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

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About the Book

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Because of You is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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

You can find Helene Fermont at the following sites:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/helenefermont

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

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

 

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

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About the Book

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst Case Scenario is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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

 

 

 

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

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About the Book

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

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

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

 

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

Twitter : @BernardOKeeffe1

 

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Recommended Summer Thriller Reads! #MiniReviews #BookReviews #Thriller

MONDAY MINI REVIEWS 20 MAY

I seem to be reading more books than I’m reviewing again so I thought I’d share a selection of mini book reviews today of thrillers that would make great summer holiday reading!

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The Blame Game by C. J. Cooke

C. J. Cooke is one of my favourite authors so I always look forward to a new book from her and I’m happy to say her latest book was fab! It follows a family who are on what seems to be a dream holiday but odd things start to happen. They feel they are being watched, and something just isn’t quite right. Then on their way home an accident happens and from there things begin to unravel. The novel is told in two timelines – the present day and then 22 years ago when Helen and Michael met and a tragedy befell their group. I was equally hooked on both timelines and was desperate to find out how these two events were connected. It’s a thrilling read, and a real page turner. I think what I loved most though was that at its heart it’s a novel about why we keep the secrets we do, and the power they can have over us when perhaps things might have been different if we’d not kept quiet at the time. I love books that are thrilling but also give me pause for thought and this book certainly did both! I recommend it!

 

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The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath

I read and enjoyed Mel McGrath’s previous novel so I was thrilled to get approved to read this latest book on NetGalley. I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations and I loved it! A group of friends get together in a remote holiday home in the present day and the book goes back and forth between here and a few months previously when they all went to a festival together and witnessed something that changed everything! I loved how this book went back and forth in time like this but also how the present day is told going forward, and the story of what happened at the festival goes backwards from the end of the night to the start. This made for a really gripping read as you piece together who did what and when, and how it all connects to the bigger picture. This is a group of friends who seem to be desperately trying to hang on to (or possibly re-create) their younger days and it feels like they don’t have a huge amount in common anymore. It fascinates me to read novels where people remain friends with a group of people from earlier in life as, for me, it doesn’t seem possible for a whole group to retain a closeness over the years. The characters in this novel aren’t particularly likeable either but I just couldn’t stop reading about them! I really did enjoy this book and highly recommend it!

 

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Don’t Turn Around by Amanda Brooke

I was really pleased when I got an email to say I was pre-approved to read this from NetGalley as I’ve enjoyed previous books by the author. I have to say that I think this book is her best yet, I found it hard to put down. The story is about a family’s bid to prove what they believed really happened to their daughter Meg. Meg died by suicide ten years previously but her family always believed her boyfriend had more to do with her death than was ever found. Meg’s parents and her cousin Jen set up a charity helpline to try to help other people who felt like Meg, and one night get a call from a young woman who they think might be the new girlfriend of Meg’s boyfriend. This leads to a tangled web as Jen becomes increasingly involved in trying to solve the mystery. The first two thirds of this novel were so tense and it was a hard book to put down. I did feel the end fell a little flat to me because I’d worked out what had happened to Meg earlier on in the book and was really hoping to be proved wrong. That said I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book because it had me gripped from start to finish!

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Gone by Midnight by Candice Fox

I really enjoyed this crime thriller novel. The story features private investigator Ted and his sidekick Amanda as they investigate the disappearance of a child. I didn’t realise going into this book that it’s the third book in a series but I followed the story perfectly fine. I did love Ted and Amanda so much that I’m definitely going to go back and read the previous two books though, they are such brilliant characters and they really made this book for me. The case they are investigating is a missing child, who was left alone along with a group of other kids of a similar age, who has disappeared from a hotel. There is no evidence that the child left the hotel either alone or with someone so the crime becomes ever more mysterious. I didn’t work out where this book was going so the ending was a shock to me.  I recommend this one!

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

Take Me To The Edge Cover

About the Book

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

Katya Boirand Author Pic

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

 

 

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

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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About the Book

To lose your family is heart-breaking.

To be forgotten by them is unforgiveable.

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

Caroline Bond Author Picture

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

 

 

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

About the Author

Doug Johnstone

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

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

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

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

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

Social Media Links –

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

https://twitter.com/SussexMysteries

https://isabellamuir.com/

 

About the Narrator

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

Twitter: @penandrews

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

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

 

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

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

‘”Are you fond of music?”

“I like jazz.”

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s a different size, too.”

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

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

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

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

Baxter’s Requiem is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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About the Book

Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ringmaster is out now and available here.

 

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

 

About the Author

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

 

 

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

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing Grace is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Amazin Grace - Kim Nash author photo

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Amazing Grace Full Tour Banner

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

Heath is a serial killer.

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

Gabriel is the serial killer.

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

55 is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

James Delargy Author Photo

 

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

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

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

 

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

55 Blog Tour Poster

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

Chickens Eat Pasta audiobook cover

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chickens Eat Pasta is available as an audiobook from here.

 

About the Author

Chickens Eat Pasta Author Photo

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

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

Read her blog about life in Umbria here

 

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

  • Winner gets to pick between audible and ibooks audio code

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

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

 

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

Chickens Eat Pasta Full Tour

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep is out now and available here.

 

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

The Escape

The Missing

The Fear

 

About the Author

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

 

 

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

Sleep_BlogTourP1

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

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About the Book

Tonight is the night for secrets…

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I’ve previously reviewed these books by Louise Beech:

How to be Brave

Maria in the Moon

The Lion Tamer Who Lost

 

About the Author

Louise Beech Author Photo.jpeg

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

 

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

call me star girl blog poster 2019

Book Review: The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt |@joenutt_author @unbounders @annecater #randomthingstours

The Point of Poetry Cover

About the Book

What’s the point of poetry? It s a question asked in classrooms all over the world, but it rarely receives a satisfactory answer. Which is why so many people, who read all kinds of books, never read poetry after leaving school. Exploring twenty-two works from poets as varied as William Blake, Seamus Heaney, Rita Dove and Hollie McNish, this book makes the case for what poetry has to offer us, what it can tell us about the things that matter in life.

Each poem is discussed with humour and refreshing clarity, using a mixture of anecdote and literary criticism that has been honed over a lifetime of teaching. Poetry can enrich our lives, if we’ll let it. The Point of Poetry is the perfect companion for anyone looking to discover how.

 

My Thoughts

I have a few favourite few poems from over the years but I aren’t much of a reader of poetry generally, I’ve always found it really intimidating. I did discover some love for poetry when I did an A-Level in English Lit as a mature student and was tasked with analysing Philip Larkin’s Mr Bleaney.  I loved reading and re-reading this poem, and went on to read everything Larkin had written. I still find other poets intimidating though. The Point of Poetry is a wonderful book that has opened my eyes to the joy of poems.

Joe Nutt opens this book with an introduction that immediately made me feel at ease and in safe hands. He takes away the fear of poetry very quickly. Each chapter looks at a different poem and Nutt takes us through the poem giving some background, relating it to present day and making you eager to actually read the poem for yourself and see what you can discover in it. I loved that the poem discussed is placed at the end of each chapter as by the time I got to it I was excited to read it, whether it was a poem I already knew or one I’d never heard of before.

I also really appreciate that Nutt didn’t just pick well-known poems, although there are some in the book, but also that he didn’t just pick poems that he loves. There are poems such as Vicki Feaver’s The Gun which he has issues with but still felt it warranted being read and explored in this book. The selection really made me think about my own reactions to the poems individually and as a whole as I got further into this book, and left me mulling over my thoughts long after I’d finished reading.

I think the chapter that grabbed me the most was the one about Holly McNish. I’d heard of her before but had never read (or watched her perform) her poetry before. I was fascinated by her poem Famous For What? and am definitely going to buy one or two of her collections very soon. I also very much enjoyed the chapter on Rita Dove’s The Bistro Styx, and the comparisons with Philip Larkin’s Church Going so I will be seeking out more of her work too.

I also want to mention the chapter on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I had to study this poem in my second year at secondary school and I hated it! I loved English, it was my favourite subject and I loved reading but the way the teacher taught us that poem made it feel never-ending and unbearable. I’ve loathed it ever since because it always takes me back to those lessons. However, Nutt’s exploration of this poem has made me see it in a different light – I’ve since sought out my copy and re-reading it now as a 40 year old I found so much more in it and I’m so glad that I had my eyes opened to it.

I’ve always been much more drawn to poems that make me feel something. Often poems that make me cry are the ones that stay with me. I feel like this book has reminded me that different poems bring out different emotions and that I should be more open-minded and actually have more faith in my own abilities to find things in poems from now on.

I do have to quickly mention how beautiful this book is. It’s a gorgeous hardback and the endpapers have a lovely illustration of keys on them (which immediately made me feel that perhaps this book could unlock the world of poetry for me, and it did just that!).

I absolutely loved this book! I feel that it’s given me back the confidence to start picking up more poetry collections again and to spend time reading poems out loud and taking time to really think about them. Not only that, it’s made me excited to read poetry again!  I’m so glad I read The Point of Poetry and I whole-heartedly recommend it!

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

The Point of Poetry is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Joe Nutt Author Picture

Joe Nutt’s nineteen years teaching experience in the UK unusually ranged from the highly selective, private sector to challenging, inner city state schools. In 2000, he was seconded to work on a Department for Education project from his English teaching post at the City of London School and quickly established a new, commercial career but continued to write for English Literature students. He has written books on Shakespeare, John Donne and most recently a Guidebook to Paradise Lost arguably the most difficult poem in the English canon, for one of the world’s leading academic publishers. He publishes educational research internationally and is a national, and international conference speaker. He is now one of the leading educationalists in the UK and writes a fortnightly column for the Times Educational Supplement.

 

 

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

FINAL Point of Poetry Blog Tour Poster

 

 

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

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About the Book

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

Birmingham, 1885.

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward | @_Annie_Ward @QuercusBooks #BeautifulBad

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About the Book

Maddie and Ian’s romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.

 

My Thoughts

Beautiful Bad is the story of Maddie, a woman who met her husband when they both worked overseas and now they’re living in middle America with their young son Charlie. After an accident while camping Maddie seeks therapy and starts to explore her concerns about her husband. Slowly she reveals the story of their marriage.

This novel opens with a bang as a 911 call leads to detectives entering a house and finding blood and what looks like the aftermath of a struggle! The book then goes back and forth in time as we find out more about Maddie, Ian and Maddie’s best friend Jo; alongside short chapters showing what’s happening in the house as the police investigate.

From the moment I started reading this novel I just couldn’t put it down until I found out how it was all going to end. It grabs you from the beginning and the way it’s written moving back and forth in time means it’s near impossible to stop reading!

I didn’t really like any of the characters in this novel, they all have things about them that made me wonder if they had secrets or were as they appeared to be. I loved that about the novel though, it’s fascinating to read about people I don’t really like as I get an insight into what makes other people tick!

Beautiful Bad opens with a shocking scene and gradually fills in the back story until we’re back in the house and we find out what happened. I loved the reveals as they came, each one left me stunned and re-thinking what I’d previously thought was going on. Ultimately, I did have an idea how it might end and I was right… sort of! I say that because there was more to the reveal than I was ever expecting, and then the final chapter of the novel had me reeling, I didn’t see that part coming at all. I love when a book has shocks in store and this book definitely kept me on my toes! I highly recommend Beautiful Bad!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and for the invitation to be part of the social media splash. All thoughts are my own.

Beautiful Bad is out today and available here!

 

About the Author

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Annie Ward has a BA in English Lit from UCLA and a MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute. Her first short screenplay, Strange Habit, starred Adam Scott and won awards at Aspen and Sundance Film Festivals. Ward lives in Kansas with her two sons and husband, who she met in the Balkans.

 

 

You can find the rest of this social media tour at the following blogs and instagram pages below:

Beautiful Bad social media tour poster

 

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

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About the Book

Welcome to the Heady Heights

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

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

 

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

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

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

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

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

 

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

Sewing the Shadows Blog Blitz

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Past Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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

 

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

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

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

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

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

 

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

Doctor Blog Tour Poster

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

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About the Book

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Ones Left Alive is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Sarah Davis Goff

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

 

 

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

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Book Review: The Bridal Party by J. G. Murray | @JulianGylMurray @CorvusBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheBridalParty

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About the Book

Sometimes friendship can be murder…

It’s the weekend of Clarisse’s bridal party, a trip the girls have all been looking forward to. Then, on the day of their flight, Tamsyn, the maid of honour, suddenly backs out. Upset and confused, they try to make the most of the stunning, isolated seaside house they find themselves in.

But, there is a surprise in store – Tamsyn has organised a murder mystery, a sinister game in which they must discover a killer in their midst. As tensions quickly boil over, it becomes clear to them all that there are some secrets that won’t stay buried…

 

My Thoughts

The Bridal Party is a novel about a group of women going on a weekend away together for a hen party. The group seems quite typical of a hen party where everyone has a relationship with the bride but they don’t all know each other as well as they know Clarisse. One of the hens drops out at the very last minute and all the other women are then going into the unknown as the woman who dropped out is the one who made all the plans. This is such a great set up for the novel and I knew I was going to enjoy it!

The house the women stay in is very isolated and feels quite creepy and unnerving so already there is tension but then they each go their rooms to unpack and the tension really begins to ramp up from there!

The novel is told mainly in the present but there are flashbacks throughout that slowly let you see how these women became friends and what tensions there have been between them in the past. Secrets begin to be unravelled and it gradually catches up with the present. It was brilliant how the past came into play and how the women who’d known each other longest initially stuck together, causing the distrust and uneasiness to further grow. Female friendships can be very like this, although this book is more extreme in how things end up.

The setting of the house is remote and we soon find out that there it has links to a sinister past. It was a creepy enough idea that the house was surrounded by woodland and in the middle of nowhere but finding out its past had me really on edge. I love how the history of the house played a part in the mystery weekend that was planned, and the way this builds as the novel goes on was brilliant!

I loved that this book had genuine surprises. I was expecting this to be similar to other thrillers where a group are effectively trapped in a creepy house together but there was more to it. There is a real sinister feel running through this book, it had me on edge a lot of the time wondering how on earth it was all going work out for the group.

I thought I knew how this book was going to end, and while I worked out some elements, for the most part it took me down a completely different path and I loved that! It’s rare for a book to shock me but this one absolutely did.

The Bridal Party is twisty, tense and gripping… and most importantly it has genuine shocks in store! I definitely recommend this book!

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

The Bridal Party is due to be published on 7th March and can be pre-ordered here.

 

About the Author

J G Murray Author Picture

J G Murray grew up in Cornwall and, after a spell selling chocolates in Brussels, qualified as an English teacher. Murray now lives, teaches and writes in London.

 

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

The Bridal Party Blog Tour Poster

Mini Book Reviews: Love, Fate, Loss and Possession!

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Today I’m sharing some more of my mini book reviews! I seem to be reading way faster than I can review at the moment so this seems a good way to get a few reviews posted before the pile grows any higher!

 

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The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal

I actually read this book late last year but I struggled to get my thoughts down into a coherent review. This is the first novel I’ve read by the author but it definitely won’t be the last. It follows Mona in two timelines: in the present she runs a business selling weighted dolls to help women deal with the loss of their babies, and in the past we see what made Mona the woman she is in the present. There is a lot of heartache in this novel but it’s the resilience that shone through for me. I’ve suffered a miscarriage myself and while I got over it as much as anyone can I still know how old my child would be now. I didn’t talk about it much at the time, I just picked myself up and got on with it. It feels like every woman going through such a loss needs a Mona in their lives. She knows pain too but she channels it into easing other women’s pain. I cried quite a lot reading this book but it was cathartic tears. This novel is such a special book, one I won’t ever forget. If you haven’t already read this novel then I urge you to, it’s beautiful and unforgettable!

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Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce

This is a gorgeous novel and I enjoyed every minute that I spent reading it. Emmy applies for a job on a newspaper but is shocked to find on her first day that she isn’t going to be a war correspondent but an assistant to the resident agony aunt. She overcomes her disappointment and finds that she wants to help the women who write in. The novel is set during WW2 so there are some sad moments but the novel on the whole is heartwarming and is such a comforting read. If you haven’t already read this then I recommend you grab a copy and read it asap!

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Ivy and Abe by Elizabeth Enfield

I completely and utterly fell in love with this book. I knew from the blurb that it was my kind of book as I have a fascination with the possibility of fate and whether there is a person that we’re destined to meet. Ivy and Abe follows the two protagonists throughout there lives but it’s presented in disconnected chapters where their meeting and the way things pan out for them has a different outcome. The wonderful thing though is that throughout the novel there is a thread that keeps coming up and you see in each story how it might have been different if only something had or hadn’t happened. It’s a beautiful novel and even though I read it right at the beginning of January, it’s still staying with me and I often find myself thinking about Ivy and Abe and wondering how they are, as if they were real people. I adored this novel and I highly recommend it!

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Someone Like Me by M. R. Carey

I have to start by saying that I don’t think describing this book as a thriller helped in my enjoyment of it as I was expecting a thriller – I hadn’t read anything by the author before so I believed I was getting what I told I was getting. However, this book is a thriller with supernatural, borderline-horror elements at times, which is not a genre I like to read. I will say that once I got to understand what I was reading I did come to enjoy it, it definitely had me gripped and it was hard to put down so on reflection I’m glad I (albeit somewhat unwittingly) gave this a go. Liz is struggling as she lives with her abusive husband and is trying to protect her children from seeing the worst of his behaviour. I did love the way Liz and Fran’s life became so entwined and blended, and the way one dominated the other’s personality was fascinating. I was engrossed and this kept me turning the pages as I just couldn’t see how the situation was going to be resolved. The ending was hugely satisfying and I would read more books by this author.

 

#BookReview | Waco: A Survivor’s Story by David Thibodeau (with Leon Whiteson and Aviva Layton)

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About the Book

Twenty-five years ago, the FBI staged a deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Texas. David Thibodeau survived to tell the story.
When he first met the man who called himself David Koresh, David Thibodeau was a drummer in a local a rock band. Though he had never been religious in the slightest, Thibodeau gradually became a follower and moved to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. He remained there until April 19, 1993, when the compound was stormed and burned to the ground after a 51-day standoff with government authorities.

In this compelling account–now with an updated epilogue that revisits remaining survivors–Thibodeau explores why so many people came to believe that Koresh was divinely inspired. We meet the men, women, and children of Mt. Carmel. We get inside the day-to-day life of the community. We also understand Thibodeau’s brutally honest assessment of the United States government’s actions. The result is a memoir that reads like a thriller, with each page taking us closer to the eventual inferno.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted when the publicist for Waco: A Survivor’s Story contacted me to ask if I’d like to read this book as I’m fascinated by cults but didn’t know a huge amount about Waco.

Thidobeau is very honest in this book, which I appreciated but it does make for uncomfortable reading at times. The issue of Waco’s leader David Koresh abusing underage girls and the people around him being okay with this at the time is shocking. Thidobeau does explore his own feelings about this later on in the book though and I felt that this was a great insight into how a person can have power over others while they feel they are completely free thinking.

This is a memoir and as such we get the viewpoint of the person writing it so as I don’t know a huge amount about Waco it was hard for me to know how much of what Thidobeau said was absolute fact and how much was what he believed to be true. I know this is the case with all memoirs but I felt it more with this one. Having said that the way the authorities approached dealing with Waco was very shocking to read, it’s beyond me to understand how anyone would think it was okay to approach ending the siege in the way they did especially knowing there were still children inside the buildings.

I really liked that we get Thidobeau’s thoughts on the aftermath of Waco too. He tells of the arrests that were made of the people who survived and what happened to those people, and he talks of his own experiences. I can’t imagine what it must be like to begin to come to terms with what happened within a cult, that was a place that he had really believed in, and to start to re-build a new life.

Overall this book does give a really good insight into how people are drawn into cults like this one, and how they become convinced that what is happening within the the cult is okay and normal. I did find it a really interesting read, and feel I have a better understanding of what happened at Waco.

This is a gripping memoir and one that whilst obviously non-fiction it reads at the pace of a thriller. I read it in two sittings and it was a book I was thinking about in the time when I wasn’t reading it.

All in all I’m really glad that I read this book, and as with all good non-fiction it has made me want to go and read more about Waco in the future.

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

Waco: A Survivor’s Story is out now and available here.

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blood Orange is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Harriet Tyce Author Picture

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

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

 

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

Blood Orange Blog Tour Poster

 

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Last Lie is out today and available here.

 

About the Author

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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About the Book

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

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

Your whole life has been a lie…

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve previously reviewed Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran

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

 

About the Author

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

Find her at https://chriscurranauthor.com/

Twitter @Christi_Curran

Instagram: chriscurranwriter

 

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

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

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About the Book

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

But it’s not as simple as that.

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

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

It’s time to go home.

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

East of England is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Eamonn Griffin Author Pic

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

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

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

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

 

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

East of England Blog Tour Poster

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senseless is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Anna Lickley Author Picture

 

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

 

 

 

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

Senseless Blog Tour Poster

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

Dreda Say Mitchell - Spare Room_cover

About the Book

Home Is Where The Nightmare Is

Beautiful double room to let to single person

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

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

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

Did this room already claim one victim?

Is it about to take another?

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spare Room is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

dreda say mitchell

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

Social Media Links:

Website: www.dredasaymitchell.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DredaMitchell

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

 

 

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

richard lumsden author picture

 

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

 

 

 

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

fiona barton author picture

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

 

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

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About the Book

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Into the Silent Sea is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

claire stibbe author picture

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

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

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

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

Twitter @CMTStibbe

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

 

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The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and how the #konmari method changed my life! #MarieKondo #TidyingUp #SparkJoy

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I’ve been following the reactions on social media to Marie Kondo and her Tidying Up series on Netflix with interest recently. I did the KonMari method on my whole house last year and I can honestly say that it completely and utterly changed my life so I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

I’ve read so many books about de-cluttering and have always given the ideas a go, some have been more helpful than others but I always fell back into my old ways because I was doing a bit at a time, or one part of my home at a time. I re-read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up, and then read Spark Joy early last year and it struck a chord with me. I loved the idea of tackling all of a category (Clothes, books, papers, komono [all miscellaneous items] then sentimental) at once so the whole house was getting done. This is my story…

I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder (not so bad that you can’t get through the front door but definitely feeling powerless to throw things away without it being an ordeal). I grew up with a mum was very sentimental about things and so she would keep things she didn’t like because she loved the person who gave the item to her. She would also buy extras of things when they were on offer even when the cupboards were full to bursting. I ended up the same way. I have a very distinct memory from when I was really young thinking that I couldn’t get rid of my ornaments and soft toys because I wouldn’t have anything to fill my house with when I grew up. My poor mum put up with my books not only taking over my bedroom, but also the spare room and the landing between the two rooms. Even after I moved out I left a lot of stuff at her house and she never complained. We were as bad as each other for keeping things. It was so much a part of me to have every surface filled with ornaments and trinkets that I found empty shelves made me feel somewhat panicky.

When my mum died I was proud of myself for only keeping the belongings of hers that I genuinely loved and would use. To this day I still use her very best cutlery every single day, and I wear her jewellery. After we sold my mum’s house I moved in with my boyfriend and as I was moving to the other side of the country I could only take what would fit in the van we hired. I felt that this was a new start, a new me and I would do better.

I didn’t.

We bought our home a year later and I gradually filled it with stuff. I don’t know exactly how it happened because I’m not much of a shopper. I think I became someone who would buy a replacement for something that was worn out but then I’d keep both items for some reason. I think I used to keep things just in case! My poor husband is very minimal in his possessions and has never said a word about all the clutter everywhere but I don’t know how he put up with it.

I’ve had a lot of medical issues in the years we’ve been together and I think when you have hoarding tendencies illness can make it worse. I need to keep things I need close by me because I can’t walk more than a few steps, and I can’t carry anything but this would lead to a mountain of stuff next to my chair and my side of the bed because I would never put things away.

Anyway, last year I read Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy which led to me re-reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and these books just spoke to me. I could suddenly see that maybe I could make things different. On finishing those books I took every item of clothing I owned and piled it all on the bed. I had no concept of how much clothing I had and I was mortified by it all (It filled a 2.5 metre wide wardrobe and two chests of drawers). I’m housebound so I really didn’t need this many clothes. I had clothes that I’d not worn in years but kept because I’m sentimental (or because I might lose the weight, or I might gain some weight). Anyway, I got rid of about two thirds of my clothes that day!! I only kept the clothes I can wear now and that fitted me. I later emptied my clothes out of the wardrobe again when we got our new wardrobe delivered and got rid of even more clothes.

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These are the clothes I got rid of AFTER I’d already got rid of two thirds of my clothes! There is always more to get rid of it seems! 😉

Next I moved on to books, as recommended in the method. This was easier than I thought it would be because I’d got used to the idea of sparking joy and what mattered to me. Incidentally, sparking joy doesn’t just mean it makes you happy. I kept books that have made me weep when I read them because they matter deeply to me, and that’s what sparking joy means – keep only the things that matter to you. I got rid of about half of my books over the next few days.

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Some of the books that spark the most joy for me!

Up next was papers and this was hard work. I’m someone who keeps paperwork because I might need it some day. By this point I’d been following the method for a couple of weeks and knew I could get rid of a lot of papers but it was daunting having to sift through and look at everything so I didn’t actually throw away something important. I also scanned some documents that I needed to keep but didn’t need them taking up room in my file box. Now all my important papers are in one file box and not scattered in various boxes all over the house. The shredder is permanently plugged in and accessible so I can open my post and immediately get rid of junk or anything that I don’t need to keep or refer to again.

Komono was a scary category because it basically means everything that’s not clothes, books, papers or sentimental items! This part took me weeks to complete because I wanted to do it properly. It was also really hard because prior to starting KonMari my idea of having a sort out was buying pretty storage boxes and shoving all the stuff in them (out of sight, out of mind) but sorting through komono meant I had to face up to all that stuff. Some of my most sentimental items were wedged in boxes with general junk so I put those things to one side and got on with going through all of the other stuff. I ended up making myself a list of sub-categories and then putting stuff into corresponding boxes then working from there. It meant I could see how much I had of any one type of thing and it made it easier for me to get rid of all the excess. For example I had a load of stationary but I can’t physically write more than a few words any more so that all went to charity. I realised how much I’d stockpiled shower gel and shampoo etc so I kept all of that but organised it so I’d know when I finally needed to buy more.

The final category is Sentimental Items. This was a hard one to face sorting through but Marie Kondo insists you work through things in a set order (clothes, books, papers, komono and then sentimental items) so that by the time you get to the hardest things you have a much better sense of what’s important to you and you understand what really sparks joy. And even though it initially sounded so silly to me, it actually helped to mentally thank the items before I put them in the charity bags. I got rid of way more sentimental items than I expected to and I instantly felt better, like a weight was lifted off me. I’d finally given myself permission to not feel guilty and to stop holding onto things that don’t make me happy. I’d previously found it incredibly hard to get rid of things that my mum had given me because I knew that I’d never again have anything from her, but now I know that I had joy from those items and good memories and I don’t need to keep them if I don’t want to. Now my sentimental items are where I can see them and that brings me so much joy!

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This space in our living room used to have big shelves on it full of stuff. Now it’s light and I love seeing the space. (Excuse the terrible pic, I took it at night-time with my rubbish phone camera).

 

I think the hardest thing was getting my head around not sorting through what I would get rid of but coming at it from the angle of what I wanted to keep and then letting the rest go. Once I got used to that the method got easier and easier. Also the sparking joy thing was confusing at first because my vacuum cleaner sparks no joy but I soon got to grips with the fact that I could keep it because I like having clean floors and it’s my vacuum cleaner that allows me to have clean floors. I think once you get used to what sparking joy is and how it feels for you then you know what you need to keep and what you need to get rid of.

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(Every thing in this photo was got rid of… including the red armchair (it went to charity). We loved that chair but we never sat on it because it was always piled high with stuff. Once I’d finished de-cluttering we decided that we’d rather have the space than the chair so it went as well! This was our spare room that I filled with bags for charity or the tip… I didn’t get a photo when it was full. We got rid of things as soon as we had a car load but I reckon I could have filled the floor space in this room twenty or more times with the stuff I chucked out.)

I LOVE the vertical folding that Marie Kondo raves about. It’s amazing how much easier life is when you can see all of the tops in your drawer. I even fold my underwear and it’s a revelation! I will say that I found it hard to grasp what she meant in her descriptions of folding when I was reading the books but if you look on youtube there are loads of tutorial videos and it all makes sense once you see someone folding clothes her way.

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Vertical folding!

I also love the idea of using small boxes within drawers and cupboards to segment the space so things stay where they’re supposed to. I haven’t bought any boxes or containers for this – I’ve used Apple product boxes, shoe boxes etc. I find that the lids off boxes can be great to use as separators. Also if you have excess tupperware containers in your home – the ones you don’t need in the kitchen – can often be used in drawers to corral things. I definitely recommend using what you already have initially because you may find you don’t need to buy anything else.

Another tip while I’m on the subject is get things out of your house as soon as you can after you’ve decided you no longer want them. And don’t ever look in a bag or box once you’ve put stuff in there to be got rid of. It just makes you second guess yourself but if you’ve followed the method properly you already know that these are things you no longer want in your home.

I’m not in great health so going through the whole house took me a few months in the end but it was worth it. I finally finished in the summer last year and my house has stayed clutter-free ever since and is so easy to keep clean and tidy now. The KonMari influence hasn’t left me either – when I spot anything in my house that annoys me or that I don’t like anymore it goes straight in a box for the charity shop. I regularly look through my clothes and books and get rid of anything that no longer sparks joy. I’m not perfect but I feel like the stuff in our home is manageable now and tidying up is no longer an ordeal.

I’ve only watched one episode of  Tidying Up with Marie Kondo so far and I’m not sure that it really showed how the method works. The meme doing the rounds online about you only being allowed to keep 30 books is a myth! The rule that Marie Kondo has is that you only keep things that spark joy so when you go through your books, if a thousand of them genuinely spark joy and you have room to comfortably live with that many books then that is fine. So if you’ve been watching the show and are intrigued I would definitely recommend reading both of Marie Kondo’s books.

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This is just one of my post KonMari bookcases (I definitely still own more than thirty books!).

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These days space in my home matters to me more than hoarding stuff.

If you want to know if I have any regrets… I do have one! My one and only regret about doing the KonMari method is that I didn’t take any before photos! I got so swept up in just getting on with it that I forgot. I have noticed that when I look at photos from over the years that the background is always a mess, so that gives me a reminder of how far I’ve come. If you’re about to start sorting your home out I definitely recommend taking photos along the way!

(The photo on the left is an example of the background of a photo. The person didn’t want to be on my blog so I’ve cropped them out but you can still see the mountain of clutter in the shot. This was the room on a reasonably ‘tidy’ day, which shows how bad I was at my worst!).

 

 

I can honestly say that doing the KonMari method has changed my life. I feel so much happier and less stressed now our house isn’t crammed full of stuff. It’s so much easier to clean, and tidying up takes just a few minutes now. Our house feels so much bigger, and because I made so much space my husband was able to re-decorate our bedroom and living room last year so everywhere is much brighter now. In our bedroom we even have shelves with NOTHING on them and it feels so calming and peaceful! The old me would have seen an empty shelf and immediately put boxes full of stuff on them but not any more!

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My lovely EMPTY shelves! 

 

 

What was really lovely for me, and a moment when I knew I’d cracked my clutter issues, was after we’d taken a load of stuff to a local charity shop we were back in town and happened to pass this particular shop. The window display was predominantly my old belongings – there was a gorgeous skirt that I’d only worn once (because it was too hard for me to fasten it as my hands no longer work very well), a lovely dress (that I’d bought and worn to my mum’s funeral and then couldn’t bear to wear it again). There were shoes that I got rid of because I can only wear flat shoes that fit over my leg brace now. And some of my jewellery. My reaction to seeing it all in the window was genuinely that I knew someone was going to get a great bargain and a gorgeous item to wear, and the money would go to a charity close to my heart. There was no desire to go and buy all my stuff back, I was glad it was gone.

Marie Kondo’s method for tidying really has honestly changed my life and I am so grateful for it. It’s given me a new mindset and allowed me to let myself have a home I can enjoy. I’ve noticed that since completing the method that I approach everything from the standpoint of whether it makes me happy. My life generally has so much more joy in it now I’m not weighed down by stuff and guilt. I appreciate what I have so much more now and my home is a lovely place to be.

 

Have you watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? Or read her books? What did you think? Are you tempted to start decluttering? I’d love to know what you think. 🙂

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

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About the Book

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ideal Angels is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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

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

Twitter@r_welbourn

 

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

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#BookReview: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

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About the Book

We all went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home.

When the unthinkable happens, six-year-old Zach is at school. Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, he is too young to understand that life will never be the same again.

Afterwards, the once close-knit community is left reeling. Zach’s dad retreats. His mum sets out to seek revenge. Zach, scared, lost and confused, disappears into his super-secret hideout to try to make sense of things. Nothing feels right – until he listens to his heart . . .

But can he remind the grown-ups how to love again?

 

My Thoughts

Only Child is about seven year old Zach and opens with him hiding in a cupboard at school with his teacher and classmates as gunshots ring out in the corridor. The police arrive and Zach is led to safety but we soon find out that his older brother was killed in the shooting. Zach is then left to try and make sense of what has happened and how to get through it.

Only Child has such a powerful opening chapter – the description, through a child’s eyes, of being huddled in a cupboard for safety was terrifying. It really made my heart race and I was hoping he would be okay. The book gradually moves towards being about how a family can ever begin to come to terms with losing a child in the way they did, but also how a young child can begin to get over such trauma.

It broke my heart when I, as an adult reader, could understand the minutiae of an argument but Zach had no concept other than that the adults around him were shouting and it was upsetting for him. It was horrible seeing him try to process his own grief while his parents were falling apart trying to work through their feelings. I can’t even imagine what it must be like but there were parts of this book that felt so visceral and real to me.

If I’m to be honest though I did struggle with this book having a child narrator at times as it did become repetitive in places – it was irritating how many times Zach tells us that someone ‘shook their head yes’. At other times it didn’t ring true that he was the age he was. We know he struggles with his reading and yet he can read the word sepulchre at the graveyard. These were small niggles though in a book that was otherwise very powerful and very moving.

Rhiannon Navin deals with this all-too-real subject with real sensitivity, and this is a powerful, gripping and very moving novel.

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

Only Child is out now and available here.

#BookReview: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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About the Book

Everyone’s invited. Everyone’s a suspect.

Nine friends ring in the New Year in the remote Scottish Highlands.

As the curtain falls on another year, the celebrations begin.

The next 48 hours see the friends catching up, reminiscing over past stories, scratching old wounds. . . And guarding friendship-destroying secrets.

The clock has barely struck 12 when a broken body is found in the snow.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

When a thick blizzard descends, the group are trapped.

No-one can get in. And no-one can get out.

Not even the killer.

 

My Thoughts

The Hunting Party has such a great premise – the idea of a group of old friends from university days going on holiday together along with their partners, and ending up stuck in a remote Scottish location due to the heavy snowfall is irresistible to me!

The Hunting Party is a little different from other novels that I’ve read with a similar premise in that we know from the start that one of the party has been murdered but we don’t know who. The novel goes back and forth in time across the whole weekend and gradually you start to have your suspicions about who might have been killed and who might be the killer. Part of me would have preferred to know who was killed so I could enjoy trying to work out who was most likely to want that person dead, but another part of me enjoyed being kept guessing about all of it. It meant I was suspicious of everyone, and also judging each of their actions more harshly than I otherwise might because I knew one of them would turn out to be a killer!

There are multiple characters in this book but it’s easy to keep track of them as they all have their own characteristics. None of them are particularly likeable but I can’t help but enjoy novels where no one is my type of person. It really works in this book as you see the events unfold and slowly work out who is dead and who might have killed them.

It always fascinates me to read novels where people are still friends with people they knew from school or university. We change so much in the years from uni to our late 20s and lives become so different so when a group is clinging on to what they once had it’s only going to be a recipe for trouble in a novel. I think friendships only truly survive if you continue to have solid things in common rather than trying to force it. The group in this book for the most part are definitely trying to recreate their youth and to recapture a bond that they once had.

This is a great novel to read at this time of year as the sense of cold and snow and isolation is perfect for winter. This is a new take on the locked room mystery and I recommend it for curling up on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket as the cold winter weather swirls around outside!

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

The Hunting Party is out now in ebook and is due for release in hardback on 24th January. Buy Link.

#BookReview: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

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About the Book

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

 

My Thoughts

The Silent Patient is about Alicia who, seemingly out of nowhere, murders her husband, Gabriel. Before the murder they seemed like the perfect couple: she a successful artist and he a successful photographer. Now Gabriel is dead and Alicia is rendered mute, she’s held in a secure psychiatric unit and no one has been able to get through to her. The novel is narrated by Theo, a psychotherapist, who becomes convinced that he can treat Alicia and get her talking again.

The Silent Patient has been calling to me from my TBR ever since I was sent an ARC last year and I finally picked it up yesterday afternoon. I literally read it non-stop as it grabbed me from the opening chapter and kept me gripped right until the very end! Even after I finished reading I was still thinking about it!

This is a novel that is predominantly told from Theo’s perspective but it’s interspersed with Alicia’s journal entries. It’s a great way of telling this story as we find out more about Theo and then about Alicia, and you can see how he becomes fixated on helping her, you see that there are similarities between them. Theo speaks to a handful of people who knew Alicia before the murder and he begins to build up a picture of the person she was, and it gets you thinking about whether she really could have killed her husband and you also wonder about the why. Then you get Alicia’s perspective through her diary entries which has you second guessing what you’d previously thought.

I loved the different ways silence was looked at in this book – Alicia was literally silent in this novel but we see other ways in which people are sidelined in their own lives, who hide their history and who keep their pain locked away. There are many ways to be silenced and many ways of showing you are silenced and this runs through this novel. So many of us have things in our lives that we can’t or won’t talk about, and you see this all through The Silent Patient. If only people talked more then maybe damage wouldn’t be wrought upon damage throughout the years. But then it also made me think of how sometimes silence is the only thing left to someone who had been made a victim; how a person can find strength in their refusal to give others what they want – their story, their voice.

The Silent Patient kept me on my toes all the way through. Initially my brain was ticking away trying to work out what was going on as I was reading (and I had about four or five different theories but none of them quite fit) but I ended up so completely engrossed in the story that I was utterly stunned when the reveal happens! It’s not often that a novel grabs me to that degree and shocks me as much as this one so it deserves all of the praise!

There’s not a lot more I can say about The Silent Patient because it’s a book best read without knowing too much about it. I honestly can’t praise it highly enough though – it’s the perfect psychological thriller and I definitely recommend that you pre-order a copy now!

The Silent Patient is very clever, utterly twisted and downright brilliant!

 

Many thanks to Poppy at Orion for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Silent Patient is due to be published on 7th February in hardback and ebook and can be pre-ordered here.

BookReview: The Rumour by Lesley Kara #TheRumour

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About the Book

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

 

My Thoughts

The Rumour is a novel about the damage that gossip can do, and also about whether people who’ve done a terrible thing as a child can ever be allowed to make a new start as an adult. This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 and I finally got to read it this week and it was everything I hoped it would be, and more!

I was gripped by The Rumour from the opening pages! It was unsettling to be reading, and sitting in judgement, of the women at the school gates gossiping about a rumour one of them had heard that child killer Sally McGowan was living in their midst whilst at the same time immediately wanting to know whether this was true or not! At heart there is maybe something in all of us that can’t resist salacious gossip and this book really plays to that.

The novel also explores very cleverly the repercussions of the gossip in the town too. A woman is falsely believed to be the killer and her life is left damaged by the rumour. Other women who are of a similar age as Sally McGowan are looked at with suspicion. It must be horrible to feel in danger when you’re innocent. It also made me think about what it must be like to have done something so awful as a child and to have served your time and to be deemed to be rehabilitated but then it’s always there. Even with a new identity the media, and the gossips, will never quite leave it alone.

I really liked Joanna in this novel, although I did find her a little naive at times, she was clearly someone who wanted to do the best for her son and to make a life for herself in this town they’ve recently moved to. She tries to make friends with some other mums in order to help her son make friends, which is how she ends up fuelling the gossip with her own take on the rumour.

Lesley Kara captures small town mentality so perfectly. I grew up in a smallish town where everyone knew everyone else’s business. Gossip was right around the town before the subject of the gossip would even know about it. I found it so claustrophobic as I got a bit older and I’m glad not to live there anymore. The Rumour really captures how gossip spreads in small towns, and also the reasons why people gossip. Often no harm is meant but that doesn’t mean no harm is caused.

The Rumour is full of red herrings, and this makes for such a rollercoaster of a read. I loved that when I thought I had it all worked out there was a sting in the tail. The Rumour is a brilliant, fast-paced and unputdownable novel and I’m already thinking that it is highly likely to be on my best books of 2019! It was that good!

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

The Rumour is out now and available here.

#BookReview: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton | @KJHAuthor @Wildfirebks @Bookish_Becky

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About the Book

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

 

My Thoughts

I was very lucky to be sent an ARC of The Perfect Girlfriend last year but I didn’t manage to read it at the time. I finally picked it up yesterday and I read the whole novel in one sitting!

The Perfect Girlfriend is the story of Juliette. She has trained to be a flight attendant in order to keep a close eye on Nate, who is a pilot. Nate was Juliette’s boyfriend until he broke up with her six months ago but now Juliette is determined to prove to him that she is the perfect girlfriend and that he should be with her!

This novel has such a good premise and I was intrigued by it from the moment I first heard about it. The idea of someone going to such lengths as to train in a new career in order to try and get their ex back is worrying but a fantastic idea for a book! This is a real insight into the mind of a stalker, someone who is so obsessed by a previous lover that they simply can’t let go. They believe that what they want is what will make the other person happy and so pursue that life at all costs.

Juliette is a brilliant character. Initially I felt a little sorry for her, she’s clearly got issues but she’s had some really difficult times in her life so I was hoping she would get herself together. As the novel goes on she is harder and harder to like but impossible to stop reading about. She is increasingly unhinged as she steps up her campaign to get Nate back and there are moments when I was holding my breath hoping that all would be okay in the end. This is a novel that slowly builds the tension, it creeps up on you and before you know it you’re on the edge of your seat hoping that real life won’t interrupt your reading time!

The Perfect Girlfriend is fast-paced, creepy and impossible to put down – I recommend it! I’m already eagerly anticipating whatever Karen Hamilton writes next!

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

The Perfect Girlfriend is out today in paperback and available here.

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

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About the Book

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

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

 

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

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#BookReview: The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard @cathryanhoward @CorvusBooks #TheLiarsGirl @annecater

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About the Book

Her first love confessed to five murders.

The truth was so much worse.

Will Hurley, Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, is in prison, ten years into a life sentence.

His ex-girlfriend, Alison, has built a new life abroad, putting her shattered past behind her.

Then the copycat killings start. Will holds the key to unlocking these crimes, but he’ll only talk to Alison. Can the killer be stopped before there’s another senseless murder? And after all these years, can Alison face the past – and the man – she’s worked so hard to forget?

 

My Thoughts

The Liar’s Girl is the story of Alison, who meets the love of her life at university but then her life spirals when her best friend is murdered and her boyfriend Will is arrested for the killing. The novel is told predominantly from Alison’s perspective in a dual timeline: in the past when she’s at Uni and in the present ten years later as she’s trying to build a life for herself. Things begin to unravel when a copycat killer is on the loose and the police want Alison to come back to Dublin to speak to Will about what he might know.

The Liar’s Girl opens with a scene that was so unnerving. A young woman comes round in a house, obviously in the aftermath of a small party or gathering of other young people. She’s clearly had a drink but she’s aware that something’s really not right. Then she sees something which chills her to the bone and she runs. My adrenaline was racing as I read it and I just knew this was going to be a brilliant read (and I was so right!).

I liked Alison from the start of this novel and felt such sympathy for her at all she had been through. It’s clearly damaged her and affected her ability to form relationships with men, and she never feels like she can be honest about knowing Will or Liz. It must be so difficult to feel you have to keep such secrets. You can see from the start that Alison and Liz had a complicated friendship that is so common in the teenage years. One is often more of a leader than the other, and that leaves the other to feel like they’re just following along without really knowing who they are. When Liz and Alison get to Uni and Alison meets her flatmate and then Will she begins to grow in confidence, but then the murders happen. All through the novel I was hoping Alison would find the strength to come to terms with all the complex emotions she’d buried from the past.

I did work out some aspects of how this novel would end, although I had my doubts about a couple of the characters before I settled on a theory, but this never spoiled my enjoyment of the book as I wanted to know why and how.

The Liar’s Girl had perfect pacing for me – it’s quite a slow-burn, allowing the reader to get to know Alison and letting the tension build up, while at the same time being such a fast read because once you start reading you just don’t want to put it down! The novel is predominantly about Alison and about how the murders are investigated but it’s interspersed with creepy moments from the killer’s perspective that definitely get the adrenaline going!

The Liar’s Girl is gripping, thrilling and impossible to put down! I read this in one sitting and absolutely loved it! I definitely recommend this one!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corvus for my copy of The Liar’s Girl and my invitation to be on the blog tour.

The Liar’s Girl is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin. Her debut novel Distress Signalswas published by Corvus in 2016 and was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger.

 

 

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

the liar's girl blog tour poster

Mini Crime and Thriller Book Reviews! #bookreview

I didn’t quite catch up on reviewing the books that I read in 2018 before the end of the year so here is another mini book review post 🙂

 

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A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of Barclay’s previous novels but A Noise Downstairs is by far my favourite of his to date. It was creepy and unnerving, and even when I was on the edge of my seat I simply couldn’t put this book down because I had to know how it was going to end. I do enjoy books where the premise could be that there is someone setting someone up to think they’re going mad, or the person could actually be losing their grip on reality and this book does this so well.  I did find I had to suspend disbelief with some aspects of this novel but it didn’t make it any less enjoyable, and the end when it comes is shocking and disturbing. I definitely recommend it!

 

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The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

This is the first of Sophie Hannah’s takes on Agatha Christie that I’ve read and I did really enjoy it. My favourite thing about Christie is the puzzle element, her novels don’t always feel grounded in reality for me but the puzzle is always brilliant and I think Hannah did a good job with this. This book’s mystery was one that I managed to figure out elements of but not the whole thing, something that’s rare for me with Poirot but I liked feeling like I had a chance of solving the crime. I’ll definitely be picking up more of Sophie Hannah’s Poirot books and I’m really looking forward to reading them.

 

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All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

This is a stunning novel about the aftermath of a college shooting. It follows three characters as they are forced to face up to what has happened in their community. One is the mother of the shooter, then there is the mother of the first girl to be shot, and the third is the detective in charge of the investigation. The novel actually starts the day before and the build up is so tense because you know what’s going to happen but you’re not sure how or when. The three viewpoints make this such a heartbreaking read as we learn more about these women and their lives, and how the devastation has affected them. I highly recommend this novel.

 

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Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke

This is a beautifully written but also devastating novel looking at a community dealing with the aftermath of two apparent murders – one of a black man and the other of a white woman. The racial tensions within the town play a large part in how each person views everyone else. It felt quite claustrophobic at times, like I was right there in the town and seeing this situation unfold with my own eyes. I found this book so unsettling, and yet really hard to put down. This is an excellent, prescient and really important read. I definitely need to read more of Attica Locke’s work this year.

#BookReview: Attend by West Camel | @west_camel @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #Attend

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About the Book

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, an exquisite history of hidden Deptford and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.

 

My Thoughts

Attend follows three characters – Deborah, Anne and Sam. Deborah is very old and is invisible to most people these days. Her story is told is mostly told in chapters about her younger years but she also tells her stories to those who listen. Anne is a recovering drug addict and is struggling to find where she fits in her life now she’s no longer using drugs. Sam is looking for something or someone, he also seems a bit lost.

Attend is a hard book to describe, it was such a different read for me but I can assure you that it’s a beautiful novel. Deborah’s story was fascinating; she has really been through a lot in her life and she just wants it to come to an end now. I felt sorry for Anne as she struggled to fit with her mother and daughter, it seems like now she’s clean no one has any faith in her that she will stay clean. I felt like this fed into Anne’s insecurities and it was as if she then didn’t have any faith or confidence in herself. Sam had a tragedy in his past and he’s not yet come to terms with what happened. He looks to hook up with men to try and ease his uneasiness but really he’s looking for someone to love him, to believe in him.

The cover of this book is so utterly perfect as this novel really is a story about how the threads of a person’s life become part of the tapestry of someone else’s life. Deborah is fixated on the fabric that she’s carried with her all of her life as it carries her story, the story of how she came to be. She shares these stories with Anne and with Sam and gradually you can see that those threads, those stories are seeping into them. They believe in Deborah and she keeps talking to them because they need these stories. They don’t know that they need them but they do, it’s these stories that will help heal them. It also made me think about the way our lives are interwoven with others, how we cross paths with people who mean nothing to us but somewhere down the line we end up connected to their life in some way.

I didn’t expect this to be a book that moved me but I actually shed tears at the end. This book defies genre in many ways but if a book can make you feel things then genre doesn’t matter because emotion is the mark of a wonderful novel. I don’t have the words to describe Attend other than to say it’s beautiful, incredible and unforgettable. I can’t wait to read whatever West Camel writes next!

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

Attend is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing.  He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch.  He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Rivetermagazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

 

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

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#BookReview: The Present by Charlotte Phillips

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About the Book

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me … one romantic Christmas you won’t forget.

When helping to clear out her beloved grandmother’s home, Lucy Jackson discovers twelve beautiful Christmas decorations hidden in the loft. As she discovers their heartbreaking story, a touching romance develops with the handsome gardener next door.

My Thoughts

The Present is about Lucy, who is in the middle of trying to clear her beloved Grandmother Olive’s house to ready it for sale. Olive has had a fall and is in hospital so Lucy wants to move her in with her and her partner. It’s close to Christmas and Lucy is busy with planning for the holidays and really struggling with going through Olive’s belongings as it’s bringing up so many memories of her own childhood.

This novel is everything I want in a Christmas story, it really is a beautiful read. I felt so moved by Lucy having to sort her Gran’s things out, and not having support from her partner. I know what it’s like to have to clear out a loved one’s home and it’s so hard to let their things go. The antique Christmas ornaments that she finds in a dark corner of the attic are described in such a way that I could really envisage them and was excited to follow Lucy’s journey to work out what meaning they held for her Gran.

Olive’s handyman Jack is busy fixing up the house and he ends up helping Lucy empty the attic and gets drawn into the mystery of the ornaments. It was so lovely that Lucy found someone who wanted to help her and took an interest in what she’d found as her boyfriend just seemed so cold and disinterested. I was rooting for Lucy to find happiness throughout this novel and really hoping she would find a way to hold on to her Gran’s house.

Both Jack and Lucy begin to feel more reflective about their own lives as they discover more about Olive’s past. They each carry sadness about the people they’ve lost and gradually seem to help each other by sharing memories as the novel goes on. I loved this aspect of the novel because it is how grief is, it catches up with you eventually and when you find someone who really understands it eventually helps ease some of the pain you carry. There is a real message in this book about remembering and finding a way to carry lost loved ones with you, it’s so beautiful.

This is a gorgeous novel is set in the lead up to Christmas and all the nostalgia of the ornaments and then the back story of Olive’s life makes for a lovely, heart-warming read at this time of year. I definitely recommend this book!

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

The Present is out now and available here.

About the Author

Writer of funny, sassy, sexy stories for Harlequin KISS/Mills & BOON ModernTempted and HarperImpulse.

Also mum to three kids and a mad dachshund and terrible housewife to a heroic husband who doesn’t notice he is living in a hovel. Loves her sofa, her SkyPlus, her Apple TV and her pyjamas.

#BookReview: No One Cancels Christmas by Zara Stoneley

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About the Book

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling holly!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince gorgeous but Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be…

 

My Thoughts

No One Cancels Christmas is about travel agent Sarah who is sad to see complaints about her favourite Christmas holiday resort – The Shooting Star Mountain Resort and resolves to do something about it. The new owner, Will, seems to be be unwilling to listen to Sarah so she decides she has to do something herself to turn it around.

This book opens with Sarah sending a series of stroppy emails to Will, one by accident, and this was very amusing. I was keen to see what would happen when Sarah decides to go to the resort to confront Will in person.

This novel wasn’t as full-on festive as I was hoping it would be but there are Christmas things sprinkled throughout. Initially the resort is really sad and tired, there is no sign of Christmas being near but Sarah throws herself into bringing the holiday season to Shooting Star and as she begins to work her magic the Christmas spirit begins to shine through the pages.

I liked that there was more depth to this novel than it just being a Christmas romance. Sarah was abandoned by her parents at Shooting Star resort as a young child and ended up living with her aunt so she has unresolved pain to work through. Will has his demons too and gradually we find out exactly what happened to each of them.

All in all this was a lovely novel to read near Christmas and I would recommend it. It’s definitely fun and romantic, and there’s lots of snow!

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

No One Cancels Christmas is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Author Zara Stoneley has been writing stories for just about as long as she’s been reading them. She sold her first erotic novel in 2012. Her stories have featured on romance and erotic bestseller lists in the US and UK. Zara divides her time between a country cottage in the UK and a Barcelona apartment.