Trobairitz The Storyteller

Author: Celia Micklefield

Available: Now, in Paperback and eBook

Purchase Link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trobairitz-storyteller-1-Celia-Micklefield/dp/1500973203

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Celia Micklefield 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:

Trobairitz were female troubadours of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They brought news and sang songs about love, tradition and the role of women in society.

Feisty truck driver, Weed, a twenty first century Trobairitz never gives personal details to other drivers. She avoids the intimacy of real friendship.

Instead, she entertains the truckers by telling the story of ex-courtesan, seventy-six-year-old Catherine Joubert and the mysterious hold she has over young mayor, Henri-Claude Noilly and his grandfather.

Weed’s themes are those of the original Trobairitz but these are the very subjects causing problems in her own life.

My Thoughts:

Well my lovely bookophiles, you must make suitable comfort preparations before you settle down to read this magnificent book. You will need lots of frothy coffee, a minimum of at least 10 Ferrero Roche and a soft cosy throw to snuggle under, then curl up and immerse yourself in this story. Reading this book for me was rather like playing literary pass the parcel, it is gloriously multi-layered, with an addictive dual narrative and each layer you unwrap reveals fabulous new pieces of the stories it contained within the whole. This book is a remarkable and resplendent read and you won’t be able to stop reading until you finish it…I couldn’t! I will offer no apologies that my review will be filled with superlatives about how stupendous this book is! The book details alone set my bookophile senses tingling and oh my goodness…what a treat you have instore!

It is my privilege to introduce you to Weed, yes…Weed. Whose given name is Fleur Eloise Marie-Frances but she was not overly keen on this moniker and wanted to be called something non-floral and of course the anthesis of flowers are weeds! My first impression of her, is tomboyish (but not laddish!) intensely private and exceedingly perceptive and savvy. Telling stories, is Weed’s route to acceptance; as a child at school and now to quiet the clamour of her testosterone laden colleagues, which is where we first encounter her, as Weed is at a truckers stop on one of her long haul journeys and to deflect the nosey attentions of her fellow truckers, she begins to tell them a story…

Set in the village of Montalhan Sans Vents, which she describes as being built like the pattern of snail shell, where the church is at the top of the hill and houses spiral down from it.  This is a story about women, community, their lives, about courage, the art of love and the power of jealousy, we are introduced to a host of vivid, fascinating characters; Madame Catherine Joubert with her opulent and decadent past and owner of the magnificent Demeure Des Cedres; Henri-Claude Noilly the current Mayor, with a long familial legacy in the town and clearly has issues with Mme Joubert; Newcomers Linda & her children, who have moved from England and whose husband is painfully absent; Mrs Dorothy Hilliard, whose past is as colourful as her clothes, all with captivating stories of their own but each of which intertwines with the others, stories within stories, within stories, it is mesmeric in structure.

A wealth of intriguing, absorbing details; evocative, tantalising images and Celia’s delicious descriptions; you can literally hear every bird sing; taste the warm flaky pain aux chocolate; feel the sun warming a terrace. Celia is the doyen of tangible description and I was (and still am) entranced. And just as you are completely spellbound by these tales…we are transported back to Weed’s life. And her life journey is equally as irresistible and intriguing as the stories she weaves. She is not merely a long haul trucker; Weed has a past and trials of her own; her flawed relationship with Fabien; her wonderful friendship with Irish ex-pats Quentin and Rose; her loving and vibrant adopted family…that span the magnificence of France, Spain and Italy. Weed’s own story is every bit as engaging! And yes, I am being purposefully vague about the specifics because you need to experience their discovery for yourselves!

These stories of life are the vibrant threads woven to by Celia to create this transfixing literary tapestry. Weed’s whole existence; physically and emotionally is nomadic a constant journey from here to there and back again, her stories are her escape from the weight of intimacy and love…can she, will she realise this and will she be able to change…I can’t wait for you to find out.

Having only recently finished reading this book, I am besotted, beguiled and enamoured with the stories and charismatic characters this novel contains. I cannot stress enough how much I want you to soak yourself in the lusciousness of the Languedoc. You need to buy this book, right now, today…it was what prime was designed for, you should not spend once second longer in this world without this book…see I told you at the beginning, I was exceedingly enthusiastic about it! Celia I am in awe of the way you write, and the story and cast you have created; please, please, please…I beseech you, tell me there is going to be a sequel?

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

After living in Languedoc for nine years I returned to Norfolk where I live surrounded by beautiful countryside and wildlife.

I’m ageing faster than I used, but I’ve still got ambitions.

My website is http://www.celiamicklefield.com where I write about reading, writing, living with CRPS and other things that take my fancy.

Come and visit – the door is always open.

I’m on Twitter @cmicklefield

I have a Celia Micklefield Author page on FaceBook

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

Shiver

Author: Allie Reynolds

Publisher: Headline

Available: Out now, January 2021; in Hardback, eBook and Audio

Thank you to Alana Delfosse 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:

‘A truly gripping chiller of a thriller. Sensational ‘ PETER JAMES

‘A white-knuckle-ride through a dangerous world full of deadly ambition’ ERIN KELLY

‘A knife-sharp locked room mystery’ HARRIET TYCE

‘An exciting, twisty page-turner that will keep you guessing all the way to the end’ C.L. TAYLOR

READ THE MOST EXHILARATING THRILLER OF THE YEAR

They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.

How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.

When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.

The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.

In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.

My Thoughts:

Talk about an apt title for a book, everything about this story made me Shiver;  the freezing cold of the of the French alps; the icy sinistrous narrative and the piercing attitudes of the characters but mostly this sensational story made me palpitate with tension and anticipation! From the first page to the last, this incredible story makes for greedily addictive reading. I foolishly picked the book up one evening in the week, thinking, I will just read the first chapter…at 1.30am, my partner got up and came down to retrieve me from the sofa…saying he would hide the book, if I didn’t come to bed!! I reluctantly agreed (but got up at 5.30am to finish it) because, once you start you simply cannot put this book down!

A reunion, it has been a decade since five friends have been in each other’s company; ten years since the winter where one of their cohort the beautiful and ruthless Saskia vanished…curious circumstances have gathered them together now! In a remote, isolated and all but deserted ski resort, a place that once was the home of their trials and triumphs as our cast all strived to succeed in the thrilling and dangerous world of elite snowboarding! Where winning was everything and it seems that competition was not confined only to the slopes!

The story is told from Milla’s point of view and has alternating timelines between the past and the present, where sinister secrets were born and maybe now have come full circle, the plotlines are perfectly blended and there is an ever present fission of tension, that just keeps on building!

The story is an avalanche of mind games, manipulations and dark, delicious deviousness…it is indeed a wild ride! I loved the interplay of characters, the undulating group dynamics were brilliant, intense and passionate in every way! All through the story Allie had me constantly thinking; what really happened and obsessively trying to figure out the slalom of twists and turns; who really can be trusted and I was gripped by unrelenting need to know, who is responsible for this reprehensible reunion! I have no doubt you will be as desperate as I was to find out the answers but of course, I have no intension of spoiling that experience for you!

Quite simply, you absolutely must read this book, I insist…it is utterly compelling, sublimely crafty and quaveringly creepy and with pay day weekend on the horizon there are no excuses, do not miss out on this exceptional story. Allie you are a complete star, a superb character wrangler and master plotter…Whatever you write next, I want to read it!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Allie Reynolds is the author of the thriller SHIVER, which will be published in January 2021.

Born and raised in Lincoln, England, she moved to Australia in 2004. She lives on the Gold Coast with her two young boys and a cat who thinks he’s a dog.

Many years ago, she competed at snowboard halfpipe. She spent five winters in the mountains of France, Switzerland, Austria and Canada. These days she sticks to surfing – water doesn’t hurt as much as ice when you fall on it.

Her first ever job was a Saturday job in a bookstore, at age 14. She taught English for many years and became a full-time writer in 2018.

You can find her on:

www.twitter.com/AuthorAllieR

www.instagram.com/authorallier

Please do read other reviews from the blog tour of this book

Cerebral Palsy: A Story

Author: Ilana Estelle

Publisher: RedDoor Press

Available: 2nd January 2021 in Paperback and eBook

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cerebral-Palsy-Story-Finding-After/dp/1913062112

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/books/cerebral-palsy-a-story-finding-the-calm-after-the-storm/9781913062118

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours 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:

Living with cerebral palsy is enormously difficult. But what if you never knew you had it?

This is the incredible story of Ilana Estelle.

Born the second of premature twins, an hour apart, from a young age Ilana knew she was different, but for all the wrong reasons. A child of the 60s, Ilana experienced first-hand the way that disability was, at the time, so often brushed under the carpet, not spoken about. Her constant physical and mental struggles made her feel isolated, alone, frustrated, and misunderstood. It took 46 years for her to find out why.

Part memoir, part motivational guide, Cerebral Palsy: My story is Ilana’s open and honest journey from an angry, confused child, knowing something was wrong, not knowing what was wrong, what her disability was, or that there was a diagnosis – to the ‘real’ her – a courageous woman using her experiences and lessons to create inspiring messages about mental and physical health, resilience and change.

My Thoughts:

Like Ilana my birth was extremely traumatic both for my mother (who still at 76 years of age) bares the lasting physical damage of my arrival. She was quite literally torn to shreds internally!! The responsibility for this medical calamity was never addressed and funnily my mother’s medical records from this time (simply disappeared!!) I bet they did!!! And as for me, I was literally ripped from inside her, there was damage to my skull and I was left with a displaced hip (which nobody noticed until a family friend and GP) spotted my odd gait. I was 3 years old at this point and as a result, I spent most of the next 2 years in a full body cast!!! Let me tell you this was not a fun experience, for me or for my parents!! To this day, I can’t bare the smell of hospitals or plaster!!! The lasting damage to my head and brain wasn’t assessed and the first diagnoses didn’t occur until I was nearly 16 (right in the middle of my GCSEs) and I was suitability labelled as having ‘specific learning disabilities’ …now you might be wondering why all my personal history is relevant to this review…

I want you to understand what led me to reading Ilana’s book and my reactions here in my review, hence the personal bit at the start. Similar to Ilana nobody until much later on in my life or hers could explain what elements of my brain were effected and what the impact would truly be…in this book Ilana puts into words and context the effects of knowing within yourself there is something wrong, but nobody seems to see it, understand it or wants to explain it…never mind help you live with it. Ilana’s honest recounting of the tumultuous feelings of isolation, hurt, confusion and on occasions all-consuming rage about being left in the dark about the disability you live with…resonated deeply with me, heart and mind! I doubt anyone reading this book could fail to be influenced by its perceptive content.

Reading Ilana’s story; proved to me, that there are other people, who face enormous challenges, who feel as I do and this might sound odd, read this book brought me a sense of relief. Of reassurance that it isn’t just me or her, there as so many people effected. Ilana’s book is a journey of discovery, a revelation of her disabilities and herself, it is emotional and insightful and she absolutely tells it, like it is. There is no soft soaping the truth of the matter, she is exceedingly direct and often blunt about the impacts and outcomes of her own discoveries and I can imagine to some people who read her story, she may seem aggressive in her tone and her force of will to get her message and experiences seen and heard. I think champions like Ilana need forceful charisma and big voices to be truly seen and heard…so you go girl…we are right there with you! I think it might be obvious from what I am writing that this book has had a profound and personal impact on me.

For those readers who don’t have the same connection to the content of this book, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it. There is a great deal to be gained from Ilana’s thoughts and ideas; chiefly the need for society to invest time to examine and understand disabilities, their physical and emotional costs and provide relevant support to those who live with them. I love that this book and Ilana’s story is completely accessible to all her readers and she talks at length with utter clarity about the medical complexities, diagnosis’s and the efforts she’s taken to improve her physical and mental health. I admire her vocal approaches and that she offers practical suggestions and solutions to all, whatever difficulties or disabilities we are facing!

Ilana’s story is astonishing, compelling and truly inspiring. You will have missed a trick, if you don’t read it! Thank you Ilana your presence of mind, your courage and enough vivid attitude to make your voice heard! This book will and should changes lives!

Thoughtful Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Ilana was born with a disability she didn’t know she had until the age of 46, when through her medical notes she discovered she had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 2.

That discovery turned out to be a unique and life-changing experienced that has forced Ilana to stand back and look at her life experiences differently. On her late diagnosis, Ilana set up her website The CP Diary and uses her experiences to explore her emotional and physical health, with inspiring messages advocating resilience and change.

Ilana likes to spend her days writing and blogging about anything that contributes to her health and wellbeing. She is an animal advocate and is passionate about environmental issues. When she is not writing, or tending to her blog, Ilana enjoys days out exploring the Yorkshire countryside.

Ilana lives with her husband and their much-loved cat, in Yorkshire. Her grown up son and daughter both live in London.

Twitter: @TheCPDiary

Please do take a look at the other reviews of this book

The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line

Author: Ruth Thomas

Publisher: Sandstone Press

Available: 14th January 2021, in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Ceris Jones and Sandstone 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:

Hidden within the confines of the Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies, Sybil is happy enough with her work – and her love life. Then to her dismay, her old adversary, assertive and glamorous Helen Hansen, is appointed Head of Trustees. To add insult, Helen promptly seduces Sybil’s boyfriend. Betrayed and broken-hearted, Sybil becomes obsessed with exposing Helen as a fraud, no matter the cost.

My Thoughts:

As an avid reader there are occasions when I pick up a book and as I devour the first page, there is an intense resonance of familiarity, of recognition and it heralds that sense of joy and comfort of being at home. This is exactly how I felt on reading the first pages of Ruth’s book; and what a treat you have instore! Make yourself a frothy coffee, curl up under a cosy throw and prepare to be charmed, amused and outraged by Sybil’s machinations!

What drew my attention to this book in the first instance was its unusual title, The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line. For a decade of my life, I journeyed to the centre of London, for work and for pleasure on this tube line, from its southern most point at Morden to the urban, commuter congested stop at Bank or the tourist littered Charing Cross/Leicester Square or to flee north to my parents’ home in York via Kings Cross. I know the stops on its bold black line on the tube map, like the creases on the palm of my hand! See I told you this book was a siren call to my memories, but more importantly it is the backbone to Sybil’s story.

2/3rds of the way into the book, there is the line, “The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is making everything difficult at the moment” and it completely encompasses the plot. The book is divided in to three sections; The Snow – which when it comes is always a surprise not always a pleasant one, rather like Sybil’s discoveries and Helen’s reappearance! The Works; the aftermath of the snow, the need for Sybil to reorder and reconstruct her life, face her job complications and to try and find ways to enjoy life again (maybe with poetry and friendship). The Northern Line; the journey with a beginning and end, comprised of a wide variety of different stops along the way, denotes Sybil’s own journey in this story.

The book starts with Sybil and her boyfriend Simon (a chef) woefully attempting to ice skate at Streatham ice rink (I am also very familiar with this venue) Sybil is pithy in her ponderings of whether ice skating is really a good idea, when of course disaster strikes! A freak accident, which lands her in hospital! But to add insult to injury, this calamity occurred in front of Sybil’s long-time nemesis Helen Hanson. The majority of this story revolves around this toxic acquaintance, Sybil and Helen have history; Helen was Sybil’s tutor at University but instead of supporting and encouraging her learning experience, I am given the distinct impression that Helen subtly tries to scupper it (I reference her comments on Sybil’s thesis!)

These two women are vastly different in every way but I wonder if there might be of little of each of them in all of us readers! It has been years since their paths have crossed and now Helen is firmly ensconced in Sybil’s life, whether she likes it or not. I confess I found myself identifying mostly with Sybil, she is a clever, introspective soul, who is enjoying her cataloguing work at the Royal Institute of Prehistoric Studies (RIPS), she is happy in her relationship with Simon despite their noticeable differences in background and interests. Until one afternoon Helen phones Sybil at work and informs her that she and Simon are having a relationship and Helen thought Sybil would want to know! The offhand callousness of this call (she doesn’t do it privately or kindly) poor Sybil is stuck at her desk trying to absorb this information; as a reader you are flabbergasted, stunned and outraged by the interaction. Ruth’s writing of this scene and what follows is genius, such tangible emotions in Sybil’s responses; rage, betrayal, hurt and utter confusion!

Now I can’t really continue without taking a closer look at Helen Hanson (the nemesis) …Ruth has pitched her perfectly. Helen is one of those women; whose behaviour, attitude and actions on the face of things looks one way but the reality is something else! Helen seems to be a driven academic, striving for excellence and progression in her field (that being Beakerware – trust me this gets mentioned a lot) professional, charming, winning at life. Yet everything she does/says has an edge or an undertone! Sybil sees her as duplicitous, self-absorbed and academically avaricious…or to put it bluntly…Helen’s a COW!!! Sorry for the bad language, but she is, my taser finger was seriously twitchy every time she makes an appearance! I must admire Ruth’s skill at creating such an awful character, that as readers we are going to love to hate!

The aftermath; after the phone call, Sybil’s life obviously changes dramatically, the heat-breaking post-break up transactions, the moving forward or really the attempts to navigate the 5 stages of grief…Sybil still can’t get away from Helen (she is tasked by her boss Raglan to re-index his book as Helen’s Beakerware discoveries are to be included in it) everywhere Sybil turns at work, there is Helen, she’s a Trustee, her consultancy is sponsoring RIPS. What is Sybil to do…I can’t wait for you to find out!! I will reveal the following; it may involve a course in being ‘Terrified of Poetry, Haikus, Origami frogs, a chipped teacup and typical post-break up obsession! There is also an element, I didn’t expect and nor will you (especially as this is all I’m saying about it) Will Sybil’s knowledge of how Helen operates allow her to pursue suitable revenge…it might!

In case it isn’t apparent, I am in awe of this story, its characters and its clever twists, it is an expressive, engaging and extraordinary story. Once you start reading you will not be able to put it down, you will be engrossed in Sybil’s journey, enthralled by the details of archaeological finds, you will be compelled to read out its hilarious moments (Pad Pric and Marzipan were mine)…to your family members, be amused and charmed by all poetry attempts and you won’t for one second imagine what will happen at the end!

I say this to you and yes I realise it is still only January; this book will be one of my 21 favourite books of 2021…it is outstandingly marvellous! So, please go and buy a copy now… because I need my fellow readers to discuss this story with!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Ruth Thomas is the author of three short story collections and two novels, as well as many short stories which have been anthologised and broadcast on the BBC. The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is her third novel. Her writing has won and been shortlisted for various prizes, including the John Llewellyn Rhys Award, the Saltire First Book Award and the VS Pritchett Prize, and long listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She lives in Edinburgh and is currently an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund.

BBC Radio 4

We’re delighted that The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is being read on BBC Radio 4 throughout the blog tour! If you’d like to share a link to the episode guide so your readers can give it a listen, that’s available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000r360/episodes/guide

Please do take a look at the other views for this book.

The Sugar Game

Author: Ashley Brown

Publisher: Cameron Publicity & Marketing

Available: 15th January 2021 available in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Cameron Publicity & Marketing 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:

Sugar Daddy websites, promising young women money, fun and independence are among the fastest growing sites on the internet.  But what really goes on? Is there a dangerous reality below the surface? 

The Sugar Game is a novel that takes readers behind the curtain and into the lives of two young women who rush headlong into the world of the ‘sugar baby’.  And once they are in, can they get out again? Jessica and Holly arrive in the bright lights of London with a thirst for the highlife and hunger for adventure. Joining a Sugar Daddy website gives them the glamour and freedom that they crave. They discover that the romance and opulence of the lifestyle are real, but so are the risks.

Ashley Brown is an author and writing coach. Her first highly praised book Job Slut was based on her own fear of career commitment and, like The Sugar Game, reflects her interest in the adventure of life and the choices of young women in the playground of London. 

A novel based on a massive real-world trend that is happening right now. The Sugar Game is cultural phenomenon that most of us never notice but is all around us. And we may well know people who are secretly involved…

Jessica and Holly don’t want love, they want independence. They don’t want predictable, they want adventure. They don’t want a relationship they want to play. Jessica and Holly’s friendship was inevitable as sunrise and hungry for life beyond sleep, eat and repeat, they land in the bright lights of London. 

When Holly stumbles across a sugar-baby dating website, a glamorous world of entertaining wealthy men lures them in. They make their own rules, choose an alias and the Sugar Game begins. Jessica’s pursuit of independence is rocked when Jerod, a workaholic scientist opens the door of her latest date. Jessica’s mask slips as he loosens the grip on her stubborn heart. But when he pulls back, her insecurities flare, what is he hiding? 

A shadowy figure from his mysterious past may have the answer. What he reveals locks Jessica into a dangerous conflict, putting her security on the line. Determined to find the truth, she battles between her heart and head. 

Whatever choice she makes, this is not going to be easy. As rules get broken, will the girls ever win the sweet futures they signed up for?

My Thoughts:

Cindi Lauper said it best, I think …‘Girls just wanna have fun…‘ and that is exactly what this novel is all about. It is such gloriously fun read; a tale of wanton escapism which under lockdown 3.0 circumstances is so crucial to my sanity and everyone else’s! Ashley’s gem of a tale is a heady mix of romantic rule breaking, fierce friendship and a thrilling soupçon of danger and it provided me with a riotous few hours of reading on a Saturday afternoon. So, my lovelies, breakout your expresso martinis, get cosy and prepare to have some fun, bookworm style!

Dating and romantic liaisons in the modern era, are a galaxy of different opportunities, a pic n mix of options to suit any and every taste. Ashely has created in Jess & Holly (or Rebecca & Chloe, I will go on to explain their use of these names) two independent, amusing, enthusiastic protagonists, who see no harm in utilising their charm, intelligence and youth to facilitate a great life style in London and they jump in the world of the ‘Sugar Baby’.

So, what is a SB, I hear you cry… it isn’t a tiny sugared jelly sweet nor are they; a high-end call girls, hookers or prostitutes! So, let me put that little myth to bed right here, right now! Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies are men and women who reach a mutual agreement; Sugar Daddies will treat or gift Sugar Babies (it can wildly range in terms of gift) for their company at dinner, at an event, on holiday. Men who wish to be escorted by a charming, intelligent lady…nor is the role gender specific, there are Sugar Mummies too but that’s for another time! For everyone involved it is a consensual arrangement and it is all about no strings fun for both parties and the essence of the Sugar Game is all the fun of courting and dating without the expectation of a full blown relationship and all the perceived ties that come with that label.

Jess and Holly are all for playing the Sugar Game and they have their own additional rules, chiefly; independence over love. They see this as an opportunity to pave the way to their future careers but having a diverting time while doing it; Jess is using any gifts she’s given to save for a higher degree in order to become a therapist. They are also admirably practical and sensible about being involved in this world. The potential dangers of which the common sense reader will certainly have considered. Holly and Jess don’t use their real names; Jess is Rebecca and Holly is Chloe. They have mobile phones that they only use for the purpose of ‘Sugaring‘ and they use each other as security, always confirming with the other one where they are going; who they are going with; checking in at the start of a GM (general meet) texting or calling when they finish their dates. Jess and Holly, have been friends since childhood and are fiercely protective of each other but neither are they blind to each other’s flaws. I loved this honest and lovely portrayal of female friendship, as I have a few like it myself.

Also, I really appreciated that Ashley created female leads that weren’t bitchy to other women in their circle, they extended their friendship to the women and made no bones about defending them when the need arises. Don’t get me wrong, these girls are no pushovers, they are smart and funny but they are also kind, generous and loyal and I really enjoyed seeing these elements the characters! The girls are having a fabulous time but of course…there is going to be a spanner in the Sugar works! Can you guess, what it might be??

The second half of the book is just a little bit darker but certainly not trigger worthy in case you were concerned! Jess (as Rebecca) meets Jerod, a suave, savvy, handsome and clever American and he is nothing like any of her previous dates…are you thinking…Oh dear! You are not alone, I did too and so does Holly! I confess I don’t blame Jess; I mean the man buys her books (Ashley I love you, fantastic hero) …let’s face it, any man that buys a woman books is nearly perfect…isn’t he? Well he would be if he also included coffee, bacon rolls, pretty stationery and scarves…oh hang on I just got a bit carried away there…that’s my idea of a perfect man. It’s fine dear bookophiles, mine does all this…

Anyway, I digress, Back to Jerod, is he really Jess’s perfect match or is he a cad and a bounder? Can she trust him, will Jess break the Sugaring rules and let her heart rule her head?? Can Holly make her see sense??? The story line takes an interesting ‘Charlies Angels’ style diversion, enter the shadowy character of Harry, the man in grey suit. He has his own story to tell, can he shed light on the mysterious Jerod? Can Harry be believed or is there something more nefarious a foot? Well now, that is for me to know and you to read the book and find out! I know I am rotten, not to give more away!

This is a gorgeous book, it is droll, smart, stylish and sensitive, the characters are engaging and the plot glamourous and devious. Reading it, certainly made me smile and I have it on good authority there is more to come and the epilogue certainly gives that impression too. I can’t wait to read the next instalment and I hope you will want too as well.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

ASHLEY BROWN is a London-based author and writing coach. Turning her back on a career in law led her to becoming a notorious jobslut, inspiring her first book, published in 2018. She has completed various writing courses with Michelle Danner in LA and Faber & Faber. The Sugar game is her second novel. She believes a sense of humour is the only seatbelt required for a creative life, pursued with infectious optimism. Her writing is inspired by the rollercoaster of life, fuelled by coffee and an insatiable sweet tooth.

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

The Dark Room

Author: Sam Blake

Publisher: Corvus Books

Available: 7th January 2021 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Corvus Books for my gifted eBook 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 pacey and thrilling tale from the author of the number one Irish Times bestseller, Keep Your Eyes on Me.

Hare’s Landing, West Cork. A house full of mystery…

Rachel Lambert leaves London afraid for her personal safety and determined to uncover the truth behind the sudden death of a homeless man with links to a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing.

New York-based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit and she needs some thinking space away from her job. But almost as soon as she arrives, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner.

As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined – and that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth…

My Thoughts:

Now you know that I love a good crime novel, there is nothing I like better on a cold winter evening, than to snuggle up under my fluffy blanket and read. Well this slick, sinister supernatural tale with a definite flavour of Du Maurier and which is downright eerie in parts is the perfect book for doing just that, although you may require a cushion or two to hide behind when you get to those spooky tense moments, I may have done just that but don’t tell anyone!

A homeless man muttering to himself, while attempting to post a letter…is an intriguing and incongruous opening and it is imbued with a very subtle tension, why is this letter so important? There is clearly a story to be told and one that we will discover, focuses on the remote and mysterious Hare’s Landing, located in West Cork, where a miasma of dark secrets and sinister events haunts its past and now are these secrets are about to be uncovered, finally!

Rachel and Caroline, two women, two completely different lives; Rachel & her ex-police dog lives in London on a house boat with her partner Hunter, who she also works with at a TV/film production company and whose recent project on homelessness has drawn unwanted attention to them, resulting in Hunter being knocked off his bike on the way to work and their home being broken into an ransacked, with all Hunter’s film equipment being stolen. It slowly dawns on Rachel that all these recent sinister events could be connected, she is even more convinced of this, when Hunter who is laid up in hospital asks her to find a homeless man (Alfie Bows) he was supposed to meet on the morning of his accident. Alfie and his violin seem to have vanished! Hunter encourages Rachel to leave London until this situation dies down and he wants her somewhere safe….so insists she returns to her family home in Ireland!

Caroline in contrast lives and works in New York, she is resident crime writer at The Messenger, until after writing an expose of a salacious creep (but one in high places) she is accused of nefarious journalistic practices and her boss suspends her for the duration of the investigation! Wounded by the lack of professional support during this turn of events, Caroline decides a well-earned holiday is her best course of action and books a flight to Ireland to return to her roots and she manages to acquire a few weeks residence at a discount in the boat house cottage at the newly re-opened Hare’s Landing! Are you having the same Aha moment I did, I suspect you are!

With the scene set and to put it mildly there is definitely something strange afoot, our protagonists meet and join forces, I relished the interplay between the two women, I am still smiling about them now! Together these intelligent women set about untangling a web of secrets and lies; what links a homeless violinist; two missing teenagers Meg Cassidy and Johnny O’Connor and the previous owner Honoria Smyth death in suspicious circumstance! What Rachel and Caroline uncover will have huge ramifications on their lives and futures and of course, I am absolutely not going to spoil their journey for you, I shall just sit here being a tad smug because I know what is going to happen next! Of course, you will too when you read the book!!

Sam Blake has perfected the art of the slow burn story; she allows us readers to get comfortable with our two protagonists and their pasts, she also has beautifully crafted links to lead her characters and us into the main trajectory of the story. Throughout the book, in ever increasing increments, the atmosphere gets darker and creepier, the tension heavier and expectant! I absolutely loved the slow build and nifty shocks and surprises, all the elements required for fantastic and deviously entertaining reading!

As this is my first experience of a Sam Blake novel, I can, now having bravely emerged from my cushion hidey-hole, keenly and eagerly espouse my joy at reading a crime novel with such vivid panache and magnificent female leads. I will certainly be hunting out the author’s back catalogue and adding a few more to my crime collection and I excitedly await Sam’s next book!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the hugely popular national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout and has assisted many award-winning and bestselling authors to publication. As Sam Blake, she has written four previous novels and has topped the Irish bestseller chart.

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

Victoria Park

Author: Gemma Reeves

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Available: 7th January 2021 in Hardback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Allen & Unwin 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 playful, lyrical novel about otherness, change, and the gap between generations in a London community.

Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year.

Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.

With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.

Praise for Victoria Park

‘Hugely empathetic, utterly absorbing and beautifully told, Victoria Park really captures something so bittersweet and so true about the struggles and joys that ebb and flow through all of the relationships that hold us together.’ Naomi Ishiguro

‘I absolutely loved Victoria Park. It’s a stunning portrayal of a London community, where moments of heartbreak, sympathy and joy cast deep reverberations. A triumph of compassion and redemption, the lives of the characters are so finely observed, they might be our own. It reminded me of Elizabeth Strout and Jennifer Egan, and I know I’ll be thinking about Wolfie and Mona for months to come.’ Elizabeth Macneal, author of The Doll Factory

My Thoughts:

There are some books that come into your life, that simply bewitch your soul with their magnificence and insight and so it is with Gemma’s debut novel Victoria Park. A book about the rich tapestry of life, told over the course of a year and woven around a community of characters from all walks of life. The cadence and tone of the writing is subtle and sublime and what has implanted itself firmly in my heart is the incredible depth of detail Gemma has created for the vivid multi-faceted environment her characters exist within, it is simply stunning. It is often said that a picture paints a thousand words, well in the case of this story, it is the words that paint a thousand pictures. Honestly, I am not sure, I can’t adequately express how excited, enthusiastic or gushing I can be about how truly remarkable this novel is and how much I want you to read it!

Reading this story was like returning to my past; I grew up in Peckham as a child and Peckham Rye was the nearest park to my home, complete with the cool aqua water of the Lido and a plethora of eateries offering a taste of countries I had yet to discover; men with wide smiles and gold teeth; echoes of Caribbean rhythms; the perfume of roasting chickens and car fumes; the nearby shouts of cockney market traders offering florescent green apples, 6 for a paund. It was certainly a more innocent and different time and one, where as a child I was free to roam and it is this visceral tangible essence that Gemma has skilfully captured in her urban, modern Dickensian story.

Told to us, through a series of interlocking vignettes, which reveal specific important scenes from the characters’ lives; Wolfie checking his smoking salmon; Mia observing and sketching in the café; Rose sitting in her window, watching the world go by and bitterly reminiscing; Freddy approaching manhood and all the awkward confusion this entails; Vicky sitting by her injured son’s bedside or pasting articles in her scrapbook and trying to find answers to why her son is in a coma; Luca’s obsession with his deli and playing jazz but what will be the cost of his oblivion to everything else and these impressions are a mere taste of what is in store for you. There are several more characters for you to joyfully explore. The season change and so do the paths of the characters’ lives and the decisions they make, the necessary changes to their families, their jobs, their education, be they joyful or tragic events they are intensely captivating, keenly observed and emotionally profound. I very much admired, the clever ways that Gemma has linked the lives her cast, which I found addictive and voyeuristically beguiling reading.

This book is original and thought provoking and it is clear to me, Gemma is a diligent people watcher (hopefully while drinking frothy coffee and eating lots of non-vegan cake) she knows of what I refer to! Because only someone who has spent a great deal of time observing others could craft such a series of remarkable stories. Now you may think I haven’t revealed enough of these tales in my review, well that is because this is a literary experience you need to read for yourselves and it would be utterly crass of me to ruin the experience.

All I can do, is fervently implore you to buy this book and find a quiet moment, to revel in its sumptuous glory, it is a triumph and the stories and the community cannot fail to draw from you an emotional reaction; from the first pages to the last.  I hope like me, you will be utterly entranced. Gemma you are a genius, a master wordsmith and I cannot praise your debut more highly and I cannot wait to read what you write next.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Gemma Reeves is a writer and teacher who lives and works in London.

Please do take a look at other review for this book.

I Give It a Year

Author: Helen Whitaker

Publisher: Trapeze

Available: 7th January 2021 in Paperback & eBook

Thank you to Alex Layt & 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:

Her husband’s moved out – and her dad’s moved in…

Curl up with the page-turning story full of emotion about family, marriage and second chances

It’s New Year’s Eve, and Iris has just found out that her husband, Adam, is cheating on her. Furious, she kicks him out, and enlists her Dad to move in and help with the children whilst she tries to mend her broken heart.

But her Dad soon starts to display signs of Alzheimer’s, and Iris realises that if she loses her partner, she’ll be managing an awful lot on her own. Soon, she realises that Adam wasn’t the only one taking their marriage for granted, and for the sake of the children she decides to give him one more chance.

But is it braver to stay than to run? And can anyone fall in love with the same person twice?

My Thoughts:

I confess, though this is Helen’s second book I have not read her first, simply because I had convinced myself that our frames of reference are very different and I didn’t think I would fully appreciate the topics of her books particularly around the subject of marriage and children (as I neither have nor want either) …well I am clearly an idiot and my experience of reading this book has obliterated that mis-conception and has taught me not to entrench my reading preferences in only books, that reflect my own familiar perspectives on life.

Helen has crafted a smart, sassy, insightful and astute story delving into the very essence of a flawed relationship and tackles the weighty emotional subjects; of love, betrayal and redemption and she still provides us readers with the clear suggestion that no matter how dreadful events in our lives can be, there is always hope regardless of how dark life may sometimes seem. Oddly comforting in these trying times!

When we first meet Iris, she is living her life, having a glass of wine, picking up after her children, when by chance she discovers that her husband of 10 years, has been having an affair with an ex-girlfriend! What I admired here, is how simple Helen made this horrible discovery but how complex and real Iris’s responses are, she is utterly (and understandably pole axed) by this revelation.  I could feel her rage; her humiliation; her hurt and confusion, it is like an emotional explosion and is breath-taking to read! Predictably, Iris can’t bear to have her husband Adam anywhere near her as she tries to process, what he’s done to her and their family! Through Iris’s actions and reactions, we can see the true complex nature of what occurs when a relationship is struck such a heavy emotional blow.

Helen makes it abundantly clear through Iris’s myriad of feelings that there it isn’t as simple resolution to this situation! If only it could be as easy as just getting rid of him (Adam) but Iris must juggle her children (never an easy task) and their needs, as well as trying to focus on her job.  Which is a demanding role and currently comes with its own package of stress and strain as well as a very charming millionaire (a nice sub plot to make us all smile). Iris also becomes aware of her remaining parent’s frailty and the consequences and requirements of potentially needing to parent, her own parent with the onset of a condition that steals a person’s ability to recall the basics of life. Everyone seems to want a piece of Iris and quite frankly if any of this had happened to me. I would have just gone to bed and pulled the covers over my head for a month minimum and hidden from the intense pressure of it all and my gosh, poor Iris has so much to cope with!

We follow Iris in the aftermath of her betrayal and how she calls her girlfriends, for support and advice, which true to life is a mixed bag of suggestions. Iris has a decision to make; should she make a clean break and divorce her philandering husband or should she choose to make her marriage work? Can she forgive Adam and learn to trust him again, for herself and for her children.  Iris makes a brave decision and has a year to see if her decision will work and what follows is truly observational gold; exploring how assumption, complacency and life’s complications can uproot a couple, their marriage, their communication and the way they feel about each other. I was fascinated by the depth Helen went to in rounding out her characters and their flaws, nor is it solely focused on Iris’s perspective, we see things from her husband Adam’s point of view as well and this made the story for me, so genuine and honest and it really is addictive reading.

The pretty turquoise cover of this book, made me assume this would be a light-hearted read, which when you engage in the antics of Iris’s children it is but the depth and scope of the story is incredible, my favourite parts were the marriage counselling sessions and the insight they bring to the characters and their state of mind and they are both heart breaking and funny. Helen brings such incredible clarity to the way men and women communicate or miscommunicate, with each other and with others in their lives and how each perspective is completely valid but so very often wrong and all that is needed to repair the matter, is the immense courage to say what we need or feel and it seems from all that happens in this book. We are universally rather bad at expressing our needs/wants but yet, there is hope. Miscommunication can be resolved and breaks can be repaired, but will Iris and Adam be brave enough to try or have the will to want to repair what has been damaged…well you will have to read the book and find out, won’t you…I know I’m an evil book blogger who won’t give the plot away!!

This book is astoundingly observant, incredibly moving and an absolute joy to read. I have no doubt, it will capture your heart and mind, as it has done to me. So, don’t miss out, I insist you go and buy a copy and immerse yourself in Iris’s explorations of herself and her marriage. I bet you can’t put the book down, I couldn’t!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Helen Whitaker is a journalist and author living in London. Formerly the Entertainment Director of Glamour UK, her day job is currently Deputy Editor of High Life magazine and she writes books in her lunch hour, in the evenings and in any free time she has around parenting. She has been published in The Telegraph, Fabulous, Stella, Red and BBC Three. You can find her on Instagram: @itshelenwhitaker or Twitter: @helbobwhitaker. She lives in Walthamstow with her husband and son. The School Run is her debut novel.

Do have a read of some of the other reviews for this book.

A Sparrow Alone

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Author: Mim Eichmann

Publisher: Living Springs Publishers

Available: In Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Dave at The Write Reads blog tours for my gifted eBook and the opportunity to take part in this tour. Any opinions within this reveiw are solely my own.

Book Details:

1890s. Colorado. Following her mother’s sudden death, thirteen-year-old Hannah Owens is hired as domestic help by a wealthy doctor’s family in Colorado Springs. When the doctor declares bankruptcy and abandons his family to finance his mistress Pearl DeVere’s brothel, Hannah is thrown into a world of gold mining bonanzas and busts, rampant prostitution and the economic, political and cultural upheavals of the era. Two of Cripple Creek’s most colorful historic characters, Winfield Scott Stratton, eccentric owner of the richest gold mine in Cripple Creek, and Pearl DeVere, the beautiful madam of The Old Homestead come to life as this old-fashioned, coming-of-age saga unfolds, a tribute to the women who set the stage for women’s rights.

My Thoughts:

I have long been a fan of historic novels, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read this book and the historical setting is not one I am overly familiar with as it is set in Colorado in the 1890s at the height of the Gold rush. It is abundantly clear from the copious details within this story that Mim has a love of societal history and has been diligently researching the period in order to provide significant substance to her book and to create her engaging characters and this enthralling book is the result.

Set in the gold mining town of Cripple Creek, where the seasons are as rough and uncompromising as the feral men who seek to fulfill their obsessive dreams and discover a fortune. Gold and women are commodities at this time, women have no rights and a good reputation can be lost in the blink of an eye and with it the means to live within the accepted boundaries of society. As a modern woman, can you imagine the horror of having no say in the trajectory of your own life! The very idea makes me grit my teeth in rage as I am sure it does for you.

Can you imagine being a commodity, to be married off, to have no control over your body, your money, your property, your children and that a man be it a father, brother, uncle or husband can take it all and you would have no means morally, economically or legally to stop them! Can you envisage what life would look like if your morality was called into question and judged and that society could effectively shun you because of a few snide whispers. Can you comprehend that marriage and children is the only option you have and what if that option is not available, what would you do…and the book explores these themes of exploitation, prostitution and social morality from numerous perspectives. The difficulties faced by women within this period, is clearly explored  from the point of view of Pearl DeVere; former seamstress turned weathly Madam of The Old Homestead brothel and the structure and ‘downfall’ of her life, is part of this tale but it isn’t unique, as all the women in this story live around the specter of being a ‘fallen woman’ and all that entails!

This is the environment our protagonist Hannah Owen’s faces, we follow her life and experiences from a dilapidated shack, enduring unimaginable poverty, her mother is dead and her father a wastell, trying to care for two younger siblings to being placed in domestic service in the home of the Doctor who cared for her mother. The work is back breaking and she also has to deal with the pretentious, social climbing and viciousness of the Dr’s wife, who is absolutely a product of the time (and a deeply unpleasant one at that). But with limited options, she is housed and fed and fortunately comes under the sympathetic care of the household’s cook Zuma, who becomes a de facto mother to Hannah ,regardless of the disparities of their class or colour and their relationship is a shining cornerstone of the book and one that provides hope to the reader.

This novel is well researched and the historical details are insightful, adding flavour to this tale, as it weaves its way through Hannah, her friends and her foes and immerses the reader in all her trials and tribulations. It is often gritty and brutal but the story is utterly compelling reading and I am doing my best not to spoil any of the neat twists and turns of this tale. I was thoroughly engaged by Mim’s ability to seamlessly mix fact and fiction, especially when it came to the character of Winfield Stratton (who was indeed a real person with solid philanthropic ideals which he actioned). Although the fact that he has a less than moral agenda when it comes to his relationship to Hannah is disquieting but I suspect not unusual as I have already mentioned.

The end of the novel did come a bit quicker than I was expecting,  a number of the plot threads are drawn to a satisfying conclusion but Mim has left several tantalisingly open-ended and I imagine that is because the sequel Muskrat Ramble is due in March 2021. I thoroughly enjoy reading this fascinating, addictive story and it most certainly has the makings of an excellent historical saga and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

So my lovely readers do add this gloriously engaging historical novel to your to buy list, as I couldn’t put it down and I suspect you won’t be able to either.

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

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(From Mim Eichmann’s website – https://www.mimeichmann.com/)

Mim Eichmann has found that her creative journey has taken her down many exciting, interwoven pathways. For well over two decades she was known primarily in the Chicago area as the artistic director and choreographer of Midwest Ballet Theatre and director of its home, Midwest Ballet Academy, bringing full length professional ballet performances to thousands of dance lovers every year and was the receipient of many arts’ programming grants.

A desire to become involved again in the folk music world brought about the creation of her acoustic quartet Trillium now in its 15th year, a folk band well known for its eclectic repertoire performing throughout the Midwest, that has also released four cds. She’s also written the lyrics and music for two award-winning original children’s cds, “Why do Ducks Have Webby Toes?” and “Wander Down beyond the Rainbow” and occassionally schedules concerts of her children’s music and movement programmes.

Always captivated by the writings, diaries and journals of the late 19th century women, as well as that era’s economic, social and political upheavals, Mr Eichmann has now put pen to paper and the historical ficition novel she has been passionately researching, its rich synopis gradually evolving over many years, has finally become a reality. We hope you’ll enjoy ‘A Sparrow Alone’ and its sequal, ‘Muskrat Ramble’.

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Amari and the Night Brothers

Author: BB Alston

Publisher: Egmont Books, an imprint of Harper Collins

Available: 21st January 2021 in Hardback

Thank you to Dave at The Write Reads blog tours and Egmont 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:

Amari Peters knows three things.

Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.

No one will talk about it.

His mysterious job holds the secret . . .

So, when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.

Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.

With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three try-outs, she may never find out what happened to Quinton . . .

An epic middle grade supernatural adventure series, soon to be a major movie starring Marsai Martin. Perfect for readers aged 8+ and fans of Percy Jackson, Nevermoor and Men in Black!

My Thoughts:

Having no children of my own (by choice) it may seem unusual option for me to review a young adults novel. However, I am both an auntie and a godmother and as such I have been repeatedly asked by both my sister and my best friend to find books for both my niece and my goddaughter to enjoy. As a child and a young adult books for girls were mostly limited to those about princesses, fairies, ballerinas and pony mad girls and don’t get me wrong. I devoured them along with classics like The Railway Children, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie all of which I adored but it wasn’t until my mid-teens that I discovered the genre of fantasy fiction and that within these titles girls were given equal status and comparable magical powers as the boys in these tales in fact they were given their own stories for me to embrace. One of my greatest joys is to find an adventurous, thrilling and enthralling story like Amari’s with a vivid, smart and brave heroine, who I can’t wait to introduce to my glorious goddaughter. BB Alston’s magical tale makes him in my eyes the 21st century hybrid of Lewis Carol and JK Rowling and he absolutely deserves the universal addiction these writers have created in their readers. Bravo BB Alston Bravo.

I think what I loved most about Amari aside from this being a phenomenal story, is that as a reader you feel drawn to her, she could be you. She is strong, smart and courageous but just like most of us, she is enraged by unfairness and bullying and try as she might it affects her and occasionally leads her to make unwise decisions (and trust me no matter how old you are if someone’s behaviour towards you is hideous it is nearly impossible not to react to it!) In the opening to the book we find that she has done exactly that and reacted to yet another episode of outrageous bullying and it has led to unfair consequences. But fear not dear reader, Amari’s adventures are only just beginning.

When we meet Amari, she has, as I mentioned has gotten herself in trouble at school, she is all but expelled from the private school she has been attending on a scholarship despite her mother’s defence and the head teacher’s understanding of her actions. Fortunately, the long summer holiday is about to start, so the full ramifications are somewhat suspended. Amari returns home with her mother, who is a hard working nursing assistant, there is just the two of them now. Quinton, Amari’s older brother went missing 6 months ago, the police assume that a missing young black man from the ‘wrong ‘side of town with no employment paper trail, has obviously been mixed up with gangs, drugs or both and they have all but stopped investigating his disappearance and it very clear that racial bias is really the cause of their apathy!

Amari is grounded and must remain at home alone while her mother returns to work; a discovery of an email and an unexpected delivery turn’s her world literally upside down! What is revealed is Quinton’s plan for her all contained in a mysterious briefcase; including a lurid suit, paperwork including a nomination for consideration with instructions to attend an interview and just like Alice falling down her rabbit hole and discovering a whole new world. Amari falls into the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, and a secret world of magic, myth and adventure, she learns who her brother was working for and in this world, he was famous for his skills as a Supernatural Investigations agent!  Amari is offered a spot at the Bureau’s summer camp and the chance to win a position as a junior agent but more importantly to her, it will give her the opportunity to find out what has happened to Quinton!

What follows is a glorious, imaginative, creative quest; with trials, tribulations and triumphs; an ongoing battle between good and evil; friendships forged, mysteries uncovered, assumed perceptions obliterated, nefarious villains unmasked, there are duals, crystal balls, Sky walking, tech magic, talking lifts and many wonderous different magical departments to discover. Will Amari and her new powers unlock the answers. Well you will just have to read this incredible book to find out because there are far too many wonderous details and clues and mysteries that await you for me to spoil this story by giving too much away! Hence my determination to make my review regarding the details of this story, as vague as possible…I know I am impossibly cruel!

It is very easy to compare Amari’s Adventures to the legend that is Harry Potter as there are similar topics, the protagonists difficult backgrounds and the plotlines being immersed in a hidden world imbued with magic but Amari’s story is unique and very much her own and I have no doubt she will capture the hearts and enrapture the minds of all who read her stories, as she has with mine. I cannot wait for the next book and I am prepared to queue at midnight outside a bookshop for my copy and I promise you will want to join me!

Honestly, I haven’t read a better story since Harry Potter (forgive me I’ve never read the Nevermoor series) I read this book in 4 hours and I have been thinking about it ever since. This incredible book deserves to be a best seller in 2021 and if I could magically convince you all to buy a copy then I would, it is spell binding! So please don’t delay, pre-order it today! I will be sending a copy to my goddaughter as soon as it’s published!

Happy reading bookophiles…

About the Author:

B.B. Alston lives in Lexington, SC. Amari and the Night Brothers is his debut middle grade novel. When not writing, he can be found eating too many sweets and exploring country roads to see where they lead.

Keep your eyes peeled for other wonderful reviews on this tour

Last Survivor

Author: Tony Park

Available: Published in paperback and digital formats by AJP on 1st August 2020

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3lYJnDB

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2UVdLTs

Thank you to Emma Welton and Damp Pebbles Blog Tours 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 priceless plant, a rare African cycad thought to be extinct and prized by collectors, has been discovered, then stolen.

Joanne Flack, widowed and broke, is the prime suspect for the crime. While supposedly hiding out in London she single-handedly foils a terrorist plot, killing a lone-wolf gunman.

Former mercenary turned CIA contractor, Sonja Kurtz, uncovers a link between the missing plant and the terrorist who tried to kill Joanne. The US Government thinks that if it can find the missing cycad it can foil an attack to rival 9-11.

Hot on Joanne’s trail is retired US Fisheries and Wildlife Department special agent Rod Cavanagh who knows his plants and knows his target – he’s her former lover.

Joanne is a member of the Pretoria Cycad and Firearms Appreciation Society. She, Sonja and Rod enlist the help of this group of ageing gardeners and gun nuts to find a plant worth a fortune and the traitor in their midst who is willing to kill for it.

My Thoughts:

This book is a botanical blockbuster, a rollicking, rip roaring read; it bears the distinct and rare characteristics of a thrilling hybrid and the result is mix of essence of Tomb Raider with strong gun toting, ‘kick ass’ female protagonists crossed with the epic ambiance of Wilbur Smith; as the book is mostly situated in South Africa, so expect sweeping savannas, majestic wildlife and socio-political turmoil and a great deal of gun fire! This story is a high octane thriller, imbued with pace and knife edge twists and turns that kept me completely enthralled and it was the perfect antidote to the cold dark winter nights of Yorkshire, where I curled up on my sofa to enjoy this tale.

Tony has infused his book with fabulous knowledge and exceptional details, his love of the military and weaponry and a clear passion for conservation shines through on every page. The main plotline revolves around a very rare and exceedingly valuable stolen plant; a cycad which resembles a cross between a palm and a fern with a coloured cone at its core (and there are plenty of pictures on google, if you require a visual reference, I know I did or take a look at Tony’s author picture below). Enter the Pretoria Cycad and Firearms Appreciation Society, who are a collection of glorious characters, all with their own vivid back stories, with plenty of life experience (note I am not calling them golden oldies!!!) what brings this array of characters together is their love of the spiky cycads and guns (and I don’t mean the dusty antique kind found in a mahogany presentation case) I mean the slick, brutal lethal kind and Thandie, Jacqueline, Laurel, Charles, SS, Sandy and Joanne may sound like a co-ed version of the Women’s Institute but after breakfast and discussions about plants, they enjoy nothing more than letting lose on the firing range, with deadly efficiency!

 Now as a middle-aged woman based in Yorkshire, the casual use or reference to guns is not something I am overly familiar with and for a short time while reading this book, I found it bizarre to comprehend the necessity of having to carry a weapon at all times! But the rugged and brutal environment of South Africa is even today a world away from the frozen terrain of North Yorkshire, so I recommend suspending any judgment of the matter and just enjoy the story!

And what a story there is for you to revel in, as the book details describe the synopsis beautifully, Joanne Flack (member of the PCFAS) looks like the primary suspect for the theft of this unique cycad and seems to have fled the country, possibly with the plant and all the society’s funds, but do her actions add up?! Hot on her tail are Rod Cavanagh her ex-lover and former US Fisheries & Wildlife Department agent, they have an explosive and tragic history! Rod along with mercenary Sonja Kurtz have been brought in by ‘The Company’ aka the CIA to investigate Joanne and whether botanical poaching is funding terrorism and will the funds from these conservation crimes lead to another catastrophic terrorist attack on US soil?…

However, Rod and Sonja aren’t the only ones investigating Joanne, her own friends in Cycad & Firearms society are too, led by the astute and formidable Thandie. In pursuit of Joanne we follow the cast from the US and London, to Mali, Zambia, South Africa and are caught up in the chase, the double crossing, the thrills, the shootings, there are helicopters and boat chases, there are some romantic episodes too…Is Joanne really the guilty party? If not? Who framed her and why? Was it her former boss and ex-lover, Kuwaiti Royal, Fiasal?…All I can say is watch out for the snake in the grass…or in the shower!!!…(if you read the book, you will know what I mean?!)…

This story is packed with thrills and spills and never drops its incredible pace, it is a clever, creative and exhilarating read and it will leave you breathless with anticipation. Resolution to the plot and uncovering who is really the nefarious villain, all is revealed in explosive style with an epic battle right at the end…who will survive!!! Well that’s is for me to know and you to buy the book and find out…I know, I am such a tease!

So my advice to you dear reader, is don’t delay, I energetically recommend that you add this intoxicating, palmtastic thriller to your Christmas shopping list today…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Tony Park was born in 1964 and grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney. He has worked as a newspaper reporter in Australia and the UK, a press secretary, a PR consultant and a freelance writer. He also served 34 years in the Australian Army Reserve, including six months in Afghanistan in 2002. Tony and his wife, Nicola, divide their time equally between Australia and southern Africa. He is the author of eighteen thriller novels set in Africa, with more on the way. His latest novel, Last Survivor, was the number one bestselling adult fiction title in South Africa.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonyparkauthor

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

Website: https://www.tonypark.net/

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

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/tonyparknet

Please do take some time to read other reviews for this book

Banking on Murder – The Parker Sisters Mysteries – Book 1

Author: JD Whitelaw

Publisher: Red Dog Press

Available: 3rd December 2020 in Paperback and eBook.

Purchase Links:

Red Dog Books https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/banking-on-murder

Amazon mybook.to/BankingOnMurder

Thank you to Meggy Roussel and Red Dog books for my gifted eBook 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:

Martha Parker runs a small private detective agency in Glasgow with her two sisters, Helen and Geri. They specialise in catching cheating partners and those playing away from home.

The Parkers are hired by the reclusive wife of a wealthy banker she suspects is breaking their vows, but when he shows up murdered, it’s up to Martha, Helen and Geri to prove the wife’s innocence in their most dangerous case yet.

My Thoughts:

When I read the book details for this novel, I remember they made me grin and I knew that I really wanted to read more about the Parker sisters.  Now that I have, I can enthusiastically confirm, I have not been disappointed. With this raucous romp of a story, you can bank on a marvellous mix of medalling, money and mayhem and it most certainly will bring some much-needed light relief to your reading life as it has to mine.

Martha, Helen and Geri are the crime fighting trio who own Parker Investigations and who as the name of their company suggests are private investigators, whose usual remit is uncovering and documenting the dire behaviour of cheating spouses and their successful investigating tactics has earned them the moniker; the nosey parkers! Which I confess makes me laugh every time I read this label! They play to their strengths, Martha is the lynch pin, forthright and practical, Helen the perpetual academic, whose research prowess ensures they are always in ‘the know’ and Geri the youngest, is our wildcard, she is unconventional and likes to bend the rules. As characters go, they are a riotous mixture of sibling rivalry and ribbing and as a reader you can’t resist their charisma or their antics which only a few pages into the book have you hooked.

The story begins with Parker Investigations receiving a hysterical (in every sense of the word) phone call from Mrs Tracey Coulthard, who as it turns out is the wealthy wife of investment banker Gordon Coulthard. (The temptation I have is to substitute W for the B in banker, trust me I would be justified and I’m only a reader… I digress). Agreeing to meet Mrs Coulthard at her home, Martha and Helen are confronted with a luxurious home, a wreaked bedroom and a venomous, enraged and very likely unhinged client to be. Tracey Coulthard demands that she wants Parker Investigations to find out who her cad of a husband is sleeping with now, she wants details and she wants them now and she is prepared to pay, £20K is given to Martha & Helen (to their surprise and suspicion). Dismissed from Tracey’s presence, the Parkers return to their office and decide the best course of action is find out what Gordon Coulthard has been up to…and get this case closed swiftly!

What follows is a delicious catalogue of crime capers; a bumbling stakeout; a posh party at a swanky hotel complete with drunken dancing on a table; a hair yanking fight, a body in a bath; a hospital visit or two; a unwarranted trip to the police station; a missing client; mystery and madness unfold. I am of course playing my cards very close to my chest and doing my best not  to give too much away here because, this story is such a glorious confectionary of crime for you to devour and I certainly don’t wish to spoil your taste of it.

This book is such a marvellous mix of ingredients, which I can only describe as the essence of Charlies Angels, combined with the irreverent flavour and fashion details of Absolutely Fabulous all tied together with the charm and investigating magnificence of Jessica Fletcher, it is just such fantastic twisty sleuthing fun and I am forever going to refer to those gorgeous red-soled shoes as ‘Louie Buttons’  and I will never be able to look at an Estee Lauder product again without crying with laughter (JD this is entirely your witty fault!)

All that is left for me say, is that this hilarious tale of gumption, greed and guns is the perfect read to spend the weekend with, so you had best get yourself a copy today!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

J.D. Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster. After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste – with everything in between.

He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC. Banking on Murder is the first of three Parker sister novels. They follow his hugely successful HellCorp series. His debut in 2015 was the critically acclaimed Morbid Relations.

Please do have a read of the other reviews of this book

The Last Wife

Author: Karen Hamilton

Publisher: Wildfire

Available: 10th December 2020 – Paperback

Thank you to Rosie Margesson and Wildfire 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 BRILLIANT NEW PSYCHOLOGICAL DRAMA FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND

Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends-until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfil her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

Praise for THE LAST WIFE:

‘Taut and tense from the first page to the closing paragraphs – a touching tale that really hit home’

Sun

‘Fast-moving and fun, with an obsessive, Machiavellian, yet enjoyably self-aware narrator’

Observer

‘If you enjoyed The Perfect Girlfriend you’ll love The Last Wife – another fabulously dark central character with a great twisty plot’ Harriet Tyce, bestselling author of Blood Orange

My Thoughts:

This is my first experience of reading a novel by Karen Hamilton and I sure it won’t be the last one that I enjoy. Karen has a talent for creating creeping, sinister mayhem amongst the perceived normalcy of domestic suburban environments. Which when you start to absorb the concepts and themes in this her lasted novel, will make you look at everyone you know, in a very different light! So restrain your paranoia and indulge in this deliciously dark read.

I think what engaged and unsettled me about the concepts of this book was how keenly observant Karen is, regarding the perceptions of what we women can obsess about relating to the foundations and construction of our lives; our relationships, our careers, having a family.  The often unfortunate way we convince ourselves that our friends, family and colleagues may have all successfully and effortlessly (it may seem) achieved the ‘normal‘ societal expectations and as such have so-called ‘perfect‘ lives. Simply because we may have obtained the right or necessary trappings; lovely clothes, beautiful homes or ideal partners! There are two very clear messages within this story; be careful what you wish for and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence! Envy of another person’s flawless life, is flawed thinking, as you will find out!

We have a cast of characters whose past and present lives collide with dramatic results; the book opens with our main protagonist, Marie a successful photographer struggling with grief, for the loss of her best friend Nina and with an obsessive, dysfunctional grief for a life she has not yet achieved or worse might never achieve; specifically her not being able to conceive a child with her partner Ben. It becomes obvious that Marie is odd and she often irritates and unnerves people within her circle of friends and family. I confess I found that she is/was often eminently unlikeable, exceeding untruthful and yet exceptionally loyal and protective of Nina’s memory and her family! Like any good friend, she supported, comforted and loved Nina (to a fault)throughout their relationship to the very end and Marie wants desperately to carry out her promises to Nina.

Herein lies the problem, Marie is awfully fanatical in the lengths she is prepared to go to, in order to fulfil these promises, she seems to literally step into her dead friend’s shoes, which is shockingly inappropriate beyond creepy as you will see but she soon learns, that her impressions of Nina’s perfect life, is nothing close to the truth!

Indecently quickly Marie’s relationship with Ben ends, due to some exceptionally caddish behaviour on his part and trust me my taser finger was extremely twitchy at this point in the story! And we find her moving into Nina’s home with her husband Stuart and their two children. Immediately insidiously integrating herself in every aspect of their lives and without any qualms or comprehension about how her actions will impact Nina’s, friends or parents. She seems to be calculatingly oblivious in her behaviour, which is obviously a contradiction in terms! As a reader you are convinced that Marie must be guilty of something as her actions are just so suspect, especially the extraordinary levels of snooping! It didn’t occur to me until much later in the book, that maybe I had applied my own skewed perceptions of Marie and Nina into this tale! But then what did occur to me, was that my reaction was entirely of Karen’s design (very clever).

We follow Marie as she navigates and manipulates this domestic web of secrets and deceit and every member of Karen’s cast of characters is complicit in this dark twisty tale of marriage, mortgages and murder! Marie doggedly strives to uncover the true details of a tragedy that occurred years ago on the island of Ibiza; that Nina and their friend Camilla have kept hidden. This terrible event was so pivotal in Marie’s life, that the fallout from it has always tainted her choices and now these emerging revelations direct her determined, detached and devious actions. All of what follows is tinged with a distinct suggestion of revenge to come, but on on who and to what staggering and sensational ends,? I can’t wait for you to find out what happens next and I have no intention of even hinting at how the story ends, I don’t do spoilers remember!!!

I do think Marie’s own words at the opening of this tale are subtle and super way to sum up this dark and duplicitous story, ‘The camera does lie. My role is to take these lies and spin them into the perfect story‘…and perfection as we have often been told, is purely in the eye of the beholder. The universally held truth of this idea, is one to bear in mind as you revel this suspenseful and astounding story.

I was absorbed and completely disturbed by this enticing story and I profoundly recommend that you add it to your crime collection. I promise it will be the perfect escape for you during the festive season.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy and developed a love of travel through moving around so much. This led her to a career as a flight attendant, and it was in the air that she thought of the idea for her debut thriller The Perfect Girlfriend.

 Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy, and has now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband. The Perfect Girlfriend was as Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller in paperback. The Last Wife is her hotly anticipated second novel. @KJHAuthor

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

How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics)

Author: Gary Raymond

Publisher: Parthian Books

Available: Published in paperback and digital format on 2nd November 2020

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/35h5uPH

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/35i7hE4

Parthian Books: https://bit.ly/35sAs7z

WHSmith: https://bit.ly/2UcvsNZ

Thank you to Emma Welton, Damp Pebbles Blog Tours and Parthian 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

RARELY HAS THE POWER OF CINEMA BEEN FELT BY SO MANY, IN SUCH OPPOSING WAYS…

“Love Actually dulls the critical senses, making those susceptible to its hallucinogenic powers think they’ve seen a funny, warm-hearted, romantic film about the many complex manifestations of love. Colourful Narcotics. A perfect description of a bafflingly popular film.”

By any reasonable measurement, Love Actually is a bad movie. There are plenty of bad movies out there, but what gets under Gary Raymond’s skin here is that it seems to have tricked so many people into thinking it’s a good movie. In this hilarious, scene-by-scene analysis of the Christmas monolith that is Love Actually, Gary Raymond takes us through a suffocating quagmire of badly drawn characters, nonsensical plotlines, and open bigotry, to a climax of ill-conceived schmaltz.

How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) is the definitive case against a terrible movie. With a foreword by Lisa Smithstead.

My Thoughts:

When I saw the details for this book, the first words out of my mouth were, ‘Thank goodness, FINALLY, there is someone else on the planet that didn’t like this film’…it isn’t just me!…For the record and in the spirit of full and honest disclosure, I absolutely loathed, detest, abhor, despise this abomination of a romcom and give me long enough and I am certain I can find a few hundred other suitable adjectives to express my distaste for it! 

On agreeing to review this book, I attempted to re-watch the film in question, for the first time in 17 years! I managed to last a whole 23 minutes of its 120 minute duration, before I gave up and switched it off! I decided absolutely nothing has changed my opinion of it and as I had no wish to start throwing heavy objects at my tv that as they say, was more than enough of that! Although, I did have a moments sadness about the fact the glorious and wonderful Alan Rickman is no longer with us. This current experience, did bring back traumatic memories of being at the cinema with my best friend, Kelly (it was her choice of film) and my having to sit through it…no amount of popcorn could drown the screaming hatred in my head and now it is as if Gary has articulated in his glorious book exactly what I couldn’t say about this film for all these years!!! Thank you Gary, Thank you from the bottom of my twisted Grinch-like dark heart!

I will say if you haven’t seen the film (lucky you) it might be pretty difficult to comprehend the specific and detailed contents of this book. Gary has courageously written a comprehensive analysis and dismemberment of the film, casting his critics disseminating eye over every single element from the characters, the dialogue, to the accompanying song choices. He has amusingly and shrewdly assessed the distorted, discomforting travesty of a love story that this film is!

Just to give you some idea of what I am talking about, as an example, the characters; Karen & Daniel, played by Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson, Daniel poor chap has lost his beloved wife and is clearly grief stricken but she hasn’t been in the ground for 5 minutes before his friends (chiefly Karen) decide his next step is to start a new relationship and basically goes on to bully and harass the man into attempting it!!! Talk about obtuse, callus and emotionally oblivious and Gary has picked up on all of it, as he has with his clever observations on the characters of Mark/Peter and Juliet (played by Andrew Lincoln, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Keira Knightley) and the fantastic description of it being ‘ solid gold drivel’!!! Trust me there is plenty more for you to discover when you read the book, just wait until you read the sections on Colin Firth’s ‘sex-pest’ sections and the bizarre sex simulations of John & Judy, played by Martin Freeman & Joanna Page (whose scenes just make you cringe) and Gary spares no quarter in expressing his thoughts on the matter.

Gary takes an almost forensic approach to his assessments of this so-called love story on celluloid and uncovers all its unenviable flaws, and definitely confirms my long held opinion that Love Actually is really one of the most deviant and dysfunctional love stories ever told. Unarguably illustrated by the facts, the whole film is awash with misogyny, disloyalty, fat jokes, stalking, adultery, sexual harassment, and Gary reveals them all and almost re-writes the scenes we are reading about and I found his observations, hilarious! I was also fascinated by the anecdotal information that had been gathered relating to the scenes in the film that were deleted and concepts that didn’t make the cut (I am still surprised that anything was left out!)

This book maybe small but on my goodness, it is utterly mighty…definitely the perfect gift for a Christmas stocking!!! It did also cross my mind, that this book would make the perfect Christmas book club read, can you imagine the volume and scope of the discussions around the country as people voice their own opinions on this book and that film!! This book is perfect for those who didn’t like Love Actually (me in case I haven’t made that screamingly obvious) as it vindicates and explains their dissatisfaction with it but it is also eminently suitable for those who did enjoy Love Actually (I am not rolling my eyes as I write this sentence, I promise!) as it provides clear evidence that that this romcom, has a very dark side and this book, will give you a different perspective to discover.

Regardless as to which side you are on about the merits of Love Actually, I whole heartily recommend that you treat yourself to a copy of this astute and irreverent book and have fun reading it. I know I have…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

 About the Author:

Gary Raymond is a novelist, critic, editor, and broadcaster. He is presenter of The Review Show for BBC Radio Wales and editor of Wales Arts Review. He is a regular writer on film, music, literature, and theatre, and can often be heard on BBC Radio 3 and 4 as an arts commentator and reviewer. His novels include For Those Who Come After (Parthian, 2015), The Golden Orphans (Parthian, 2018), and the upcoming Angels of Cairo (Parthian, 2021). 

 Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GaryRaymond_

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

Please do take a look at the other reviews of this book

The Lost Diary of Venice

Author: Margaux Deroux

Publisher: Trapeze

Available: 26th November 2020 in Paperback, eBook and Audio

Thank you to Alex Layt and Orion Fiction 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 secret diary. A forbidden love. A centuries old mystery to solve.

When a rare sixteenth-century manuscript lands on her desk courtesy of William, a struggling painter, shy book restorer Rose makes a startling discovery: it is a palimpsest. Beneath the text is a different document, one that’s been written over. What they discover is the secret diary of William’s ancestor, Giovanni Lomazzo, a Venetian painter who has just been commissioned by Venice’s most powerful admiral to paint a portrait of his favourite courtesan… it is a diary of forbidden love, dangerous political plots, and secrets that could destroy everyone involved.

Together, Rose and William work to solve the mystery of what happened to the secret lovers. As feelings develop between Rose and William, their own experience begins to mirror the affair that they’re uncovering, and each set of lovers is forced to confront the reality of their romance.

A richly detailed and sweeping page-turner, Margaux’s sumptuous portrait of late Renaissance Italy will have you falling headlong into history, slipping in and out of the shadows along the canals of Venice.

My Thoughts:

What drew me to this book in the first instance, was the familiarity and comfort of its subject; for me, reading it was like coming home. Now I suspect you are thinking, why would I say that? Well like Margaux I also studied art history for my ungraduated degree, and unusually I studied it as an A-level and I was the only student in my year who did!

For most of my adult life I have been completely entranced by the talent and vibrancy of the Italian Renaissance. Its painters, sculptors and architects, where Margaux and I differ is that my studies concentrated on that of the artists and patrons of Florence, from Filippo Lippi, Donatello, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio to Michelangelo and during many family holidays, I have been fortunate enough to see their incredible works of art for myself.  When I read the description of this book, I knew instantly I had to read it and I spare no level of exhilaration and ebullience in compelling you to read it too.

I settled down to embark on the story with a frothy coffee by my side and this book had me completely hooked on 8th line of the first page in the prologue, which I share with you now ‘the familiar dry aroma of disintegrating vellum’. As any confirmed bibliophile with a joy of old tomes will attest, when you open them, there is a particular scent that permeates into your senses and captures your soul and with that understanding, it is easy to see why this line simply sings to you and me and simply propels you forward for more…

The structure of the story is divided very neatly into two and evolves around tandem love stories, set oceans away and hundreds of years apart. Chapter 1 opens with our introduction to Rose Newlin, who is riding her bicycle to work, noting the changing seasons as she rides.  We are presented with a young woman with red hair and stunning eyes; stopping to buy a latte and opening her bookshop; greeting her one-eyed cat Odin, all set in a quintessential American university town where she lives. We are only on page 7 and I suspect like me, most of you will already be in love with this story (I know I am/was). Rose loves books and her bookshop but her passion in life is the restoration of texts and manuscripts for which she has a gift and growing reputation for excellent work.

It is her expertise in this area, that brings William Lamazzo into her bookshop, with a manuscript he found were clearing his recently deceased grandmother’s belongings. Together Rose and William discover that this manuscript, is an art treaties from the sixteenth century; written by the artist, Giovanni Lamazzo and is a text explaining the nature of painting, sculpture and architecture.

But Rose discovers it holds a greater secret, as it is also a palimpsest; which is two documents one text overlaying the other. But now we have a third story emerging for discovery; William feels unexplainably drawn to Rose and she to him and my romantic heart skipped a beat at this stage but my hope for there being a grand romantic journey, was soon quashed. William is married, with two daughters but this relationship is damaged by miscommunication, incomprehension and apathy but will his new and exciting connection and emerging feelings for Rose be the catalyst to end it? Of course I can’t possibly tell you that now, can I? As to what transpires, well that is for me to know and you to find out, but I will say, I admired Rose most, when she says enough…and William is not alone in his romantic interest in her, there is also the sweet and charming librarian, medievalist Lucas to consider!

In almost alternate chapters of the book, we are also spirited away to Venice of the 1570s; a city on the brink of war with the formidable Ottoman Empire. Who under Selim II wished to conquer Venice because it was the apex of trade at this time. If the Ottomans captured this gateway they would control the trade routes of the East and the West and all the wealth that travels these routes.  Combine this impending event; with the pervading and dominating wants of the Papacy in Rome and well-established machiavellian nature of Italianate city states ruled by wealthy merchant families, whose avaricious need for power dominates their rule. What a dangerous time to exist…but it is here we meet Giovanni Lamazzo, an artist with a reputation for producing excellent portraits, painting is his passion and his livelihood but his eye-sight is failing, how much longer will he be able to paint?

Gio is summoned to the Palazzo of Sebastiano Vernier, an Admiral of the Venetian fleet, a wealthy and powerful patron and tipped to be the next Doge of Venice (which is rather like being a prince or a president).  Vernier commissions Lamazzo to paint his favourite courtesan, Chiara; a woman of ravishing beauty, charm and astonishing violet eyes but she is so much more, as Gio discovers when he spends time in her company making sketches. Chiara is, despite the limitations placed on her being female, educated, intelligent and a talented composer and we watch as the joy for each of them; at being seen for who they are rather than what they are, as well as being understood sees their relationship develop into love but like Rose and William they face significant tribulations; Gio is going blind, he cannot afford to anger such a wealthy patron as Vernier and Chiara as a courtesan and as such a kept woman, who is reliant on Vernier for everything; her status and acceptance in society, her home, she is a commodity and can be dispensed with instantly! Is there love then ultimately doomed?..

However, it is not Vernier who is their biggest threat, but his adjutant the handsome and nefarious Covino, known at the Crow. Whose own desires for status and power dominate his existence and colour his actions! With no familial heritage or status, he is reliant on Vernier for promotion and elevation but when his own actions result in him not being part of the fleet sent into battle with the Ottomans. He is enraged and determined to prove he is to be trusted but others like Chiara are not!!! When Gio’s journal vanishes, the lovers realise they are in grave danger…and I bet you really want to know, how the story unfolds but my lips are sealed!

The intense and intricate weave of the story lines is an absolute delight, Margaux reveals the tremendous depth and scope of her own knowledge and research of Venice, its history and its art. All the details of which are depicted in her vivid descriptions of the decadence, luxury and beauty of the clothes, the jewels, the palazzos, their interiors, the ornate squares, the narrow lanes and the canals. I also adored the juxtaposition of the two love stories, with the characters facing social/economic issues relating to their own periods but despite the years between the stories, the complexities of love never change.

Further more, I was utterly captivated by the descriptions of Rose’s sanctuary; her workroom in the back of her bookshop, the details and remarkable processes she uses to uncover the secrets held within the vellum of the treaties and the story she uncovers. I can’t wait for you to discover it too nor can I wait for you to be able see the remarkable conclusions she has created for both love stories, they are not what you would expect but they are perfect in my eyes.

Every aspect of this book filled me with such anticipation and reading it, reminded me very much of the sumptuous nature of AS Byatt’s book Possession and the vitality and vibrance of Margaux’s characters, which echo for me, the early works of Barbara Erskine; Lady of Hay and Kingdom of Shadows in particular and which are some of my favourite reads ever.

I was completely enthralled, entranced and enraptured by every page of this book. I cannot wait to see what Margaux writes next, I will be first in the queue to to buy a copy. All that is left for me to say now, is how much I implore you to treat yourself to this resplendent and sublime story.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Margaux DeRoux lives in San Francisco, where she worked as a consultant for startups and companies like Google and Linkedin. She has studied art history and comes from a family of artists. The Lost Diary of Venice is her first novel.

The Chalet

Author: Catherine Cooper

Publisher: Harper Collins

Available: Paperback, eBook and Audio

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Harper Collins for my gifted eBook 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:

French Alps, 1998

Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.

20 years later

Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.

Someone knows what really happened that day.

And somebody will pay.

An exciting new debut for anyone who loves Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley, and C.L. Taylor

‘Chilling and atmospheric’ Roz Watkins

‘Thrilling – I could feel the icy chill blowing through the pages’ Michelle Frances

‘Cleverly plotted’ Allie Reynolds

‘The perfect book to take a stay-cation with!’ Suzy K Quinn

My Thoughts:

Catherine Cooper’s debut novel is the perfect gripping, escapist read for these cold, dark winter evenings and an antidote to any lockdown blues you may be feeling at present. I highly recommend snuggling up on your sofa, with a cream laden hot chocolate (maybe adding a little drop of something for extra zing, after all that’s the done thing at any ski resort) and settle down for an enticing adventure.

A luxurious chalet in the stunning French alps, snow and skiing, champagne and log fires, what could possibly spoil such bliss?!…well, a couple of dead bodies might!

It struck me about a third of the way into this tale, how much the structure and plot of this book reminded me of a classic Agatha Christie novel, especially one involving the excellent Belgian Detective Poirot. Catherine, like Agatha does, has gathered together a group of fascinating and flawed characters that on the face of it have limited connections to each other and are just on a wonderful holiday, with incredible picturesque surroundings, fantastic food and lashings of champagne, what’s not to love? Until you dig deeper into their lives, relationships and past histories; then as the omnificent reader, you witness unsettling conversations and behaviours, you start to feel that frisson of tension, that will continue to build and spread through the pages you are reading and nestle in the corner of your mind and those sparks become a powder keg of apprehension!

I have to admire Catherine’s consummate skill as a plotist, she has wrought a tale or several in fact, that are cunning and oh so juicily compelling, spanning multiple different timelines, yet has adroitly left her readers, a sublime bread crumb trail of clues, which are a tantalising mix of the obvious and the obscuring and they work their magic in exposing our cast of characters, their manipulations, their secrets, their deceits and entrench us in tangle of betrayal and fatal consequences and it is thoroughly delicious reading!

This cast of characters are the voices of our story and they tell it, I confess, I did confuse myself on the odd occasion about which character was in which timeline but I assure you that is just me, it’s a dyslexic thing, anyway I digress, back to the cast! What I loved about them, was that Catherine made them all so gloriously flawed and delightfully fallible and for one or two downright nasty! Oh my taser finger was itching, I can tell you…and oh the duplicity of Ria, who basically engineered her marriage to the lovely but hapless Hugo so he can keep her in the life style she requires and then is only pretending to try for a baby…but is still taking the pill and this is only a smidgen of the wiles of this cast of characters and whose actions deserve the ultimate punishment!

Now I am keeping my observances about the full details of the plot/cast relatively vague only because, I really want you to form your own opinions on them and of course it is their actions/reactions that drive the plot…and you all know by now…that I believe spoilers utterly ruin the reading experience.  My lips are sealed on the subject, except to say, Millie the chalet girl was my favourite and when you read the book, you will see why?!

The catalyst for this tale is a huge snowstorm, which ties the past and present together! Everyone is trapped inside, the tension is magnificent…what is going to happen next…the storm clears and a discovery is made, a body is uncovered…is this a resolution? Because, at the beginning of the book (1990s) two brothers went skiing off-piste and only one of them returned! This surviving brother now makes his return appearance, supposedly to identify the newly exhumed remains! However there is a more than one surprise identification here, in fact there is a definite reconnection…and of course I am not going to provide you with the details but I will say; like layers of an onion the clues aline, the crucial elements of the story are peeled back, the truth revealed and resolution secured with a sumptuous twist in place for good measure!

Hopefully you will agree with me about what a thrilling, chilling, engaging story this is. I can’t wait for you to read it too. So I enthusiastically recommend that you don’t delay, buy this book today, after all it is payday weekend and this novel is a delectable reading treat..so go on spoil yourself

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

CATHERINE COOPER is a freelance journalist writing for many national newspapers and magazines, specialising in travel. Most recently she has written several ski pieces for the Guardian and is currently compiling a 50 best family holidays round up for the Telegraph. She also makes regular appearances as a talking head on daytime TV. She lives in France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier.

Please remember to read some of the other reviews for this book

Letters From The Dead

Author: Sam Hurcom

Publisher: Orion Fiction

Available: 26th November 2020 – Hardback/eBook

Thank you to Alex Layt and Orion Fiction 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:

The next stifling, atmospheric gothic crime novel following one of the worlds’ first forensic photographer’s – for fans of The Woman in Black, The Silent Companions and Little Strangers

1905. A year after ‘the affair’ in Dinas Powys, Thomas Bexley has become a drunkard and recluse, haunted by terrible visions of the dead. But when news of a spate of extraordinary kidnappings reaches him, Thomas is shocked to learn that his dear friend and former mentor, Professor Elijah Hawthorn, is the lead suspect.  

Discovering a plea for help from Hawthorn claiming to have unearthed a gruesome conspiracy at the heart of the Metropolitan Police, Thomas embarks on a journey to prove Hawthorn’s innocence.

But wherever Thomas goes, he is followed by the dead, and as the mystery of Hawthorn’s disappearance deepens, so too does Thomas’s apparent insanity…

How can Thomas be certain of the truth when he can’t trust anybody around him, not even himself…?

Praise for Sam Hurcom:

‘An intriguing debut’ THE TIMES

‘A promising debut – gothic, claustrophobic and wonderfully dark’ GUARDIAN

‘A sparkling debut from a name to watch…You might as well be in another world. This is top notch historical crime fiction, with a dash of the supernatural. A gorgeous book and a riveting tale’ David Young

My Thoughts:

I am sitting here at my desk, trying to recover my senses enough to tell you about the wild dark ride that I have been on with this marvellous book. This is Sam Hurcom’s second Thomas Bexley novel and oh my goodness what a story he has for you, a gothic, supernatural spooktacular read. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Sam hasn’t broken out his Ouija board and mystically summoned the essences of Edgar Allen Poe for his eerie genius and Arthur Conan Doyle for his exalted plotting to innovate his creation of this menacing, creepy, atmospheric crime novel. Trust me when I say if you live alone, when you read this book turn on all the lights and don’t for goodness sake read it by candlelight late at night or you will like me, spend days jumping in fright at every innocuous sound! Bravo Sam Bravo…

Edwardian London where fear is rife, the people afraid to sleep, awash with terror of ‘The Wraith’…who comes silently in the night and steals people from their beds and no sign of them has yet been discovered! Eleven are missing so far…presumed dead, signs of violence at the place of their abduction and the same mysterious symbol carved at scenes.

Thomas Bexley former Special Inspector and forensic photographer within the Forensic Crime Directorate, whose previous case (which you can read all about in A Shadow on the Lens) has left him a broken man, a tortured recluse, reliant for his sanity on rum and tobacco, he has no escape or respite from the spectres of the dead who haunt his every breath! When we encounter Tom, he wishes only to end his life (but confesses to not being brave enough) and stop the terrifying, macabre ghouls he can’t stop seeing and nor can we as Sam spares no adjectives in illustrating the hideous monsters that materialise.

 Within a few pages, Tom finds himself forcibly encouraged by former colleague Inspector Jack Laverstock to attend an interview at the police station, believing he is being asked for assistance of some kind he reluctantly agrees. But it soon becomes apparent, his help is not required, in fact the nature and tone of the interview undertaken of him by another former acquaintance, Commissioner Henley. Instead suggests that he is that of someone under suspicion and that his former mentor and friend Professor Elijah Hawthorne is believed to be the foul and villainous Wraith!

This is a mere tantalising taste of what is to unfold in this mesmerising, chilling and dark tale, Sam’s incredible depth of perception of all his locations, especially London, he brings to life the squalid slums, the rank scents, clamorous sights and sounds until you believe that you are part of the scene. Couple this with his page turning plot, it is terrifying and addictive in equal parts. I found that I was doing the metaphorical hiding my eyes with my fingers because I couldn’t bear to read on but in actual fact, I couldn’t stop reading on because I so desperately wanted to know what on earth would transpire next?!

Well what does happen next? Oh, so much…. you are in for such a spine tingling treat;  Tom is released from the police station, returns home to discover an unopened letter from Professor Hawthorne, expressing his regret for their estrangement, explaining his uncovering of a nefarious plot involving the high echelons of the police and government; suggestions of a dark cult and variety of blood rituals and dark spiritualism all tied to occult practices! Fearing he has been discovered Professor Hawthorne has fled North and wishes to speak to Tom, requesting he too travel North to meet him.

Every page of this book drips with pervading menace & sinister intentions and I found myself agog with shock and delightful horror as the story continued to reveal surprise after sinister surprise and Sam has created a dexterous plot, which sublimely twists and turns through every chapter, now I am only going to reveal a few more elements for you because, there is no fun in my spoiling your chance of being immersed in this story as I was or still am!

Tom embarks on a breath-takingly fraught journey North and finds himself joined in his travails by Beatrice Monroe, self-confessed sibling to one of the Wraith’s missing victims but bookophiles beware, all it not what it seems! Tom and Beatrice form an uneasy alliance and end up in the Scottish village of Pike Ness, where they discover more dark clues that suggest Hawthorne might be hiding on an abandoned Island just off the coast…and you know that moment in thrillers and horror films that has you shouting at the tv… No don’t go down/in/over there!!…this is that moment!!

On the Island is a derelict, decaying manor house (think Miss Havisham and Dickens and you will get the idea) rotting away in its splendid isolation; full of hundreds of grotesque stuffed birds, whose decaying glass eyes follow you (or rather them) everywhere but that isn’t the half of this disconcerting exploration. Let’s just say hallucinations, rats, rope and blood trails plus a stomach churning discovery and yet more perplexing clues; a book, a ring, codes and poetry! All of which leads their investigation onward to the estate of Lord Cavandish-Huntley and his abode, Burton Lodge in Cambridgeshire. But first they have to get off the Island! Even at this point in the tale, there is still so much more exciting darkness to come and for you to savour but I am resolved not to expose anything more!

The book romps towards its climax in a further vortex of heart-stopping drama, diabolical disclosure, damning deception and death all of which is astoundingly enthralling and petrifyingly thrilling! Sam you are the master of gothic crime in the 21st century, this story is incredible! I cannot wait to see where you take Thomas Bexley next but I am also quietly relieved that there might be a good few months until the next book. As quite honestly, I need time to lie down and recover from the exquisite fear this book evokes! However, I won’t be switching the lights at home off anytime soon, just in case!

So, my lovely readers, all I have left to say to you is that you simply MUST buy this book (and its predecessor) and I do mean today, right now!

Happy Reading bookophiles…

About the Author:

Sam Hurcom was born in Dinas Powys, South Wales in 1991. He studied Philosophy at Cardiff University, attaining both an undergraduate and master’s degree. He has since had several short stories published and has written and illustrated a number of children’s books. Sam currently lives in the village he was raised in, close to the woodlands that have always inspired his writing.

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

Sins of the Father

Author: Sharon Bairden

Publisher: Red Dog Press

Available: 27th November 2020

Thank you to Meggy Roussel and Red Dog books for my gifted eBook 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:

Lucas Findlay thinks he has struck gold when he marries Rebecca, but she married him for one reason only – to destroy him.

Trauma runs deep

When her past comes back to haunt her, Rebecca begins to disconnect from herself and the world around her. As secrets are unearthed, she begins to fear for her sanity … and her life.

Truth will out

With her world unravelling around her, Rebecca clings to her determination to make Lucas pay, whatever the cost.

Forgive his sins

But someone must pay for the sins of the father…

My Thoughts:

WOW…WOW…the scale of the wow factor for this book is unsurpassable! I kid you not! I like to consider myself a cognisor of crime novels and I have read and enjoyed 1000s of them but until now very few have rendered me almost speechless with awe at the sublime skill and brutal complex audacity of this story! Sharon you are a crime genius and I am now a fan for life.

Quite frankly this is one of the most harrowing, remarkable, powerful and insightful stories I have ever read…this is not an easy read because of the nature of the themes it contains; child abuse, domestic abuse, mental illness and revenge. I say this to you because I do not wish to put you off reading it in anyway, in fact the exact opposite is true, you absolutely MUST read it!

It is the type of book that deserves the highest of accolades and it should widely disseminated and ultimately be studied and analysed on University English literature courses and awarded prizes for its genius and if you think I am being exceptionally gushing in my praise for it, I promise you this book deserves every compliment I can write.

Please be aware that if you are triggered by stories around child abuse, coercive control, mental health issues and self-harming, Sharon has written a percipient and comprehensive journey of these elements within this book, she does not hold back on the gut-wrench horror of these themes but she does so with considered awareness of their impact.

The book opens with a prologue, our protagonist Rebecca is engulfed by a sinister, chilling nightmare, it unnerved me so much while reading these pages late at night, that I had to put the book down and wait until the following day to continue to read it in daylight! For me it was quite clear, such vivid dreams were the product of a damaged mind.

The book itself is spit in to two parts, the first part focuses on Rebecca; when we see her for the first time, she is a traumatised child, covered in the blood of her dead mother; being removed by police and social workers from a rank and squalid home! It is also quite clear that Rebecca is an unusual child, she recollects realising this fact herself and the hurtful and negative reactions of others to her being different. Rebecca hears voices and it is quickly made apparent that these voices are both supportive and in equal parts vicious and threatening.

I certainly began to assess whether she is psychotic or maybe schizophrenic but over the next 15 chapters, it is woefully apparent that these voices Rebecca hears, are the product of a fractured mind, a condition that can occur when a person is so traumatised, damaged or has suffered unutterable horrors that the mind splinters and creates its own form of protection. Rebecca’s form of protection is the most dominant voice she can hear; that of Samantha who is her best friend, her protector but is also her harshest critic and nemesis. Samantha is so powerful that she can actually takeover from Rebecca and take physical action to protect her and what she does do, is horribly shocking! I shall of course leave you to find out what exactly that is for yourselves!

Within these first 15 chapters we see everything from Rebecca’s perspective and it is immeasurably heart-breaking, her shame, her aloneness, her invisibility; we watch helplessly as her mother mired in her own hell of poverty and loneliness, descends into becoming a heroin addict and all the vileness that this entails! Rebecca is a shadow in her own home, desperate for her mother to return to normal because however flawed she was before, she wasn’t as wretched as she is now! And the atrocities of what her mother’s addiction has led to, is only disclosed by Rebecca in the social worker’s car after she has been removed; ” I told him, I was 10, I knew I was small for my age, I always had been and that had been part of the attraction for the men who had visited!”….this simple sentence is probably one of the most cogent I have ever read, it literally stops your heart in its tracks and as a reader you know, precisely what is inferred and the subsequent chapters illustrate the full extent of the abuse Rebecca has endured!

With the death of her mother, I also breathed a sigh of relief because I was under the misguided apprehension, that being placed in the care system, however pitiful that might be, had to better than where Rebecca had come from…I could not have been more wrong! We follow Rebecca through her experiences in two foster homes, the constant pressure of the voices in her head, the terrifying fear and anger, the isolation and Samantha’s lethal presence! Leads to a further dramatic and distressing turn of events and stemming from this, Rebecca’s admission into Kintyne House for assessment and the full extent of Rebecca’s internal ‘demons’ is addressed.

We then jump 2 years on; Rebecca has been diagnosed with DID or Dissociative Identity Disorder, recognition of her condition has brought her a level of acceptance, of peace almost, she has been taught methods to cope and has learnt to live with the condition rather than be overwhelmed by it. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel; supported housing, a plan for attending college and living independently when she turns 18! At this point, I had to stop reading for several hours in order to absorb all that I had just read…you may well need to do the same but please do not put the book away!

Part two of the book, resembles a magnificent game of chess, all the pieces are moving on the board;

Rebecca’s nightmares are back, so is Samantha; Rebecca is married to Lucas after a whirlwind romance, she has a life and a successful career and heads the Phoenix Project (helping abused and addicted women) but there are some very sinister signs that all is not well (minor understatement from me here). All the character’s here are now connected by their work with people effected by social depravation, poverty, drugs, domestic violence but they all also have a connection to Rebecca.

Lucas her husband has staggering connections to her childhood; Jim Atkin, Rebecca’s former social worker makes a reappearance, the past years have not treated him kindly and he is carrying a heavy burden of deceit and secrets which he drown in alcohol. Both Rebecca and Lucas have started to receive menacing phone calls and notes, items are moved around in their home; are they being stalked but why and by whom? Their marriage is disintegrating, Lucas is failing to fight the demons of his own past, there are hints he is embarking on affair with Jim’s colleague Nicole! Rebecca is clearly starting to disassociate and she know it; has the abusee become an abuser or has Samantha once again come into her own with a vengeance. Rebecca’s own careful plans for revenge are unravelling…is there someone else prepared to make the guilty pay and will ‘the sins of the father be laid upon his children’!

 This section of the book is longer than the first but my delving into the details will be less intensive than the first part of my review because the raw power, incredible plotting and mesmerising surprises contained within in it are not mine to disclose but yours to discover and when you do…I suspect you will have the same jaw dropping, eye boggling, reaction I did! Tempting as it would be for me to keep typing, OMG, OMG, OMG it won’t make for very interesting reading for you. The main theme of this part of the book revolves around revenge and oh it is spine tingling, incredible devious revenge and not for the faint hearted, you have been warned. And as to the end of the story, I had pieces of the puzzle worked out but what unfolds is quite simply…utterly mind blowing!!! As my favourite saying goes, ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold‘!

For me, this book is unique, fiendishly clever and possibly the most remarkable crime novel, I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Sharon, I am prepared to stand on street corners across the land to shout about its incredible brilliance. It is a crime masterpiece, so my lovely bookophiles I am begging you; beseeching you to buy this book, it is exceptional and from a completely selfish point of view because I desperately need to share my admiration about its content with other people! So hurry up and order your copy and please do tell me what you think…soon!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

By day Sharon Bairden is the Services Manager in a small, local independent advocacy service and has a passion for human rights; by night she has a passion for all things criminal. She blogs about books at Chapterinmylife and is delighted to be crossing over to the other side of the fence to become a writer. Sharon lives on the outskirts of Glasgow, has two grown up children, a grandson, a Golden Labrador and a cat. She spends most of her spare time doing all things bookish, from reading to attending as many book festivals and launches as she can. She has been known to step out of her comfort zone on the odd occasion and has walked over burning coals and broken glass – but not at the same time!

Please keep a look out for other reviews about this incredible book

Crime and Justice

Author: Martin Bodenham

Publisher: Down & Out Books

Available: 16 August 2020 in Paperback and eBook

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/38jJq90

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3n1kLKz

Google Books: https://bit.ly/2IcS4LS

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/32oUnlX

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/3p99Yjx

Thank you to Emma Welton and Damp Pebbles Tours for arranging my gifted eBook 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:

What if we could no longer trust DNA profiling, the silver bullet of our criminal justice system? For years, we’ve relied on it to solve decades-old crimes, convict the guilty, and liberate the innocent from death row. But what happens to that trust when a crime lab scientist is leaned on to manipulate the evidence or, worse still, lose it altogether?

Ruthless Seattle mayor, Patti Rainsford, announces her candidacy for state governor. She’ll do anything to succeed. When her son is arrested for the rape and assault of a seventeen-year-old girl, Rainsford’s political career is in jeopardy.

Detective Linda Farrell is assigned to investigate. After twelve years working in SPD’s sexual assault unit, her career is drifting, not helped by the single-minded detective’s contempt for police protocol and the pressure of her failing marriage. The high-profile rape case is a rare chance to shine and maybe even get her life back on track. Nothing will stop her seeking justice for the young victim.

With a mountain of personal debt and his wife’s business on a knife-edge, Clark Stanton is facing financial meltdown. Then a stranger offers him a lifeline in return for a favour. As the manager of Seattle’s crime lab, all Clark has to do is make the rape kit evidence against the mayor’s son go away.

My Thoughts:

It struck me on reading this story, that Crime and Justice is what I imagine the literary lovechild of the tv series Dynasty and a John Grisham novel would resemble, this is not a note of derision but one of amused admiration (as I am quite pleased to admit, I love both forms of entertainment). This book is joyful mix of wealth, glamour, scandal and thrilling intrigue and I spent several hours happily immersed in the vivid world Martin has created.

Money talks or at least enables those who have it to attempt to escape justice from the crimes they have perpetrated. This is the core theme at the centre of this thrilling story and what follows is a maelstrom of scandal, deceit and moral dilemmas. Chace Rainford is the epitome of a pretty boy sleaze, immoral, entitled and seemingly untouchable because of his connections with in the upper echelons of Seattle society, he stands accused of raping a 17-year-old girl. His reprehensible behaviour has put the proverbial ‘spanner in the works‘ of his mother’s political ambitions.

Patti Rainsford, Mayor of Seattle has her sights firmly set on becoming the next Governor of Washington and knows that a scandal related media storm surrounding any candidate or their family will scupper her chances at political success before the race has even begun. She will stop at nothing and will not tolerate anyone standing in the way of her political aspirations. Jeff Peltz is her fixer and all that implies, she instructs him to do whatever it takes to make her son’s indiscretions or evidence of such impropriety disappear, regardless of the cost and I don’t just mean money!

Caught in the crossfire of these iniquitous events are Annie and Clark Stanton; Annie is an IT Consultant; whose fledgling business relies upon a substantial IT service contract with City Hall. Clark her husband, is head of the Seattle Crime Lab, whose remit is to process the forensic evidence for the city and I think you can already see what their role in this story might be! Peltz harries Clark and pardon the cliché makes him an offer he can’t refuse, faced with insurmountable financial worries is Clark’s only option to silence his moral compass and agree to ‘disappear the evidence‘ of Chase Rainford’s crime! Quite a dramatic dilemma isn’t it?! It did make me think, what would I do face with such circumstances?

The catalyst to these egregious events, is Detective Linda Farrell, lead detective in the Sexual Crimes Unit (SCU) who is determined and driven to pursue Chase for his crime and come what may, she will dig in for the fight!

This is my first experience of reading one of Martin’s books, his plot is riveting and I was horrifyingly enthralled by Clark Stanton’s lose/lose dilemma, the story ricochets from perilous situation to seemingly more precarious situations with gleeful abandon, creating layers of tantalising tension and intrigue and of course the only way to find resolution to this reader’s palpitations was to keep turning the pages, quickly!

I will say do be prepared to suspend any notions of common sense because Martin was clearly channelling essence of Grisham when constructing his rigorous plots and I found myself internally debating the moral validity of allowing the perpetrators of a crime to go free in order to stem the further suffering of the innocent victim/s…and when I wasn’t doing that I spent the rest of the book, trying to reconcile the dependence of justice on the validity of DNA evidence, is it possible to trust a process that relies on human interaction with science. When we know that different people’s internal morality can be corrupted and the means to influence their decisions can be bought or coerced! Such machinations brought me a peculiar, fraught sort of pleasure!

All in all, I very much enjoyed the few hours I spent with my nose in this book, it is thrilling, intriguing and certainly gave me a lot to think about and I suspect I will be debating the themes in this story for some time to come. I highly recommend you add this book to your reading stash and I think it would be a fascinating book group read, provoking heated discussion! See what you think?

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Martin Bodenham is the author of the crime thrillers The Geneva Connection, Once a Killer, and Shakedown. Crime And Justice is his latest novel.

After a thirty-year career in private equity and corporate finance in London, Martin moved to the west coast of Canada, where he writes full-time. He held corporate finance partner positions at both KPMG and Ernst & Young as well as senior roles at several private equity firms before founding his own private equity company in 2001. Much of the tension in his thrillers is based on the greed and fear he witnessed first-hand while working in international finance.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MartinBodenham

LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/martin-bodenham-8228307

Website: https://www.martinbodenham.com/

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

Please do take a look at other reviews for this book

Whispers in the Dark

Author: Chris McDonald

Publisher: Red Dog Press

Available: Hardback, Paperback and eBook

Purchase Link: https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/shop

Thank you to Meggy Roussel and Red Dog books for my gifted eBook 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:

Who will heed the call when Death comes whispering?

Small time drug dealer, Marcus Stone and DCI Clive Burston had never met until one night in August. By the end of that night, both had been shot dead in a small bedroom in the heart of gang territory.

DI Erika Piper is called to the scene but is at a loss to explain what’s happened. How did these two even meet, let alone end up dead in what appears to be a strange murder-suicide? As Erika leads the investigation, another two bodies are found, killed in a similar fashion. One murder, one suicide. But who is controlling this macabre puppet show?

As Erika delves deeper into the lives of the dead, the pieces begin to fit together and a number of nefarious characters crawl out of the woodwork – one of whom is almost certainly pulling the strings.

A catastrophic event and a personal miracle threaten to derail the investigation. Erika must find the strength to continue, before the whispers catch up with her too…

My Thoughts:

Now I hold my hands up and confess that I haven’t quite finished reading book 1 of Chris McDonald’s Erika Piper series and now having been engrossed in book 2, let me say it is abundantly clear to me, that you need both these glorious books in your crime collections. Whispers in the Dark, certainly has its roots reaching out from ‘A Wash of Black’ but my not having fully finished the first book YET, has in no way spoiled my enjoyment of book 2 and I am fervently hoping there will be a book 3, don’t make me go all ‘Misery’ on you Chris..

The opening to this instalment is dramatic and emotionally brutal and I will warn you if you are triggered by incidents of child abuse then this could/will have an effect on you but Chris has written this scene with great care, despite the disturbing nature of its content.

Still reeling from the opening scene, we find ourselves with DCI Erika Piper and her partner Tom attending the wedding reception of her Detective Sargent Liam Sutton, where quite clearly a good time is being had by all. Erika however is on call, so hasn’t had the required amount of booze required to tackle the dance floor and she escapes to the bathroom for a moment of quiet, when she is suddenly wracked by dark memories from her past, struggling to quash these haunting recollections, she reaches for pills and we are given the distinct impression, that she might be relying on these a little too much!

Then a call comes in, Erika is required to attend a murder scene, from this point the story embarks on a spectacular trajectory of multiple gristly murders, drugs, gangland rivalry, suicide, the dark web and ultimately a killer with a canny knack for psychological and visceral revenge. The plotlines are sublime, shocking and utterly superb, they made this reader’s heart race and will leave you open mouthed with the audacity of their concept! In fact, I am still open mouthed and dying to share spoilers but I won’t they are yours to revel in and why I am keeping my review about these elements teasingly vague.

Having established in book 1 that Erika Piper is feisty, shrewd and sagacious protagonist, in this book Chris has developed her character further by adding very natural flaws and vulnerabilities to her personality and I believe they make her eminently relatable to readers. She has clearly been impacted by the violence and wounds inflicted on her mentally and physically and the spectres of these traumas, are now part of who she is and influence how she reacts to her environment. I loved that Chris has a few surprises in store for her. Although I have focused on Erika here, I must also comment on the rest of the cast, as this story couldn’t do without their colourful, laconic and loyal roles.

This is book and its predecessor are simply divine, they are my idea of the perfect police procedural, in fact Chris’s attention to forensic detail, storytelling skills and fantastic characters remind me very much of MW Craven’s (Poe & Tilly) books. In a similar fashion, Chris draw you into the action, teases your powers of observation, then has us readers cavort amongst his twisty clever plot and then just when I was feeling smug that I had the killer in my sights; comes the shocking revelations! Utter genius, so all I can find left to say is, buckle up bookophiles for the read of your life, this book is not to be missed, your reading life will not be complete without it!

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Chris McDonald grew up in Northern Ireland before settling in Manchester via Lancaster and London.

He is the author A Wash of Black, the first in the DI Erika Piper series, as well as the forthcoming second – Whispers In The Dark. He has also recently dabbled in writing cosy crimes, as a remedy for the darkness. The first in the Stonebridge Mysteries will be released in early 2021.

He is a full time teacher, husband, father to two beautiful girls and a regular voice on The Blood Brothers Podcast. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs.

Please do have a look at other reviews for this book

Feral Snow

Author: Mark Lowes

Available: 1st October 2020 in Paperback & eBook from Amazon.

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Mark Lowe 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:

Alone and stranded in the Arctic wasteland, would you risk your life to save a stranger or try to get home?

Paul is a father-to-be; traumatised by his past, he’s terrified of becoming a father after his own beat him until he was unilaterally deaf. While working as a freelance cameraman in the Arctic, he’s caught in a blizzard, separated from his crew, and falls into a chasm. Alone, and waiting for death to come, personal demons plague his mind.

When a young native girl falls into the chasm with him, Paul must learn how to accept responsibility and what it takes to give your life for a child.

Behind FERAL SNOW:

I began writing FERAL SNOW with the idea of writing a commercial thriller. Slowly, over time, it morphed into something more though. Paul’s layers began to unravel and his true colours came to the surface. His history of abuse became so much more important than I had first intended. I fell in love with all of the characters and I’ll admit I had a tear in my eye while writing the ending

My Thoughts:

This is Mark Lowe’s debut novel and what a powerful, emotive and gritty story he has created. Definitely one to watch in my opinion.

Mark’s story follows the physical and emotional journey of Paul, who has at the at the last minute accepted a position as camera man on a team filming in the Arctic. It is very apparent from the outset that Paul is out of his depth and unused to such a harsh and demanding environment, 2 days in the highlands doing survival training doesn’t seem like enough preparation to me! It also crossed my mind, as to why he would accept such a role, especially as we soon discover that his wife Annie is expecting their baby imminently!

We follow Paul and his team on the journey to Alert – NWT which is seems from the descriptions, to be a remote, frozen and desolate place and the last foot hold of mankind in the freezing Artic. Throughout the journey and his conversations with his new colleagues, we see two sides to Paul, one that he presents to the world at large and one that he keeps to himself but we as readers of this story can see and hear his narrative, his fears, his memories.

Fundamentally it is fear that has brought Paul to this place, his overwhelming fear of being parent; of failing to be a good parent; of not being capable of being a loving parent because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his own parents. He carries deep seated psychological wounds as well as a permeant physical reminder; he is complete deaf in his left ear after being beaten with a fire poker! And in the face of his overpowering fear, he has to all intents and purposes, run away from the situation back home!

 As Paul and the team head out on the frozen tundra where they will be living and working for the next three weeks, they immediately set to work setting up cameras but in the blink of an eye the weather changes and a huge snow storm hits them, resulting in Paul falling into a fissure in the ice! He survives the fall with some nasty knocks but soon establishes he can’t get out of this hole! For the next few days we follow Paul as he assesses his current predicament and the life events that brought him here, when suddenly and shockingly he is no longer alone! A young girl has also ended up down in this fissure with him, Nanny is pre-teen, savvy and smart mouthed (and I absolutely loved her) initially Paul and Nanny clash with (some I felt) amusing exchanges, but they soon start to work together to survive and with every day their relationship changes.

So, what happens next, I can hear you ask…realistically, do you honestly expect me to reveal the rest of the story because you know that is not going to happen! If you want to discover what happens to the pair, you will have to buy Mark’s book and find out for yourselves. I will however give you a small taste; ice tunnels, a collapsing ice face, time spent on an iceberg, who survives, Seals, Orcas, Wolves and Polar Bears all make an appearance, the rest of the tale is engrossing, compelling, brutal and a little bit life affirming…this harrowing journey does end but a new journey for Paul and Nanny is beginning. Paul’s near-death experiences have clearly changed his perspectives on what it is to love and banishes his negative fear, teaching him and us that we can use our fears to our own advantages and to make our lives better as well as the lives of those we choose to love.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it is a fantastic story with strong characters whose dramatic adventures are horrifying and gripping all at once. This story has also firmly convinced me that under no circumstances do I wish to visit the Artic, its frozen land and animals are beautiful but ultimately lethal and I shall stick to admiring them on ‘Blue Planet’.  I recommend, you grab yourself a copy of this book, snuggle up on the sofa with a frothy coffee and enjoy every adventurous page. Bravo Mark, this is a brilliant read.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Mark Lowes is a former teacher, current early childhood educator, and future dad. He lives in Cardiff, Wales, UK, and is sometimes found lamenting over how awful his football team is. While he’s not working with deaf children and their families, he’s writing dark and twisty fiction.

His writing, so he’s told, is a mix between Chuck Palahniuk Josh Malerman and Ernest Hemingway (although Mark retains, all this praise is too much too high). He loves edge-of-your-seat fiction, novels that make you think deeper about the world but will also terrify you and live the world through the protagonist, experiencing every detail. He’s a fan of description, somewhat a lost art nowadays, and has a soft spot for a dark, unreliable narrator.

You can find him on Twitter @StrugglingMJ where he would be excited to hear your views.

Mark is the winner of Litopia’s Pop-Up Submissions and of a pitch contest at the Cardiff Book Festival.

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

Forgive Me

Author: Susan Lewis

Publisher: Harper Collins

Available: 12th November 2020 in Hardback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Harper Collins 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:

An emotionally gripping story about love, family and restorative justice from the Sunday Times bestselling author Susan Lewis.

‘A master storyteller’– Dianne Chamberlain

‘Full of drama, intrigue with so many twists and turns, I promise you’ll be surprised and captivated right to the end!’ Carmel Harrington

‘Instantly engaging characters and a thrilling denouement’ Lisa Ballantyne

I can’t forgive myself. Not after what I did. Could you?

This is Claudia Winters’s last chance for a fresh start. Changing her name and leaving her old life behind, she has fled to the small town of Kesterly with her mother and daughter. Here, she hopes they can be safe for the first time in years.

But the past can’t stay hidden forever. And even as Claudia makes new friends and builds a new life, she can’t help feeling it’s all about to catch up with her… Until one disastrous night changes everything forever.

My Thoughts:

I confess it has been far too long since I have read one of Susan Lewis’s books and more fool me!  Susan really is the Queen of secrets and sublime stories. I devoured this thrilling and addictive book snuggled up on my sofa on a cold wet Sunday, it was the perfect way to spend a day and the half a tin of quality streets I inhaled, kept me fortified! Trust me, you will need the sugar fix to keep your mind sharp when you embark on this tale.

The book opens with a letter of atonement, from Archie who we gather is a teenager with a troubled mother and at this stage we can only assume writing a letter of regret to his victim but who this victim is or what the incident was, nothing is revealed. I was left with a sense of subtle disquiet permeating my thoughts and craving answers to the plethora of questions rattling around in my head.

Chapter one introduces us to the odious Marcus Huxley Brown (and trust me merely tasering him repeatedly would not be punishment enough for his heinous behaviour). He is clearly in a hurry to cover his nefarious tracks, hiding files and violently coercing his wife into keeping silent, when there is a knock at the door!

Phew…what a dramatic start, I was instantly enthralled and embroiled in the story and I found my adrenaline spiking! What will happen next, I pondered…enter Claudia Winters and her teenage daughter Jasmine, who on the face of it seem to be leaving their house, for a day out perhaps…not a chance! This is the day, they finally escape the web of misery they have been entangled in since Claudia married Marcus Huxley Brown, talk about marry in haste repent at leisure!

What follows is an insight into Claudia’s relationship and her plan to escape with her daughter, to start a new life, with a new identity, somewhere they hope he will never find them. As a reader I was very anxious for Claudia’s wonderful plan to work and I enjoyed reading about her new home in Kesterly-upon-Sea and how she was starting to re-establish her career and meeting her equally glorious mother Marcy, who has been her staunch ally and for both women, I started to see them relax and there was the added bonus of a glimmer of romance as well, life it seems was moving on; they buy and do up a new home and a sense of normality returns or does it…?

Just as I was starting to relax, relishing in the interior design facets of the story and my overactive anxiety of them being discovered was receding; I remembered thinking, I’ve just read another of Archie’s letters, as they are interspersed between the chapters…and clearly they relate to the main story but what is the connection and who is Archie writing to? My instincts were correct…

Now I am going to carefully tiptoe around what I tell you next because as you know, I hate spoilers in every way…when Claudia and Jasmine, fled they took with them an attaché case containing money and documents, it was intended to ‘insure their safety‘ from the vile Marcus, who is now imprisoned for some rather dodgy dealing. But instead, could it now be the catalyst for further problems?

I think you can imagine, where I might be heading…Archie is tasked to find the case but what follows is a set of events that result in a horrible fire with terrible consequences for him and for one of our characters and we get to experience, the emotional and physical aftermath of this tragic event. Our master story teller, Susan has crafted the rest of the story around the themes of Restorative justice (hence Archie’s letters) redemption and forgiveness; you will certainly need a box of tissues handy (I did and I never cry while reading usually) as this incredibly enthralling and poignant story unfolds!! Exploring these themes from the perspectives of her characters is an unusual and edifying route to direct this story in and I found it made me ask the question; in the face of horrifying adversity would I be courageous enough to forgive another who has hurt me or anyone I love? My honest answer…is I simply don’t know! Could you?…

As the story reaches its conclusion, I was ‘cat that got the cream’ satisfied, with how the plot lines interconnected and resolved, Marcus gets what he deserves (minus a serious tasering) Archie is redeemed and our heroines get to live life satisfactorily ever after! This book is a truly thrilling, thought provoking and thoroughly terrific read and I enthusiastically insist you buy it, right now; go on, click, click, click…it is ‘Forgive me’, inconceivable you should miss out on this reading experience…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Susan Lewis is the internationally bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime,

including One Minute Later and Home Truths and My Lies, Your Lies. Susan’s novels have sold nearly three million copies in the UK alone.

She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s

Susan has previously worked as a secretary in news and current affairs before training as a production assistant working on light entertainment and drama.

She’s lived in Hollywood and the South of France, but now resides in Gloucestershire with husband James, two stepsons and dogs.

If you have the chance, please take a look at the other review for this book

Open House: A Life in Thirty-Two Moves

Author: Jane Christmas

Publisher: Harper Collins

Available: 12th November 2020 – Paperback, eBook and Audio

Thank you to Rhoda Hardie 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.

Book Details:

Jane’s reflections on her 32 house moves explores what ‘home’ really means to us today, with themes including restlessness, parenting, friendship, marriage breakdown, xenophobia, rape trauma and more.

“I love moving house. I love the search for a new house, the packing up and the subsequent assessment and decluttering of all that I am, when old and new face off in a flight to survive the charity shop box. I love planning a new space, designing and styling the interior, thumbing through stacks of paints and fabric swatches. I love the ruminating, the budgeting, the logistical organisation, the legal details involved in a title search…I love the pulse-quickening chaos of the move, the settling in and discerning if, finally, this is the right place. The words ‘in need of improvement’ are click bait to me’

Studies have consistently reported that moving is one of the most stressful life events. On average, Britons move 3 times in their lives, Canadians move house 7 times in their lives, and Americans move house 11 times in their lives. At the age of 63, Jane Christmas has moved house an incredible 32 times! ‘To some people, 32 house moves likes recklessness; to, 32 moves looks like life,’ She writes in her new book Open House. ‘Houses and renovations and moving are an addiction to me; I desperately want to settle, but as hard as I try, I just can’t.

My Thoughts:

When I was kindly offered this book to review, my immediate reaction was that it sounded ‘right up my street’ pardon the pun. Jane Christmas’s housing moving exploits and life experiences bore an uncanny and striking resemblance to my own life journey and moving history. I have just recently turned 46 years old and from the time I was 8 months old until recently…I have moved a total of 26 times and I can personally attest to the well documented fact that is one of, or in my 26 of, the most stressful periods of my life but unlike Jane, I have never owned a property. Well not yet anyway but there is still time! Buying and renting properties are obviously different but the searching, researching, moving and end of the process have very similar characteristics, all of which I can personally related to. As I can in some of the personal and brave experiences Jane shares in this book.

The first thing that struck me about this memoir was the delightful house and home sketches that head each chapter of the book, they are mini detailed works of art and they provide a visual flavour to the chapter you are about to read. The book opens with the dramatic phrase, ‘I cannot live in our home anymore, We have to move’. Although Jane has not yet uttered these words out loud and she is about fly back to Canada and has left her husband a note under his pillow to this effect. You can sense, that she is not ready for a confrontation about this request because her poor husband does not like moving house especially the chaos and instability of the process, then who can blame him, as we are about to find out, it has been a defining theme of their marriage! Jane is a self-confessed property nomad and this is her tale.

House buying, moving and renovating are hardwired into Jane’s DNA, it is almost a character trait! In the earliest pages she anthropomorphizes houses and compares her relationship to them similar to that of having lovers and while not sexually promiscuous, Jane freely admits that when it comes to homes she is ‘shameless, serial adulterer’. I really enjoyed her pithy, witty confessions about coveting and flirting with the houses and their interiors, it will make you laugh out loud, as will Jane’s dissection and amusing assessment of the calamitous house buying process in Britain, with delightful explanations for gazumping, gazundering and gazanging!

We follow Jane’s move from a flat conversion in Walthamstow, which had been her husband’s place of residence for 25 years but was a wildly unsuitable options for their married life to begin in. When they discover the ‘perfect home’ and move to the costal delights of Brixham in Devon, with all the necessary clichés, charm and character of British port town but the situation soon turns sour, with swearing tourists stuck in traffic jams outside their door and the constant relentless plague of Seagulls that Jane describes as ‘gestapo agents‘ stalking, screaming and destroying the perfection of their coastal idle!  The need to move becomes paramount!

With the scene set, Jane takes us back to her origins in Canada and the childhood she spent moving houses with her parents, providing us with an intimate, personal and detailed recollection of her childhood and teenage years, being ‘forced’ to constantly change address. The sense of being almost permanently anxious and unsettled, the tangible sense of loss and confusion with being removed from the company of friends and schools and a life she is repeatedly required to restart with each move. There is almost a therapeutic cadence to this part of the book; Jane openly psychoanalyses her parents reasons for so many changes of address; particularly her mother who is the dominating force behind these moves, citing their backgrounds and their own childhood experiences as the root cause. Jane clearly has a turbulent relationship with her mother and she explores this and her feelings in depth.

From Brixham to Bristol and Victorian terraces and buying a home that requires serious renovations (and when I say serious, think epic undertaking) Jane compares the house on her first viewing to ‘an overweight gammon faced older guy in sweat and dirt stained underwear’! Sounds delightful doesn’t it and we follow Jane and her husband on their adventure, filled with trials and tribulations (of which there are many ) with the occasional triumph, after embarking on this project! What also fascinated me in this part of the book was the incredible knowledge Jane has amassed relating to the architectural construct and socio-economic birth and development of Victorian Terraced housing, she could almost write a book on this subject alone and who knows maybe she will! I would certainly read it.

I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the pages, homes and life analysis contained within this witty, insightful and often down right ballsy memoir, it is personal, authentic and compelling. I can even live with the occasional bout of Brit bashing (I believe at one point we are compared to a nation of heavy drinking, dithering commitment phobes) which is funny and damning to say the least! I think it best to Jane have the last word in my review as it sums up the resolution of her book’s journey, better than I can.

“I have only recently recognized the similarity between building a home and building a life. Brick by brick, Experience by experience. We are all individual homes built upon the remains of a previous home, previous settlement, some previous generation. We are all little ruins trying to rebuild and renovate ourselves’.

This book is truly an irresistible memoir and none of our home libraries will be complete without its presence, time to add it to your Christmas lists or maybe there is time right now for quick online order…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Jane Christmas is the author of several bestselling books, including What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim, Incontinent on the Continent and And Then Were Nuns. Born and raised in Canada, Jane moved to the UK in 2012. She has lived in Walthamstow, Brixham and Longwell Green, and now lives in Bristol with her current husband. She has 3 adult children and 2 kind-hearted ex-husbands. Jane’s website can be found at: www.janechristmas.ca.

Please do check out other reviews on this blog tour.

The Last Days of Ellis Island

Author: Gaelle Josse

Translation: Translated from the French by Natasha Lehrer

Publisher: World Editions

Available: 5th November 2020 in Original Paperback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and World Editions 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:

Winner of the European Union Prize for Literature, The Last Days of Ellis Island

A man looks back on his long tenure at America’s former entry point.

New York, November 3, 1954. In a few days, the immigration inspection station on Ellis Island will close its doors forever. John Mitchell, an officer of the Bureau of Immigration, is the guardian and last resident of the island. As Mitchell looks back over forty-five years as gatekeeper to America and its promise of a better life, he recalls his brief marriage to beloved wife Liz, and is haunted by memories of a transgression involving Nella, an immigrant from Sardinia. Told in a series of poignant diary entries, this is a story of responsibility, love, fidelity, and remorse.

‘In the tale of this fictional bureaucrat, Josse powerfully evokes the spirit of the “huddled masses” who landed on America’s shores while creating a memorable portrait of a man torn between his commitment to his difficult job and the longings of his heart.’  Kirkus starred review

The Last Days of Ellis Island is an absorbing novel in which beloved dreams are fast to shatter.’ Foreword reviews

“Combining real and fictional events, Gaëlle Josse has written a text as visceral as it is melancholy and vibrant.” ―Livres Hebdo

My Thoughts:

On occasion having read a book and faced with writing a review of it, I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of the task. Especially if a story is as remarkable as this one. As I sit at my desk pondering how beautiful and incredible this story is, I am hoping my words will be sufficient encouragement for you to read it too.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction and if you are, this definitely a book you must read. This book is the perfect marriage of fact and fiction written with majestic melancholy prose expressing exceptional evocative and vivid details of the path of immigration into America. I think the best way to show you is by sharing this quote…“At times it feels as if the entire world has shrunk to the borders of this island. The island of hope and tears. The site of the miracle that destroyed and redeemed, that stripped the Irish peasant, the Calabrian shepherd, the German worker, the Polish rabbi, the Hungarian pencil pusher, of their original nationalities and transformed them into American citizens. Here they are still, a crowd of ghosts floating around me”. Every page of this book is the score of a literary concerto and you cannot help but fall completely under its lyrical spell.

Now how to go on from here, I think I will draw your attention to the cover of the book as it epitomizes the essence of its contents, it is a coloured photograph of a woman and you may well, think so what, nothing remarkable about that, until you discover it’s provenance. There are few pages at the back of the book that go into the full details and acknowledgements.  The photograph was taken in 1905 by social photographer Lewis W. Hine (1874 – 1940) who was compelled to visually document Ellis Island and the wave of newcomers between 1904 and 1909. The woman in this picture is an immigrant from Italy and the original picture was black and white but was coloured for this cover. Could this be our Nella…I expect you are wondering who Nella is…I expect it is time for me to expand on the story.

It is November 1954 and Ellis Island stands abandoned and desolate in the middle of grey Hudson River, this was once the epicentre of immigrant arrival. The story is relayed to us from the perspective of John Mitchell, Commissioner of Ellis Island, a man who in his heyday oversaw an army of staff, tasked with processing vast steamer ships full of thousands of immigrants, all with myriads of reasons to leave their countries of origin and brave the horrific conditions on these ships, all in order to pursue the dream of a new life in America, land of the free and home of the brave. Mitchell is reminiscing over the life he has had on Ellis Island, as in a few short days this Immigration station is to close forever and he is resigned to leaving the island.

 Through his precise and poignant memories, we learn how these desperately poor, travel weary, brave people (immigrants) were processed, the rudimentary visual health checks that resulted in chalk letters written on their clothing, determining whether they were physically or mentally healthy enough to remain. The wrong letter would result in their deportation and all their hopes and dreams would be crushed by a smudge of chalk. Having beaten the chalk doctors, they face an interview of 29 questions to deem are they worthy, are they worth taking a risk on? The striking and raw descriptions of the people and processes here are perspicacious and uncomfortably and fascinatingly tangible.

Mitchell also shares with us, detailed aspects of his life, his work and his relationships with friends and family, including how it met and fell in love with his wife Liz, the little sister of his best friend Brian, built their life on the island; their short married life until tragedy struck. Mitchell’s memories are littered by ghosts of his past and he is haunted by some of these, including the incidents relating to the steamer ship Cincinnati in April 1923, of his involvement with 19 year old Nella Casarini and her brother Paulo, revealing their harrowing story and the subsequent devastating episode at Ellis Island!

Michell also details the actions and behaviours of some of his staff, the most interesting of these literary caricatures, is the antagonist relationship he has with Sherman his Chief Registration clerk; who Mitchell clearly believes thinks a great deal of himself but Sherman hasn’t managed to secure promotion or any professional recognition until he starts taking photographs of the immigrants, which are published in the prestigious National Geographic journal!

However this isn’t enough for Sherman and his motivations take a more sinister route; he sets up a studio down from his office, insists on focusing his photographic attentions on ‘ethnic types’ and making his chosen specimens dress in their traditional costumes. Mitchell discovers that these anthropological portraits have been sold to and published by a journal promoting racialist propaganda and ultimately they will be used to illustrate to fellow Americans, the disparities between races and used as proof of the inferiority of some. Which is truly a hideous concept!

As Mitchell finishes showing us his library of immigration information, kept in regimented files, documenting every ship, every person who has passed through Ellis Island, you can feel his huge sense of loss and lonesomeness, that his job and his relationship with the labyrinthine island, is all that kept him going and this to will be gone soon.

This is truly an astonishing book, poetic prose, with waves of detailed historical revelation about the imperious Ellis Island, taking me from the squalid and inhumane bowels of 3rd class steerage, to the clamour and colours of little Italy to the hot summer evenings on Coney Island, while providing sensitive illumination of the hopes and dreams of exiles, documenting maelstrom of fear, desperation and courage of those defined as immigrants. And right at the very end of this literary roller-coaster, a magnificent twist, one that shocked me so much, I dropped my copy of this book! I will not be expanding on this surprise!

If you wish to expand your historical horizons, this is the book for you and I loved every word of its 203 pages…it is a story that is etched on my soul.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Gaëlle Josse holds degrees in law, journalism, and clinical psychology. Formerly a poet, she published her first novel, Les Heures silencieuses (‘The Quiet Hours’), in 2011. Josse went on to win several awards, including the Alain Fournier Award in 2013 for Nos vies désaccordées (‘Our Out-Of-Tune Lives’). After spending a few years in New Caledonia, she returned to Paris, where she now works and lives. Josse received the European Union Prize for Literature for The Last Days of Ellis Island, along with the Grand Livre du Mois Literary Prize.

Natasha Lehrer won a Rockower Award for Journalism in 2016, and in 2017 was awarded the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for her translation of Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger.

Do remember to read some other reviews from this blog tour

Parents and Teachers

Author: Sara Madderson

Publisher: Madderson

Available: 19th September 2020 

Purchase link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parents-Teachers-only-ones-behaving/dp/1916353045

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours 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:

At two of London’s most exclusive prep schools, there are strict rules against parents fraternising with teachers.

Well, that’s the theory, in any case.

Jenna, a Year 3 teacher at St Cuthbert’s, catches the eye of the school’s highest-profile parent, a world-famous action movie star, with far-reaching consequences.

Meanwhile, over at Chiltern House, Astrid is still licking her wounds after her husband left her. Her daughter’s PE teacher, Callum, may be her best chance of rediscovering her joie de vivre.

Astrid’s friend Natalia, whose life revolves around motherhood these days, finds herself questioning everything she’s taken for granted when her husband becomes embroiled in a #MeToo scandal.

Really, the only ones behaving themselves are the kids …

My Thoughts:

I sat down to read this book just as we had all been plunged in Lockdown 2.0 and Covid-19 is dominating our lives once more. I confess I was in dire need of a book that would make me laugh and lift my spirits, Parents and Teachers does exactly that, it is a smart, sassy, saucy romp of a read.

The book opens with a letter from the head mistress of Chiltern House to all staff, clearly stating that any sexual fraternisation between teaching staff and parents is completely forbidden and will result in immediate termination for any staff member, if any such transgressions are discovered! Well I usually find when someone issues me with such instructions I am perversely compelled to do the absolute opposite of such a dictate and amusingly, so do the cast of characters within this story.

Each chapter of the story is told from the perspective of one of the glamorous and flamboyant characters; Astrid, Scandinavian ice maiden with a wounded heart; Natalia curvy mom of two & suppressed financial whiz; eye catching Callum the charming Irish PE teacher and Jenna, stunning, sweet, innocent and a caring teacher with a mission to assist children with special needs. The characters lives through their children and jobs form an enthralling web, with each one caught up in life’s mix of triumphs, trials and disastrous decision making! Frequently I found myself whispering to the book, nooooo don’t do that…bad idea…then again, when such delicious temptations beckon, how can any of them resist!!!

Sara has created an engaging, cosmopolitan world of dazzling events, scandalous liaisons and some rather raunchy interludes, let me just say Callum is truly gifted with a shower head and I suspect many of us would happily show him the way to our ice trays as well…I shall leave you to ponder on these words!!! While I am grinning at my laptop screen!

 I enjoyed the carefully developed plot lines and how all the strands were neatly tied up in the end. I also loved that despite some utterly calamitous behaviour the female characters were charming, elegant and never catty or vile towards each other or anyone else, they certainly all had some quiet gumption when required! I was also appreciative of how, despite all the luxurious trappings; private schools, Dom Perignon; designer shoes; beautiful homes, that the subtle underlying themes were that accomplishment over vanity and hard work over entitlement make you truly successful in life. I am also ecstatic about seeing the misbehaving male characters of this tale getting their just desserts and that the women in their lives were not prepared to ignore their appalling attitudes and actions, regardless of their looks, power or money…there are some flaws no women should have to put up with and Sara made sure her characters didn’t…bravo I say!

So if like me, you feel the need to live vicariously through the lives of some fictional characters, this book offers wildly inappropriate behaviour, witty one liners, gorgeous pert bottomed boys, charismatic and glittering girls, then this is certainly the read for you. Some people may define this book as ‘chick lit’ or a ‘bonk buster’…I say who cares are about the label, now pour the champagne my darlings and dive in….

Happy Reading Bookophiles..

About the Author:

Sara Madderson is an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother. She was born in Ireland and moved to the UK with her family when she was ten years old. She lives in London with her husband Chris, their two children, Paddy and Tilly, and their cocker spaniel Charlie.

Before turning to writing, Sara worked in finance for a decade and then ran her own fashion brand, Madderson London, for eight years. She earned her MPhil in Early Modern History from the University of Birmingham.

Metamorphosis is Sara’s first book. Given that she spent most of her childhood writing and designing clothes, she’s now seen both of her childhood career dreams come true! She’s enjoyed the adventure of publishing independently as much as she’s enjoyed the writing process itself. She’s now completely hooked on writing!

Twitter @saramadderson

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

Coyote Fork

Author: James Wilson

Publisher: Slant Books

Available: 1st September 2020 in Hardback, Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Slant 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:

British journalist Robert Lovelace travels to California to report on the social media giant Global Village. He’s horrified by what he finds: a company—guided by the ruthless vision of its founder, Evan Bone—that seems to be making journalism itself redundant. Appalled, he decides to abandon the project and return home.

But as he leaves he has a disconcerting encounter that sends him off in a totally different direction. Soon he finds himself embarking on an increasingly fraught and dangerous mission. The aim: to uncover the murky truth about Evan Bone’s past and his pathological disregard for the human cost of the behemoth he has created.

Robert’s quest takes him from San Francisco to a small college town in the Midwest, to the site of a former hippie commune in northern California, introducing us to a range of vivid characters and confronting us with the price we pay—online trolling, the loss of privacy, professional ruin—for living in an “interconnected” world. Finally, he makes a startling discovery—and is thrown into a completely unforeseen existential dilemma.

A timely, stylishly written, and brilliantly conceived metaphysical thriller, Coyote Fork carries us on an unforgettable journey, before bringing us face to face with the darkness at the heart of Silicon Valley itself.

My Thoughts:

James Wilson is an established author but not one whose work I have previously had the pleasure of reading and if his other works are as stylish and engaging as this book then clearly I have been missing out! James is obviously an accomplished story teller and one that I enthusiastically encourage you to investigate for yourselves.

From the opening pages, this story is imbued with tension which starts out very subtly, as we meet Robert Lovelace (interesting name choice for our protagonist as the only other Robert Lovelace, I am aware of in fiction, is the dastardly libertine villain in the classic novel, Clarissa by Samuel Richardson) but rest assured, our protagonist is not remotely similar. He is a beleaguered travel writer whose newspaper has been acquired by media mogul Evan Bone, part of whose sinister remit seems to be to eradicate the world of human journalists (I confess just for a second there, I considered this might not be a bad idea given the well documented bad behaviour of journalist in recent decades!!). Then again replacing the independence of human minds and opinions with AI technology does seem morally suspect and from Robert’s view point, a development to be deeply concerning.

The conference Robert is attending is to unveil ‘Tolstoy a new technology which allows artificial intelligence to take over and create stories that people want by learning what they are interested in from their available data profiles. Now if you are remotely paranoid about the concept of ‘Big Brother’ or the idea of technology being used to harvest information about us and use it to influence, control or manipulate us as individuals at this point in the story you will need to resist flinging this book to the floor and running screaming towards your nearest off the grid bunker!!! I confess the idea of neural implants to enhance cognitive ability and allow us to analyse and process data, had me thinking, ‘the borg’ are coming, run or you will be assimilated! Regardless of the jaw dropping paranoia these opening chapters induce, the audacity of such a concept, certainly captured my attention and I was compelled to read on to uncover more..

Robert too is unsettled by this technological advancement and I sense just a little overwhelmed, so he leaves and heads back to his car and it is at this point the plot really starts to thicken. Robert has interactions with two women (Anne Grainger) a colleague, ex-lover and lifelong friend and a protester Connie Ramirez, who is protesting the death of her father Carter Ramirez and this book’s delightfully considered and ingenious plot starts to materialize and its tendrils develop further with each new character’s introduction, almost like literary stepping stones. Tangible links are established from technology messiah Evan Bone and his cult like Global Village creation to each character, nearly all who have been violently targeted on social media with tragic results! Is Evan Bone using his global media dominance to achieve the ultimate control? What is that ultimate control, what drives him and what is Evan Bone afraid of….all will be revealed but not in my review!

Believing he has nothing left to lose Robert decides to follow the bread crumbs and examine events in Evan Bones’ own past. Robert is adamant the past holds the key to the present and there is definitely a hope that Robert can exact some form of revenge on Evan Bone by making a public revelation of his nefarious practices and his vendettas towards a number of individuals that Evan deemed a threat to his quest for power.

This incredible journey takes us into wilds of small town America, the complexities of Native American heritage issues and the far reaching grasp of a potentially cult like commune located in Coyote Fork, where Evan was born, grew up and where his only romantic relationship crumbled! All very intriguing and if you want to know more, I think you know that I will simply say, well buy the book and see what happens next.

This is truly a wonderful thriller, with artful clues on every page, a tension ratchetted up by the sinister omnipresence of the Global Village and James Wilson’s incredible skill in evoking paranoia in his cast of characters and his readers. This book is clever, sublimely stylish and just when you believe you’ve worked it all out, you will discover that you haven’t! I absolutely loved this satisfying, enthralling and well-conceived read. I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did…

Happy Reading Bookophiles.

About the Author:

James Wilson is a London-based writer. His previous novels include The Dark Clue, The Bastard Boy, The Woman in the Picture, Consolation, and The Summer of Broken Stories. He has written BBC TV and radio documentaries, and is the author of a work of narrative nonfiction, The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America, which won a Myers Outstanding Book Award.

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

When I Come Home Again

Author: Caroline Scott

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 29th Oct 2020 in Hardback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Simon & Schuster, 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:

They need him to remember. He wants to forget.

1918. In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral.

When questioned, it becomes clear he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home where his doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was.

But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good. When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war.

But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there waiting for him to come home?

Based on true events, When I Come Home Again is a deeply moving and powerful story of a nation’s outpouring of grief, and the search for hope in the aftermath of war.

My Thoughts:

As I sat down to write my review of this remarkable, magnetic, poignant and poetic story, the words of poet Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) ‘For the Fallen’ are echoing in my head

“They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.” 

It seems especially fitting in November 2020 to quote these familiar and evocative lines, especially in conjunction with this incredible story by Caroline Scott, whose latest book pays homage to the Lost generation of men from the Great War and the women and families who were left behind to go on with life, simply not knowing what happened to those they loved. 

It struck me very early on when reading this story, imagine enduring 4 years of war, the chaos, the casualties, the news, the privations and finally the relief of war ending; imagine then not knowing if your husband, father, brother, son, nephew was dead or alive, imagine not knowing if or when they would ever return; imagine not having a body to bury or a grave to visit; imagine if they simply disappeared without a trace because they couldn’t be identified or found; consider the horrifying enormity of this predicament. I believe it is vital as a reader to have this level of understanding of these ideas because it will impact how you view the desperate reactions, wounded emotions and determined and stubborn mind-set of the female protagonists within the book.  I confess in my enthusiasm, I have jumped ahead here, so I will return to the beginning.

This story is woven around the aftermath of the First World War and while we are certainly aware of the abject horrors endured by soldiers during this period, the realities of what happened after the bloody carnage ceased is often and regrettably overlooked.  At this period in time, there was no credible understanding of the psychological and emotional trauma that soldiers endured during the malevolence of battle or the long lasting impact it would have on them and those who loved them.

Although this book is a work of fiction, the knowledge and historical details that Caroline infuses into its pages are clearly based in fact and this breathes incredible life into the cast of characters she has created.

The book opens in 1920, with a dishevelled and disorientated young man being arrested in Durham Cathedral for desecration of property, this first chapter ripples with drama and you are instantly enthralled and your brain is flooded with questions, who is he, why is  he there, why is he confused, it is clear he can’t recall who he is and has nothing to identify him except he is wearing an army uniform, subsequently he is given the name ‘Adam’ and placed into the care of Dr James Haworth who works with Dr Alan Shephard (Loughrigg Hall) and they have a facility Fellside House (located in the wild beauty of Westmorland) for the treatment of soldiers who have been mentally disturbed by their grisly experiences on the front.

Haworth & Shepherd start to analyse and assess ‘Adam’ with his reluctant cooperation and they investigate who he might be but without much success, until they hit upon the idea of putting his photograph in a newspaper and asking the public if anyone else can identify him…What they don’t expect is the sheer volume of desperate, distraught and grief stricken women who come forward with their utter conviction that they recognise ‘Adam’ as their relative! Through further lengthy investigation, 3 women seem most likely to be either ‘Adam’s mother, sister or wife given the evidence they provide and so the pieces of this puzzle are laid out before us…is he Cecilia’s son Robert, Lucy’s brother Ellis or Anna’s husband Mark…and like I did, you will find yourself compelled to devour this novel to find out who ‘Adam’ is…but of course, I have no intention of giving the outcome away here!

What I loved most about this book, is how the story is structured, as each chapter is constructed around the characters and the story line revealed from each different character’s perspective, we see ‘Adam’s’ confusion, fear and reticence at uncovering his identity, James Howarth battling his own war induced demon’s, Caitlin his wife, her frustration and grief, Cecilia’s stubborn unyielding conviction, Lucy’s rage and resolution and Anna’s despair and as a reader you feel involved with them, almost as if you are part of the story too and I was oddly fascinated with the construct, that ‘what we see is sometimes what we want to see’ rather than what is the reality, this idea applies to all 3 women and their reactions to ‘Adam’ but also to the other members of this book’s cast.

All the way through the book, right to the last page and no I am still not giving anything away about the end. I found myself thinking how incredibly moving this story truly is because of the historical reality of the situation. This is the fictional story of one man and look at how many lives his predicament impacted.

At the end of the Great War, according to the National Archive, over 800,000 British military personnel died and yet only a relative small percentage of the dead were able to be formally identified, and if you have ever visited the war graves as I have in France, Belgium you will see the phrase ‘ Grave of an Unknown Solider’ engraved on white marble tombstones…we can only imagine the impact of such losses, the echoes of memories past and ramifications of ‘not knowing’ actually had on those who remained and it certainly gives you pause for thought.

On occasion I read a book that has a profound effect on me, as in long after I have finished reading its pages, the voices of the characters and their tribulations remain with me and there is an emotional connection to them, so it is with this profound, insightful and magnificent story. One that brings powerful clarity to the theme of loss, which is not limited only to death, but for those surviving, there is loss of identity, loss of future, loss of a life unfulfilled and the losses incurred through lives crippled by grief and guilt. And yet all is not lost, even after such sadness and despair, there is hope and Caroline has managed to convey this maelstrom of emotion via the lives of her characters in this story. It is truly impressive and a book that I will passionately recommend to everyone I know!

This is Caroline’s second fictional novel and I have it on good authority, her first book ‘The Photographer of the Lost’ is equally as brilliant (the authority being my historically obsessed, wise and aged father, who borrowed my copy in the first lockdown and now refuses to return it because he couldn’t bear to give it back. Luckily I won a copy so I will be moving it to the top of my to be read pile today.

So my lovely bookophiles, I must ardently insist that you read this book, it is a historical fiction masterpiece and rivals the likes of Sebastian Faulks and Hilary Mantel in its emotional complexity, detailed historical knowledge and astute brilliance. You will truly miss out if you don’t get yourself a copy.

About the Author:

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company.

Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France. The Photographer of the Lost was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.

Please remember to look at the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Ancestor

#TheAncestor @LeeMatthewG @ADRBooks @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours

Welcome my lovely bookophiles to my spotlight post for Damp Pebbles Blog Tours, thank you to Emma Welton for all her help@damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours

Please find below all the lovely book information for this interesting & rather creepy read. If you are looking for something otherworldly this Halloween weekend, could this be the book for you?

Publishing Information:

All Due Respect Books on 21st August 2020, in digital and paperback formats

Purchase Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3n24ztn

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/348RfuM

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/30n2Ipc

Barnes and Noble: https://bit.ly/3l0APvb

Kobo: https://bit.ly/30n34My

Book Details:

A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike except for his own beard. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times—but from his life in the late 1800s.

After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.

A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future.

The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice…

About the Author

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. His Alaskan Gold Rush novel THE ANCESTOR is forthcoming in 2020. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press, Monologging and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at leematthewgoldberg.com

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeeMatthewG

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

Website: http://www.leematthewgoldberg.com/

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

Blog Tour

Please take remember to take a look at some of the reviews for this book.

Happy Reading Bookophiles..

The Nesting

Author: CJ Cooke

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishing

Available: In Hardback/eBook and Audio from 15th October 2020

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and HarperCollins 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:

The grieving widower. The motherless daughters. A beautiful house in the woods.

And a nanny come to save the day….

So what if Lexi isn’t telling the truth about who she is? Escaping to the remote snows of Norway was her lifeline. And all she wanted was to be a part of their lives.

But soon, isolated in that cold, creaking house in the middle of ancient, whispering woods, Lexi’s fairytale starts to turn into a nightmare.

With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi’s fears are deepening. Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care.

But protect them from what?

‘Vivid and compelling’ Rosamund Lupton

 ‘A gorgeous, atmospheric book that chilled me to the bone’ Samantha Downing

 ‘A taut, scary thriller that winds the suspense so tightly you can barely breathe’ Simone St. James

‘Best read with the lights on’ Alice Feeney

‘chilling, totally engrossing and full of intrigue’ Katherine May

‘A fun, gothic treat’ Kirsty Logan

My Thoughts:

This book is the epitome of a modern fairy tale, beautiful crafted, with flawed heroines, sinister dark woods, mysterious apparitions and while you are completely absorbed in reading the tale you are imbued with an atmosphere of tangible malice, which compels you to want to know more but also made me want to hide behind the sofa!

This book also looks as good as it sounds, with a stunning, shiny, ethereal elk head cover, which caused me to gasp in joy when I pulled it out of its packet and turned it reverently in my hands for the first time. Some books just give you a feeling from the first moment you see them and The Nesting is one of those books, my fellow book bloggers will know exactly of what I speak.

CJ Cooke’s interest and knowledge of mental health issues, has clearly been an influence on the creation of our protagonist Lexi, I see her as variation on the classic Cinderella or Snow white character who are usually beset by evil step mothers and witches who wish to do them harm. Instead, we have a disturbed young woman who only wishes to do herself harm and when we first meet her, Lexi has tried to end her life because life’s disappointments have become simply overwhelming. Although Lexi survives this suicide attempt, the blows keep coming, she loses her dead-end job, her partner of 8 years finds her ‘too much’ and ends the relationship and with that turn of events she also loses her home! 

This catalogue of life disasters resonated with me at a deeply personal and visceral level, because all these things have happened to me and rather like Lexi all in a very short space of time…which I can attest makes for utter disappointment and a catastrophic sense of failure in oneself and you quite simply want to make it all just stop…which is exactly the conclusion Lexi comes to!

And then just like in a traditional fairytale, something miraculous/magical happens, with nowhere to live, no clothes and a 4 piece toaster in her bag and having purloined her ex’s travel pass, Lexi is on a train to goodness knows where, when she over hears a conversation about a role for a nanny in Norway…Now as much I wish to reveal how Lexi ends up with this job, I am not sharing the details because it is too good for me to spoil it, needless to say she ends up being employed by Tom Faraday, who has recently lost his wife Aurelia, leaving him with two small daughters to take care of. Tom is engaged in building a holiday home in Norway, a tribute of sorts to his dead wife.

They head to Norway and a semblance of a normal routine emerges as Lexi gets to know her charges, Gaia and Coco.  Yet there are very subtle hints and shadows of suspicion that all is not right and I started to ask questions,  is it because of the actions of Maren the errant housekeeper or the distant, driven, grief stricken husband Tom or what about his partner, the dubious Clive who is far too jovial and slick for my liking; or is it his interior designing wife Derry with her uberfit obsession and tendency to be over familiar, there is definitely a malignant undercurrent, then add in a wondering Elk, a gang of crows and a series of disturbing visions seen firstly by Gaia and then Lexi…and you are compelled to read on to find some answers.

At the same time as we are reading about Lexi, we are also observing Aurelia’s life, the two story lines run parallel, and her fairytale life, is exactly that a merely imaginary perfection. We see through Aurelia’s eyes and her journal a series of events, which are confusing and often violent and I confess that on occasion I couldn’t distinguish between the imagined and the reality but I am not sure I was intended to…like Lexi, I was given the distinct feeling that Aurelia had her own mental health issues, post-partum depression perhaps but her recollections often seem starkly real. As Aurelia’s story unfolds, the cracks in her marriage and the building of their dream home become literally evident.

It is also through Aurelia we are introduced to a number of quite scary (for me anyway) Norwegian folktales and these stories are always bound by the ethos, that peoples actions have consequences and usually a form of macabre punishment is metered out to those who ignore the warnings! So it is very easy to believe that given her state of mind, Aurelia could have taken her own life, that is if you haven’t read the prologue or the rest of the book! As if I am going to spill the beans here, did you really expect me to?

As in all the best fairy tales/folklore mythology all the strands of the story intersect and intertwine, the secrets and lies are exposed mainly around Lexi but not completely, there are some starling revelations pertaining to Aurelia to! The story storms towards its dramatic conclusion, with a series of twists, another accident, the evildoers for the most part get their comeuppance, the innocent are vindicated and there is a sense of satisfaction for the reader, as there is almost is a happily ever after…I did say almost!

In case it isn’t apparent from my verbosity, I was enthralled, entranced and addicted to this story, its environment, its suspicious atmosphere, its glorious and imaginative superstition, its captivating cast and very striking details about Norwegian eco-building traditions, with its focus on protection of the land and nature and the merging of traditional and modern building techniques, an unusual subplot line but it is deftly woven into the fairytale ethos, that Mother Nature will do what is necessary to protect herself and punish those who infringe upon her territory!

What more can I say…this is one of my favourite reads of 2020, I can only beseech you to buy it, you will seriously miss out on an extraordinary read if you don’t.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke.

Born in Belfast, she has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health.

She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival

Don’t miss any of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Mango Bay

Author: Serena Fairfax

Publisher: Ironberry Books

Available: 26th September 2020

Purchase Link: Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mango-Bay-Rituals-secrets-intrigues/dp/0957040563

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Serena Fairfax 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:

Jazz clubs, yacht clubs, aunty bars and a Bollywood beauty shadowed by her pet panther. This is glamorous Bombay in the late 1950s.

Love has blossomed in London between vivacious Scottish Presbyterian, Audrey, and clever Indian lawyer, Nat Zachariah.

When the happy newlyweds move to Nat’s exotic homeland and the striking family villa, Audrey must deftly navigate the rituals, secrets, intrigues and desires of his Bene Israel Jewish community, and adjust to perplexing new relatives.

In time, the past unlocks, old family ties unravel, lies are exposed and passions run high as different generations fall out. Then something shocking happens that undoes everything. Will this marriage that has crossed boundaries survive?

My Thoughts:

As the autumn nights draw in and dark mornings are once more upon us, I love the opportunity to curl up on my sofa, with a soft throw, a frothy coffee and a captivating story to transport me from the cold and dark of Yorkshire to warmer climes. That is exactly the level of escapism I got when reading Mango Bay. This is a truly wonderful, imaginative story, I think Serena may have been channelling both MM Kaye’s Far Pavilions and Downton Abbey when she created this tale.

The story starts in London in 1956, in true classic romance style, a man and woman catch each other’s gaze across a dance floor, instant curiosity a little spark perhaps and so our story begins, Audrey Cuthbertson is a blue eyed, blond haired Scottish Presbyterian musician and Nat (Nathaniel) Zachariah is a tall, handsome India Lawyer, with instant attraction and a successful conversation, so begins their whirlwind romance, which leads to their engagement and subsequent marriage, all very quick, what you ask could possibly go wrong?

In the first instance, not a great deal but neither of them decide to tell their respective families about their romance or their marriage and with a union as unique as theirs within the historic context, where inter-racial relationships were a very new development societally and one that though not persecuted to the extent they were in the US, they were not celebrated (sadly) either! Audrey decides to go alone to tell her parents of her marriage and as you can imagine, they are disappointed in her choice of spouse mainly because of his race but more so by her choice to leave them out such a life changing event.

The book moves on 3 months and Audrey is alone in the lodgings she usually shares with Nat but it seems Nat has returned to India and at this stage there is no sign of him arranging for her to join him. Which I felt was a cause for concern…it certainly give you an unsettled feeling and left you wondering what on earth was going on??…

Meanwhile in India, Nat is has returned to his family and I had the distinct impression he was having a holiday of sorts (without his new wife!) which is most perplexing to say the least.

We readers are now introduced to a whole cast of beautifully crafted characters, his parents, his siblings and the incredible home they all share…Mango Bay. The estimable Khan Sahib, Nat’s father is glad to have his son and heir back home however, he has plans for his son, that include finding him a job and a wife. His plans for these necessary events are well underway, it is only when Khan Sahib speaks to Nat that Nat is forced to admit that he already has a wife! There is a level of baffled anger and demands for answers from his parents but the fact their new daughter in law is English isn’t the biggest issue, it is the fact she is not Jewish because and this a very fascinating twist to the story that Nat’s family are Indian Jews or Bene Israel (BI) and part of a long established community in Bombay. As soon as Nat’s family discover he is in fact married, they insist that he brings his wife to be with him.

 The rest of this wonderful story is woven around Audrey’s move to India and her establishing her marriage and relationships with Nat’s family and building a life and friendships within this community. Both the subject of race and religion have their part to play but they do not overwhelm the story line. Serena has created a magnificent cast of characters for us all to become involved with and there are some wonderful subplots and few surprises, some good, some sad, some bad but every chapter makes for utterly compelling reading. It is also apparent that Serena has a knowledge and love of India, as it shines out of the vibrant and vivid setting of Mango Bay and its surrounding environment.

I was utterly captivated by this marvellous and captivating story, that spans continents and ensnares us readers in the incredible lives of generations of a unique family. I really hope you choose to add this to your libraries because I haven’t enjoyed a family saga more.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Serena spent her childhood in India, qualified as a Lawyer in England, and worked in a London law firm.

Some of her novels have a strong romantic arc although she burst the romance bubble with one quirky departure. Other novels pull the reader into the dark corners of family life and relationships. She enjoys the challenge of experimenting and writing in different genres.

Her short stories and a medley of articles, including her reviews of thrillers and crime fiction, feature on her blog.

Fast forward to a sabbatical from the day job when Serena traded in bricks and mortar for a houseboat that, for a hardened land lubber like her, turned out to be a big adventure.  A few of her favourite things are collecting old masks, singing and exploring off the beaten track.

Serena and her golden retriever, Inspector Morse, who can’t wait to unleash his own Facebook page, live in London.

Please keeps your eyes peeled for other reviews on this tour.

The Unwrapping of Theodora Quirke

Author: Caroline Smailes

Publisher: Red Door Press

Available: 15th October 2020 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Lizzie at Red Door Press and Caroline Smailes 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 Christmas Carol meets a very Northern Stranger Things in this funny, sweary and moving festive story

‘Funny and touching and utterly brilliant’ – Rachael Lucas

‘A remarkable, funny, truly redemptive read’ – Miranda Dickinson

When 19-year old Theodora Quirke heads to work on Christmas Eve the last person she expects to find outside of her flat is St Nicholas of Myra – the Saint people think is Santa Claus (much to Saint Nick’s disgust).

Given he is in full Santa suit and professing to be nearly 2000 years old Theo is wary, but St Nick insists he is here to save her – although he isn’t sure how or why. St Nick does know that Theo is grieving however, so he shows her four scenes from her life that give her hope, but he’s also had cryptic messages from the Christmas Higher Powers that lead him to begin Theo’s training as the first ever female Christmas Angel – a role Theo is not sure she is cut out for.

Theo’s training is soon derailed by St Nick’s evil brother, filled with jealousy and spite over his brother’s popularity and, with confidence dented, and saddened by society’s spiralling levels of expectation and greed, St Nick begins to falter. Theo does everything she can to defeat Nick’s brother and to lift St Nick’s spirits, but as the deadline for Christmas miracles draws close, she realises she must complete them herself – but is she up to the job?

My Thoughts:

This book is the perfect parody of a Christmas tale, profound, peculiar and utterly irreverent, with a definite essence of Dickensian spirit in the sense that Caroline Smailes has humorously obliterated the warm and cosy side of the season, and instead has created a series of raw and gritty events which have left the main character Theodora Quirke with plenty of experience that, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year!

The book opens with Theo (Theodora) meeting St Nicholas on Christmas Eve (he is most certainly not the picture of the universally recognised Santa Claus nor is he sponsored by coco-cola) he is the antithesis of what we normally associate with Father Christmas, he is not jolly chap in a lovely red suit, more “how Santa would look before he goes into rehab for alcohol addiction and possibly after spending 3 months on the streets”.  Theo is rather bemused by the whole episode and to the reason, why he’s here to see her and what does the rather grubby weird note he has mean…Save Theo, Spitfire & Oral…!

What is unwrapped is a very ‘Christmas Carolesque’ style adventure, St Nicholas takes Theo to view some rather traumatic elements of her past involving her mother and her boyfriend Gabe (Gabriel), which makes for ghastly view (have the tissues ready) and it is partly to allow Theo to emotionally process what has happened to her previously and partly to allow her to move forward and be open to a completely new experience/life as a Christmas Angel and before now there has never been a female Christmas Angel, Theo will be the first one…can she prove to ‘up there’ that she can fly on her own???

There is also a more dark and dastardly element to this story for us readers to revel in and throughout the book there are sections (they read like social media posts) relating to Dottie Smith and the ‘Spitfire, Saint Nicholas Umbrella Collective’ . Dottie has clearly had an ‘miracle experience’ with Saint Nicholas and this plot line all starts innocently enough but by increments you start to realise, something diabolical is afoot…want to know what it is…?? And what do these posts and Dottie have to do with Theo, Christmas Miracles and Saint Nicholas…As if I am going to give those plot elements away…no chance!! I know I am a complete meanie!

Now you may think, I have been rather reticent about the story details in my review, well that is only because I hate spoiling other people’s first-hand experience of a story and this one deserves its audience to have the same snarky, sarkie, sublime surprises I found when I read it. This glorious book, caused me to howl with laughter one minute and sob buckets the next, it is utterly hopeful and wonderful and you will truly miss out on an exceptional read if you don’t get a copy. Add it to your Christmas lists, buy it as a Christmas gift…I insist. I am off now to add several more of Caroline’s books to my wantie list…

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Caroline Smailes’ acclaimed debut novel, IN SEARCH OF ADAM, was published in 2007 (The Friday Project/HarperCollins). The Big Issue North declared the book ‘an engrossing and touching read from a new talent’. Since then Caroline has written four additional novels. These include BLACK BOXES, international bestseller LIKE BEES TO HONEY, an experimental digital novel with eleven endings 99 REASONS WHY and modern day fairy tale THE DROWNING OF ARTHUR BRAXTON (all HarperCollins). The film of THE DROWNING OF ARTHUR BRAXTON is in post-production, with an expected 2020 release.

Caroline lives in the North West of England. She is also known as Caroline Wallace (THE FINDING OF MARTHA LOST).

Please keep an eye out for other posts on the tour.

The Snow Fox Diaries

Author: Jan Mazzoni

Revised and with Author Notes August 2020

Available: Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Jan Mazzoni 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:

When passion becomes obsession, anything can happen…

Chic, intelligent, highly motivated and unexpectedly unemployed. AND soon to be forty. Not a situation Katie Tremain finds easy to cope with, especially as it gives her time to notice that she and husband Ben seem to get on better together when they’re apart. So when the opportunity to escape the city and work on a dilapidated house on Exmoor comes her way, how can she refuse?

Then, one misty morning, she comes across something so bizarre that she can’t believe her eyes. A fox with fur so white it sparkles, like snow. A very rare albino vixen.

From that moment Katie’s days – and her life – change completely. And as the fate of her faltering marriage becomes entwined with that of the fox, Katie must decide just what she’s prepared to risk to save this beautiful but vulnerable creature.

Her sanity? Her marriage? Even her life?

My Thoughts:

Initially what drew me to this book were the uncanny similarities it reflected of my own life, like the character of Kate in my 40th year I was made redundant from a job and career I adored and whether it was my age or skill set I found it impossible to find another role and I made the monumental decision to leave London, my life, my friends and favourite haunts for the frozen North, otherwise known as Yorkshire and the historic city of York. Which is where I am today as I write this review.

I haven’t read anything quite like this book before, it is structured around the seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn) and the story is interspersed with diary entries and occasional impressions from the perspective of the fox (our silent protagonist). The book opens with a description of the countryside caught in a cold snap and compellingly conveys the ethereal starkness of the land, combined with the stillness and silence that comes with snow and cold in the wild places. There is also a brutality to the scene that is quite breathe taking and certainly focused this reader’s attention.

After an explosive start, the story moves to London and Kate, who after decades of being a high-flying career woman is redundant, unemployed and with the loss of her role, has lost her purpose and identity, making her feel utterly adrift, helpless, enraged and numb. There is almost a sense of her watching her life rather than living it, going through the motions of her day, going to the gym, having a coffee but not being engaged in or by anything she is doing.

There is also a distinct sense that although Kate has a life style many readers would aspire to, lovely home, successful husband and long standing relationship, this life is really a facade, a house of cards and with Kate’s unemployment, their life is starting to unravel one thread at a time. Ben, her husband seems to be intent on chivvying her out of her funk but not truly understanding why or what she is feeling (and I got the sense this was an ongoing issue for their relationship, almost like a puzzle whose pieces don’t quite fit) but it is Ben’s efforts that bring about the project.

The project being a near derelict house on the edge of Exmoor, which has been inherited by a client of his. In exchange for Kate putting to use her long dormant interior design skills to renovate the property, they can have the place rent free for a year.  It is now we enter the Spring section of the story, as Kate embarks on her solo move to Devon she is reminded of memories of her childhood summers spent in a similar environment. She is focused on making lists (a woman after my own heart) and working out what needs to be done to the house and embarking on making it habitable. She is also aware of how isolated, quiet and far from civilization she now is (no more tofu or taramasalata) and yet you get the impression, she is starting to relax and appreciate her new surroundings. As Kate starts to explore the land and nature around her new home, she discovers the remarkable white vixen and her cubs and ultimately it is this discovery that heralds the biggest evolution and the main focus or obsession in Kate’s life, and it has a huge impact (and no I am not providing you with the details).

As the seasons change, you feel Kate’s relationship, knowledge and understanding of her rural home and its surrounding landscape develop and by increments her ideals, her needs, her marriage and her past memories all change as her perspective does, sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse. As much as I would like to reveal more, that would be remiss of me, part of the extraordinary experience of this book, is being able to read it with completely fresh eyes. Trust me you do not want to miss out on such an unusual adventure, nor do I wish to colour your reactions to what unfolds within the story.

As I said at the beginning of my review, this fictional tale resonated with me from the very first page because I have in the past few years lived through similar drastic changes in circumstances and environment as Kate does in this story but some of the deft twists of circumstance are definitely confined to her story and not mine.

In her book, Jan Mazzoni has crafted a sensitive, vivid, occasionally brutal but yet wholly realistic tale of how life works in both a rural community and the urban jungle.  Jan, I believe has shown considerable skill at creating an evocative, poignant and insightful plot weaved around the wild and remarkable nature and landscape of Exmoor which has made for addictive reading and makes it nearly impossible to put the book down.

I can do no more but to enthusiastically encourage and entreat you to add this remarkable and compelling book to your book stash, as soon as possible.

Happy reading bookophiles..

About the Author:

It was only recently that Jan Mazzoni found that – surprise, surprise – there IS a genre where her writing fits perfectly. It’s ecofiction. And having been writing fiction that combines her passion for the natural world with a gripping tale for many years, she’s over the moon to find a place where the stories she so loves to tell are completely at home.

Not that ecofiction is new. But as concern for the planet and its inhabitants grows, so does the popularity of novels that pick up today’s environmental concerns, toss them into real-life situations with Ordinary People, and then stand back to watch what happens next. In principle ecofiction is much like any other genre – historical, thrillers, even romances – in that they all need the protagonist to go through some kind of hellish situation and challenge before reaching the (hopefully) happy ending. Ecofiction just tends to have prettier locations!

It’s her yearning for wilderness that encouraged Jan to move to a little house hidden in a large, rambling garden on the edge of Exmoor, a windy, bleak but beautiful part of the UK. Here, with husband George and four Romanian rescue dogs, she leads the simple life she’s always wanted to live. She calls herself a recluse-in-training. As an only child she long ago grew up living inside the stories in her own head, and is quite happy there. She can control that world. And when the ideas that come seem like they’re worth putting down on paper, she retreats to the shed at the top of the garden and taps away at the PC. Sadly the dogs don’t usually go with her. It’s too cold up there.

Cover Reveal – Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary

I am thrilled to be able to reveal the fabulous cover for Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary on behalf of the glorious Red Dog Books so keep your eyes peeled my lovely bookophiles, my furbeast Comet has given his paw of approval to this book.

Below is a taste of what you could be reading very soon and if you want to dive in and pre-order, personally I think that would be a brilliant idea. Don’t miss out, time to make your to be read lists just a little bit longer.

Book Details:

Publisher: Red Dog Books

Publication date: 4th November 2020 in Paperback & eBook

Book length: 216 pages

ISBN:

Paperback: 978-1-913331-89-4

eBook: 978-1-913331-90-0

About the Book:

A quiet life for Aubrey?

After spending several months banged up in Sunny Banks rescue centre, Aubrey, a large tabby cat, has finally found his forever home with Molly and Jeremy Goodman, and life is looking good.

However, all that changes when a serial killer begins to target elderly victims in the neighbourhood.

Aubrey wasn’t particularly upset by the death of some of the previous victims, including Miss Jenkins whom Aubrey recalls as a vinegar-lipped bitch of an old woman who enjoyed throwing stones at cats, but Mr Telling was different.

Mr Telling was a mate…

Author biography: Alison O’Leary

I was born in London and spent my teenage years in Hertfordshire where I spent large amounts of time reading novels, watching daytime television and avoiding school. Failing to gain any qualifications in science whatsoever, the dream of being a forensic scientist collided with reality when a careers teacher suggested that I might like to work in a shop. I don’t think she meant Harrods. Later studying law, I decided to teach rather than go into practice and have spent many years teaching mainly criminal law and criminology to young people and adults.

I enjoy reading crime novels, doing crosswords, and drinking wine. Not necessarily in that order.

Odd Bird

Author: Lee Farnsworth

Publisher: Farrago Books

Available:  15th October 2020 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Fanny at Farrago Publishing for my gifted book 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:

Simon is an academic expert on the mating behaviour of birds – but he has a lot to learn about humans…

Simon Selwood spends his time researching the courtship behaviour of birds. Unfortunately, he’s rather hopeless at finding human love.

Then he meets Kim, and suddenly something is more important to him than ornithology. But Kim doesn’t give a hoot about birds. And at first, she doesn’t seem to be very interested in Simon either.

Relying on what he has learned from observing the opportunistic pied flycatcher and other bird species, plus the unorthodox advice from his best friend and wingman Phil, Simon spreads his wings and sets out to discover love for himself. Will he make the right choice?

My Thoughts:

What a complete ‘Hoot’ this book is and yes that is the first of possibly several bird related puns, I may make in the process of this review. This fledgling enters the book world tomorrow and you will want to take a copy home to feather your nest…Ok I may have gone slightly overboard now!

What drew me to this book and I consider unique about it, is that this is a romantic comedy, told solely from the male perspective, a rare bird or an odd one indeed but not in a bad way.

Our protagonist Dr Simon Selwood is dedicated to his academic career and could be considered obsessed with study of the mating behaviours of birds (a nerd he maybe but definitely not a bird watcher or a bird stalker) and as this is his main area of expertise, he attempts to use his knowledge of the avian world to try to help him make sense of human mating rituals. Which it seems, usually confuse him and his inability to attract a mate leaves him lonely and perplexed. He is aided and abetted in his search by wing-man Phil who despite some very dry and witty banter, does want to help him succeed and avoid total ‘bird’ related disaster!

 Simon wants is to form a permanent pair-bond with the right woman and his previous experiences have been a dismal failure, possibly of his own making (I think).  Then he meets Kim, who he believes could be the one (but trust me nobody else does). What ensues in his ornithological tinged search for love, is a great deal of hilarity for the reader and a level of avifauna coloured comedic chaos and I did spend considerable time squawking at Simon for missing the obvious…the term bird brain may have been used!

But of course I am not spoiling this experience for you, so you will have to read the book for yourselves to discover as to whether Simon succeeds, will Kim really be the one to truly ruffle his feathers or will Phil succeed in getting him to take his head out of the sand and help him fly in the right direction to find his true mate.

That is more than enough bird commentary from me, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it really is a wonderful hybrid, the spirit of men behaving badly, mixed with colour and detail of a series of Autumn watch,  it is cleverly comic, beautiful crafted and sent this reader’s spirit soaring.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Lee Farnsworth studied Genetics at Newcastle University, eventually gaining a PhD for his work on bovine mitochondria.

He then spent more than fifteen years in the pharmaceutical industry, holding senior leadership positions in Europe and the US before kissing the corporate world goodbye to spend more time writing. Lee lives in Berkshire. He has two children and a large collection of bird feeders.

The Coffer Dams

Author: Kamala Markandaya

Publisher: Hope Road Publishing

Available: 30th September 2020 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Tours and Hope Road Publishing 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:

Clinton, founder and head of a firm of international engineers, arrives in India to build a dam, bringing with him his young wife, Helen, and a strong team of aides and skilled men. They are faced with a formidable challenge, which involves working in daunting mountain and jungle terrain, within a time schedule dictated by the extreme tropical weather. Setbacks occur which bring into focus fundamental differences in the attitudes to life and death of the British bosses and the Indian workers.

A timely reminder of the British contempt for Indian lives and for nature.

The Coffer Dams is an absorbing tale about mechanical strength and spiritual weakness, physical certainties and moral doubts. It is set in modern India, but the conflict of values at its heart is universal.’ John Masters, author of Bhowani Junction

My Thoughts:

Talk about the epitome of historical fiction, this is a book created before I was born about a time and place I will never experience or have knowledge of in anyway other than through the eyes and voices of others. Although a work of fiction, the style and depth of the writing, contains the visual acuity of a national geographic article but with a great deal more literary flare and sublime prose and it deserves to be recognised as a seminal piece of literature and I believe it deserves many accolades, it is just sad the author is no longer with us to be praised for her astute observations.

The days of the Raj are dead, India declared its ‘bloody’ independence in 1947, and the age of modernity and technological development are advancing into every corner of the world. Man has turned from conquering other men and their territories and has now turned his arrogant, thoughtless attentions to exerting mastery over the natural environment, attempting to bend her will to his wants.

Clinton is the living embodiment of this ethos, he has no care or interest in the land he is on or the people who inhabit it. He cares only for mastery of the dam project brutalising and bending the natural environment to his bidding and enslaving her power. In complete contrast is his young wife Helen, who is curious and fascinated by her new surroundings and its people and she is keen to explore. It is possible to see their characters as the physical embodiment of Britain (prejudiced and persistent) and India (independent, empathetic and enchanting) and the advancing divisions within their marriage as similar to those of relations post independence between Britain and India.

The story is woven around the building of a dam and is packed full of technical details and machinery and excavating techniques, which are oddly fascinating. However it is the subject matter of this tale that is the focus of the novel, not the characters. They are merely the vehicles to illustrate the casual and brutal horrors of racism and the ramifications of ignoring the indigenous people and their wealth local knowledge of their land and weather purely because the British perspective (at this time) is to dismiss those they believe to be less, than they are! As a result the project is beset by tragedies and more shocking and compelling are the reactions of each side of the racial divide to these horrors!

The startling arrogance and blatant racism expressed in the pages of this story could be quite disturbing to many readers but this approach is necessary to illustrate the deep held belief that the ‘English’ characters (bar Helen) know better, how to plan the Dam project, how to engineer it, how to build it and some of the phrasing used makes for an uncomfortable read at times. I don’t believe that reading something uncomfortable, is necessarily a bad thing, especially if it leads to the reader learning about an issue from the experience.

In this review I haven’t really delved into the nuances of the plot or the various other characters identities because I feel that these are elements you can see very easily for yourselves and this is absolutely a book you will want to add to your historic novels collection, it is beautifully written, stark, detailed and absorbing.  I can’t say that I loved it but I am very glad to have read it and absolutely believe you should to.

So don’t delay bookophiles, order a copy today….happy reading.

About the Author:

Kamala Markandaya (1924 – 2004) was born in Mysore, India. She studied history at Madras University and later worked for a small progressive magazine before moving to London in 1948 in pursuit of a career in journalism. There she began writing her novels; Nectar in a Sieve, her first novel published in 1954, was an international bestseller. Reviewing the republication of The Nowhere Man in 2019, Booker prize-winner Bernadine Evaristo wrote; ‘For the last 20 years of her life, Kamala Markandaya couldn’t get published and went out of print. Generations of readers lost out in reading this gem. Now I hope it will find its place in literary history.’

Love Songs for Sceptics

Author: Christina Pishiris

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 1st Oct 2020 in Paperback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random 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:

My brother’s getting married in a few weeks and asked for help picking a song for his first dance. I suggested Kiss’s ‘Love’s a Slap in the Face’.

It didn’t go down well.

When she was a teenager, Zoë Frixos fell in love with Simon Baxter, her best friend and the boy next door. But his family moved to America before she could tell him how she felt and, like a scratched record, she’s never quite moved on. Now, almost twenty years later, Simon is heading back to London, newly single and as charming as ever . . .

But as obstacles continue to get in her way – Simon’s perfect ex-girlfriend, her brother’s big(ish) fat(ish) Greek wedding, and an obnoxious publicist determined to run Zoë – Zoë begins to wonder whether, after all these years, she and Simon just aren’t meant to be.

What if, despite what all the songs and movies say, your first love isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be? What if, instead Zoë and Simon are forever destined to shuffle around their feelings for each other, never quite getting the steps right . . .

Love Songs for Sceptics is perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Lucy Vine and Lindsey Kelk.

‘I loved it. It’s an absolute joy . . . I finished the book with a huge smile on my face’– BETH O’LEARY, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Flatshare

‘Brilliantly written, Love Songs for Sceptics is warm, engaging and so funny. I am officially a huge fan and can’t wait for more from Christina.’ – LUCY VINE, Sunday Times bestselling author of Hot Mess

‘Christina is a breath of fresh air, and her book throbs with fun and sentiment. A wry modern eye and a sparkling debut’ – JULIET ASHTON, author of The Sunday Lunch Club

My Thoughts;

Huge congratulations to Christina for making me roar with laughter from the first pages of her debut novel. She has created a modern austenesque love story with themes similar to the classic Pride and Prejudice with the calamitous humour of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones but yet this story and its cast are very much a class act all of their own and one that all my bookophiles definitely need to read and experience.

Zoe is our heroine, she is smart and savvy with a job as editor to a respected music magazine Re:Sound, she is Queen of the witty come back and is fiercely loyal to friends and family and I think her essence is what all us girls strive to be and I suspect Zoe might be in part Christina’s fictional alter ego (especially given her heritage which is very similar). And yet despite all her professional success Zoe’s love life is somewhat forlorn, not that she is sitting around waiting for a man to complete her by any means. Zoe’s heart has hankered after her best friend, fellow Zak fan and music addict, the high flying and successful Simon (Si to his friends).

Si is the sort of guy most of us would quite like to date, charming, funny and he can cook and given their shared history, it is no surprise that Zoe’s long suppressed feelings for him start to come to the fore. However there are signs that he may not be Mr Right after all but of course you will need to find those clues for yourselves.

Now in true romantic comedy style, Christina has put a delicious spanner in the works, enter the brooding, sharp and very handsome publicist Nick Jones, who I think has very Darcy-esque qualities. Every time he and Zoe meet there are professional and personal fireworks. They have some seriously brilliant verbal sparring sessions and there is despite Zoe’s reticence some delightful chemistry and he is quite infuriating, there is a wonderful episode at a boxercise class, where quite frankly you just want Zoe to bop him in the face…I know, physical violence is never a suitable response to an argument but even so I really did want her to pop him in the nose and in my warped opinion he would have deserved it! Nick & Zoe’s encounters remind me of the adult version of a school playground where the really annoying boy (who you secretly fancy) pulls your plaits!! I don’t think to explain that scenario any further do I!!

Zoe is facing a professional calamity, she needs to secure an interview with the elusive rock icon Marcie, who nobody has heard from in over a decade. Securing this unique interview  will ensure her magazine continues to flourish and won’t suffer destruction by the hatchet finance man of the magazine’s parent company, who is always looking for a way to ‘shred’ costs! Nick as it turns out is Marcie’s new publicist but will he help Zoe??? Si meanwhile seems to be running hot & cold, there is an intimate moment at a fancy dress party but all my romantic instincts were busy screaming…noooooo and I was right, their romantic moment had about as much sizzle as a day old pancake and there is certainly no sign of the hot and heavy reactions that you would expect from a pair that have held their ‘love’ in check for 2 decades and even Zoe finds the end of the evening anticlimactic!

The  continues story unfolds with some neat little twists and turns and there is also a secondary love story to follow to between Zoe’s colleagues Gav & Lucy and there are so many questions to be answered; will Si be Zoe’s Mr Right, what role has Jess got to play, the blond vixen with a fondness for her ex-university band mate. Will Zoe have to sacrifice her musical integrity and interview the ‘dreaded’ boy band? Will she track down Marcie get the interview and save the day and will Nick’s opinion of Zoe change, will sparks fly? And most importantly will there be a happy ending? Well of course I know the answers to all these fantastic plot lines and a few more fantastic surprises to but of course I don’t do spoilers. So you will have to spend a glorious time reading the book and finding out for yourselves.

In case I haven’t been clear, I loved every second I spent reading this book it was such fun, plot and characters were romcom perfection and I adored the music link, each chapter has the title of a love song pertinent to the content of the chapter (and I confess I have spent some time trying to work them all out) and maybe just maybe Christina will share her playlist with us for this delightful book. I am now a firm fan and can’t wait to see what Christina writes next.

So don’t resist, add this fabulously fun read to your wish list today…Happy Reading Bookophiles.

About the Author:

Christina Pishiris was born in London to Greek Cypriot parents, who used to bribe her to go to family weddings by promising that George Michael might be there. To deal with the inevitable disappointment, she began scribbling stories on napkins and has been writing ever since. She started her career as a journalist, specialising in the TV industry, before going freelance. Since meeting her film-maker husband she’s also moved into production, working on music documentaries. Her hobbies include compiling cheesy 80s playlists, coveting the neighbour’s cat and writing protest letters to Guerlain after they discontinued her favourite perfume.

The Midnight Library

Author: Matt Haigh

Publisher: Canongate Books

Available: Hardback, eBook and Audiobook from 13th August 2020

Narration: Carey Mulligan

Book Details:

THE NUMBER ONE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

A BBC TWO BETWEEN THE COVERS BOOK CLUB PICK

Between life and death there is a library.

When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.

The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren’t always what she imagined they’d be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger.

Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

My Thoughts:

I have been aware of Matt Haigh’s books for a while, however this is my first experience of reading one or in this case listening to one. I think for me the success of this book is in its relatability and astute understanding of fear, regret, disappointment and depression. All emotional experiences I am intimately and awkwardly familiar with and my experience in reading this book is intensely personnel as are my reactions. Matt has a gift at explaining the often unexplainable realities of depression and an understanding only provided by experiencing it plus he absolutely rocks the book writing thing!

Nora’s life is not what she wants it to be, she has passed up numerous opportunities from coffee with a handsome doctor, to signing a record deal to becoming an Olympian. Instead she lives in a damp flat, with limited prospects on limited funds, with limited human contact. Every day is the same struggle with no end in sight and it only gets worse, she loses her job at a music shop and her cat Volts dies…this is the final straw, she can’t bear to carry the burden of regret, disappointment and depression anymore, overwhelmed by the bleakness, she makes a decision, she doesn’t want to live anymore!

Now before you think, oh goodness I can’t read this book, it is just too sad and dark, especially given our current situation in terms of Covid-19 and the effects it is having on a lot of people’s mental health. In fact the opposite here is true, Matt has written this creative, brave and incredible story and for me aside from the fact it could be the story of my life, it is a tale of extraordinary hope and having suffered two very serious, life changing bouts of depression, trust me… this is the book you want to read right now!

Nora on making her tragic decision, finds herself in a library with her former school Librarian the lovely Mrs Ellm, who explains that at present Nora isn’t dead but she has some decisions to consider and make. Firstly this library although full of books, they are very unusual books as all of them are variations of the many lives Nora could have, should she choose to live!

The story follow’s Nora’s experiences of trying different possible versions of her life, where her experiences leads her to eradicate any regrets she may have had in her ‘route life’ and we follow her journey through being an Olympian, a Glaciologist, a rock icon…in each version of herself, her perspective of self and the perspectives she has of others changes and her understanding of their perspective of her changes and with this comes clarity, almost a light bulb moment.

Ultimately Nora discovers that in reality there is no such thing as a perfect life and happiness comes not from achievement, wealth, marriage or the perspective of having a perfect life but from being loved, by friends, by family, by neighbors, by co-workers, by pets, being truly valued and appreciated for who she is, all she is, as she is. An important observation for us all to understand and boy do I wish I had this understanding 25 years ago as an undergrad. Let’s just say, I was definitely walking in Nora’s shoes!

I must say I am hugely impressed by Matt’s skill in creating such a captivating, sensitive story with a brave and relatable protagonist, while managing to weave into the tale a wealth of detailed philosophy and a deep psychological understanding of the complexities of suicide. Truly a master piece, a modern parable and a privilege and joy to read.

I have put a request into Santa to bring me the hardback for Christmas, you might wish to do the same.

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Matt Haig is the number one bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive, Notes on a Nervous Planet and six highly acclaimed novels for adults, including How to Stop Time, The Humans and The Radleys. His latest novel is The Midnight Library and the audiobook edition is read by Carey Mulligan. Haig also writes award-winning books for children, including A Boy Called Christmas, which is being made into a feature film with an all-star cast. He has sold more than a million books in the UK and his work has been translated into over forty languages.

@matthaig1 | matthaig.com

The Course of Conviction; Obsession Knows No Bounds – The Obsession Trilogy Book 2

Author: Cheryl Butler

Publisher: Little Bee Publishing

Available: Digital and paperback formats from 4th June 2020

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/32Zke3o

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

Thank you to Emma Welton and Damp Pebbles Blog Tours, Little Bee Publishing and Cheryl Butler for my gifted eBooks 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:

Having responded to Abbie’s absence in his own inimitable style, an unexpected reconciliation sees Joe conflicted by a need to seek revenge and a need to seek gratification, but as he wavers between hope and hatred, an unlikely reunion throws all those involved into further turmoil, deepening wounds and threatening fragile minds. Battling for normalcy, accusations and revelations abound until a devastating discovery proves almost fatal. There are lessons to be learned and theories to challenge, but who is really responsible for the endless stream of fear and betrayal? Dark minds and dirty deeds will only cause destruction when obsession knows no bounds. Explicit – strictly 18+

My Thoughts:

The Course of Conviction is the second instalment in The Obsession Trilogy and it is a dark, dramatic and dirty instalment and utterly delicious and I enjoyed every page but the themes within the story will not be for everyone and reading a book that has explicit content sometimes causes dissension of the book, so consider yourself warned.

This is the second book in the series and you should not embark on its pages without having first enjoyed Cheryl’s first book – A Proclivity to Prurience; Obsession comes with a Price.

This first book introduces us to Joe and Abbie our protagonists and sets the frame work for their May to December relationship and the plot lines that are to drive the story both in this volume and in the second;

Joe is in his 20s, handsome, intelligent and intuitive and he knows how to seduce women and has a strong sexual appetite but sex is like food or drink to him. Merely a necessary part of his daily life and his encounters (and there are many) involve little or no emotional connection for him. Joe’s connection to Abbie has been years in the making, as a child his mother died in tragic circumstances and he was left in the clutches of a father, who was neglectful, abusive and perpetually drunk. His circumstances are permanently altered when he becomes friends with Eddie, who is Abbie’s son. They are peers at school and Abbie removes him from his father’s reach and raises him alongside her son. Unbeknownst to Abbie, Joe has harboured an obsessive, consuming, lustful desire to embark on a relationship that is beyond the boundaries of a familial one and it is this desire that drives his sexual exploits in adulthood.

Abbie is in her 30s, sexy, smart, loyal to her friends and like Joe her past suffering at the hands of both an abusive father and husband,  colours her present actions and influences her own sexual preferences for younger men (usually in their 20s) and she too keeps these partners at an emotional arms-length. Both spend this first book engaged in their own sexual exploits and lives but still linked by Joe’s friendship with Eddie, they are magnetically drawn to each other and after a day spent at a wedding, they return to Abbie’s home under the guise of putting a wasted and drunk Eddie to bed. And finally Joe’s long held fantasies come true, he and Abbie have some pretty hot sex! But life is never that easy and their liaison is interrupted by tragedy, which leaves Abbie devastated, guilty and overwhelmed by a vortex of emotion she pushes Joe away and flees! Joe is hurt, confused and angry and embarks on a sexual spree of excess in order to survive her absence. Book one ends without resolution, where is Abbie? What will Joe do now!

Book Two opens with the return of Abbie, she and Joe are reunited in every way, with more vivid, raw sex! This instalment focuses on the revelations of long held dark secrets and the fallout that occurs, especially psychological impact on the emotions of our protagonists, both are damaged by their pasts and their current circumstances and they are caught up in a vortex of confusion, guilt, anger and misunderstanding punctuated by their voracious sexual appetites, all which makes for thrilling reading. So too does the plot development with some deft twist, turns and a few surprises! Which I leave you to uncover for yourselves.

What fascinated me about both these instalments is that is very easy to label these books as erotic and certainly they contain very lusty content (and there is nothing wrong in that) as sex is a large part of life. But these books are much more than a ‘wham, bam, thank you mam’ series. They explore unconventional relationships, the psychology of them with a clear understanding that relationships are messy, complicated and controlled by a myriad of emotional perspectives and how each individual views a set of circumstances is always very different and that view point will always impact their actions. So there is a lot more to be considered within these books than the label erotic novel belies.

These books also tested my own preconceptions, as I found it somewhat uncomfortable to consider the premise of a relationship where a younger man pursues, desires and captures the heart of an older woman. Which is ridiculously hypocritical because, I have had such a relationship and this hypocrisy is doubled because our societal norms completely accepts an older man being with a younger woman without qualm (obviously so long as all parties involved are consenting and above the age of consent) I would hope this would go without saying but just in case that isn’t clear, everything in these books follows these boundaries.

I thoroughly enjoyed both these books, they are gritty, raw, desperate, exciting and wonderfully inappropriate and I recommend that you read them for yourselves. So if you need to keep warm on these cold autumn evenings…a hour or so in Abbie and Joe’s company will certainly raise your temperature.

P.S. Cheryl please type faster as I am dying to know what happens in Book 3

Happy Reading Bookophiles.

About the Author:

Cheryl Butler: Having worked in a variety of industries, Cheryl has met many interesting people and, with a profound interest in what makes them tick, she has spent a lifetime of asking ‘What would I do in that situation?’ and ‘What if things happened this way?’, creating a multitude of plots and twists that she had always dismissed until one story line nagged her constantly and she decided to alleviate herself of the burden, committing her ideas to virtual paper. Assuming she would run out of steam five chapters or so in, she amazed herself by writing two novels within a year and A Proclivity To Prurience was born. It was difficult to write, given the themes, but Cheryl felt it was a story that would resonate in the current climate. Writing between a part-time job and raising two young children was a task in itself, but, every spare minute was spent doing so or thinking about doing so and her characters took on a life of their own.

Cheryl loves character-driven tales with a psychological edge and aims to produce that kind of work herself, and she’s not afraid to tackle issues that some may find difficult… other than horror – she can’t read or write horror as she scares far too easily!

Aside from writing and her family, Cheryl’s greatest passion is music and she can easily lose herself in a favourite album or song, rather like she does within a book she’s writing or reading, and a musician’s ability to move you on any level is pure genius.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cherylbuts

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

Website: https://cherylbuts.wixsite.com/cherylbutlerauthor

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

To Cook A Bear

Author: Mikael Niemi

Translator: Deborah Bragan-Turner

Publisher: MacLehose Press

Available: 3rd September 2020 – Hardback, eBook and audiobook

Thank you to Corinna Zifco and MacLehose 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 Description:

The legendary Laestadius becomes a kind of Sherlock Holmes in this exceptional historical crime novel.

It is 1852, and in Sweden’s far north, deep in the Arctic Circle, charismatic preacher and Revivalist Lars Levi Laestadius impassions a poverty-stricken congregation with visions of salvation. But local leaders have reason to resist a shift to temperance over alcohol.

Jussi, the young Sami Boy Laestadius has rescued from destitution and abuse, becomes the preacher’s faithful disciple on long botanical treks to explore the flora and fauna. Laestadius also teaches him to read and write – and to love and fear God.

When a milkmaid goes missing deep in the forest, the locals suspect a predatory bear is at large. A second girl is attacked, and the sheriff is quick to offer a reward for the bear’s capture. Using early forensics and Daguerreotype, Laestadius and Jussie find clues that point to a far worse killer on the loose, even as they are unaware of the evil closing in around them.

To Cook a Bear explores how communities turn inwards, how superstition can turn to violence, and how the power of language can be transformative in a richly fascinating mystery

My Thoughts

To Cook a Bear is the consummate reading experience, there is nothing else out in the world like this exceptional book. I finished it a day or so ago and I confess that I am struggling to write a review that can truly explain to you, the depth of its literary magic and genius. I can only implore you to get a copy for yourselves, today and forgive me if I don’t do it justice.

The prose of this book has a lyrical and melodic tone and cadence and the sumptuous details about the land and nature, ebbs and flows like a movements in a symphony.

The story is set in the arctic wilds of northern Sweden and you can feel Mikael’s knowledge and love for this place, it pours out of every adjective.

Trying to define the genre of this novel is impossible as it weaves its way through, crime, history, philosophy, art, religion, nature, a literary puzzle if you wish but every piece fits together perfectly to create a glorious, poetic and atmospheric read.

The main focus of the story is that of Preacher Lars Levi Laestadius and his apprentice Jussi, their lives revolve around exploration of the flora and fauna around them interspersed with Laestadius role as a minister trying fervently to turn his parishioners away from the evils of drink. Until two young women are killed and Laestadius in his religious capacity, is asked to minister to the family. So begins their erstwhile and rudimentary forensic investigations to the violent and suspicious deaths of two girls.

Laestadius logical analysis and astute observations of what has really happened to the girls is not welcomed by the leaders of their community, specifically the avaricious, pompous, supercilious sheriff, who is prepared to apportion blame anywhere but where it should be directed. He is incensed by the explanations of Laestadius and Jussi and in fact they are forcefully dismissed from each scene of crime and yet they persevere! However the closer they get to the truth, the closer they get to danger! And like every small community infected by fear, its inhabitants are overcome with anger, suspicion, seek resolution and retribution with horrifying results, which impact Jussi most of all.

The majority of the book is narrated by Jussi, who as a small child ran from a hideous home life (be warned the brutal description of his situation is heart breaking). Jussi took to the road where Laestadius found him, provided him with a home and gave him an identity within the community, specifically by writing the boy’s name in his parish ledgers, but most importantly he provides Jussi with an education, teaching him to read and write, clearly an unorthodox step at this point in time (being the 1850s) and against the constrains of the societal norms.

What I also found compelling but only discovered on finishing the book and reading Mikael’s acknowledgements, was that Lars Levi Laestadius was a real person and he had a huge impact on the society he lived within and Mikael has taken considerable effort to research the man, his life and interests and use this insight to craft his formidable characterization of Laestadius. I digress on this point.

 As the story roars to its climax and plot strands unfurl, the tension mounts and although Laestadius and Jussi have through their scientific endeavours identified the culprit, their discovery is ignored and instead, an innocent person is violently persecuted and eventually prosecuted for the crime! Now I am tip toeing around the final details of the plot because it is magnificent and just when you believe there can only be one outcome; a fabulous twist, changes the course of the narrative and much more satisfying conclusion occurs!

This is truly a phenomenal book, every word is enthralling and compelling and as I said at the beginning of my review, you simply must buy it for yourself and then buy more copies for everyone you know! This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time.

Happy Reading Bookophiles.

About the Author:

Mikael Niemi was born in 1959 and grew up in Pajala in the northernmost part of Sweden, near the Finnish border, where he still lives. Before the publication of To Cook A Bear, his breakthrough novel was Popular Music (2000), selling more than one million copies. In Sweden, it sold 800,000 copies (in a country of then – 8 million inhabitants). Mikel is a true Man of the Woods, who hardly ever leaves the North. When he delivered the finished manuscript of Popular Music to his publisher Norstedts, he drove 1,000 miles on a motorcycle from Pajala to Stockholm; left the manuscript at the front desk without telling his editor he was downstairs; got back on the motorbike and caned the 1,000 miles home again. He used almost all the handsome royalties from that book to save and protect huge swathes of his ancestral forest.

To Cook A Bear has now been sold for translation to sixteen territories

Translator:

Deborah Bragan-Turner is a translator of Swedish literature, and a former bookseller and academic librarian. Her translations include works by Per Olov Equist and Anne Sward

The Inheritance Games

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Available: From 3rd September 2020 in Paperback and eBook/audiobook

Thank you to Dave at The Write Reads and Penguin Random House 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:

Let the games begin: an utterly addictive and twisty thriller, full of dark family secrets and deadly stakes

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship and get out. When an eccentric billionaire dies and leaves Avery almost his entire fortune, she has no idea why, or even WHO Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her fortune Avery must move into the sprawling, secret-passage filled Hawthorne House, a mansion in which every room bears the old man’s touch – and his love of puzzles, riddles and codes. The catch? Hawthorne House is already occupied, and Avery must share her new home with his surviving relatives, a family hell-bent on discovering how she earned her inheritance.

‘A fantastic rollercoaster of a book! We Were Liars meets The Da Vinci Code. I loved it!Kat Ellis, author of Harrow Lake

‘A thrilling blend of family secrets, illicit romance and a high-stakes treasure hunt . . . The nonstop twists kept me guessing until the very last page!’ Katharine McGee, New York Times bestselling author of American Royals

My Thoughts:

This book is a very beguiling and enticing read, with a distinct taste of Alice in Wonderland, wrapped in the Da Vinci Code with strands of the Hunger games running through it and it is thoroughly enjoyable, whatever your age.  Jennifer has used her knowledge of psychiatry & psychology to create a unique concept and one that involves a wide variety of mind games…prepare to be absorbed.

Avery Grambs is our protagonist, she is clever, analytical, resourceful and eminently likeable and reminds me of a savvier Rory Gilmore (from the Gilmore Girls TV series) and the book follows her adventures on discovering she is the heiress to a billion dollar fortune. This rags to riches element is irresistible to a reader’s imagination. The idea of winning billions of pounds/dollars is a fantasy most of us occasionally daydream about…I mean what would you do with $46 billion dollars!!! Trust me you will spend time thinking about it! As an adult that sort of money brings freedom from the control of others and power over pretty much everything or does it or as one of the clues suggests ‘power corrupts absolutely’ a concept to consider and very pertinent both within the confines of this story and beyond. 

Avery does not know her benefactor, she can find no memories or familial links to him, she is plunged into a lifestyle that is beyond anyone’s imaginings, fast cars, private schools, her own libraries (yes plural) a bowling alley and Spa; all behind the walls of her new home Hawthorne House. However nothing is that simple, you don’t inherit a fortune without a catch!

The catch being the Hawthorne Family members (and there are a few) have all but been dis-inherited and Avery has to move in with them, a very awkward and uncomfortable scenario! Avery has the most involvement with the four very different brothers and their characters are all very specific and individual, both their good and their flawed sides. Their mother Skye is a Hawthorne but each brother has a different father (who nobody seems to know anything about…yet) and one of these rather attractive and charismatic men will certainly be providing the story with a nice touch of romance within this web of secrets and intrigue but I shall leave you guessing which one!

A large part of my enjoyment of this book was the constant need to think and consider, the plot is rather like the childhood party game, pass the parcel, you unwrap one layer and you might find a present or a clue and so it is with this story, constant discovery with every chapter and the puzzles are exceptionally well thought out conundrums. Along with searching for clues, there is a subtle sinister undertone that means that Avery has to watch her step because someone is definitely out to harm her but is it one of the brothers or somebody else!!! Obviously exploring this element, will be wholly up to you, as I am telling you nothing!! You will spend a lot of time, asking Why, What, Who and When, as you embark on this story but that just makes it all the more tantalizing!

Jennifer does a fantastic job of involving the reader with her characters and her multifaceted plot, you definitely feel you are submerged in the story and when you assume there might be a predictable outcome, there is another juicy little twist. This is not a book for the passive reader, you are engaged and caught up in the game from the first page! This volume ends on a cliff hanger but don’t worry the second book is out in Autumn of 2021…it will give you time to try and work it all out!

Happy Reading Bookophiles.

About the Author:

Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written more than a dozen acclaimed young adult novels, including Little White Lies, Deadly Little Scandals, The Lovely and the Lost, and The Naturals series: The Naturals, Killer Instinct, All in, Bad Blood and the e-novella, Twelve. Jen is also a Fulbright Scholar with advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry and cognitive science. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2012 and is currently a professor of psychology and professional writing at the University of Oklahoma.

Follow her online at www.jenniferlynnbarnes.com or on Twitter @jenlynnbarnes

Not The Deaths Imagined

Author: Anne Pettigrew

Publisher: Ringwood Publishing

Available: 1st August 2020 – Paperback and Digital formats

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3hGmFOF

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2EQdPit

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3b8eVCk

Ringwood Publishing: https://bit.ly/2EQCMe0

Thank you to Emma Welton at Damp Pebbles Blog Tours and Ringwood Publishing for my gifted eBook 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 a leafy Glasgow suburb, Dr Beth Semple is busy juggling motherhood and full-time GP work in the 90s NHS. But her life becomes even more problematic when she notices some odd deaths in her neighbourhood. Though Beth believes the stories don’t add up, the authorities remain stubbornly unconvinced.

Soon, Beth’s professional reputation is challenged. There follows a chilling campaign of harassment and she finds her professional reputation – and her family – are put at risk.

Is a charming local GP actually a serial killer? Can Beth piece together the jigsaw of perplexing fatalities and perhaps save lives? And as events accelerate towards a dramatic conclusion, will the police intervene in time?

From the author of Not the Life Imagined, this slow-burning tartan noir novel from a Bloody Scotland Crime Spotlight author follows Beth on another quest for justice. Reflecting Pettigrew’s own medical expertise, Not The Deaths Imagined re-affirms the benefits of growing up in a loving family and the need for friends in hard times, while offering insight into the twisted development of a psychopathic mind.

My Thoughts:

This is the second instalment in the Beth Semple Series and although I haven’t been fortunate to read the first book just yet, this oversight did not detract from my enjoyment of this book or its storyline. I confess this book has a soft spot in my crime reader’s heart, it is my first foray in the realms of ‘Tartan Noir’.

My interest in this book was piqued because of my own Scottish connection (my partner is a proud Scottish/American currently residing in Kilmarnock, a stone’s throw from Glasgow). And because of the Covid-19 situation we have been apart for 8 months (thank goodness for facetime) and when I read this book, it was his voice I could hear imparting the splendid specifically Scottish patois…prepare for the dawn of the potato scone folks…Anne knows, of what I refer to!

 This book has its own very distinct identity, which I can only describe as a contemporary marriage of the style of Agatha Christie because of its superb details and fantastic cast of victims and villains combined with the laconic humour, charm and body count of the TV series Midsummer Murders. Anne has also used her own wide and professional experience as a medical professional to provide substance and compelling details to her multi-faceted plot. This is definitely a series you want to add to your crime collections.

The story opens without our protagonist Dr Beth Semple, going about her daily life as a GP and mother of teenage daughters and all the hectic elements this life suggests but a routine Monday morning appointment for sleeping tablets with a quiet, dazed and reticent woman known only as Mary Truscott becomes the catalyst for a vortex of ominous events.

A series of unusual occurrences unfold, starting with Beth being asked to sign off a death certificate under less than optimal circumstances, a Psychiatric Conference in Edinburgh where a former nemesis of Beth and her friends, rears his unwelcome head; dubious drug trials, a spate of unfounded allocations about prescription/drug selling, a formal investigation aimed at Beth, poison pen letters, silent phone calls, slashed car tyres and series of seemingly predicable deaths of predominately elderly single or widowed wealthy women.

With little obvious or tangible evidence of nefarious practices, Beth documents details of these victims in her book of unexplained curiosities to see if she can pin point what exactly is going on! I shall also mention, at the demise of the ‘victims’ a certain Dr David Goodman, turns up just in time to issue a death certificate, remove old medications, take care of contacting the family and even more off colour is the number of times the deceased seem to have left the ‘good’ Doctor a bequest, a painting or a financial gift…are you suspicious, you should be, Beth is!

One of the aspects I thoroughly enjoyed about the construction of this story was the axis of villains, Anne has created and what a vipers nest they are!!! The most malevolent of the three is the vain, pompous, avaricious and misogynistic Dr Goodman whose diabolical and depraved actions are in my mind similar to those of the heinous serial killer Harold Shipman!

Throughout the book, we see the devious and murderous actions Dr David Goodman undertakes and the forgery, blackmail and deception he uses to cover his tracks! Anne does not hide the fact (so this doesn’t count as a spoiler in any way) that this character is responsible for multiple deaths but the underlying reasons for his barbarous behaviour (other than being a psychopath) is utterly intriguing and you are compelled to get to the bottom of his thought processes! As is the subtle tension you feel for the duration of the novel, because as a reader, you are constantly (along with Beth) trying to figure out, how to catch him or how to prove what he’s being doing…gruesome and gripping stuff!!!

In true classic crime novel style, this sensational story twists and turns towards a thrilling crescendo and I have no intention of giving any clues away about how the crimes are uncovered, the murder unmasked or how this story ends. You have no option but to buy the books and find out for yourselves and I promise you,  it will be worth the wait. I am now a big fan of this series and can’t wait to find out what Beth gets involved with next.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Anne Pettigrew: A graduate of Glasgow (Medicine) and Wolfson College, Oxford (Anthropology), Anne Pettigrew has been a GP, worked in psychiatry, family planning/sexual health, lecturing, patient/women doctors pressure groups, BMA Media relations, Homeopathy, acupuncture, an EEC Committee, book reviewing and journalism (medico-political and humorous articles to The Herald, Doctor newspaper etc: a Channel 4 Despatches).

Retiring from practice, she became a wedding planner for a charity theatre, before starting Creative Writing classes and mentoring at Glasgow University. She is now a member of Garnethill critical writer’s forum and has won short story and article trophies in Greenock Writer’s Club.

 Not the life Imagined was runner up in the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable Silver Stag Award 2018. The book was originally called No Sinecure, a title abandoned as no one under 35 in any class or group she joined knew what ‘sinecure’ meant (though some suggested it was apt, the book featuring ‘sin’ in those who ‘cure!’) Two more books are underway. Anne has two grown up children and lives with her husband in North Ayrshire.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pettigrew_anne

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

Website: https://annepettigrew.co.uk/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anne.pettigrew.author/

A Ruined Girl

Author: Kate Simants

Publisher: Viper Books

Available: August 2020 – Out now in Hardback/eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Viper Books for my gifted eBook 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:

* WINNER OF THE BATH NOVEL AWARD *

TWO BOYS LOVED HER.

BUT WHICH ONE KILLED HER?

On a dark night two years ago, teenagers Rob and Paige broke into a house. They beat and traumatised the occupants, then left, taking only a bracelet. No one knows why, not even Luke, Rob’s younger brother and Paige’s confidant. Paige disappeared after that night. And having spent her life in children’s homes and the foster system, no one cared enough to look for her.

Now Rob is out of prison, and probation officer Wren Reynolds has been tasked with his rehabilitation. But Wren has her own reasons for taking on Rob as a client. Convinced that Rob knows what happened to Paige, and hiding a lifetime of secrets from her heavily pregnant wife, Wren’s obsession with finding a missing girl may tear her family apart…

‘A tense, unsettling and emotionally engaging whydunnit that grips from the first page’ SOPHIE HANNAH

‘Gritty, tense, and superbly plotted. The ending left me breathless’ HARRIET TYCE

‘A complete triumph. an intelligent and deeply satisfying thriller with such vivid characters it’s impossible to believe they aren’t real’ ELIZABETH HAYNES

‘Superb. A rare combination of stunning twists and exceptional prose’ DAVID JACKSON

‘Layer upon layer of secrets, making for a perfectly paced page turner’ ROBERT SCRAGG

‘Immersive and compelling, authentic and raw’ S.E. LYNES

‘Assured, gripping, and with a twist I did not see coming… fantastic’ JAMES DELARGY

‘Everything you want from a novel’ DOMINIC NOLAN

‘One of the rising stars of crime fiction’ TREVOR WOOD

My Thoughts

“No-one knows what it is like being in care, living with however many other unwanted kids the can fit in a building! No-one giving a toss about you, except that you stay out of prison and off drugs until you are not their problem anymore” this bluntly forlorn observation jumped off the page at me when I read it and I believe is the true heart of this book and I hope my review goes on to explain what I mean…

 Kate Simants has written a sublimely crafted novel and her first-hand experience of our broken care system echoes heartbreakingly through every page. Although this is a work of fiction, she has expertly woven the attributes of a morally bankrupt care service into the lives of her protagonists, without once sermonising to her readers. For me, Kate possesses a style I can only describe as that of modern Dickens or Thackeray, observing, fictionalising and highlighting the societal failings of her time within the potent and digestible form of a stunningly plotted crime novel and I cannot impress upon you how much I want you to read this unique and astounding book…So I pull no punches when I encourage, beg, demand that you…buy it now, today…now…

The story opens at night with a man and boy burying a body near a river, clearly something untoward has occurred and yet the tender melancholy tone of this secret burial is unanticipated and instantly made me wonder…how strange, most killers in crime novels do not give readers a sense of regret and sadness for their murderous actions…all is clearly not, what it seems!

The story is divided into segments of ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ ; the Now story is told predominantly from the viewpoint of Wren Reynolds, a professional probation & rehabilitation officer (not a traditional probation officer) who has been newly appointed to the CAP or Community Atonement Programme, which has been designed to release screened prisoners from the Prison system early in order that they can seek reconciliation from those they have harmed. Her client is 21 year old Robert Ashworth, who has been incarcerated for the past 3 years after being convicted of aggravated burglary. On his release, they will visit victims of his crime so he can make an apology statement and listen to the impact his actions have had on their lives and the descriptions of this process are beyond awkward as I suspect they are intended to be!!

However, there is of course more to this element of the story, on the night of his crime, Rob Ashworth was accompanied by a teenage girl Paige Garrett, who up until this point had never been in trouble before and even more intriguing is that since that night over 3 years ago, she has not been seen since! Wren Reynolds is obsessively determined get to the bottom of this mystery by any means fair or foul and seems to be more than prepared to bend the rules to attain information, despite having a career that depends on her following strict rules and protocols! She believes that Rob Ashworth knows what happened to Paige!  It occurred to me at this point, why is Wren so focused on finding Paige, what is her motivation?

And just like in the book, we shall flip to the ‘Then’…these sections of the story focus on the lives of Paige Garrett, Luke Ashworth – Rob Ashworth’s little brother and their experiences at Beech View a residential care home for teenagers. This element of the story provides the stark reality of children within care homes, as quoted at the top of my review; Luke is a quiet, sensitive teen with a serious crush on Paige, he has ended up ‘in Care’ because of his mother’s mental health issues leading to her inability to care for him, his brother and herself. Paige has a similar story, the daughter of a teen mother, addicted to drugs, led to her being abused and neglected. Their relationship (and it is one of friendship from Paige’s point of view, although Luke exhibits all the signs of a teenage boy in love) their lives and experiences gives meat to the bones of the story and introduces us to some very nefarious characters, Oliver & Alice Polzeath who run a chain of these homes,  Yardley a smooth, educated, wealthy older man, college counsellor and avid supporter of the teens and even as the story lines involving these characters unfurl, the little crime busting grey cells in my head were screaming…watch out for these characters and some of what you assume they get up to next does indeed occur but not in in the manner you expect and yes I am being extremely vague about the details because the construction of the plot is glorious and the sinister secrets and delightful twists and thorough insightfulness is a pleasure you deserve to discover when you read the book and I won’t spoil that experience for you.

As the novel continues so to do the revelations and part of my joy in this book, is that as a reader you are given an omnipresent perspective, you are allowed to see what is going to happen next just before it does and trust me you will spend your reading time, entreating the characters not to undertake certain actions, which is exceeding frustrating and fabulous all at the same time. Now I realise, I have been waffling on for a bit so I shall give you some final tasters: a missing mobile, a stolen bracelet, perceptions are often flawed, don’t assume you can believe what you see, remorse, resolution and retribution are key and I am not giving anything else away…I cannot wait for you to enjoy this book, I defy anyone not too!

In case you haven’t gathered by now, I absolutely adored this book, it is breath-taking in its layers of structure, the characters are enthralling, irritating, charming and compelling. Quite frankly there are not enough superlative adjectives to adequately describe how insightful and knowledgeable Kate has been in devising her story and as I said at the beginning there is a great deal to consider about the real life issues surrounding children in the care of our society. They are being failed, marginalized and their continuing plight is largely ignored and how as a civilised society can we be so uncivilised…this book gives us all a lot to think about along with its ability to entertain!

Well my lovely bookophiles, the weekend approaches…Happy Reading

About the Author:

Kate Simants is a writer of psychological thrillers and crime fiction.

After a decade working in the UK television industry, specialising in investigative documentaries, police shows and undercover work, Kate relocated from London to Bristol to concentrate on writing. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Brunel University (2007) and another in Crime Fiction from the University of East Anglia (2018), where she was the recipient of the UEA Literary Festival Scholarship. Her novel LOCK ME IN was shortlisted for the 2015 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and is published by HarperCollins.

Kate won the 2019 Bath Novel Award with her second novel A RUINED GIRL, which is published by Viper/Serpent’s Tail in August 2020.

Kate’s agent is Veronique Baxter at David Higham Associates.

The Cure

Author: Glenn Cooper

Publisher: Aries Fiction / Head of Zeus

Available: in Paperback and eBook

Purchase Links:

Amazon Aries Store: https://amzn.to/304NUvM

The Cure: https://amzn.to/30dkegg

Thank you to Victoria Joss, Aries Blog Tours and Aries Fiction/Head of Zeus for my gifted eBook 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:

If you catch it, you forget everything. Your only hope is the cure…

He wanted to cure Alzheimer’s Disease…

Single parent and neurologist Dr Jamie Abbott makes a key contribution to treating Alzheimer’s Disease. But the principal investigator short-circuits the study safeguards, releasing a highly contagious virus that wipes the host’s memories. His daughter is one of the first victims.

As the virus spreads and civil order breaks down, Jamie embarks on a perilous cross-country journey. He needs to reach Dr Mandy Alexander. She has the other half of a potential cure.

If he fails, he’ll leave most of mankind to the oblivion of total amnesia.

My Thoughts:

This is a book about a virus and a global pandemic, sound familiar! There is something exceedingly strange about reading a fictional account of such a series of events, when they are your current reality!

If you thought the conditions of our own Lockdown were bad, rest assured that the content of this book, is far far worse! This is a well-crafted, compelling and clever piece of fiction and Glenn Cooper clearly has the scientific insight to provide serious knowledge and substance to his tale.

The premise of the story is that a project has been launched to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, a disease that destroys a person from the inside out. The process of delivering this new drug involves mixing the therapeutic with a safe virus for delivery because it can’t be administered directly because of what is known as the blood-brain barrier which would stop the drug getting into a person’s system. Trust me you are going to learn a great deal about this subject during this book. The virus is the delivery system and it has no ability to attach itself or mutate within the host. Basically it is the transport and once it makes its delivery, it degrades and vanishes…all good in theory!

However you don’t want any other virus present at the time of administration because they can cause a problem (can you see where this is going?!) So strict isolation protocols are put in place to mitigate this risk!

The book opens with a patient being given the trial drug, all seems to be going well until she gets a sneaky visit from her grandson who lies to the nurse in charge and pretends that his name is on the permitted visitors list (he and his father have nearly identical names). Well of course he is carrying a virus of his own and proceeds to cough on his grandmother and as a result, all hell breaks loose!

Dr Jamie Abbott is our leading protagonist, widower, father of a teenage daughter and he was/is responsible for identifying/creating the cure element for the Alzheimer’s trial but not for creating the virus it was delivered in. He is called to a safety committee after Patient 1 is reported as ‘experiencing a serious and unexpected adverse event’, starting with fever, coughing and the coma. He requests that there be some serious investigation into how Patient 1 ended up in this condition much to frustration and annoyance of Dr Steadman (the project leader). But unbeknownst to Jamie, it is too late! Staff who were in contact with this patient have now gone about their daily lives, met up with friends and family, traveled and the virus is already spreading and at an alarming rate.

The symptoms are very clear, fever, cough and confusion followed by full on amnesia, victims are scared and unable to communicate or function. They don’t know who they are, where they are, who anyone else around them is or how to undertake the most basic tasks of life, like feeding themselves nor do victims have any ability to control their impulses!

I did wonder while reading this tale, if it would have had the same fascination and impact on me intellectually, if I wasn’t living through a viral pandemic in real life. The story details of how the virus escapes and the speed of contagion, the theories of conspiracy that leads to the outbreak are sublimely convincing, they are brilliantly constructed and well thought out and I am deeply sceptical usually about conspiracy theories but oh this one is clever and subtle and I suspect based somewhat on elements truth.

So what happens next, a great deal is the short answer….initially Jamie is quarantined in a Baltimore hospital after visiting one of the first victims of the new virus, known as FAS or Febrile Amnesia Syndrome. From the hospital he calls in the cavalry, CDC, every US agency related to such matters, but within hours 80% of the people he is quarantined with have the virus and are living, breathing human shells, with no memory what so ever (I did wonder if this element was influenced by the series The Walking Dead!?) Within days half the world has the virus, the US President, the Vice President, his own daughter and her friend and thousands of others.

Further bad news (total understatement) comes when Jamie discovers that Dr Steadman, the star physician and leader of the Alzheimer’s trial has killed himself and the virus fail safe was removed from the new drug they were testing because it was hampering the project’s progress…and now there is no known way to kill this mutation!

The true genius of how horrifying this virus idea is, starts to enter a reader’s brain. So the virus turns you into an amnesiac, it turns everyone into one; Doctors, Fireman, Soldiers, Plumbers, Engineers, civil servants, Post men, Bank tellers…every element of humanity is infected and nobody can recall how to function never mind undertake their jobs. The ability to main the country’s, social and economic structures starts to crumble, the power goes out, food supplies dwindle, law and order and judicial system fails until all that is left is a vortex of fear, violence and chaos…

The story continues with Jamie Abbott, taking his daughter and her friend both who are infected along with her mother (who is police detective and whose moral compass is now completely broken) on a road trip across the US, in order to meet up with Dr Mandy Alexander (who has her own trials and tribulations to face in this book) she is Jamie’s former colleague, lover and fellow researcher and the woman responsible for finding the benign virus used for the Alzheimer trial and this journey is fraught with stacks of danger, gunfights, confrontation with some villainous characters who are taking full advantage of the situation and the victims of the virus in the most nefarious and morally corrupt ways. Jamie is doggedly determined to find the cure for FAS and will go to any lengths, and fight tooth and nail for the survival for himself and his daughter… I trust by now I have whetted your appetite for this gripping and gruesome novel and as you know I don’t like to spoil your reading experiences, so I will say no more!

It really is a fantastic read, compulsive, compelling and it does makes our own experiences of lock down and a global pandemic, seem like a walk in the park, we have food, power and as far as I know my partner is not, trying bash me over the head with a frying pan because he’s forgotten who I am…then again?! (Joking, I promise).

The plot and the characters are eminently convincing and you do find yourself relating to them. The villains of the plot are suitably malevolent and they deserve everything that is coming to them, so my lovely bookophiles, this book is most definitely a necessary Cure for any stay home blues you may have. Happy Reading…

About the Author

Glenn Cooper is a Harvard-trained infectious diseases physician who became the CEO of a large public biotech company in Massachusetts. He sold his company in 2009, about the time that his first novel, Library of the Dead, was published. He has been a full-time writer ever since, with fourteen top-ten bestselling thrillers published in thirty translations, and seven million copies sold. A TV series based on his first trilogy is in development.

Twitter: @GlennCooper

Website: www.glenncooperbooks.com

Aries Fiction

Twitter: @AriesFiction

Facebook: Aries Fiction

Website: http://www.headofzeus.com

The Hit List

Author: Holly Seddon

Publisher: Trapeze

Available: eBook/Audiobook – 28th August 2020

Narration: Perdita Weeks, Tuppence weeks, Chris Riley, Stephanie Racine, Damien Lynch

Thank you to Alex Layt and Trapeze for my gifted audio 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:

What would you do if you found your name on a hit list? And your late husband put it there?

When Marianne’s husband Greg is knocked off his bike and killed on the way to work, she must unpick the life he left behind. Numb with grief, Marianne consoles herself by scouring Greg’s laptop, finding comfort in reading his old emails and tracing his footsteps across the web. Until one day, she discovers that he had been accessing the dark web. Why was Greg, a principled charity worker and dedicated husband, logging on to a website that showcases the worst of humanity’s cruel impulses and where anything is available for a price? Marianne steels herself and logs on. After tentative searching, she discovers her name on a hit list.

In this fast-paced, powerful and exceptionally plotted novel, Marianne must figure out whether Greg was trying to protect her or whether he was complicit in the conspiracy for her murder. As she is pulled deeper into the depths of the underworld that Greg was seemingly hostage to, she gets closer and closer to coming face to face with Sam – the assassin hired to kill her. The dark truths that Marianne uncovers speak volumes about the dark underbelly of our society and forces us to question how far we would go to protect those we care most about.

Praise for THE HIT LIST

‘This had me gripped from start to finish. Smart, twisty and totally compelling.’ Jane Fallon

‘Holly Seddon’s new novel, The Hit List, is a compulsive read. Unsettling subject matter deftly handled, this book is ingeniously plotted and full of suspense.’ Lisa Ballantyne

‘The twists were relentless, the pacing superb and I actually wasn’t ready for it to end.’ John Marrs

My Thoughts

Holly Seddon has the magnificent talent at creating captivating stories about what is really behind, the facades of ordinary life and relationships. She orchestrates the strands of these lives in to a maelstrom of plot twists and turns, a truly terrifying experience that delves in society’s transgressing recesses.  On listening to Holly’s new book my main observation is; do you really know the people you love & trust the most…consider that, maybe you don’t and maybe you shouldn’t trust them! The phrase, appearances can be deceiving is the biggest understatement ever, when it comes to this story of retribution, desperation, deception and dark dark secrets.

I have had the pleasure of revelling in the audiobook for The Hit List and for me, the joy of a truly excellent listening experience, is being able to actually hear the individual character’s voices and with this book each character has been given their own narrator making their voices and stories come vividly alive. If you’ve never tried an audiobook, this would definitely be an amazing first experience, try it and see.

Marianne is a widow, her husband Greg was killed in an accident a year ago, she is still in a fugue of grief but trying to restart her life by embarking on a new relationship with Noah who has also experienced loss of his own!

Marianne while going through the remnants of her life with Greg, alongside the photos, gifts, clothes, note pads, she dips into the digital items, emails from the beginning of their relationship on both her and his laptops, she uncovers an archived email from Greg to his previous girlfriend Jenna, sent in the last days of his life, the tone of which suggests that maybe their relationship had been re-kindled in someway but the exact details are elusive.

There is a hint that Marianne and Greg’s relationship was clearly suffering issues at the time of his death! Marianne keeps searching Greg’s laptop, when she spots an icon, a name, a browser which turns out to be wormhole to the dark web on the internet, where anything available for a price! From this point on the shocks start coming and as a reader it is rather like being Alice as she falls down a very shadowy rabbit hole!

And just as you are becoming immersed in Marianne’s story, the tale jumps to that of another character, in this case; Sam. Sam who is watching, ‘creeping silently in the shadows, planning wicked things’. Sam is clearly an assassin but that isn’t all she is, not by a long, long, long shot.  Her backstory and how she end up as she is today,  is juicily disquieting and enthralling and I think she might be my favorite character in this tale and if you are waiting for me to spill the beans, about her…not a chance! The story jumps on to other just as fascinating character, Greg…and why and how he ends up dead, was it an accident really or something else…and so the book continues in this fashion, jumping between characters and their narratives.

The book is structured actions and behaviors that impact the individual characters and influence their predicaments, plans and a wide variety of delicious deviousness and oh what a complicate web it is and Holly is masterful in creating her scheming plots as she is in creating these incredible characters, clues and glorious detail to engulf us. Now you may have noticed I am saying nothing about the scope or details of the plot itself, because to reveal one single clue, would just be wrong. This is a book you need to experience without my review suggesting what might occur, you need to sit listening or reading it and be in awe of its audaciousness and in case you hadn’t guessed through my enthusiastic use of adjectives, I absolutely loved this book, it has the complete psychological wow factor.

Well my lovely bookophiles for many of you it will be payday weekend, so add this to your shopping list, your to buy list, your to read list any list you like but make sure you get your hands on The Hit List…right now or at least first thing tomorrow when it is available!

About the Author:

Holly Seddon is the international bestselling author of TRY NOT TO BREATHE, DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES and LOVE WILL TEAR US APART. THE HIT LIST will be published in August 2020 in eBooks, and April 2021 in paperback.

After growing up in the English countryside obsessed with music and books, Holly worked in London as a journalist and editor. She now lives in Amsterdam with her family and writes full time.

Alongside fellow author Gillian McAllister, Holly co-hosts the popular Honest Authors Podcast.

You can find her on Twitter @hollyseddon, Instagram and Facebook @hollyseddonauthor.

The Beast and the Bethany

Author: Jack Meggitt-Phillips

Illustrator: Isabelle Follath

Publisher: Egmont Books

Available: In Hardback from 01 October 2020

Thank you to the delightful Dave of The Write Reads blog tour for my gifted proof 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 Beast and the Bethany has all the classic macabre humour of Roald Dhal, the charm of Despicable Me, and a gleeful bite of Little Shop of Horrors!

It is a riotously funny, dreadfully Dahl-esque tale of greed, vanity and a girl who doesn’t know she’s about to be eaten. It’s a book that will have readers delighting in the gruesomeness, laughing on every page and staying up late with a touch under the covers to finish it – but lurking under the beastly exterior is a big beating heart

My Thoughts:

This book is almost, far too deviantly funny and monstrously fabulous for the mini-peeps and the hugely immature part of me, certainly doesn’t really want to share it with them but if you are a parent who reads to/ with your offspring, you will love, love, love this book and you can buy it partly for your own enjoyment! Also, I’m a book blogger, so not sharing how epically fantastic it is, is probably against the rules…

The story and its characters have the comically audacious creepiness of Lemony Snickett, married with the dark charm of Dahl and there is absolutely nothing like it out in the world. It was impossible not to devour it in one sitting, which given the nature of the beast in this tale, is clearly the appropriate reading technique for this tantalising tale. I also want to draw your attention, to the sumptuous and stunningly detailed illustrations that are contained within its currently un chewed pages, which I believe, surpasses any in Dahl’s books and brings these amazing characters to life, especially if you are sharing the story with your mini-persons.

Ebenezer Tweezer is the Dorian Grey-esque character of the book, who has survived to the ripe old age of 511 by feeding the malevolent, voracious and insatiable beast in his attic, who requires a wide variety of weird and wonderful things to snack upon. In return he gives Ebenezer anything he asks for, money, paintings, pianos but most importantly an elixir of youth (which is why Ebenezer only looks 30 years old) and we adults are all wishing we had such a create in our attics!

The beast’s most recently behested snack is a child and even Ebenezer balks at this request, “It’s wrong, you can’t go around eating children, there is something so very impolite about it” but the beast is adamant, no child to snack on means no elixir and that means Ebenezer will start to age rapidly and the wrinkles are already appearing and he simply can’t have that.

So he sets about trying to firstly steal a child (from a nearby Zoo but is unsuccessful because the parents seem violently against him put their child in a sack) I dare you not to laugh out loud at this (however inappropriate such real life actions would seem). He moves on to trying to purchase one from his local bird selling shop, again without success…but he discovers that you can get children for free from the Orphanage down the road.

Off to the Orphanage he goes and meets the dreadful Miss Fizzlewick proprietor of said institution, she confirms that yes the children are free and he can certainly pick one to take home today! But he finds that choosing a child to be eaten is not an easy task, the children are far too nice. Ebenezer realises he needs to pick a horrid child as this will ease his conscience (yes dear bookophiles, it seems he does indeed have one, even if it is vastly skewed)

Enter Bethany, she obstreperous and perfectly unpleasant, just what is required for beast snacking purposes. Although between you and me, there is a lot more to her than being the right amuse bouche but that is for you to discover!

What occurs next, well Ebenezer is getting older by the second and he realises that he enjoys having Bethany around, she brighten up his life despite all its luxury and he really doesn’t want to feed her to the beast (who is getting hungrier and more demanding by the minute). It is Bethany who hatches a cunning and glorious plan that may just save her from being a snack and save Ebenezer from wrinkly decay and death!

Now I have told you more than enough and hopefully whetted your appetite for the book and nothing else, like pearl necklaces, antique bureaus, parrots, pet cats or children…I hope!

This is a story you will guzzle and gobble in one huge bite and it will certainly have you smacking your lips in glee. This is an exceptional tale, beautifully atypical and diabolically comic with subtle entreaties about the values of being good and kind at its core. Every child in the land should be gifted a copy immediately because it will change their reading experiences forever and what more could you want from a book.

So my lovely bookophiles, you need to buy piles and piles of this book for every child and childish adult you know, it would make a much better gift than sweeties at Halloween and of course Christmas is also just around the corner (or at least it will be when this book is published) and this will be the perfect gift and my glorious goddaughter Neve will certainly be receiving a copy.

About the Author:

Jack Meggitt-Phillips is an incredibly exciting new talent. He is an author, scriptwriter and playwright whose work has been performed at The Roundhouse and featured on Radio 4. He is scriptwriter and presenter of The History of Advertising podcast. In his mind, Jack is an enormously talented ballroom dancer, however his enthusiasm far surpasses his actual talent. Jack lives in north London where he spends most of his time drinking peculiar teas and reading PG Wodehouse novels.

About the Illustrator:

Isabelle Follath is an illustrator who has worked in advertising, fashion magazines and book publishing, but her true passion lies in illustrating children’s books. She also loves drinking an alarming amount of coffee, learning new crafts and looking for the perfect greenish-gold colour. Isabelle lives in Zurich, Switzerland.

I am the Night

Author: Ethan Cross

Publisher: Aries Fiction / Head of Zeus

Available: Paperback & eBook

Amazon Aries Store: https://amzn.to/304NUvM

I Am The Night: https://amzn.to/3gdoMbV

Thank you to Victoria Joss, Aries Blog Tours and Aries Fiction/Head of Zeus for my gifted eBook 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.

Twitter: @AriesFiction

Facebook: Aries Fiction

Website: http://www.headofzeus.com

Book Details:

The Ackerman Thrillers, 1

The night is dark. My soul is darker.

Marcus Williams and Francis Ackerman Jr. are both killers.

But while Williams is tortured by the deaths he has caused, Ackerman takes pleasure in his murders.

Williams is a former New York City homicide detective.

Ackerman is a serial killer.

And both men are about to become unwilling pawns in a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of US government. They will be plunged deep into a hellish underworld of murderers and killers. They will find that there is more that connects them than divides them… and that their lives depend on it

My Thoughts:

“The worst kind of fear had always been one without a name” and if you are easily afraid, you will need to read this book with someone else in the house and all the lights on. The book opens with some vicious, brutal and bloody murders and there are bodies dropping in a variety of ghastly and gruesome ways throughout its pages, so be warned! And fear is a major theme of this book…

Francis Ackerman Jr is our serial killer, highly intelligent, without emotion or empathy and exceedingly fond of playing sick little games with his victims, where the inevitable outcome is death but whether their end is swift or after hours of torture, there is no escape and he revels in the event. Ackerman of course has also been a victim in his past.

Suffering at the hands of his own father Francis Ackerman Snr who by all accounts was a second rate psychologist, who’s academic and expert career was less than remarkable. In order to gain critical acclaim, he turned his own son in to a guinepig, in order to prove his hypothesis that serial killers could be made and were products of their environments and they were not just born that way, dispelling the belief that serial killers own natural instincts held the key to their psychotic behaviours! Nurture over Nature if you will. Francis Ackerman Snr conducted real-life experiments on his own child in order to create a psychopath, subjecting him to abuse both physical and psychological, torture and death and he filmed the results…the concept of these actions is beyond horrifying  and the content of this story is not for the faint hearted but be brave and read on because it is worth it.

Ackerman jr is on a rampage in rural Texas when his path crosses with Marcus Williams, retired NYC homicide detective, who has just inherited a ranch in the area from his aunt. Like Ackerman his childhood also contained less than stella experiences, his parents were murdered. His own police career also ended in suspicious circumstances (but that is for you to discover for yourselves).

Their first encounter is pure coincidence, Marcus is on a date with the Sheriffs’ daughter, a real estate agent, who offers to introduce to Marcus to his neighbour. Where they discover instead her mutilated corpse, Marcus is only a witness to this event as he is no longer in law enforcement. Returning later to the scene of the crime with the Sheriff a series of shocking and surprising events occur…namely the Sheriff has captured Ackerman but Marcus gather’s the usual course of action, like arresting him isn’t going to happen.

From this point on the pace of the story ratchets up, there’s a fight and Ackerman Jr escapes and Marcus ends up on the run too! So now we have a lethal serial killer on the loose, a former NYC detective on the run being chased by local law enforcement and in the frame for multiple murders, a seemly corrupt Sheriff with a battery of armed cops at his beck and call, more violent and bloody deaths all over the place and then comes the most epic twist, a conspiracy that reaches the highest level of US Government and has major ramifications for our cast of characters! Let me say as a reader you can assume nothing, when you think you understand the plot or believe you know what’s going to happen next, you won’t have a clue. The exciting plot twists and turns and keeps you completely engaged and somewhat open mouthed!

This novel develops in to a vortex of shocking revelation, fear and death and absolutely nothing is what it seems and I wish I could explain more but if I do, I will just have to write spoiler alert every few lines in this review. This is addictive and gruesome reading and although there is resolution to some elements of the story others are left open for what comes next (which I hope is Book 2)

Definitely a series to watch out for and certainly one crime/thriller fans will love. So Bookophiles, add this one to your must read list.

About the Author

Ethan Cross’s Shepherd thrillers are international bestsellers. Before becoming a full time writer, he was a computer programmer, a Chief Technology Officer and a Marketing Director for a New York publisher. He lives in Illinois with his wife, three kids,and two Shih Tzus

Twitter: @EthanCrossBooks

Website: www.ethancross.com

The Quickening

Author: Rhiannon Ward

Publisher: Trapeze

Publication Date: 20th August 2020

Available: Hardback, eBook and Audio

Thank you to Alex Layt at Orion Books and Trapeze 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:

An exquisitely crafted and compelling mystery that invites the reader into the crumbling Clewer Hall to help unlock its secrets alongside the unforgettable Louisa Drew.

Feminist gothic fiction set between the late 19th century and the early 20th century – an era of burgeoning spiritualism and the suffragette movement – that couldn’t be more relevant today.

England 1925 Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six year old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married to a war-traumatised husband and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.

She learns that Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered back then to come together once more to recreate the evening. When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, Louisa finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before…and discovers her own fate is entwined with that of Clewer Hall’s.

My Thoughts:

Can I firstly say how beautiful the finished copy of this book is, the cover is stunning and I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and I’m not but I am admiring it and creative skill that designed it and swirling nature only emphases the mysterious nature of this story for me.

Before the story begins there is a quote from Arthur Conan Doyle – The History of Spiritualism (1926).

“The deaths occurring in almost every family in the land brought a sudden and concentrated interest in the life after death. People not only asked the question, ‘If a man dies shall he live again?’ but they eagerly sought to know if communication was possible with the dear ones they had lost. They sought for ‘the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still’

I mention this quote because, the standout themes of this story are for me the three G’s; Gothic, Ghostly and Grief. I found this quote explained the historical context and prevailing mood of the book. The story is set post World War I and the resulting death toll removed a generation, if not two generations of men from this world. Our protagonist Louisa Drew has suffered such monstrous grief because of the war; the loss of her beloved husband, her father, her brother and if that wasn’t enough, the loss of her children. To this reader the idea of losing so many family members in so short a period of time is almost beyond comprehension, and yet this volume of death within a family was not unusual for this period! As is illustrated by the losses of the family at Clewer Hall whose 3 sons perished during the war as well.

England was a country wracked by grief and it spawned a resurgence in interest in the concepts of Spiritualism.  The practices of which had been a popular entertainment in decades past. Spiritualism is a belief that the spirits of the dead exist and possess the ability and inclination to communicate with the living via mediums and séances. But to sceptics of such practices, it is possible to see that such events could easily fall prey to the unscrupulous, who could see the trend as opportunity to make money. There is also, the fact Spiritualism was considered by those with a more conservative belief system, that the idea of communing with spirits was a form of devilry or spiritual debauchery and a fall into moral decay (as Louisa’s mother -in – law expresses it) and as a result any such involvement with séances should be avoided.

When we meet Louisa for the first time, she is heavily pregnant, stagnating and stifled by her uninspiring marriage and the life she has misguidedly chosen! A final opportunity to pursue her photographic career is offered by her employer and she jumps at the chance. There is almost an unseemly haste at which she rushes home to pack and head to Clewer Hall located outside Brighton. The description of Louisa’s arrival at Clewer Hall gave me chills as it reminded me of Daphne Du Maurier’s description of Mandalay in Rebecca and throughout this story I firmly believe Rhiannon Ward is channelling essence of DdM, especially with the story’s constant tempo of malevolence and foreboding.

In true gothic style, the history of the house, its inhabitants and an infamous séance of 30 years ago, all colour the events of the present. Louisa begins her task of photographing the eclectic contents of the hall and all the while, strange and unexplained occurrences start to happen, strange music that only she can hear, odd light patches on her photographic plates, her hostess’s unnatural fascination with her pregnancy and the eerie observations of the mysterious medium Ada Watkins.

And oh how the glorious sinister tension builds and it provokes in the reader all sort of questions but chiefly what did happen that night all those years ago? I promise you will not be disappointed in the answer but nor am I going to reveal it here.

This story is truly magnificent, it is laden with glorious details from the descriptions of decaying grandeur, to its reticent and secretive cast. The plot is sublimely sinister, and more shocking turns of events are yet to occur.

I promise, you will not be able to stop reading this book until you find resolution to all your questions. I know this because I couldn’t either.  There is so much happening in this novel, that all I can do now to avoid waffling on for hours, is to offer you some deliciously tasty clues to whet your reading appetite further; a curse, a distressed reaction, bitter tea, old Jessops cottage, a forbidden love, a child’s foot prints in snow, memento mori, memories of a maid, the cost of grief…see, I defy you to resist wanting this book!

The end of this tale is as remarkable as its beginning, Louisa’s week at Clewer Hall changes her destiny forever and only by reading the book will you be able to discover what I mean…

I believe there is quote out in the world, that recommends, that authors should write about what they know about and/or what they love because without this knowledge and inspiration their creations will be a hollow shell. In the case of the exceedingly talented and knowledgeable Rhiannon Ward, she has clearly adhered to such advice with spectacular, gripping and irresistible results.

My lovely bookophiles, I have only one last thing to say… you cannot miss out on this book…place an order with your nearest bookseller now… and happy reading.

About the Author

Rhiannon Ward is the pseudonym for Sarah Ward, the bestselling and critically acclaimed crime author. Sarah has a masters degree in Religious History and has long been fascinated by the long tradition of spiritualism in England and is a member of the Institute of Psychical Research. Sarah is also a crime reviewer and book blogger at Crime Pieces.

The Second Mrs Thistlewood

Author: Dionne Haynes

Available: Now in Paperback and eBook

Purchase links:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Second-Mrs-Thistlewood-Dionne-Haynes-ebook/dp/B08BCSQ7B7

US – https://www.amazon.com/Second-Mrs-Thistlewood-Dionne-Haynes-ebook/dp/B08BCSQ7B7

Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for my gifted eBook 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:

Regency England. A land of oppression and social discontent.

Arthur Thistlewood is fighting for a revolution.

Susan Thistlewood is fighting for freedom. From Arthur.

Battered and bruised by her violent husband, Susan finds comfort in food and books. As Arthur’s legal property, leaving the marriage seems an impossible dream — until a chance encounter with a charismatic Bow Street Runner. In the sanctuary of an inconspicuous London bookshop, the Runner’s easy manner and unexpected generosity compel Susan to pursue a life without her husband.

But will the Bow Street officer provide a key to Susan’s freedom? Or will he place her in the greatest danger of all?

Inspired by true events from the Cato Street Conspiracy of 1820, this is a tale of courage, determination, and love.

My Thoughts:

“I deserve a better life than this. No matter how long it takes, I’ll find a way to set myself free.” This determined and courageous promise is made by our heroine Mrs Susan Thistlewood, she does not say these words to anyone but herself and for me, freedom is the prevailing tone of this captivating story.

Set in the Regency from 1814 to 1820, where freedom of any kind for women, was an alien concept. Imagine if you can being unable to have any control over your own destiny or daily decisions, from what you wear to who you love. Can you even comprehend (I know I can’t) that you have no right to choose, whether or not to be intimate with your partner/husband. That he has the legal right to own/control all your property, your money, your children and your body. He has the right to do with you what so ever he likes! The very idea of this relentless oppression is incomprehensible and unutterably hideous to us as independent women.

Yet it is a familiar position the majority women have faced over centuries, from Anne Boleyn to Queen Elizabeth II and even now, today there are women in the world who have no say in the direction their lives will take. Now you may think, why I have started my review of this fictional historical novel with a seemly feminist viewpoint. Well because, it is necessary for our understanding of the context of this story and the tyrannical environment our heroine faces, daily, weekly, yearly without much hope of escape!

This is not a story for the faint-hearted and although a work of fiction, its pages are beautifully crafted from historical fact. Specifically the Cato Street Conspiracy of 1820 which came about due to the social and economic upheaval at the end of 18th century and continued for three decades of 19th century. British society moved from a predominately rural and agricultural environment to one of industrialization and urbanism. The Napoleonic war had dragged on for 20 years and was finally at an end but the surviving soldiers/sailors from this brutal conflict flooded the labour market. Inflation was high, food was short and these pressures led to widespread discontent, radicalism and riots. The Cato street conspirators planned to over throw government by murdering its cabinet members and seizing control needless to say their actions failed!

A leading figure of this attempted coup was a Mr Arthur Thistlewood but via the vivid imaginings of Dionne Hayes, she has fictionalised his character, into the brutal, violent and oppressive villain of our story, he is the husband of our aforementioned maligned heroine Susan Thistlewood. Who has the dubious honour of being his second wife!

The story is told from Susan’s perspective, her desperation, her grief, her fears, her anger, her repression and is organised in a yearly progression of time. We are drawn into the Thistlewoods’ lives described in fine detail through the constant flux of their social and economic status. Susan’s life is a fragile balancing act between keeping herself sane after the loss of several pregnancies, struggling to keep the household clothed and fed while navigating the whims of her malevolent, condescending and increasingly violent husband, whose entire focus is in his obsessive cause and radical politics. He cares not at all what ramifications his treasonous and terrorist actions will have on the lives of his wife or son. Though all Arthur’s choices could all be seen in the negative,  when his ill-conceived actions lead him to be arrested and incarcerated it provides Susan with temporary respite and a life and independence she has only dreamed of.

The cadence and scope of this book reminded me very much of The Familiars by Stacy Hall and it has enjoyable similarities in its narrational tone to Margaret Atwood’s book ‘Alias Grace’ . This story is a masterful blend of fact and fiction and my enjoyment of it was not fully realised until I had a chance to sit back and consider the contents prior to writing my review. There is an unrelenting darkness to this story, which could make it very heavy weather emotionally,  however Dionne has been clever to balance this tenebrosity with slices of joy and hope via Susan’s friendships with two remarkable women, Becky and Anne whose sisterly solidarity provide practical and emotional solace from her seemingly inescapable marriage. Hope and optimism is also to be gleaned from unexpected romantic sub plot, the details of which add strength to this wonderful story, the romantic element also puts Susan in the greatest danger and increases the readers expectation of what might happen next.

For me, this book is a triumph of historical fiction, it is subtly tense and atmospheric, vivid in its depiction of Regency life, with a female protagonist who is brave and resolute in the face of her life’s trials and a villain whose political vanity and emotional corruption will be his down fall. I cannot stress enough my lovely bookophiles how much enthusiasm I have for this book and I fervently hope you read it for yourselves.

About the Author

Dionne is a retired doctor, living in Plymouth with her husband. She has a passion for history, the great outdoors, good food and life in general. With her medical career now well behind her, she is enjoying a second career as an author.

In 2015, Dionne finished writing her first novel The Provenance of Lilly, but after careful reflection and consideration of some harsh criticism, she decided not to put it into print. Instead, she worked hard at honing her writing skills, and published her debut novel, Running With The Wind, in 2019. She is currently working on a sequel which will form Book One of The Trelawney Wives series.

Dionne graduated from St George’s Hospital Medical School in 1992, and started her medical career in the Royal Air Force. In 1998, she left the military to have her son, and worked in General Practice and Occupational Medicine. The opportunity to retire came in 2014 and Dionne did not hesitate to take it, relishing the opportunity to delve into history books and begin her writing career. Although no longer practising medicine, her medical background has some influence in the plotting of her stories.

While keen to maintain historical accuracy in her writing, Dionne creates stories from real events with sparse recorded details, allowing her imagination to take over and tell a tale of what may have occurred.

Social Media Links –

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dionne-Haynes/e/B0813VDWN9

Facebook: https://facebook.com/DionneHaynesUK

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DionneHaynes_UK

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dionnehaynes.author

Nowhere to be Found

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Author: Louisa De Lange

Publisher: Orion Fiction

Publication Date: 20th August 2020

Available: Paperback

Thank you to Kate Morton & Alainna Hadjigeorgiou and Orion Fiction 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:

LUCY IS MISSING

Her husband Scott claims to have no idea where she is. But his behaviour suggests otherwise, and rumours begin to swirl about the seemingly perfect couple…

A BODY IS FOUND

DS Kate Munro is already investigating another murder, when she learns that it was Lucy who first reported the body of the victim floating in a lake.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT

But with Lucy still missing and both investigations leading Kate into dangerous waters, she must quickly piece together the link between the two crimes. Before it’s too late…

‘An assured and skilfully written crime thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat or keeping the bedside light on just long enough for one more chapter…’ ALISON BELSHAM, author of The Tattoo Thief

‘Smart, dark, with a show-stopping finale! A satisfyingly juicy mystery with a great heroine in the down-to-earth DS Kate Munro’ EMMA ROWLEY, author of Where The Missing Go

‘A compelling thriller with SO many twists I was constantly left guessing about where the story would go and I really enjoyed the romance threaded through’ CARYS JONES, author of The List

My Thoughts

This is the second DS Kate Munro book but my first experience of reading Louisa De Lange’s work and what an enjoyable interlude it was, definitely one to watch,  the storylines of this book are intelligent, topical and compelling.

The story opens with the early morning serenity of a wild swim, it is calm and beautiful, until the swimmer gets entangled with a floating corpse and I cannot stress with sufficient adjectives how revolting this concept is, so I will say this… EWWWWWW! Bodies immersed in water do not fare well (and this the understatement of the decade)! It is certainly an attention grabbing and intriguing way to start to the book!

The book is divided into three parts and the first part is mainly concerned with the disappearance of the unremarkable Lucy Barker, who has completely vanished from her home, taking nothing with her! It is as if she has vanished into thin air. Scott her husband, is both confused, vaguely concerned and overall rather irritated by her disappearance but eventually reports her missing. The search is underway, the signs are not positive…in fact the signs reminded me of the 1991 film ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’ and if you’ve seen it, you will know how subtly sinister it is! Scott is clearly hiding something but is it his wife’s body or just a litany of secrets and PC Max Cooper, first on the scene and senses all is not right and is determined to find out why!

Meanwhile DS Kate Munro is investigating the body in the lake, at the same time she is also trying very hard to keep her flailing marriage afloat (personally I hope she kicks her husband to the curb, talk about a whiny passive/aggressive attention seeker!) I do admire Louisa’s characterisations, they are incredibly skilful and born of her understanding of psychology!

Back to the plot, a timely discovery links to the two cases, Lucy Barker was the swimmer who ‘found’ the body! The plot thickens as they say…! Husband Scott Barker is looking suspiciously like the culprit for his wife’s disappearance; a disastrous press conference and his lies uncovered (an affair and deleting the contents of Lucy’s phone)put him firmly in the frame!…Yet Lucy isn’t the quiet, eco-friendly housewife she seems, for starters her regular book club attendance is a complete fabrication, instead she has been off to the shooting range and has 2 fire arms licences and an old air raid shelter kitted out for an apocalypse, typically these aren’t the actions of a housewife who likes gardening! An intriguing premise indeed, isn’t it and there is a very nice juicy twist at the end of this section of the book, that resolves some of the drama that has been unfolding but leads the reader to have approach the rest of the story from a very different angle.

Part two focuses on links between the body in the lake, Lucy Barker and The Borderland Family, which isn’t a family at all but a doomsday/survivalist style cult organised by the elderly but charismatic Graham Swift and his surly and secretive son Oliver.

On the face of it the Borderland family, merely seem like an odd commune of individuals who share the same fractious belief that the world as we know it, is coming to an end or dissolving. They refer to this end of the world as ‘The Dissolution’ and it is coming soon!

I have to say, that there is a scary foresight and irony about reading a book for entertainment, that refers to the failing of societal and economic infrastructures and a global virus that kills people. Especially when we are currently living that very reality!

The Borderland cult differs from its American brethren as it does not indoctrinate via the paths of religion and their attitudes/ beliefs are not in becoming a special community who are chosen by god to be saved. The Borderland creed focuses on attracting to its ranks only those who can bring financial support along with a practical skill that can benefit the group in the days of the dissolution, such as being a mechanic, a doctor, a hunter. In fact they actively discourage comradeship, preferring to maintain the idea of self-survival & independence! The idea of intimacy is only required for breeding…trust me if you really consider their ideas/manifesto the absolute rejection of the norm is minacious and ominous!

This segment of the book sees DS Kate Munro and PC Max Cooper, discover the family’s links to both Lucy Barker and Douglas Brewer (the body in the lake) but obviously if I go into details on these discoveries and revelations (which includes another body and the role tree surgeon, Alex Sherwood has to play) I shall have to write spoiler alert with every sentence for the rest of my review.

This section also expands the growing resurgence of a romance between, Kate and Max who have had a previous dalliance (when Kate was separated from her husband Sam) and clearly there is unfinished business…which is rather tantalising! Especially as Max is going undercover and infiltrating the Borderland Family

Part three,  brings us revelation after revelation, all the bodies are identified and all the pieces of this nifty twisty crime puzzle come together. As much as I wish to explain more about the details; I can’t and I won’t because  I hate spoilers in reviews. For me they ruin a readers excitement in discovering the secrets of the book for themselves. And as this is indeed, a cleverly wrought tale, it needs to be savoured! However I confess I can’t resist saying how much I loved the resolution of this book,  perfect example of karma!

At the beginning of my review I said this is my first experience of reading a book by Louisa de Lange but it certainly won’t be my last. Her protagonist DS Kate Munro is diligent, smart and ballsy and combined with a loyal, amusing supporting cast and some seriously intelligent plotting, all these elements make for a potentially tremendous crime series. I look forward to what Kate does next…

So my lovely bookophiles, you really ought to put this one on your wish lists alongside ‘Ask Me No Questions’ which is the first book in the series, happy book buying and even happier reading.

About the Author

Louisa de Lange studied Psychology at the University of Southampton and has lived in and around the city ever since. She works as a freelance copywriter and editor, and when she’s not writing, she can be found pounding the streets in running shoes or swimming in muddy lakes. Nowhere to be Found is her third novel, and the second in the Kate Munro crime series. To find out more you can follow her on Twitter @paperclipgirl

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Say No More

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Author: Karen Rose

Publisher: Headline

Publication Date: 6th August 2020

Available: Hardback, eBook and audio

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Thank you to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blog Tours and Headline 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:

Perfect for fans of James Patterson and Karin Slaughter, this is the second gripping instalment of the Sacramento series from Sunday Times bestseller Karen Rose. An explosive crime thriller, Say No More will keep you gripped until the final page.

If they ever catch you, say nothing. Admit nothing. Never tell.

Mercy Callahan never thought she’d be able to talk about her past. When she arrives in Sacramento to make peace with her brother Gideon, and to help find the brutal cult that took away her childhood, she is finally ready to talk. But when Ephraim Burton – the man who made her life a living hell – follows her there, she realises she might never be safe.

Rafe Sokolov would do anything to have Mercy back in his life and would go to any length to protect her. But when it becomes apparent that Ephraim is more determined than ever to get Mercy back, even Rafe might not be able to stop the trail of destruction he leaves in his wake. As Ephraim draws near, it’s clear it’s not just Mercy who is in danger; those closest to her are firmly in his sights.

Will Mercy sacrifice herself to help bring Ephraim down? Or will he finally get what he’s always wanted…

My Thoughts:

It has been a decade since I last read a Karen Rose novel and more fool me! I gorged myself on her earlier Chicago series and this was before I had my kindle and Karen writes big books in every way (this one is nearly 600 pages). I had forgotten how glorious a read they are but I will be correcting that error of judgement very soon.

This is the second instalment of The Sacramento Series and I do wish I had read book one ‘ Say Your Sorry’ first but it is on my purchase list for next week. Despite not having the advantage of being introduced to our cast of characters at the start of the series, it didn’t detract from my full and joyful immersion in this story.

The book opens with a violent and traumatic sequence, where Mercy Callahan (our heroine) and her mother are trying to escape from a cult called Eden with tragic consequences and a lifetime of disturbing memories.

Moving forward to the present day, Mercy’s life hasn’t gotten any easier, having survived being kidnapped by a serial killer and discovering that the brother she believed dead is in fact alive and an FBI agent. In this book, she is trying to put the distressing experiences of the past firmly behind her and reconnect with her brother. But life is never simple, Mercy and her best friend Farrah are returning to Sacramento but they are unaware that they are being hunted by evil deviant Ephraim Burton who will stop at nothing to retrieve his former child bride! Starting with trying to snatch her the moment she lands at airport!

The attempt is foiled by Rafe Sokolov who was injured rescuing Mercy in the previous book and will do anything to protect her now. Ahhh Rafe, he’s a modern day white knight, everything a girl could want in a man and trust me he’s my latest book boy crush and Karen Rose has a real talent for creating handsome, heroic, humorous alpha male characters, who it is nearly impossible for you not to want for yourself and there is never just one such man in her books, so you will be spoilt for choice…

Which brings me nicely to the characters in this instalment, as I said it has been a while since I read a Karen Rose book and I had forgotten her fantastic ability to create characters that as a reader, you want to be or fall in love with or in the case of her villians kill. She clearly defines members of her cast as good or evil. The good ones you are cheering on regardless of what joyous or grievous events they face and the evil ones are rotten to the core and deserve no mercy and you quite literally want to boo them every time the appear.

Although each story has its primary characters the secondary ones are equally engaging and you know at some point in time, Karen will tell you their story and I can’t wait for that (Farrah & Andre perhaps). I think part of the reason I enjoy her books so much is that there is only one other writer for me, whose plots and characters weave their way through a series of books in such an addictive and compelling way and that is those of the legendry Jilly Cooper. Who like Karen is a master story teller and whose characters come alive to the reader and I am a huge fan of both writers (forgive me if I am gushing).

Anyway I digress….back to Sacramento, after Ephraim’s failed attempt to snatch Mercy, she is safely ensconced in the bosom of the Sokolov family. She and Rafe attempt to discover why Ephraim is hunting her and Mercy starts to reveal her hideous experiences within the Eden cult, tentatively explore rebuilding her relationship with Gideon her brother and see whether she is brave enough to follow her feelings and begin the first romantic journey of her life and these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of storyline.

The plotting of this tale is a work of art, multi-layered, enthralling and utterly compelling you will find yourself breathless while reading it (I did). Ephraim Burton’s brutal, murderous, avaricious, relentless pursuit of Mercy has you on your toes at all times. Why after all this time does he want her back? What part do the malevolent elders of the Eden cult have to play in this tale? Will Rafe and Gideon be able to protect Mercy, will she let them! Mercy is no doormat, despite everything she has faced she has immense grit and gumption and she won’t let the boys in this book lead the charge or have it all their own way. For her own sanity, she wants to put the fear, hurt and tragedy of her past behind her and this time she won’t let Ephraim win! And these are only some various delicious plot strands you have to explore in this book. There is so much going on and it is a journey you as a reader deserve to have without any spoilers from me.

This novel is packed full of every element a crime fan wants in a book, high octane tension, a blistering tempo, a sprinkling of steamy romance, engaging protagonists, nefarious villains and there is more than one of those! As a reader you are pulled into an addictive vortex of drama, deception and death. You will find yourself driven by a need to find out what happens next.

As the book rockets to its end, I shall give you a few tantalising clues; Amos & Abigail appear, Who is the Pastor, Prison Records uncovered, a safety deposit box key revealed, a kidnapping, a stand off, a family reunion, who will survive, whose lives will change forever…and that is all I am saying!

In the end, some of the sub plots are satisfyingly resolved and obviously I am not going to tell you which are, but some aren’t, leaving us readers, craving the next captivating instalment of this series in order for resolution. I am just hoping I don’t have to wait too long to read it.

At this point, I shall ‘Say No More’ except that you, my fellow bookophiles need to buy this book and its predecessor, cancel all your plans and stay home with frothy coffees and lots of chocolate and prepare to become addicted to Karen Rose’s Sacramento Series.

About the Author:

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About Karen Rose:

Karen Rose was introduced to suspense and horror at the tender age of eight when she accidentally read Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum and was afraid to go to sleep for years. She now enjoys writing books that make other people afraid to go to sleep. Karen lives in Florida with her family, their cat, Bella, and two dogs, Loki and Freya. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, and her new hobby – knitting.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KarenRoseBooks

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

Website: http://www.karenrosebooks.com/

Instagram: https://amzn.to/39sS03O

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/39sS03O

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3g2Qs3b

Book Depository: https://bit.ly/2WX26VO

Google Books: https://bit.ly/3f2Akxp

Hive.co.uk: https://bit.ly/3f2Akxp

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