The Source

Author: Sarah Sultoon

Publisher: Orenda Books

Available: 15th April 2021 in Paperback & eBook

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

About Orenda

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

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

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

www.orendabooks.co.uk @OrendaBooks

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

Coastal Cahoots Club

Author: Victoria Johns

Available: 12th April 2021 in Paperback & eBook

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

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

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

Twitter @victoriajohns75

www.victoriajohnsbooks.com

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

Missing Pieces

Author: Tim Weaver

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 1st April in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

You don’t know who.

You don’t know why.

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

Or die trying . . .

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

Find out more about Tim at timweaverbooks.com…

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

Last One at the Party

Author: Bethany Clift

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Available: Out now in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Audio narration by; Heather Long & Jane Collingwood

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

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

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

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

The Lamplighters

Author: Emma Stonex

Publisher: Picador

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

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

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

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

The Embalmer

Author: Alison Belsham

Publisher: Trapeze

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

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

Book Details:

Has the ancient Egyptian cult of immortality resurfaced in Brighton?

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

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

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

Please do check out the other reviews on this blog tour

A Book of Secrets

Author: Kate Morrison

Publisher: Jacaranda

Available: 25th March 2021 in Paperback

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

Kate Morrison currently lives in West Sussex with her family.

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

The Book of Longings

Author: Sue Monk Kidd

Publisher: Tinder Press

Available: 18th March 2021 in Paperback

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

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

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

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

Please do read some of the other reviews on this tour

Little Wishes

Author: Michelle Adams

Publisher: Trapeze

Available: 18th March 2021

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

The Fountains of Silence

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Penguin

Available: Now in all formats

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

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

Ruta lives with her family in the hills of Tennessee.

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

A Family Reunion

Author: Patricia Scanlan

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 4th March 2021 available in paperback

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

Book Details:

One explosive family reunion. A lifetime of secrets revealed.

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

The Favour

Author: Laura Vaughn

Publisher: Corvus

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

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

Book Details:

Fortune favours the fraud…

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

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

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

Behind Closed Doors

Author: Catherine Alliott

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

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

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

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

Lie Beside Me

Author: Gytha Lodge

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

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

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

Book Details:

You wake up.

You can’t remember what happened.

The man lying next to you is not your husband.

And he’s not breathing . . .

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

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

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

Did she do it?

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

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

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

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

The Winter’s Fail

Author: Sara Madderson

Available: 14th January 2021 in Paperback

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

 Book Details:

It’s all a huge mess.

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shadowy Third

Author: Julia Parry

Publisher: Duckworth

Available: 25th February 2021 in Hardback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Duckworth 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 sudden death in the family delivers Julia a box of love letters. Dusty with age, they reveal an illicit affair between the celebrated twentieth-century Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen and Humphry House – Julia’s grandfather. 

So begins an intriguing quest to discover and understand this affair, one with profound repercussions for Julia’s family, not least for her grandmother, Madeline.  This is a book about how stories are told in real life, in fiction and in families. 

Inspired by Bowen’s own obsession with place and memory, Julia travels to all the locations in the letters – from Kolkata to Cambridge and from Ireland to Texas.  The reader is taken from the rarefied air of Oxford in the 1930s, to the Anglo-Irish Big House, to the last days of Empire in India and on into the Second World War.  The fascinating unpublished correspondence, a wealth of family photographs, and a celebrated supporting cast that includes Isaiah Berlin and Virginia Woolf add further richness to this unique work.  

The Shadowy Third opens up a lost world, one with complex and often surprising attitudes to love and sex, work and home, duty and ambition, and to writing itself.  Weaving present-day story telling with historical narrative, this is a beautifully written debut of literary and familial investigation from an original and captivating new voice.  

My Thoughts:

My reading of Julia Parry’s debut, is reminiscent for me of a fine dining experience…this book is a ‘literary’ tasting menu. With the themes of the book being the ‘courses’ of the menu, each one incredible, unique and intriguing. Each element has an independence, yet when you link them together each one compliments the others and makes for a personal, potent and passionate banquet of emotion and experience. Like such a meal, this remarkable book with its complex flavours deserves to be savoured and digested to fully appreciate and absorb the magnificent scope of the story.

The book begins with Julia’s acquisition via her uncle of a box of old letters…innocuous enough you might think. Except that this series of correspondence is between the esteemed Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen (who I confess I knew very little about before reading this book) and Julia’s own grandfather Humphrey House and reveals their ‘affair’ over several years in the 1930s. Although this is simplifying, the scope and depth of their contents, as we discover the letters provide insight into their lives, connections and relationships outside the sphere of their affair. What becomes clear is that this book and its story is that of a ‘love triangle’…as the third person involved is in fact Julia’s own grandmother Madeline House (nee Church) but she is not a bystander in this discovery, as it revealed as we read on, that she has ‘administrated’ these letters, annotating some and destroying others of them including as it turns out her own correspondence from the time frame. I found this both a surprising and intriguing course of action for her to take but made me consider that maybe as the injured party in this affair, was this her way of editing or controlling the narrative?

I was enthralled by the variety and wealth of information, that Julia uncovered about her grandmother and Elizabeth Bowen, who were clearly very different but incredible women, I loved how Julia drew parallels between Elizabeth’s life experiences including her relationship with Humphrey and her literary works and how her life provided influence on the stories and characters she created. In fact, the title of this book is influenced by a story Elizabeth wrote, about a dead first wife haunting the new marriage of her husband. I think it is also obvious, that Elizabeth’s presence in Julia’s grandparent’s marriage can be viewed in a similar manner. Although it struck me, that possibly, the actual ‘shadowy third’ in this book, might in fact be Julia’s own grandfather, as his attitudes and behaviour towards both women in his life was less than stellar, nor was his own intellectual/academic success!

Inspired by content of these letters, Julia embarks on her journey of familial discovery, following in her grandparents and Elizabeth’s footsteps, using the letters as her map/route she travels to all the locations contained within them; from Oxford, to Ireland, to India and US. Julia uses her expert skills a documentary photographer to capture and illuminate what she uncovers and brings tangibility and a unique approach to her explorations and the people she meets. As to the full extent of what those revelations are, is something you need to uncover for yourself, when you read this book.

This book is a feast for your intellectual senses, it is intimate and illuminating, it traverses the past and the present. It is part, memoir and mystery, part societal and sexual history, part literary analysis but most vitally it is reading journey that is enticing, engaging and eminently readable. I confess, my sheer adoration for this book has overwhelmed me and I am struggling to impart articulately how impressive and insightful an experience it has been to read. I hope you will forgive me and I want to entreat and encourage you to embark on this amazing book, it is an experience not to be missed.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Julia Parry was brought up in West Africa and educated at St Andrews and Oxford. She teaches English literature and has worked as a writer and photographer for a variety of publications and charities. She lives in London and Madrid. This is her first book.

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

How to Survive Everything

Author: Ewan Morrison

Publisher: Contraband/Saraband

Available: 1st March 2021

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Sara Hunt at Saraband 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:

Saraband are bringing forward publication of Saltire prize-winner Ewan Morrison’s new novel, How To Survive Everything, in response to the latest lockdown.

The novel, in the face of a terrifying near-future pandemic, is the story of 15-year-old Haley and her 8-year-old brother Ben, kidnapped by their father to his secret lockdown hideaway.  Imprisoned in their new ‘prepper’ environment, designed to deter intruders and equipped with rations of food, medicine and water to ensure their survival when civilisation collapses, they not only have to cope with their parents’ bitter divorce, but choose between deeply conflicting views of reality. How to Survive Everything is one teenage girl’s guide to navigating the collapse of everything she knows – including her family and their sanity. 

Originally scheduled for the summer, Saraband are bringing forward publication, and planning a virtual launch from a secret prepper bunker.

Saraband publisher Sara Hunt says: “This is the ultimate plague-year read: a thriller confronting huge global issues – disease, fake news, populism and mental health in crisis – within a dazzling, fast-paced page-turner that is also often funny. Ewan is one of the most inventive, provocative and acclaimed writers of his generation, and once again he’s created a powerful and unforgettable voice in a young protagonist.”

Ewan Morrison said, “As I was writing How to Survive Everything I was concerned about our polarised political world, populism and the problem of fake news. How can we know truth from lies? Who should we trust when we make life or death choices? And something much closer to home – what if we modern parents can no longer protect our families?”

 My Thoughts:

Yesterday, I took my partner to the train station here in York, so that he could return home to Scotland (due to medical issues and us not being able to acquire the necessary insulin he needs to live) we had no choice other than for him to return home. While sitting on the train platform with our masks on and attempting to drink a Costa latte, this is quite tricky manoeuvre! I had time to observe my environment, which was utterly peculiar! York train station is usually a noisy bustling place, a hive of activity but on this day, it was virtually silent and distinctly eerie. The only sound coming from the odd train arriving or departing and the tannoy announcements, which are no longer confined to directing travellers to the correct trains. Listening to a discombobulated mechanical voice, telling us to only travel if permitted by law; to stay home and protect the NHS was utterly bizarre. I turned to my partner, who was equally as weirded out by the situation and said, can you believe this is our reality and we are actually living in a dystopian thriller…I can’t quite believe this is REAL!!!

It was with this surreal experience in mind, I thought, have you ever wondered or considered what might befall us next…I mean which of us would ever have believed that a global pandemic would sweep the globe and keep us all locked down inside our homes? Ewan’s new book stokes the fires of our collective paranoia and open’s the conspiracy theorists Pandora’s box that is…what’s next!! He has created a modern dystopian, apocalyptic Anne Frank’s diary blended with ‘Deadpool’ dark humour and hard-core dooms day prepper vibes that is gloriously ghastly, gory and immensely clever and addictive reading. I have never read anything like this novel and it is in my opinion, the reading equivalent of a legal high, my heart is still pounding with adrenalin having finished it! Ewen’s attention to detail is extraordinary, especially in creating his pandemic environment and supporting evidence…I am in awe…deeply paranoid awe!

Hayley Cooper Crowe has the hallmarks of a ‘typical’ 15 year old girl, she is feisty, snarky, wildly irritating, vaguely self-obsessed and wholly consumed by her friends, her tech and avoiding being collateral damage in her ‘rents’ toxic divorce and I love her, she’s everything I wish I could have been at her age! At the start of the story, she is supposed to be spending the weekend with her dad, it’s his weekend and she focused on deciding which shoes would be the best option, boots or converse? Tough decision…trust me, this is the easiest decision she will have during this story! In actual fact her father is actually kidnapping her and her brother and spiriting them 100s of miles away from their London home to the wilds of Scotland and a ‘safe house’. Where he and some ‘friends’ have created a self-sufficient, compound. A secret, heavily armed hiding place, to keep them safe from the fallout of the latest viral pandemic, that will collapse society as we know it, leave millions dead or dying, bring about marshal law, see social infrastructure fail, leaving nothing standing but death and destruction in its wake!

Hayley recounts all of this to us, in a diary/survival guide style, a sort of mocking homage to her father’s survival guide/s that he’s been secretly creating for the past few years, since the end of Covid-19 pandemic! Naturally Hayley’s reaction to her father’s actions, is rage, rebellion and reticence. She is wholly unimpressed with her new surroundings and just wants to go home to the life she knows, milking goats, eating bunnies, washing in rainwater and wearing cargo pants is not part of her lifestyle plan! As a reader you are convinced, that her father’s actions are sane and though unorthodox have a purpose. He is trying to protect his family and will do everything within his power to achieve this and you see Hayley also starting to come around to the change in her circumstances and accept her father’s truth (after all the evidence is compelling). The plot thickens with the arrival of her mother, who is incandescent about her own kidnapping and that of her children, she insists that Hayley assists her in finding a way to escape the compound. After all, this entire enterprise, is only one of her father’s delusions…or is it?

Caught between her waring parents again, who does she believe? Who do we believe! Will Hayley help her mother? Will they escape? Is Hayley’s father telling the truth? Is Virus X a reality? Who can Hayley trust? Will Danny’s hot kisses add to her confusion…what is reality and what is delusion? Well now, that is for me to know and you to find out and I can’t wait for you to do so and be as Wowed as I am by this reading experience.

Ewen is a creative mastermind, his story has it all; it is powerful, provocative, pacy and perfectly plotted with its dysfunctional family dynamics, compelling conspiracy, mental health issues, romance and tragedy making this book such an addictive and enticing read, which leaves your mind in a complete whirl. If you want a story that is wholly unique, clever and utterly absorbing, this is the book for you. I loved it and I hope you do too.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Ewan Morrison is a multi-award-winning novelist, screenwriter and essayist. His 2019 novel, Nina X, won the Saltire Society Scottish Fiction Book of the Year and is currently being developed as a feature film with a multi-award-winning director. He has previously won the Scottish Book of the Year Fiction Prize (2013) and the Glenfiddich Scottish Writer of the Year (2012). His first feature film, an adaptation, was released in five territories in 2016, and was a finalist for four international film awards. American Blackout, a feature length docudrama co-written by Morrison, reached an estimated audience of 30 million viewers. Morrison has also been nominated for three Scottish BAFTAs.

About the Publisher

Contraband is independent publisher Saraband’s imprint for brilliant fiction with a dark edge. Since the imprint’s inception – its first signing was Graeme Macrae Burnet – its authors have won and been shortlisted for awards including the Booker Prize, Theakstons Old Peculier, CrimeFest, Saltire Fiction Book of the Year, Mslexia, Hearst Big Book and Bloody Scotland’s McIlvanney prizes. Its authors include Angela Meyer, Claire MacLeary, Iain Maitland and Olga Wojtas.

Press contact Ruth Killick (publicity@ruthkillick.co.uk)/ Sara Hunt (sara@saraband.net)

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

A Beautiful Spy

Author: Rachel Hore

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 18th February 2021 in Hardback

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

Book Details:

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Last Letter Home, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick, comes a thrilling novel about a woman with an extraordinary life, based on a true story.

 Minnie Gray is an ordinary young woman. She is also a spy for the British government.

 It all began in the summer of 1928…

Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference. Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy.

Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement. She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion. What if they find out? Full of suspense, courage and love, A Beautiful Spy is a stunningly written story about resisting the norm and following your dreams, even if they come with sacrifices.

My Thoughts:

For me, Rachel’s books are the perfect excuse to curl up on my sofa, armed with a frothy coffee and escape to another time and place, without having to leave the comfort of home. I have been a fan of Rachel’s books for a while now although it has been some time since, I’ve read one; so I decided that her latest book ‘A Beautiful Spy‘ was a wonderful opportunity to re-acquaint myself with her superb story telling skills. Reading the first pages of this book, brought with it sparks of familiarity and the intense satisfaction of knowing that I was embarking on a fascinating new adventure.

As I devoured the first 100 pages of the book, I was trying to articulate to myself and now to you, what I admire about Rachel’s latest book and I believe for me it is her diligent and comprehensive research of the historical period she is writing about, her ability to make history accessible and to breath incredible vitality and creativity into the characters and times she chooses to set her books in.

This book mostly spans the interwar years, when the socio-political environment sees significant changes, the rise of communism in Russia (the October Revolution) after the first world war and the creeping strangle hold of fascism polluting Germany and Italy.  In this era of unprecedented changes, we find Minnie Gray, she is perfectly average, living an unremarkable life, her only battle is with the expectations of her mother and maternal society, who endlessly speculate, on why she hasn’t yet ‘settled down’ to the expected role of housewife and mother. Minnie isn’t ready for this tradition role yet, she wants to experience more from life, than just marriage and children but she is unsure what it is specifically she wants to achieve or how to go about it. Until, a chance conversation over a game of clock golf, with a Miss Dolly Pyle places opportunity at Minnie’s feet although it isn’t immediate and we can feel Minnie’s disappointment that her life of mediocrity remains unchanged.

Out of the blue, Minnie receives a request to attend an interview with Captain Max King in London; at the end of her informal conversation mostly focused on her understanding of the current upsurge in Communism within society, the enigmatic, suave Captain King offers her a job; and so starts her life as M/12; her remit, to watch and listen, she is tasked with attending gatherings of Friends of the Soviet Union, she must move to London, look for a secretarial post and live alone…and so Minnie’s exploits begin…she attends the FSU meetings, starts a new job working at a charity for Distressed Gentlewomen. Her lack of guile and innocence about the world are actually her strongest skills along with her gift of organisation, very soon she is asked to volunteer at Communist Head Quarters to assist Mr West and by increments becomes more involved in administrative world of the communist party, working for Percy Glading, she is accepted and trusted and her infiltration escalates rapidly. All the while, Minnie observes and reports back to Max King on everything she sees and hears, we follow her attendance at the Anti War Movement conference in Paris, we feel the sense of monotony in waiting for interesting information to occur, her struggle with juggling a private life with her duty to Max and the government and we see and feel, her deep sense of isolation and fear at living dual lives and potentially being ‘discovered’ as a spy and what might happen to her, if this occurs!

I was completely absorbed by Minnie’s experiences; her adventurous but arduous trip by boat to India and back again all on her own; her efforts at living ‘an unexceptional life at work or play, combined with clandestine meetings in restaurants and cinemas with Max in order to pass on information. The true weight of the emotional toll of ‘spying’ is riveting and saddening in equal measure, as a reader you can feel Minnie’s distress and exhaustion in her efforts to do her duty and you can see, how much of it is at her own personal cost. I applaud Rachel’s illuminatory approach to making the ordinary, extraordinary and her creative flare of transforming the bones of reality into such a tangible character, wracked with tension and terror.  The details, scope and escalating atmosphere of this story is beguiling and I kept me rapidly turning the pages to find out more.

Rachel is an imaginative and creative historical fiction writer and I am thrilled to have re-discovered her books, this latest story is utterly compelling and remarkable as that the roots of the story are based on the real life spy Olga Gray and the sublime mixture of fact and fiction makes for highly addictive reading. I defy you to resist trying it for yourself. And as to what happens to Minnie Gray; will all her hard won efforts pay out, will she survive all the secrets and lies, will she accomplish her quest to make a difference in the world; these are revelations you will have to uncover when you read the book, my lips are sealed. I am sure you will enjoy finding out the end of this story as much as I have.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a full-time writer. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her last novel, The Love Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller.

  http://www.rachelhore.com │Twitter: @RachelHore │Instagram: @Rachel.Hore

Please do check out the other reviews on this tour

The Other Daughter

Author: Caroline Bishop

Publisher: SIMON & SCHUSTER

Available: 18th February 2021 available in Paperback

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

Book Details:

You only get one life – but what if it isn’t the one you were meant to live?

‘When it finally arrived, I was shocked to see it; to read the words Mum wrote about these women fighting for rights I know I take for granted. Mum was here. And while she was, something happened that changed the entire course of my life. Perhaps, if I can summon the courage, the next eight weeks will help me finally figure out what that was . . .’ 

 When Jessica, a young British woman, discovers a shocking secret about her birth she travels to Switzerland in search of answers. She knows her mother spent time in the country writing an article on the Swiss women’s rights movement, but what she doesn’t know is what happened to her while she was there. Can Jess summon the courage to face the truth about her family, or will her search only hurt herself and those around her even more?   A breathtaking, richly historical commercial women’s fiction debut, set against a stunning Swiss backdrop in the 1970s women’s rights movement. The Other Daughter follows one woman in her search for the truth about her birth, and another desperately trying to succeed in a man’s world.

‘It beautifully fuses the personal and the political in its exploration of motherhood and women’s rights, as Jess tries to reconcile herself to her own choices, and the choices made by those who came before her’ – Beth Morrey, author of Saving Missy

‘Fascinating and fast-paced, The Other Daughter had me hooked from the start. A timely reminder of how hard it is to succeed in a man’s world’ – Rosanna Ley, author of From Venice with Love

‘Well written and pacy. Full of gorgeous scenery, emotion and SUCH fascinating stuff about women’s rights through the decades’ – Tracy Rees, author of The House at Silvermoor

‘A gripping and emotional story’ – Patricia Wilson, author of Greek Island Escape

‘A fascinating and beautifully told exploration of women’s rights and one woman’s fight to uncover the secrets of her birth. The Other Daughter is a stunning debut I loved it’ – Clare Empson, author of Mine

 My Thoughts:

I recall my reaction when I first read the details for this book, I clearly remember thinking, well now this one sounds a bit different and that immediately piqued my interest. I have always been a huge fan of books, that educate as well as entertain me when I read them. Caroline’s debut novel does exactly that, it is a superb blend of fact and fiction wrapped up in an intriguing, insightful and compelling story. If you have ever watched the opening scenes of the HBO series ‘Mad Men’, with its eye-popping sexism, then when you read parts of this book you will know what to expect or what sort of powerful, visceral reaction it is likely to provokes in you as a modern woman…well maybe that is just my reaction but I hope not! I want to say how much I admire, Caroline’s knowledge and expertise of the location and socio/political history of Switzerland, clearly there is a great deal more to the country than chocolate and cow bells!

This is a story about two women, their choices and actions, told decades apart but joined by a lost truth.

In 1976 Sylvia Tallis is 23, she is educated and independent, embarking on a career in journalism, even though women in the UK, have been granted levels of equality, the acceptance of these rights has not yet filtered into the societal ground water. Sylvia is uninspired by writing articles about home making, relationships and what are the latest apron trends. She has set her sights on reporting, women’s issues, the gritter the better. However, her progress is stalled by accepted sexism of the time, that men report the news and women are marginalised. It makes you grind your teeth when you read it but finally she gets the go ahead to work on an article on the feminist movement in Switzerland and their recent progress and continuing fight with government over women’s rights. Sylvia meets a group of women who will change her life but not in the way you expect, as will her ‘happy accident’! I loved Sylvia’s character, her determination, her drive to give these woman a voice and her desire to have a career and a family along with the acceptance that she has the right to do both!

In 2016, Jessica, is arriving in Switzerland to take up a tutoring post for the summer, she is taking an enforced sabbatical from her teaching post in the UK. After a series of life changing events has resulted in a meltdown of sorts; her mother’s death in 2012 and the physical and mental strains of trying for a family of her own has led to the breakdown of her marriage. Jess is an emotional mess (I confess I found her a bit irritating at times but often people consumed by emotional trauma are selfish, so I believe Jess is intended to be rather annoying) and then to add fuel to this emotional fire, Jess makes an astounding discovery! (And no of course, I’m not telling you what she found out)! This shocking secret and tracking down the truth almost consumes her, it dominates her thoughts and actions and has left her in a complete state of confusion as to her sense of self, her identity. What Jess does know is that something occurred when her mother was in Switzerland in the 1970s! Can she find out the truth and when she does, will the answers, right the wrongs of the past?…I can’t wait for you to find out!

I loved how Jess and Sylvia’s stories were entwined, the structure of the plot is wonderful, there are subtle little clues and hints at what may have occurred and a few surprises too, I believed I had everything worked out until I hadn’t which made me enjoy this story even more. I was completely fascinated by the depth and scope of social history that Caroline used to base her story on; the unresolved issue of woman’s rights and the controversial child placements. I have always believed that I am an educated, informed woman however I am deeply shocked by the lack of equality granted to Switzerland’s women and that it occurred during my lifetime!

I congratulate Caroline on writing such an engrossing and powerful debut and I can’t wait to see what she creates next. This was a complex; clever and perceptive story and I loved every page. I highly recommend you treat yourself to copy, after all its payday this week, how can you resist.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Caroline Bishop began her journalism career at a small arts magazine in London, after a brief spell in educational publishing. She soon moved to work for a leading London theatre website, for which she reviewed shows and interviewed major acting and directing stars. Caroline turned freelance in 2012 and a year later moved to Switzerland, where her writing veered towards travel and she has contributed to publications including the Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph and BBC Travel, writing mainly about Switzerland, and cowrote the 2019 edition of the DK Eyewitness Guide to Switzerland. For two years Caroline was editor of TheLocal.ch, an English-language Swiss news site, and it was during this time that she became fascinated with aspects of Swiss history and culture, particularly the evolution of women’s rights. 

Women’s Rights in Switzerland

1971 Switzerland finally granted women the right to vote at national level

1981 Gender equality and equal pay for equal work were written into the Swiss constitution

1985 Women were granted equal rights within marriage. Until then men had legal authority over their wives and could prevent them from working and even opening a bank account

1990 After being forced by the federal Supreme Court, the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden became the last canton in Switzerland to grant women the right to vote at cantonal level

2002 Abortion was legalised

2005 Statutory paid maternity leave was introduced, having been rejected in four previous referendums

2018 The Swiss federal parliament passed a salary equality law, but only within companies with over 100 employees

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

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

Author: Marianne Cronin

Publisher: Doubleday

Available: 18th February 2021 in Hardback

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

Book Details:

A debut novel of unlikely friendship, in which two women, one young, one old, meet in art class while in hospital and decide to celebrate their well-lived lives through paintings.

Fiercely alive and brimming with tenderness, this uplifting story revels in our infinite capacity for friendship and love when we are most in need.

Life is short – no one knows that better than 17-year-old Lenni Petterssen. On the Terminal ward, the nurses are offering their condolences already, but Lenni still has plenty of living to do. For a start, she has questions about her fate she needs answers to, and stories yet to uncover.

When she meets 83-year-old Margot, a fellow patient in purple pyjamas offering new friendship and enviable artistic skills, Lenni’s life begins to soar in ways she’d never imagined.

As their bond deepens, a world of stories opens up: of wartime love and loss, of misunderstanding and reconciliation, of courage, kindness and joy. Stories that have led them to their combined one hundred years, to the end of their days.2021

‘A truly gorgeous book, brimming with life and colour. so many things to relish, especially the joy of unlikely friendships and the power of telling stories.’ – JOANNA GLEN, author of The Other Half of Augusta Hope

‘Sharp and funny, warm and wise, there is no better time to meet Lenni and Margot. A remarkable friendship sparks two lifetimes of shared stories in one unforgettable book. I loved it!’ – JESS KIDD

‘Such a delight! I fell head over heels for Lenni and Margot, their wit and vibrancy and marvellous outlooks on life. An utter joy.’ – ABBIE GREAVES, author of The Silent Treatment

My Thoughts:

When I saw the details of this book last year, I knew instantly that I absolutely had to read it…and now that I have and all my expectations of it have been beautifully met and surpassed. I am struck with a terrible fear that my review will not be sufficient enough to convey Marianne’s skill at weaving her story or her genius at creating such incredible characters, nor are there enough adjectives to adequately describe how insightful, profound, darkly comic and unbearably tragic the book is or how its characters reached into the corners of my heart and have become part of who I am as a reader; it is a story that once you read it becomes part of you and will desperately want to share it with others. Yes, in large parts this is a book about dying but please don’t be afraid to read it, sometimes we have to be brave despite knowing there is sadness is to come, because there is always hope too. The immortal line ‘I will love you forever, pickle‘ undid me; I am still undone by it days later and as I write these words, I confess to having to look at the ceiling so the tears don’t fall on my keyboard. Please forgive me if I don’t have the skill or the words to do this book justice!

At its core, this remarkable book is about friendship and I have been incredibly blessed to have one such relationship myself; Rosalie (Jo) Weedon this review is in memory of you, as you were and still are my ‘Margot’. I miss you every day; I miss you phoning me about answers to clues in the Telegraph crossword; I miss 10am sherries; I miss you waving your bankcard at me in shops, saying…’painless extraction’ before you treated me to something wildly extravagant…I loved our friendship, our companionship and our shared stories…I will love you forever my darling AB (which stands for Aged Benefactress and is my nickname for Jo and a recreation of charming, quirky character from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens) and it is story for another time. Just know up on your cloud, I wrote this with you in my heart.

Lenni and Margot are both in hospital and a chance encounter with a wheelie bin provides them with a fleeting introduction, but one which clearly shows that they are kindred spirits. Their real introduction to each other comes in The Rose Room – the art therapy centre and their friendship is born. Told in dual narration, the book starts with Lenni, who is 17 years old, quirky, feisty, intellectually mischievous and she is dying, terminal or ‘life limited’ (eye rolling moment, more Lenni than me) and she is pondering the terminology when we are first meet her and how the idea of death makes people uncomfortable and awkward. Life is transient, we know there is a beginning, a middle and an end, there is an assumed finality to the journey of life. There is also the reasonable assumption that death should only visit those at the end of this journey, however this is not the reality, death is an arbitrary master, his approach is without fanfare and from his summons there is rarely a chance to escape.

Lenni has accepted her status but she knows that others haven’t, she would however like to know as to why this is happening to her?  Which prompts her to search for possible answers, and she decides that maybe God would be a good place to direct her questions. She visits the hospital chapel, observing that the doors to the chapel have frosted windows and  wonders why this would be ‘What is he up to in there’ and she meets Father Arthur and their conversations about life, death, Jesus and egg and cress sandwiches are some of my favourite in the book, their glorious conversations are sincere, profound, honest and exceedingly funny…her exclamation after Father Arthur suggests that the answers to her ‘big’ questions might not come in the form of words and if she got an answer to why she is dying, what might it be; not overly impressed with this response her own is genius ‘Maybe God would tell me he’s having me killed because, I’m restless and annoying. Or maybe the real God is Vish-nu, and he’s hella pissed that I’ve never even tried to pray to him but kept wasting my time with your Christian God. Or maybe there is no God and there never was, and the whole universe is being controlled by a turtle who’s massively out of his depth!’ …I couldn’t stop myself laughing and you will find, when it comes to Lenni you will do this a lot. I also admire Marianne’s incredible skills at cleverly arguing both sides of the existentialist discussion about life and death. That is quite a feat!

After a rather unsuccessful moment with Father Arthur one afternoon, Lenni just wants to be somewhere else and she ‘runs away’ to the art therapy room, where a painting class for the over 80s is taking place. Lenni is allowed to join in and meets Margot for the first time, with an exchange of thanks and a pithy chat about dying. And we start to learn about Margot who is 83 years old, and her past and present stories, fondness for fruitcake and purple pyjamas (and no I am not going into the full details here because they are yours to discover). After an abortive attempt to integrate Lenni with her own peer group, she is allowed to join Margot instead and their plan to get Happy is begun, after they are tasked with painting a memory and as they do they share their stories behind the memory and they are painting and an idea is formed, a plan, a project…in fact Lenni is so taken with it, she sneaks off her ward at night to tell Margot…

Their combined ages equal 100 years, so Lenni and Margot plan to paint 100 paintings to depict their 100 years of living; a way to tell their life stories, to show that Lenni and Margot were here no matter what the future holds…and with each painting we see  vignettes of their lives; courting, a first kiss, moving from one country to another, a baby, mental health issues, a divorce and many more…painting these memories, makes the moments tangible, they are pieces of a puzzle that when placed in front of us, make a whole picture. And one that as I read on, completely captivated me; with its sublime details and emotional complexity and the more I learned about their memories the more I realised, that I had simply fallen in love with Lenni and Margot, with their personalities, their humour; their experiences, their friendship; their lust for life. And then of course, the crudest of blows, the dawning realisation that their story must reach an end! Have no doubt I would love to share with you, what the end is…but I won’t, I can’t, it an exceptional journey you will have to read and experience yourself! I can’t be responsible for ruining it for you! I might just suggest though, that with every end, there is also a beginning of some thing new!

Marianne’s debut book is monumental, magnificent and emotionally monstrous (in an necessary and excellent way) …I believe this is one book that should be at the top of every literary prize giving list; it would be a travesty for readers everywhere if it doesn’t win universal accolades. Very often I would chose to avoid a book that I know in my heart and mind would expose my very soul and have me ugly crying and yet, this story of friendship is tender, authentic and truly joyous with a gilt edge hopefulness and I am honoured and privileged to be able to share my thoughts on it with you. To Marianne, I want to say, thank you for your imagination, your intelligence, your creative skill, that has made this story so incredible, there are not enough words I can type to sing its praises.  I know it is only February but this novel will be one of my favourite books of 2021 and probably forever! I have no doubt that once you’ve read it, you will feel the same way I do…so it leaves me to say to you, buy this book today…right now, I mean it…now, click, click, click!

Happy Reading bookophiles…

About the Author:

Marianne Cronin was born in 1990. She studied English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Birmingham. She now spends most of her time writing, with her newly adopted rescue cat sleeping under her desk. When she’s not writing, Marianne can be found performing improv and stand up in the West Midlands, where she lives.

Her debut novel The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is to be published around the world and is being adapted into a feature film by Sony/Columbia Pictures. It has been sold in 25 territories to date.

Marianne Cronin says:

I started writing a few days after a girl I’d known at university had passed away of a terminal illness and I remember going to the big Tesco that day and having this feeling that all the people around me didn’t know she had lived or died and it got me thinking about the mark we leave on the world. I had known the girl through our university course and whenever we’d worked together, she was lovely but quite shy. When she died, a lot of her closer friends and carers wrote on Facebook about her sense of humour and her cheeky personality – a side that I hadn’t seen to her myself and I wondered if maybe I hadn’t been looking hard enough and that played a big part in Lenni’s creation – that the outside world might see her as one thing, but in reality she is a firecracker of a personality.

Then with my own experienced in hospital (which were investigations for my heart) I found myself thinking a lot about my own mortality and when I was having an ultrasound on my heart it really hit me how fragile the whole system keeping me alive is.  While waiting for appointments, I found myself paying a lot of attention to all the little details in the hospital, but also saw a lot of the funny side too, such as when I was strapped to an ECG machine and asked to run on a treadmill without a top on – not my finest hour!

Finding comfort in friends is definitely a good theme and pertinent to the current state of the world. I wanted the book to show the power in female friendships – a lot of film/tv depicts female friendships as toxic and competitive and I think that can diminish the strength that female friendships can provide – especially in my own life, I’ve been blessed with some amazing friends and I think Lenni and Margot’s friendship really brings out the best in them.

Finding faith. I was sent to Catholic school (by my atheist parents) and it was pretty terrifying – because my family weren’t practicing Catholics, I never knew what the rules were or what the words to the prayers were and I was always scared of getting in trouble for doing something wrong. Arthur, the priest in the novel is based on one of my very dear friends I met at university. When we first met, he was very religious and I …/

was very not and we would have these fun debates about religion that would go on for hours. And it was the first time I’d been friends with someone who had such different opinions to my own, but we managed to be great friends (and still are) and what I wanted to show with Arthur is that you can be friends with someone even if you are completely different.

Arthur’s tolerance of other faiths/beliefs was really important to me. I didn’t want him to be a conventional priest – I think it’s rare to find someone so open to having their beliefs questioned and so willing to support others, so maybe that’s part of his appeal? When I was writing, I kept thinking of the quote that friendship is a natural reaction and can’t be forced. And I think with Lenni and Arthur, their friendship happens almost by accident and is just a natural reaction to these two compatible personalities. He’s her sounding board for the big questions and I think we’d all like to have someone like Arthur in our lives!

I was very Catholic until I went to secondary school (which was also catholic in name but not really in practice – it was quite liberal – we didn’t have a school uniform and could call our teachers by their first names) and then it was just a case of slowly questioning and unlearning everything I had learned up until then. Lenni’s debates with Arthur involved a lot of the internal debates I had with myself when I was struggling to believe. I think not believing can be quite a lonely thing, especially if you used to have faith or a lot of the people around you have faith.

Improvisation: I do improv (which is basically the same thing as that TV show Whose Line is it Anyway) and it is almost the opposite of being a writer, because writing is all about capturing thoughts and characters and preserving them to keep forever, whereas improv is making something up on the spot, doing it, and then it’s gone and you can never get it back. I’d already written the first draft of Lenni when I started going to evening classes to learn improv, but it gave the creative part of my brain a real boost – getting outside my usual overthinking and worrying and planning and getting me used to just doing things.

One of the first things they teach you in improv is to stop trying to be funny – it never works when people are trying for a laugh, you just have to follow the scene and sometimes you’ll end up with something interesting rather than funny. And when I was writing L&M, I genuinely wasn’t setting out for it to be funny, so it’s been lovely to have that feedback, mostly I was just having fun with Lenni amusing herself in conversation with other people. My PhD also helped me with the rhythm of dialogue – my PhD examined how impoliteness between fictional characters creates humour and so for the data analysis I transcribed many many hours of British sitcom data and that helped me figure out how fictional conversations can flow.

I think humour as a defence mechanism and humour in the face of darkness (gallows humour?) is quite a British thing and something I tried to use in the book. Whenever I’m scared or upset, the first thing I try to do it to make myself laugh or smile about something. and I think we’ve seen humour as a defence being so important to the public throughout Covid – especially on platforms like tik tok.

I’d had the idea for the setting after seeing a segment on This Morning – a feature on a hospital’s art therapy room. I’d wanted to have an intergenerational friendship for set in this hospital art room and this felt perfect

As research, I watched (and cried a lot at) the Channel 4 documentary My Last Summer which explored the lives of people living with terminal illness. It picked out the isolation terminally ill people were feeling and how some had been (or felt they had been) abandoned by family and friends who didn’t know how to cope with their diagnosis. The project made me think about the two sides of illness and how someone may seem on the outside to be very ill but be full of life and wit and energy in reality. I tried to incorporate this into Lenni – that people who pass her and see her think she is weak, but she is really a firecracker of a person, which anyone who takes the time to speak to her discovers.

I had a number of hospital appointments when I was in the early stages of writing. I had ECGs and heart scans, exercise tests and all sorts which were trying to find out why my heart rate was too high. Spending time in hospital having these tests done gave me the opportunity to see parts of the hospital I hadn’t seen before. The same when I had a minor surgery, the experience and vulnerability of that contributed to some of Lenni’s surgery scenes.

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

Bad Habits

Author: Flynn Meaney

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Available: 11th February 2021

Thank you to Dave & The Write Reads Tour 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:

Hilarious, bold and sparky, this is the funniest book you’ll read all year.

Perfect for fans of Sex Education and Derry Girls.

Alex is a rebel with a purple fauxhawk and biker boots.

St Mary’s Catholic School is the strict boarding school where she’s currently trapped.

Despite trying everything she can to get expelled, she’s still stuck with the nuns, the prudish attitude and the sexism. So, Alex decides to take matters into her own hands. She’s going to stage the school’s first ever production of The Vagina Monologues . . .

Trouble is, no one else at St Mary’s can even bear to say the word ‘vagina’ out loud!

A riotously funny novel about the importance of friendship and finding your voice.

My Thoughts:

I don’t often have any regrets for the path my life has taken but I admit I do wish that books for young adults (YA) had been in greater prevalence in my own youth. I was then as I am now an avid reader but books for teenagers and especially girls were limited. Bad Habits is exactly the sort of novel I would have consumed and referred to with a gleeful reverence because it articulates with magnificent humour and glorious insight what it can be like to be a teenage girl, navigating the route to womanhood. Flynn writes with youthful exuberance and flair and her latest book is pithy, charming and completely irreverent and left me with a huge grin on my face. I can’t wait for my goddaughter to be old enough to read it.

Alex is perfecting the art of rebellion but in her own individual and special way, her parents have divorced and have shipped her off to a Catholic boarding school. It is very clear that she’s smart and sassy and if she applied herself academic success would be hers to claim. Yet rebelling against the patriarchy is the path she chooses, and she spends an extraordinary amount of time finding inappropriate courses of action (which are hilarious). Part of Alex’s determination in voicing & practicing her beliefs also stems from the fact she really wants to get herself excluded (expelled) and I think part of that is the oppressive nature of the school and partly because she is enraged at her parents lack of support, I suspect it is a level of attention seeking, as they have to respond to any significant fallout of Alex’s capers!

Alex bares familiar traits to many of us (certainly myself) when I was her age, she is vocal, she is feisty, she is fierce, she is astute, she is informed and requires recognition of independent thought and really wants to have her say in direction her life is moving. She also embodies the classic, teenager trait that she is adamant that her viewpoint and opinions are the right ones and the most valid and basically anyone who dares to disagree with her are dismissed as being deluded fools (chiefly all adults). Yet there is a paradox in the sense that she is also incredibly accepting of the differences of others, namely her roommate Mary-Kate, who is her pole opposite; she is obedient, diligent in her studies, organised, smart in mind and appearance; innocently charming and with braiding skills to rival the women of the LDS community and most importantly her friend.

Despite being every parent and teachers living embodiment of a nightmare, the more you read about Alex (and her plans to stage a performance of the vivid and controversial Vagina Monologues) the more you can see and appreciate her strengths, her loyalty and her articulate and courageous stance on women’s issues. I admire (and share) her rage and frustration at how young women (and us older ones too) are disrespected because they are female. There are several instances in the story, where we see how offensive the behaviour is towards young women; how marginalised their concerns and questions are; the stark reality suppressing information to women relating to female sexuality and health, matters of choice and the need to dispel confusion around how women see themselves and their bodies. And why such information is barred; because a outdated perception that such information is deemed a moral matter, possibly being informed will wrongly encourage young women to have sex????Excuse me but WTF! This failure to inform is because the subject is deemed unpleasant, unnecessary, taboo or worse sinful (OK, just writing these words gets me enraged)! I applaud Flynn’s approach to confronting these hideous messages and how she has Alex tackle them in direct, humours and ballsy ways…bravo Flynn bravo and PS can Mary-Kate have her own book as she is just as authentic, amusing and fabulous in her own way as Alex is (and I would love to read her story). So will Alex succeed in her mission to elucidate, educate and eradicate or will she be excluded…ah, well that is for me to know and for you to read the book and find out!

Flynn has written a fabulous book for young women everywhere, tackling the issues they face from periods, sexuality, feminism and romance all rolled into an addictive, amusing read. It is an empowering and insightful novel, as well as being laugh out loud, roll on the floor crying with mirth funny…I knew that I was going to love it the moment she wrote the following phrases ‘Misogynist labradoodle & Tampon Terror’ and the fact that Alex chose to title her ‘Feminist club’, the ‘Student Alliance for Diversity, Inclusion, Sensitivity & Tolerance’ or SADIST – how can you resist laughing!!! I couldn’t and I can’t now as I write this review! So much so, that I have forgotten completely what I was going to write next!

What I will say, is that this book needs to be in every public and school library worldwide, it is utterly engaging and brilliant in its conception and characterisation and I urge you to buy a copy for any/every women (young or old) that you know, right now, today it is simply too good to miss!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Flynn Meaney is the author of The Boy Recession and Bloodthirsty. She studied marketing and French at the University of Notre Dame, where she barely survived the terrifying array of priests and nuns, campus ghosts, and bone-crushing athletes who inspired Bad Habits. Since completing a very practical MFA in Poetry, she works for a French company and travels often between New York (when she’s in the mood for bagels) and Paris (when she’s in the mood for croissants).

Ruthless Women

Author: Melanie Blake

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Available: 18th February 2021 in Hardback

Special Event

Before I share my review, I am honoured to announce that there is going to be Special Event for the launch of Ruthless Women and I have put the details below and a link, please do join in the celebrations.

Melanie will be launching the book alongside two of TVs leading ladies Coleen Nolan and Beverly Callard who will be spilling the beans on their own personal lives for a digital book launch “Melanie Blake’s Girls Night in” that members of the public can buy tickets to for £10 including a copy of the book.

A Girls Night In With Melanie Blake | Projects | Fane

Thank you to Bei Guo and Midas PR for my glorious 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:

AN EROTICALLY CHARGED THRILLER SET ON AN INTERNATIONAL TV SHOW

FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE THUNDER GIRLS

Ruthless Women takes readers on a wild ride behind the scenes of beloved TV drama Falcon Bay, beamed globally to millions three days a week from its picturesque location in the Channel Islands. But even in this beautiful coastal spot, tensions swirl. Once one of the world’s most popular soap operas, but now with ratings and syndication at an all-time low, the production has been sold to an American business woman, beautiful and malevolent Madeline Kane, the new network owner who arrives on the tiny island just off Jersey, determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to number one. 

Writer Farrah, star Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who keep the show on the road. But Farrah is losing episodes to the network’s lead male rival, Catherine is terrified of the public falling out of love with her and Amanda’s evil husband Jake, vice president of the network, is plotting to get his own wife kicked off the show.

As the dawn of a new era begins, cast and crew turn against each other with loyalty, decency, and trust, replaced by scandal, betrayal, and an outrageous ambition to survive.

In a true battle of the sexes, these women will do anything to stay on top. But can they team up to bring down their male rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge tear their long held friendships apart?

As the story reaches a climax so shocking readers will be talking about it for decades, one thing is certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive…

My Thoughts:

From the moment I freed this book from the confines of its innocuous brown packaging, there was an instant WOW factor! The proof I received is stunning, dark and delectable and that is just the cover, with its classy 1950s noir inspired image. I admit, my reaction was, ooooh that looks delicious and I absolutely wanted to consume it there and then. In fact I was humming with excitement to start reading this luscious tale. My initial instincts were bang on, opening Melanie’s book is exactly like the ecstatic moment when you unwrap a gift from Tiffany! It is the perfect storm of literary lushness, with the sultry panache reminiscent of the Queens of commercial fiction Jilly Cooper & Jackie Collins, combined with flamboyance, style and smart characterisations that to me echo those I loved from the fabulous HBO series ‘Sex in the City‘ and you want to cheer on this cast of incredible women that Melanie has created, especially when they are bonking or breaking the misogynist patriarchy! Although this novel carries the familiar, addictive and glorious traits of JC and SITC, Melanie’s story comes with its own brand of authenticity,  astuteness and flair. This book is a riotous, raunchy and readable romp and will most certainly put a cheeky grin on your face and a fire in your loins…I absolutely adored it and in these long lockdown days it is the unmitigated foil to quench the shadows that threaten to engulf us.

Falcon Bay is a well-established TV soap opera but its ascendancy is on the wane, with falling viewing figures and faltering storylines, recently it has been sold to a wealthy American. Madeline Kane, whose savvy style and sweet southern tones hide her mercurial and malicious intent. It seems she will stop at nothing to claw back success for her new acquisition! Aided and abetted by newly promoted  Jake Monroe; avaricious, misogynist and aging lothario (a complete and utter W**k*r)..trust me my taser finger was itching every time he speaks!

This dubious duo are planning some scurrilous changes to the production and both have their own fiendish agendas! But nothing is that easy or simple, the flies in the ointment (so to speak) they have formidable opposition; Amanda King, Executive producer; new mother, charming, kind and loyal, beleaguered wife to Jake, she might have been demoted while on maternity but she’s not out yet!!! Helen Gold; Head of Casting, tenacious, perceptive and has no qualms about testing the talent on her casting couch; Catherine Belle; aka Lucy Dean, leading actress, redoubtable with an award winning pedigree; Farrah Adams; Writer/Director, savvy and ambitious, she’s fought hard to earn success but wants much more! Like the soap opera they are all part of, we are now engrossed and immersed in their lives, their loves, their trials, their plotting, their reactions and counter actions…it is an exhilarating, enthralling, atmospheric whirlwind of a battle and I can’t wait for you to read it too and just you wait until you get to the stunning, shocking climate of the story!!! OMG it is epic and I am doing my best not to put hints or spoilers as it is just too fabulous to ruin! I will give a small hint, that the tag line ‘ Ambition can be deadly‘ is apt, ironic and genius and you will see what I mean!

This magnificent story will most certainly be classed as a ‘bonk buster’ or ‘chick lit’ and it is both. I no longer see these labels as pejorative terms despite their inception being rooted in the well-established patriarchal need,  to marginalise the strength, the power and the fan following that a book Melanie’s will garner. Ruthless Women is a triumph, it has multiple narrations, well-conceived plot layers; a superb diverse cast of strong, smart, savvy, sexy and successful women that we her readers can relate to or even see ourselves as regardless of our age, size, style or colour. Melanie’s book is vivacious, vicious and victorious and every woman I know, will love it! Melanie is clearly a shrewd lady; beside the pages of taut buttocks, desire filled eyes, splendid orgasms in store cupboards there is a subtle clarion call to her readers regarding the ever present taint of sexism and the necessity and validity of #MeToo movement. I have no doubt that Melanie has used her extensive professional knowledge and exclusive experiences within the industry she has fictionalised here to embellish and embolden this novel. I suspect the type of entitled, gross, crass and talentless men, she has spared no adjective in re-creating in the forms of Jake and Aiden have their roots in reality and I love that she has put such experiences to good use in her book.

I greedily devoured this splendacious story; it has it all; drama, tension, fame, fallibility, killer shoes, whip-smart reposts, heroics, dastardly deeds, romance, revelations and revenge…and when you reach the last page, you will grieve its end as I did! I am desperately hoping that we haven’t seen the end of the machinations of the cast and crew of Falcon Bay, I would ravenously relish the opportunity for a re-visit. This is a book, you must add to your libraries, to read piles, to buy piles today…I insist!

Happy Reading Bookophiles..

About the Author:

MELANIE BLAKE IS BACK!

AND ONCE AGAIN SHE’S WRITING ABOUT A WORLD SHE KNOWS WELL.

As one as the UK’s most successful agents, managers and publicists for music stars and TV actresses, Melanie Blake has represented some of the most famous faces on British television and international screens.

Where her debut novel, the No. 1 bestseller The Thunder Girls, was inspired by the early years of her career  spent working in the music industry, her follow up novel Ruthless Women is heavily influenced by the last 15 years Melanie has spent representing more female actresses than any other agent in her genre. Her clients have included Patsy Kensit, Beverley Callard, Michelle Collins, Stephanie Beacham, Emily Lloyd, Denise Welch, Jennie McAlpine, Claire King, Gaynor Faye, Laila Morse, Danniella Westbrook, Sherrie Hewson, Amanda Barrie, Gillian Taylforth and Nadia Sawalha, to name just a few. Nicknamed The Queen Of Soaps, there is no one better placed to write a novel based around a continuing drama and its leading ladies.

As one of the UK’s most successful female entrepreneurs, over the years Melanie has had two careers at the top tier of the entertainment industry. Her first 10 years were as a music manager with a roster of award-winning artists who sold over 100 million records and the second decade as one of the UK’s leading acting agents representing some of the most famous faces on British television. The Thunder Girls is inspired by her time in the music business and Ruthless Women which is out in 2021 is inspired by her years in the world of soap opera and drama. Her own management company, which has covered both genres, has turned over more than 30 million.

With no formal education herself, Melanie is a true champion for working class women who are so often overlooked in our society. The Thunder Girls is a celebration of women from diverse demographics and all the lead characters in the novel are over 40 and working class. As well as having written the book, Melanie has penned The Thunder Girls the play which embarks on a nationwide tour in 2021. Melanie Blake might just be the world’s biggest Jackie Collins fan. She first read Rock Star aged 9, after smuggling the copy out of the library by telling the librarian it was for her mum!  Melanie was dazzled by Jackie Collin’s world where women clawed themselves from poverty into glamorous, moneyed lives. In Jackie Collins’ novels, women were bosses and winners who achieved everything they wanted and it was these novels that inspired Melanie to become her own boss and a lady entrepreneur.  In 2017 Melanie’s connection with Jackie Collins came full circle, when after Jackie’s sad death she bought five pieces of Jackie’s jewellery at auction – two rings and three necklaces inlayed with morganite, citrines and diamonds – which she wears every day.

For the first time, Melanie reveals her biggest secret – that her career actually started as an ‘extra’ on the set of Coronation Street and EastEnders. It was there she began clawing her way from the bottom of the ‘Soap Opera ladder’ to the very top, going on to represent the leading ladies of the very shows she was hired to stand in the background of. It’s a one in a million story, by a uniquely determined woman. From extra to celebrity agent, she’s seen it all and that journey enabled her to write ‘the must read book of 2021’. During the promotion, she’ll be sharing more of her own unique journey as well as some of the celebrity bombshells, which inspired her to write her new novel.

Ruthless Women’s page turning storyline and colourful characters could only have been crafted by a woman who lived this extraordinary life and is so hotly anticipated it has already been confirmed to be published all around the world, with a global press campaign to accompany its release in Australia, New Zealand and all of North America, this time next year Melanie Blake will have gone global.

The Genre…

Over 25 million people in the UK watch soaps a week and now they’ll get a true glimpse of what really goes on behind the scenes of TV’s most  popular shows, and examples of the desperate trade off’s their beloved leading ladies go through to survive the very game they are in. Ruthless Women shows that what takes place behind the cameras is way more juicy than on….

Even the actresses, who Melanie was worried would be angry about what she’s written, are raving about Ruthless Women too.  Well, some of them are….

Black Widows

Author: Cate Quinn

Publisher: Orion Books

Available: 4th February 2021 in Hardback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours 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:

BLAKE’S DEAD. HIS WIFE KILLED HIM. THE QUESTION IS: WHICH ONE?

The only thing the three women had in common was their husband. And, as of this morning, that they’re each accused of his murder.

Blake Nelson moved into a hidden stretch of land – a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah – where he lived with his three wives: Rachel, the chief wife, obedient and doting to a fault. Tina, the other wife, who’s everything Rachel isn’t. And Emily, the youngest wife, who knows almost nothing else.

When their husband is found dead under the desert sun, the questions pile up. What are these women to each other now that their husband is dead? Will the police uncover the secrets each woman has spent her life hiding? And is one of them capable of murder…?

Black Widows is a distinctive and original psychological thriller, igniting conversations around marriage, relationships, religion and gender.

‘Black Widows is a brilliant joyride in the company of three unforgettable women, sister-wives with nothing in common except their dead husband. Completely compelling and vividly told, the story plays with your loyalties and makes you question what counts as moral behaviour. This is a hugely enjoyable and original mystery with real heart, and I loved it.’ Jane Casey

‘It’s a great hook and a tremendous read – I thoroughly enjoyed this. The tension ramps up all the way to the end and I loved the relationship between the wives.’ HARRIET TYCE 

‘Quinn gives her readers an exquisite murder mystery, taking us through uncharted territory of off-the-grid, modern-day intentional communities. Black Widows is a steady, slow boil you’ll be happy to immerse yourself in.’ CHRISTINA DALCHER

‘I loved this book. It’s both a fascinating glimpse into a hidden world and brilliantly twisty crime novel. Three wives, three motives, three utterly compelling stories.’ ELLY GRIFFITHS

My Thoughts:

It was a cold, snowy afternoon last week, when I curled up on my sofa with a frothy coffee and this intriguing crime thriller. What drew me to its pages, was its unique setting and tantalizing characters and I confess my own fascination with closed secretive religious communities which by their refusal to adhere to mainstream norms make them curious, odd and an ideal candidate for a crime thriller! I was not disappointed, Cate has crafted a compelling, addictive story driven by three original and fabulous female protagonists whose lives and lifestyle make for compulsive reading. This is a delectable, diverting crime thriller, brimming with secrets and lies and lies and secrets; of sects; of cults: of warped religion; of nefarious want; every aspect will embroil you in this unique, tension ridden tale. In fact, I was so completely engrossed in this book, I forgot to cook dinner!!! Get the takeaway menus ready, you will not be able to put it down either, I suspect!

Blake Nelson has 3 wives or rather had 3 wives, as his mutilated dead body has been found near his favourite fishing hole in the remote, isolated wilds of the Utah desert. Logic and location suggest, that one of them must be the culprit…surely? Rachel is the first wife; married to him for 6 years; diligent in her role as homemaker and rigidly adhering to the rules of the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) or Mormons, from her modest dress to an almost pathological addiction to canning and storing food (as per the edicts of the church). Emily is her sister wife, striving to fit into this unusual family; to comprehend the rules of Mormon marriage; she is girlish, naïve, an innocent in every way and from a strict catholic background. Tina is the 3rd wife and on the face of it the oddest choice, former drug addict and hooker, she is edgy, savvy, sexy and doesn’t really seem to adhere to the confines of LDS. It is clear from the early chapters of this story, that these three women are irritated, frustrated and annoyed by each other and certainly don’t fit the notion of sister wives, of plural harmony! The only commonality they seem to have is their relationship with Blake, so with his demise, you expect them to forge their own path…to enjoy their individual freedom!

I loved how this story is structured, each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the wives; you are shown their current lives, roles, routine, the love for their husband, their occasionally darkly comic observations about each other. As a reader I felt as though I got to know these women, I learned, how each woman met Blake and how their own needs, wants led them to agree to this acceptance of plural marriage…and I watched them change, as the accusation of their husband’s murder is levelled at them! I was impressed that Cate chose to have her protagonists form an awkward alliance, a scrappy tenuous sisterly bond, when so often we see female characters throw other females under the proverbial bus! I thoroughly enjoyed watching their alliance cement and my initial assumptions about each woman altered, as did my conclusions about who killed their husband and I found the emotional tension building with each chapter, along with the sinister flash back plotline doing some neat sharp twists and the expected becomes unexpected and the convergence of Rachel, Emily and Tina’s past and present lives is completely enthralling and I found myself rooting for each of them for widely different reasons. Also the more I learnt about their husband, the more I was quite happy for him to be dead…my biggest concern turned out to be worrying that one of them would take the blame or be assigned it by the police!

Cate’s research and knowledge of the very secretive Latter-Day Saints (LDS)/Mormon community is outstanding and the specific details regarding relationship rules, codes of dress, marital relations of this sect is as eye opening, mind boggling and skin crawling and made me curiously voyeuristic as it did, when I read Elissa Wall’s biography Stolen Innocence. The very alien notions of holy garments, polygamy, end of days, blood atonement, Christian marital discipline, keeping sweet and dressing like Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie) to define modesty in modern times; these visual and visceral assertions of misogyny certainly makes this book riveting, revolting and exceptional! In case I’m not being clear, I loved it!

No part of this book is usual in terms of crime thrillers, and nor is the ending of the story but of course, I don’t do spoilers, so if you want to know; Who done it, Why they done it and what happens next….you will have to read the book and find out…and trust me, you absolutely want to know how this story ends and Cate does a sublime job of trying up the plotlines and taking her characters beyond the resolution of the crime.

I do love a crime thriller and finding a new, exciting voice of the genre in Cate Quinn has made my month, this story is super, scintillating and sinister, it is one of the best crime novels I have read in a while and you absolutely must add it to your crime collections…I insist.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Cate Quinn is a travel and lifestyle journalist for The Times, the Guardian and the Mirror, alongside many magazines. Prior to this, Quinn’s background in historic research won prestigious postgraduate funding from the British Art Council. Quinn pooled these resources, combining historical research with first-hand experiences in far-flung places to create critically acclaimed and bestselling historical fiction.

Please do check out the other reviews for this book on the blog tour.

Deity

Author: Matt Wesolowski

Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS

Available: 18th February 2021, available in Paperback and Ebook

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

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge. Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Why was he never officially charged? Are reports of a haunting really true?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive, spine-chilling thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we are willing to turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

Praise for Six Stories Series

‘Beautifully written, smart, compassionate – and scary as hell. Matt Wesolowski is one of the most exciting and original voices in crime fiction’ Alex North

‘Insidiously terrifying … a genuine chiller with a whammy of an ending’ C J Tudor

‘The very epitome of a must-read’ Heat

My Thoughts:

I confess I was completely ‘late to the party‘ when it came to the Six Stories Series; I bought the first 3 books Six Stories, Hydra, Changeling on audio book last January and binge listened to them all in a week and a half and then obsessively checked my audiobook provider until book 4, Beast was available and it didn’t last the day! I offer no excuses for my utter adoration and slavish devotion of/ for Matt’s phenomenal, dark, delicious, devious crime series. As far as I’m concerned, he is the dark lord of crime and I am proud to be a devotee and worship the dark art of his writings. Which given the title of his latest instalment, Deity seems an apt way to describe my admiration of his books! As a reader and book blogger, I am privileged to be able to read some incredible books and Matt’s books are top of my list for rapturous recommendation…you simply must read all of them, they are exceptional in every way. I have no shame in vociferously shouting their praise.

My biggest difficulty and concern in writing this review for Matt’s 5th book, is to tell you about this meticulous, mesmerising and deviously clever story without spoiling any of its breathtaking twists, turns and revelations, which lead me to those open mouthed OMG moments, when the plotline becomes truly sinister and sublime; so much so that I desperately want to share every delicious dark element with everyone I know…which of course, I won’t do because spoiling this reading experience would be a crime! I just hope I do it justice!

Deity follows Matt’s fantastic familiar format; fictional podcaster, Scott King; who conducts a series of six interviews with witnesses to a cold true crime case, through these interviews and supporting media evidence, he attempts to unravel the truth of the case but leaves any conclusions about the validity of any revelations down to the listener/reader. Each episode is given over to a single character, their personal connection to the case, their own detailed and compelling back history. Scott’s role is to act as a conduit; to subtly probe the witness through his insightful, bold and direct questions, leading them to voice their side of the story. Any conclusions are a readers to make!

In this story; all the witnesses are linked to the now deceased megastar Zach Crystal (who seems to me to be a sort of hybrid mix of the music legends Kurt Cobain and Michael Jackson) a man shrouded in mystery, tragedy, scandal, rumour and myths. A larger than life character; enigmatic, eccentric and very possibly egotistical! His life story is a well-documented rags to riches tale of a boy coming from a poor, honest, religious family; who enjoyed listening to records with his dad on a Sunday afternoon. To his learning to play music on a battered second hand Casio keyboard, writing songs and performing them with his sister Naomi as The Crystal Twins, in beer soaked back rooms and basements of bars and clubs of the Midlands. To going solo and with his first album (Yearn) going stratospheric, reaching the dizzying heights of stardom and all the wealth, fame and attention this garners. Yet despite his fame and notoriety, his path to glory is littered with compelling mix of the bizarre and tragic; the deaths of his parents; the accident involving his best friend and chief aid James Cryer; the ever present scandal surrounding the nature of his relationships with troubled teenage girls; suggestions of abuse? Mystery surrounding his ‘Crystal Forest’ home complete with magical tree house in an ancient Scottish forest; Myths surrounding the ‘Whispering wood’ and the dark, sinister skeletal spector that haunts it, the herald of doom…the ethereal beliefs Zach espoused, his cult like fans.

What are the facts and what is fiction, they are yours to explore…Especially as Zach Crystal died in a terrible fire that claimed his life and decimated his home the ‘Crystal Forest’…so many questions, so many threads to examine and trust me, Scott King covers it all…but I’m not going to because you need to discover these exceptional plotlines for yourselves and I am bouncing in my seat with excitement for you to do so!!!

As to the witnesses in this story; will their perspectives confirm, confuse or codify a reader’s conclusions; Ian Julius; former Monster Buster and paedophile hunter, now social pariah and in hiding, was he driven by truth or avarice? Sasha Stewart; Zach Crystal super fan, podcaster and youtuber, host of The Crystal Cast; dispatcher and dispeller of those who try to besmirch the memory of Zach Crystal, can her knowledge and experiences with Zach, clarify was he a predator or a prodigy? Craig Kerr; grounds keeper at the Crystal Forest, can he bring an insider’s perspective of life inside Zach Crystal’s world? Marie Owens; a heart-broken mother to Kirsty; one of Zach Crystal’s ‘Special Girls’, are her revelations motivated by malice, money or maternal instinct! Skexxixx; former ‘face of a furious generation’ is he, friend or foe of Zach Crystal, was he the star maligned or maniacal power hungry, star with god complex? And the sixth final witness…is one you will have to read all about for yourselves…I don’t do spoilers remember!!!…I know, I am a horrible blogger (but definitely one with a huge smile on her face as I write this review). The conclusion to this book is magnificently malevolent and utterly majestic in its manifestation. I cannot wait for you to experience it too.

Deity is a crime Rubik’s cube of dark reading delight, twist one way and ruin the perspective of the opposite face, twist another and realigned the squares/perspectives. Matt’s latest book is a masterpiece of astute societal observation, the often nefarious power of the media ‘if it bleeds it leads’ cabal and what such practices can lead to.  I admire how Matt weaves insightful socio/political topics into his novels; like #MeToo the movement by women; for every women; established to pour transparency onto the previously accepted, exploitative patriarchal, social, sexual and professional behaviours towards women. Fighting for the voiceless, who like the fictional women in this story, have been silenced by male money and power! And as you will see, my small observations here are a mere hint at the content woven into this tale.

As I said at the beginning of my review, I was slow to catch on to how incredible Matt’s books are and I am certain that along with Changeling, Deity is my favourite instalment. There is nothing I have read (and I’ve read a lot) like these stories;  Deity is a shrewd, savvy, sinister, sublime crime read…so you need to put your order in today…do not miss out on this book! In fact, you have at least 10 days before publication, so I insist that you buy all of them and binge read …do it today…you know you want too!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies, such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller. Changeling, the third book in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His fourth book, Beast, won the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Independent Voice Book of the Year award in 2020.

About the Publisher:

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

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

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

www.orendabooks.co.uk  @OrendaBooks

Please do check out the other reviews on this blog tour

Coming Home to Brightwater Bay

Author: Holly Hepburn

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 21st January 2021, in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook

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

Book Details:

The BRAND NEW series from Holly Hepburn, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Katie Fforde

On paper, Merina Wilde has it all: a successful career writing the kind of romantic novels that make even the hardest hearts swoon, a perfect carousel of book launches and parties to keep her social life buzzing, and a childhood sweetheart who thinks she’s a goddess. But Merry has a secret: the magic has stopped flowing from her fingers. Try as she might, she can’t summon up the sparkle that makes her stories shine. And as her deadline whooshes by, her personal life falls apart too. Alex tells her he wants something other than the future she’d always imagined for them and Merry finds herself single for the first time since – well, ever.

Desperate to get her life back on track, Merry leaves London and escapes to the windswept Orkney Islands, locking herself away in a secluded clifftop cottage to try to heal her heart and rediscover her passion for writing. But can the beauty of the islands and the kindness of strangers help Merry to fool herself into believing in love again, if only long enough to finish her book? Or is it time for her to give up the career she’s always adored and find something new to set her soul alight?

The brand new series from Holly Hepburn, first published as four ebook parts: BROKEN HEARTS AT BRIGHTWATER BAY, SEA BREEZES AT BRIGHTWATER BAY, DANGEROUS TIDES AT BRIGHTWATER BAY and SUNSET OVER BRIGHTWATER BAY

My Thoughts;

Time to get my fan girl thoughts down on the page. On Sunday morning, I made my frothy coffee, layered up my cardigans, curled up under my soft throw and pulled Holly’s book on to my reading cushion (yes they are a thing, I got one for Christmas). The resounding joy of expectation and excitement in being able to relax and plunge myself into Holly’s new series, just makes me smile. I knew that from the first page, I was going to love Merry (that’s Merry as in Christmas, not Mary as in Mary Berry)…The gift writers like Holly give readers like me, is the sense of home, of companionship and of familiarity…yes the stories and the characters are fiction but the roots of these tales are built from knowledge, understanding of people and an appreciation of life’s ginormous hiccups that we all face. Holly is fantastic in weaving captivating and addictive stories for us all to be immersed in.

I can’t wait for you to dive in and be carried away by Merry’s trials, tribulations and triumphs, I mean you can’t resist surely; a fickle fiancé, an escape to Orkney, a marauding goat called Gordon, Niall the Clark Kent librarian (oh he’s yummy); Magnus the magnificent (ok I made that last bit up) who to quote Merry ‘out Thor’s Chris Hemsworth (me wantie, sorry Jim…LOL).. …I couldn’t stop myself reading it! This latest instalment of Holly’s is the perfect escape from the harsh realities of Covid and lockdown.

The story opens with Merina (Merry) who is a successful romance writer, in a complete quandary. She has a serious case of writer’s block and hasn’t been able to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard in ages and the stress of not being able to do what she loves is causing a fair amount of stress, guilt and panic. Alex, her finance and partner of 15 years takes her to dinner…a nice relaxing meal for two…or not! Alex’s has an ulterior motive and his announcement leaves Merry completely shell shocked, devastated and quite frankly I would happily taser him, repeatedly in the ‘little head’ department! Yes, that is a euphemism!

Then an unexpected opportunity arises, The Orkney Literary Society places a request for a Writer in Residence, 6 months, full accommodation, a stipend and in return the writer has to promote reading for pleasure around the Islands. Well obviously, Merry can’t resist such an incredible chance and it will remove her from all the painful memories back at home and maybe a change of scenery will encourage her writing juices to flow…

What I absolutely adored about this story were the details of being a writer (even one with writer’s block) and the glorious world that Holly creates for Merry to become part of from the gorgeous cosy croft she is staying in, to the delicious confectionary of the Italian bakery where she drinks coffee and eats incredible sounding cake, to the stunning scenery and fascinating history of the Islands that capture her soul and this reader’s too. Holly has created a cast of charismatic characters, like octogenarian marathon runner Shelia or the glamorous, cake baking Clare, both whom  as a reader you want to know yourself and become friends with and in the case of Niall and Magnus definitely snog, repeatedly (sorry again Jim) they are amusing, kind and wise and their acceptance and support of Merry (and later her smart and sassy best friend and fellow author Jess) is heart-warming and most life affirming!

What I also admire in Holly’s writing and this story are the sensitive and genuine little life lessons she has woven into the story; when Magnus tells Merry about his mother and sister and simply says ‘Icelandic women see no need to settle for a man who does not honour and support them’ or when Merry calmly puts the derision about ‘women’s fiction’ firmly in its place and there are a few more for you to discover when you read this book.

So what does happen next…well that is for me to know and you to buy the book and find out…I will however provide you with a few teasers; hot toddies and the Northern Lights; a blistering kiss on a boat; conquering a half marathon; bumping into Nick Borrowdale (if you’ve read Star & Sixpence you will know who I mean); a war time love story; a lingerie stealing goat; dual romantic possibilities; a fight with a friend and the return of a cad; a new direction and awareness of self. But now my lips are sealed, I refuse to reveal more!

This story is a marvellous Orcadian cocktail, a delicious and delightful mixture of sweet and spicy ingredients and you will definitely want more (I do Holly, I do). I was absolutely engrossed by this delicious story, thank you Holly for such a joyous read. As it is payday weekend, this would be the prefect purchase for you today…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Holly Hepburn is the much-loved author of commercial women’s fiction. She lives near London with her grey tabby cat, Portia. They both have an unhealthy obsession with Marmite. Follow Holly on Twitter @HollyH_Author.

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

The Push

Author: Ashley Audrain

Publisher: Michael Joseph Penguin

Available: 7th January 2021, Available in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Olivia Thomas and MJP 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:

I think she pushed him,’ I said to you quietly. ‘I think she pushed him . . .’

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right.

I had always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers.

My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.

But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I?

The Push is an unsettling, breathtaking and powerful read about obsession and our deepest fears that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

My Thoughts:

There is all so often a societal, as well as a personal assumption that as women, we foster a mythical requirement to want/need/desire to become a mother; to have a child, to be ushered in the secret, sleepless, dominating and bloody society that is motherhood. There is the assumption that maternal instinct is inherent in all of us with a Y chromosome! The presumption, that all of us women, secretly harbour the desire to wreck our bodies by pushing the equivalent of a watermelon through a portal the size of a letter box and within 24 hours be back on our feet and back to normal…that the 9 months prior to this sacrosanct moment, the growing of another human being is the pinnacle of our life’s work! That the impact of motherhood doesn’t wreak havoc, with every nerve, muscle and thought in our minds and bodies… Heck as I write this review, I may well be channelling the combined essences of Margaret Atwood and Lionel Shriver and if I’m not then Ashley certainly has and in her own unique and profound way. Ashley’s book in its bold, brutal and ballsy manner; dispels the cosy assumed maternal myth! As this is her debut novel, with bated breath and addicted eagerness, I cannot wait to read what ever she chooses to write next!

What drew me to want to read ‘The Push’ so much, is that strays so far from the paternal party line! That as women creating a family is a deep held desire and for some it is and I admire that wish in others. But for some women like myself; I knew at 13 years of age that I categorically did not want to reproduce and this has led to a lifetime of patronising, correction. That I couldn’t possibly know my own mind, that I would ‘when I met the right person’, automatically or magically change my mind and want to breed. The idea that has vividly imprinted on my mind having read this novel, is that I have had the power of choices; of options, as whether to become a mother or not! My decisions on the subject were mine to make, unlike several of the women in this story, whose journey to motherhood was a one way street; they were confined,  with no option to deviate and as a result of having no choice, it left them to make unpleasant, incomprehensible and tragic choices later and the impact of these decisions goes on to warp their maternal line!

Well dearest bookophiles, I am now 46 and proudly childless and with the onset of menopause, the maternal expectation of me is finally dissipating and I am left with a glorious sense of relief! I look forward to the next 20 to 40 years as a barren, dried up old spinster…yippee! I applaud Ashley for her sublime writing and her courage, directness and aplomb for creating such a powerful, punishing and phenomenal story and fervently hope that someone puts this book on all University curriculum reading lists, as soon as possible!

The novel opens, with a woman sitting in her car observing on the face of it an ordinary family scene of a mother, a father, a daughter and a son through the windows of their home and yet the woman observing them, her actions seem odd, awkward but not threating, almost anticipatory that she is watching and waiting…but for what? And as readers we are left alone with our thoughts on the scene, as the story regresses to the start of Blythe’s story.

Although this book has multiple narratives; Etta, the grandmother, Cecilia, the mother, Blythe the granddaughter and as you would expect their life journeys are interwoven but not how you might imagine! Blythe’s life is the backbone of the novel; and I see her, as quiet, insular and isolated that is before she encounters Fox, whose attention seems to bring her to life. We follow the trajectory of their relationship, which is as you would expect it to be, boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, finish university, begin their working lives, move in, are wrapped in their wonderful lusty bubble of coupledom and yet Ashley has cleverly peppered this journey with specks of darkness, that Blythe’s life has not been the cookie cutter perfection that Fox’s childhood has been.

Then comes the bubble popping decision to have a child, I confess my reaction to this decision was ‘oh please don’t’…but of course they do and Ashley’s expression of this journey to motherhood is visceral, vicious and victorious, no stone is unturned, she spares no detail of every ‘bloody’ painful moment! Interspersed with Blythe’s journey are the evocative, atmospheric and moving experiences of her grandmother Etta and the equally as powerful and painful revelations of her own mother Cecilia. The choices and revelations in their stories are not the warm and cosy happy homemaker kind! And I think when Blythe’s daughter Violet is born, her own perspective of their actions changes and her own comprehension of being a mother does as well. Does it follow that if you have had a bad mother, that you will be one…A thought to consider?!

Blythe’s experience of motherhood is not one of euphoric joy, a malevolence starts to descend and infiltrate, her feelings towards Fox and the bond between mother and daughter is tainted and it is from this point that Ashely weaves in her second plot line, which concerns Violet and spins and spirals in a maelstrom of obsession, of maternal instinct, of paranoia and pernicious tangibility…and oh my goodness it is magnificent, terrifying, tortured and darkly tragic and a reading experience that will have you mesmerised until the very last page! And a reading encounter you will have to discover for yourselves because I am not going to spoil one word of it for you…you may require vats of gin at this point!

This book has been given a lot of media coverage and often the expectation does not match the experience of the actual book but in this case, this story lays magnificent, rancorous waste to the expectation. It is darkly sublime, hypnotically horrifying and a complete triumph of a novel. One that I will be buying multiple copies of for every one of my girlfriends; it is the type of book you vocally insist other people read, one that I will with feverish jubilation recommend to everyone I know and very likely to anyone I don’t know but who might be  standing nearby me in the supermarket aisle, where I have the odd tendency to buy or recommend books. I insist that you absolutely must,  immediately, today lay your hands on a copy… then cancel any and all lockdown plans, make frothy coffee, put your phone on mute and just immerse yourself in the pages and absorb the story until you are done, I promise you won’t regret it.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

ASHLEY AUDRAIN previously worked as the publicity director of Penguin Books Canada.

Prior to Penguin, she worked in public relations. She lives in Toronto, where she and her partner are raising their two young children. The Push is her first novel

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

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