characters in a book and not real people I can’t help hoping that Cyrille and Catherine both found peace in their very different ways after the end of the story.

This didn’t ever feel like a novel in translation for me, the story just flowed and was never jarring so I have to mention how wonderfully David Warriner has translated this book into English. I marked so many paragraphs that stood out to me as utterly beautiful and I know I’ll want to go back and read them from time to time.

I very much enjoyed We Were The Salt of the Sea; it is mysterious and lyrical and utterly stunning. I can’t wait to read more by Roxanne Bouchard. I highly, highly recommend We Were The Salt of The Sea.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy of the book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

We Were The Salt of the Sea is out now in ebook and is due to be released in paperback on 30th March!

About the Author

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Roxanne Bouchard reads a lot, but she laughs even more. Her first novel, Whisky et Paraboles, garnered an array of prestigious awards in Quebec and caught the attention of British researcher, Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani, of the University of Westminster, who saw for herself how Roxanne weaves poetry and geography together to delve into her characters’ intimate worlds.

About the Translator

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David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

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

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