The Couple at No.9

Author: Claire Douglas

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 30th September 2021 in Paperback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Ella Watkins & Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

It was the house of their dreams. Until the bodies were found . . .

When pregnant Saffron Cutler and her boyfriend Tom move into 9 Skelton Place, they didn’t expect to find this.

Two bodies buried under the patio over thirty years ago.

When the police launch a murder investigation, they ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner – Saffy’s grandmother, Rose, whose Alzheimer’s clouds her memory.

But it is clear she remembers something . . .

What happened thirty years ago?

What part did her grandmother play?

And is Saffy now in danger? . . .

My Thoughts:

Firstly an apology to Claire & Penguin Michael Joseph, my review for this blog tour was due to be posted yesterday 21st September, but I had an episode of dyslexic confusion (I transposed a 7 for a 1) I believed it wasn’t due until next week! But at 10pm yesterday, I discovered my error and hopefully my post today will make up for being a day late, for which I am very sorry. Here’s my review.

I am always overjoyed when I discover a writer whose work, I have heard about but not yet experienced for myself and this was the definitely the case for me with Claire Douglas’s latest book The Couple at No.9 which is a dextrously constructed crime maze of a novel; with Claire directing you with confidence down one path of assumption, before dispelling your conclusions and driving you to a dead end of suspicion and then re-routing you with erudite skill in another direction! This book is a masterpiece of creepy, crime cleverness that you cannot put down once you turn the first page and I will certainly be adding the rest of Claire’s crime collection to my must buy list, you will need to do the same!

From the outset, you are immersed in the plot of the story; Saffron (Saffy) Cutler and her partner Tom are renovating their new home, when their builders unearth a hand and that is only the beginning as their macabre revelation morphs into the discovery of two bodies buried in the garden! Instantly the questions start to come, who are they, why were they killed and how on earth did they end up here in Saffy’s grandmother Rose’s former home! Saffy enlists her mother Lorna’s help; driven by curiosity and a need for answers (and familial need to potentially protect her grandmother) Saffy is determined to get to the bottom of matters but will her erstwhile investigations put her in danger! I confess the voice in my own head kept screaming; noooo don’t do that rather often! But of course, the characters don’t listen to me, and regardless of my own fear of the plot trajectory, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of reading the book but it certainly added a building tension to my reading, never mind making my questioning imagination run amok!

The character perspectives of this story in my opinion make it such brilliant read, the alternating voices, ideas, and authentic natures of Saffy, Lorna and Rose make you forget you are reading fiction. Claire’s astute and perceptive development of Rose; Saffy’s much loved grandmother, whose advancing dementia is erasing her recollections and recognition, makes her viewpoint fascinating and I admired Claire’s skill in layering her characters intellectual and emotional reactions to their circumstances and how they influence the actions of the other protagonists. But as to how the story fully unfolds, well now as if I am going to spoil that, I will say that all the multitude of questions you start this book with do come to fruition although the answers you uncover are a heady mix of astounding, discomforting and far reaching and the necessity for justice for those who need or deserve it may well be sated! I know, I ‘m being a tad cryptic but I am doing my best not to ruin your reading experience of this novel.

This is a thoroughly absorbing, addictive & delightfully shrewd crime novel and one I won’t forget anytime soon. I have loved its sublime cleverness and its ability to surprise me more than once. It is a novel every crime buff needs to add to their collection, you will miss out if you don’t add it to yours!

Happy Reading Bookophiles….

About the Author:

Claire Douglas always wanted to write novels and, after many years of trying to get published, her dream came true when she won the Marie Claire Debut Novel Award in 2013 with THE SISTERS. Her subsequent novels LOCAL GIRL MISSING, LAST SEEN ALIVE and DO NOT DISTURB all reached the Sunday Times top ten bestsellers list and are published in over fifteen countries. LOCAL GIRL MISSING was the bestselling crime debut of 2018 in Germany. Her fifth thriller, THEN SHE VANISHES is due for release in Ebook end of June 2019 and in paperback August 2019.

You can find Claire on Twitter at @DougieClaire, Instagram as clairedouglasauthor or visit her Facebook page clairedouglasauthor.

Please do have a read of the other reviews on this blog tour.

For Your Own Good

Author: Samantha Downing

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 19th August in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Kallie Townsend & Penguin Michael Joseph for my lovely, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

SOMETIMES THE MOST UNLIKELY PEOPLE HAVE THE DARKEST SECRETS

Teddy Crutcher is a successful teacher at a top school. He’s a pillar of the community.

Only you know the truth.

He’s married to a beautiful wife – the best thing that ever happened to him.

But no-one has seen her in a while.

He’s so dedicated that even the tragic death of a school parent doesn’t distract him.

Even when the rumours start, saying it was murder.

You’re sure Teddy is hiding something about what happened.

You’re sure you can prove it.

But you didn’t stop to think that when it comes to catching a killer, there’s no place more dangerous than just one step behind . . .

My Thoughts

I must admit that For Your Own Good is my first experience of reading one of Samantha’s books but it absolutely won’t be the last, especially as I have discovered that I bought the audiobook for My Lovely Wife (guess what I am listing to next). So, you will have to forgive my reading choice oversight up to this point. Samantha’s latest book is enticing, engaging, utterly enthralling and downright deliciously evil…oh my goodness you are in for a piquantly dark treat. It is a novel that for us readers undermines your assumptions, to assume anything when reading this book, may well lead you astray! Just when you believe you know precisely the what, the why, the who and the when…rest assured you don’t! As this story cleverly and deftly twists and turns, leaving you breathlessly agog!

Teddy Croucher is the current incumbent of the prestigious Teacher of the Year award; firmly ensconced in his role at the exclusive and expensive Belmont Academy. On the face of things, he has altruistic and admirable aspirations, especially for his students. However, his public face is merely a facade that hides the malignant, twist soul within and to cross him, could be deadly and as the story progresses the dark depraved lengths of this cast are seemingly endless and not confined to a single character! Especially if you add into the mix wealthy demanding parents who will cross all boundaries to ensure their child’s success and a cohort of students who have their own special brand of entitled deviousness! My goodness what a nest of vipers…!

What really grabbed my attention, when engrossed in this novel was Samantha’s cohesive and creative use of multiple character narration; using different voices and viewpoints to create a whole picture through the eyes of her machiavellian cast which provides the reader with many poisonous possibilities; which in its entirety makes for delectably divisive reading. The atmosphere of malevolence, manipulation and murder are rife and the reactions and reasonings of each character’s part is chilling. My advice when reading this sinister spectacular is to assume nothing and expect the unexpected as Samantha is a genius at making what seems benign and ordinary utterly petrifying and I did consider hiding behind my sofa cushions to avert my building internal tension regarding the direction of the story, yet regardless of my unease, I certainly couldn’t put this book down!

Am I perhaps being reticent about the specifics and trajectory of the plotlines within in this novel…heck yes!!! It is far to delightfully diabolical to spoil the experience for you! This taut, twisted, thrilling, tainted tale imbued with exceptional dark humour is an astonishing blend and it means Samantha’s latest book is not to be missed…I mean it, go, and buy it…right now!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Samantha Downing is the author of the bestselling My Lovely Wife, nominated for Edgar, ITW, Macavity, and CWA awards. Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel. Her second book, He Started It, was released in 2020 and became an instant international bestseller.

For Your Own Good was released on July 20, 2021. It has been optioned by Robert Downey Jr. and Greg Berlanti for HBO Max.

Please do have a read of some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The House Beneath The Cliffs

Author: Sharon Gosling

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 19th August 2021 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours, Simon & Schuster for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A remote yet beautiful Scottish village. A tiny kitchen lunch club. The perfect place to start again.

Anna moves to Crovie, a tiny fishing village on the Moray Firth, for a fresh start. But when she arrives, she realises her new home is really no more than a shed, and the village itself sits beneath a cliff right on the edge of the sea, in constant danger of storms and landslides. Has she made a terrible mistake?

Yet as she begins to learn about the Scottish coast and its people, something she thought she’d lost reawakens in her. She rediscovers her love of cooking and turns her kitchen into a pop-up lunch club. But not all the locals are delighted about her arrival, and some are keen to see her plans fail. Will Anna really be able to put down roots in this remote and wild village? Or will her fragile new beginning start to crumble with the cliffs . . .?

Beautiful, moving and utterly absorbing, The House Beneath the Cliffs is a novel of friendship and food, storms and secrets, and the beauty of second chances. An exciting new voice in commercial fiction, perfect for fans of Victoria Hislop and Kate Morton

My Thoughts:

The House beneath the Cliffs is Sharon’s debut adult novel and if like me, you’re a huge fan of writers like Heidi Swain, Trisha Ashley and Holly Hepburn then Sharon’s book is an absolute must read for you. It is the perfect book to snuggle up with this autumn, I suggest you breakout the frothy coffee and the Ferro Roche stash and curl up on your sofa, as it it’s time to visit the tiny remote village of Crovie. Sharon’s delightful imagination has opened a door to new world, creating an authentic, charming, amusing, and poignant story, with a cast of quirky, vivid characters, who from the moment you meet them, find a place in your heart. I mean, how can you resist a story about friendship, food and finding a home; I devoured it in 3 hours and I doubt I’m the only reader who will do so! Every page of this book resonates with its readers and you cannot put it down!

Anna Campbell is not yet 40 and a talented chef but her life has just imploded, her 20 year relationship has ended and the loss of a beloved parent recently has added to the turmoil, seeking to distance herself from the overwhelming upheaval of the situation and the feelings of sadness and disappointment that threaten to engulf her. Anna make’s a dramatic decision, she is leaving her past behind and starting afresh and almost on a whim, buys the tiny cottage Fishergirl’s Luck in the wild and remote village of Crovie. Believing that starting over is the answer to her problems but an unfortunate encounter with the village grouch (Douglas McKean) whose grumpy attitude towards her arrival, sparks concern in Anna. Has she made an error in judgment and acted in haste; this uncertainty is amplified when she finally gains access to her tiny new home and wonders what on earth, she’s done moving to the end of the world to live in a teeny shack!

Some of Anna’s doubts about her decision are dispelled when she is warmly welcomed by her new neighbours, Pat & Frank Thorpe, who live at Weavers Knot, the B&B (opposite) and with their support and encouragement. Anna take’s her new home in hand and she learns more about the incredible former occupant of her cottage, the independent and irrepressible Bren. Anna starts to assess her life choices both past and present, what to do career wise and whether making Fishergirl’s Luck her permanent home is practical; slowly Anna starts to settle in to her home and the village and makes friends (The usual suspects dinners, Rhonda the gifted potter, Old Robbie, who isn’t old but a widower with a young son (young Robbie) but there is still tension with Dougie Mackenzie, who remains a curmudgeon, and he takes every opportunity to spoil Anna’s contentment and her plans!

 Especially when Anna is inspired by Bren’s little recipe book and starts to produce incredible food for her new friends, which develops in the tiny kitchen lunch club and despite a few hiccups, this gem of a venture proves to have a life of its own (in some fantastic ways). Anna’s romantic life also features a new delicious ingredient (the rather yummy New Zealander Liam, who is both pretty and witty) and vastly different from Anna’s ex – Geoff, celebrity chef, arrogant, condescending and (excuse me for the rude words) a total ‘nob head’…trust me, my taser finger was twitching…but I will leave you to find out more about this unsavoury character for yourselves, as trust me, he does make a nuisance of himself!

As to how the rest of the story unfolds; well, I shall say there are lots of secrets to be revealed, storms to be weathered both figuratively and literally and Anna learns that friends can be family and provide sanctuary for heart and mind and love of a place and it’s people can enable you to find where you belong…am I being cryptic, I do hope so…as I really want you to read the book and discover its surprises for yourself, be warned you may need a tissue or two as well!

Sharon’s story is a cornucopia of charm, community, and character. I loved this book so much; the detail of the village of Crovie (which is a real place, see Sharon’s author note) the structure and contents of Fishergirl’s Luck is delightful and Robbie’s letters are beautifully beetroot filled.  Sharon’s style of writing is humourous, intuitive and full of emotional intelligence and the relatability that she brings to her storylines and characters, makes Anna and co, feel like real friends and I do hope we will be able to visit Crovie again very soon because I want to know what happens next for Anna, Pat, Rhona et al…there needs to be many more books in this series…please Sharon, we your readers need more…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Sharon Gosling lives with her husband in a very remote village in northern Cumbia, where they moved to run a second-hand bookshop, Withnail Books in Penrith. She began her career in entertainment journalism, writing for magazines in the science fiction and fantasy genre, before moving on to write tie-in books for TV shows such as Stargate and the ‘re-imagined’ Battlestar Galactica. She has also written, produced, and directed audio dramas based in the same genre. When she’s not writing, she creates beautiful linocut artwork and is the author of multiple children’s books. The House Beneath the Cliffs is her first adult novel. Follow her at @sharongosling.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Mimic

Author: Daniel Cole

Publisher: Trapeze/Orion Books

Available: 19th August 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Ellen Turner and Orion Books for my beautiful gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

1989

DS Benjamin Chambers and DC Adam Winter are on the trail of a twisted serial killer with a passion for recreating the world’s greatest works of art through the bodies of his victims. But after Chambers almost loses his life, the case goes cold – their killer lying dormant, his collection unfinished.

1996

Jordan Marshall has excelled within the Metropolitan Police Service, fuelled by a loss that defined her teenage years. Obsessed, she manages to obtain new evidence, convincing both Chambers and Winter to revisit the case. However, their resurrected investigation brings about a fresh reign of terror, the team treading a fine line between police officers and vigilantes in their pursuit of a monster far more dangerous and intelligent than any of them had anticipated…

My Thoughts:

As soon as I was aware Daniel had written another book, I could barely contain my excited anticipation.  I absolutely loved his Ragdoll trilogy as they are supremely sinister and utterly addictive reading. So, I knew I would be in for a devious, dark treat with this latest book. Mimic is, indeed, enthralling, gritty and a gloriously grisly novel and you simply can’t stop turning its pages, prepare yourself for some high-octane sleuthing!

Daniel sets the thrilling and chilling tone of his latest book, with a spine tingling prologue; The Day Death Came to Visit and with these dark words seeping into your head, the story begins in 1989; a routine call on a cold winter day; a body has been discovered, DS Ben Chambers is expecting to find the corpse of a rough sleeper, killed by the cold. What he discovers instead is a victim displayed as a statue; the horrifying, stunning audacity of the crime is not lost on Ben and when further human masterpieces are discovered DS Chambers and PC Winters (his rather pretty but dim sidekick) are hot on this nefarious killer’s trail but they get too close and Ben nearly falls victim to the sinister sculptor of death…their brutal, breathtaking battle, leaves blood and bodies in its wake!

Seven Years further on…Chambers and Winter’s still bare the emotional and physical scars of their encounter but when trainee detective Jordan Marshall enters the fray, requesting their assistance once more in tracking this maestro of the macabre, they can’t say No! Jordan has been conducting her own investigation, as she too has a tragic connection to this case and the fallout has cast a pall on her life; can they together, finally capture this violent virtuoso of death but what might be the cost this time around ( and No, I’m not telling you anymore, you will have to buy a copy and find out!)

One of the reasons I am addicted to Daniel’s books, is his skill in crafting clever, complex plots and making us reader’s omnipotent watchers, we are given insight into his heroes/heroines lives but also glimpse into the disturbed psyches of his vicious, violent villains and their dark logic for committing the crimes they do. Which certainly ratchets up the tension, when you’re reading, as you can potentially guess, what might happen next but usually you will be wrong, I speak from experience! Daniel also has a penchant for the absurdities of life; often portrayed in the dialogue of his cast; in this book, Winter’s consideration of what to say to the killer, when they catch up with him…it involves custard creams, never mind the hilarious gems regarding He-man and receding hairlines…a delicious relief from the shadowy twists and turns of the book.

This novel is a crime masterpiece; Daniel specialises in the spectacular, sinister crime battles between good and evil; a mysterious, malevolent killer verses flawed, determined & quick-witted detectives, making for a sublime story! Do remember to breathe when you’re reading because occasionally with the tense atmosphere and the sensation of the killer on your heels, you may forget! This latest instalment from Daniel, is a sophisticated, exciting, exceptional, clever book and absolutely surpasses any expectations I had and you must add it to your crime collections and I have a sneaking suspicion, this will not be the last we hear about Chambers, Winter’s and Marshal…I can’t wait for more!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Daniel Cole (@DanielColeBooks) is the Sunday Times bestselling author of the Ragdoll trilogy, which has now been published in over thirty countries. A TV adaption is currently in the works and his fourth novel is due to be published late-summer 2021. He has worked as a paramedic, an animal protection officer, and with the beach lifeguards, but for the past five years has been describing himself on paperwork as a ‘full-time writer’.

He lives on the south coast of England and divides his time between the beach and the forest.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

She’s Mine

Author: AA Chaudhuri

Publisher: Hera Books

Available: 18th August 2021 in Paperback & eBook

It is my pleasure today to bring you a wonderful extract from AA Chaudhuri latest book, just to give you all a little taste of this exciting new crime thriller.

I was very lucky to read and review The Abduction last year and it was the prefect dark, twisty blend that we crime readers all adore and as you will be able to read for yourself, this latest book is definitely a story to add to your Crime Collections…Happy Reading Bookophiles…

Book Details

Her missing daughter was just the start of the nightmare

Twenty years ago, Christine Donovan took a call she should have ignored while shopping. In those few seconds while her back was turned, her toddler, Heidi, was kidnapped. She’s never been seen again.

Despite having two other children with husband Greg, Christine remains guilt-stricken that her neglect caused her child to be stolen, while haunted by a secret that consumes her.

Just as she takes measures to finally heal, a note is posted through her door, with the words she has always longed to hear: Heidi isn’t dead.

Christine might finally get the answers she craves – but what she doesn’t know is that finding her daughter will uncover dark secrets close to home.

In seeking the truth, Christine might destroy everything that she loves … so how far is she willing to go to find Heidi?

With a truly jaw-dropping end twist, She’s Mine is a dark, scandalous, and gripping read from a major new talent in psychological thriller writing. For fans of Harriet Tyce, C.L. Taylor and Apple Tree Yard.

Extract

You and I were in Peter Jones on the King’s Road. It was an unusually hot late-summer’s day and we’d ducked inside the air-conditioned department store to seek sanctuary from the heat. Like me, you were wearing a sleeveless cotton dress, only yours was dotted with pretty multicoloured butterflies, while mine was plain blue-and-white striped. I knew even then that you were a girly girl. You would giggle when I decorated your hair with ribbons and sparkly hairgrips, and you would always point to the pretty pastel-coloured dresses in the shops and in my glossy women’s magazines, not to mention delight in opening my handbags, testing every cosmetic inside, often with very messy results. You would play for hours on end with your dolls, smoothing down their hair, giving them hugs when they were sad or scared, attempting to change their nappies, feeding them milk with your plastic baby bottle. And you would sit upright on my bed, watch me with fascinated eyes as I sat at my dressing table and applied my lipstick, or arranged my hair in the style I wanted for that day. You were my princess. But you were also a daddy’s girl. The joy on your face was priceless on the rare occasions Greg came home early from work and scooped you up in his arms, spinning you round until you were dizzy and showering you with kisses as you giggled uncontrollably. I can still remember your unaffected laughter, the way your face broke out into the broadest of smiles, the pure, natural elation of being loved. It is one of my fondest, yet most painful, memories.

That day – the day you were stolen from me – you had just turned two-and-a-half. That unbelievably cute age; chubby cheeks, chubby arms, chubby legs, loveable little phrases that would melt my heart. And when I looked at you, I’d have this urge to wrap you up in my arms and squeeze you tight, because you were just too goddamn gorgeous and it was almost hard to believe you were mine. You came from me, and I’d wonder how I had existed, truly lived, before you.

You had a delicious mop of chocolate-brown curls, just like your father, the dinkiest of milk teeth interspersed with a few adorable gaps, fat little legs that kicked about in the buggy as you took in your surroundings with glee, curious about everything, your big brown eyes filled with wonder, along with pure, unconditional love for the one with whom you felt most safe. The one person who attended to your every need. Who, more than anyone, you could trust to keep you safe.

If only that had been true.

About the Author:

A. A. Chaudhuri is a former City lawyer. After gaining a degree in History at University College London, she later trained as a solicitor and worked for several major London law firms before leaving law to pursue her passion for writing. She is the author of The Scribe and The Abduction, books 1 and 2 of her Kramer & Carver legal thriller series featuring the feisty Maddy Kramer, also published in audio. Her first psychological thriller with Hera Books, She’s Mine, will be published in 18th August 2021. Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency, she lives in Surrey with her family, and loves films, all things Italian and a good margarita!

#1 Amazon Australia Amateur Sleuth Mysteries (Aug ’19); #1 Amazon Canada Women Sleuth Mysteries; (Aug ’19) top 10 Amazon UK Legal crime thrillers (Aug ’19); #1 Amazon Australia Legal Thrillers (November ’19)

Please do take a look at some of the reviews on this blog tour

Before I Saw You

Author: Emily Houghton

Publisher: Black Swan

Available: 5th August 2021 in Paperback, Ebook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Black Swan for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

CAN YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE YOU’VENEVER SEEN?

Alice and Alfie are strangers.

But they sleep next to each other every night.

Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now, so when someone moves into the bed next to him he’s eager to make friends. But it quickly becomes clear that seeing his neighbour’s face won’t happen any time soon. Alice Gunnersley has been badly burned and can’t even look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else to see her. Keeping the curtain around her bed firmly closed, it doesn’t stop Alfie trying to get to know her. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice out of her shell, might there even be potential for more

My Thoughts:

This wonderful, charming, amusing romance has transported me to my happy place this week. As much as I love reading fascinating historical fiction and dark, twisty crime novels; there has always been room in this reader’s heart for glorious romance novels. As a genre these books are never afforded enough accolades for the scope of their emotional intelligence, comic genius and their perceptive observations of human nature. Emily’s debut book contains all these incredible elements and much more.

Alfie and Alice’s story is told to us in alternating chapters from each of their points of view. Both characters have ended up in hospital after surviving traumatic and tragic accidents, Alfie in a car and Alice in a fire. Alfie is the life and soul of the ward, he’s affable, chatty and more than a bit cheeky (and you just might fall a bit in love with him). In contrast is Alice, whose arrival in the ward is shrouded in mystery, quite literally as her ward curtains remain drawn. Alice is reserved, independent and might just be considered a bit of a grump (but as she reminded me of myself quite a lot, I couldn’t help but appreciate her character traits). Despite Alice’s reticence to engage with anyone, Alfie is shrewd enough to realise there is more to her than that and is on a mission to discover more, yet regardless of all his amusing efforts. Alice remains distant and silent until one night during one of Alfie’s reoccurring nightmares (regarding the car accident) Alice reaches out to comfort him.

As this story progresses, we learn that both protagonists have more than their external injuries to cope with and it is the unresolved mental health issues that lead to the drama in this plot and you may think, I am being reluctant in explaining this in full detail; because I am, as you know. I don’t do spoilers and to appreciate the relationship between Alfie and Alice you need to experience their marvellous interactions for yourselves. As in life, in this story there are a few spanners in the works for the characters and the readers to contend with; Will Alfie win Alice round; Can Alfie combat his demons; Will Alice be able to see past her external flaws and her internal hurt but of course, the biggest question of all…will there be a happy ending? Ha as if I am going to give you any clues!

At the core of this story is the value and nature of friendships and family; we can’t always choose our families (wait until you meet Alice’s mother!) but we can choose our friends and they can and do become the family we choose because our friends are people who love us, just exactly as we are…scars and all! Emily has created a cast of endearing, empathetic characters, whose dialogue is perfectly pithy even in the dark moments and reading them cannot fail to lift your heart, as it did mine.

This is a tender, tenacious and occasionally tempestuous love story, where loving another person for who they are is more important than the way they look, what they wear or any material wealth they may have. Falling in love is more than skin deep, it when minds and souls connect. This is a story that will make your heart flutter and you may require a tissue or two but you will certainly revel in Alice  and Alfie’s story, it is the epitome of modern love and I absolutely adored it…I know you will too!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Emily Houghton is an ex digital specialist and full-time creative writer. She originally comes from Essex but now lives in London. Emily is a trained yoga and spin teacher, completely obsessed with dogs and has dreamt of being an author ever since she could hold a pen.

Please do have a read of some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Dear Grace

Author: Clare Swatman

Publisher:  Nielsen

Available: 25th June 2021 in Paperback & eBook

Purchase Link: Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dear-Grace-Clare-Swatman/dp/1916906001/

 Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours, Clare Swatman & Nielsen for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

The most unlikely friendship. The most unexpected consequences.

When Anna’s husband cheats on her, she’s sure she’ll never be happy again. But then she meets 94-year-old Grace. Despite an age gap of more than fifty years, the pair set out together on a life-changing journey halfway across the country in search of some answers.

Sometimes the only way to move on is to revisit the past. But will Anna and Grace be prepared for what they find?

A story about love, female friendship, heartbreak and learning to forgive.

My Thoughts

The moment I read the book details for this novel, I knew instantly that I simply had to read it, well for starters the Author and I share the same name and a love of Lowestoft. I spent 5 years at UEA in Norwich and regularly visited the glorious town in my faithful Austen metro Merv…so I knew with such similarities in common, that I was going to enjoy Clare’s book and I wasn’t wrong! Dear Grace, is the sort of book that lifts your heart and cheers your spirit. It is a story that emphasises the good and kindness in our world and it cannot help but make you smile, in fact I am still smiling about it, despite having finished the book a week back. It is a truly uplifting, poignant, charming and insightful gem of read and I adored it and I am certain my fellow bookophiles will too!

Over the years I have been blessed with three friendships with three incredible woman, who were in their 80s when we met, sadly now none of them is still with me but my memories of them will never fade, on a daily basis, I can almost hear their humour and wisdom in the decisions I make. I always remember Margaret, Doddy and darling Jo for their candour, their whit and forthright attitudes to life, love and all the bits in between. Their sage advice and support are etched upon my heart and I couldn’t stop myself correlating my relationship with them to Anna and Grace’s relationship in this story.

Grace is in her 90s and lives alone, when Anna becomes her new carer, the spark of recognition at meeting a kindred spirt is set free and they become fast friends, despite their age differences. Anna has been left reeling from the emotional turmoil of discovering her husband’s infidelity, which led to their divorce and now she is attempting to forge a new life on her own. Grace, I think sees a bit of herself in Anna and is pleased to have someone in her life, who hasn’t put her out to pasture! And when the two start making plans and going out and about together, it gives Grace a new lease on life. Grace is very perceptive and is resolute in want to support Anna in her new unexpected chapter of life. I loved Grace’s stories; like her own experience of humiliation by the man who was supposed to love her, Grace was jilted at the alter! So, she knows exactly what Anna is feeling! The only fly in their blossoming friendship is Tom (Grace’s great-nephew) he is insecure and suspicious of Anna’s motives and suspects she wants more from Grace than friendship and he is rather unpleasant at times! I confess my taser finger was a bit twitchy regarding his negative behaviour but it is clear he is trying to be protective of his great aunt, even if his approach is mis-guided!

Grace is a savvy woman and is determined, that despite Tom’s reticence, he and Anna should get along and her plan to make this happen, results in a rather glorious ‘Thelma & Louisesque’ style road trip (minus of course, Brad Pitt, the robbery, the police chase and driving off a cliff at the end bits) and you do feel as you read this aspect, that you are included in Grace and Anna’s escapades! And no, I am not spoiling what exactly they get up to…that’s for me to know and you to buy the book and find out!

Friendship is the core of this novel and Clare’s appreciation and astute observations of the nature of such a relationship, seen through Grace and Anna’s eyes is wonderful. That friendships can be made regardless of sex, race, gender, or age, all is required is openness and trust in others, that there is no such greater value in being seen, heard or understood by someone else. That sharing experiences, be they good or bad, past or present allows you to grow as a person and that being supported in this way is priceless.

Clare has crafted an engaging, evocative, and emotionally enlightening novel, with a fantastic female friendship at its heart. I absolutely loved it and I am sad to have turned the last page of this book, Anna and Grace have won a special place in my heart and I know they will in yours too!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Clare Swatman is an author and journalist. She has had two previous novels published, with her debut, Before You Go, selling in 22 territories around the world. She has also spent 20 years writing for women’s magazines in the UK.

Her latest novel, Dear Grace, is inspired by her love of Lowestoft, the town where she spent many happy holidays with her late grandparents.

Clare lives in Hertfordshire in the UK with her husband and two boys. Even the cat is male, which means she’s destined to be outnumbered forever.

Facebook at Clare Swatman Author, Insta @clareswatmanauthor, and twitter, where she’s @clareswatman

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Girl 11

Author: Amy Suiter Clarke

Publisher: Pushkin Vertigo

Available: Now in Paperback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Vertigo for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Full of adrenaline-inducing twists and emotional nuance, Girl, 11 is a heart stopping suspense novel where the detective is a podcaster. For fans of Ruth Ware and Eva Dolan

VIGILANTE

True crime podcaster Elle Castillo has long been obsessed with The Countdown Killer.

VICTIMS

Twenty years ago, he went on a killing spree. Each new victim was a year younger than the last.

VENGEANCE

Now, he’s back.

Elle must stop the deadly countdown before the killer can claim his next victim

My Thoughts:

Wow, wow, wow, what a spectacular debut novel this is! Modern, malevolent, and magnificent, this is one of those books that ensnares a reader’s attention from the moment you start reading it. Then the masterful blend of characters, plotlines, frozen winter atmosphere and rising tension keeps you firmly in its thrall. Amy’s skilful ability to direct her readers attention but not spoil the dark twists in her story is devious and divine and whatever Amy writes next I want a copy, as I have no doubt she will become a household name in the world of crime writing!

Our main protagonist is Ellie, a true crime podcaster with a traumatic secret, flashes of what has occurred in her life previously punctuate this story and add an extra layer of atmosphere and consideration for the reader to engage with. You can’t help but respond to and admire Ellie as a character, she’s smart, savvy, and sympathetic. A former social worker, with loyal and loving family, friends, and colleagues. Her approach to podcasting true crime cases on Justice Delayed is determined, diligent and dogged and she has had substantial success in resolving child abduction cases…but she’s not perfect and does occasionally get it wrong! Her latest podcast series focuses on TCK (The Countdown Killer) whose meticulous, methodical and monstrous murders has seen women in descending age from 20 years old die in very specific circumstances, the full scope and details, I won’t be sharing with you (but you will discover for yourselves when you read the novel) Ellie is dedicated to bringing this fiend to justice and bringing closure to the victims’ families but will her own fallibility prove fatal!

I loved how the story is recounted in sections from Ellie’s daily life, with her medical examiner husband Martin, her research, her interactions with family and colleagues and her investigations where pieces of her cold case puzzle are revealed, these are interspaced with episodes from her podcast, featuring fascinating interviews with those involved in the case, police, scientific experts, family and friends of the victims…Ellie’s work focuses on the facts of the case and the acknowledgement of the victims lives and she abhors the sensationalist approach to podcasting which seems only to give attention to the perpetrator of these hideous crimes but when her cold case seemingly become active again;  can she resist the temptation to be involved in the investigation; will her personal obsession obscure any potential danger for herself or others in her life; but this case is personal and in more ways than one!! Am I being a bit vague here, oh yes, I certainly am, because to do anything else when reviewing this book, would mean I have to writer spoiler alert before every other line I type! So, if you want to know more, you’ll have to buy a copy and find out first hand and trust me, when you do, you will be just as enthralled with this book as I am!

Amy has crafted a sublime, standout crime novel that is clever, complex, and eerily convincing as well as being utterly captivating with some super sinister surprises in store, that will leave you slack jawed and in desperate need to discuss it with other readers. I devoured this book with indecent haste (in 3 hours) and I have no doubt in my mind that my fellow crime reading buffs will too…it is a work of crime fiction perfection…More please Amy…all of us need more Ellie in our crime libraries!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Amy Suiter Clarke is a writer and communications specialist. Originally from a small town in Minnesota, she completed an undergraduate in theatre in the Twin Cities. She then moved to London and earned an MFA in Creative Writing with Publishing at Kingston University. She currently works for a university library in Melbourne, Australia.

Girl, 11 is her debut novel and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the USA, Text Publishing in Australia, and other publishing houses all over the world in 2021.

Amy’s short stories and feature articles have appeared in Ad Hoc Fiction, The Ram Boutique Vol. 1, the online literary magazine Storgy, Eureka Street Magazine, and two Kingston University Press magazines. She has written articles, marketing copy, and corporate communications for a variety of companies in the legal, information technology, accounting, advertising, and bridal industries

Please do take a look at the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Vixen

Author: Francine Prose

Publisher: Harper 360

Available: 5th August 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Harper 360 for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

The year is 1953, and Simon Putnam, a recent Harvard graduate, has landed an editorial role at a distinguished New York City publisher. Thrust into a glittering world of martini lunches, exclusive literary salons, and old-money aristocrats in exquisitely tailored suits, Simon finds himself a far cry from his loving, middle-class Jewish family in Coney Island. But Simon’s first assignment—editing The Vixen, the Patriot and the Fanatic, a lurid bodice-ripper improbably based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a potboiler intended to shore up the firm’s failing finances—makes him question the cost of admission. Because Simon has a secret that, at the height of the Red Scare and the McCarthy hearings, he cannot reveal: his beloved mother was a childhood friend of Ethel Rosenberg’s. Indeed, his parents mourn Ethel’s death.

THE VIXEN is the latest novel from critically acclaimed, bestselling author Francine Prose. “A rollicking trickster of a novel, wondrously funny and wickedly addictive,” lauds Maria Semple, Simon’s dilemma grows thornier when he meets The Vixen’s author, the beautiful, reckless, seductive Anya Partridge, ensconced in her opium-scented boudoir in a luxury Hudson River mental asylum. The assignment leads him in strange and sinister directions, his naivety often exploited by bad actors and power players.  As deception abounds, as the confluence of sex, money, politics and power spirals out of Simon’s control, he must face what he’s lost by exchanging the safety of his parents’ apartment for the witty, whiskey-soaked orbit of his charismatic boss, the legendary Warren Landry. Gradually Simon realizes that the people around him are not what they seem, that everyone is keeping secrets, that ordinary events may conceal a diabolical plot – and yet, that these crises may steer him toward a brighter future. 

THE VIXEN rewards its reader with an eminently satisfying conclusion. It is the sort of work most needed right now. At once domestic and political, contemporary, and historic, funny and heart-breaking, the novel illuminates a period of history with eerily striking similarities to the current moment. Meanwhile it asks timeless questions: How do we balance ambition and conscience? What do social mobility and cultural assimilation require us to sacrifice? How do we develop an authentic self, discover a vocation, and learn to live with the mysteries of life and loss?

Deeply researched, with such broad considerations and hefty socio-political themes, a work of this sort might find itself weighed down by its own ideas. But in Prose’s able hands, THE VIXEN is dazzling and energetic. She opts, instead, for something at once more sly and more accessible, using the historical premise as a vehicle to tell a universally resonant story of love, self-discovery, and family. Like those accused of Communism across America in the 1950s, Simon Putnam is after, most of all, the right to define himself.

My Thoughts:

Although I have read a great many books in my life, even now I discover authors whose work, I haven’t come across before and such is the case, with Francine Prose, despite her prolific back catalogue I haven’t read a single one of her books until now and you know that moment when you discover a new (new to me) writer whose book you are entranced by, you then just want to tell everyone about it…The Vixen is that book for me…a complete catalyst moment; Francine has such glorious panache in the way that she writes; the seamless delicious blend of fact and fiction is just so delightfully satisfying, her deft, astute handling of weighty socio-political elements and the trajectory of this story is sublime and makes for compellingly intellectual and addictive reading…I had no idea what reading delights I have been missing!

Part of the joy I find in reading is that I discover things, I didn’t know or information contained in fiction sheds light on elements of history, that I had only a glancing knowledge of; that is exactly what I found when I was engrossed in The Vixen; at the core of this novel is the trial of Ethel & Julius Rosenberg who in 1951 were tried and convicted of Espionage with USSR. It was alleged that they had passed top-secret information regarding radar, sonar and nuclear weapons designs to the Soviets – this was a huge deal in cold war paranoid America, with Korean war on going this Jewish couple were the scape goats for a country’s turmoil and paid the highest price! The front cover of this novel, documents the final kiss of this notorious couple before they were taken away to be executed by electric chair; with hindsight this harsh punishment didn’t really fit the crime! What has me completely enraptured is Francine’s skill at simplifying for her readers the complexities of the history and politics and the considerable effort to imbue her story with the prevailing political atmosphere of the time; which was one of fear! An unchecked, uncontrolled fear dominating the minds and actions of powerful men, manifesting in some unconscionable behaviours, this period was dubbed the Red Scare…where a person’s background, their liberalism, artistic tendencies, any personal choices deemed anti-American led to suspicion and investigation and such events like the bigoted, prejudicial McCarthy hearings, where any differences from the accepted social norms led to accusations of communist leanings and being anti-patriotic…at best!

The novel opens with our protagonist Simon, watching tv with his own family, they are glued to updates on the Rosenberg’s trial but the updates are punctuated by TV shows of the period; famed for their slapstick, raucous and banal humour – I Love Lucy…the mix of TV programmes seems at odds with the serious nature of the trial. Simon comes from a well to do Jewish family, he is a Harvard graduate, with all the status that title confers; he has been employed by a prestigious publishing house and his first assignment is to edit their latest book – The Vixen, The Patriot and The Fanatic a salacious, scandalous tome based on the Rosenberg trial and whose publication is not for its truth or insight into the case but as a cash cow aimed at the American public’s insatiable demand for outrageous behaviour and required to bolster the publishing company’s dwindling finances.

Simon is faced with a moral dilemma, a personal conflict of interest and a secret; his adored mother was a childhood friend of Ethel Rosenberg and his parents are grieving the loss of their friends. Simon’s predicaments grow when he meets the author of The Vixen; Anya Partridge the walking personification of decadence; she is alluring, impetuous and provocative; nestled in luxury within the confines of the Hudson River mental asylum! The intrigues of this novel’s plot constantly twist and turn and Simon is swept up in a maelstrom of degeneracy, wealth, politics and power and I found myself, considering a variety of resolutions to his quandaries and I have no doubt you will be in the same position but that is part of the exquisite nature of this book and one I am leaving for you to discover for yourselves because if I don’t this review will turn into a Master’s length critical analysis, awash with spoilers and so I am advocating a less is more approach to encourage your curiosity!

This book is original, outstanding, gloriously outrageous, and once you embark on reading it, you will have to cancel any plans and read it in one sitting as it is simply impossible to put aside. For me it is an absolutely Must read book and you will miss an exceptional literary treat if you don’t get hold of a copy today and I do mean right now!

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Francine Prose is the author of twenty-one works of fiction including, the highly acclaimed Mister Monkey; the New York Times bestseller Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932; A Changed Man, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her works of nonfiction include the highly praised Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer, which has become a classic. The recipient of numerous grants and honours, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director’s Fellow at the Centre for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Centre, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Law of The Heart

Author: Boris Starling

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Available: 1st August 2021 in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Rhiannon Morris and FMcM Associates for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Their love is against the laws of a merciless state—but the heart has its own power.

For rollercoaster designer Theo, living on the edge is just part of the job. He’s used to wandering the world perfecting thrills, his heart immune to commitment. But then a commission in repressive North Korea exposes him to emotions he’s never dared to feel.

Tour guide Min has a soul that wants to soar, but she knows it’s safer to build walls around her heart and mind. Skilled in showcasing the mesmerising beauty of capital city Pyongyang without revealing its darker secrets, she introduces Theo to a country he will never forget—and begins to question her policy of quiet compliance.

But forgetting—or pretending to—is the key to survival for Min’s formidable grandmother Cuckoo. After a devastating heartbreak years ago, she learned that passion and oppression just don’t mix.

As Min and Theo grow closer and long-held secrets come to light, all three are forced to confront emotions they’ve tried to suppress. In a country where following their hearts will put them in danger, how much are they willing to risk?

My Thoughts

I know the old adage, that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but upon seeing the gorgeous cover for this book; it completely seduces your eyes and certainly piqued my interest and I am so pleased it did and the book details added to my joy and made me clap my hands with glee. An East/West love story set in the dark mysterious land of North Korea, surely this would be an irresistible combination and let me tell you…it really really is! Boris is an exceptional and mesmerising storyteller, with a lyrical touch and the skill and knowledge to transport his readers into a different world, one far from what they know and are comfortable with and in doing this, Boris has created a magnificent multigenerational spellbinding literary masterpiece, that I will be encouraging everyone I know to read immediately…you simply must read it, your bookshelves will be incomplete without a copy!

Part of what drew me to this book, was its location, set in the oppressive, omnipotent regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; which is in no sense of the word, democratic, with the cult of the Kim’s (the only Communist dynasty in the world) controlling every minutiae aspect of life; the iron will of the state is sacrosanct “No one in this country says what they meant, you didn’t survive long if you did“…Boris’s depth and detail of life in this state of suspicion is percipient; the extrapolation of concepts, contradictions and complete coercion of this country’s people. The sense that every element of life is choreographed to adhere to an impossible norm, where reason is seditious and every constrict is accepted without censure and it would be easy to assume that Boris is bringing the full force of his imagination to this element of the story. But having read, Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick and In order to Live by Yeomi Park both biographical in nature when I compared the fact to the fiction. I could see Boris’s dedication and diligence in depicting a legitimacy of facts in his fictional story.

The book progresses over a series of years, pivoting around; Min, Theo and Min’s grandmother Cuckoo (who cannot fail to secure a place in your heart) as she bares all the hallmarks of my own extra grandmother, who like Cuckoo was funny, fierce and wise. Boris’s characters are utterly delightful; Theo is an American living in the UK, dubbed ‘the Rembrandt of Rollercoasters’ as he designs these gravity defying monsters for a living; the poignant irony of building rides to bring excitement and thrills to the lives of others but he leaves no room in his own life for such pleasures. Instead he adheres to a world of safety, calibration and uneventfulness. He is intensely private and his closest companion is Otto, the octopus…part of you will fall a little bit in love with a man who has such a remarkable creature as a pet…I think this makes Theo weirdly wonderful.  In contrast is Min, a state sanctioned tour guide, dedicatedly minding her foreign tourists, educating them in glories of her city and state, diligently chaperoning their every move…she is the epitome of a respectful, dutiful and obedient daughter, Min is exactly what you would expect her to be, her true self is rarely seen except for snatched moments with Cuckoo and their relationship is charming and subtly outrageous, which I adored.

Min and Theo are literally worlds apart, until fate steps in…Min’s father has the task of creating a theme park – North Korean style and at its heart needs to be the tallest Rollercoaster in the world to emulate the vast greatness of the Kims; this project in secrecy is offered to Theo and such an unusual commission is not one he can resist! Min of course is tasked with being his guide. As readers we get to follow as this unique relationship blossoms in the most infertile of environments, each stage is like the bud of magnolia flower unfurling, it happens in compelling increments but always on the periphery is a sense of apprehension, cleverly stoked by the intertwined revelation of Cuckoo’s own tragic and powerful story.

Nothing about this love story is ordinary, it is wonderfully extraordinary, original, intense and intimate and with the just the right amount of frustrations for the reader to be immersed in but mostly this incredible book makes your emotions sing and you are swept along in Min, Theo and Cuckoos stories, the impact of such a forbidden relationship, the potential cost for Min, the overarching premise; is the risk worth the reward; is love enough…Well now, you will have to read the book and find out won’t you. This is a story I will never forget; it has forged a place in my soul and I loved every beautiful page and I am bereft that I have finished it and I cannot wait for you to read it too!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Boris Starling’s writing career began at the age of eight, when his English teacher spotted that his short story was (a) unusually good for a child his age (b) copied verbatim from Tintin’s ‘Prisoners Of The Sun.’ (That was also the first time he learnt the word ‘verbatim’, not to mention the term ‘copyright violation’.)

All his work since then has been strictly his own. He has written eight novels, including Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers. Five appear under his own name (Messiah, Storm, Vodka, Visibility and, in a daring breakout from one-word titles, The Stay-Behind Cave) and three as Daniel Blake (Soul Murder (UK)/Thou Shalt Kill (US), City Of Sins (UK)/City Of The Dead (US) and White Death). Every one of these books features someone dying horribly somewhere along the way. Sometimes they even deserve it.

Boris also created the ‘Messiah’ franchise which ran for seven years on BBC1, and has written screenplays for productions in the UK and US.

He has inherited his grandfather’s male pattern baldness, but sadly not his prodigious height. He is a keen sportsman, though he has now reached the age where enthusiasm and experience are beginning to trump sheer skill. He lives in Dorset, England, with his wife, children, greyhounds, and however many chickens manage to keep clear of marauding foxes.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Nothing I Wouldn’t Do

Author: Sara-Ella Ozbek

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 22nd July 2021 in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Simon & Schuster for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Jax Levy is an almost thirty-year-old low-paid ‘journalist’ with little hope of progression. She has a love life only ever centred around a bad decision and a family too complicated to explain. 

The one area of life that Jax has down are her friends – Clara, Omni and Alice are the loves of her life. So, when Clara announces her engagement to Ed, Jax hides all of her feelings of insecurity, and commits to becoming the perfect maid-of-honour. 

 That is until she discovers something about Ed that will destroy everything. Panicked and irrational, Jax makes a snap decision to go on a wild mission to save her best friend from heartache. But the truth is far more complicated than Jax had imagined and that decision soon comes back to bite her . . .

My Thoughts:

Sometimes when you read a book, within a few pages of starting it, you want everyone to know to read it too and this is exactly what I found when I read Nothing I Wouldn’t do…it is a book you will want to buy for all your friends and rightly so because the soul of this story is about friendship and the bond between women. It is a celebration of sisterhood and all its expectations and complexities and Sara-Ella’s exceptional expression, punchy wit and insightful characterisation make it a delectable read.

Jax and Clara have been friends forever, since they were children and now as youngish women they have made a life together, they share a home and when you add in their friends Omni (Clara’s cousin) and Alice (a friend Jax made when she was waitressing at 16) you have a glorious quartet who are inseparable and I love how Sara-Ella designed this foursome, their individual quirks and original personalities as a reader you cannot help compare them to yourself and your friends at that stage of life and you cannot help but reminisce at the mischief they get involved in but as time passes, life cannot stays the same!

I loved the authenticity of how Jax feels about Ed (Clara’s long-term boyfriend) probably because I see something of myself in Jax who views him as an interloper and to say she’s not keen on him at all is an understatement! When Clara becomes engaged to Ed (I am resisting the temptation, to boo here) she, like any woman planning a wedding turns to her bestie for the necessary emotional and logistical support and as chief bridesmaid/maid of honour Jax does her best in her own indominable way! But just like in life, nothing is ever straightforward…When Jax discovers a note from Ed, her loyalty to Clara and her intuition kicks in and she is compelled to uncover the story behind the note after all she’s a journalist and what is a girl to do but ferret out secrets but she may get more than she bargained for…I certainly did when reading this book…and I have no doubt you will too and be aware it gets messy, G&T’s will be required!

Sara-Ella’s astute comprehension and skilful articulation through her characters about how women’s minds work shines through in this story and you can see the dichotomies Jax faces trying to remedy situations that are beyond her control. Also that sense of desolation, that all of us have felt at some point when our friends’ flaws and motivations are not what we believed them to be and the stark reality that we (Jax) don’t always know the truth of our friends and family! If you think I’m being a bit cagy here, I am because I don’t wish to spill the beans about the direction this story takes nor spoil the surprises to be revealed when you read it.

For me this book is a vivid, victorious, and occasionally vicious examination of friendship both the highs and the lows. Packed with oodles of hilarity and deluges of drama, it is an original, insightful, and irresistible book and I couldn’t put it down. It would be a fantastic read for any book group and the conversations it could provoke would be epic. I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy ASAP.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Sara-Ella Ozbek is a British writer based in London. Her first novel The High Moments was published in 2020 and is being developed for television by Makeready Productions; she is currently writing the pilot.

Other work has appeared in The Independent, Upstate Diary, Because, Suitcase, Tatler and Soho House Notes. Sara-Ella has adapted Polly Stenham’s play JULIE as a feature film for Standalone Pictures; produced by Charles Finch, directed by Josie Rourke (Mary Queen of Scots).

Currently, she is developing a musical called ROCK BOTTOM for The Young Vic Theatre and Birmingham Rep with composer Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer The Opera) directed by Sean Foley (The Play What I Wrote).

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

The Secret Life of Writers

Author: Guillaume Musso

Publisher: W&N

Available: 22nd July 2021 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Translation: Vineet Lal

Thank you to Alex Layt and W&N for my lovely gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

In 1999, after publishing three cult novels, celebrated author Nathan Fawles announces the end of his writing career and withdraws to Beaumont, a wild and beautiful island off the Mediterranean coast.

Autumn 2018. As Fawles’ novels continue to captivate readers, Mathilde Monney, a young Swiss journalist, arrives on the island, determined to unlock the writer’s secrets and secure his first interview in twenty years.

That same day, a woman’s body is discovered on the beach and the island is cordoned off by the authorities.

And so, begins a dangerous faceoff between Mathilde and Nathan, in which the line between truth and fiction becomes increasingly blurred…

My Thoughts:

My main thought as I sat down to write this review, was how on earth do I convey to you, how utterly splendid this book is! From the moment you start reading Guillaume’s book, it is undeniably obvious why his novels are so celebrated and receive such glowing accolades at home in France and from the wider crime writing community. Guillaume is absolutely the Sultan of Suspense, his creative mastery of layering a deviously clever story, with a gossamer edge of sinister intent, while languorously teasing the reader with pieces of a delectable crime puzzle…oh my goodness, it is spine tinglingly magnificent to read. From the very first page of this book, you feel a brush of very subtle, very slight apprehension blow over you and with every page you turn, as you become enmeshed in this incredible story that atmosphere of suspicion continues to build and as a reader your desire to shake off this sensation, is partly what drives you to read on to seek resolution to this incredible crime conundrum.

Nathan Fawles has written three novels to great acclaim and has amassed a cult like following and at the height of his success, announces he will not write another book…ever! And he disappears from all literary spheres and life in the public eye. Moving to the beautiful but obscure Isle de Beaumont, which provides the solitude and privacy he seeks, he vigorously defends his isolation from anyone who seeks to penetrate it. But the big question, is why? What has occurred to cause this successful writer to eschew his craft and lock himself away? Tantalising isn’t it…

Enter Raphael, a fan of Fawles and aspiring writer, who conspires to secure a job in the fading bookshop on Beaumont in order to seek out Fawles! As you can imagine, Fawles does not take Raphael’s intrusion well (and that is an understatement) further interruption into his hermit like existence occurs when Fawles’ dog goes missing; only to be found by a mysterious blond woman, who will only return the dog to its owner in person! Mathilde Monney, enigmatic journalist with a remit to reveal secrets, but whose secrets, are they? And what do they have to do with Nathan Fawles? Raphael becomes a pawn in their game of crime chess…and when a women’s body is discovered the whole island is embroiled in the mystery and as readers we can see pieces of the puzzle but when the clever twisted revelations come…expect the unexpected!

This book is a psychological masterpiece, clever, compelling, complex and completely immersive, time almost stands still as you read it but if you imagine I am going to spoil any elements of its stunning conclusion, think again…but I will leave you with is one teasing clue; will a lost camera with pictures from the past provide illumination in the present?…Well now, that’s for me to know and you to find out isn’t it!

This novel left me breathless with anticipation, feverish with a desire to untangle the devious plot twists, this book is devilishly dark and awash with delicious mystery, the perfect reading experience for any connoisseur of crime novels.  I also want to highlight the skill of Vineet Lal, who translated this book into English and it is a tribute to his interpretational skills, that have clearly maintained the original inferences, the rhythm and exceptional atmosphere of this story and none of the incredible nuances of the story have been lost in translation. I really cannot espouse my praises for this novel more vividly…it is a simply a must read in my opinion.  I recommend you get hold of a copy today, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Guillaume Musso was the number one bestselling author in France in 2011 and 2012. Born in 1974 on the Cote d’Azur, he knew from an early age that he wanted to write novels and to touch the largest possible number of people.

In 2004, ‘AFTERWARDS’ was published in France by XO Editions and was an immediate bestseller and established a loyal following for his unique brand of storytelling which blends romance, adventure, suspense and the supernatural. It was later made into a film starring John Malkovich, Evangeline Lily and Romain Duris.

Since then, with every one of the six novels which have followed, his loyal readership has grown significantly, making him the most widely read author writing in French today. His stories have universal central themes: missed opportunities, second chances, the passage of time, lost love and redemption.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

The Idea of You

Author: Robinne Lee

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: Out now in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Olivia Thomas and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

EVERYONE IN THE WORLD KNOWS HIS NAME . . . BUT IT’S YOU HE WANTS.

To the media, Hayes Campbell is the enigmatic front-man of a record-breaking boyband. To his fans, he’s the man of their dreams. To Solène Marchand, he’s just the pretty face that’s plastered over her teenage daughter’s bedroom wall.

Until a chance meeting throws them together . . .

The attraction is instant. The chemistry is electric. The affair is Solène’s secret.

But how long can it stay that way?

My Thoughts:

If the current heatwave hasn’t put enough sizzle in your summer then Robinne Lee’s The Idea of You, most certainly will! Talk about an affair to remember, this is a steamy, sultry stunner of a read. I confess, I usually tend to swerve stories of illicit love, as they never end well and I find the emotional machinations and heartache, perplexing and taxing…and usually I do find myself muttering…for goodness sake, be sensible and get on with your life! If you ask any of my friends, they will attest to the fact, I never let my heart rule my head! So, I did wonder when I started reading this story, would I find enjoyment within its pages or would I just get frustrated with the protagonist’s emotive outpourings? I suspect you might be wondering why then I chose to read and review this book. Because reading only what I know, doesn’t for me expand my brain or extend my emotional intelligence and I have read a vast number of excellent historical fiction and crime novels recently, so as they say ‘a change is good as a rest’…and this spicy, enticing novel is indeed a fantastic showstopper, providing all who read it with a glamourous sexy romance and escapism in bundles! I mean, really how can you resist it…I couldn’t and I am thrilled that I didn’t and I have no doubt you will be too!

Gallery owner, Solène Marchand is an elegant, intelligent and successful woman, nearing 40, divorced from her college sweetheart and mother of an almost teenager and pure coincidence leads her to chaperone her daughter and friends to an August Moon concert (the stratospherically successful boy band of the moment) think, Take That/Westlife or more recently (I am reliantly informed One Direction or 1D if you’re in the know…which I’m not!) Enter 20 year old Hayes Campbell, song writer, singer and media darling, sensual sex god and beloved icon of every teenage girl in the world and 1/5 of August Moon. In an almost Bennett/Darcesque encounter, where I’m certain there were scorch marks on the floor in the aftermath, Solène and Hayes collide, sparks fly and they can’t help themselves and embark on a tantalizing, Jet-setting, juicy love affair; with them getting naughty and nude in many exotic locations from Miami to St Tropez and reading of their escapades will certainly bring a smile to your face (in fact I am grinning now as I type this review).

Robinne’s writing style, for me is reminiscent of the Queen of bonk busters and my absolute favourite raunchy romance writer, Jilly Cooper…who creates female leads we all want to be and male protagonists we want to be seduced by and Robinne possesses this gift too, albeit with a 21st century slant. I think many of us 40 somethings can or wish to believe we are all a bit Solène and as for Hayes Campbell,  he’s enigmatic, an intoxicating, charismatic man, possessing the confidence of success and wealth, without being sleazy, but the boy can certainly get down and dirty, euphemism intended (and yes I’m grinning again & I can hear Marvin Gaye in my head as I type…Let’s get it on) Their chemistry is undeniable and irresistible and you cannot fail to keep turning the pages, to find out what happens next…seriously, it is getting hot in here and it’s not just the weather, you’ll find your hormones aflutter! I really do have to express a great deal of admiration for Robinne’s ability to craft an erotic sex scene or four!

There is definitely a sense of living life vicariously when you read this book, the reversal of the May to December relationship is a fantastic premise as an older woman seeing a younger man is often viewed awkwardly and seems unexplainedly to fly in the face of social norms, when an older man dating a younger woman does not and in fact is a relationship type to be aspired to! Couple this element with the perspectives regarding the pressures and interference in the lives of those who are famous, there is an intensity and tension throughout the books pages, which makes it addictively compelling. I loved reading about a woman in her 40’s allowing herself to follow her desires and wants full throttle but still trying to be considerate of her family, I kept thinking to myself; you go girl and all the while keeping my fingers crossed for a happy ending, there’s a paradox for you! And as to whether Solène and Hayes, can weather the storms of their sultry, passionate relationship and the obstacles life throws at them…as if I am going to spill the beans…ha, not a chance! You know what I’m going to say…buy the book, buy a bottle of champagne, turn off your phone and indulge and revel in this delicious, raunchy, decadent book. It really is the perfect tonic to lockdown life and a flawless excuse to bask in the sunshine.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, Robinne was born and raised in Westchester County, New York. As the daughter of Jamaican parents of African, Chinese, and British descent, Robinne has long had an affinity for travel and the arts. Her past endeavours include working as an Editorial Assistant for ELLE Magazine, both in New York and Paris, writing celebrity profiles for the now defunct youth culture magazine, TELL, and running a music management company. Robinne has numerous acting credits in both television and film, has served as a producer on various independent films and regularly speaks on panels and writes for trade magazines regarding the roles of women and actors of color in the industry. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this tour.

White Spines

Confessions of A Book Collector

Author: Nicolas Royle

Publisher: Salt Publishing

Available: 15th July 2021 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Helen at Helen Richardson PR for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A mix of memoir and narrative non-fiction, White Spines is a book about Nicholas Royle’s passion for Picador’s fiction and non-fiction publishing from the 1970s to the end of the1990s, when the publisher stopped its commitment to the distinctive white spine with black lettering. White Spines explores the bookshops and charity shops, the books themselves, and the way a unique collection grew and became a literary obsession. Above all, it is a love song to books, writers, and writing.

‘I’ve been a bit obsessed with this book since I saw novelist and short story writer Royle tweeting the ultimate in chic shelfies: a photo of his Picador fiction collection, which forms an array of 1,000 white spines, spanning from the 1970s-90s…In this blend of memoir and narrative non-fiction, he explores the bookshops and charity shops where he bought them, the books themselves, and how his collection grew to the point of literary obsession’ CAROLINE SANDERSON, Editor’s Choice THEBOOKSELLER

My Thoughts:

You know the saying, beautiful things come in small packages; this is such an erudite description of White Spines, though it isn’t a 1000 pages long (although part of me wishes it were). Nick has created in 250 pages, a bookophiles literary paradise, for book lovers and writers everywhere to revel and rejoice in. Oh Nicholas Royle, you are a darling clever man, in your book, you have collected and collated a wonderous wealth of bookophile ephemera both intimate and altruistic. I am in awe and overflowing with rapturous praise, for your delicious, pithy, glorious tome, it will never leave my side and I will vociferously shout my praises of it to all who will listen (even if I bore them into a stupor!) I am prepared to throw all notions of caution to the wind to celebrate this book’s existence.

The contents of this book addict’s fantasy, simply sings to you, plunging you into Nick’s cornucopia of book knowledge. It is almost intimidating how much he knows, the dazzling divine details and oh my goodness covering the inane to the arcane and back again. This book is manna from book heaven and it will enrapture every book addicted soul it touches. Please for the love of all things holy, someone give this man a literary prize, Nick surely deserves it for the incredible, depth and scope of this, his miraculous mini book odyssey.

Nick’s extrapolations of King Penguins, Paladins & Picadors (to name but a few of his bookish cast) with their oft incompressible original artsy covers that us mere plebian fiction lovers spend seconds admiring but not necessarily comprehending or fully appreciating; Nick worships and dissects them in adroit, witty and faultless alacrity. He is a book blood hound fixed on the scent of White Spined Picadors (published from 1972 to 1990s) And if you don’t know, what these are, take a closer look at Nick’s author photo, they are in full view behind him or and I love this feature, Nick’s physical book is presented as a white spine, with every detail followed; from the text layout, the font sizes, postage photo and every exacting nuance is marvellously included…a visual homage to his passion.

In all seriousness, how can you not adore a book by a man, who has turned book collecting into a life’s work or possibly even a literary art installation; who reverently and obsessively enters bookshops and charity shops the length and breadth of the UK, in his quest to complete his unique collection and he has not limited himself to just these books but like many of us who covert, collect or hoard our paper prizes, Nick has developed a fascination with ‘inclusions’…a term he has borrowed from our scientific brethren, who use the term to describe insects and such like trapped for a millennia in Amber and Nick uses to describe items from train tickets to love letters & inscriptions (although there is a whole separate chapter on these for you to explore) he finds in the multitude of second hand copies he locates. Nick is certainly not alone in his relish of inclusions (such a fantastic word); I too find these treasured items to be a joy and a sign of a book’s past life, well thumbed; to date I have found multiple, cinema tickets, train tickets, shopping lists, post-its; two thank you cards, one book token, 34 book marks and an old £10 note and this sort of revelation is one of the many bookish/writerly features I adored within its pages and I can’t wait for you to enjoy the chapters on French Letters (no it isn’t a euphemism) and Some of Nick’s favourite bookshops…which just makes reading this book sublime and I have only touched the tip of the iceberg in explaining it’s true glory.

This is a book you will try your uppermost to savour like fine wine but I guarantee, you will like me, end up guzzling it greedily like pop or in my case an expresso martini or 5…Nick’s passion for publishing, books and writers shines through in his creation and writing of this gem of book. It is an absolutely necessity for every bookophile to add it to their libraries. So, I vigorously insist you go and buy a copy right now, today…go on, you won’t regret it for a second.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

NICHOLAS ROYLE is the author of four short story collections–Mortality, Ornithology, The Dummy and Other Uncanny Stories and London Gothic–and seven novels, including Counterparts, Antwerp and First Novel. He has edited more than twenty anthologies and is series editor of Best British Short Stories. Heruns Nightjar Press, which publishes original short stories as signed, numbered chapbooks, and is head judge of the Manchester Fiction Prize. His English translation of Vincent de Swarte’s 1998 novel Pharricideis published by Confingo Publishing. He lives between London and Manchester and teaches creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. For more information visit @NicholasRoyle http://www.nicholasroyle.com

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Painting

Author: Alison Booth

Publisher: Red Door

Available: 15th July 2021 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Helen at Helen Richardson PR for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A young Hungarian woman confronts her family’s past in an engrossing quest for a stolen painting.

When Anika Molnar flees her home country of Hungary not long before the break-up of the Soviet Union, she carries only a small suitcase – and a beautiful and much-loved painting, of an auburn-haired woman in a cobalt blue dress, from her family’s hidden collection. Arriving in Australia, Anika moves in with her aunt in Sydney, and the painting hangs in pride of place in her bedroom. But one day it is stolen in what seems to be a carefully planned theft, and Anika’s carefree life takes a more ominous turn. Sinister secrets from her family’s past and Hungary’s fraught history cast suspicion over the painting’s provenance, and she embarks on a gripping quest to uncover the truth. Hungary’s war-torn past contrasts sharply with Australia’s bright new world of opportunity in this moving and compelling mystery from acclaimed novelist Alison Booth

My Thoughts:

There are some books, that cross my path that the instant I read the details of them, give me a fizzy feeling inside; is it excitement or joy or do I simply fall in love with the idea of a story. The Painting by Alison Booth did just that for me, the moment I read the synopsis of her book. My undergraduate degree is in Art History and my love for the subject has never waned in 20 odd years. As I read the first pages of this wonderful story, I knew it would contain my three loves; history, mystery and art and what an intriguing triumvirate they are and I was desperate to read on and my goodness, what a treat you have instore, this is an intense, insightful, immersive novel that Alison has imagined and I simply couldn’t put it down and I’m sure you won’t be able to either.

Anika Molner is a calm, intelligent and intensely private young woman, a Hungarian immigrant who fled the suffocating, insidious communist regime that engulfed her country, her one possession a suitcase, containing memories of the family she left behind and including one precious item; a painting secreted inside. This painting as we are soon to learn is by a French impressionist and unsurprisingly has substantial financial value; the sort of money that could change Anika’s life and allow her to focus on following her aspirations of becoming an architect (I loved the correlation between Anika’s choice of career and Alison’s own). What also struck me from the outset and continued throughout the book was the pervading atmosphere; a subtle, creeping tension and a sense of undeniable expectation, that makes you hold this book just a little bit tighter as you read…and as it turns out is marvellously apt! Anika comes from an environment of secrets and mistrust…where exposure could result in a terrible cost for those, she loves but as readers we are not fully aware of the whys until Anika embarks on her journey of self-discovery.

While having her painting assessed; two men enter Anika’s orbit, suave Daniel and enigmatic Jonno and both men it seemed to me, had their own agendas and their attempts to ingratiate themselves with Anika seems deeply suspicious and then when Anika’s painting is stolen (a very professional robbery) I confess I was desolate for her but the theft acts as a catalyst and is the key, if you like, that opens a pandora’s box of stunning secrets.  Anika is driven to uncover the truth about the provenance of the painting and her own family’s involvement! Am I being a bit cagey here; certainly, I am, as the secrets that lie ahead in this sumptuous story are yours to read and not mine to reveal in this review!

I was delighted to discover that Alison’s inspiration for this novel; came from a 2014 news article about a secret stash of Hungarian art, and this story having its roots growing from fact brings such authenticity to Anika’s journey. Which doesn’t as you may suppose focus on who has stolen the painting but how the painting came to be in her possession and this remarkable blending of fact and fiction is masterfully wrought by Alison; whose knowledge and research infuses the book with such depth and emotional intellect.

In case it isn’t glaringly obvious, I absolutely loved this story and Anika’s remarkable adventure. I confess it prompted my own recollections of a journey across Europe with my parents to Hungry, to visit friends who lived in Budapest and this was before the iron-curtain fell and what I don’t remember is how on earth we got in! I do remember not being able to leave the apartment except at night and I do remember a snowball fight and a Christmas tree with real candles and a gathering of family all in secret who had come to meet us…and a sense that our presence there should not be found out but the ramifications of why this might be I only now understand with adult hindsight and reading this book, brought forward an understanding of these circumstances, I never had before!

Alison’s sensational novel is a masterpiece of mystery; a scintillating story emmeshing the reader in a web of sinister secrets of a history past; of a family trapped by the poisonous nature of tainted communism; where education, intellect, beauty and art were sought out and destroyed and those who were courageous enough to fight, to keep the candle of their country’s culture burning are seen as enemies of the state and hunted. Which is a complete contrast to Anika’s new country of Australia; a land of new beginnings, where people from every corner of a war-torn Europe were encouraged to emigrate and seek a new life, a new community and actively participate in creating culture. Alison’s story cannot fail to evoke a fascination for art and for history in its readers as well as a myriad of emotions in reaction to Anika’s discoveries. I am truly bereft to have finished reading it and having never read any of Alison’s other books before now…I will be seeking out all her previous books to devour; as she is a sublime storyteller and I can’t wait for you to read this book and be as enamoured with it as I am.

Happy Reading Bookophiles….

About the Author:

ALISON BOOTH was born in Melbourne and brought up in Sydney. She trained and qualified as an architect before transferring to Economics. She is Professor Emeritus of Economics with a PhD from the LSE and spent over two decades studying, living, and working in the UK before returning to Australia some fifteen years ago. Alison is the author of five previous novels and has contributed short stories to a number of collections. Her debut novel, Stillwater Creek, was Highly Commended in the 2011 ACT Book of the Year Award. Her subsequent novels are The Indigo Sky (2011), A Distant Land (2012), A Perfect Marriage (2018) and The Philosopher’s Daughters (2020). For more information visit: https://www.alisonbooth.net/abou

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour

This Shining Life

Author: Harriet Klein

Publisher: Doubleday

Available: 1st July 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Doubleday for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

For Rich, life is golden.

He fizzes with happiness and love.

But Rich has an incurable brain tumour.

When Rich dies, he leaves behind a family without a father, a husband, a son and a best friend. His wife, Ruth, can’t imagine living without him and finds herself faced with a grief she’s not sure she can find her way through.

At the same time, their young son Ollie becomes intent on working out the meaning of life. Because everything happens for a reason. Doesn’t it?

But when they discover a mismatched collection of presents left by Rich for his loved ones, it provides a puzzle for them to solve, one that will help Ruth navigate her sorrow and help Ollie come to terms with what’s happened. Together, they will learn to lay the ghosts of the past to rest and treasure the true gift that Rich has left them: the ability to embrace life and love every moment.

Wonderfully funny and achingly beautiful, this is a story about love in all its forms: absent, lost and, ultimately, regained.

My Thoughts:

Death is the rarely acknowledged but universally accepted end of life’s journey. The difficulty for most of us is the not knowing when its spectral fingers may touch our lives. Harriet’s wonderful, remarkable and darkly funny book, relays to us readers the complexities of bereavement within a family; the impact of loss on those closest and the removal of one person from the puzzle of life, which can leave the picture of other lives unfinished and fractured. Grief is an unknown entity; how it affects an individual is intimate and unique to that person and can differ widely and it is testament to Harriet’s skill as a writer that she creates her story around this subject.

Rich has a brain tumour and with it an expiry date, he going to die. Only in his 40s a teacher, married to Ruth and father to Ollie, who is 11 years old and Ollie’s view of the world is different to most, his brain works differently to yours and mine. He can seem difficult, challenging certainly. Ollie requires order, routine, control of minutiae; his breakfast for example, is on a strict unbreakable rota, the right food on the right day in the right order. Ollie is not a fan of physical contact but he does adore puzzles and I suspect you’ve guessed, Ollie is autistic and failure to adhere to his prescribed routines will cause trouble but his dad, always has a way to resolve his crisis, usually with wonderful calm humour and of course puzzles.

This story is revealed to us in vignettes of time, diagnosis, progression and the aftermath. Rich, Ruth and Ollie share their evocative, emotional experiences with us and we also have the opinions, thoughts and emotions of the wider family too; Ruth’s mother Angran and sister Nessa as well as Rich’s parents, comically known as ‘other grandma and grandpa’ by telling the story from all these perspectives, as readers we can appreciate and engage with the full scope of the loss of Rich for those who loved him and it is breathtakingly written.

Ollie’s grief is tangible, his confusion apparent but he has his own way of coping; which is to focus intently on solving the puzzle, he believes his father has left for him and what a conundrum it is…’What does it mean to be alive?’…the enormity of this question has to make you smile! Ollie is almost pathological in his obsession with trying to solve it and this drives his family completely bonkers! They do understand that this is Ollie’s way of processing grief and it is different but their own sadness and bereavement is too great and engulfing to allow them to fully appreciate what Ollie is really asking or the reasons why. His mother Ruth is mired in her grief, it plunges her into a deep (and completely understandable) depression but from this pit of despair, comes insight and understanding of her own mother’s circumstances from the past, her inaction, her inattention towards her children, when she was left alone with two small children. Rich’s own parents have their own burdens, ‘other grandpa’ is clearly showing signs of early dementia; which results is some verbal fireworks and he cannot tolerate Ollie’s differences, nor can he control the wave of angry grief at the loss of his son.

This story is powerful, pertinent, and poignant and uniquely magnificent, it is a brave subject to tackle and Harriet’s skill is she expresses the depth and scope of the matter so brilliantly and has an exceptional talent for emotional expression. You cannot fail to find space in your heart for Ollie and his beautifully flawed family. This astute, insightful, and glorious book unfurls the nature and impact of grief; the myriad of ways we cope with soul deep sadness. Harriet elucidates for us, that there is no prescribed way to cope with loss, it is a personal, gritty, intimate hurt that you negotiate and survive in any way you can, in any manner you can and inevitably is a journey we will all face at some point in our lives. This a book you simply must read, however difficult the subject may seem!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author

HARRIET KLINE works part time registering births, deaths and marriages and writes for the rest of the week. Her story Ghost won the Hissac Short Story Competition and Chest of Drawers won The London Magazine Short Story Competition. Other short stories have been published online with Litro, For Books’ Sake, and ShortStorySunday, and on BBC Radio 4.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour

Yours Cheerfully

Author: AJ Pearce

Publisher: Picador

Available: 24th June in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Camilla Elsworthy and Picador for my gifted copy of this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

London, September 1941.

Following the departure of the formidable Editor, Henrietta Bird, from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, is still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, but bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.

When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty and standing by her friends.

Every bit as funny, touching and cheering as AJ Pearce’s debut, Dear Mrs Bird, Yours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship, a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.

My Thoughts:

Yours Cheerfully, has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. I absolutely had to attempt to write a review of it for you (forgive me, if I don’t have enough superlative adjectives to express my adoration for this long awaited (for me anyway) sequel to Dear Mrs Bird. Which was a book, that from the moment, I read it (in the days before I became a book blogger) I fell in love with the story and characters and I had to buy copies for everyone I know because I wanted everyone I knew to have the same glorious reading experience I had and it was a book that hs never left my heart or head. So, I am sure you can imagine my rapture, in discovering there was to be second book…the wonderfully named Yours Cheerfully. I confess, I had a moment of trepidation; what if it isn’t as good or I don’t enjoy it…well rest assured bookophiles, I had nothing whatsoever to worry about! As this second chronicle is just as delightful, evocative, charming, and wonderfully funny as the first…and I couldn’t put it down and I didn’t want it to end either!!! I don’t know what on earth I am going to do with myself now I’ve finished it!!! I am suffering a serious case of book grief right now…which should attest to how marvellous a read this book is!

Personally, I believe you need to read these books in order, as elements of the storylines do carry over into the second book. With Yours Cheerfully, we are once again transported to war torn London, Emmeline Lake has survived her tenure under the forceful, frightful and formidable Henriette Bird (think Cruella De’Vil in tweed!!) but only just (and if you want to know all about the ‘unfortunate hiccups‘ that unfolded then you must read Dear Mrs Bird)…Women’s Friend Magazine, now has a new editor; the quietly charismatic Guy Collins (who I may have a tiny crush on), who is putting the ship to rights (so to speak) and Emmy is put to work assisting the sensible, forthright and kindly Mrs Mahoney in re-creating the readers’ letters/problem page; newly christened ‘Yours Cheerfully’ their mission is to provide, sensible, practical and helpful advice to their female readership and dispel old wives tales/ myths while they’re at it; from getting pregnant by sitting on a public loo seat, to getting the wrong end of the stick when it comes to the facts of life; to knitted bras (these conundrums can’t fail to make you laugh)!

The majority of the storyline in this book revolves around the recruitment of women into war work; and the trials they face/d, being alone, fearing for the safety of their husbands, brothers, fathers; trying to work 12 hour shifts while running a home and looking after their children. At this time, the demand for munitions was understandably high and Women’s Friend along with other Womens’ magazines are instructed by the Ministry of Information to write articles encouraging their female readership to volunteer for war work. Emmy is dedicated to the task and filled with sense of duty, responsibility, and enthusiasm in doing her bit to encourage others to do their bit. A chance meeting on a train, introduces Emmy, best friend Bunty and us to a new character; Mrs Anne Oliver; widow, working mum of two; with her cheeky charming daughter Ruby (who is just glorious, as all 4 year olds are) who is off to live with her mum and take up a position at Chandlers (a munitions factory) and under the auspices of the odious Mr Terry but that discovery comes much later; as will the need to grit your teeth, in order to stop any expletives you may wish to utter; prompted by his attitude and actions.

Anne’s role inspires Emmy to write a series of overly positive articles as per the MOI instructions about women working in a factories, the work they do (where censorship allows) and what the expectations could be for other women interested in doing such work. But Emmy is faced with a dilemma; the work conditions and experiences of Anne and her factory friends, for these incredible women the challenges aren’t necessarily work related and certainly not positive (and that’s putting it mildly). So how can Emmy do her patriotic duty and help her friends in their hour of need…ah well, you will have to read the book and find out won’t you!

When you do read this book, you are completely captivated by Emmy’s work, life and friends and the theme of comradery and friendship between women who hail from all walks of life; women facing the adversity of war; the effort of keeping the home fires burning and doing their bit and everyone else’s too. You cannot fail to be in awe of them, I know I am.

One of the reasons I adore this book and its predecessor so much is because as a reader you simply fall into the delightful atmosphere of the stories and I am full of admiration for AJ ability to immerse me in the period; her grasp of the phraseology is sublime (the description of Hester’s boisterous lungs still makes me smile) as is the depth and scope of AJ’s research into the world of women during WW2, the details, emotion and historical authenticity enlivens and enriches the fictional world AJ has created out of the facts she has gleaned from the wonderful women who lived similar experiences; the amazing Olive, Jean, Beryl and Joan, who are given AJ’s thanks and I feel deserve mine too; for sharing their stories and inspiring the author to create another wonderful book.

For me, this book best can only be described as an ice cream sundae of a read; with sumptuous and delicious layers of; historical fiction, romance, humour and filled with heart stealing characters (Miss Ruby) and you simply devour every page with a grin on your face. This review has taken me a week to write, as I desperately wanted to be successful in conveying my unequivocal love for this book and it is one of my favourite reads of 2021 and I am fervently hoping there will be a third instalment…please, please, please AJ; I am prepared to beg or try and bribe you with cake….Everyone needs more Emmy in their lives, I know I do. So, all I have left to say, is that you absolutely must buy this book…I insist!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

AJ Pearce is the author of the Sunday Times Top 10 bestseller DEAR MRS BIRD, which was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and shortlisted for Debut of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards. It has been translated into fifteen languages and optioned for development for TV.

Born in Hampshire, her favourite subjects at school were English and History, which now (finally!) seems to be making some sense.

Her new novel, YOURS CHEERFULLY is the sequel to Dear Mrs Bird and will be published 24 June in the UK and 10 August in the USA.

AJ is currently researching her third novel.

Follow AJ on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: @ajpearcewrites.

The Insomnia Diaries

How I learnt to Sleep Again

Author: Miranda Levy

Publisher: Aster

Available: 3rd June in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Aster for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

After a single, catastrophic event, journalist Miranda Levy had one sleepless night, then another, and then another. She sought help from anyone she could: doctors, an acupuncturist, a reiki practitioner, a hypnotist, therapists, personal trainers – but nothing seemed to work. Sleep, wellbeing, and mental health are intrinsically linked. Yet sleeplessness is surprisingly common: 16 million of us suffer from insomnia, with a third of adults grappling with insomnia at least once a week (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) with rates of worry-related sleep disturbance skyrocketing during the pandemic to 34% overall, and more than doubling in some groups (Public Health England – Every Mind Matters)

In The Insomnia Diaries, Miranda Levy tells the story of her experience of severe, crippling insomnia that affected every aspect of her life for years, and how she ultimately recovered. Dr Sophie Bostock, scientist, sleep expert and member of the team who developed the award-winning digital programme Sleepio, contributes a foreword. She and a host of expert contributors have advised on the medical elements within the text throughout. Part memoir, part reportage, this book will help anyone who struggles to get a good night’s sleep – whether occasionally or all of the time ¬– appreciate the issues and understand the options as they find their best way to get the rest they need.

My Thoughts:

Most of us at some time have suffered a bad night’s sleep; your restless, your minds whirling, watching your clock countdown the hours, you just don’t have a restful night…and then the morning comes and with it the business of daily life, work, children, pets, partners, commuting, household chores to name a few of the pleather of elements that our lives revolve through. Now imagine, that this sleeplessness occurs night after night; day after day; weeks turn into months and months in to years! It is nearly incomprehensible to imagine what it might be like to not sleep or rest. The abject desperation of being exhausted but awake when everyone else is not. Miranda’s book documents her catastrophic experience of insomnia, the destructive vortex she experienced/s, the huge impact on her life, career, and relationships that insomnia had/has.

I was instantly drawn to the concept of this book, mainly because it explored and extrapolated an affliction so many people endure but tend to suffer alone in the dark reaches of the night, never mind what happens in the morning. The true nature of sleep issues are rarely given such an insightful, astute, and darkly pithy examination. Miranda shares with her readers in her memoir/diary the intensely raw, feral, and brutally honest descent and destruction of her life, brought on by not being able to sleep. The psychological ramifications, the physical toll (weight loss and gain) and the villainous mountain of medication she ended up being addicted to or dependant on (she discusses the issue of accurately describing the matter). Miranda’s constant efforts (and they are an immense effort, given years of no sleep and misdiagnosis of her condition) to find a solution, to claw her way back to her life, to finally find respite. Documenting in fragments her Insomnia crash, a decade of her struggle, her rage, her inability to function, to have a life with her children. Her never-ending wrestle with medical professionals, some who label her with a personality disorder, who rather than seek to bring resolution to her condition; instead with their pills and pigeon holing making Miranda’s terrifying experience even worse. We follow her myriad of experiences at rehab, visiting therapists, different ideas, techniques, unhelpful suggestions, the lack of comprehension of what Miranda is enduring; the aloneness and isolation; the wanting it all to end (and the sensitive, sensible handling of the issue of suicide) This is more a book to read in order to help yourself than a fluffy self-help guide; Miranda’s insight, leads her to consider all pathways to resolution and they aren’t all pretty but many are eminently practical and some are spectacular failures!

I truly relished how this book is structured and it is so much more than a diary of Miranda’s descent into hell (if you think, this is a rather dark description of Miranda’s experience, it’s not)! I loved that Miranda has her experienced editor head on; going back to entries and providing answers, instructions, guidance and detailed explanations brought about by experience and hind-sight and how as part of her journey she has built relationships with experts like Sophie Bostock, who writes an wonderful forward to this book.

This book is a journey of survival, we see Miranda driven to the edge and over it into the void of wakefulness and her epic journey back to a semblance of normality and who and what helped her get there (and it is an on-going journey) is this an easy read, no it isn’t but is a good read…it’s (excuse me here) a bloody phenomenal one! The tone of book has an accessibility and acceptance/understanding of all who struggle with sleeplessness et al; you are seen in the pages of this book! Reading it made me feel seen for once; I haven’t suffered with Insomnia myself but I do suffer with a sleep issue; I have OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea) which basically means I stop breathing when I sleep…I pause here to allow for the usual goggly eyed looks I usually get when I say this! So that sounds bad doesn’t it, well it is…I stop breathing, my body goes into panic mode, wakes me up…this doesn’t happen once or twice a night it can happen relentlessly every 15/30/60 minutes resulting in very little sleep and the ramifications were that when I was supposed to be awake (at work, driving, living my life) I would fall asleep uncontrollably (and not know I’d done so)…I fell off my chair at work because I fell asleep (no they didn’t understand or accept my explanation)! My experience was a relentless cycle; of nights of constantly waking up and days of falling asleep (but it was rather like fainting) and trust me the shock of falling down literally anywhere at any time, was painful and indescribably terrifying…It took 18 months for me to get the treatment I need, now I go to bed wearing breathing mask and resembling a fighter pilot and 5 hours sleep is my norm (but this is great in my world). And like Miranda, I’ve experienced the wide variety of incomprehensity from work colleagues to family, who just don’t get it but this remarkable book goes a long long way to illustrating the number of issues we face although our conditions are different.

The true power of Miranda’s book is putting the reality, seriousness, and impact of sleep issues on its survivors’ front and centre in the public domain and that popping a sleep pill won’t cut it as a solution! Thank you Miranda for your fantastic writing skills in articulating these issues, for your devilish wit and incredible courage in sharing your story and for the hope, the sense of relief and the exceptional resources your book will bring to all who read it. It is an absolute must read in my book.

 Happy (& Hopefully Restful) Reading Bookophiles….

About the Author:

Miranda Levy is a journalist and author of more than 25 years’ experience. Starting out on magazines including Cosmopolitan and New Woman (RIP), she then hacked it at the Daily Mail and Sunday Mirror before heading back to glossies and the launches of GLAMOUR and Grazia. She had two babies, wrote The Rough Guide to Babies in 2006, and became editor of Mother & Baby, where she was twice nominated for a British Society of Magazine Editors award. Now a freelance writer and editor for national newspapers, she covers many topics – but particularly health – for titles including the Telegraph platforms, the Mail on Sunday and the i. Miranda has contributed to the Spectator, the Jewish Chronicle and the New York Post

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Lock In

Author: Phoebe Luckhurst

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 27th May 2021 in eBook & Audiobook and 22nd July in Hardback

Thank you to Sriya Varadharajan and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

You’ve heard of a locked room mystery, now get ready for a locked room love story!

Meet housemates Ellen, Alexa and Jack. They’re broke. They’re lonely. They’re hungover. And things are about to go from bad to worse….

Whilst nursing the Hangover from Hell, Ellen stumbles downstairs to discover the kitchen slowly filling with water.

Panic quickly sets in, and the three flatmates find themselves in the attic desperately attempting to switch off the water supply. But when Ben, Alexa’s Hinge date from the night before, walks in, the door slams, the handle breaks and all four of them are trapped.

As the long hours tick by, Ellen nurses her sore head whilst Ben and Alexa really get to know each other, and Jack plans an unorthodox rescue mission.

But soon Ellen wonders if Ben really is a stranger after all. She is sure she knows him from somewhere….

Will these housemates ever get out of this attic? Will they survive the wrath of Elias The Evil Landlord? And will Jack please stop live tweeting this whole fiasco?

Welcome to The Lock In.

This is a hilarious story of housemates and hangovers and friendship and dating as four 20-somethings discover what the worst morning-after-the-night-before really looks like….

Fans of Dolly Alderton, Beth O’Leary and Mhairi McFarlane will LOVE this oh-so relatable tale of love, landlords and what can happen behind locked doors.

My Thoughts

My reading choices of late have been quite dark, with lots of twisty crime novels or biographies, with their explorations of other people’s lives which always contain an emotion burden among their recollections. So, when I spied the description of Phoebe’s debut novel, is seemed the perfect escape, which I realise is rather amusingly ironic considering the context of this story! Phoebe’s book seemed the exact foil I required to lightening my literary load, yes this story is light-hearted but it isn’t light weight in anyway. I found it to be warm, witty, wincey and wonderful and I adored it from the first page to the last, you will find yourself grinning in reaction to the cornucopia of calamity her cast of charming characters survive!

It is my upmost pleasure to introduce you to Alexa, Ellen and Jack; three twentysomethings sharing a flat in London; the mere premise transported me back to my own heady, hectic and hilarious days of being a city girl; whose boozy post work drinks, where protesting that you are only going to indulge in one G&T before heading home…usually find you hours later; dancing on a table at Tiger, Tiger; waving a bottle of Bolly and having a cheeky snog with a Senior Finance Associate on your stagger to the tube…Humm, OK that might just have been me…oh alright it was me…but don’t tell anyone! Phoebe I blame you completely for evoking that divulgence…as just reading the opening to your story prompted those memories (LOL).

In their post Friday night stupor; Ellen and Alexa discover their kitchen is flooding and needing to stop the deluge of water pouring everywhere and to protect themselves from any angry reaction from their odious and dodgy landlord Ellias (I swear to goodness that London clones these men, there must be a secret factory in Zone 5; processing their shady avaricious bodies into being, can you tell I’m familiar with the type!) Alexa and Ellen’s attempts to staunch the tide of water are aided and abetted by their flatmate the hapless but sweet Jack and Alexa’s slumber buddy from the previous night, the rather dishy Ben, whose assistance results in catastrophe! They all end up stranded in the attic and the rest of the story revolves around their chaotic endeavours to escape!

The story is relayed to us through interlocking chapters from each of the character’s perspectives; we learn about their backgrounds, families, friendships, relationships and jobs, all the vividly recounted and there are some endearing revelations; Ellen is convinced she knows Ben from her youthful addiction to MSN, she recalls what she remembers but Ben’s recollection of the situation is wholly different and he refutes ever speaking to Ellen. Their attic antics are thoroughly hilarious, as they desperately try to draw attention to their plight from the attic window. Poor hapless Jack spends an inordinate amount of time hanging out of the said window shouting or trying to get a signal on his phone (which is pathologically unreliable) but what brings such comedic value to his actions is that when he does get a connection, he decided that posting on Twitter is the best course of action but fails to adequately stress their dire need for assistance and instead he is obliviously focused on the comments he’s getting and the number of likes his posts garner! Bless him, Jack is a ‘goldfish’ boy; you know the type, who can only focus on anything for a minute before something more shiny distracts them…and trust me, you will spend some time, muttering rude words at him in amused frustration!!

You also can’t help but consider what you might do in similar circumstances; immediately I was struck by the horrifying thought; what if someone needs the loo…which of course happens and the brown box conversations are some of my favourite (still laughing about them as I type this review). Phoebe has imaginatively created an engagingly eloquent, exceedingly funny and delightfully entertaining story, which will lift your spirits every time you turn a page. This book is truly a rambunctious romantic riot of a read and it will not fail to dispel any lockdown blues you may have…treat yourself to this wonderful book, I say…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Phoebe Luckhurst was born in London and brought up in Glasgow. She is the Features Editor of the Evening Standard and appears regularly on their podcast. The Leader. She has written for Guardian, Sunday Times Style, ELLE, ES Magazine, Grazia, The Telegraph and Vogue. She has had the theme tune to The OC stuck in her head since 2003 and once almost spent her student loan on a micro-pig. She no longer shops online when drunk. @phoebeluckhurst

Please do take a look at some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Maidens

Author: Alex Michaelides

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Available: 10th June 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and W&N for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

We All Keep Secrets Even From Ourselves

St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, is a closed world to most.

For Mariana Andros – a group therapist struggling through her private grief – it’s where she met her late husband. For her niece, Zoe, it’s the tragic scene of her best friend’s murder.

As memory and mystery entangle Mariana, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its own.

Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens. A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic Professor Edward Fosca.

A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders – and the victims. And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana’s investigation – an obsession which will unravel everything…

My Thoughts:

I am beyond thrilled to be sharing my review of The Maidens with you today, this is the long awaited second novel by Alex Michaelides and boy…oh…boy was it worth the wait! I was certainly not alone in my admiration and enjoyment of The Silent Patient and its stunning revelations and Alex does adroitly manage to link the two stories in this second book! In my excited anticipation of this book, I did wonder; would this story reach the same dizzying heights of awe and pleasure for us crime fans? At this point, all I’ll say is it does and it did!!! For me, this book is the epitome of the perfect psychological crime novel. Alex has created a mesmerising masterpiece of misdirection, hidden within the hallowed halls of Cambridge academia, it is magnificent in its deceptive and secretive scope and the end resolutions are exquisite!

Mariana Andros is a group therapist, recently widowed and immersed in her own bubble of grief at the loss of her much-loved husband Sebastian.  A panicked phone call from her niece Zoe draws her back to Cambridge and the memories of her and Sebastian’s time there. Zoe’s best friend, Tara is found gruesomely murdered…and Mariana becomes embroiled in the situation and echoes of her own memories engulf her. Here in the city where she and Sebastian, studied, met, fell in love but can any relationship be that simple or does the rosy haze of love distort reality or does Mariana’s desperate need for love make her blind?

The sheer genius of this story; is as a reader, your own conviction that you’ve figured the plot out quickly, you suspect that villainous killer is obvious (with Mariana’s help) you’ve carefully followed all of Alex’s beautifully crafted clues and you are firmly convinced that this is a great crime novel and highly enjoyable but you question is it really exceptional…I know this because, these were the exact smug assumptions I gleefully made…Ha..more fool me! I should have known given the outstanding quality of The Silent Patient…that the Maidens would be of equal stunning quality and holds its own web of secrets and deceit and OMG does it just…what unfurls is utter dark devious deliciousness…forgive me Alex for not trusting your marvellous creative mind and your phenomenal plotting skills! I will never make that mistake again when immersed in your stories!

The entire novel is tinged with tension, it is subtle at first and you assume that it is Mariana’s own emotion turmoil and grief that brings an edge and then add to the mix Zoe’s fear and horror at her dearest friend being killed…so the tension builds! Then add the sublime atmospheric setting of Cambridge, with its ages old colleges and histories, status, gravitas and their whispered stories that have passed in legend and you can understand why Mariana is distracted and convinced of the iniquitous actions of the surreptitious and smoothly sinister Professor Edward Foska and his coterie of Maidens; a group of beautiful, intelligent women whom the killer is obsessively focused on. I am being very careful and probably being dissatisfyingly cryptic about the scope and details of the story, with good reason, I simply don’t wish to give anything away by intent or accident. How the story unfolds is yours to discover and enjoy and I wish you to revel in the experience (as I did). I will; however, provide a few clues of my own…murder is not the foulest crime in this book, cast aside your assumptions, seeing is not always believing and do watch out for follies, punts, classical cults, letters, postcards and toy zebras! I refuse to say more!!!

Alex’s has clearly drawn upon his own experiences and education to produce such an exceptional novel; it is an absolute triumph; cleverly considered, complex in its understanding of human nature and her flaws and compelling in drawing a reader in, it is a novel you will devour hungrily in one sitting (be prepared) you will be thoroughly engaged and utterly enthralled and if you are looking for a comparison to The Silent Patient, then this story surpasses it!!. When you have read it, you will face my dilemma of wanting to sing its praises and discuss its depths with everyone you know but until they’ve read it, you can’t, which marvellously monstrous in its inception…this book cannot fail to impress all who read it and I have no doubt it will be one of my favourite reads of 2021. It’s available in wonderful bookshops everywhere, so hurry off and get yourselves a copy today!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Alex Michaelides was born in Cyprus in 1977 to a Cypriot father and an English mother. At 18, he moved to the UK to study English at Trinity College, Cambridge where he received an MA. Alex then went to film school in Los Angeles and got his MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute. He wrote the film Devil You Know, starring Rosamund Pike and co-wrote The Con is On, starring Uma Thurman and Tim Roth. Disillusioned with screenwriting, he moved back to the UK and took a job at a therapeutic community for teenagers in North London while studying psychotherapy.

But before he quit writing for good, he decided to have one last throw of the dice and sat down to write the detective story which became the international bestselling novel, The Silent Patient. The book went on to be a world record-breaker, debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, the first adult UK debut ever to do so. Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B have secured the film rights and a screenwriter and director are now attached. The Maidens is his second novel.

Please do read some of the other reviews of this book on the blog tour.

Diamonds at the Lost and Found

A Memoir in search of my Mother

Author: Sarah Aspinall

Publisher: 4th Estate

Available: 10th June 2021, in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Hannah Bright, Midas PR and 4th Estate for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

For readers of Hideous Kinky, Dadland and Bad Blood; the astonishing, beguiling story of Sarah Aspinall’s harum scarum childhood, and a love letter to a woman who defied convention to live a life less ordinary.

My Mother attracted unusual people and events to her, and she made things happen….

Sarah Aspinall grew up in the glittering wake of her irrepressible mother Audrey. Born into poverty in 1930s Liverpool, Audrey had always known that she was destined for better things and was determined to shape that destiny for herself. From the fading seaside glamour of Southport, to New York and Hollywood, to post-war London and the stately homes of the English aristocracy, Audrey stylishly kicked down every door she encountered, on a ceaseless quest for excitement – and for love.

Once Sarah was born, she became Audrey’s companion on her adventures, travelling the world, scraping together an education for herself from the books found in hotels or given to her by strangers, and living on Audrey’s charm as they veered from luxury to poverty – an accessory to her mother’s desperate search for ‘the one’.

As Sarah grew older, she realised that theirs was a life hung about with mysteries. Why, for instance, had they spent ages living in a godforsaken motel in the Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina? Who was the charming Sabet Sabescue, and what was his hold over Audrey during several months in Cairo? And what on earth happened to the heirlooms that an ancient heiress, Miss Gillette, gave Sarah when they visited her in Palm Springs?

And why, when they returned to Southport was Audrey ostracised by the society, she so longed to be part of?

Diamonds at the Lost and Found tells the story of how Sarah eventually pulled free of her mother’s gravitational pull to carve out a destiny of her own. It is a beguiling testament to dreams, defying convention, and exasperated love.

My Thoughts:

Memoirs and biographies are some of my favourite books to read, as they provide an intimate and personal perspective on a wide variety of lives lived differently from my own and I find that I always learn something new be it factual in terms of historical environment or a development of emotional intelligence or a clearer understanding of circumstances that echo my own life. And if I am completely honest, I am just a smidgen nosey (I spent a lot of my professional life, being paid to ferret information from a wide variety of sources) so it is more natural curiosity than voyeuristic curtain twitching! So, you can understand my interest in reading Sarah’s memoir and what an insightful, awkwardly amusing, poignant experience it has been and one that I highly recommend you embark on.

I am full of admiration at Sarah’s courage in revealing her unique, possibly unorthodox family life and the remarkable candour in writing about her mother, in the way she does; it is sympathetic but she does not shy away from the emotional/psychological complexities of their relationship either, nor does Sarah blunt the impact of her mother’s attitude to living life, love and parenting, this has not been an easy journey! I was very touched by the way Sarah has enlightened us her readers on issues regarding mental health and the tangible ramifications both physical and emotional of dealing with Parkinson’s disease and its devastating impact!

Audrey is Sarah’s mother, clearly an intelligent, glamourous, gregarious woman but it is very clear that her parenting skills are somewhat lacking but not by design but the task of being a mother is more incidental to her life, than a focal point…saying she has a relaxed attitude to the role, is possibly me being polite and over simplifying! Audrey’s focus is mostly internal; a woman wrapped up tightly in the bondage of her own need to quench her thirst for love! Yet time and time again she is disappointed by the men she engages with; her relationships do not fulfil adequately her needs, they do not satisfy her emotionally and never seem to meet her expectations…and Sarah is party to it all and is often in the role of unwilling sidekick. Audrey’s wishes drive their incredible ‘nomadic’ global adventures, the scope, scale, and details of these escapades is thoroughly fascinating and often humorous but there is a distinct edge of poignancy to it all!

The world was clearly Audrey and Sarah’s oyster, theirs to explore; which like anything new and unusual is exciting at first, but with the passing of time Sarah grows up (although she seems to me to be exceedingly independent and sensible from a very young age, possible a case of needing to be rather than deciding to be) and a little more so than her mother on occasions. I occurred to me as I wrote this paragraph that ‘grows up’ might not be the right phrase…it is more that Sarah grows into her own awareness of self and awareness of needs of her own, she wants an education and a more stable and settled existence (well at least she imagine she does, but the reality doesn’t match the expectation). It dawned on me that Sarah needed respite from her mother’s all-encompassing desire to find her perfect love, the searching for which leads to her being self-absorbed and directs their erratic, exotic lifestyle! Sarah is faced with choices to be made; to stay and play her mother’s companion on her mother’s choice of path or to embark on her own adventure and be the captain of her destiny! And if you want to know how this memoir unfurls, then you will have to buy a copy and find out…my lips are sealed.

I was enthralled by Sarah’s memoir, the authenticity and candour in portraying the complex nature of a mother/daughter relationship; how their individual life experiences crafted their sense of identity and the understanding Sarah has that parents can fail and be flawed but still loved and these elements are part of who that parent and is a very honest observation! There were moments, I was more resentful of Audrey’s apathy than Sarah was, these moments can make for uncomfortable reading at times but they are necessary that disconnection and reconnection between them is key to the book. I loved how the book was structured, around locations, Sarah’s keen and intelligent eye, brings such vibrancy to the places she’s been. I have been completely captivated by Sarah’s book; it is a diamond of a read and it’s honest perspectives, astute societal observations and revelation of personal reality will remain with you, long after you’ve finished the last page, they have for me!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Sarah is an award-winning filmmaker, producing and directing documentaries for BBC, C4 and other major broadcasters.

After an unusual childhood with her endlessly restless mother, she found that making films allowed her to keep moving. Her films have explored the worlds of Philip Roth, Andy Warhol, Anais Nin, Saul Bellow, The Coen Brothers, Rod Stewart, the Beach Boys, and Leonardo da Vinci, to name but a few. They have delved into the mysteries of JD Salinger’s reclusiveness, the cover up of the Windscale Nuclear reactor fire, and the truth about Charles Dickens’s secret lover. Her filming has taken her on several trips around India and the US, across Mexico and up the Nile and given her the fun of working in small teams and all the camaraderie that brings.

She always wanted to write but found the quiet room and the hard chair difficult to deal with. Having built a cabin on a quiet beach she has finally managed to sit still and to write her first book, a memoir of that childhood. Diamonds at the Lost and Found is published by Fourth Estate.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this tour.

Dead Ground

Author: MW Craven

Publisher: Little Brown/Constable

Available: Published, 3rd June 2021 in hardback, eBook, and audiobook

Thank you to Beth Wright and Little Brown/Constable for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.

As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken . . .

Praise for MW Craven

‘Heart-pounding, hilarious, sharp and shocking, Dead Ground is further proof that M.W. Craven never disappoints. Miss this series at your peril.’ Chris Whitaker

‘M. W. Craven is one of the best crime writers working today. Dead Ground is a cracking puzzle, beautifully written, with characters you’ll be behind every step of the way. It’s his best yet.’ Stuart Turton

My Thoughts:

Back in 2018 I was at York train station waiting to pick up my partner, when his train from Glasgow was delayed. So, in true bookophile style, I wondered into the WH Smiths on the main concourse and decided to peruse the books…I mean what else is a girl supposed to do! I picked up The Puppet Show the first book in this series. Well I completely forgot everything around me; including my partner (Sorry Jim) and was transported to Cumbria and utterly transfixed (I bought the book and the audio book) & now here we are in 2021 on book 4 and I am thoroughly and completely addicted to Washington Poe & Matilda (Tilly) Bradshaw. And it is my utter joy and privilege today to be providing a review for Dead Ground. Ordinarily I would affirm that this book could be read as a stand-alone but in my opinion that would be a mistake here! I am a firm believer of reading crime series in order and I think with these outstanding and amazing books, you need to read them as written; as the personal lives of the characters develop throughout the series and in this 4th instalment there are salient threads and storylines and characters that carry through from the previous 3 books.

I am a HUGE fan and I am in no doubt that Mike Craven is the King of Crime, his masterful, manipulations and deliciously devious plotlines are sinisterly sublime, making the trajectory of each story he pens strategic, sinuous and stunning reading…addictive reading is an understatement. The scope and scale of the plots make a crime reader’s brain scrabble for purchase…just when you believe Poe is backed into an inescapable catastrophe; he manages (usually with help) and with Houdini like magnificence to survive and come out swinging and corral the malevolent villian he is hunting..(almost)!

Mike has managed to create in Washington Poe a Detective that woman quite fancy and men want to be…Poe is ex-military, he pulls no punches, he is protective and loyal to his friends, yet has an ornery charm and dead pan whit…which has caused me to laugh out loud in public on more than one occasion. But not as much as when Poe interacts with the phenomenal Matilda (Tilly) Bradshaw, who is a crime analyst, a tech savant; yes, she is epically socially awkward (that is putting it mildly) a genius in every sense of the word and Poe’s best friend. Their relationship, interaction and comradeship is reminiscent of superhero pairings of old, however without the machismo. I confess, I am #TotallyTeamTilly…she is probably one of my favourite characters ever within a Crime Novel series.

The witty, gritty addictiveness of these books is continued in this latest instalment, at this point I am going to be a tad cryptic, in order to attempt not to spoil this book for you in any way! Here is  a mere taste of what you have instore; A dead body in a security box vault, killed execution style; several years later another body, beaten, battered with signs of torture before demise, found in a pop-up brothel (who knew such things existed)…are they connected? And what does; a trade summit, MI 5, a ceramic rat and a pair of pilots and a faceless killer on a vengeful rampage; give you…. a crime novel of epic proportions is what! No detail in Mike’s books including this one is ever superfluous, if your quick enough, you’ll see all the pieces of the puzzle but the genius of this story is how and why these clues add up to a complete picture and though facing insurmountable odds and bucket loads of bureaucracy which does hamper Poe & Tilly’s investigatory progress, rest assured whatever hole Poe falls in, Tilly is always on hand to dig him out! Hopefully I’ve not given the game away re the contents of this story!

Mike writes the most audacious, clever, complex crime thrillers, I know and if for any reason you’ve missed this incredible series, then I fiercely insist you rectify the matter forthwith!! Now, today…buy them all! Now I’ve finished book 4 (Sob) I only have 361 days until book 5 (The Botanist) I believe it is to be called, is published…I counting the days Mike, I need so many more breakfasts, Edgar moments, Crofts, Crime calamity and your unique brand of laconic humour…only provided by Poe & Tilly in my reading life…I sit here expectantly, I am waiting…come on June 2022!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy, and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .

The Puppet Show, the first in a two-book deal he signed with the Little, Brown imprint, Constable in 2017, was released to critical acclaim in hardback in 2018. It has been sold in numerous foreign territories and the production company Studio Lambert, creators of the award-winning Three Girls, have optioned it for TV. The sequel, Black Summer, follows in June 2019.

M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.

Website: mwcraven.com

Twitter: @MWCravenUK

Self Contained

Scenes from A Single Life

Author: Emma John

Publisher: Octopus Books/Cassell

Available: 6th May 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Octopus Books/Cassell for my beautiful gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Emma is in her 40s; she is neither married, nor partnered, with child or planning to be.

Self-Contained captures what it is to be single in your forties, from sharing a twin room with someone you’ve never met on a group holiday (because the couples have all the doubles with ensuite) to coming to the realisation that maybe your singleness isn’t a temporary arrangement, that maybe you aren’t pre-married at all, and in fact you are self-contained.

It explores the unpartnered life as never before, joyfully celebrating individuality in a world built for two.

This is the book to confront the commonly held assumption that life is less full and less fulfilled if lived singly.

‘I wrote this book because I don’t want to be haunted by the word “spinster” anymore!’

My Thoughts:

The moment I saw the details of this book, I knew I had to read it and sometimes when you read a book, you instinctively connect to its core, its words, its context and Self Contained is just that book for me. Emma & I though complete strangers share almost identical experiences (in a very uncanny way) when it comes to being ‘self-contained’ because like Emma I loathe the dismissive and divisive term single (although it isn’t as dreadful as being labelled a spinster and all the apathetic, derogatory and desperation that term conveys as it specifically targets women); because such labels are both so limiting, with an underlying suggestion that those navigating life by themselves more especially if female (whether by design or not) are somehow perceived to be failing or less than the excepted norm, that in some unfathomable way we are a disappointment by not having paired up?!. Reading Emma’s book for me brings with it a soul deep sense of relief; at being recognised, at being understood for living the life I have had. Emma has articulated in the most astute and exceptional way what being Self Contained means; feels like, looks like and scope and reality for those that are on their own. Covering the four decades of her life (so far) in a punchy, pithy, powerful, poignant and incredibly pertinent way and I believe Emma’s memoir will exonerate or vindicate the myriad of emotions felt by so many people who carry a sense of misapprehension and isolation regarding their own status. Which further illustrates how outstanding this book is to dispel such myths!

As the subtitle of the book suggest, Emma has complied in a fluid, readable way a series of episodes from her life, illustrating her triumphs, her highs, her lows and all the hilarious happenstance in between. The forging of a journalist career, buying a home, attempting to decorate it… (I’m still laughing at that escapade) navigating friendships and their changing nature; when everyone you seem to know becomes part of a pair and you’re not! The sense of being left behind in some way, the feelings and experiences in your late 20s or early 30s where your entire social life seems to revolve around a never ending social pattern of hen dos et al.. (I am shuddering with abject horror at my own recollections of paying exorbitant sums for basically, a salad and desultory back massage at under par spars; all the while pretending to be having fun at such torrid events!) then there’s the weddings themselves, schlepping to various parts of the British isles and having to share a hotel room with another random ‘singleton’ (another dire term) for reasons of practicality or room availability; or the endless swerving of the unwanted attentions of potential suitors your erstwhile friends lob at you or worse that your family do!  Emma recounts all (although I think I might be as well here) including my favourite experiences of having to justify your life path to other people…especially those questions; you know the ones I mean..’you’re so lovely, why are you still single?’…side bar, here is my answer to that insulting and invasive question which is the response…‘I prefer Giraffes’…seriously, it is worth using, as it always completely flummoxes the question poser and will bring you a complete sense of mirth at their facial responses and inability to respond in anyway to your statement! I digress…

As Emma navigates the decades of her life, you follow her development and understanding of self, that slight edge of resignation of expectation, of hope…of the big question when will it be my turn (to find someone, to be married etc) that turns to the realisation when opportunity presents itself, that actually the turn (or relationship) isn’t actually the right one and the admirable and intensely difficult recognition that choosing to marry someone needs to happen because you believe it is a real match and not one forged from others expectations or your own need not to be the odd one out! As time passes no matter how much success Emma has, that pervading issue of her status seems to taint her relationships with friends and family (and  she’s not alone in that) and the pressure always intensifies once people start having babies and becoming families, their availability, their understanding of you of your friendship changes and not always in a good way. Being Self-contained sometimes leaves you at the peripheries of the lives of your family and friends and you end up carrying the burden of their wants for you regardless if marriage, a relationship, or a family are actually your own aspirations!

Emma’s does a simply incredible job of illustrating and articulating her journey and defining herself as being Self-Contained and realising that this is enough, there is no need for disappointment, you/she hasn’t failed at life because you are living and revelling in the life you have carved out, the home you’ve made and the fact you get to sleep in the middle of your bed at all times! Emma brings illumination to the fact it is alright to be yourself, alone or otherwise. To enjoy all the good bits about being by yourself, including our ability to cope better than many during the Covid pandemic!

For me this book is a seminal read, it is an absolute must read for those who are navigating life’s pathways independently but this book, is also vital reading for our friends and family, who often simply do not understand such a choice, such acceptance, such recognition of self…Emma is not prepared to settle for the expected norm, she doesn’t want you to either; so be brave bookophiles and enjoy your freedoms and do not be shackled by societal perceptions of singledom…be more Emma…strive to be Self Contained! And in case it isn’t screamingly obvious at this point in my review, I loved this book, its ethos and Emma’s ability to vividly and lucidly recount her reality and I hope my words have conveyed this to you! So, all that I have left to say to you; is buy this wonderful book, buy it today, buy it for everyone you know! I am pretty certain this book is one of my favourite reads of 2021.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Emma John is an award-winning author and journalist. Her last book, Wayfaring Stranger: A Musical Journey in the American South, was recently named one of Newsweek’s Travel Books of the Decade; her debut, Following On: A Memoir of Teenage Obsession and Terrible Cricket, was named Wisden Book of the Year.

Emma was the first woman to win a Sports Journalism Award in the UK, though she is also known for her writing on music, theatre, film, books and travel. She is a regular voice on national radio, appearing on documentaries and comedy shows on BBC R4, as well as providing sports analysis for BBC Radio5Live and talkSPORT.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

You Need to Know

Author: Nicola Moriarty

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 15th April 2021 in paperback, ebook and audiobook

Thank you to Sriya Varadharajan and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Jill’s three grown-up sons mean everything to her.

She would do anything for her boys – protect them, lie for them, even die for them.

Then one day she receives an email with the subject line: ‘You Need To Know’.

Jill doesn’t want to know. She leaves the warning unread.

But some truths you can’t hide from.

Soon Jill will start to wonder if she knows her sons at all . . .

How long will these secrets stay hidden?

And when they are revealed . . . can Jill’s family survive?

Praise for Nicola Moriarty

‘Had me turning the pages into the small hours’ Gillian McAllister

‘Expect dark themes and plot twists aplenty’ Red

‘Dramatic, mysterious and compelling’ Vogue

‘Kept me guessing to the end’ Sun

‘With secrets and intrigue, this is a compulsive read’ Sun on Sunday

My Thoughts:

This is the first of Nicola’s books I have read and I am certain it won’t be the last, as this was a clever, compelling, crime cover up embedded with essence of domestic darkness. You Need to Know is a dramatic, thrilling and delectably sinister read, set in Sydney (Australia) and focuses around the Lewis family; who are about to face the first anniversary of a tragic loss, an accident that occurred in the run up to Christmas the year before and changed their lives irrevocably!

Jill is the matriarch of the family and has 3 grown up (possibly a euphemism, possibly just me being snarky, given their attitudes) sons who rather interestingly all work within the publishing industry and Nicola takes time to illustrated her cast of characters, their partners, their children and their lives. Jill receives an email, titled; ‘You Need to Know’….and what crime aficionado can resist the thought process…ooooh, what does she need to know and that soon turns into, but does she? Does Jill really want to know a secret/s, does she want to face the stark reality of truth; Does she want to be in possession of information that could fracture her family forever….I confess, I had a shake the book moment…muttering…’of course she does, now open the damn email!’ but Nicola is wise and cunning (all in a good way of course) and Jill does not open the email and as a reader this intensifies the tension and completely engages the reader’s curiosity…I mean we are all desperate to know, Jill needs to know but knowing something that could destroy you and those you love is a dastardly, delicious dilemma and one this story is wholly immersed in. My goodness does this concept keep you turning the pages to find out more!

What completely captured my imagination about this book, was that right from the prologue, the atmospheric tone is set, a sense unsettling anticipation is suggested! It is clear that the Lewis family have suffered a great loss and that their family bond surely should have held them together but the further you advance into the story, the more sublime secrets come to light and every character has their flaws, their failures and founderings but which of these secrets has the power to decimate the family and is one of them, transcribed in the sinister email received by Jill or is there yet more to be revealed??? As if I am going to spill the beans, nope that is for me to know and you to buy the book and find out!!

Nicola’s creative genius is in the stylish manner in the way she layers, tension, secrets, and revelation. Making her story an enthralling, enticing and a fraught journey of suspense and one that I can’t wait for you to enjoy, which is why I am keeping quiet about the full scope and detail of the story. I will say how much I admired the way Nicola has structured the story; relaying perspectives through the varied voices of her cast, their recalling and revealing provides, a variety of viewpoints that I found exciting to explore and examine.

This is a stunning, sinister, and scintillating story and you will not be able to resist devouring it in one sitting, because that is exactly what I did! This is definitely a book and an author you want to add to your crime collections and I can’t wait to discover and delve more into Nicola’s books.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Nicola Moriarty is a best-selling, Sydney-based novelist, copywriter, and mum to two small (but remarkably strong willed) daughters. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and completing her BA, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.

Her writing was once referred to as ‘inept’ by The Melbourne Age. Luckily on that same day the Brisbane Courier Mail called her work ‘accomplished, edgy and real.’ So, she stopped crying into her Weetabix, picked up a pen and continued to write. She has been fuelled by a desire to prove The Age wrong ever since.

Her published works include the novels Free-Falling, Paper Chains, The Fifth Letter, Those Other Women and The Ex-Girlfriend along with the novella Captivation and contributions to two UK anthologies.

Nicola has been awarded the Fred Rush Convocation prize from Macquarie University, along with ‘Best Australian Debut’ from Chicklit Club. She has been published in Australia, The United States and The United Kingdom and her books have been translated into German, Dutch and Hungarian.

The Fifth Letter was a Top Ten Bestseller in Australia with Australian Women’s Weekly calling it ‘a pacey, circle-of-friends thriller’; while the UK’s Sun on Sunday said, ‘With secrets and intrigue, this is a compulsive read.’ It was The Librarian’s Choice top pick and was featured in PopSugar’s Best Books for Fireside Reading plus their Favourite Books for the Year.

On Those Other Women, Marian Keyes said ‘I devoured it, loved it and totally escaped into it’, while Publishers Weekly called it a ‘darkly droll page-turner.’ The Ex-Girlfriend was called ‘fresh, atmospheric, feminist’ by Gillian McAllister and ‘An extremely twisty tale of obsession and revenge’ by Heat.

She is also very excited to share the news that both The Fifth Letter and The Ex-Girlfriend have been optioned for film and television!

Nicola has four older sisters and one older brother and she lives in constant fear of being directly compared to her two wildly successful and extraordinarily talented author sisters, Liane Moriarty, and Jaclyn Moriarty. Unless of course, the comparison is something kind, perhaps along the lines of, “Liane, Jaci and Nicola are all wonderful writers. I love all of their books equally.”

Other things of note are Nicola’s lack of fine motor skills, demonstrated by her inability to thread keys onto keyrings, tie balloons, braid hair, and apply eyeliner. If you have taken the time to read this far, she would very much like to send you a Freddo Frog to show her appreciation. But she probably won’t follow through, because she’ll most likely eat all the Freddo Frogs before she gets the chance to post them. Sorry, she does mean well.

Nicola’s next book, The Accident is due out in 2021.

Visit Nicola at her website or through one of her social media pages below.

www.nicolamoriarty.com.au

www.facebook.com/NicolaMoriartyAuthor

https://twitter.com/NikkiM3https://www.instagram.com/nicmoriarty/

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Heatstroke

Author: Hazel Barkworth

Publisher: Headline Review

Available: 27th May 2021 in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Headline for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

It is too hot to sleep. To work. To be questioned time and again by the police.

At the beginning of a stifling, sultry summer, everything shifts irrevocably when Lily doesn’t come home one afternoon.

Rachel is Lily’s teacher. Her daughter Mia is Lily’s best friend. The girls are fifteen – almost women, still children.

As Rachel becomes increasingly fixated on Lily’s absence, she finds herself breaking fragile trusts and confronting impossible choices she never thought she’d face.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this

My Thoughts:

Hazel’s book had been on my must-read radar for a while, so when I was offered the opportunity to read and review it, I jumped at the chance! Heatstroke is Hazel’s debut novel and oh my goodness it is a taut, tangled, tempestuous triumph of a read! If it isn’t on your must-read radar yet, it needs to be! The essence of the book has its roots in Crime fiction, yet it decimates the traditional expectations of the genre. Prepare to be ensnared in its pages!

This tense atmospheric story opens during a sultry, stifling hot summer, where the oppressive, relentless heat permeates the people and the pages of this book. 15 year old Lily is missing, she doesn’t arrive home after a sleepover at her best friend Mia’s home but according to Mia, Lily told her she was unwell and stayed at home! As an avid reader of crime novels this is where your assumptions start; has Lily be taken, who would take her, is she dead, is there a body? With these supercisions you embark on an internal debate, fuelled by a myriad of other questions about the supposed crime, which are limited by the assumptions you are led to make! But what if, Lily’s disappearance wasn’t forced but was a choice and was she alone in making it?! For me the subtle deviously clever misdirection, that your own assumptions lead to is utter genius! Hazel, I adore your dark, twisted devilishly creative mind, you are indeed the Mistress of Misdirection and it is magnificently done! So, my lovely bookophiles a word to the wise, do not skip merrily down the ‘I know’ assumption route, regarding what you think you know about the trajectory of this plot…I tell you now, you don’t know!

There is also the expectation that this story will evolve or revolve around Lily and her life and actions that lead to this point, but Hazel doesn’t choose her to direct us, instead it is the obsessive malignancy of Rachel’s perspectives who by tantalising increments feeds our journey. Rachel, mother of Mia (Lily’s best friend), a teacher (therefore under the auspices of societal structure, a trusted dedicated member) we assume will guide us truthfully to resolution! Ha, Rachel is one of the most monstrously marvellous characters ever created in modern fiction, she is the complete anthesis of an anti-heroine, her duplicitous, darkness subtly and sublimely dominates this novel. She controls what we are allowed to know and when, her resentment is palpable, her furious, fractious striving to maintain her identity against the tide of motherhood, her dissolution of expected boundaries and the quietly vicious manipulations of the bond between mother and daughter are eloquently drawn! Am I being overly cryptic about the details of the story, honestly, Yes, I am and offer no apology for doing so, you need to experience the revelations in this story for yourselves!

Hazel’s book is sublimely suspenseful, slick with desire and obsession and darkly decorated with torrid tension and masterfully malevolent misdirection and these element will entirely bewitch you as a reader, you will be enthralled and compelled to keep turning the pages of the story, desperate to know more. I found myself addicted and absorbed through the dark reaches of the night dying to have my need for resolution to be stated, I had to finish it and I have no doubt you will feel the same. So, if you are near a bookshop this bank holiday weekend, I recommend you hot foot it inside and beg them to sell you a copy, do not leave the shop without it!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

HAZEL BARKWORTH grew up in Stirlingshire and North Yorkshire before studying English at Oxford. She then moved to London where she spent her days working as a cultural consultant, and her nights dancing in a pop band at glam rock clubs. Hazel is a graduate of both the Oxford University MSt in Creative Writing and the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-Writing course. She now works in Oxford, where she lives with her partner. HEATSTROKE is her first novel.

Please do have a read of some of the other reviews on this tour.

A Public Murder

Author: Antoinette Moses

Publisher: Black Crane Press

Available: Now in paperback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Antoinette Moses for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Introducing DI Pam Gregory

A Public Murder

‘My mother was a very difficult person, Inspector, and not always a very nice one. I can think of any number of people who would want her dead.’

The shocking murder of the archaeologist, Stephanie Michaels in the new Leotakis Gallery in Cambridge is clearly going to be a troublesome high-profile investigation from the outset. But to track down the killer, DI Pam Gregory has to travel to the Greek island of Crete where she finds herself on a journey she never expected, one which will change her life for ever.

My Thoughts

As a huge fan of crime fiction, I am always on the lookout for a new voice or character to be enthralled by, so on reading the description of Antoinette’s book, I knew I had to read it. This book is a mesmerising mixture of the Mediterranean, Murder and Minoans; and if like me you are a fan of writers like Elly Griffiths, then Antoinette’s novel is certainly the book for you. I loved it!

The bloody body of archaeologist Dr Stephanie Michaels, notorious public figure and discoverer of an exceptional historical find on her island home of Crete is discovered in a macabre scene in the soon to be opened new wing of the Cambridge Museum, with the word ‘Vendetta‘ etched in her blood on the floor! The renown of her discovery, the mysterious patronage of a Cretan billionaire and media coverage of Stephanie, makes this a very ‘Public Murder’ indeed. What becomes apparent very quickly is Dr Michaels is not all she seems and you cannot fail to wonder; what transgressions have led to her death! Is she a victim of circumstances, killed in a mafia style revenge or is there something much darker and more nefarious afoot? Stephanie’s public person is much regarded but her private visage is clearly tainted, if the opinions, stories and recollections of her family, friends and colleagues are to be believed! From the outset of the novel you find yourself inundated with questions, that need answers! Who is her mysterious benefactor; What is the nature of the vendetta, How is Dr Michaels involved and Who else could be in the crosshairs!! Can Pam and her team weed out the truth? Did you think, I was about to reveal all…never!…I don’t do spoilers, if you want to find out ‘who done it‘…you are going to have to buy this book and find out for yourselves as my lips are sealed!!!

DI Pam Gregory is our dedicated, determined and delightful protagonist, she is a fantastic character, who us over 40’s can relate to and identify with and with such a character I always find the essence of whom encourages my enjoyment of the story. I loved her tenacity, her professionalism, yes, she has flaws (but really who doesn’t) but you can’t fail to admire her gumption and dry humour. There is a modern day Marplesque quality to this story, which is incredibly engaging. I very much admired Antoinette’s extensive knowledge of classical history and her ability to weave historical fact into her fiction, coupled with the atmospheric scope, vibrancy and eloquence of her plot, the combination of elements is utterly compelling and ensures you just can’t stop reading. The deft, devious transactions of her cast and the subtle complexity of her clues keeps you on your crime solving toes..and just when you feel you’ve figured it all out…trust me you haven’t! I also loved the opportunity to vicariously visit, the magnificent island of Crete, where tranches of this tale are set, the hazy heat of the Mediterranean sounds like perfection on this grey May day although possibly without the addition of vengeful killer on the lose!

I have been completely engaged, excited, and enthralled by Pam’s machinations and I firmly believe you will be as well. So, if you are looking a gripping read this bank holiday weekend, then this addictive page turner is the perfect addition for your crime collection. I can’t wait for book 2 in the series, bravo Antoinette and please, please write faster because I really want to know what’s next for Pam and her cohort and I am desperate to read more and I have no doubt my fellow crime buffs will be too!

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Antoinette Moses a life

When I was young, your passport included your profession. I put writer. ‘Why writer?’     asked my then boyfriend, ‘You never write anything.’ ‘But I’m going to,’ I said.

I always knew I was going to be a writer. It just took a while to get going. I kept getting distracted by other things.

First distraction: Editing. Journalism

I had to earn my living and so I got jobs in journalism, publishing and as a staff writer for a photographic news agency. I also took time off to travel. That’s when I first lived in Greece which was on and off between 1973 and 1978.

Second distraction: Festivals.

I first helped run a festival in 1970. It was the Oxford Animation Festival, and it was a huge success. It ended with Yellow Submarine and the Beatles singing ‘You’re such a lovely audience’… I was hooked. Both on audiences and festivals.

When I came back to England in 1978, I re-founded the Cambridge Animation Festival, and was its director for six years. I also helped set up the Hiroshima Animation Festival, and worked for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. In 2013 co-founded the Festival for Literature for Young people (FLY) at the University of East Anglia (UEA). I was its producer until I retired in 2018.

Third distraction: Teaching:

I started writing fulltime in 1994 and had several books published. Then I began writing plays which led to my getting an MA in creative writing at UEA, followed by a PhD on verbatim theatre, and ten years teaching as a lecturer in Creative Writing and Literature.

And so we come to the writing:

My first published book was a guidebook to Athens, then I wrote a cookbook for dieters and then I wrote a number of short fictions for young people learning English. These were published mostly by Cambridge University Press and have won three Extensive Reading Awards; Jojo’s Story‘ was described by one critic as ‘a classic for all time’. Several became bestsellers. I’ve also published essays and stories.

I wrote my first play when I was 9. It was an adaptation of The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Graham and I performed it with my father at the family Christmas. (Poor family)

I’ve written a number of plays which have been produced in Norwich and Cambridge and Heidelberg, and have received rehearsed readings in Ipswich, London and Paris. A few have won prizes and awards.

And now it’s crime fiction.

And finally I’ve launched the first Pam Gregory novel, A Public Murder.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour

Sew On The Go

Author: Mary Jane Baxter
Publisher: Unbound
Available: 27th May 2021 in Hardback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Unbound for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

● Have you ever dreamed of quitting your job and setting off on the open road to pursue your creativity? In 2016, Mary Jane Baxter did exactly that.
● Sew on the Go is an inspiring road trip and a practical guide to crafting wherever you find yourself, and is packed with easy, step-by-step instructions for craft.
● From decorating your own budget conscious bolthole, to achievable projects including clothes and fashion accessories, beautiful gift ideas and child-friendly makes, this book is the ideal companion for those who dream of devoting more time to their craft.

In 2016, Mary Jane Baxter quit her job at the BBC, rented out her flat and headed for the hills. Her home for the next few months was an upcycled 1986 Bedford Bambi campervan with a top speed of 60mph. She raided skips for vintage wallpaper and scoured second-hand emporiums to source stylish vintage accessories, creating her own travelling craft studio, packed with everything necessary for crafting on the road. She then set off around Europe searching for inspiration, travelling from Belgium right down to the Cinque Terre in Italy then around France and up to Scotland.
Armed with her trusty hand-cranked Singer, she spent a summer sewing on the go. Like creatives the world over, she decided to see where her travels would lead her and returned with a head full of new projects. Fortunately, there’s no need for you to give up your job, wave goodbye to your family and rent out your house in order to reignite your own creativity; Mary Jane has done all the hard work for you. Sew on the Go is her guide to carving out more creative space in your life.

My Thoughts:

If you are in need of some crafty exploration and escapism, then Mary Jane’s glorious book will certainly satisfy your creative cravings, as it certainly did mine. On sighting the details for this book, it simply sang to my soul and having read it, it is now firmly imbedded there. My own crafty tendencies have been seriously subdued of late and in all honesty, I didn’t know why? I saw the opportunity to read and review Mary Jane’s book as a chance to ignite and inspire my creativity. I can extatically confirm that this wonderful book has done exactly that, it is a crafty cornucopia of joy and not to be missed.

This book may on the face of it seem like a craft project bible of sorts, which in parts it is but it is also so much much more than that. Within its pages are wonderful, beautiful projects that are delightfully and in step-by-step detail explained; with accessibility for levels of ability; to the descriptions what equipment and materials are required. There is literally a project for everyone from pin cushions to curtains. As I said, this book is so much more than a craft bible…it is more a craft manifesto and memoire, a personal, intimate exploration from its talented and intrepid author.

Mary Jane Baxter took the brave decision to leave her prestigious job within the hallowed confines of the BBC and embark on a crafty voyage of discovery, aided and abetted in her adventures by her trusty 1986 Bedford Campervan Bambi, bedecked in fabulous vintage wallpaper; drawing the attention of all who look upon her…fully kitted out so Mary Jane can/could Sew on the Go…they embarked on their European Craft Odyssey; which Mary Jane shares with us, in vivid and vibrant style and such recollections made me feel as if I too were a companion on this remarkable journey. The stunning scenery, the intoxicating, sights, sounds and smells, the aromatic tastes no detailed spared to pull you into the experiences Mary Jane has had. I was enthralled by the intimate nature of this book and thoroughly inspired by Mary Jane’s delicious determination to be immersed in the cultures she explored…I confess I am envious of her courage to change her life in such a way and the marvellous experiences, she had on this adventure; the wild swimming in France particularly struck a chord with me, as it is something I have always wanted to experience and I’m not brave enough to do such an epic voyage…well not yet…one day maybe!

Mary Jane’s book allowed this crafter to live vicariously through her words and actions; to appreciate her search for more; to experience more; to throw off the shackles of commercialism and our growing reliance and addiction to all things hi-tech. I admired her dreams for liberation from the expected norm. To explore her creativity, to travel, to appreciate freedom, to be inspired by the places she visited and let her adventures feed her creativity, to put aside fixed agendas and the constraints of the expected. To have the courage to say yes when no might be the easier option and to make new friendships.

Sew on the Go is imaginative, inspiring and insightful, Mary Jane’s love of vintage of upcycling/recycling of mending and meandering, taking time to create, to enjoy friendships seem to me to be crucial for living a fulfilled life, that chasing our aspirations, whatever they might be (the right job, home, partner, financial reward) might not be as important for our hearts and minds as the roaming we do en-route! A timely reminder I think to live the lives we have to the full rather than rushing through them merely to achieve!

In case it isn’t obvious, I found that Mary Jane’s book was absolute perfection, part memoire, part travel log, part craft bible. I was and I am immersed and inspired and a tad jealous (in a good way) and I adored every page and project. This book is one of my favourite reads this year. I want everyone I know to read it. Now it is definitely time for me to embark on a new sewing project, I think…

Happy Reading & Crafting Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Mary Jane Baxter used to work as a BBC news correspondent and producer. In 2016, she set off on a crafting adventure across Europe in a mobile studio. She is the author of Chic on a Shoestring and The Modern Girl’s Guide to Hatmaking , and has presented on fashion and craft for the BBC, most notably bartering her sewing skills for board and lodging in a series of films for Newsnight. She lives in London and is available for interview, events, and to write pieces on commission. @maryjanemakes

Do read some of the other wonderful reviews on this blog tour

The Queen of Romance

Author: Liz Jones

Publisher: Honno

Available: 18th March 2021 in paperback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Honno for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

The first biography of the bestselling author and journalist Marguerite Jervis Daughter of an officer of the Indian Medical Corps, Marguerite Florence Laura Jarvis (1886 – 1964) was born in Burma and became one of the most successful novelists of her time.

During the course of her 60-year career, Marguerite published over 150 books, with 11 novels adapted for film, including The Pleasure Garden (1925), the directorial debut of Alfred Hitchcock. In her heyday she sold hundreds of thousands of novels but is now largely forgotten; under numerous pseudonyms she wrote for newspapers, women’s magazines and the silent movie screen; she married one of Wales most controversial literary figures, Caradoc Evans. She also trained as an actress and was a theatrical impresario. Known variously as Mrs Caradoc Evans, Oliver Sandys, Countess Barcynska and many other pseudonyms, who was she really?

Liz Jones has dug deep beneath the tale told in Marguerite Jervis’s own somewhat romanticised memoir to reveal what made this driven and determined woman. And what turned her from a spoilt child of the English middle classes to a workaholic who could turn her hand to any literary endeavour and who became a runaway popular success during the most turbulent years of the 20th century.

This lively and compelling biography… lays bare the tragedy of a woman whose prodigious output and determination to live life to the full camouflaged repeated exploitation by the men in her life. Angela V. John, biographer and historian

My Thoughts:

It is my pleasure today to provide a review of the remarkable biography of Marguerite Evans (nee Jervis) whose real life was as complicated, fascinating, intriguing and impassioned as any romance novel she could have written. Liz Jones in-depth biography is enthralling and insightful, talk about a life well lived…but is there a happy ending within its pages!? Well you know I am going to say, you will have to buy a copy and find out won’t you!

Part of my love of biographies, especially ones about incredible women, are that they provide me with knowledge and inspiration and feed my compulsion to understand and be informed about how women have made their mark in this world and how their influences have and can impact our lives today. I admit it I am a historical voyeur and Liz Jones’ biography provided me with ample material to feed this glorious addiction.

Marguerite Evans is not a writer I had any knowledge of before reading Liz’s book, as confirmed bookophile with a uncontrolled habit of perusing second handbook shops, I cannot believe that I have never stumbled across the works of this prolific and commercially successful romance writer (I have no qualms about my love of romance novels, from every age and type). Marguerite was born in India; her father an Officer in the Indian Medical Corps a strict and severe man and her mother disinterested in parenting, this unsuspicious upbringing likely fuelled her acting aspirations and desire to live a different life (whether it was deemed appropriate or not). Married twice; firstly in 1911 to the Polish-born journalist Armiger Barczinsky known as Barclay with whom she had her son Nicholas and began writing and then in 1933 Marguerite married Caradoc Evans. During her lifetime Marguerite wrote and published over 150 books, under several pseudonyms; Oliver Sandys and Countess Barcynska and favoured creating spirited and tenacious heroines within authentic settings. Her work proved exceeding popular in the inter-war years, with working women. Yet as Liz points out despite her being such a commercial success with an avid fanbase. The genre of Marguerite’s writing and the gender of her readership did not herald recognition or accolade then or now in direct contrast to the literary controversy provoked by the works of Marguerite’s second husband Caradoc Evans whose grim depictions of rural life in Wales (My People and Capel Sion) earned him recognition and notoriety but certainly not popularity!

It does seem wildly unjust that such a creative talent like Marguerite’s has seemingly been relegated to obscurity merely because her gender and the romantic themes of her work. As it is abundantly clear from Liz’s vivid, well researched biography that Marguerite deserves recognition and plaudits for her accomplishments and that she was a literary pioneer, who defied social conventions and was exceptionally determined to succeed, when women of her class, were not expected to do more than make an advantageous match and breed! I have been completely engrossed in Liz’s revelations of Marguerite’s life, her experiences and her disastrous taste in men, with a proclivity to fall for domineering men and being unable to avoid the romantic pitfalls that her own heroines deftly avoid!

You cannot fail to admire the scope and depth Liz’s dedication to her subject and delightful writing style in which she reveals the elusive, vivid and intriguing woman Marguerite Evan’s was; from her exotic childhood in India to breaking convention and becoming an actress to her transition to becoming an author. Liz has written an insightful, edifying and eminently readable biography and one that I have found a joy to be immersed in. I think Marguerite would thoroughly approve and I highly recommend you add this remarkable read to your book collections.

About the Author:

Liz Jones writes drama and creative non-fiction, reviews, short stories and journalism ranging from Take a Break to New Welsh Review.

Along the way she has raised two daughters, tried to change the world, worked in a café-cum-bookshop, a housing association, in community development and lifelong learning.

She is now a Teaching Fellow at Aberystwyth University.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour

Because of You

Author: Dawn French

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 29 April 2021 in Paperback, eBook and audiobook

Thank you to Kealey Rigden at FMcM Associates and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

THE HIGHLY ACCLAIMED, LIFE-AFFIRMING AND MOVING SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER FROM NUMBER-ONE BESTSELLING AUTHOR AND BRITAIN’S MOST LOVED WOMAN, DAWN FRENCH

LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION AND A RICHARD & JUDY BOOK CLUB PICK

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock . . . midnight.

The old millennium turns into the new.

In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters.

Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl.

Anna leaves with empty arms.

Seventeen years later, the gods who keep watch over broken-hearted mothers wreak mighty revenge, and the truth starts rolling, terrible and deep, toward them all.

The power of mother-love will be tested to its limits.

Perhaps beyond . . .

My Thoughts:

It is a universally accepted truth that Dawn French is an exceedingly funny lady, whose unmatched genius (in my completely unimportant opinion) lies in her portrayals of characters like Geraldine Granger in the Vicar of Dibley. This is Dawn’s 6th book and the 4th, I have read and her comedic, wildly irreverent and intoxicating writing style combined with a stunning and scintillating storyline cannot fail to captivate you. It is no surprise, given the emotional depth and scope of her latest book, that it has been long listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021.

Two women give birth, Anna/Hope they come from vastly different backgrounds and their only connection is becoming mothers on the same night in the same hospital, yet with the pain of birth, also comes tragedy the tendrils of which ensnare them both and a decision born of loss that has life changing ramifications on them both. This is a tale of motherhood; what it is to be a mum, the joys, the despair, the complications and contradictions of maternal love, the humour and humbleness of being a parent and the enormity of the emotional responsibility! Because of a mother’s love, this is a gift that nurtures and develops us to become who we are, regardless of the genetics; DNA connection does not a mother make! Am I being a bit hazy on the specifics of this story, yes of course, this storyline is peppered with subtle, clever little clues as to what will unfold and no, I’m not giving anything away! I will just highlight the fact, that with my gifted copy of the book, came a packet of tissues…I needed them, in fact you will probably need to bulk buy tissues yourself, to avoid making your copy of this book soggy and snotty! You’ve been warned!

 What I loved about Dawn’s latest book (and the others I’ve enjoyed) is her astute, insightful and keenly observant depictions of characters, the amusing and artful skill of creating and parodying her character’s flaws; DI Thrippletorn a stratospheric moron; whose inability not to mix up his clichés is hilariously monstrous, I refer you to his comment ‘a mother’s bondage relationship with her child’….do I need to elucidate further! I bet you’re laughing as much as I did!! Because of you is packed full of such hilarious gems and brings a welcome relief and balance to the poignant darkness of the plot.

This is a tale that will make you weep; with joy, with sadness, with celebration, with relief, with understanding and with adulation at Dawn’s ability to weave a tale of such emotional horror and authentic humour. It is a book that will keep you fixed on your sofa, surrounded by empty chocolate wrappers, frothy coffee stained mugs and still in 2 day old pjs because you cannot stop reading this book…buy a copy, buy supplies and enjoy.

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Dawn French has been making people laugh for thirty years. On purpose.

As a writer, comedian and actor, she has appeared in some of the

UK’s most long running, cherished and celebrated shows, including

French and Saunders, The Comic Strip Presents …, Murder Most Horrid,

The Vicar of Dibley, Jam and Jerusalem, Lark Rise to Candleford, and more

recently, Roger and Val Have Just Got In.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour

The End of Men

Author: Christina Sweeney-Baird

Publisher: Borough Press

Available: 29th April 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Borough Press for my beautiful gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Glasgow, 2025. Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a patient with fl u-like symptoms. Within three hours he is dead.

This is how it begins. The unknown virus sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed.

The victims are all men. Dr Maclean raises the alarm. But by the time the authorities listen to her, the virus has spread to every corner of the world. Threatening families. Governments. Countries.

Deftly reimagining our world through a female lens, the novel explores the impact of the end of men on fertility, governance, politics, technology and more, while the careful and poignant portraits of love and relationships bind the science of this novel into something utterly human, and all too real.

My Thoughts

Having spent over half my professional career working in traditional patriarchal environments with Lawyers and Accountants, where the veneer of equality is adhered to; I have often wondered what our societal infrastructure would look like if equality was an actual reality and if a matriarchal society would be any different to what is accepted and familiar!  The moment I read the description and details for Christina’s debut novel; I craved the opportunity to read it as the context offered a viewpoint unchartered until now. Having devoured The Handmaid’s tale by M. Atwood (twice) and VOX by Christine Dalcher, both incredible novels certainly enrage the feminine sensibilities regarding female subjugation. So, I was curious to discover what the perspective might look like if the proverbial ‘Birkenstock or Stiletto’ was on the other foot, so to speak!! My biggest concern now, having read this book; is how on earth to impart my unmitigated admiration for this clever, controversial, complex and emotionally caustic story…well I can only try

Christina open’s her book in a unique way, the first pages you will read are her acknowledgements, that explain and explore her journey in creating this tale and what prompted and inspired her to write this powerful, prescient and often poignant story. It is only with the hindsight gained in reading her novel that you will fully appreciate her sibylline  talent; She mentions that her friends now refer to her as Cassandra; who was the trojan priestess of Apollo in Greek Mythology, whose curse was to utter true prophesies but to never be believed and trust me this uncanny moniker is eerily accurate especially when you consider, when Christina started writing her novel and when the world as we know it turned upside-down due to the Covid-19 pandemic!

Starting in Glasgow, men start to fall ill, flu like symptoms and a rising temperature until their bodies shut down and they die! The infection rate is rife, there is no age limit to the infected but this Plague (virus) only effects men; something in their genetic makeup makes them vulnerable. There is no cure, there is no vaccine, there is no way to stop the virus; the bureaucratic response to the early warnings of A&E Dr, Amanda, despite her medical knowledge and expertise, is to disregard her professional opinion, followed by dismissal of her concerns and denial of such a situation being real (the cynic within me, is not in the least surprised by this reaction!) Nor was I surprised by the dismissive reactions of the male dominated governing bodies around the world (when the infection rate and death toll increases alarmingly). See I said the prophetic nuances of this novel were disturbingly uncanny to our own reality of the Covid -19 pandemic!

The story is relayed to us from the varied perspectives of different women from around the globe, with their own aspirations on life, family, career and relationships; they are smart, savvy, emotional and could easily be anyone of us. Their voices are authentic and are completely relatable, you can see the facets of their personalities, their professionalism, their maternal instinct, their romantic resilience and their feminine steel and fortitude when faced with wave after wave of nearly inconceivable circumstances and yes I am being vague about the details, simply because you need to experience their journeys yourself and then you can be as awed and amazed as I have been…no spoilers here!

Christina has conjured such a clever, compelling and chillingly contextual novel, that certainly contains elements of the dystopian and essences of feminism but these are only parts of the story, just as important and just as vivid and vicious are the elements of love, of survival, of resilience and of re-birth. Throughout the book Christina’s protagonists face a myriad of moral dilemmas that I admit, in part fascinated and simultaneously amused me; mainly because, having worked with Lawyers for over 20 years, you become used to their propensity to examine everything from every angle and Christina clearly has this trait/gift and oh my goodness has she harnessed it in her writing. Her cast face a seemingly unstoppable wave of such dilemmas; what if your isolated large home is commandeered to provide a haven for boys; is it possible to support this need, while still protecting your own child (son) and what would you be prepared to do to keep him safe? Or If your partner/husband was infected and dying, would you stay with him, knowing he will die and knowing that by doing this, you could infect and kill your son? Or dilemmas that effect a broad scope of the population; could you countenance artificial intelligence or algorithms choosing suitable recipients for IVF in order to safeguard fertility and begin the task of repopulation? Could you/would you allow the removal of male children from their mothers; for them to be kept alive and raised in medical facilities until a cure is found…are any of these courses of action, you’d accept? I admit, my mind has been buzzing with these fictional constructs for several days (and I admit you probably wouldn’t like my choices) and I have no doubt you will be involved the same internal discussions…utter, genius Christina!

I am unequivocally intellectually exhausted and deliciously traumatised by the epic experience of reading this book, it is exceptional, eerily prophetic and eminently readable. This is an absolute MUST read and if you host a book group this needs to be top of your options list. I cannot encourage you more fervently to buy a copy today (and then cancel any and all plans)! And whatever Christine decides to write next, I will be reading it!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Christina was born in 1993 and grew up between London and Glasgow.

She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and graduated with a First in 2015.

Christina works as a Corporate Litigation lawyer in London. The End of Men is her first novel

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this tour

On Hampstead Heath

Author: Marika Cobbold

Publisher: Arcadia

Available: 15th April 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Amber Choudhary and Midas PR for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Thorn Marsh was raised in a house of whispers, of meaningful glances and half-finished sentences. Now she’s a journalist with a passion for truth, more devoted to her work at the London Journal than she ever was to her ex-husband.

When the newspaper is bought by media giant The Goring Group, who value sales figures over fact-checking, Thorn openly questions their methods, and promptly finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement, reporting heart-warming stories for their new segment, The Bright Side, a job to which she is spectacularly unsuited.

On a final warning and with no heart-warming news in sight, a desperate Thorn fabricates a good-news story of her own. The story, centred on an angelic apparition on Hampstead Heath, goes viral. Caught between her principles and her ambitions, Thorn goes in search of the truth behind her creation, only to find the answers locked away in the unconscious mind of a stranger.

Marika Cobbold returns with her eighth novel, On Hampstead Heath. Sharp, poignant, and infused with dark humour, On Hampstead Heath is an homage to storytelling and to truth; to the tales we tell ourselves, and the stories that save us.

My Thoughts:

From my first experience of reading Guppies for Tea and Shooting Butterflies, I fell in love with Marika’s stories and sublime writing and so it fills me with joy to have the pleasure and opportunity to review her latest book. Which from the first line had me hooked, Marika’s familiar, charged beautifully constructed, implication filled sentences that embed themselves in your mind and pull you into the first chapter and Thorn’s story. A story tinged with a pervading sense of melancholy, a tint of expectation and a taste of regret and by the time you’ve read the shocking last line of the first chapter; you know as a reader that you cannot stop reading this book, that is until you’ve finished it and I didn’t want to finish it because it was so gloriously engaging and utterly brilliant!

Marika is the master of word alchemy; a gifted wordsmith and her observational articulation of the nuances of life are the perfect blend of poignance and razor sharp wit. I refer you to her beige man description; one who is constantly underfoot, five places at once…the sublime accuracy and humour in describing  a management consultant type is utterly marvellous and the whole book is packed with such pithy observances and they make you laugh and I am still smiling about them now! And she has armed me with simply the best response to the over used mantra that change is difficult...her response via Thorn is utter genius and will stay in my mind forever!

Marika’s eminent style in storytelling, is made more powerful by her fantastic character constructs; Thorn Marsh is her protagonist in On Hampstead Heath; she is a journalist, passionately engaged in seeking the truth for her readers; her dedication to this lifelong task has cost her personally and has partial responsibility for the end of her marriage to Nick but it hasn’t ended their connection to each other or their friendship (a refreshing take on marriage failure and a rather endearing one). Thorn’s dedication, joy and satisfaction and professionalism in writing and editing the news is deemed outmoded, her scruples a hinderance to her job security and professional success. Thorn’s failure to adhere to her new management cabals idea of news reporting, where clickbait and scandal are the tacky traits of the new order! She is side lined and relegated to a trivial reporting role seeped in mindless mindfulness, where all that is fake, fluffy and foul are crucial features…Thorn is simultaneously bereft and enraged by the turn of events and gin filled evening with Nick leads to her doing a completely unintentional volt face in terms of her reporting, style, stance and ethics…Her successful ‘Angel on the Heath’ story will change her life in unexpected ways and yet it is fake news, a drunken fabrication and where does this confluence of events take Thorn and us…ah well dear bookophile, that is for me to know and you to read the story and find out!

For me the core of this story revolves around the improbability, impossibility and often impractical nature of truth and how it’s tendrils ensnare Thorn’s life and nurture her contradictory facets and we observe the intellectual and emotional results through Marika’s superb syntax and insightful prose. I loved the subtle topical nature of this story and how Marika’s embeds societal issues into the journey of her story and Thorn’s world; the ever present cult of selfishness and entitlement; the dumbing down of the written word for commercial purposes and the demise of honesty in pursuit of news. The corralling of truth and ethics preferring to focus on the likes/clicks of social media and the dark side of disinformation all related in a punchy and intelligent way. I adored Thorn, she is complex, compelling and contradictory and I think most women will relate to her and probably see a bit of themselves in her character, I know I do.

Marika’s latest book may be small at only 244 pages long but what a compelling, mysterious, marvellous journey they take us on. I have no shame in vigorously encouraging and entreating you all to buy it immediately and read it soon…for me, it is a triumph!

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Marika Cobbold was born in Sweden and is the author of the previous novels: Guppies for Tea, selected for the WH Smith First Novels Promotion and shortlisted for the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award; The Purveyor of Enchantment; A Rival Creation; Frozen Music, Shooting Butterflies and, Aphrodite’s Workshop for Reluctant Lovers. Marika Cobbold lives in London.

Please do read some of the other reviews on the is blog tour.

Another Life

Author: Jodie Chapman

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 1st April 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you, Ella Watkins and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

THE STUNNING AND DEVASTATING LOVE STORY ABOUT HOPE, SACRIFICE AND THE CONNECTIONS THAT FOREVER BIND US

She could be the girl dancing on tables one night, and the next she’d be hiding in the shadows.

Just when I thought I understood her, she would melt away and become a completely new person, and I’d have to start all over again.

That’s how it was with Anna.

Nick and Anna work the same summer job at their local cinema. Anna is mysterious, beautiful, and from a very different world to Nick.

She’s grown up preparing for the end of days, in a tightly-controlled existence where Christmas, getting drunk and sex before marriage are all off-limits.

So when Nick comes into her life, Anna falls passionately in love. Their shared world burns with poetry and music, cigarettes and conversation – hints of the people they hope to become.

But Anna, on the cusp of adulthood, is afraid to give up everything she’s ever believed in, and everyone she’s ever loved. She walks away, and Nick doesn’t stop her.

Years later, a tragedy draws Anna back into Nick’s life.

But rekindling their relationship leaves Anna and Nick facing a terrible choice between a love that’s endured decades, and the promises they’ve made to others along the way

My Thoughts:

I hold my hands up, I am not romantic or sentimental about the idea of love or the perfect man; if I am honest, I rather have a dog to lavish my attention on (Sorry Big Man LOL). So the concept of Jodie’s debut novel intrigued me. Talk about romance with edge, oh my gosh; I can’t really workout from what edge I plummeted from when reading this book. Regardless of your levels of sceptism or cynicism regarding love stories, you stand zero chance of reading this book, without falling in love with Jodie’s panache as a writer; you also will require the following; Gin, tissues, chocolate, twiglets (that might just be me) and probably more gin! Jodie’s story, her evocative words, her immense characters completely embed themselves in your heart and you cannot fail to reel from the powerful, potent emotional turmoil with the pages of this book!

The story revolves around Nick and Anna, whose paths cross one scorching summer in 2003, when they meet while working in the local cinema in the suburban realm of Ashford. They are irresistibly drawn to each other, like magnets and what follows is a dizzying, intense month long encounter. Their relationship is most definitely a case of opposites attracting, as Nick and Anna are emotionally and socially vastly different from each other in every way. I did wonder, if part of Anna’s attraction to Nick was due to the unstoppable draw of him being forbidden fruit; as in him being an unsuitable boy (and let’s face it we’ve all fallen for at least one of those…such fond memories..LOL) but Nick is not unsuitable in the usual ways. Anna’s upbringing and life is directed by her family’s religious practices as Jehovah’s Witnesses and the rules, restrictions and values that she is expected to adhere to (and she does choose to) and a relationship outside the parameters of this lifestyle would be disapproved of and actively discouraged! Nick’s family couldn’t be more different and their lives have been impacted by past tragedy and I enjoyed how each of them; Louise, Paul and his brother Salvatore (who holds a special place in my heart) and his Aunty Stella all have their part or voice in this poignant tale.

I loved the structure of this novel, how it takes shape via snapshots of memory, spanning across decades, the 80s, the 90, onto the life changing 2003 and into the current times in 2020. Nick’s narration is  punctuated by email content and poetic musings from Anna and the voices of the other characters sent in letters; which creates a winding trail of written stepping stones leading to…revelation or resolution or something else (as if I am going to give it away). Prepare to be emotionally enveloped and be prepared to cry (and I’m not one for this but I couldn’t damn my tears). I was completely invested in this story.

Jodie’s book is a sublime portrayal of life, of love, of loss. I loved her understanding of human nature; how utterly frustrating our flawed communication is with those we love, how we fail to express true feelings and the ramifications of this; it is both enraging and enrapturing to read and I admit my own exasperation at the pair, I even resorted to some vigorous book shaking during some points of reading. Regardless of this impact, this story is so vivid, authentic and the relatable reality is part of what makes the story so superb. Although Nick and Anna’s relationship is only a month long, such a short intense, vivid time has far reaching effects on them both, their inability to truly ‘move on’ and as a reader you are beguiled by their ‘will they, won’t they’ machinations!

As I said, at the beginning of my review, this is a romantic story with edge; both soft and hard edges; it is undeniably intense, irrational, irritating (Nick), impressable and page turningly irresistible. Jodie’s unique approach to a modern love story and a stunning debut. Whatever Jodie chooses to write next; I will be unable to resist devouring it. I doubt, you will be able to resist either, nor should you!

Happy Reading Bookophiles.

About the Author:

Born and raised in England, Jodie spent a decade as a photographer before returning to her first love of writing.

She lives in Kent with her husband and three sons. Another Life is her first novel, coming April 2021.

Instagram: @jodiechapman

Twitter: @jodiechapman

Please do take a look at the other reviews on this tour

Charity

Author: Madeline Dewhurst

Publisher: Lightning Books

Available: 26th April 2021 available in Paperback and eBook.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/31UqHMP

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3dJSYv5

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3s2gEjF

Foyles: https://bit.ly/2RiKJPf

Book Depository: https://bit.ly/39RKsZU

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/charity-35

Google Books: https://bit.ly/2RjGzqn

Thank you to Emma Welton, Damp Pebbles Blog Tours and Lightning Books for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Edith, an elderly widow with a large house in an Islington garden square, needs a carer. Lauren, a nail technician born in the East End, needs somewhere to live. A rent-free room in lieu of pay seems the obvious solution, even though the pair have nothing in common.

Or do they? Why is Lauren so fascinated by Edith’s childhood in colonial Kenya? Is Paul, the handsome lodger in the basement, the honest broker he appears? And how does Charity, a Kenyan girl brutally tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion, fit into the equation?

Capturing the spirited interplay between two women divided by class, generation and a deeper gulf from the past, and offering vivid flashbacks to 1950s East Africa, Madeline Dewhurst’s captivating debut spins a web of secrets and deceit – where it’s not always obvious who is the spider and who is the fly.

My Thoughts:

Congratulations Madeline on the publication of your debut novel today, I am honoured to be providing the first review of your book on this blog tour. And what a debut it is; Madeline has crafted a sumptuous story for her readers to revel in! Madeline has an authentic, direct and subtly dramatic writing style that pulls you into her novel. She has blended perfectly fact and fiction and the result is a stunning story that is subtle, sinister and splendid and I was thoroughly engrossed in its pages, to the extent that I forgot to drink my frothy coffee and as you know, that doesn’t happen often!

Told across dual timelines and told from the points of view of three incredible, female protagonists whose voices are compelling and gloriously detailed. Edith now in her twilight years, known as Edie; is very much a product of her time and heritage and is the living embodiment of ‘white privilege’ before this phrase ever came into colloquial consciousness; now living alone in a large house in Islington; needing the assistance of a carer. She is mildly belligerent, confident and used to things being done in the correct way, adhering to disintegrating rules of social etiquette, a somewhat alien concept perhaps too many of us. Edie grew up on a farm in colonial Kenya and faced a variety of challenges; she’s often uninformed and childish and blindingly accepting of how things were; the divisions of race and class and what reality was hidden or shielded from her. Her marriage to Captain Graham Fobes, agreeable and acceptable offered her the life expected of a young woman of that time! And yet now, visions/dreams of her past in Africa and her marriage fill her nights, like bits of a floating puzzle, she can’t quite seem to grasp their meaning.

Edie is not an easy character, her view points are decidedly outdated, un-politically correct but not unsurprising and I did wonder how Edith spent most of her life in a state of denial or oblivion to the actions of her parents and her husband and I obfuscated could you really not know the true character of the person you’re married to or did she choose her state of denial because the fallout from acknowledgement would be too terrible to bare?

Lauren is a complete contrast; working glass girl, trainee beautician, she’s practical, amusing and ; with her mother’s new relationship, marriage and arrival of siblings, she has been relegated from her family home and her position within it! And there is the merest suggestion, that this maybe because of her own paternal heritage! Her entrance into Edith’s life and home seems like a wonderful coincidence and they seem to ‘rub along’ well together! But with all the best stories, like this one; everything is not as it seems to be!

Even with hindsight, regarding Lauren, I still can’t decide whether I condoned or condemned her actions; faced with such knowledge, with a strong emotional connection to a loved family member; I wonder if it is beyond the powers of human nature not to respond as she does…being cryptic aren’t I, well when you read the book, you will see why!

And Charity, a school girl in Kenya in the wrong place at the wrong time and the horrors that befall her and change the direction of her life and she is the most remarkable of characters and what links her to Edith and Lauren (my lips are sealed)! Part of my interest in reading this book; was its historical focus on the Mau Mau Uprising or the Kenyan Emergency (1952 – 1960) which was a ruthless and savage war between British colonial authorities and the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA) or Mau Mau with countless atrocities perpetuated by both sides in this bloody battle for independence where innocent civilians paid the highest costs!

I was constantly surprised by the direction this story took and the clever subtle clues are all there for you to see and when you pick up on them, they will quickly dispel any assumptions you might make about this web of deceit and secrets. This story is truly a masterful mixture of revelation and retaliation; of righting the injustice and inhumanity of the past; it is often shockingly brutal (because the facts dictate it be so) but these details also illuminate, the trajectory of the story and the colour the characters actions or reactions. I am always in reverential awe of the ability of people to survive the most horrendous circumstances and rebuild a life, the resilience, fortitude and courage they have is breath taking and inspiring! And yes of course, I am keeping the details of this to myself as it would completely spoil your reading journey of this book and there is so much for you to experience.

Madeline’s wonderful novel is not to be missed and with payday weekend approaching, I recommend you blow your book budget and add this incredible, intriguing, imaginative and insightful book to your collection, it is a worthy addition to your library, I have no doubt you will be as fascinated and thrilled by reading it, as I have been.

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Madeline Dewhurst studied English at Queen’s University Belfast and went on to complete an MA in Research and a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London.

She also has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway.  She is an academic in English and Creative Writing at the Open University.

Her previous writing includes fiction, journalism and drama. Charity, which was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, is her first novel.

She now lives in Kent.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MDewhurst3

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

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

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour

The Metal Heart

Author: Caroline Lea

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 29th April 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Chrissie Antoniou and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A powerful Second World War love story . . . Lea writes beautifully of island life and love, and the sacrifices that both demand’ THE TIMES

The sky is clear, star-stamped and silvered by the waxing gibbous moon.

No planes have flown over the islands tonight; no bombs have fallen for over a year.

Orkney, 1940.

Five hundred Italian prisoners-of-war arrive to fortify these remote and windswept islands.

Resentful islanders are fearful of the enemy in their midst, but not orphaned twin sisters Dorothy and Constance. Already outcasts, they volunteer to nurse all prisoners who are injured or fall sick.

Soon Dorothy befriends Cesare, an artist swept up by the machine of war and almost broken by the horrors he has witnessed. She is entranced by his plan to build an Italian chapel from war scrap and sea debris, and something beautiful begins to blossom.

But Con, scarred from a betrayal in her past, is afraid for her sister; she knows that people are not always what they seem.

Soon, trust frays between the islanders and outsiders, and between the sisters – their hearts torn by rival claims of duty and desire.

A storm is coming . . .

In the tradition of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, The Metal Heart is a hauntingly rich Second World War love story about courage, freedom and the essence of what makes us human during the darkest of times.

My Thoughts:

To not fall head over heels in love and awe of this book, you would have to have a Heart of Metal…sorry for the play on words but it is so true. I am a huge fan of Caroline’s writing; she produces a rich cadence of tone and atmosphere to the stories she creates and this latest book is; oh my goodness (forgive my unabashed gushing) is magnificent. From the eerie opening lines of the prologue, your mind is ensnared and there is no escaping from the fact you are embarking on an exceptional journey. Nothing can truly prepare you as a reader for this beautiful, immersive tale. I confess, I still haven’t recovered from finishing it, it a story that simply captivates your soul and remains with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

Caroline’s book is a heady mix of human emotion and experiences; a tale of love, of will, of sacrifice, of escape, of emotional survival immersed in the theatre of wartime. You are swept away by familiarity of first love, the depth of romantic passion and the longing and hope of a future. The exploration of how hope can flourish amongst the weeds of war, how despite the darkest moments, there is always the expectation of light. That those we perceive to be ‘the enemy’ can in fact turn out to confound us and be the opposite of the assumptions we (or rather the characters) make. I hope you are more than a bit intrigued now!

I was fascinated by the fact Caroline has based the core or rather the foundation of her tale around the factual construction of Orkney Cathedral and the creation of ‘the metal heart; she has built an engaging and captivating story, the cast of characters and their circumstances are the bricks whose layers, shapes and colours give form to the book. There is a very vivid and tangible visual quality to Caroline’s writing and it draws you into the book and I felt as if I was part of the experiences the characters were living through.

The theme of prisons or being imprisoned creates such an intensity to the story it was immensely engaging, the idea of Selkie Holm being a prison both; literally for Italian POWs but also psychologically for the twins; whose home the island is, yet they are shackled to it of their own volition, their heritage and past experiences; for Constance it is a sanctuary from trauma and for Dorothy it is a protective prison to keep her sister safe and their sibling connection ensures her continued incarceration. As for all who are imprisoned literally or figuratively, the three main characters (Cesare – POW) and the twins all have a yearning to escape their bonds and the deep seated aspiration to one day be happy but getting to that place is part of the hardship they face!

I love the twins, Constance and Dorothy; their strangeness, their connection to each other, their remoteness (only made more so) by them living alone on Selkie Holm. I was completely beguiled by Caroline’s use of Scottish folklore; that she uses to articulate the twins otherness; the whispers that they are Selkies – seductresses of the sea; who according to the myths, lure men to a watery doom! And this is only one aspect of the interwoven elements of Scottish folklore within the story. Caroline also calls upon her knowledge and research to provide such environmental and atmospheric detail, the vistas of incredible, wild, stark, unforgiving landscapes; yet they are places of respite, despite the solitude. I admired her integration of the wider community around the sisters, they are dignified and strong and their sense of integrity and being islanders’ seeps through the pages of the story as does their fortitude in facing such enormous trials. It may seem that I am skirting the depth and scope of the story and I am because, if I don’t I could inadvertently spoil an incredible reading experience for you.

This mesmerising tale is a literary concerto to love; of romance; of an island; of a place and time; of siblings; of community; of history and folklore; of fact and of fiction. It is a reader’s dream and delight (well this reader’s for certain) once you have the book in your hand, you’ll find you are unable to put it down; you must devour every line, paragraph and page, seeking resolution in the end and are you wondering if it will be a happy one? Ah well that is for me to know and you to find out.

I simply insist and entreat you to add this novel to your pre-order/to buy lists today; this book and its marvellous heart is not to be missed.

Happy Reading Bookophiles..

About the Author:

Caroline Lea grew up in Jersey and gained a First in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick, where she now teaches on the Creative Writing degree. Her fiction and poetry have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, the Fish Short Story Competition and various flash fiction prizes. She currently lives in Warwick with her two young children and is writing her next novel. Her work often explores the pressure of small communities and fractured relationships, as well as the way our history shapes our beliefs and behaviour.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour

The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls

Author: Mona Eltahawy

Publisher: Tramp Press

Available: 22 April 2021 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Helen Richardson and Tramp press for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

‘She is here for your liberation, and that of every woman and girl, from Nunavut to Namibia’ REBECCA SOLNIT, author of MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME

‘Shocking, brave, gloriously unfeminine, and right on time’ GLORIA STEINEM, writer and feminist activist

‘It is as piercingly intelligent as it is uncompromising. Every woman should read this’ MAAZA MENGISTE, Booker Prize shortlisted author of THE SHADOW KING

‘Feminism should terrify the patriarchy. It should put patriarchy on notice that we demand nothing short of its destruction. We need fewer road maps toward a peace treaty with patriarchy and more manifestos on how to destroy it. The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls is my manifesto’ Mona Eltahawy

 The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls identifies seven ‘sins’ women and girls are socialised to avoid – anger, attention, profanity, ambition, power, violence and lust.  With essays on each, Mona Eltahawy creates a stunning manifesto encouraging women worldwide to defy, disobey and disrupt the patriarchy.  Drawing on her own life and the work of intersectional activists from around the world, #MeToo and the Arab Spring, Eltahawy’s work defines what it is to be a feminist now.

My Thoughts:

It is my privilege and great honour to kick off the blog tour for this seminal feminist manifesto; Though this book maybe small in terms of the number of pages; my goodness is it mighty; a seething, vocal; passionate; insightful, powerful, detailed work. A book that; educates, elucidates and provokes thought in all who devour its pages. Mona Eltahawy has previously vocally addressed the poisonous patriarchal and maniacal misogyny that pervades the Muslim world in her exceptional work; Headscarves & Hymens; Why the Middle East needs a Sexual Revolution. In this her latest literary grenade, Mona goes global and has created a magnificent, mouthy manifesto or if you like a loquacious battle plan for women and girls and all women are included (gay, straight, black, white, trans gender, non-binary, this book is unanimously inclusive of all women) and its sights are set squarely on destroying the strangle hold of the established global patriarchy…

Through the course of the book, Mona identifies the seven ‘sins’ necessary for women to use to overthrow this pernicious, established norm that male decisions, doctrines and demands should be adhered to/obeyed!!! Each chapter is titled after one of these sins and what is clever is that they are really a reference to character traits deemed unacceptable in woman and terms frequently used to dismiss our voices; Anger – where docility is preferred; Attention – don’t draw attention to yourself be unassuming; Profanity – be polite (and be quiet, dissent is not acceptable); Ambition – know our place and stay there; Powerful – be benign/submissive; Violent – don’t be passionate be passive; Lust – chaste and accepting! Each of these chapters; shows us how to use these untapped traits, in the forms of essays of contextualised experience, statistical evidence and historical fact; blending Mona’s own encounters of abuse, protest and arrest in with the voices of other women’s ordeals.

As a woman or girl, you cannot fail to be inspired, impassioned and enraged by Mona’s powerful, insightful rhetoric (well unless you’re male!) Mona articulates brilliantly what should be obvious to us all; that at this time there isn’t anywhere in the world that we (women) can avoid governmental, societal, economic oppression and the only way to change this status quo is to bin, civility and politeness; trash the accepted norm and if we refuse to yield our powers or quash them in subservience then the difference will be resounding. I roared with delight at the concept that the most deviant act a woman can undertake is to act and speak as if her voice, her place in our world actually matters and holds credence!

The accessibility of the structure and readability is this book is unilateral, it is enthralling and authentic and will be deemed, I have no doubt controversial (bring it on, I say). This book chives you out of the fog of complacency and acceptance. Mona extrapolates on how sexual violence has been weaponised, how such abuse is used as a tactic of submission. How powerful and seemingly egalitarian men publicly attempt to silence women (the glorious and unphased Greta Thunberg is a prime example) whose youthful, knowledgeable and uncompromising stance on the environment has seen her face furious condemnation, not for the message she is conveying but for the audacity to convey it and make her views heard!

Drawing our attention to issues of body autonomy the concept of which cannot help but fascinate you (it did me) asking the question; at what stage or age does ‘my body’ belong to me?…As so many others believe they have a claim upon it. This issue rang especially true for me, as I have needed a hysterectomy for over 10 years but have been deemed too young to have one; as I been patronisingly told, I may want a family, despite my own choice/preference about not having children or the medical fact that the condition I have means I am likely unable to do so! The constant assumption, that I don’t know my own mind or body!!!Means constantly resisting the temptation to scream at these people! Then again according to Mona, maybe I should stop resisting this means of communication!

Mona’s book asks us the big question; what would happen or what would our world look like if woman and girls took back or fully utilized their full powers; the ones we have been made/forced to bury; to silence by a patriarchal society that to date only wishes to perpetuate a veneer of equality! I thoroughly admired Mona’s visual acumen in viewing women and girls as forces of nature; like volcanos whose wrath, destruction and land altering, explosive power is awe inspiring, dangerous and demands respect. What if we women no longer accepted the expected norm; if we refuse to ‘yield’ to suppression or be swallowed by masculine wants, ideals and direction…what could be the result! Mona is clear we can wait no longer, we have to be the catalyst of change, we need to assert in visceral tangible ways our own majority.

I am under no illusions that this book will been deemed the rantings of angry feminist…my response to that; ‘too bloody’ right and for the record, she’s not alone, there are 100s, 1000s of us,  nor is she defective in having these strong views or in her this powerful approach to these crucial matters. If I had my way a copy of this book would be gifted to every girl on her 13th birthday (often the age of so-called legal consent). It is a vital read for our own awareness, and for me, Mona joins the phenomenal cabal of strong, intelligent vocal women I respect and admire; Gloria Steinem / Angela Davis/Audre Lorde/ Ruth Bader Ginsburg/ Bell Hooks/Sheryl Sandberg/ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie/ Roxane Gay/ Tarana Burke/ Naomi Wolfe who seek to change the world. I am inspired, encouraged and informed because of you all.

Every woman needs to add this book to her library…now, today and then buy it for your grandmothers, your mothers, your aunts, your sisters, your daughters and your granddaughters…with great knowledge comes great power!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

 Mona is a feminist author and award-winning commentator and public speaker. Her work has been published in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications around the world. She is frequent commenter on current affairs on the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and other media outlets, where her goal is always to disrupt patriarchy. She is the author of Headscarves and Hymens and recently launched her newsletter Feminist Giant.  Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @monaeltahawy

About Tramp Press: 

Tramp Press was launched in 2014 to find, nurture and publish exceptional literary talent. Based in Dublin and Glasgow, they publish internationally. Tramp Press authors have won, been shortlisted and nominated for many prizes including the An Post Irish Book of the Year, the Booker Prize, the Costa, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Guardian First Book Award. https://www.tramppress.com/

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour

The Source

Author: Sarah Sultoon

Publisher: Orenda Books

Available: 15th April 2021 in Paperback & eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Orenda for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A hugely anticipated debut thriller from former CNN international news executive Sarah Sultoon. Inspired by Sarah’s own time in the newsroom, The Source follows a young TV journalist who is forced to revisit her past when she’s thrust into a sex-trafficking investigation in her hometown. TV rights have already been sold to Lime Pictures, with Jo Spain writing the screenplay

1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…

2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier.

As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth… and justice.

A tense, startling and unforgettable thriller, The Source is a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience.

My Thoughts:

I do love Orenda publications, so it is a joy and a privilege for me to be providing a review for The Source by Sarah Sultoon, who is new voice in crime/noir/thriller writing. However, given her punchy, provoking and profound creation, I don’t think it will be long before Sarah’s writing/books become a household name and very familiar to us all.

What struck me very early on when reading this novel was how authoritative and original it was, I had to keep reminding myself that it was a story, an act of imagination not a factual depiction. Although I have no doubt that this story has its dark roots, planted in horrifying reality. There is such an air of actuality and tangibility to the tale and I wondered if Sarah knows something that we don’t and that as such, this book is in some way is a vehicle of awareness, parked under our noses to spark understanding. Given Sarah’s career credentials, such an approach to her fiction wouldn’t surprise me and obviously this is pure superstition on my part but I applaud and admire the effort.

The sense of authenticity (despite the book being set in a fictional environment, the town and news network) only added to the hypnotic pace and the visceral tension the story imbues; get the expressos on, you will require brain fuel, to follow the twisted trajectory of this tale. The core essences of the story are ones about grooming, neglect and the catastrophic effects brought on by abuses of power. What is so stunning (in every sense of the word) is the accepted normalcy of the whole situation. Sarah has taken incredible care to be sensitive and darkly subtle in articulating the scope of the atrocities, the nuances of hidden suggestions, the startling implications revolving around what is said and what isn’t. The depth of the horrors of such reality is intended to provoke thought without driving the reader away (as nothing about the themes this story contains is easy reading) in my view writing like this takes incredible skill. Be in no doubt, elements of this story are ghastly! But they are ones you need to experience for yourself and are perfectly in context and necessary for the direction of the story.

I loved the dynamic between sisters Carly and Kayleigh, it will make you nod and smile with recognition at such a familial relationship (and one most of us can relate to). The extent of the tragedy of their circumstances; the abuse, the neglect is hard hitting and it cannot fail to bring a lump to your throat (it did for me) but it also made me burn with rage and I believe this is a suitable reaction to such hideous happenings, that anyone (even fictional characters) should have to suffer these sorts of experiences and have the strength to survive them in beyond incredible and certainly makes for powerful reading.

Told across dual timelines, we are introduced into the lives of the two main characters; the mid-1990s brings Carly into our lives, fighting to keep the tattered remains of family life together and striving to protect and nurture her little sister Kayleigh. The mid 00s side of the tale is explored through the eyes of Marie; an assistant producer, who has been embroiled in a colleague’s story to expose a trafficking ring (and all the soul-destroying trauma this entails). The character of Carly, her determination, her emotional strength is tangible and inspiring, I forgot on occasion that in essence she is/was a child and the events that taint her life, enforced a level of maturity on her that escape many adults! What she faces and experiences, as an adult you can see the direction the story is taking, and rather like going down a slide, once you leave the top the only option is to slide to the bottom…and as a reader you can do nothing but follow the route there! The sense of isolation, the nefarious nature of grooming and those who perpetuate such crimes is stark in its revelation and certainly not easy to digest as a reader but the impact of readers’ hindsight adds to the unsettling atmosphere of the story but you will have to read the book to see precisely what I am inferring.

Marie’s character is a complete contrast; reserved and maybe overawed by all that is going on around her, but that is probably to be expected given how she’s been dropped into her colleague Dominic’s expose. But of course, there is much more to Marie that the perceived surface, what events have formed her character, what experiences she has had, her demons are not obvious but they are certainly present. I loved the complexity of her character and for me the direction of her part of the story is enthralling.

As to the plotlines of this tale, I have already mentioned that they revolve around themes relating to ‘abuses of power’ and that in this book, the catch all phrase ‘national security’ can obliterate the inexcusable! The nature and far reaching effects of corruption, that tarnishes the most senior echelons of government, a web of secrets and silence…who has kept silent for too long; whose conscience can no longer be appeased; the exposure of the truth is not explosive but emerges in increments. Which serves to provide us readers with an air of anticipation and ramps up the tension (which is both unnerving and thrilling, but that could just be me!) all of this leads to an epic conclusion, but as to the end, expect the unexpected…I know very cryptic of me, well, you will have to read the book and all will become clear!

Sarah has crafted a pacy, intelligent, complex and authentic novel, exploring and exposing some very real and uncomfortable subjects; those of exploitation and abuse. As I said at the start of my (now rather long review) this story is incredible; powerful, profound and necessarily provocative. I couldn’t put it down! Sarah is formidable new voice and I am honoured to shower her with praise for imagining and writing such an incredible read. There is nothing left for me to say other than, you really must read it too!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs.

 As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if…

About Orenda

Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. Orenda Books was voted WINNER of the CWA Dagger for Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year in 2020. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme.

Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime. Ten titles have been short- or longlisted for the CWA Daggers; Doug Johnstone has been shortlisted (twice) for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and Helen FitzGerald, Matt Wesolowski and Will Carver have been long/shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Helen FitzGerald, Doug Johnstone and Will Carver.

www.orendabooks.co.uk @OrendaBooks

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour

Coastal Cahoots Club

Author: Victoria Johns

Available: 12th April 2021 in Paperback & eBook

Purchase link: Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Coastal-Cahoots-Club-Victoria-Johns-ebook/dp/B08VBJC18J/

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Victoria Johns for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Thirty-year-old Tessa Archer is an emotional eater who is full of self-loathing and lacking confidence – she’s a woman who is desperate to change if only she had the nerve.

Her cause isn’t helped by her family whose all-round lack of regard, belief and simple love make her life a whole lot harder. Unable to match up to her ‘perfect’ siblings, a brutal family dinner pushes Tessa to take the first tentative steps towards transformation. Inventing a girls’ weekend away, she plans a short break in Cornwall – alone. It’s a place where she hopes she can feel reinvigorated about life, even if she’s terrified of the prospect. This is a last-ditch attempt to prove to her family that she isn’t the scared, useless ‘lump’ they think she is.

Once in St. Ives, with no expectations or standards to uphold, Tessa finally feels as though she can breathe, and not just because the air is cleaner. She pushes herself to meet new people and finally concentrate on her own life. With the help of the Coastal Cahoots Club, a group of crazy elderly ladies, led by the indomitable Winnie, a new Tessa emerges. There’s even the possibility of love with Winnie’s sexy grandson Ben – if only he was willing to open up his heart.

Who knew a group of old aged pensioners, a sexy bar owner, a militant seamstress and a beautiful Cornish coastal town could bring such magic to a person’s life?

Read this beautiful and poignant story and fall in love with the wonderful cast of characters and their gorgeous surroundings, because life can be amazing if you just learn to trust it.

My Thoughts:

As I sit here pondering my thoughts on this gregarious, grin-inducing gem of a read…my singular impression is; where has this book been all my life! By the time I’d reached page 4, I knew I would slavishly buy any book Victoria writes; her pithy wit, her emotional insightfulness and her inventive skill at creating a story and heroine who you cannot fail to relate to/with are reasons enough to ensure my devotion. I am sure you can tell; I was unrelentingly bewitched by this novel. I doubt you will be able to read the first chapter without crying with mirth at the hilarious turns of phrase within it, I couldn’t!  Let me tell you a bit more about this story…

Tessa Archer could be me or she could be you and I suspect in part she is Victoria too. Tessa is the self-proclaimed ‘queen of mirror avoidance’, from a supressing and slightly suffocating northern family; she is mocked, maligned and marginalised by those whose unconditional love should be a given. But it isn’t and they don’t, Tessa is the 3rd child, the ‘fatty’, the one everyone pokes fun at (usually to re-direct from their own issues) be it her size (not a skinny minny), her relationship status (on hiatus) or her job (it’s only admin). As a result of this constant, endless litany of familial bad behaviour, Tessa seeks to protect herself and her deeply wounded self-esteem behind her humour and her smile (I am sure we can all relate to this).

At the weekly family roast where everyone else present seems to receive praise and endless lauding over their lives and careers (including Molly her vain, vapid younger sibling, whose life goals go no further than aspiring to become the next WAG) trust me you will find, yourself grinding your teeth somewhat! Tessa is putting up with the ‘usual’ barrage of belittling jokes at her expense! When her mother announces, that she bumped into a familiar face and has invited him to lunch next week (her ham-fisted way of matchmaking Tessa) …she believes he will be a suitable man for her! At this revelation, the proverbial worm turns…Tessa, is enraged and simultaneously horrified, how could this man, who resembles a Colombian drug lord (complete with dodgy facial hair) sweats up like Red Rum and whose memorable (for all the wrong reasons) hobby is Morris dancing (yes, sticks, bells and prancing) be good enough for her!! Quite frankly how Tessa resists upending the dinner table and running amok, stabbing her mother and siblings with a sharpened Yorkshire I don’t know, especially after the preceding conversation about a person being a 10 (score for referencing looks) or not, is reason enough for a death blow in my book!

Tessa takes action to avoid this match-making event at all costs, on the spot she invents a fake hen weekend with work colleagues to St Ives, Cornwall! Having committed herself to this fib, she bravely embarks on her long weekend, as she’d rather be stranded forever on the M62 than face her mother’s matchmaking! Triumphantly making it down south, the sea air, the sandy beaches, the sun and the sense of joy at her escape, lift from Tessa some of the emotional burdens she carries. Then a chance encounter completely changes her life (in the best way) and no its not being swept off her feet by a Cornish surfing boy toy (well not yet anyway)! Tessa having been mugged of her tea by a pastry stealing gull, meets Winnie aka ‘the great blue biddy’ (how can you not laugh at such a glorious moniker)…so labelled by Ben, her loving grandson (the delicious, surfer yummy). Winnie instantly sees in Tessa all that she cannot see in herself! This accidental weekend, leads to Winnie offering a hand of friendship as well as a job offer, would Tessa consider coming to stay in St Ives and be her live-in carer, in order to stop Winnie being consigned/co-opted to ‘gods waiting room’ or as it is more commonly known, the local care home down the road!

Within a few pages, Tessa has arranged a 6 month sabbatical, concocts a plausible ‘story’ of a job placement to explain her move to the family, she packs her polo with essentials, rents out her home and heads back to Cornwall. Her initiation into Winnie’s life is charming, hilarious and swift, she is adopted/coerced/introduced to Winnie’s cohort of fabulous, zimmer-frame wielding, marauding matrons, otherwise known as ‘Costal Cahoots Club’. Accepted, supported and loved by this glorious coterie of doyens (Mavis, I love you…that bet with Ben and no I am not saying more!) Tessa immerses herself in this new Cornish life, she literally sheds the pounds of repression and depression as the wonderful realisation that she is completely accepted for who she is, rather than what size she is or what she looks like!

As I said at the beginning of my review, this theme of self-acceptance within the story completely struck a chord with me, I said I could be Tessa; as I too have a mother who is obsessively disappointed by my size (she gives me smaller portions if I go to lunch, no I’m not joking) now telling you this isn’t to make you feel sorry for me, please don’t! But it took me 20 years to be more Tessa; that is to become content with who I am and it is an element, of this story that I rejoiced in reading (and I hope you will too). Anyway I digress; Tessa embarks on this new life, helping Winnie, making friends with the vibrant and sage Cerys, bantering with the delicious Ben, who Tessa takes pleasure and great amusement in verbally sparing with at every opportunity (and there are many episodes like this and these sharp, clever exchanges had me rolling with laughter on my sofa).

Along with Tessa’s emotional and psychological metamorphosis is a rather lovely romantic development, let’s call it her ‘Riviera’ moment (and you will see why I’ve referred to it as that, when you read the book) Ben’s bestie, Logan (the lifeboat lothario) but who is really a gorgeous good egg, makes a play for her and now Tessa faces a dilemma does she want Ben or Logan. I have no shame in saying at this point in the story, I wanted Tessa to have them both; I mean aren’t thrupples a thing these days?? Then I realised that this sort of raunchy romantic development might make this a different sort of read (I’m sure you understand my ‘naughty’ suggestion!)

So what happens next (ha as if I’m going to tell you that)..will Tessa be able to choose between Ben and Logan; will she decide to stay and make a life in St Ives; will she deal with the emotional turmoil inflicted on her by her family or will she have to commit murder with some fat 1/4s as a lethal weapon (by the way fat 1/4s  are a quilting term, not me insulting harmless fabric) will chip butties drowned in evil brown gloop win you over (sorry Victoria, never! I am a chip and salad cream girl!) or will the ‘Bessa’ banner be the catalyst of the story? Well now, that is for me to know and you to find out!!

I have loved every paragraph of Victoria’s charming, uproariously funny, emotionally and physiologically astute book. It is an ode to friendship (regardless of age) a sonnet to romance and if you don’t meet the ‘Costal Cahoots Club’ or the yummy sun scuffed, ab revealing fantasy inducing men, then you will have missed an absolute treat of a read. A story like this one, is sometimes about living vicariously and this novel allow you that delightful escape. So, break into your secret stash of mini eggs (oops that might just be me) froth your coffees and come and meet Tessa and follow her adventure. I dare you not to laugh at every page. I dare you not to buy a copy of this glorious book for all your girlfriends…I will be!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Victoria Johns is a writer who enjoys sharing a happily ever after and believes that it’s every good girls dream to experience a steamy, hot one.

Growing up in North West England in a large family surrounded by love and support she found her Prince Charming many years ago and enjoys living the life they’ve made with their son. Being a mum, wife and in full time employment means multi-tasking like a superpower!

When she’s not writing she’s overdosing on crisps, Rosé wine, trashy TV and raunchy reads.

Twitter @victoriajohns75

www.victoriajohnsbooks.com

Please do have a read of other reviews on this tour.

Missing Pieces

Author: Tim Weaver

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 1st April in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Chrissie Antoniou and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Rebekah Murphy has been missing for five months. Why is no one looking for her?

YOU’RE ALL ALONE – APART FROM THE MAN TRYING TO KILL YOU . . .

It’s a summer island but today it closes for the season. You told no one you were coming. Just you and your brother.

But now he’s missing and the last boat has left and you weren’t on it. A storm is coming. You’re alone – except for the person following you. Hunting you.

You don’t know who.

You don’t know why.

You only know that if you’re ever to see those you love again you need to discover this puzzle’s missing pieces.

Or die trying . . .

My Thoughts:

This was my first foray into a Tim Weaver novel and an exciting discovery of a new author for me engage with. Missing Pieces is the perfect title for this crime conundrum. I am huge fan of jigsaw puzzles and reading this story reminded me of how I work a puzzle, finding corners, completing the edges and then filling in the middle, yet no matter how organised I am there is always a few missing pieces, that you can’t progress to the end without and so it is with this book.

 It is a 500-page curlew of crime; a masterful blockbuster of epic calibre, high octane fuelled drama with every chapter. I was/am mentally exhausted by the fast pace and atmospheric trajectory of the complex plot. Every page seems to hold a cornucopia of clues and suggestions, that you do your best to try and organise into a picture of the events but all so often the picture is tantalisingly missing pieces. Actions of the past colour the reactions of the present and as a reader you are caught up in this vortex of mystery and secrets. Oh, my goodness it is a magnificent dark adventure and a read you cannot put down, well I couldn’t at least, I was up until 2am on Sunday night finishing it!

Rebekah our protagonist, is trapped on a desolate, destroyed and deserted island, searching for her missing brother Johnny. How did she end up here? What led her this remote place (other than her brother) Does Rebekah’s family history hold the ‘missing pieces’ to this gripping puzzle. I knew I was hooked (pardon the pun) when in the opening chapter Rebekah sews up her own head injury with some fishing line…I mean you have to admire her gumption, the very idea of it, is just ghastly but it put me firmly in her corner!! The chapters alternate between the present predicament Rebekah finds herself in with intervening rewinding chapters documenting the before; Rebekah’s family, her father and two brothers abandoned by her mother when they lived in England and who nobody has heard from her since, not even when tragedy repeatedly strikes them! Not a word, a call, a letter, no contact or acknowledgement that she exists or knows about their lives but of course as you will discover, all assumptions are not that simple!

We also learn about Rebekah’s life, as a locum doctor, her daughters and the upheaval in her marriage and some very subtle and sinister happenings, the support of her best friend and a drunken night out that has significant fallout but of course, I don’t do spoilers, so you will have to dive in and find out what I mean! Can we take anything at face value! Is Rebekah’s best friend, really that, can she be relied upon to alert the authorities that Rebekah is missing or will she use this event to satisfy her own desires for a relationship and a family. Does Rebekah’s nefarious husband have a hand in this and who is the green-eyed man that has already tried to killer her and where is Johnny? So many questions, clues and plotlines, that weave and wend and you are drawn into the whole frustrating, clever, beguiling story.

As ever I am playing my cards close to my chest in this review about the sumptuous depth and scope of the plot and all its razor-sharp twists and turns. I could give you more clues, but I won’t because it would be a disservice to this intense, clever novel and you need to uncover or discover the revelations yourself.

Tim’s ongoing fascination and dedication to the legacy of ‘the missing’ is very much at play in his latest novel. It is an atmospheric, emotive and enthralling story and the potential reasons, the mystery and secrets that surround those who are or who have gone missing, calls to the voyeuristic tendency in us all and such unexplainable disappearances never fail to grip and entice us.

If like me you have never read any of Tim’s previous books, then I vociferously recommend, that you start your reading experience of his books, with this one. It is complex, compelling and on occasions confounding and it was a breathtaking and glorious read, I am still trying to recover from finishing it. Definitely a new name to add to my crime library and I hope you add this book to yours too.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Tim Weaver is the Sunday Times bestselling author of the David Raker Missing Persons series. He has been nominated for a National Book Award, selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, and shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger in the Library award, which considers an author’s entire body of work.

He is also the host and producer of the chart-topping Missing podcast, which features experts in the field discussing missing persons investigations from every angle. A former journalist and magazine editor, he lives near Bath with his wife and daughter.

Find out more about Tim at timweaverbooks.com…

Please do have a read of the other reviews available on this blog tour

Last One at the Party

Author: Bethany Clift

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Available: Out now in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Audio narration by; Heather Long & Jane Collingwood

Book Details:

It’s December 2023 and the world as we know it has ended.

The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM (‘Six Days Maximum’ – the longest you’ve got before your body destroys itself).

But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own.

Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.

And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she’s completely alone?

My Thoughts:

Thanks to my audible monthly credit, I was able to experience this incredible book and it contains a story that is exceptional, ghastly and hilariously funny. Having finished listening to the audiobook for Last One at the Party, it dawned on me that I may well be a classic example of the proverbial ‘last one at the party’ when it comes to writing my review of this book (as it was published back in February 2021…well so be it, this story is far too good for me not to review it. I want everyone I know to read it and share in its glory and revel in its genius! Last One at the Party is completely mind blowing (even now several weeks on from my having finished it) I can’t stop thinking about the story and I was asked recently what might be my favourite read of 2021 and my answer is this book!

It is a story that is monstrous and moving and it provides a cataclysmic reaction from anyone who reads it….(Our nameless character, although in my head I assumed she was Bethany, like an alter ego almost) is the last woman standing, several years on from the Covid-19 pandemic. We now have 6DM or  Six Days Maximum a ghoulish moniker for the latest viral pandemic to sweep the world, only this time it is a global killer, with no time for vaccinations or goodbyes to loved ones, just sneezing, melting and death, it so bad the government just universally provides a suicide pill to save you from the unbearable suffering! And now there is nobody left, bar our protagonist; a dog called Lucy; mobs of marauding ravenous rats and a myriad of murderous Herring Gulls and lest we forget a host of rotting corpses, some of whom our heroine has known and loved! How would anyone cope being well and truly alone with nobody to direct or dictate your actions! Would this be the making of our heroine? You will have to read on or listen on and find out.

The concept of this story, being the last woman alive in a country where there are no survivors, there is just…her, it really makes you think; what would you do? I know, I would be more organised and would have raided Waterstones (sorry to encourage any sort of theft) and sorted any petrol issues, and that is part of the genius of this story, is that you start to imagine what on earth you would do in similar circumstances. As a reader and especially now gives our own experiences of a pandemic, you identify with her, whether you intend to or not; she could be any of us and probably why Bethany didn’t give her a name!  I confess that as an OCD level organiser there were moments when I found myself yelling at Alexa (who was reading the book to me and was epically perplexed and frantically, apologising for not knowing the answer to my tirade)…I may have even uttered the phrase (and I apologise for the bad language)..’You fucktard’ who does that, in my disbelief at some of our protagonist’s choices or lack of forethought, bless her, she’s not the most practical soul but as time passes and circumstances change, so does she and I think so do we or at least our assumptions and assessments of the situation. This a remarkable story about what it is to be human and the incredible scope for adaptability we all have!

Bethany Clift, is my new hero; she is possessed of a razor sharp, darkly comic wit and is a fervent supporter of grossness and irreverence with vast amounts of panache – thank goodness, because all these elements make this story addictive and compelling and yes I am being woefully vague about the specific details because, they are yours to discover and just you wait until the end! Which has to be the best end to a story…EVER..it is utterly infuriatingly brilliant and if I had a physical copy of the book, it may have gone air borne!

How on earth Bethany will create something to follow this macabre, magnificent novel I don’t know but I do know that I am a fan for life and whatever Bethany decides to imagine and write next, I will damn well read it and review it and retweet it. Do not miss this novel, it is a MUST read, a must buy for everyone you know!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Bethany Clift is a graduate of the Northern Film School, the producer of low-budget British horror film Heretic, and the Director of her own production company, Saber Productions. Last One At The Party is her debut novel.

Bethany suffers from itchy feet. She travelled extensively when she was younger and once drove round America for a year, camping and living in her car because she couldn’t afford motels. Her itchy feet mean that, since leaving her childhood home, she has moved house a lot. She once moved house four times in a year. Bethany has now settled in Milton Keynes with her husband and two children and, luckily, she is a big fan of roundabouts.

Bethany has enjoyed many different careers including hairdresser, florist, karaoke bar singer, pork pie maker, barman, jeweller, fruit and veg seller, librarian and a season as an Elf. Bethany has spent the last eleven years working for the NHS and is a huge advocate for the organisation and the world-renowned service it provides.

Bethany is the producer of the low-budget horror movie, Heretic. Bethany produced the entire movie for less than £18k and secured it a UK cinema and DVD release earning the movie the number 3 spot in the DVD charts on the weekend of its release. Bethany was also the Production Manager for the 16-day film shoot for the movie and she did this six-weeks after giving birth to her first child and whilst still breast-feeding and surviving on about three hours sleep a night. She credits watching the Great British Bake Off as the reason for keeping her sanity, and her marriage, during those sixteen days.

Bethany loves reading and watching sci-fi; listening to American country and blues music; dancing to Northern Soul or old-school Hip-Hop and eating, well, pretty much anything. The movie WALL-E makes her cry, and her family and friends make her happy.

The Lamplighters

Author: Emma Stonex

Publisher: Picador

Available: 4th March 2021 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Amber Choudhary, Midas PR and Picador for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

My Thoughts:

The Lamplighters was published at the beginning of March this year and accolades for this book have been popping up across the realms of social media. And I have been doing my absolute best to avoid them all, because I wanted, as I strive to do every time I review a book not to be influenced by the varied and glorious opinions of my fellow book bloggers, whose insights into books lead with indecent frequency to my own book purchases. The only downside to their enthusiastic influence (bar only having £1.50 left in my bank account now, don’t fret I’m paid weekly) is that I find myself unconsciously thinking in the same ways as my illustrious cohort. With a book as special as this one is, I wanted to be a blank page, open to receive whatever delights its pages had to offer me.

For me, this story is a masterpiece of mystery, tied up in a bow (or rather a knot) of intrigue and encompassed in a magnificent swath of expectation; with a factual event at its core; it is the literary equivalent of reversed nesting dolls! An odd an analogy you might think; let me attempt to explain my thinking! Emma starts the book with an author’s note, a few lines of fact from 1900 like the smallest nesting doll and with every section you read, the ideas, suggestions and complexity of the story and its cast grows bigger, like putting one doll inside the bigger one until you end up with the largest doll and all those remarkable details and possibilities are planted neatly in my (or your) subconscious, creating a whole picture/tale!

As to the story; Three lighthouse keepers marooned (by choice) on/in a light house tower; The Maiden as she is known, 15 miles offshore (Land’s End) isolated, majestic, alone in the middle of fickle, often ferocious and endlessly changeable sea.  On an ordinary scheduled relief change (you will find a vast amount of lightkeeper specific technical language within this tale, with explanations included) this moment is when a keeper would be finishing his shift and coming off the tower, so the keepers would be expecting the arrival of a boat; it is discovered that the tower is deserted; all 3 men are missing! The table is laid for supper, the living quarters are organised and spotless, yet there are a few inconsistencies; both clocks have stopped at 8.45 and there is some rope missing…these clues are dismissed, by the tower’s owners, Trident!

Tragic logic pours into your head; the suggestion that the wild seas and an accident must have claimed them, what other explanation could there be? I confess this immediately seemed to me to be the most plausible expectation or rather explanation…Well it would be if at the time of this beguiling discovery you can attempt to explain; how 3 experienced lightkeepers vanished from behind a locked and bolted metal door built to withstand its tumultuous environment!!!! For a minute, I considered Alien abduction, my mind was in a spin with a vortex of questions,  searching for possible answers and one Emma suggests; Occam’s Razer – the idea that the simplest explanation is likely to be the truth…isn’t it?!?

Oh Emma you are an utter genius, to take a little known historical incident, set in a world unexplored by most, the details and nuances only known and understood by the light keeping fraternity or the few with a passionate interest in the history of these iconic landmarks, then to weave your creative, literary magic to manifest in the form of a stunning, absorbing, enthralling tale; that completely takes over a reader’s mind (well this one at least), so that no matter what else is going on in real life, my mind has constantly and furiously gone back to this story and its characters. It’s marvellous, emotive layers of intrigue and suggestion; the story unfolds along two timelines, in alternating sections, the past (1970s) and the present (1990s). Emma presents her puzzle from the points of view of the 3 light keepers; Arthur, Bill and Vincent; their individual tales, their emotions, their experiences, their love, their grief, their regret, their revenge! And in the present we have the view points of the aftermath, the years post disappearance, the impact of their absence, the revelations, the exploration, the investigation, the influences of their employer the subtle sinister Trident and all from the  perspectives of the men’s wives/girlfriend; Helen, Jenny and Michelle. Their elements of the story are written as if they are speaking directly to us the readers, as if we too have a part to play in this tale!!!

Incrementally, in slow tantalising and tension filled progression, the clues are seeded in our minds, each character has their own shadowy secrets, their own versions of the truth, their own understanding and belief of the event and the aftermath! They are flawed, fallible and through them Emma has created this remarkable complex web of daily life within this community, of their marriages, their resentments, their tragedies, their crimes all fuelling the mystery, madness and misdirection of the tale; what is the truth of the matter; did circumstances in these men’s lives lead to a dastardly dramatic disaster or have we imagined the happenstance, maybe the simplest explanation is the answer! Of course, I am keeping all specifics of this book’s secrets, surprises and spoilers to myself, as to do anything else would be a travesty!

Emma just keeps the twists coming; you cannot draw your own conclusions fast enough before the story turns in another direction and all previous assumptions and conclusions that you may have formed are dispelled. The mystery at The Maiden is yours for the exploration and the plot complexities are yours to enjoy…disconcertingly, as they have been mine.  This novel will have you in raptures, it is a sumptuous adventure of fact and fiction, it immeasurably deserves every adjective of praise and adulation that I can level at it and its creator; the maiden of mystery herself Emma Stonex.  If you do nothing else this weekend, you must buy this book, now today…do not delay!

Happy Easter Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Emma Stonex was born in 1983 and grew up in Northamptonshire, about as far from the sea as it’s possible to be in the UK. Her love affair with lighthouses and the coast began with childhood holidays to Cornwall and the Isle of Wight, which remain among her favourite places to visit.

Before becoming a writer, Emma worked as an editor in publishing. Ahead of THE LAMPLIGHTERS, she wrote several books under pseudonyms, but saved her real name for the story that had always been in her heart: the real-life mystery of three lighthouse keepers who vanished from their rock light in 1900 and to this day have never been found.

She lives in Bristol with her husband and two young daughters.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour

The Embalmer

Author: Alison Belsham

Publisher: Trapeze

Available: 18th March 2021 out in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Alex Layt and Trapeze for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Has the ancient Egyptian cult of immortality resurfaced in Brighton?

When a freshly mummified body is discovered at the Brighton Museum of Natural History, Detective Francis Sullivan is at a loss to identify the desiccated woman. But as Egyptian burial jars of body parts with cryptic messages attached start appearing, he realises he has a serial killer on his hands. Revenge, obsession and an ancient religion form a potent mix, unleashing a wave of terror throughout the city. Caught in a race against time while battling his own demons, Francis must fight to uncover the true identity of the Embalmer before it’s too late…

My Thoughts:

I was beyond excited when I learned that The Embalmer, Alison’s 3rd instalment of her Sullivan & Mullins series was due out in March. I was even more ecstatic when I was offered a copy to review. I am a huge fan of Alison’s crime novels, they are sublimely unsettling, gloriously gruesome,  cunningly plotted stories and very often Alison has a hideous twisty surprise up her sleeve, she is the Mistress of the Macabre and I am never failingly engrossed in her books, this one only lasted a day as I couldn’t help but devour it.

Personally, I feel you need to read The Tattoo Thief and Her Last Breath before diving into this book, as there are several storylines, that carry over from these books and into this one but that is my preference and this book does work as a stand alone.  One of the elements I love about these books, is that as a reader, you come face to face with the villian of the story right from the start, which always adds an extra sinister layer to these malevolent mysteries! One compellingly creepy way to scare the pants off this reader is open this story with a recipe for mummification in exacting detail!!!!

Sullivan and his team are still reeling from the tragic fallout of dealing with the ‘poisoned ink killer’ and the last thing they are expecting is a call out to the Brighton Museum of Natural History, where a mummified body has been found, although the team are none plussed by the call because surely museums are full of ancient relics; only as they discover, this mummified corpse doesn’t herald from the sands of time, no carbon dating required, this desiccated body is circa 21st century! But this is only the start, grisly canopic jars containing viscera and cryptic clues are delivered to the local newspaper and a series of gruesome eviscerated bodies are discovered, the tension mounts and the trepidation of this reader racketed up! If this isn’t enough for Sullivan (and me) to contend with, Marnie Mullins (his former lover, tattooist and partner in uncovering crime) is in serious trouble; she’s been arrested for murdering her husband Thierry! Her son Alex is enraged by the idea and is determined to prove his mother’s innocence, even if he puts himself at risk to do so. Sullivan technically can’t interfere with the investigation into Marnie but that doesn’t stop him! Marnie’s past, her troubled marriage and her delightfully wayward son are all caught up in the sins of the past and who is dishing out this retribution? (Ha, as if I am going to tell you!!!)

Sullivan and his team are under pressure, Brighton is awash with fear, friends and family are in the Embalmer’s sights, it is time to visit revenge and retaliation on those whose perceived wrong doings now make them the perfect sacrifices and the killer’s path to immortality…well only if you are an organ salting, unhinged nutcase! A tattooed cypher on the mummy’s skin may give Sullivan the clues he needs to stop this vengeful killer…but as he soon discovers, this time its personal..a high octane chase ensues;  a kidnapping, a thrilling race against time, can Sullivan locate the embalmer’s latest victim, can he finally unmask  this embalming Egyptophile with god-like aspirations; what will be the price Sullivan has to pay; will the answers be found among the glorious, grand domes of the Brighton Pavilion…ah well now, that for me to know and you to find out!…As I grin knowingly to myself, while typing this review.

I have heard rumours, that this book will be Alison’s last Sullivan & Mullins escapade (for which I am exceedingly sad) I have loved every sinister minute I have spent with them. This instalment is rife with rejection, revenge and retribution; filled with marauding snakes, malicious murders and a maelstrom of epic crime mayhem and it is a magnificent and a fitting way to finish this fabulous trilogy. So, don’t delay, buy all three of them today, they are an exceptional reads and worthy additions to your crime collection.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Alison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter–and in 2000 was commended for her visual story telling in the Orange Prize for screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. The Tattoo Thief is out now, the sequel is coming soon and she’s currently working on the third book in the Francis Sullivan trilogy, Death’s Needle. Alison lives in Edinburgh, and when she’s not writing she spends her time visiting tattoo conventions.

To learn more about me and the books I write, visit my website at www.alisonbelsham.com or follow me on Twitter – @alisonbelsham

– or Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/alisonbelsham/

– or Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AlisonBelshamWriter/

Please do check out the other reviews on this blog tour

A Book of Secrets

Author: Kate Morrison

Publisher: Jacaranda

Available: 25th March 2021 in Paperback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Jacaranda for my gifted finished copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

 A Book of Secrets tells the story of a West African girl hunting for her lost brother through an Elizabethan underworld of spies, plots and secret Catholic printing presses.

Susan Charlewood is taken from Ghana (then known as Guinea) as a baby. Brought to England, she grows up as maidservant in a wealthy Catholic household. Living under a Protestant Queen in late 16th Century England, the family risk imprisonment or death unless they keep their faith hidden.

When her mistress dies Susan is married off to a London printer who is deeply involved in the Catholic resistance. She finds herself embroiled in political and religious intrigue, all while trying to find her lost brother and discover the truth about her origins.

The book explores the perils of voicing dissent in a state that demands outward conformity, at a time when England is taking its first steps into the long shadow of transatlantic slavery and old certainties about the shape of the universe itself are crumbling. 

A Book of Secrets gives a striking new perspective on the era and lets one of the thousands of lost Elizabethan voices, speak out loud.

My Thoughts:

It is my privilege and pleasure to kick off the blog tour for Kate Morrison’s debut novel and what a historical fiction triumph it is, it is clear from the start of this incredible story that Kate has taken every care in researching this era and its societal and cultural facts that she has woven into its pages. This is clearly a labour of literary love for her and it is incredibly detailed with vivid and visceral descriptions of life in Elizabethan England and Kate’s accomplished writing style, elucidates the evocative atmosphere she has created for us to become immersed in and read about. If you are a fan of Stacey Hall or Frances Quinn, then Kate’s book needs a space on your bookshelves and a place in your heart, this extraordinary story has certainly found a place in mine.

Susan (Nsowah) was a babe when with her mother and brother she was taken from the heat and warmth of Guinea (Ghana) and spirited away on a Portuguese ship, a twist of fate in the form of interception of this ship by English Privateers, she and her mother land in England, sold (gifted) to a wealthy English family. By the age of 3 her mother has died and she is alone in the world. Susan is brought up, educated in a wealthy and privileged environment, she is servant to the daughter of the house but they are more like siblings, afforded all the luxuries to women of this time although with the added unusual extra, that she along with her Lady is taught to read and write. This house and its family also hide a heavy and dangerous secret, its occupants are confirmed papists (Catholics) in a time, when to profess such an allegiances to the Catholic faith would see all practitioners’ hang! Along with her studies, Susan is taught the ways and means to hide secrets, by constructing invisible inks, plus many other techniques that only a spy master might possess but these skills are necessary for their survival and to assist in spreading the Catholic truths and keep all secrets and identities hidden

 Susan of Framfield Sussex, after 13 years in this guise her fortunes once again change, her lady dies, the household is stricken with grief, her lady’s mother is over wrought and her master the Lord of the house and de facto parent, faces imprisonment for his faith (but the full scope of which has not been discovered) he faces the loss of his land/title to his cousin a protestant.  Susan is offered to two choices, to marry the protestant cousin or a match has been made with John Charlwood, master printer in London (a printer of secret pamphlets and oh so much more)…her own faith decrees that Charlwood (who she has met once before) is her only option. She is transported to London, leaving behind once more all the family she has even known, to a city rife with secrets and subterfuge and Kate has written such incredible images of Susan’s journey and arrival in London, the sights, the smells, the splendour and the squalor, it is almost poetic, in the fluidity of the descriptions, you can literally sense, see and smell all that Susan does!

Behold Susan Charlwood, Printers Wife and she once again faces a perilous balance act of being involved in her husband’s committed path to his Catholic beliefs realised by his printing the truth of the religious and political machinations of the time, all the while ensuring that all his house hold including Susan hide behind an accepted miasma of Protestantism! The perpetual fear of discovery and death hangs over Susan’s marriage and relationship with those in her household. Susan’s own heritage, and understanding of herself and her ancestry is also dominant, she carries with her bronze tokens that were left to her by her mother and she believes are the link to who her mother was and who her family were in Guinea, along with a strong sense of isolation, she often feels watched, judged and distrusted because she is different, the pervading need to find someone who ‘knows’ her is palpable and I took these inferences to relate to her racial heritage and her need for community.

I think it pertinent to mention the subject of race at this stage in this remarkable story. Kate in her acknowledgements at the end of this book makes her intentions about writing and creating a black protagonist for her story clear. Kate’s intension was/is to dispel the accepted and entrenched historical myths that project the concept that Elizabethan England was all-white, not the true melting pot of people from the known and the unknown worlds, from the obscenely wealthy to the scandalously poor. Her character Susan is a fictional creation but she is intended as a reflection and revelation of human experience, that Kate has diligently and respectfully studied and researched and clearly believes (as I do) that it is authentic to write a fictional character with Susan’s colour, emotions and experiences without as Kate puts it, appropriating or claiming Susan’s cultural and societal experiences for her own or our own.

I believe that blended historical fact and fiction stories like Susan’s in A Book of Secrets can be read, respected and appreciated widely by all, regardless of background or education, stories have always been used to educate and to inform the reader or listener regardless of the nationality, the ancestry, the cultural heritage of the writer or story teller and I thoroughly admire the depth and scope of the character and the phenomenal story Kate has written for her and I really hope you do too.

The book is divided into 4 parts and the latter two, focus on Susan’s discovery of an old letter regarding her brother (who she believed to be dead) and her efforts to discover the truth and her true heritage and ancestry while trying to stop her husband’s zealous actions, from getting them imprisoned or martyred (in the most horrifying manner). There is also a rather fascinating romantic twist, that begins in the early stages of the story but doesn’t reach its pinnacle until the latter stages. This element is also tied into the storyline of Susan’s tragic personal losses, which are beautifully and sensitively written and completely heart breaking and you may feel I am being exceedingly sparse in providing you with any significant details and I am by design. This book in its entirety deserves to have you discover its secrets, its triumphs, its tragedies, its revelations when you embark on Susan’s story. I refuse to be responsible for spoiling any of its remarkable tension, atmosphere, twists or secrets.

As far as I am concerned, this is an exceptional story, beautifully crafted, with its roots in historical facts that have been woven into an evocative, immersive, emotional read. I defy anyone who loves historical fiction not to want a copy. For me the essence of this book, is captured in this quote…’The safest book of secrets is the one you keep in your heads, no one may look at it without your knowledge, or steal it, or copy it. I am giving you an armoury one that is fit for a women to possess. This knowledge is the weapon in our fight; keep it, hold it and never forget it’…

This is a story and Susan is a character that I will never forget, once you read this novel. I doubt you will either!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

 Kate Morrison is a British debut novelist. She studied English Literature at New Hall College, Cambridge and worked as a journalist and a press officer. Morrison was mentored by Ros Barber, the award-winning author of The Marlowe Papers and Devotion. She was a visiting scholar with the Book, Text, and Place 1500-1700 Research Centre at Bath Spa University.

Kate Morrison currently lives in West Sussex with her family.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this tour.

The Book of Longings

Author: Sue Monk Kidd

Publisher: Tinder Press

Available: 18th March 2021 in Paperback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Tinder Press for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Ana is born in Galilee at a time when women are seen as possessions, only leaving their fathers’ homes to marry. Ana longs to control her destiny. Taught to read despite her mother’s misgivings, she wants to be a writer and to find her own voice. A voice that will speak for the silenced women around her.

Betrothed to an elderly widower, Ana almost despairs. But an encounter with a charismatic young carpenter in Nazareth awakens new longings in her, and a different future opens up.

Yet this is not a simple love story. Ana’s journey will bring both joy and tragedy, but it will also be enriched by the female friendships she makes along the way.

The Book of Longings is an exquisite tale of dreams and desire, and of the power of women to change the world.

My Thoughts:

I remember one afternoon turning on the tv and I started to watch this incredible film (movie) and it turns out I was watching the adaption of ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ and I was enthralled and in true bookophile style, I couldn’t not read the book that this film was made from and I found to be an utterly divine reading experience. But it has been awhile since I’ve read one of Sue’s books, and I knew immediately, that I couldn’t resist the sound of ‘The Book of Longings’. From the opening line of this book, you are simply blown away by its power, its creativity, the voice of Ana resounds in your head and she does not leave you, even when you have turned the very last page of this incredible book. When a story like this one comes into your life, I am always a little over awed at the task of reviewing it, how am I going to express effectively to you, how truly mesmerizing an experience it has been to read?

Firstly I have to convey my admiration at Sue’s spiritual skill and knowledge, her courage and inventiveness to take on the task of re-imagining the life of Jesus; choosing to portray him as a married man, with a life and career instead of adhering to the widely accepted concept of him being single, monastic in nature and set a part from others during his life. It is clear from the start of the book, that Sue’s story focuses on Ana and that she is not re-imagining or re-hashing the bible (I mean, can you imagine the vastness of that idea) never mind the fact that attempting do such a thing, would or could be viewed as being a highly contentious route and possibly for some people, it would be viewed as blasphemous one!

Ana’s journey from the outset is filled with trials, she is viewed merely as an obstinate chattel to be traded in marriage, purely in order to advance her parents avaricious social, political and economic desires! Ana is never seen or heard by them as a person in her own right, with a head and heart full of aspirations and hopes of her own. The strength of her metal is constantly being tested, I loved her, she has bucketful’s of gumption and I also had a huge soft spot for her aunt (whose own life had been filled with violence an despair but yet, it did not break her and she comes to her niece’s aide with such fierceness and love) I have been completely fascinated by how Sue was going to develop the trajectory of her story and I was intrigued by her approach to the nuances of Ana’s relationship with Jesus ben Joseph. In my humble opinion Sue has taken the perfect approach to her storyline, balancing what we know of Jesus from our own exposure to bible stories and using them as framework around which to weave her imaginings with Ana being the catalyst and her experiences and interactions with other characters and form our perspective of events.

I think what I loved most about this story was the essence at the centre of it, which isn’t religion or faith (not that those aren’t important, if you are so inclined) but this is a story that celebrates and illustrates female friendship, relationships, comradery and community and the power to sustain that comes from bonds with other women. Ana’s voice is the solo in this ensemble, her ‘longings’ to be educated and to be afforded same choices and freedoms as men. In this majestic story Sue has created a chorus of incredible female characters who are imbued with such amazing courage and fortitude, their support of each other is seemingly boundless, no matter the potential fate of their own lives, through their relationships with each other, they are empowered and changed.

This book is ‘a Song of Women’ it is poetic, it is strong, it breaks the confines of gender, it engages the mind and gives identity and narration to women’s stories, that have been marginalised, silenced or invalidated. It is a gateway to exploration for women to see the stories of their forbearers and whether past or present the issues it contains are relevant to all today.

This story is breath taking, it is truly magnificent, Sue has been respectful, tactful, creative and brave and yes it might be contentious but Sue’s approach to the story is not. As I said it is a literary song for women and is filled with love, humanity and its essence becomes etched on your heart. Not a day has passed since I finished reading it that I have not thought about Ana, her story and the beautiful lyrical words Sue has written.

This is a unique read and one that you absolutely should experience.

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Sue Monk Kidd is the author of The Secret Life of Bees, one of the most beloved novels of the 21st century. It spent 2.5 years on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold over 8 million copies worldwide. It was long listed for the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction) and made into a film starring Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson.

 Sue’s subsequent novels, The Mermaid Chair, The Invention of Wings and now The Book of Longings, were all New York Times bestsellers.

Sue is also the author of several non-fiction books including the New York Times bestseller Travelling with Pomegranates, co-written with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. Sue lives in Florida.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this tour

Little Wishes

Author: Michelle Adams

Publisher: Trapeze

Available: 18th March 2021

Thank you to Alex Layt and Trapeze for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

It’s never too late to chase a love you lost…

It has been fifty years since Elizabeth fell in love with Tom, and just as many since she last saw him. She is still in love with him, and is sure he still loves her too, thanks to the small blue crocus delivered to her doorstep every year in line with a promise he once made. She has kept every little note bound to those flowers, each written as a wish for the life they could have shared.

But when on the 50th anniversary the blue flower fails to arrive, she fears something has happened to the love of her life. For the first time in almost half a century, she endeavours to find out what has happened to Tom; to find out whether the love they once shared can possibly be rekindled?

Faced with the knowledge that they have only a little time left, she vows to fulfil as many of his wishes as she can. But Elizabeth is scared that her efforts risk uncovering the shameful secret she has been keeping her whole life… Can she continue to hide the truth, or will she have the courage to finally make their dreams come true?

My Thoughts:

This weekend my partner and I have been together for 4 years, despite a 200 mile distance between us. It seemed fitting in our celebration (muted by Covid lockdown) that I read ‘ Little Wishes’. The concept of this novel, enchanted me; a woman receiving a blue crocus in a pod and attached is a wish on the same date every year for nearly 50 years, the very idea of such a sentimental gesture, just calls out to the romantic embers in each of us. There is an erstwhile forlornness to this notion, and it poses so many questions for the reader to ask; chiefly for me, what has occurred or prompted the protagonists to undertake this ritual?  Your fingers are compelled to turn the pages of this story and you are possessed with the desire to uncover their secrets, or at least I was and I am confident you will be too.

The book alternates between Now (the present) and Then (the past). In the now storyline, Elizabeth is aging gracefully, she is alone (bar the beautiful Cookie, her cat) in her cliffside cottage, we learn she is an artist, a mother and has lived in this town all her life. We learn about the annual crocus delivery that comes with a wish (sometimes in the form of a gift, like her cat, a bottle of champagne, a silk bathrobe) they come from Thomas (Tom) Hale, the love of her life, these wishes are the hopes, imaginings and dreams of a couple who have been and are tragically kept apart from one another!

This year, no crocus arrives, no wish and Elizabeth is reeling, we feel her sadness, her anxiety, her loneliness a vortex of emotion. She is compelled to find out what has happened to Tom to keep him from his annual pilgrimage? She dashes off to London, after failing to contact him via telephone and as a reader, the sense of dread you feel is tangible and you fear the worst….Luckily it is just Michelle teasing us; Tom and Elizabeth are reunited and as you can imagine it is both joyful and tragic as once again events and circumstances occur to obstruct and hamper their lives/relationship! Yes, I am being very vague about the details because it would ruin reading this story, if I did anything else!

In the past sections of the story, we follow Elizabeth and Tom’s dramatic first meeting and watch as the tendrils of friendship and love start to grow, how they are drawn to each other. Elizabeth is the daughter of the town doctor and is engaged to marry someone else, James; another doctor, older than her and originally from London and from the moment he appears, I felt a sense of disquiet (in fact, I literally wanted to boo, him, very mature response!) in my defence, and as you will see I’m not wrong! Tom on the other hand despite his less than salubrious background is kind, thoughtful and rather delicious. As you follow this young couple, you watch them fall in love and then come the twists and turns of life’s path, choices are made, other people interfere and a love that could last a lifetime is thwarted, yet despite everything they face, their feelings cannot be extinguished, even with the passing of time.

This story is beautifully crafted, it is poignant, heart-rending and having read Michelle’s note at the end of the book, holds personal significance for her and she has honoured the memory of her dad and his partner in creating this marvellous love story. It is a magnificent read and you will need a trolly load of tissues, because it will absolutely make you cry! I highly recommend that you buy a copy and prepare to be beguiled, I was and I still am.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Michelle Adams grew up in the UK and now lives in Cyprus, where she occasionally works as a part-time scientist. Most of her time is spent writing love stories. She lives with her husband, children, and two cats.

The Fountains of Silence

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Penguin

Available: Now in all formats

Thank you to Nina Douglas and Penguin for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Madrid, 1957. Under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is living in silence. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into the country under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine.

Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear.

Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

My Thoughts:

What drew me to this book, other than my well established love of historical fiction was that Spain and its extensive history is a journey I have literally never embarked upon – as yet, I have never visit Spain, its vibrant and vivid cities or its magnificent rural vistas. One day soon, I hope to remedy this oversight in my European exploration. I saw this book as an opportunity to education myself as well as to have the experience of exploring some secret untold stories and with Ruta as the perfect writer to be my guide.

The eloquence and beauty of her writing and the immense scope of her research and knowledge is breathtaking. In the turn of a page, you are immersed in a foreign land, its people, its culture and its social/economic and political history…your emotional senses are engulfed and held captive by her characters, their distinct voices, their joys and their struggles. This superb story simply sweeps you away to another time and place and I confess having finished reading this book a day or so ago, I am not sure that I have fully returned to my familiar cold, grey Yorkshire…This story is exquisite.

Set in Madrid in 1957, WWII is becoming a memory for the rest of Europe. The Spanish Civil war has ended but Spain and its people are still enslaved to the iniquitous whims of General Franco and the fathomless darkness and deprivations the populous must bear under the hand of this abhorrent dictator. After 20 years under his regime, which saw Spain cut off from the rest of Europe and the World, visitors allowed to return, more specifically wealthy Americans.

A once grand and glorious palace has been re-awoken as The Hilton Castellana, haunt of politian’s, businessmen and famous celebrities. The trappings of excess are in evidence, with lavish parties, the glamour of cocktail hour and the lifestyles to match. Yet a stone’s throw from this opulent fairy tale, is a country and its people terrorised and traumatised by an insidious fascist regime. Poverty is rife, the struggles are devasting, liberty of any kind is a dream, no rights to property, no bank accounts, no passports…a people rendered silent and supressed. Those branded ‘Reds’ (or Republicans) or rather all that remain of their families, as they have virtually been obliterated, those who survive live in abject terror, trapped in silent desperation.

Ruta has personified these two vastly different environments in the forms of her main protagonists; Daniel, an amateur photographer, a Texan and son of a rich oil tycoon and Ana a maid at the Hilton, whose life and family are impacted daily by the privations of Franco’s dictate. Despite their different worlds and perspectives there is a connection – a spark, but can it be ignited into something more, is that even possible in these tumultuous times?! Although the story is constructed around Daniel and Ana, what enthralled me, were the chorus of other characters, with their own individual voices, stories and perspectives and their intersections with Ana and Daniel, which provided a complex and boarder context to the novel.

I thoroughly admired Ruta’s creative, evocative and insightful talent at enveloping her readers in incredible atmosphere and the powerful and poignant environment of her story, how her characters are interwoven, their interactions, their relationships, their lives creating a beautiful and brutal tangible reality and you feel you are part of the story or that the story is part of you. The nature of the suffering and hardship is visceral and I was moved by the incredible courage, authenticity and resilience of this community and you just can’t stop reading! What also fascinated me, was the idea that silence speaks volumes, when freedom to speak is supressed, and that the essence of this concept is imbued throughout the novel.

This book is a masterpiece of historical fiction, it educates, illuminates and captives you with every page. It has been a unique and revelatory reading experience for me and one that I vigorously recommend you experience for yourself. This is a book that everyone should be talking about. Read it and see what you think?

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Ruta Sepetys (Rūta Šepetys) is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a “crossover” novelist as her books are read by both students and adults worldwide. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is renowned for giving voice to underrepresented history and those who experienced it.  Her books have won or been shortlisted for over forty book prizes, are included on over thirty state reading lists, and are currently in development for film and television.

Ruta is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. Born in Michigan, she was raised in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Ruta is passionate about the power of history and story to foster global dialogue and connectivity. She has been invited to present at NATO, European Parliament, the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, and Embassies worldwide. She was awarded The Rockefeller Foundation’s prestigious Bellagio Fellowship for her studies on human resilience. The New York Times Book Review declared, “Ruta Sepetys acts as champion of the interstitial people so often ignored—whole populations lost in the cracks of history.”

Ruta was bestowed the Cross of the Knight of the Order by the President of Lithuania for her contributions to education and memory preservation and was recently honoured with a postage stamp containing her image. She is extremely proud to be of Baltic heritage, even if that means she has a name no one can pronounce.

Ruta lives with her family in the hills of Tennessee.

Please do read some of the other reviews from this tour.

A Family Reunion

Author: Patricia Scanlan

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 4th March 2021 available in paperback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Simon & Schuster for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

One explosive family reunion. A lifetime of secrets revealed.

When four feisty women from the same family, get together at a family reunion, anything can happen… 

Marie-Claire, betrayed by her partner Marc plans her revenge to teach him a lesson he will never forget. She travels from Toronto, home to Ireland, to the house of the Four Winds, for her great aunt Reverend Mother Brigid’s eightieth birthday celebrations. It will be a long-awaited reunion for three generations of family, bringing together her mother, Keelin and grandmother, Imelda – who have never quite got along. And then all hell breaks loose.  

Bitter, jealous Imelda makes a shocking revelation that forces them all to confront their pasts, admit mistakes, and face the truths that have shaped their lives. With four fierce, opinionated women in one family, will they ever be able to forgive the past and share a future?  

And what of Marc?   It’s never too late to make amends…or is it?    

Spanning generations and covering seismic shifts in the lives of women, A Family Reunion is a compelling, thought-provoking, important and highly emotional novel from a trailblazing author in women’s fiction.

My Thoughts:

For me, Patricia Scanlan’s books are my reading equivalent of a comfort blanket; her incredible and imaginative stories, her sassy, fiery loveable characters, her sage subtle observations and direct wisdom, her absolute understanding of the myriad of emotions, the joyful and the heart breaking experiences of women, shines through from every page she writes. You cannot fail to love her books, reading them is always a potent, poignant and powerful journey and they never fail to expand your heart and mind.

I was a 25 year old trainee legal librarian, when on a commute home from work after a 14 hour day. I realised I had finished my book at lunchtime and didn’t have a spare at work or in my bag (imagine the horror). This was before iPhones, iPads and Kindles existed, there was no way I was getting on the tube without a book, so I made a detour into Books Etc on Fleet Street and there on a table were a pile of deliciously fat books with a picture of what I now know to be Dublin on the cover (in a sort of greenish, gold tinge) and the title ‘Apartment 3B‘ above it and just reading the book jacket, I fell in love with the suggested story and using my emergency £10 hidden in the secret pocket of my handbag I bought it and I don’t remember the journey home but I do remember that I devoured the book and it didn’t last 2 days and now 21 years later, I have the wonderful privilege of reviewing Patricia’s latest book, A Family Reunion… I confess, I am having a complete fan girl moment here and my brain is a bit fuzzy with the weight of responsibility, of providing a review for an author whose books I love and admire so much and that horrible fear, that what if Patricia hates what I’ve written…fingers crossed, she doesn’t but I will apologies now for this review being a bit long.

Firstly, I would like to encourage you to read the dedication on the front page of this book as the thanks Patricia writes here; are a precursor to the themes of the story contained within. Patricia in my opinion has always used her creative voice to illuminate and illustrate social issues, especially those that impact women.  In this her latest book, she pulls out all the stops; this latest story is an epic matriarchal saga spanning decades, with a fantastic cast of female characters, anyone of which as a reader you can identify with. Through the course of the story and her characters, especially Imelda she tackles the outdated and outrageous patriarchal and religious miasma that has oppressed, controlled and dogged Irish women for decades (if not longer) she brings into sharp horrifying relief the cruel and vile behaviour of the Catholic church and highlights incidents of extraordinary suffering women and children have endured, that have gone untold and unaccounted for and were perpetrated under the auspices of Christian charity!

Before I get the term cultural appropriation pinged at me, I should say…both my own maternal lines were Irish, I am named after the county where my grandfather was born and the impact of religious constraints and expectations, are something that greatly affected the women in my own family and the scars of which my grandmother and great aunt bore and kept silent about for all their years, rest in peace granny Mary Agnes and auntie Agnes Mary…you are gone but your fire is not extinguished. Thank you, Patricia, for voicing in this story the reality, the impact of such patriarchal/religious hypocrisy on the lives of women past and present, where contraception and terminations even in the most necessary medical emergencies are forbidden, even if the cost to the woman is death and being part of the fight for such necessary liberation.

The book begins within two time frames, both Christmas Eves; one in 1953 a young woman experiences the loss of a child alone and unaided and in the second opening; in the mid 1980s a young woman whispers to her lover that she is pregnant!…who these woman are, what their stories might be, immediately peak your interest…you are greedy in wanting to know more…and you will.

Reverend Mother Brigid is about to turn 80 years of age and retire from a life of service as a nun, to celebrate, her family has decided to throw her surprise party. In Toronto her great niece Marie-Claire makes a horrible discovery, which turns her life upside down. Rather than dissolving into a cloud of soggy tissues, she in rather spectacular and cryptic style, packs up her life, leaves her partner flummoxed (deservedly so) and gets on a plane home to Ireland to seek solace and space from this incident,  with friends and family. Meanwhile in France, her mother Keelin is getting ready to travel to her beloved aunt’s birthday celebration but with a level of trepidation, as this family gathering will mean spending time with her own rather difficult mother Imelda. Imelda is Brigid’s sister and is wholly and vehemently unimpressed with the idea of celebrating her sister’s birthday and retirement, it is very clear they do not get along (minor understatement) but what could be the cause of such resentment?? Could it be Keelin’s preference for a close loving relationship with her aunt over her own mother, could it be related to a relationship in Brigid’s own past…well you will have to wait and see won’t you and the answers are more complex than you can imagine!

The night of Brigid’s surprise party and after her brother makes her a substantial financial gift;  Imelda cannot control her resentment and bittiness a minute longer and in a shocking, dramatic out pouring of vitriol, spills some long held family secrets that leave her sister, daughter and granddaughter reeling, they are angry,  hurt…and livid with her…Imelda flees the scene! You feel that Imelda will deserve whatever happens next, as she is so spitefully peevish (I think I secretly love how dreadful she is) will her revelations lead to retaliation, retribution or reconciliation for all involved?

Each of the four women, has their own beautifully crafted storyline, that merges and flows into and through the others, taking us back to Brigid and Imelda youth; their antagonistic relationship, the pressure of conforming to paternal expectations; their misunderstanding of each other. We are immersed in the paths their lives take; Brigid seeks escape from the rural life and sees becoming a nun as her means to travel, to be educated (as a nurse) to escape the expected and accepted limitations that being a woman at this time, in this place will have on her but it is only with a lifetime of hindsight will she come to understand the cost of her choice, her decision was not a vocation or a call from God, can she confront the mistakes she may have made?

Imelda is resentful, envious and has no choice but to conform to the life her parents expect, she cannot leave the family farm, to follow her desire of living and working in Dublin. She is wildly jealous of her sister’s escape and is frustrated with her own lack of options for a life, she must look after her granny, then her own parents and her only route of escape is to marry Larry, the owner of the local supermarket who Imelda likes, he makes her laugh but she doesn’t love him! Yet despite this, their marriage/their lives together are pleasant and successful, they very swiftly have a family and Imelda makes a discovery, suffers a wound if you like, that will infect the rest of her life and colour her outlook on life, spirituality and the weight of such emotional burdens corrode her relationships including the one with her own daughter.

 Keelin, whose own path has some epic twists and dramatic turns; especially when she decides to follow in her aunt’s footsteps and become a nun, to the horror of her mother! And that this decision is only the start of her journey which we will see take her to the Ivory Coast and embark on a forbidden romance and the consequences and aftermath of her choices! Including the fracturing of the unsteady relationship with her mother, her own maternal journey and life choices…and so much more! And what about Marie-Claire, what influence will the women in her life have on her decisions, will she return to Canada and Marc or does a new life beckon? How will this story end, I hear you ask, well of course I’m not telling you, you will have to explore Brigid, Imelda, Keelin and Marie-Claire’s stories for yourself but here’s a few final hints;  a tentative reunion, a journey the four women take together, will it be fight to the death or will past resentments and grievances finally be laid to rest…a liberation from the ties and trials of the past.

As a reader, I was completely captivated by the depth and scope of these women’s stories, their lives, their emotions, their humour, their experiences are intense, authentic, powerful and insightful as well as joyfully funny on occasion. Patricia is fantastic at creating emotional explosions and having some of her cast behave terribly (Imelda) but she always balances their bad behaviour with potent reasons for such reactions as she does with this story and these women but of course, this phenomenal story is for you to embrace, enjoy and explore! Patricia is the queen of epic women centric saga’s and this latest book is magnificent and not to be missed, so I must insist you go and buy one right now…I have waffled on for long enough!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Patricia Scanlan lives in Dublin. Her books, all number one bestsellers, have sold worldwide and been translated into many languages.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this tour.

The Favour

Author: Laura Vaughn

Publisher: Corvus

Available: 4th March 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Corvus for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Fortune favours the fraud…

When she was thirteen years old, Ada Howell lost not just her father, but the life she felt she was destined to lead. Now, at eighteen, Ada is given a second chance when her wealthy godmother gifts her with an extravagant art history trip to Italy.  

In the palazzos of Venice, the cathedrals of Florence and the villas of Rome, she finally finds herself among the kind of people she aspires to be: sophisticated, cultured, privileged. Ada does everything in her power to prove she is one of them.

 And when a member of the group dies in suspicious circumstances, she seizes the opportunity to permanently bind herself to this gilded set.   But everything hidden must eventually surface, and when it does, Ada discovers she’s been keeping a far darker secret than she could ever have imagined…

My Thoughts:

What prompted my initial interest in this novel were the familiar correlations with my own academic studies, I like Laura have BA in the History of Art. Reading this story set in the opulence of Venice, the historic grandeur of Florence and the magnificence of Rome brought me rushing back to my own experiences of my time in each of these historical, cultural epicentres, the art, the lifestyle, beautiful Italian waiters who give you roses and yes that happened to me. There is a somnolence and sensuality to these cities and they have an atmosphere unlike anything you will experience anywhere else, they are intoxicating.

Laura’s book has its roots set in the experiences of a group of young adults, who are in essence embarking and experiencing their own ‘Grand Tour’ adventure. Similar to the journeys of discovery, some of their forbearers will have taken and what struck me intensely is how much Laura book reminds me of the mercurial character mixture from Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, similarly I felt it imbued with the creeping sinister subtly of Lord of the Flies by William Golding and immersed with a cadence of mysterious unfathomability I have only ever experienced when watching a Stephen Poliakoff series. The story is a masterpiece of misdirection, peppered with themes around privilege, identity and friendship. The seemingly engaging tale of a young woman desperately trying to re-establish her identity and status and her actions mask the true depth of the cunning plotline. I was truly captivated and enthralled by the story in fact..I read the whole book in one sitting…I simply couldn’t stop reading it.

Everything Ada Howell knew was taken from her with her father’s death (although technically he’s only her step-father) when she was 13 years old, the comfort and familiarity of being the daughter of a once well-regarded author, her home at Garreg Las and the life they had together. With her mother she moves to an non-descript terraced house in Brockley, London nothing is the same and her isolation and discomfort at these changes bring only one thing to her mind, ‘This was not my life’ she exclaims…Ada is the lonely outsider, craving a route back to what she knows…as a posh swot at her comprehensive her first attempt to do this, is via academic success, to follow in her father’s footsteps and attain a place at his college at Oxford but she bungles the second interview and is once again rejected and so ejected from the life path Ada believes she should be on.

Luckily fate intervenes,  her gloriously eccentric and wealthy godmother Delilah Grant steps in, offering to pay for Ada to attend a modern version of a ‘Grand tour’ run by Dilettanti Discoveries and on researching more about the trip, more than anything Ada wishes to be a dilettante and all that this title suggests. And so, the mercurial cast of typically toxic teens assembles in Venice, Italy and Laura has given them such glorious names and it reminded me very much of the similarly titled cohort, I attended university with…so made me grin in fond reminisce. This cast characters are almost a parody of themselves, they are frivolous, enigmatic, charismatic, entitled occasionally charming and obliviously offensive…but I loved their construction, their sharp conversation, their romances, their infighting and their almost machiavellian struggles to establish their status within the group and wider world…now I can’t possibly spoil what occurs at the end of their trip but I will provide some hints; an illicit affair, a mix up and a mistake with tragic results, leaves one of the group dead and at the centre of this maelstrom of circumstances is Ada.

We watch her make a decision at the time of the tragedy, which seems to be an act of loyalty, of friendship…a favour if you will because, part of the altruistic nature friendship is one; of assistance; of support; of protection. Ada’s actions seem to be part of her journey and her need to establish herself within this group, to protect her ‘friends’; you believe that her actions are innocent, a misguided favour to her friends and if I’m honest you don’t really consider her choices or the full ramifications of them….hindsight is illuminating is all I will say!

As the story moves on to what happens next; when the individuals separate and go on to University, to their first jobs, the start of their careers, their new relationships and yet they are still a bonded group who get together with regularity and enjoy all the trappings of wealth and privilege and you feel satisfied that Ada has indeed found the life and friends she believed she should have (although still not quite to the extent she would like)…oh but it really isn’t that simple and it is at this point, you being to really see how immensely clever, cunning and sublime this story is and I want to just hug Laura for being so deliciously devious, and that as a reader your assumptions about the characters of Ada and Oliver are completely upended in stunning, shocking style and what you believe to be true, can be seen completely another way…I was mesmerised by the genius of the plotline…bravo Laura bravo…and you think you’ve unravelled the true nature of the plot but trust me….you absolutely haven’t, as this story ends with gutsy glorious sting in its tale and I literally wanted to jump up and down on my sofa and applaud the ending, it is so delightfully clever!

This is book you will be compelled to devour and then like me, you want to share its secrets and excitedly recommend it to all your friends, family and colleagues; it is a clever, complex, accomplished book and my ecstatic and enthusiastic recommendation is that you simply MUST read it, The Favour will definitely be on my list of favourite books for 2021. See what you think?

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Laura Vaughan grew up in rural Wales and studied Art History in Italy and Classics at Bristol and Oxford.

She got her first book deal aged twenty-two and went on to write eleven books for children and young adults. 

The Favour is her first novel for adults. She lives in South London with her husband and two children.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Behind Closed Doors

Author: Catherine Alliott

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 4th March 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Sriya Varadharajan and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

From the outside, anyone would think that Lucy Palmer has it all: loving children, a dashing husband and a gorgeous home.

But when her marriage to Michael comes to an abrupt and unexpected end, her life is turned upside down in a flash.

As the truth of her marriage threatens to surface, Lucy seizes the opportunity to swap her house in London – and the stories it hides – for a rural escape to her parents’ farmhouse in the Chilterns.

But Lucy gets more than she bargained for when she moves back to her childhood home, especially when it throws her into the path of an old flame.

Coming face-to-face with her mistakes, Lucy is forced to confront the secrets she’s been keeping from herself and those she loves.

Is she ready to let someone in? Or will she leave the door to her past firmly closed . . .

My Thoughts:

It has been a good few years since I last read one of Catherine’s books. So, when I read the details of her latest novel. I thought it was high time that I reacquainted myself with her story telling skills and I am so glad I did. Catherine’s latest story is an enticing blend of family drama, edged by darkness but uplifted by her joyful, pithy humour and kept me thoroughly engrossed from the first page to the last.

Lucy Palmer has the type of life many of us aspire to have; a beautiful London home, perfect job writing cosy crime novels and a rather delicious husband and 2 children who have flown the coop and are establishing lives and successful careers of their own…sounds blissful doesn’t it. For Lucy life is going along swimmingly until unbeknownst to her, this ideal is not her reality. Like the proverbial house of cards, it comes crashing to the ground as Lucy and Michael’s marriage collapses in shocking style…which leaves you utterly stunned…literally open mouthed…so you can only imagine how Lucy feels!!!And as a result, Lucy has to face and attempt to deal with spectres of her past.

Lucy leaves the catastrophic remnants of her London life and moves back to her parents and their rural idle, ostensibly to care for them, now they are in their dotage and it becomes vividly and comically apparent that her parent’s may in fact be practically pickled, given their fondness for a tipple or four…and I did wonder if Lucy’s search for sanctuary and her hopes to start over would be an uphill battle, which of course starting over always is but there is also an potential romantic element to this story on the horizon too which is more than encouraging for Lucy and us readers.

Overall, I was rather intrigued and surprised to find Catherine’s latest book had a much murkier side that I have ever read from her before, especially relating to the explosive end of Lucy and Michael’s marriage and the reasons why (and of course I’m not giving you those details, that would be a significant spoiler!) I was also very impressed with Catherine’s insightful and poignant depictions of Lucy’s efforts to care for her aging parents and it evoked a deep felt reaction in me because, this is an element that is slowly but surely becoming a part of my life and relationship with my own rather boisterous aged ps and I thought Catherine couched it perfectly. Along with the dark and more evocative edge to this story are Catherine’s gems of comic genius, that make you laugh out loud. Lucy’s parents are incredible characters and I adored their golden oldie booze fests and their considerable efforts to live this part of their lives as disreputably as possible…and at the other end of the scale are the teenage twins who are smart and savvy and their observations were funny beyond their years and all of these elements made for a fabulous family dynamic and kept me turning the pages to discover more.

The title of this book, ‘Behind Closed Doors’ denotes that it is a story, where a family’s secrets are supposed to be kept private and hidden but instead Catherine has thrown open these doors and afforded us the delicious opportunity to cry, to laugh, to revel in this family and it is a story that cannot fail to touch your heart. So, buckle up bookophiles for this engaging, engrossing emotional roller-coaster of a read…I loved it and I know that you will too.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Catherine Alliott has written sixteen bestselling novels and is translated into eighteen languages. 

She has sold over 3 million books worldwide. She lives with her family in Hertfordshire, UK.

Please do have a read of other reviews on this blog tour.

Lie Beside Me

Author: Gytha Lodge

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 18th March 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Ella Watkins and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

You wake up.

You can’t remember what happened.

The man lying next to you is not your husband.

And he’s not breathing . . .

Louise wakes up. Her head aches, her mouth is dry, her memory is fuzzy. But she suspects she’s done something bad. She rolls over towards her husband, Niall. But it’s not Niall who’s lying beside her. In fact, she’s never seen this man before. And he’s dead . . .

As Louise desperately struggles to piece her memories back together, Detective Jonah Sheens and his team mark her as their prime suspect.

But she’s not the only one with something to hide . . .

Did she do it?

And, if not, can they catch the real killer before they strike again?

My Thoughts:

By now most people reading my book blog know that I am a huge fan of crime novels, especially the deliciously devious and deviant kind like this one but to put your minds at rest, I am not planning to use any of their content for any nefarious plans of my own…well not this week at least! Partly I love them because, they are an intellectual challenge, where I pit my own knowledge of the genre against the clever and creative mind of the author. Can I figure out the plot, spot the red herrings and work out who the villian of the piece is before the shocking reveal…that is all part of my personal enjoyment of reading books like Gytha’s and trust me when I say she is a genius level adversary.

Now I also have a confession, this latest instalment of Gytha’s DCI Jonah Sheen’s series is my first foray into her books, despite the fact I own her previous two titles…my reason for being so remiss in not reading them, is this and I hold my hands up, it’s a bit odd. You see I’m dyslexic and I my super power is that I can read exceedingly quickly (as in 100+pages an hour) …it off-sets the complete lack of short term recall and my inability to write anything particularly quickly! Anyway back to my quick reading skills, it means that I tend to devour crime novels at a ridiculous rate, so I like to read established series (as in ones that span a few books) so tend I buy each book as it comes and then greedily hoard them until I can binge read them all at once…I find the wait between books torturous…so this is my weird and wonderful excuse…for not having read them until now! Do not take a leaf out of my book, you need all these incredible reads in your crime collection today. They are simply outstanding.

This latest instalment begins with the team being called to the discovery of a man’s body in the front garden of an innocuous suburban housing estate, its dark, freezing cold with snow on the ground. There is seemingly no connection between the dead man and the occupant of the house…a Mrs Louise Reakes. Ah but dear bookophiles we know better don’t we! So how did this supposed dead stranger end up here!

The story is told from 2 angles, that of Louise Reakes in a diaristic/cryptic recounting style, that details her life both past and present, her dark and messy alter ego ‘Drunk Louise‘ who surfaces when tempted with booze and gives her the unrestrained freedom to be confident, sexy and dynamic, a complete contrast to ‘Sober Louise‘ who is a talented harpist, deeply insecure, desperate to start a family and who is confused most of the time about her relationship with her husband Niall. Although it becomes apparent, her reasons for relying on ‘Drunk Louise’ is due in part to the encouragement of her gregarious, sassy friend April and in part because of the inconsistent, entitled and conflicting behaviour of Niall her husband (and boy did he make my taser finger itchy!!!) Louise’s addiction to alcohol makes her vulnerable emotionally, physically and psychologically and it is the catalyst for the circumstances she finds herself in! Is she a suspect or is she a victim or can she be both?

Imagine my delight in finding a crime author who loves puns as much as I do, the very title of this book is a play on words, referring to the stunning opening where the character of Louise awakes in her dark silent bedroom, and in a hungover fug, seeks the comfort of the familiar, her husband’s sleeping bulk only it isn’t him she is ‘lying beside’. However this story is built around the concept of lies, the lies we tell ourselves, the lies we tell others and the lies we tell our partners…so in essence the title of ‘lie beside me’ illustrates the ‘lies’ Louise and Niall tell each other within their marriage…literally lie beside me denoting the physical action of standing next to each other and lying! I Love it!!! and there is plenty more lying to come!

The contrasting angle of the novel is that of the actions and interactions of the dishy, diligent and determined crime detectives team of DCI Jonah Sheen (yum), Juliette Hanson, Ben Lightman (double yum) and Domnell O Malley who throw themselves into investigating this strange, complex crime. I confess I have two unreserved crushes on Sheen & Lightman they are both delightfully yummy in contrasting ways. The character dynamics of the whole team is engaging, with the added spice of expected and unexpected tensions brought about by their relationships with each other and outside lives. There is a great sub plot involving Hanson as well that keeps you on the edge of your seat (and I love how Gytha has approached the subject of Juliette’s ex, his outrageous behaviour and the clever, astute and ultimately satisfying resolution to this element).

As to how this tale unfolds, well you know I am not going to give it away…but here’s a teaser or two; actions of an ex-wife, the loyalty of friendship, returning drunken memories, misdirection, misadventure and matrimonial mistakes…and so much more and as to the end, expect the unexpected! This novel is a masterpiece of crime drama, with a story of stunning, subtle secrets and labyrinthine lies, the plotting is topical, clever and sublime and makes you grin and gasp in equal measure with its magnificent audacity. You cannot fail to be engrossed and enthralled by it, I was and I have no doubt you will be too. I can’t wait to read what Gytha writes next…please be soon, very very soon.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Gytha Lodge is a multi-award-winning playwright, novelist and writer for video games and screen. She is also a single parent who blogs about the ridiculousness of bringing up a mega-nerd small boy.

She has a profound addiction to tea, crosswords and awful puns. She studied English at Cambridge, where she became known quite quickly for her brand of twisty, dark yet entertaining drama. She later took the Creative Writing MA at UEA.

Her debut crime novel, She Lies in Wait, has been published by Penguin Random House in the US and UK, and has also been translated into 12 other languages. It became an international bestseller in 2019, and was a Richard and Judy book club pick, as well as a Sunday Times and New York Times crime pick.

Watching From the Dark, her second novel, is released in February 2020, with her third book lined up for spring of 2021.

Please do read some of the reviews available on this blog tour.

The Winter’s Fail

Author: Sara Madderson

Available: 14th January 2021 in Paperback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Sara Madderson for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

 Book Details:

It’s all a huge mess.

Emmy is back from years of aid work in India when she gets knocked up by her boss. She fleas to her sister Rosa in Surrey and there she meets Jack, who offers her a dream job and a taste of happiness. But there’s one major problem: how to tell him she’s pregnant?

Rosa is a mega-influencer obsessed by portraying the perfect image to millions of followers. For her, perception is reality. So, when someone close to her sabotages the brand she’s worked so hard to build, can she find anything in her real life worth fighting for?

Stacey has walked away from the perfect guy after four kids and fourteen years of marriage. She’s intent on making up for lost time in the dating world, before some bad news shocks her into reassessing what she wants from life. Is it possible she’s got it all upside-down?

The Winter’s Fail is the story of three women navigating love, friendship and careers with all the highs and headaches they bring. Enjoy being reunited with some of your favourite characters from Sara’s previous books too: Evelyn, Angus, Astrid and others!

My Thoughts:

Back in November 2020, I was lucky enough to read and review Sara’s book ‘Parents and Teachers’ and I found it the perfect tonic to the dark days of lockdown 2.0 and its presence still brightens my bookshelves today. So, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to another delicious, decadent and delightfully naughty novel by Sara. Without restraint I devoured this latest book in one sitting, so pour your pomegranate martini, snuggle into your cashmere slipper socks and prepare for a read of sinful satisfaction.

Although this book is a stand-alone story, it was lovely to catch up with some familiar faces from Sara’s two previous books who make a cameo appearance in this book. Set over the course of one month (December) we get to meet Sara’s new characters; Emmy who wants to be a force for good in this world but a heart-breaking experience in India, leads her to flee the country and her job. Landing her back in London, a temp assignment at Loeb Equity, leads to a distracting, illicit affair, which turns out to be an ill-conceived idea literally in every way! Bless her Emmy is the living embodiment of a dramatic soap opera and I found myself muttering several times, Emmy…what on earth are you doing!?

Enter Rosa, Emmy’s big sister, she is determined, dedicated and sublimely glamorous, the queen of aspirational lifestyles and an Instagram influencer, she is ready and able to revamp her sister, when the need arises but her lifestyle choices lead to some gasp out loud familial tribulation…seriously if Tallulah was my child, I would lock her under the stairs until she is 20, you will see why!

Then there’s Stacey, a sexy, savvy, financial guru, who after 14 years,  4 children and the seemingly prefect marriage to the exceedingly yummy, Mr raunchy on a rug, Jack, she realised how terminally bored and frustrated she has been and rather than let it destroy her family. Stacey opts to get out and follow her desire for independence and sexual adventure. With some steamy shower action & just you wait for the sexy swimming, it will certainly raise your temperature and as to the talents of Jack, well they will cause you to grin at your interior textiles, ok that might be just me and Sara probably! Oh, and it doesn’t end there wait for the appearance of Ariel Bloch…swoon!

What I love about Sara’s books are that she creates, such thrilling and glamorous lives for her characters but always there is a deeper message behind the actions of her cast. For me in this story, the line ‘Fortune favours the brave’ is a subtle and clever message. That the trappings of a luxurious life are wonderful and to be desired and appreciated however just because a relationship looks a certain way (i.e. perfect) to everyone else, doesn’t mean it is working for those in it. Sometimes in life we have to make decisions for ourselves and our families that don’t fit with the accepted societal norm and stepping away from those expectations takes courage and bravery and so it is for all the women in Sara’s latest book, they all make decisions that many initially cause a raft of chaos but the long term results are so much better for everyone and are fabulous and inspiring to read about.

This latest book certainly primed my mind, body and soul (thank you Jack) so if lockdown 3.0 is darkening your mood, this is the book to enlighten and ignite it, with dreamy interiors, gorgeous shoes, girls with gumption, delectable men, chilli with a bang and a whole lot of exciting, enticing exploits this is definitely the read for you. So put your silk panties on, shimmy to the sofa and prepare to smile and sigh with equal measure…Thank you Sara for another scintillating, stunning and sumptuous instalment…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

I like to change things up! I spent my 20s as a banker and my 30s bringing up small children and running my own fashion brand (Madderson London).

Now, aged 42, I find myself writing, and I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner.

I’ve always loved writing. My daughter Tilly has an old notebook of mine filled with half-finished stories and accompanying drawings. I’ve read for as long as I can remember, guzzling up books so quickly that my mum always protested that I couldn’t be reading them properly. You can see my original, dog-eared version of A Little Princess in my photo. Its protagonist, Sara Crewe, is one of my all-time favourite heroines (alongside Anne Shirley, naturally).

I published my first book, Metamorphosis, in February 2020, right before lockdown happened. It’s a non-fiction book about escaping from our cocoons and living as a butterfly. As lockdown progressed, I found escapism in devouring lots of delicious chick-lit (for want of a better title) and I realised I had a few novels in me too. The results are Food for Thought and Parents and Teachers, and I have loved every single minute of writing them. I’d like to thank my puppy, Charlie, for waking me at dawn every morning–it turns out that when you’re a parent in lockdown, those early mornings represent precious creative time.

I’ve published my books independently, and I love the freedom it provides. The world of independent publishing is fascinating and so empowering–I’m delighted to share more of my experiences of self-publishing if you’re interested.

Please do have a read of other reviews on this blog tour.

The Beloved Girls

Author: Harriet Evans

Publisher: Headline

Available: 19th August 2021 in Hardback, Ebook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Headline for my gorgeous, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

BY SUMMER’S END, THERE WILL BE ONLY ONE . . .

‘It’s a funny old house. They have this ceremony every summer . . . There’s an old chapel, in the grounds of the house. Half-derelict. The Hunters keep bees in there. Every year, on the same day, the family processes to the chapel. They open the combs, taste the honey. Take it back to the house. Half for them -‘ my father winced, as though he had bitten down on a sore tooth. ‘And half for us.’

Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?

The answer lies buried in the past.

It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold. Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. And she and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present . . .

‘We need the bees to survive, and they need us to survive. Once you understand that, you understand the history of Vanes, you understand our family.’

My Thoughts:

One of the greatest pleasures and privileges of being a book blogger is when I have the opportunity to review a book by an author whose previous books, I have long enjoyed and admired and Harriet is one of those writers for me. Her seamless blending of timelines, her elegant, intriguing plots which captivate and cajole your imagination. Harriet’s books are reading treasure and her complex and fascinating characters and their incredible stories resonate with me long after I have closed the book on their tales. As I am sure you can imagine, I am honoured to be providing a review for Harriet’s latest book, The Beloved Girls which for me encompasses the epitome of exquisite, elegant, enticing storytelling and once you fall under the spell of this book. You will be compelled by a need to know all and will not be able to stop reading until there are no pages left to turn and your curiosity is finally sated!

This wonderful book is divided into segments and moves fluidly between the past and the present and the progression of each segment is narrated from the viewpoint of specific protagonists and though this might sound a little confusing, let me reassure you that it isn’t, as each of the characters becomes known to you the reader, their perspective on events illuminates the details and provides answers to many of questions that you cannot help but formulate given the trajectory of story. In fact, the progression of the plotlines in this way makes the story more atmospheric and tantalising and oh my goodness it is delicious!

The prologue of the book opens with a father and daughter travelling to visit family friends; the Hunters at Vanes, located in the wild beauty of Somerset. These two families are clearly connected (but the full details of their relationship to each other at this stage, are yet to be revealed) it is clear considerable time has passed since they were last in each other’s company and the initial re-introductions are mildly tense and most decidedly awkward; with stilted greetings and pointed looks; all the characters are present, but their roles in this story are yet to play out and I found myself tense with a sense of disquiet this opening brings!! The adage, the past is always present encapsulates the essence of this novel.

The opening segment of the book transports us back to the present and focuses on Catherine Christophe (nee Lestrange); barrister, wife, mother; her life seemingly perfect but there are cracks; the family returns home after a week in France to discover that their home has been broken into and Catherine’s study ransacked and we assume (from the clues we are provided with) that this act is merely petty revenge on Catherine due to her recent failure to successfully defend a murder case…yet the pieces of the puzzle, leading to this assumption do not add up! For an astute, savvy barrister, Catherine’s behaviours are concerning, she is distanced, distracted and dissociated from everything around her and seemly you conclude that she is on the edge of some sort of mental break down but there is insufficient reasons for why, this might be the case but there are clues, that her past may hold the answers we seek and just when you think you’re on the cusp of revelation, Catherine disappears; was this by choice or by force?…As if I ‘m going to spoil that element for you!

The common denominator in all the segments is Vanes, with its ancient, mysterious heritage and traditions; surrounding bees and honey and the annual paganesque ritual of collecting. The Hunter family are as mystifying and somewhat as malevolent as their estate. There is a malignancy that coats the patriarch Charles, who is vile and viciously unpleasant to his own family but to outsiders is debonair and full of the faux bon hominy of his entitled social standing. The full extent of the miasma of secrets and lies, that surrounds the Hunters only becomes viciously and vividly apparent as the story develops but you may gather that I am keeping the nuances of these shocking secrets to myself, for they are yours to explore when you read this book! Visiting Vanes through the eyes and emotions of Jayne and Kitty reminded me very much of sinister, sublime taint of Manderley in Daphne Du Maurier’s book – Rebecca, if you’ve read it, you will know precisely what I mean.

Everybody and everything has, in this novel a connection, the tragedies of the past are not limited to the incident at Vanes but the rancorous ramifications impact the entire cast; and throw shadows on their present. This is a story about family, of love and loss; of suspense and secrets, avarice, and revenge, it is shocking, sensational and an utterly scintillating read; I can’t wait for you to make the same discoveries I have; about Sylvia and Simon, Kitty and Jayne; the clues are all there for you to untangle this web of deception; beware of Wellington Bear and Fear of Bees and that is all I’m saying on the matter.

Before I go, I really must draw your attention to the stunning cover and front/back pieces of this book, which are filled with beautiful details all of which have a part to play in this story but what they are exactly you will have to read the book and discover and then take a closer look at the cover art, same goes for the title of the story…I say this with a knowing look! Harriet really is the Mistress of Mystery and the Doyen of Detail and every page is dripping with them. I stayed up late into the night reading this incredible story, to dispel the disquiet in my mind and revel in the righteous retribution and resolution at the end.

This book will leave you buzzing with exhilaration in the wake of its dark drama and I have no doubt you will love it as much as I have! Read it and find out exactly what I mean.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Born and raised in Chiswick, Harriet Evans loved drama and reading from an early age. These passions led her to Bristol University, where she read Classical Studies before returning to London to begin her professional career.

Having made her way into the publishing industry, Harriet worked for seven years at Penguin, before moving to Headline where she worked from 2003 to 2009.

In the end, Harriet’s love of for writing won out over her publishing career and she enjoys being lucky enough to focus on her writing as a full-time novelist.

With a passion for women’s commercial fiction and a dedication to promoting its reputation, Harriet Evans is the author of eleven novels which have all been bestsellers, including A Place for Us, Going Home and Love Always.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

Fireborn

Author: Aisling Fowler

Publisher: Harper Collins

Available: 30th September 2021 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Dave and The Write Reads Blog Tours and Harper Collins for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fireborn-1-Aisling-Fowler/dp/0062996711/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56554614-fireborn

Book Details

Lyra. Lucy. Percy. Once in a generation, a hero emerges whose story enthralls readers worldwide.

Fireborn is an epic quest, perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials and The School for Good and Evil series, that will spin readers into a magical world like no other–and introduce them to an unforgettable new heroine named Twelve.

Ember is full of monsters.

Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them–so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her.

But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny–and the very fate of her world.

My Thoughts

As a Godmother to an incredible 10 year old…when she was born, I promised at her naming celebration to be responsible for the 3Bs; Baking, Books & Boys…so far my remit has only covered the first two Bs (for now). So, when I read the details of Fireborn, I simply couldn’t resist reading it and I’m pretty certain now that I finished this phenomenal adventure that my GGD (glorious goddaughter) will love this story, I know I did! Aisling has waved her creative wand and crafted an epic quest, filled with magic, mystery, menacing monsters and a bit of mayhem too. Through Aislings vibrant writing you are transported into 12’s fantastical world

12 has relinquished her name, her identity and so much more to become a Hunter of Monsters; a small price to pay to wreak vengeance on those who destroyed her family. Dedicating her life to the Hunting Lodge, 12 is a Hunter in training; a Huntling. Her aspiration is to become a Hunter, whose role is to rid the world of a host of deadly and despicable monsters (the details of which are vividly depicted in her copy of A Magical Bestiary; which lists pertinent details about each creature and ranks their danger/aggression/difficultly to dispatch) and gives you a very tangible sense of threat and anticipation for the battles ahead! Life as a Huntling is not easy for 12, she doesn’t quite fit in but when the Hunting Lodge is attacked and one of her cohort is taken; her keen sense of loyalty comes to the fore and she embarks on her quest to rescue 7 but she is not alone on her adventures.

You cannot help but love 12 as a character, she is a girl with gumption, fierce, fiery, and occasionally frustrating in the way of all young women and very often her reactions put her in a pickle! Yet you cannot fail to admire her grit, determination, and tenacity in the face of adversity. And like every hero/heroine she is not alone in her travails and I can’t wait for you to meet Dog (Stone Guardian) and who I adore (you’ll see why) and the precocious Widge; I mean who wouldn’t want a squirrel for a friend! I really applaud Aisling’s imaginative gift for creating characters whose emotional intelligence develop through her story. 12 is a complex character, whose past has coloured her reactions to others and her environment; yes she is totally kick-ass but also someone who has experienced loneliness, isolation and grief and yet uses these emotions to drive herself forward and when faced with many thrilling, terrifying predicaments she learns that she has the skills to survive but she can’t do everything herself, nor does she have to. I admired how the themes of acceptance, teamwork, friendship, and forgiveness are woven into this wonderful story.

Will 12 be able to rescue 7? Will 12 uncover what nefarious plot is truly at the heart of this adventure or who or what is behind it…maybe, but of course I’m not going to spoil any secrets or surprises here, those are for you to read and discover for yourselves. This book is such a magnificent, magical read that whether your 9 or 46 years of age you will find yourself enraptured with 12, her friends and her foes and utterly transfixed by this other world and I am very much hoping that there will be a return journey very very soon. I can hardly wait to find out what might happen next…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Aisling was born in 1985 and wishes that she had grown up in a magical, mountainous kingdom, but was actually raised in Surrey on a diet of books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her early ‘adventure’ stories involved surprisingly little action and her first novel (3 pages long) was politely declined by publishers at age 11. After earning a BSc in Biology and working as a support worker and then a nurse, the idea for her debut novel, Fireborn, came to her as she moved back and forth between London and the US. Now based in Hackney, when she is not reading or writing, Aisling loves cooking and plotting adventures (for herself as well as her fictional characters). Fireborn will be published by HarperCollins in 2021.