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Friday, 29 September 2017

The Child Finder @ReneDenfeld @wnbooks ‏

About The Child Finder

Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, families call her. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own experience, that allows her to succeed when others have failed.

Young Madison Culver has been missing for three years. She vanished on a family trip to the mountainous forests of Oregon, where they'd gone to cut down a tree for Christmas. Soon after she disappeared, blizzards swept the region and the authorities presumed she died from exposure.
But Naomi knows that Madison isn't dead. As she relentlessly pursues the truth behind Madison's disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce defences that have protected her for so long. If she finds this child, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

My review of The Child Finder

It's hard to find the right words to describe the true beauty of this book. The Child Finder is a disturbing, haunting, lyrical, magical and beautiful book. It is all of these things, plus a gripping thriller. It's a phenomenal read. It's beautifully written, almost poetic, which is  is enthused with magical realism. It was a pure joy to read. 

Throughout the book we do read several points of view, but the predominant voice is that of Naomi, the 'child finder', and that of the Snow Child, who has been taken captive. Naomi has been hired to find a missing girl, Maddison, who vanished aged five, three years previously. Other than that, I can't say much more without giving anything away. 

Set in Oregon, in the depths of winter, we encounter a different world. A world of snow and ice. I loved the depictions of the white wilderness, how the locals coped with the harsh weather and the changing landscape. I could see and smell the snow, and this was important to get the true essence of this book. Although we do read different viewpoints and jump backwards and forwards in time regarding Naomi's past, this book flows beautifully. Not once was I unaware of who was talking and of what time frame I was reading. It was an effortless read that flowed from one scene to the next. 

The magical realism within this novel comes in the form of the Snow Child's need for survival. It is her coping mechanism, and it makes the scenes in which she is captive less harrowing, although still disturbing. I did find these passages difficult to read, but they were needed, and as a coping mechanism she refers to herself in the third person, the Snow Child, based upon a beloved fairytale, and therefore as a reader, I too was able to distance myself and to gain much needed perspective. 

As well as dealing with the missing girl, Naomi is trying to unravel her own past. Huge chunks of which are missing to her. She too has a harrowing past and was  saved and brought up by a foster mother, of whom we meet and get to know. These  passages within the book were truly special and inspiring. 

The Child Finder is such a beautiful, yet disturbing read. I wasn't sure if I would be able to cope with the sensitive subject matter, but as the author writes with sensitivity I was able to read and immerse myself in this compelling story. It really is a beautiful read.

The Child Finder was published on September 5th by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. It can be found on Amazon here.
With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Our Altered Life @ouralteredlife #BlogTour

About Our Altered Life

Taken from Our Altered Life website

"I have spent the past 9 years compiling my thoughts on our journey along with school and medical reports, doctors notes and diaries. The result is Our Altered Life ~ an honest account of the shock, grief and struggle as well as the acceptance, joy and fierce love that my children have brought into my life."

My review of Our Altered Life
Our Altered Life is a raw, poignant and detailed account of life with a disabled child. Charlie Beswick writes about life with her twin sons, Oliver and Harry, with so much love, emotion and empathy, that you can't help but be enticed and hooked on every word. Once I started to read I couldn't stop. I read it in one sitting.

Harry has Goldenhar syndrome, which means that he was born with only one eye, no eye socket, no nose, one ear and with a short jaw. I had never heard of this syndrome before and so read with great interest. Harry also has Global Learning Delay, is non verbal and has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As Charlie so eloquently writes, life has its challenges, but is also, so very rewarding.

Our Altered Life is a powerful read. As I've mentioned, this is an incredibly raw account of raising a disabled child. Charlie writes it as it is, warts and all, and that's what I find so refreshing about this book. I knew absolutely nothing about Goldenhar syndrome, but now I feel that I do. She writes so honestly about how she felt when she first saw her newborn baby, how she found the bonding process difficult, and that for a very long time she blamed herself. This must have been so very difficult for her to write down on paper, to express in words, and yet she has managed to do
so, and so eloquently, in her quest to raise awareness and discussion surrounding the realities of raising a child with Harry's disabilities.

For me, this book touched me on a personal level, with Charlie's descriptions about her son's autism, and what life is like on the spectrum. My youngest son is autistic, and I like to read personal accounts from parents who are in a similar position to myself. Charlie's words seemed to jump out of the page at me. I found myself nodding, and saying, 'oh yes, my son does that', and 'Oh, I know what you mean.' Her words gave me comfort. I also liked the descriptions of the two brothers, as their relationship slowly grew. The bond between them is so palpable on the page. It also reminded me of my two sons, and once again, Charlie's words gave me comfort.

Our Altered Life is a powerful read, but ultimately, it is an uplifting one. The message here is that life never quite works out the way you planned it, but you know what? that's ok. Charlie writes about the struggles, her inner most feelings and how she has had to learn and adapt to a different type of life. Nothing is sugar coated, but that's the beauty of this book... Its honesty. Charlie's love and passion for her boys shines through.

Our Altered Life is a book for everyone. It will help teachers and TA's learn more about caring for a disabled child from a parental point of view. Health care professionals will also greatly benefit, as will parents of disabled children and their families.

It is an emotional rollercoaster of a read. It's an important read and one that can help shed light on the taboos and myths surrounding raising a disabled child.

This simply is a must read.

About the author

Hi, I'm Charlie, mum to twins Oliver and Harry and I am blogging about life as a parent of a child with special needs at Our Altered Life. I chronicle the highs and lows of a life less ordinary and the challenges and adventures we all face. When I'm not writing or working you will find me drinking gin, eating my own body weight in cheese and laminating stuff (you can take the girl out of teaching but you cant take the teacher out of the girl!)

Find out more about Charlie and her journey:

Catch up with the tour...

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

#RacetotheKill by Helen Cadbury @AllisonandBusby

About Race to the Kill

It is the middle of a long night shift for PC Sean Denton and his partner PC Gavin Wentworth when they are approached by a dishevelled-looking woman desperate that they follow her. She leads them to the old Chasebridge High School where they find the dead body of a Syrian refugee. The investigation which points to the neighbouring greyhound stadium finds Denton caught up in a world of immigration, drugs and sexual abuse, and one in which his private life becomes increasingly entwined.

*I feel hugely privileged and humbled to be a part of this blog tour.

Helen Cadbury sadly passed away in June this year.*

My review of Race to the Kill

Race to the Kill is sadly the third and final instalment in the PC Sean Denton police series, that is set in the heart of Yorkshire. I first read to Kill a Rabbit many years ago and fell in love with both Helen's writing, and Sean Denton. These books work so well because of him and the colourful Yorkshire characters that he meets.

The story opens with Sean being collared at a petrol station by a homeless woman, telling him that he needs to follow her to the abandoned Chasebridge School, which he duly does with his partner PC Gavin Wentworth. It is there that they find the body of a Syrian refugee and the hunt for the killer begins. We follow Sean and his team as they investigate the local greyhound stadium that borders the school, and the investigation soon leads members of the team to the people who work there.

The novel tackles many topical issues, those of drugs, immigration, and sexual abuse. As with the two previous books in the series, Sean is at the centre of the action. He is a caring and compassionate man, from a working class background, and this gives him a distinct advantage during his investigation. We care about Sean, about the people he meets and the decisions that he makes. He is both entertaining and likeable. More importantly, he is realistic, I believe in him.

Race to the Kill is a hugely topical story, as it discusses society's views and misconceptions about refugees, poverty and the lower working classes. This most certainly is a novel that speaks loud and clearly for the difficult times that we now live in, both financially and socially. Helen wrote so beautifully about the human condition, about community and the lower working classes, as is portrayed in the inhabitants of the greyhound racing stadium and those that live in the surrounding high rise blocks of flats. The northern city of Doncaster is brought to life on the page, with her use of language, dialect and imagery.

This novel features a wide array of characters. Those that are mixed up with dodgy dealings and on the other side the police. But the police too have a mixed bunch, from all different social classes and Helen examined these differences and preconceptions wonderfully in this novel. This is beautifully examined in the relationship between Sean and Lizzie. Both different, but somehow they work as a couple. I never particularly warmed to Lizzie, I fond her a little stuck up, but this didn't really mater as I found her interesting.

Race to the Kill is a wonderful, engaging and gritty read about the realities of Northern life. I felt such sadness as I read the closing words. Never again will I read a new adventure featuring Sean Denton. His adventure ends here...

Race to the Kill is published by Allison & Busby on 21 September. It can be found on Amazon here.

With thanks to Anne Cater and the publisher for inviting me on the blog tour, and for providing an Advanced Reader Copy.

About Helen Cadbury

Helen Cadbury wrote fiction, poetry and plays. She worked as an actor before becoming a teacher and spent five years teaching in prisons. She had an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam University. Her debut novel, To Catch a Rabbit, was the winner of the inaugural Northern Crime Competition.

Helen passed away in June 2017.

Monday, 25 September 2017

House of Spines @MichaelJMalone1 @OrendaBooks

About House of Spines

Ran McGhie's world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow's oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word - the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall's endless corridors, Ran's grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror ... the reflection of a woman ... A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly...

My review of House of Spines

House of Spines is a compelling gothic thriller with tons of suspense thrown in. This book genuinely unsettled me and I read it with a growing sense of impending doom. It's a a fabulous read!

The novel opens with a young Scottish man, Ran, learning that his deceased mother was related to a wealthy merchant family living in Glasgow. His mother had left the family when she married, as her family did not approve. When his estranged Uncle died, he bequeathed his Manor House, Newton Hall, to him... and so this delicious gothic suspense thriller begins.

The descriptions of Newton Hall are powerful and beautiful. I especially wanted to visit the library that housed the old man's love of books. I could smell their dusty pages and see the lamps dotted around the room. The description of the house and its layout are described in much detail, as we need to understand and immerse ourselves in this world, and what a delight it was to virtually walk along its corridors.

House of Spines is written predominantly from Ran's point of view. He is a writer, a loner, and a man who has a mental health condition. The author deals sensitively with the emotive subject of mental health. What Ran sees and hears is very subjective, and he is very much the unreliable narrator, but this is what makes the novel so captivating and enthralling. We never quite know what is true.

House of Spines is a disturbing read that is highly addictive, once I started to read I couldn't stop. I needed to follow Ran on his journey. I cared about him. He has s sharp and distinctive voice, and he spoke loudly and clearly to me. The deeper I got into the book, the greater the unease I felt. I read with a deep foreboding that was both thrilling and frightening at the same time. This really is a beautifully touching and personal account of a man who is quite lost in life, and I found it an emotional, yet uplifting read.

It is simply quite stunning. This book will stay with me for a very long time.

With thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour and the publisher for giving me an Advanced Reader Copy for review purposes.

House of Spines was published by Orenda Books on 16th August. It can be found on Amazon here.

About the author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns' country, just a stone's throw from the great man's cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie's Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Catch up with the rest of the blog tour

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Maria in the Moon @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks

About Maria in the Moon

A stunning, beautifully written dark drama by the critically acclaimed author of How To Be Brave and The Mountain in My Shoe.

Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can't remember everything. She can't remember her ninth year. She can't remember when her insomnia started. And she can't remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges... and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide...

My review of Maria in the Moon

Maria in the Moon is a story that took my breath away. This is a simply stunning and beautiful story about a woman's journey to find her true self. It's emotive, dark and challenging and I loved every word.

The story revolves around Catherine Hope, a thirty-two-year old woman who is single and shares a one bedroom flat over a takeaway restaurant.  Today she is simply known as Catherine, no longer Catherine-Maria, and she has no recollection of why she lost the 'Maria' at the age of nine. Set during the Hull floods of 2007, Catherine decides to volunteer at Flood Crisis, a helpline for individuals affected by the floods. It is while working there that her life begins to change, that she slowly begins to remember what happened to her all those years ago.

The author writes so beautifully, providing Catherine with a clear and distinctive voice. I felt like I knew her inside and out. She was so very transparent on the page, her vulnerability, her strength, so clear to see. This is her story and I was hooked on every word. What happened to her? What can't she remember? She is a likeable, quirky and energetic woman but is haunted by past events that she cannot recall. I felt so sorry for her. What I loved most about her was her empathy towards others, her selflessness. As well as volunteering at Flood Crisis, she works night shifts at the local nursing home. Although this side of her life is not shown on the page, I knew that she would be a caring and diligent member of staff, treating everyone she cared for with dignity and respect, just as she does with those who call Flood Line.

This novel is packed with many interesting and vibrant characters, all illuminating and with their own personal story. We have Fern, the girl whose flat she shares and whom writes a weekly column in the local paper, I loved her!, and then we have Christopher, the volunteer and mentor she meets at Flood Crisis, who makes her world shift, who accepts her for who she is.

This is such a stunning, powerful and emotional read. It's a dark and beautiful read about the strength of human spirit, about the strength of Catherine, and of how we use memory to shape our future and define our past. It's a story about childhood and family, and of dark secrets that cannot remain buried for ever.

As I read the final page, I knew that Catherine Maria Hope would stay with me for a long time. She will be forever in the moon. Such a beautiful story.

Maria in the Moon is published by Orenda Books on 30 September. You can find it on Amazon here.

With thanks to the publisher who sent me a paperback copy for review purposes.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Anatomy of a Scandal @SVaughanAuthor

About Anatomy of a Scandal

You want to believe your husband. She wants to destroy him.

 Gripping psychological drama for fans of A
pple Tree Yard, The Good Wife and Notes on a Scandal.

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. 

A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it.

My review of Anatomy of a Scandal

I'll start by saying that this book got under my skin and hooked me from the very beginning. It is a slow powerful read, packed with tension, drama and strong female characters surviving and making an impact in a male dominated environment. I loved this book for its honesty, its tenacity and for female characters who would simply not give up.

Kate Woodcroft is the central character. She is a London based barrister who is assigned the difficult case of prosecuting a man accused of a sexual assault. The man is James Whitehouse, a Conservative MP. He is a powerful man, a personal friend to the Prime Minister, and a man who is rich and living the perfect life. He has the beautiful wife and two beautiful children. All of this perfection is shattered when he is accused of raping a woman who he has had a brief affair with.

We read the alternating viewpoints of James, Kate, and Jane's wife, Sophie. All of these personal stories are important to thoroughly understand what has gone on. The story is told in the present day and also from 1992, as we read the viewpoint from Holly, undergraduate at Oxford University, where James and his future wife (then an on/off girlfriend) were both students. This young woman is from a different world, from a working class background, and it is Holly's viewpoint that I found most illuminating, as it highlighted the extravagance, the sheer arrogance and unpleasantness of James and his friends from the higher classes, the elite, who studied there. Life for them appeared to be easy and one long party.

This book tackles the difficult and sensitive subjects of rape and consent, the personification of women, and of the trial process involved with a rape case. This is an intense read, a dark read and the subject matter will not be for everyone because of its sensitive nature. But I do feel that the novel explores with sensitivity and understanding, the issues of consent, and of how women who have been subjected to a sexual assault are perceived by the media and the general public.

I felt like I was in the courtroom with the victim. It's an intense read, an unsettling one, and some parts, especially within the courtroom setting that went into specific details about the alleged rape, were disturbing. This feeling of unease was further heightened, as I felt like a voyeur, hearing and seeing things that should not be seen or heard. 

The issue of rape and consent are tackled with sensitivity and compassion.

Anatomy of a Scandal is a sharp, gripping and emotional court room drama that explores sexual crime from all angles. It's an uncomfortable read, but an important one and, a read that is hugely relevant today. It simply is a stunning book.

Anatomy of a Scandal is published by Simon & Schuster UK on 11 January 2018.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an Advanced Reader Copy

Thursday, 21 September 2017

In a Cottage in a Wood by @CassGreenWriter

About In a Cottage in a Wood

Her dream home will become her worst nightmare…

A dark and twisty psychological thriller from the No.1 ebook bestselling author of The Woman Next Door.

A strange encounter

Neve comes across a troubled woman called Isabelle on Waterloo Bridge late one night. Isabelle forces a parcel into Neve’s hands and jumps to her death in the icy Thames below.

An unexpected gift

Two weeks later, as Neve’s wreck of a life in London collapses, an unexpected lifeline falls into her lap – a charming cottage in Cornwall left to her by Isabelle, the woman on the bridge. The solution to all her problems.

A twisted secret

But when Neve arrives, alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister-looking bungalow with bars across its windows. And her dream home quickly becomes her worst nightmare – a house hiding a twisted secret that will change her life forever…

My review of In a Cottage in a Wood

I'll start by just saying that I absolutely loved this book. What a fantastic read. This dark thriller hooked me from the very beginning!

In a Cottage in a Wood revolves around Neve, a woman in her thirties who seems to be lost in life. Having recently broken up from her long term boyfriend, Neve is living with her sister, brother-in-law and their two children. She is working in a job that she does not love but which pays the bills. Her life dramatically changes one night when walking home alone after a disastrous Christmas works' party and one night stand. While crossing Waterloo Bridge, she spots a woman alone, who is inappropriately dressed and whom she thinks needs help. She stops to talk, against her better judgement, and offers the woman money for the night bus. But what she gets is a parcel thrust into her hand and a parting cryptic message, before the woman jumps to her death. This is when the real story begins.

The pace is deliciously slow, as we follow Neve to Cornwall. Isabelle, the woman on the bridge, made a death bed wish of bequeathing her home to Neve. The contents and everything within it now belong to her. So with nothing to lose, and with Neve seeing this opportunity as a chance to re-evaluate her life, she makes the instant decision to head to her now new home.

The contrast between bustling inner city London and the quiet of the Cornish countryside are startling on the page. As soon as Neve enters the cottage there is a definite sense of foreboding. The descriptions of the cottage are detailed, so that I felt I was living there with Neve. I also liked the clever way in which the cottage echoed Neve's feelings and where she was at that moment in time. The cottage appeared to be a cold and uninviting space, a place where Neve did not belong. The remoteness of the cottage is also heightened because Neve does not drive. She almost appears to be trapped, the cottage drawing her in, keeping her captive. But she feels she has to stay, to figure out who Isabelle was and why she took her life. It consumes her.

This is such a clever read. When Neve suspects that all is not right with the cottage she begins to question those around her. Isabelle's brother, Richard, who lives nearby and the couple whom she quickly befriends. The real question is who can she trust?

In a Cottage in a Wood is a psychological thriller that has a big twist that I honestly didn't see coming. It held my attention, was entertaining and thoroughly creeped me out. It really is  a fabulous read!

In a Cottage in a Wood is published by Harper Collins on 21 September. It can be found on Amazon here.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Red Ribbon @historywardrobe @HotKeyBooks

About The Rec Ribbon

Rose, Ella, Marta and Carla. In another life we might all have been friends together. But this was Birchwood.

For fans of The Diary of Anne Frank and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients.

Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz, as readers may recognise it. Every dress she makes could mean the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival.

Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive. Is her love of clothes and creativity nothing more than collaboration with her captors, or is it a means of staying alive? Will she fight for herself alone, or will she trust the importance of an ever-deepening friendship with Rose?

One thing weaves through the colours of couture gowns and camp mud - a red ribbon, given to Ella as a symbol of hope.

My review of The Red Ribbon

The Red Ribbon is a YA novel like no other I have ever read. This book is a poignant and gripping read about the realities of life during the Holocaust. This is an important story and one which is highly emotive. due to the subject matter.

I wasn't too sure about what to expect from this book. Although set during the horrors of the Holocaust, this story predominantly revolves around the four female central characters, Rose, Ella, Marta and Carla, in the telling of Ella's story, and this in turn reinforces the human emotions of that era, of how the Holocaust affected those living and working within Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

This book was a real eye opener. I never knew that women were held captive, enslaved to make dresses. This is also why the novel works very well as a YA read. The sense of what is happening and the suffering tied to those atrocities is clearly evident between the lines, but the book does not go into the full details of the horrors of war. As I said, this novel is very much about the human emotions of the women and girls who were part of the camp community.

Ella is at the heart of this story. She is only fourteen- years-old and we start the book as she begins her first day at 'Birchwood' the real Auschwitz-Birkenau, within the tailoring studio. I read with fascination as there would have been a girl like Ella working at the camp, and this made the story so visceral for me. It caught my breath as I read the unfolding words. The motions of making a dress from the finest silk was not so much about creating a dress for the enemy, but rather about survival, and this is the absolute crux of this book. Learning to survive, making the most of what you have and being kind in the most difficult of circumstances.

The human aspect of this novel is its driving force. I read to revel in the human reactions, the relationships that were formed because they had to, not out of choice, and of how beauty could be present during times of great evil. This is a morality read, as what would you do under the circumstances to survive? That is the big question that is asked here.

The Red Ribbon is an uplifting story, one of hope and of how women are stronger together than being alone. This is a remarkable book and one that is of huge importance to this moment in our history.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.

The Red Ribbon is published by Hot Key Books on 21 September. It can be found on Amazon here.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Trysting Tree by Linda Gillard

About The Trysting Tree

A century of secrets...
Four women live in the shadow of the Trysting Tree.
All have something to hide.

A man without a memory walks away from the Somme battlefield, while a young woman grieves beneath the tree that will guard her secret for a hundred years.

Ann de Freitas doesn’t remember what she witnessed when she was five. The truth lies buried in the beech wood, forgotten for forty years. Can love unlock Ann’s heart and mind?

Connor Grenville is restoring the walled garden where his grandmother, Ivy used to play. Before her death, she tried to destroy the family archive. Who was Ivy trying to protect? And why?

When a storm fells the Trysting Tree, revealing a century-old love hidden in its hollow heart, Ann and Connor begin to sift through the past in search of answers. What they discover changes everything.

“The story doesn’t start here. I need to go back. Back to a time when the beech tree still stood, when I didn’t know the truth about my family and Connor didn’t know the truth about his. Right back to a time when the twentieth century was young and the beech still kept its secrets…”

My review of The Trysting Tree

 How do I find the words to describe this beautiful book? I honestly don't think that I can do this book the justice it deserves, but I'll do my very best. The Trysting Tree is a nostalgic, romantic, and emotional read rooted firmly in reality. It is quite simply breathtaking.

The story is told both in the present day, 2015, and during the First World War in the year 1915. The storytelling is lyrical, almost poetic at times, especially in the letters that are revealed and from the beech trees in the wood where all of the characters lived. There is such an honest and raw quality to the writing, which is a constant theme throughout Linda Gillard's novels. I first fell in love with her writing having read Star Gazing, that was then shortly followed by the devouring of Emotional Geology. In each and every book we have female characters that are utterly believable and who I can relate to, and this book is no exception.

The novel really helps to shed light on the emotional impact of war, and how it altered the women who were left behind. We hear Hester's views via her journal entries, and although from over one hundred years ago, the fact that we are reading her views in this format, made them appear very relevant and modern.

Relationships are at the heart of this novel. We have the relationship between mother and daughter, both past and present. The relationship between Ann, and her mother Phoebe, is incredibly poignant. Phoebe is a woman who has struggled with motherhood, who says she is not maternal, but there is a warmth to her, and a likeability, that I couldn't shrug off. Deeply flawed, yes, but realistic, I couldn't help but like her. We also have the romantic relationships, both past and present, and although a hundred years apart, share similarities. Both encounters were a joy to read. 

The house and wood are pivotal to this story, as is the garden, for both stories. The imagery that is conveyed on the page is just magical and whimsical and echoes the romantic and nostalgic mood that has been created. The beech trees even have their own voice, and their message at the end  of the book nearly made me weep.

The Trysting Tee is such a beautiful and moving book about love, family and the devestaing events of war. It really is a must read.

The Trysting Tree was published on 11 Sept. 2016 and can be found on Amazon here.

With thanks to the author who sent me a paperback copy for review purposes.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club by Chrissie Manby

About The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club

In the quaint seaside town of Newbay, a beginner's cookery course is starting. And three very different students have signed up...

Liz's husband has left her for a twenty-something clean-eating blogger, and she's determined to show the world - and her daughter - she's just as capable in the kitchen. John, newly widowed after fifty years of marriage, can't live on sympathy lasagnes forever. To thirty-year-old workaholic Bella, the course is a welcome escape from her high-pressure job. Their only common ground: between them, they can barely boil an egg!

Enter talented chef Alex, who is determined to introduce his pupils to the comforts of cuisine. As Liz, John and Bella encounter various disasters in the kitchen, the unlikely trio soon form a fast friendship. Their culinary skills might be catastrophic - but could the cookery club have given them a recipe for happiness?

The wonderful new novel from bestselling author Chrissie Manby is perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Trisha Ashley, Cathy Bramley, and The Great British Bake Off.

My review of The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club was an absolute joy to read. After devouring several dark and grizzly crime thrillers, I felt that I needed a change of tone and pace, and this book fitted the bill perfectly. It's a gentle romantic comedy that ticks all of the right boxes. I loved it!

The main themes of the novel are food, cooking, friendship and love. This is the backbone to the four main characters that we meet. We have Liz, a dental hygienist whose husband of twenty years has run off with a food blogger and lifestyle guru Brittney. Liz has a teenage daughter, Saskia, and dog called Ted. Liz has taken the breakup particularly badly, and she can't seem to get over it, although it happened a year ago. She also can't cook and lives on a diet of ready meals. We then meet Alex, a loner and cook who is down on his luck and who sets up a cookery class, which Liz joins. Two other locals also join the class, John who is an elderly gentleman and widow, and Bella, a lawyer with a heart of gold who has lost her love of cooking.

What we read is an intricate account from each of these characters. We learn why they lost their love of food, what food means to them, and why they can't cook. The cookery class that Alex runs teaches them so much more than cooking.

This book, although funny, (there are lots of laugh out moments, many of which involve Ted the dog, and the car bonnet scene made me spit my coffee out) also has many poignant and reflective  moments. It's a much deeper book than at first you might think, because you judge it on its genre and lovely cover. The inner feelings of these characters are fully explored, and I felt as if I really knew them, that I understood them. I felt so sad when I finished the book, as I had to say goodbye to them.

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club really does have everything. It's a quick and enjoyable read, there are a couple of love themed stories, and it made me laugh. I highly recommend this book when you need a little pick me up. It's a lovely read.

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club is published by Hodder Paperbacks on 21 Sept. 2017. It cn be found on Amazon here.

With thaks to the publusher and Bookbridgr for the Advanced Reader Copy

Friday, 15 September 2017

Cold Blood @RobertBryndza @bookouture

About Cold Blood

She fell in love with a killer, now she’s one too.

The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before.

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago.

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack.

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

Brilliantly gripping, Cold Blood will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath to the heart-stopping and shocking ending.

My review of Cold Blood

Cold Blood is the fifth instalment in the Erika Foster detective series by Robert Bryndza, and I loved it. It is dark, very dark, much darker than the previous books in the series, and for me, this was my favourite book so far. 

As already mentioned, for me, this book had a darker edge, and there was one great whopping surprise that completely shocked me, but made perfect sense. Once again Erika Foster is leading her team in the search for a serial killer. A suitcase is found washed up along the banks of the River Thanes, and inside is the mutilated and dismembered body of a man. What ensues is a grizzly and frankly disturbing read, as the team try to work out who the man is and who killed him.

I can't go into any details regarding plot, as I would give the game away, and I don't want to do that. But I will say that the plot is an intricate one, involving all of the usual characters. The story weaves effortlessly from present day to past events, with the link slowly becoming evident as you progress through the book. These insights into the past both  gripped and unnerved me, and at times were very uncomfortable reading, but necessary to understand the mind of a killer.

This is a dark read, that delves into the life of a serial killer. We are given a glimpse into their life and why they act the way they do. We see the grubbier side of life, drug addiction and poverty, all told with clarity, realism and empathy. 

This really is a gripping read and I honestly couldn't put it down. The story, although harrowing, was highly addictive, and I wondered if Erika would ever get to the truth. She is the backbone of the story. We care for her. She doesn't always get things right, but at the end of the day she cares about people, and about justice, and that's why I love her. She is also an unlikely heroine, in the fact that she is so vulnerable, wearing her heart on her sleeve, and once again, she has to make some difficult decisions about her personal life. 

Cold Blood is a gritty, all consuming and compelling serial killer mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. I can't wait for the next book. 

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.

Cold Blood is published by Bookouture on 20 September. It can be found on Amazon here.


Thursday, 14 September 2017

No Way Back @kellyflorentia @urbanebooks

About No Way Back

"A brilliantly-woven tale of love, friendship, heartbreak and hope - I couldn't put it down."
Jill Finlay Fiction Editor of The Weekly News

“a must-read for anyone who loves intelligent, grown-up romance” – Louise Douglas, bestselling author of The Secrets Between Us

When two eligible and attractive men are vying for your heart, it should be the perfect dilemma...

Audrey Fox has been dumped by her unreliable fiancé Nick Byrne just days before the wedding. Heartbroken and confused, the last thing she expects when she jumps on a plane to convalesce in Cyprus is romance. But a chance meeting with handsome entrepreneur and father-of-one Daniel Taylor weaves her into a dating game she's not sure she's ready for. Audrey's life is thrown into further turmoil when she discovers on her return to London that Nick has been involved in a serious motorcycle accident that's left him in intensive care. Distraught yet determined to look to the future, Audrey must make a decision - follow her heart or listen to well-meaning advice from family and friends? Because sometimes, no matter what, it's the people that we love who can hurt us the most...

My review of No Way Back

As soon as I saw this cover and read the blurb, I just knew that this was the book for me, and that I'd love it. Well, I was right. It's a fantastic read that got my attention from the very first page.

No Way Back focuses upon the likeable and energetic character of Audrey Fox. Her life has not turned out as she planned it, and at the beginning of the book we learn that her fiancé, Nick, had ended their engagement only days before the wedding. In an attempt to heal her wounds, Audrey joins her mother and father in Cyprus for a short break. This opening sets the scene beautifully. We learn of Audrey's relationship with her parents, while enjoying the beautiful descriptions of Cypriot life.

The action then switches to London, where Audrey lives in a flat, and we follow her as she begins to get her life back on track. We meet lots of Audrey's friends, and although there are a lot of faces and names to remember, the author writes with such skill, that all are memorable and all are important.

This novel is predominantly about finding happiness, about being happy with life and living life. Audrey's preconceptions of how she had hoped her life to be were abruptly shattered when her relationship ended. But what this novel's core is all about, is that life never quite works out as you planned it. Audrey is most certainly a force to be reckoned with, and the novel works so well because of her. She is a likeable character, and although she makes mistakes, we want her to be happy. I desperately felt her pain at the loss of her relationship, but jumped for joy when she met Daniel, the man who enters her life in the most unexpected of ways. I liked Daniel and everything he stood for, but like Audrey, he too had his faults.

This is a very well written novel, packed with interesting characters, a complex and winding storyline which makes the book a very enjoyable read. There are so many surprises in this novel, and many made me gasp out loud. And as for the ending, well, I now can't wait to read book two in the series and find out what Audrey Fox gets up to next.

No Way Back is published on September 21st by Urbane Publications.

With thanks to the publisher who sent me a paperback copy for review purposes.

You can find No Way Back on Amazon here.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Should You Ask Me by Marianne Kavanagh

About Should You Ask Me

'I've come about the bodies. I know who they are.'

Just before D-Day in 1944, on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, an elderly woman walks into a police station. She has information, she says, about human remains recently discovered nearby.

The bodies could have stayed buried for ever - like the pain and passion that put them there. But Mary Holmes is finally ready to tell the truth.

The young constable sent to take her statement is still suffering from the injuries that ended his army career. As he tries to make sense of her tale, William finds himself increasingly distracted. Mary's confession forces his own violent memories to the surface - betrayals and regrets as badly healed as his war wounds.

Over six days, as pressure builds for the final push in Europe, two lives reveal their secrets. Should You Ask Me is a captivating story about people at their worst and best: raw, rich, and utterly compelling.

My review of Should You Ask Me

Should You Ask Me by Marianne Cavanagh is pure joy from the beginning to the very last word. It's a story that bridges the gap between generations, that tells of secrets, lies and deceit. It is a deliciously slow read that you need to take your time over, and I adored this slow and leisurely pace.

The novel is set in the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, just before D Day in 1944. An elderly lady, Mary Holmes, walks into a police station and says that she knows about the bodies that have been recently found in the area. She wants to confess and tell her story. William, a young officer, who was wounded in the war, both physically and mentally, is put in charge of taking her statement. But taking the statement is not a simple, nor quick task, as it takes several days, the rest of the book, for Mary to give her statement and to confess to her sins. It is this exchange between the two generations that is simply beautiful to witness.

This is a beautiful and almost poetic tale about a young woman's life. We see the old woman before us, and the rambling old woman whom we first perceived is revealed to be eloquent, caring and a woman who once lived a difficult and very different life. Mary's story captivated me. The gentle shift from present back to the past is beautifully orchestrated, and seamless. We hear Mary's story at the same time as William, and I couldn't wait for her to visit the police station each morning to resume telling  her story.

But this story is not just about Mary's past, it is also about William's former life. He, like me, thought that Mary had nothing of significance to say, but we were both wrong. The telling of Mary's story helps him to unearth his own demons and to face his own past. He enables her to tell her tale, but she helps him in more ways than he could ever have imagined.

Should You Ask Me is a story about two different generations, who ultimately share a common bond, that of loss. Both have their own story to tell. This was such a joy to read and I can't praise it highly enough. If you love a gentle read with lots of heart and wonderful poetic writing, then this is the book for you.

Should You Ask Me was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 18 May. It can be found on Amazon here.

With thanks to Bookbridgr and the publisher who provided a copy for review purposes.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Missing Girls @carolewyer @bookouture

One girl found dead. Another girl gone...

Long shadows danced on the tin walls. Inside the trunk lay Carrie Miller, wrapped in plastic, arms folded across her ribcage, lips sealed tight forever...

When a girl’s body is found at a Midlands storage unit, it is too decomposed for Detective Robyn Carter to read the signs left by the killer.

No one knows the woman in blue who rented the unit; her hire van can’t be traced. But as the leads run dry another body is uncovered. This time the killer’s distinctive mark is plain to see, and matching scratches on the first victim’s skeleton make Robyn suspect she’s searching for a serial-killer.

As Robyn closes in on the killer’s shocking hunting ground, another girl goes missing, and this time it’s someone close to her own heart.

Robyn can’t lose another loved one. Can she find the sickest individual she has ever faced, before it’s too late?

An utterly gripping and darkly compelling detective thriller that will have fans of Robert Dugoni, Angela Marsons and James Patterson hooked from the very start. You will not guess the ending!

My review of The Missing Girls

DI Robyn Carter and her team are back in the third book of this detective series. Having read the previous two books I couldn't wait to read this one, and by 'eck what a fabulous read it was! This series just gets better and better. I must just add that if you haven't read the previous two books, then this novel works very well as a stand alone.

This book opens with a dramatic and disturbing prologue, that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the novel. We meet a young girl who is being held captive, we have no idea where she is or who her attacker is, but what we do know is that it will end badly for this young woman. This sense of doom is then further heightened when the action switches to that of a body being found in a trunk in a self-storage unit. The victim is a young teenage girl.

Robyn is at the centre of this book, we are with her every step of the way as she tries to find the murderer, and the missing girls. She is a truly inspiring and captivating character, whom I learn more about as time goes by. She is a woman who lost the love of her life, and her unborn child, and who now strives to protect the innocent and to make a difference in the world. She is fiercely loyal to her team and very much comes across as the woman next door. The kind of woman you could sit down with, have a cup of coffee and tell your innermost secrets, knowing that she would never tell a soul. I also loved her encounters with DCI Flint, in their disagreements, and that Robyn stood firmly in what she believed to be true. They make an excellent team.

Once again we meet Robyn's cousin Ross, who should by rights have his own PI series, I love him so much! We follow him in his own investigation, in trying to find an abducted dog, knowing that his investigation at some point will cross paths with Robyn's.

The novel is packed with twists, turns and red herrings, and you simply have to keep up with the relentless pace. And as for the ending, well, what a different kind of cliffhanger. I usually dislike books with a cliffhanger, but this one was so unexpected that I realised it suited the book perfectly. It couldn't have ended any other way.

The Missing Girls is an unsettling read, and a most enjoyable one. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

The Missing Girls is published by Bookouture on 14 September and can be found on Amazon here.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Her Husband's Lover @thatjuliacrouch @headlinepg

About Her Husband's Lover

She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start.

Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.

Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her until she died if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.

But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie.

And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her - the life she would have had if Sam had lived.

Her husband's lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?

My review of Her Husband's Lover

Her Husband's Lover is a domestic noir that I thoroughly enjoyed. This book has two interesting and captivating female voices as narrators, and their intertwined stories hooked me in from the very beginning.The book is told from two alternating point of views, both in the past and present. We have Louisa, the widow, whose husband Sam and two children were killed in a car crash. Sophie is the mistress, pregnant with Sam's child, and who is also grieving. 

This book is a slow burner of a read, in true domestic noir style, as there needs to be a build up of tension, we need to understand the characters. I think it's fair to say that neither of these women were likeable. But, this didn't really matter, they were truly captivating characters and although not likeable, I wanted to understand them and their actions. Ultimately, I cared about them. 

Although this book is told from two different point of views, it isn't confusing, as you know exactly who is talking. What I loved was the fat that there were two unreliable narrators. Who was telling the truth? Both women are pretty manipulative although living entirely different lives and from different classes. But this is what makes the novel so enjoyable, the fact that they are very different, from different walks of life and with their own personal agendas. 

This is a dark and unsettling psychological thriller that gripped me at page one. It is a twisted tale, and what you think that you know and understand is turned completely on its head. This book challenges you and the assumptions that you make. From this point of view it is a very clever read. 

Her Husband's Lover is a dark read, and one that raises many questions. Who is telling the truth? What really happened? The ending truly shocked me, I honestly didn't see it coming. This is the first novel I have read by Julia Crouch, and I look forward to reading many more. It really is an entertaining and disturbing read. 

Her Husband's Lover was published by Headline on 26 Jan. 2017. It can be found on Amazon here.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Life Assitance Agency @TomAngel1

About The Life Assistance Agency

Do you want to live forever? is THE question facing anyone pursuing immortality. But what happens when eternal life is disappointing, and everyone around you keeps dying?

Ben Ferguson-Cripps, a struggling writer with a surname that gets more attention than his creative endeavours, sets aside his literary ambitions to join the mysterious Life Assistance Agency. Their first case is to trace a missing person with links to the Elizabethan angel-caller Dr John Dee.

Pursued by a shadowy organisation - and the ghosts of Ben's past - the trail leads through Europe into the historic streets of Prague, where the long-buried secrets of Dr Dee's achievements are finally revealed, and Ben discovers there is far more to life than simply living…

My review of The Life Assistance Agency

The Life Assistance Agency by Tom Hocknell has been on my to be read pile for a very long time. But during the summer holidays I found time to sit and devour this beautiful, quirky, intelligent and highly unique book. I loved it for being different and for having such a unique voice. This book is part thriller, part historical novel, part comedy and with a dash of fantasy thrown in for good mesure. Now, for me, this mish mash of genres worked, all because of the likeable and male protagonist, Ben Ferguson-Cripps. It also reminded me of the great  Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, because of its wit and sarcastic humour.  

The novel begins when new author, Ben, is told by his agent that sales for his debut novel are not good, not good at all. He is struggling to pay the rent, and is in desperate need of some income. As luck would have it he finds a business card for The Life Assistance Agency, who do everything and anything that a customer wishes. It is run by Scott, an old friend of Ben's, who employs him on the spot. His first case is that of the missing Mr. Foxe, an eccentric academic and angel caller, and so the fun begins.

This book is quirky, and you never quite know where it is headed, but that is what I loved about it. The pair travel across Europe, while being chased by two men from The Society of Psychic Research, and these are two men who you do not want to bump into down a dark alley. 

The emphasis of the novel is that of scrying for angels, something which Mr. Foxe does, and which the great spiritualist John Dee, also did. I'll admit to knowing nothing about scrying (I did a quick Google) but all was explained wonderfully well in the novel. It was also clearly evident to me that the author has carried out extensive research on the subject. What I loved was that the historical aspects of the narrative, involving Jon Dee, were brought vividly to life via this extensive knowledge in the depiction of Jane Dee's diary entries. These passages of the book were simply wonderful. 

The writing is sharp, the pace fast and the story a joy to read. It's unlike anything that I've ever read before. From the moment I met Ben, I felt like I knew him, and enjoyed being with him on every step of his journey. The Life Assistance Agency is a quirky, fabulous read. I highly recommend it.  

The Life Assistance Agency was published by Urbane Publications on 22 September 2016. It can be found on Amazon here.