Contact Me...

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

#FirstChapterSampler:stillMe @jojomoyes

About Still Me

Lou Clark knows too many things . . .

She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London.

She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to meet someone who's going to turn her whole life upside down.

Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it'll hurt.

Lou won't know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything.

First chapter review

Still Me is Jojo Moyes third Lou Clark novel, following the number one international bestsellers Me Before You and After You. I have read both books and upon reading the first sentence of Still Me it felt like she had never been away. Louisa Ckark is like an old friend, even after years apart, when you meet up it feels like nothing has changed. This is exactly how I felt when I read Louisa's description of standing in the immigration queue at the airport in New York, on the cusp of starting her new adventure. As ever, she is witty, funny and utterly likeable.

In this first chapter, Lou meets Nathan, her friend, the nurse who cared for Will, and who has arranged this new job opportunity for her. I love Nathan and was so happy to find that he will be part off this story.

I loved the descriptions of early Manhattan, as Lou escaped into the city in search of a cup of coffee. I've never been to New York, but felt as if I was there with her drinking my cappuccino. I was also very intrigued about Llaria, the woman who Lou bumps into while in the kitchen, searching for milk, the morning after she arrives. Llaria is incredibly antagonistic towards Lou and this piqued my interest. I also can't what to meet the Gopkin family, especially the wife.

This first chapter left me wanting more and I can't wait to read the final instalment in the Louisa Clarke trilogy when it comes out in January. 

With thanks to Michael Jospeh books and NetGalley for this first chapter sample. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Mountain by Luca D'Andrea @maclehosepress

About The Mountain

Salinger blames himself. The crash was his fault. He was the only survivor. Now the depression and the nightmares are closing in. Only his daughter Clara can put a smile on his face.

But when he takes Clara to the Bletterbach - a canyon in the Dolomites rich in fossil remains - he overhears by chance a conversation that gives his life renewed focus. In 1985 three students were murdered there, their bodies savaged, limbs severed and strewn by a killer who was never found.

Salinger, a New Yorker, is far from home, and these Italian mountains, where his wife was born, harbour a close-knit, tight-lipped community whose mistrust of outsiders can turn ugly. All the same, solving this mystery might be the only thing that can keep him sane.

Translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis

 My review of The Mountain


The Mountain is a book that I just couldn't put down. It's a fast paced thriller set in the small Italian village of Siebenhoch, nestled amongst the backdrop of the Italian Dolomites. I loved every single page. 

From the moment I read the blurb and the above tag line, I just wanted to dive on in, and from the very first sentence I found myself in this world of ice, old stories and of course, the deep canyons. 

The Mountain is told from Jeremiah Salinger (everyone calls him Salinger), the only survivor of a helicopter crash. This incident is responsible for a change in Salinger's character and wellbeing, as he finds himself depressed, with his marriage taking the strain. As a father to five-year-old Clara, she is the only one who is able to pull him out of his depression. It is while visiting the Bletterbach, a deep canyon with a visitors centre, that he overhears a conversation about three young people who were muttered there in 1985, that he finds a purpose in life, as he sets out to find the killer. 

I loved the story of a man, a writer of documentaries, who becomes obsessed with the environment in which he lives. As a New Yorker living with his wife and young daughter in the tight knit community of Siebenhoch, which is also were his wife grew up, he very much finds himself as an outsider, almost a visitor, as he tries to win his place in the community. However, after the accident on the mountain, involving the helicopter Mountain rescue team, in which he was observing and videoing the team at work, it is not only himself who he blames for what happened, the community does too. Then, when he decides to investigate what happened to the three young people on the Bletterbach, he finds further animosity as he seeks the truth. Alienating himself further from the local community.

This is Salinger's story and I hung on to every word. His tale of guilt, obsession, his downwards spiral. The remoteness of the mountains, helping to echo his own isolation, both physically and mentally.  I also particularly liked his conversations with his father-in-law, Werner, who lived nearby, as hey sat and smoked, while drinking grappa. I warmed to Werner instantly, as did Salinger.

The Mountain is a breath catching thriller, I honestly didn't know who was responsible for the killings, and my loyalties kept shifting throughout the book. Although the investigation was fascinating, as well as the back story, what truly captivated me was the writing and writing style. It is lyrical at times, and almost part fairytale. The writing is beautiful. It is a story within a story, and this author is a gifted storyteller. The Mountain really is the perfect thriller to read this Winter.

With thanks to the publisher and Bookbridgr for the hardback copy

The Mountain is published on 30 November by MacLehose Press and can be found on Amazon here.

Friday, 24 November 2017

The Lighterman @simonmichaeluk @Urbanebooks

About The Lighterman

The Lighterman is the third book in the bestselling series of legal thrillers starring barrister Charles Holborne. Simon Michael's follow up to the bestselling The Brief and An Honest Man, continues the adventures of criminal barrister Charles Holborne.

Gangland leader Ronnie Kray is not a man to forgive or forget. Holborne has 'taken liberties' and revenge will follow. But how to get at a tough and resourceful Brief with his own history of criminality and a penchant for violence? The answer: find a man who can’t be hanged twice.

Now Holborne must dig up the secrets of the past to save two lives…one of them his own.

Simon Michael brings the past vividly back to life across a beautifully rendered 60s landscape, and delivers a gripping piece of thriller fiction that will excite any fan of the Britcrime genre.

My review of The Lighterman 

The Lighterman is the third instalment in the legal thriller series staring barrister Charles Holburne. I have not read the previous two books, so can say that this book works very well as a standalone novel. This fantastic book, that is set in the 60s and at the time of the Krays, hooked me in from the very beginning. It's a fantastic thriller. 

I'll start by saying that this thriller is hugely refreshing, partly I feel because It is a legal based thriller, as we follow Charles's story, as opposed to a police procedural, plus, it's set in the 60s, so has that wonderful retro feel.  No one is glued to their iPhone or trawling the Internet, and I liked this. Charles is also a likeable character. I just couldn't help but fall a little bit in love with him, and I rooted for him, to keep safe and to seek justice. He oozes charm, is an educated man, but ultimately he talks to everyone as an equal. A cockney boy 'done good'.

The cousin Izzy was also a captivating character, that had me constantly questioning his intentions. However, even though I didn't completely trust him, I did like him, I also liked the descriptions of working on the river as a Lighteman, a term that I had never heard before. The atmospheric descriptions in this book, of when Charles worked on the barges on the River Thames with his cousin, really helped to shape the character that Charles was, and who he was to become. 

I also loved the chapters in the book that described the Kray twins. They made my skin crawl and made the novel even more sinister, with the feeling that nothing good was going to happen by being involved with them.

The Lighterman is a fast paced legal thriller with a truly likeable and interesting protagonist. I now need to go back and read the previous two books in the series. If you love thrillers with great depth, captivating characters and a few unexpected twists along the way, then you'll love The Lighterman.

I purchased my own paperback copy.

The Lighterman was published by Urbane Publications on 11th May 2017. It can be found on Amazon here.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Ours is the Winter @LaurieEllingham @HQDigitalUK

About Ours is the Winter

Erica, Molly and Noah are embarking on the challenge of a lifetime, driving Siberian huskies across the frozen wilderness of the Arctic. Cut off from the world and their loved ones and thrown together under gruelling conditions, it isn’t long before the cracks start to show.

Erica has it all. A loving husband, a successful career and the most adorable baby daughter. But Erica has been living a double life, and as she nears her fortieth birthday her lies threaten to come crashing down.

Molly was on her way to stardom. But when her brother died, so did her dreams of becoming an Olympic champion. Consumed by rage and grief, she has shut out everyone around her, but now she’s about to learn that comfort can come from the most unexpected places.

Noah has a darkness inside him and is hounded by nightmares from his past. Tortured, trapped and struggling to save his fractured relationship, he knows this journey is not going to help, but try telling his girlfriend that.

As their lives and lies become ever more entwined, it becomes clear that in the frozen wilds there is nowhere to hide.

My review of Ours is the Winter

Ours is the Winter is such a beautiful book to read. I first stumbled across Laurie Ellingham when I read One Endless Summer earlier this year. I loved this book and so was very excited to find that she had a new book out. Ours is the Winter did not disappoint. It's magical.

Set amongst the ice and snow of the Arctic, we follow three characters, Erica, Molly and Noah, as they slowly trek across the Arctic as part of the husky challenge. The way in which this landscape is portrayed is breathtaking, I could literally smell the snow and ice, I felt cold. But, what was equally interesting, was the detail about the Siberian huskies and how they helped to move people across the snow. This I found fascinating.

At the heart of this story though are the three characters. Erica, her half stater Molly, and Noah, who they meet as part of the husky challenge team. All have their secrets and all are trying to come to terms with their past in order to build a future. The isolation of the Arctic provides the perfect backdrop for them to examine their lives, and because of the isolation and need for human contact, they are inevitably thrown together, and the examination of their lives can begin.

All three characters intrigued me, and I wanted to understand what had happened to them, I'll admit that Noah, for me, was the most fascinating of the three. His story gripped me. He could not escape the trauma of what had happened to him one fatal night. He still feels trapped within his own body, and the way in which his thoughts and feelings are described on the page is just heartbreaking and utterly believable. As half sisters. Erica invited Molly on the trip to try and reconnect, to try and build up their relationship, and again this was hugely emotional to read. As we progress through the book, we slowly learn what happened to these three characters, and how they can all help each other heal.

This is a perfect book to read during those cold winter nights. It's a book about the past, but also about new beginnings. It's delightful.

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

Ours is the Winter was published on 17 Nov. 2017 by HQ Digital and can be found on Amazon here.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Waves @jacarnie @Urbanebooks

About Waves

Alex is stuck. Stuck in Essex. Stuck in his childhood home. Stuck in a job he hates. The relationship he'd been counting on all these years has finally fallen apart. He's run out of things to hope for. Anxious, uncertain and totally sober, Alex is dragged to the Outer Hebrides by his long-suffering friend, James. Somewhere between the mountains and the sea, Alex is desperate to find something to ignite a spark of life in him again. Through castles, ceilidhs, bothies, lochs, vast beaches and tiny boats, chance meetings and old friends, Alex has to learn that maybe taking responsibility doesn't mean the end of feeling free.

My review of Waves

Waves is the debut novel by Jared A. Carnie and what a beautiful book it is.

The novel revolves around Alex and how he finds himself alone and lost in the world, in terms of his personal life, work, and personal identity. This book is about Alex finding out who he is and his place in the world.

The book begins by telling us about Alex's recent breakup with his long term girlfriend. His best friend James, whose family now live in the Outer Hebrides, comes to Alex's rescue and the two young men find themselves temporarily  living in this beautiful part of the world. A place where Alex can plan his future and face his demons.

For me this book was pure escapism. I loved the descriptions of the beaches, the locals and Scottish life in general. The pace of life was much slower, more gentle and this impacted greatly upon Alex and the changes that he needed to make in his own life. Together with the calming scenery, fresh air, the love of James's family, and his friendship with Isobel, Alex finds himself being able to reflect and rebuild his life.

This is very much a coming of age novel but for grown ups. This type of novel usually focusses upon young women, so it was very refreshing and interesting to read a novel that focusses upon the inner struggle of a young man who is trying to come to terms with who he really is, and what he needs to be.

Waves is beautifully written and a gentle, slow paced read. It's a book to savour and is very much character driven. I liked Alex and this I feel is hugely important,  as you need to both like him and to root for his future for this book to have meaning and resonance.

This book is such a joy to read. It's full of hope and the fact that change is  always possible, no matter what your circumstances. I look forward to reading more by this author.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy.

Waves was published by Urbane Publications on 15 Sept. 2016 and can be found on Amazon here.

Friday, 17 November 2017

The Foster Child @JennyBlackhurst @headlinepeg

About The Foster Child

When child psychologist Imogen Reid takes on the case of 11-year-old Ellie Atkinson, she refuses to listen to warnings that the girl is dangerous.

Ellie was the only survivor of a fire that killed her family. Imogen is convinced she's just a sad and angry child struggling to cope with her loss.

But Ellie's foster parents and teachers are starting to fear her. When she gets upset, bad things seem to happen. And as Imogen gets closer to Ellie, she may be putting herself in danger...

My review of The Foster Child

The Foster Child is a gripping and disturbing read and I devoured it in a few short sittings. It's fast paced, packed with short and punchy chapters that took my breath away. I found myself completely immersed in this unsettling story about a young girl who nobody quite seems to understand. 

Imogen Reid is a child psychologist who together with her husband, finds herself back in the town where she grew up, and living in her deceased mother's house. From the very offset the scene is set for an unsettling and quite creepy read. The shocking prologue brilliantly draws you in and then the descriptions of the town and its inhabitants most certainly have a disturbing and unnatural vibe.

This book's blurb is very vague, and with good reason, so I won't go into plot specifics. It's just enough to say that Imogen in her role as child psychologist, finds herself working with Ellie, the eleven year old girl who was the only survived of a house fire that killed her family. 

Throughout the book we hear from both Imogen and Ellie, and this gave real insight into what had happened in the past. What I most particularly enjoyed was their conversations and interaction. Here is a little girl who has lost everything and who it appears, has been shunned by the local community. Why is this? What are they all afraid of ? Why can't they see the frightened and alone girl that Imogen sees?

This is such a clever read, as it is so difficult to know who to believe. Is Imogen 's version of an afraid and misunderstood little girl, correct? Or should everyone really be afraid of this little girl? While reading, my judgement kept shifting. I think that as a mother you cannot help but side with Ellie. I was on her side, but it was also hard to admit to myself that she made me feel uneasy. And as for the ending...well...just brilliant!

The Foster Child is a stunning read. It's all consuming, eerie, unsettling and it made me question the little girl before me on the page. It's a psychological thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. It's an amazing book. 

With thanks to the publisher and Bookbridgr for an Advanced paperback copy.

The Foster Child was published by Headline on 16 November. It can be found on Amazon here.


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin @HodderBooks

About The Wicked Cometh

'We have no need to protect ourselves from the bad sort
because we ARE the bad sort . . .'

'This newspaper has taken note that the past month has been remarkable for the prevalence of cases where men, women and children are declared missing. Scarcely a week passes without the occurrence of an incident of this type' - The Morning Herald, Tuesday 13 September 1831

Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and the city's vulnerable poor are disappearing from the streets. Out of these shadows comes Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the slums by any means possible.

When Hester is thrust into the world of the aristocratic Brock family, she leaps at the chance to improve her station in life under the tutelage of the fiercely intelligent and mysterious Rebekah Brock.

But whispers from her past slowly begin to poison her new life and both she and Rebekah are lured into the most sinister of investigations, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking. . .

My review of The Wicked Cometh

The Wicked Cometh is a deliciously dark historical novel that is very much a refreshing and modern read. It's a story about survival, hope, friendship, and kindness in the most darkest of times. It's a lovely book. 

Set in the grime and the heart of London, The Wicked Cometh is set during Victorian times when only the strongest and most quick witted survive. The novel revolves around the disappearances of several children in central London. What and who is behind this mystery? The novel for me worked because it was so authentic. I felt like I was wandering around the inner city streets, amongst the most deprived in the city, and then, due to a life changing event, finding myself alongside Hester as she is transported into the warmth of the Brock family. 

This book is part historical novel, part mystery and ultimately it is a love story. There are many multilayered events to this novel that make it hard to define as simply one genre. It's just enough to say that it is a highly enjoyable read. 

So, we have Hester, born to privilege, an educated young woman who through the death of her parents finds herself thrust into poverty, as she relocates to London while living with her old gardener and his wife. It is only through a chance encounter with the gentleman Mr Brock, that Hester's life path is changed forever.

This novel is refreshing as it focuses upon two very strong and inspiring female characters. Rebekah and Hester. Both women are from different backgrounds, different lives, and although Rebekah's role is to give Hester an education as part of a social experiment, it is actually Hester who inspires and teaches Rebekah. The two women complement each other and I loved the dialogue and interaction between them. 

This Wicked Cometh is beautifully written, it's deliciously slow paced which I found pleasantly surprising in contest to today's fast paced thrillers. The slow pace suited the narrative as we slowly followed Rebekah and Hester in their quest to solve the mystery of the missing children. Nothing is ever easy though, and the book proves this with several unexpected but delightful twists. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this dark, historical and mystery novel with its captivating characters and exquisite writing. It's a remarkable debut novel. 

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

The Wicked Cometh is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 8 Feb. 2018. It can be found on Amazon here.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Dark Chapter @winniemli @Legend_Press #BlogTour

About Dark Chapter

Vivian is a cosmopolitan Taiwanese-American tourist who often escapes her busy life in London through adventure and travel. Johnny is a 15-year-old Irish teenager, living a neglected life on the margins of society.

On a bright spring afternoon in West Belfast, their paths collide during a horrifying act of violence.

In the aftermath, each is forced to confront the chain of events that led to the attack.

Inspired by true events, this is a story of the dark chapters and chance encounters that can irrevocably determine the shape of our lives.

My review of Dark Chapter

Dark Chapter by Winnie Li is about the brutal rape of a young Taiwanese-American woman who is a tourist in West Belfast. Her attack happens in broad daylight while enjoying a day's hike. Her rapist is Johnny, a 15-year old boy. The book is based upon the author's own experience of rape.

I'll start by saying that I tried several times to write a concise review of this novel, but that each time I found it difficult to find the correct words. I will say that this book is hugely important, it gives a voice to women who have been abused, repressed and attacked in such a brutal and animalistic way. More importantly, it gave a voice to this author, a way to share her story through the narrative of fiction. This is a story of survival, and I hope that it is ok to use that term, as I am acutely aware that words are important when talking about women who have been victims of this type of horrific crime. So for this review I am going to talk mainly about how this book made me feel, and why I think that it is an important book.

From the very beginning we know that this young woman is raped and who the rapist is, so this is not a who done it type of read. That's not the purpose of this book. I found this book to be an exploration into the mind of the rapist, but more importantly, how the attack impacted Vivian, both psychologically and mentally. That's what this book is all about. All too often we hear about rape, but we don't get to fully understand how women are affected in every aspect of their daily lives. This book tackles this head on, from the actual rape, through to, and then after, the court case. Which leads me onto the actual rape scene. It is graphic, and I found very difficult to read, but I knew that this was the intention. To fully understand what happens to Vivian, we need to read about how she was abused sexually, and so the depiction of rape is needed. I'll be honest and say that I read the scene quickly, wishing it to be over, and afterwards I needed to have a break of a few days as the writing really shook me up, it got under my skin. 

I really did feel as if I was walking alongside Vivian, just after the rape and in the weeks and months that followed it. What she describes is authentic, and I knew that this was because the author was writing from her own viewpoint. The scene in which she needs to be photographed is incredibly poignant, as is the scene in the hospital, with what appears to be uncaring or indifferent staff. My heart went out to this woman. A woman who had been abused in the most horrific way, but that life just carried on around her. The only reference point that I could grasp at was that of a close bereavement, but of course, she had been violated in such a degrading way, and even though I felt I understood her feelings, I couldn't fully feel how she was feeling, I only think that this is possible if you have also been raped.

This book is hugely important as it openly discusses rape from the victim's point of view. It gives women who have been raped a voice, a voice which many will not have. This book now seems even more relevant with the recent #MeToo campaign.

Dark Chapter is, as the name suggests, dark. But I also feel that Dark Chapter is about hope and new beginnings. It is one chapter in this woman's life. Winnie Li writes with such brutal honesty, courage and emotion, that she made me weep. I wept for this young woman who was raped, whose life changed so dramatically at the hands of a 15-year-old boy. I'm glad that Winnie found her voice, and that she allowed us into her Dark Chapter. Thank you for writing such an important and powerful book about the strength of women.  

With thanks to the publisher for the copy of Dark Chapter and for inviting me on  the Blog Tour.

Dark Chapter recently wo the Guardian's Not The Booker Prize.

Dark Chapter was published in paperback on 1st November and can be found on Amazon here

About the author

Winnie M. Li is a writer and producer, who has worked in the creative industries on three continents. A Harvard graduate, she has written for travel guide books, produced independent feature films, programmed for film festivals, and developed eco-tourism projects. After graduating with Distinction in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths (where she was shortlisted for the Pat Kavanagh Prize 2015), she now currently writes across a range of media (including a column for The Huffington Post), runs arts festivals, and is a PhD researcher in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. She was Highly Commended for the CWA Debut Dagger 2015 and also shortlisted for the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize. She lives in London yet is somewhat addicted to travel. Dark Chapter is her first novel.

Follow Winnie online at or on Twitter @winniemli

Follow the Blog Tour

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Class Murder @LeighRussell @noexitpress

About Class Murder

With so many potential victims to choose from, there would be many deaths. He was spoiled for choice, really, but he was determined to take his time and select his targets carefully. Only by controlling his feelings could he maintain his success. He smiled to himself. If he was clever, he would never have to stop. And he was clever. He was very clever. Far too clever to be caught.

Geraldine Steel is reunited with her former sergeant, Ian Peterson.

When two people are murdered, their only connection lies buried in the past. As police search for the elusive killer, another body is discovered. Pursuing her first investigation in York, Geraldine Steel struggles to solve the baffling case. How can she expose the killer, and rescue her shattered reputation, when all the witnesses are being murdered?

My review of Class Murder

Class Murder is the tenth instalment in the Geraldine Steel police series, but it's the first book that I have read by this author, and I loved it. I can also add that this book worked for me as a stand alone novel, although I now desperately want to go back and read the previous novels in the series.

This really is a gripping serial killer read that hooked me in from the very first chapter. Geraldine Steel is now living and working in York and has been demoted to a DS. She finds herself investigating the brutal murder of a young woman who was alone in her flat, and then the murder of a young man, both of whom went to the same school, and who were in the same class, many years previously. Geraldine finds herself, together with DI Ian Peterson, in a race against time to catch the killer, before they kill again.

This book is told from several viewpoints, including the killer, and I especially enjoyed reading these chapters that gave a snapshot into the mind of someone who kills. The depiction of the killer is cleverly done, with subtlety and clear insight into why they want to kill. Most importantly the killer is utterly believable.

I really enjoyed getting to know Geraldine and her back story. She is very much the new member of staff in this story and as well as having to get used to her new working environment, colleagues and York, she is also having to deal with her own personal changes, in terms of finding herself alone in a new city, miles away from her friends and family.

This is an absorbing and compelling serial killer read that explores the mind and motive of a killer, and how the police work to track down that killer. There are a few twists that I didn't see coming, but for me, this book worked because I liked Geraldine. I liked her work ethic, her vulnerability, and the fact that she is far from perfect. She was 'real' to me, and I can't wait to read more books in this series.

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

Class Murder is published by No Exit Press on December 7 and can be found on Amazon here.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Yuki Means Happiness @A_J_Lester @johnmurrays

About Yuki Means Happiness

Diana is young and uneasy in a new relationship when she leaves America and moves halfway around the world to Tokyo seeking adventure. In Japan she takes a job as a nanny to two-year-old Yuki Yoshimura and sets about adapting to a routine of English practice, ballet and swimming lessons, and Japanese cooking.

But as Diana becomes increasingly attached to Yuki she also becomes aware that everything in the Yoshimura household isn't as it first seemed. Before long, she must ask herself if she is brave enough to put everything on the line for the child under her care, confronting her own demons at every step of the way.

Yuki Means Happiness is a rich and powerfully illuminating portrait of the intense relationship between a young woman and her small charge, as well as one woman's journey to discover her true self.

My review of Yuki Means Happiness

Yuki Means Happiness is such a beautiful book to read. This book explores Japanese culture, a differing culture, and is an interwoven mystery with two central love stories, that for a child, and for the young man Porter who is waiting patiently for Diana to come home to America. I adored this book for so many reasons and devoured it in a few days. 

The book revolves around Diana, an American nurse who many years before helped Emi, a Japanese woman, who had given birth to Yuki Yoshimura. Diana helped her attend to the baby in the month following the birth. It is then two years later that she meets the husband, Naoki, once again, and agrees to become a nanny to Yuki following the couple's separation, as it appears that Emi has left Yuki to start a new life. But to begin with Diana only hears Naoki's point of view.

So I instantly found myself thrust into Japanese life, as did Diana, and I absolutely loved the colourful descriptions, the Japanese language and characters that we stumbled upon. I have always wanted to go to Japan, and in particular Tokyo, (I love the film Lost in Translation) so I gobbled up all the Japanese culture, food and general way of life. 

The bones of this book is about the relationship between Yuki and Diana, and I particularly enjoyed the passages of the book that featured only the two of them, that helped to show me as a reader their special bond. Here is a young woman, a nurse, who takes on the role of mother and protector, and I admired her for this. 

We also have the evolving relationship between Diana and Porter (oh I loved Porter) and of how Diana gained perspective on her relationship with him because of the distance between them. This really is a story about how this young woman finds out who she is and where her life should be heading. It is also about her dealing with issues from her past that then help to shape her future. 

Yuki Means Happiness is a deceptively clever read, as nothing is as it first seems, and the cracks within the Yoshimura household soon begin to appear. The real joy is in the observing the blossoming relationship between Diana and Yuki, how Diana grows in strength and how she begins to find her place in the world. Part romance, part mystery (as to why Emi left her daughter) this really is a most beautiful and enjoyable novel that is deliciously slow paced. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

With thanks to the publisher and Bookbridgr for providing a hardback copy of the book for review purposes.

Yuki Means Happiness was published by John Murray in hardback on 27 July 2017. It can be found on Amazon here.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Birthday Girl @suefortin1 @HarperImpulse

About The Birthday Girl

Dear Carys, Zoe and Andrea

Come and join me for my fortieth birthday adventure weekend, full of mysteries and surprises
the like of which you can’t imagine.

When Joanne’s friends reluctantly accept an invitation to her birthday party, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to this weekend than they are expecting.

One of them is hiding a secret.

And Joanne is planning to reveal it…

A weekend away in a cottage in the woods sounds like fun – until no one can hear your cries for help.
Four friends.
A party to die for.
Who will survive?

My review of The Birthday Girl

The Birthday Girl is a fast paced thriller that resolves around Carys and her three friends. Joanne, Zoe, and Andrea. From the very beginning I was hooked and was very aware that these four women shared something much darker than merely friendship. This instantly piqued my interest as I wanted to know what bound these four women together. I was not disappointed.

The Birthday Girl has an ominous start and the tension gradually builds as the women leave the comfort of their own homes to go to an unknown destination, a cottage in some deep, dark woods.  It is soon evident that Joanne has organised the so called party to reveal secrets, and to gain revenge. The setting of the remote woods, away from civilisation, helps to create this feeling of foreboding and I read,  thinking to myself that nothing good was going to come from this weekend.

As the blurb suggests, many questions ae raised including who will survive? I wondered throughout what would happen to the women, and as I gradually learned more about their past and relationship with each other, the more insight I gained into each of these characters. All of them very different and with their onw unique take on what happened.The pivoting theme is that of trust. Who can Carys trust? Do we believe her version of events? What about her so called friends? It's a complex plot and nothing is as it really seems. I did have to suspend belief a few times, but I just went along with the very enjoyable plot.

The Birthday Girl is an enjoyable read. It explores female friendship in a refreshing new way. What was interesting was that although I didn't really bond with any of these women, nor really like them, they did interest me from a psychological point of view. All four are very different, and it was interesting to read how they interacted with each other.

The Birthday Girl is an enjoyable psychological thriller that had me constantly shifting my loyalties throughout the book. It's a clever read that explores the intimacies of female friendships and the extremes that we go to seek out the truth. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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

The Birthday Girl is published by HarperImpulse on 30 November and can be found on Amazon here.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard

About A Lifetime Burning

A complex family drama spanning the 20th century from the author of Kindle bestseller, HOUSE OF SILENCE.

“There has been much love in this family – some would say too much – and not a little hate."

Looking back over a turbulent lifetime, Flora Dunbar recalls an eccentric childhood lived in the shadow of her twin, Rory, a musical prodigy; then early marriage to Hugh, a handsome clergyman twice her age. Motherhood brought her Theo, the son she couldn't love, but in middle age she finally found brief happiness in a scandalous affair with her nephew, Colin.

Now Flora Dunbar is dead. But it isn’t over.

The spectre at the funeral is Flora herself, unobserved by her grieving family and the four men who loved her...

My review of A Lifetime Burning

A Lifetime Burning is an unsettling, haunting and emotional read about the different types of love within a close knit family. I will just say that due to the sensitive themes within the book, that it will not be for everyone, and to be honest, if I hadn't already read other books by Linda Gillard, I would have thought twice about reading this book. What we read is simply a woman's story about the men who played such powerful roles within her life, and who shaped the woman that she was to become. It is a beautiful story handled with great sensitivity.

We meet Flora Dunbar at the beginning of the book, as a spectre at her own funeral, and this instantly grabbed my attention. As a character, she truly captivated me, and I wanted to know what had happened to her in life, and the reason for her death. Her life was shaped by four men, her twin brother, her husband, her son, and the young nephew whom she had a brief affair with. Throughout the book, that stems from her early childhood that was somewhat eccentric and unorthodox, right through to the moment of her death, we learn why Flora is who she is. 

Every single character is important within this novel. All impacted greatly upon Flora's life, all are flawed, and all unique. We have Rory, the twin brother, a talented musician who learned to play before he could talk. Flora is forever in his shadow. Here is a man whom I couldn't get to like, no matter how hard I tried, but who stayed with me long after I had finished reading the book. Then we have Flora's marriage to Hugh, a clergyman who is much older than her. She was very young when she married him, a widower, and from the very offset it is clear that the marriage is doomed. The exploration of Flora's relationship with her brother is what shapes every other single relationship that she has. I don't think I have ever read another book that explores the twin relationship in so much detail and intensity as this book. It is quite extraordinary to read. At its heart though is a tangled love story. Of a woman who was loved and who had much love to give. 

But this is also a book that explores the relationship between women, of mother and daughter, and in particular that of Flora and Grace, her sister-in -aw. This relationship was fascinating to read. Both women are bound together because of Rory, a forced bond that is exquisitely explored. 

Flora though is the starring role. I felt great empathy towards this woman whose life was pretty much mapped out from birth. The descriptions of her life as a young mother to Theo were incredibly difficult for me to read. Here was a woman who clearly struggled with motherhood, who struggled to bond with her child, and my heart went out to her. 

A Lifetime Burning is one of those books that tackles the darker realities of life with compassion, understanding and great sensitivity. What should be a somewhat difficult read is made to be a consuming and thought provoking one because of the great skill of this writer. It's an emotional read that fully engaged me. Flora and Rory will stay with me for a long time. 

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

A Lifetime Burning can be found on Amazon here.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Girl in the Tower @arden_katherine

About The Girl in the Tower

For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya will choose a third way: magic...

The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.

Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior's training, recognises this 'boy' as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical...

My review of The Girl in the Tower

The Girl in the Tower is the second book in this magical Russian fairytale trilogy. I absolutely adored the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, and this book is just as beautiful. Set in medieval Russia, The Girl in the Tower is once again a magical and enjoyable fairytale that transported me to another world.

Once again we follow Vasya, now a young woman who has to make a dramatic life choice. She will either be forced into marriage or will have to live in a convent. So what does she do? Neither of these things, as she has the power of magic. Set within a world of unrest, we meet bandits, observe burning villages, while 
the members of the court of the Grand Prince of Moscow try to defend their kingdom and quell the unrest. It is here that they meet  a 'boy' riding a horse, who only Sasha, the priest,  recognises as Vasya, his younger sister. He keeps her identity secret, and what ensues is a fantastical tale of survival, courage and friendship.

This is such a beautiful story. Vasya is a feisty, courageous and most likeable heroine. Instead of fleeing her beloved Moscow she decides to stay and fight, to protect her homeland when she could have chosen the easy way out, but Vasya stays amongst the burning villages deciding to trust her heart and to defend what she believes in. I love this character, a protagonist who is such a strong female role model for younger female readers.

We are also re-ntroduced to Vasya's older sister, Olga Vladimirova and her children, and it this character who helps to explain the difficult times in which they live, as we read her worries and concerns regarding the future. The two sisters are polar opposites, one married with children, a life of domesticity, while the other is perceived as wild and carefree,  and I loved these differences. Olga's quiet existence and life of privilege creates a stark contrast to the life that Vasya is living, which makes her life even more exciting to read about.

The Girl in the Tower is a fairytale for grownups and I devoured every page. It is beautifully written, packed with action and characters that are both intriguing and likeable. This really is the perfect book to curl up with this Winter.

The Girl in the Tower is published by Ebury on 25 Jan 2018. It can be found on Amazon here.

With thanks to NetGalley and the pusher for the Advanced Reader Copy.