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Thursday, 27 September 2018

#TheWinteThatMadeUs @katehaswords @AccentPress

About  The Winter That Made Us

When Tess finds herself unexpectedly alone and back in Ribblemill, the childhood village she thought she’d escaped, she’s sure she can survive a temporary stay. She’s spent a lifetime making the best of things, hasn’t she?

Determined to throw herself into village life, Tess starts a choir and gathers a team of volunteers to restore the walled garden at Ramblings, the local stately home. Everything could be perfect, if she weren’t sharing a cottage and a cat with a man whose manner is more prickly than the nettles she’s removing…

As winter approaches, Tess finds herself putting down her own roots as fast as she’s pulling them up in the garden. But the ghosts of the past hover close by, and Tess must face them if she’s to discover whether home is where her heart has been all along.

My review of The Winter That Made Us

Oh my heart! Kate Field has only gone and done it again with another beautiful heartfelt and poignant story set deep within the Lancashire countryside.  I LOVED everything about this book. It was a joyous and comforting read from beginning to end, and will be sure to warm up the coldest of nights. It's just so beautiful.

The Winter That Made Us is a touching story about two lost and damaged souls who are thrown together in a tiny village where everyone knows your business. Tess is back home from the big city after waving her husband off to work overseas. She tells her parents that he'll be gone for a year, hence why she has come back home. From the very moment I met Tess on the page I knew that there was so much more to this story, and  surrounding the relationship with her mother; what we see on the surface isn't always what's inside.

Tess rents a room in Cobweb Cottage, and while she accepts this offer from Cassie, it's owner, so too does Noah, after receiving the same offer from Barney,  Cassie's husband. So, these two characters set up a shared home under the roof of Cobweb Cottage and what follows is a truly magical, poignant and consuming story.

The real star of this book for me, was Noah. He won my heart from the very first moment I met him. Here is a man with a damaged soul who thinks he will never be whole again. I was deeply invested in his story. I wanted everything to work out for him. For him to be happy and to have a real place in the community. There is such beautiful writing surrounding this character, in the fact that he is a man of nature, of the outdoors, that he smells of the earth and fresh air.

This book does tackle serious issues, and a huge theme is that of mental health. It was obvious to me that the author had done much research surrounding walled gardens (I now must visit one) and the fact that gardening and having your hands in the  soil is not only beneficial for physical health, but is also good for the mind and soul.

This book really is a heart-warming read. It's a book about community, that there is a place for everyone and that at the end of the day we are all the same, in that we need to feel loved and be able to give love. This book broke, and then mended my heart. A gorgeous, uplifting and poignant read. All the stars. 

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

The Winter That Made Us is published by Accent Press and is available to buy now

Monday, 24 September 2018

The Cold Cold Sea @LindaHuber19

About The Cold Cold Sea

They stared at each other, and Maggie felt the tightness in her middle expand as it shifted, burning its way up… Painful sobs rose in her throat as Colin, his face expressionless now, reached for his mobile and tapped 999.

When three-year-old Olivia disappears from the beach, a happy family holiday comes to an abrupt end. Maggie is plunged into the darkest nightmare imaginable – what happened to her little girl?

Further along the coast, another mother is having problems too. Jennifer's daughter Hailey is starting school, and it should be such a happy time, but the child has become moody and silent. Family life has never seemed so awkward, and Jennifer struggles to maintain control.

The tide ebbs and flows, and summer dies, but there is no comfort for Maggie, alone now at the cottage, or for Jennifer, still swamped by doubts.

My review of The Cold Cold Sea

The Cold Cold Sea is a story that unsettled me. It's a story about the bonds of family, about caring for a child and of the emotional and physical frailties following the disappearance of a child The subject matter is dark, with beautiful and stark writing that cannot help but touch the soul. It's a chilling read about human fragility. I loved this book.

The book has has three interweaving stories At first we meet Maggie and her husband Colin, who while on holiday in Cornwall suffer a family tragedy, when their three year old daughter goes missing, and is believed to have been lost at sea. We read Maggie's thoughts and feelings during this period,  of how she blames herself. We watch a family slowly unravelling under the emotional pressure.

The story also focusses upon Jennifer who is mother to five year old little girl. Her daughter is moody and it's obvious that there are deep rooted problems. Jennifer has to deal with this alone as her husband is away in America, at the bedside of his dying grandmother. The strain in their relationship is palpable on the page, as is the strain and difficulties between mother and daughter.

Although this book is beautifully written, the prose set against the wildness of the Cornish coast, it was a difficult book to read due to the subject matter. Any book that focusses upon a missing child is difficult to read, but the author manages to tackle this subject with sensitivity and great care, so that what you then get is an insightful and  engaging read, that you simply can't put down. Although I guessed pretty early on the 'how', I wanted to understand the 'why'. This is the central core of this psychological chiller.

The Cold Cold Sea is one dark and unsettling read.  This book sent chills down my spine and left me thinking about the characters long after the final words.

With thanks to the author for providing a copy for review purposes.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

#TurningLeftAroundTheWorld @dcmooreauthor

 About Turning Left Around the World

 For some people, retirement dreams consist of comfy slippers and gardening. Not so David and Helene whose dream was of adventure. They presented Audley Travel, specalities in creating tailor-made journeys to all corners of the globe, with the challenge of exploring the history, landscape, wildlife, people and food in fifteen countries over ten months. Fortunately, they were up to the task so David and Helene traded their slippers and gardening gloves for 53 flights, 30 trains, 8 boats, 3 cruise ships, 1 light aircraft, 1 hot air balloon, a motorbike and sidecar, countless speedboats, taxis, tuk-tuks, cyclos, bicycles. And a disobedient horse. Turning Left Around The World is an entertaining account of their adventure, often intriguing, frequently funny and occasionally tragic. Share their adventure, enjoy the surprises and meet some fascinating people with some unusual customs. There are over 100 colour images to enjoy as you travel with the intreped explorers.

My review of Turning Left Around the World

Turning Left Around the World allows you to go on an epic journey without leaving your armchair. It's part guidebook, part memoir and simply an immersing and interesting read.  If you love to travel, or read about those countries you've always dreamed of visiting, then you'll enjoy this book.

The book is divided into different sections, with each section devoted to a country that David and Helene visited. It's in an easy to read and enjoyable format, and what's more, a host of wonderful photographs accompany each chapter, so you get to see where they visited, helping to enhance what you read.

I love these type of travel guides that share the nitty gritty realities of travelling. Nothing is left unsaid and I really did feel as if I was on the journey with them. We get to read the conversations between them as they work out where to go and what to do. I loved this insight.  But for me, it was those little gems that they shared, that only someone who had visited a country and immersed themselves in the culture could possibly know,  these moments were truly special.

I read this book from beginning to end, so I followed their chronological journey, but you could also easily dip in and out of his book, focusing on your favourite places to visit. It's a book that can be used as an insightful travel guide, or as I did, to simply learn more about a country's culture and everyday life. It's a remarkable story about a couple who refused to wear those slippers after retirement. It's a lovely read.

With thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour, and to the publisher for a paperback copy for review purposes.

 About the author

 David owned and managed a London marketing agency for 15 years, creating advertising campaigns to promote iconic international brands including Mars, Kellogg’s, Disney and Coca-Cola. Following the sale of his agency in 1999 he became one of the leading Consultant Marketing Directors in the UK, steering business in the launch or re-launch of their consumer brands including B&Q, Direct Line and RBS. David lives in Berkshire with his wife Helene. There is far more on the interactive website: 

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Monday, 17 September 2018

#ToymakersBlogTour @Robert_Dinsdale

About The Toymakers

An enchanting, magical novel set in a mysterious toyshop - perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and Stephanie Garber's Caraval by way of Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist

It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.

The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.

But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own...

My review of The Toymakers 

The Toymakers is a book that is full of magic and love and possibility. It's a book that brings out the child in us all, as it so wonderfully blends the magical and everyday worlds together. I loved every page of this enchanting saga. it was a sheer delight to read.

The novel begins in 1917 when Cathy leaves her small seaside town to travel to London, after seeing an advert for Papa Jack's Emporium in the newspaper. This is the very beginning of Cathy's story, and of us learning about the magical inhabitants of the Emporium. It is here that we meet the brothers, Emil and Kaapar, the two sons of Papa Jack. Both young men are very different, and from the offset I could feel the sibling rivalry between them. The two brothers and their ongoing battle and difficulties were at the very heart of this story. 

The magic of the Emporium was so beautifully and vividly brought to life. The wendy house that I would have so loved to visit; the toy boxes and the absolutely sublime paper trees. It really is a jaw dropping and 'catch your breath' type of toyshop. Unlike any you have ever known. This book taps into the childish dreams that we all have and builds upon them to weave a magical adult fairytale that I simply could not put down. It's sublime. 

Throughout the book there are the continuing themes of belonging, and of sibling rivalry, set against the backdrop of two wars. The Emporium is very much a safe space, a place for lost souls, and for those who do not belong in the outside world. The book gives so much hope, in the fact that there is a place for everyone.

The Toymakers is a novel that is full of compassion. It's about love, family, magic and childhood. It's an absolutely beautiful book, it's timeless, and I adored every page. 

With thanks to the publisher and Chloe Rose for a hardback copy of the book for review purposes. 

The Toymakers is published in paperback on 20 September by Del Rey. It is available to buy now in paperback and hardback. 

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Friday, 14 September 2018

#EdnasDeathCafe @AngelenaBoden @matadorbooks

About Edna's Death Cafe

As in life, death is not without its agenda. This is something seventy-nine year old Edna Reid finds out when her partner, Ted, suddenly dies.

To cope with her loss, she sets up a Death Cafe to break down the taboo around death and to encourage other members of the community to discuss it openly. Over tea and cake, the participants hide their fears behind a veil of dark humour.

Religious fanaticism clashes with Victorian spiritualism as Edna’s meetings trigger lively conversations on the fragility of life, anxiety over dying, cost of funerals, and making sure long-lost greedy relatives don’t benefit from inheritances.

Soon, a series of events begin to unfold which threaten to undermine Edna’s livelihood and the Death Cafe meetings. These events just happen to coincide with the arrival of a mysterious stranger into the village.

Who is she and why is she so hostile to Edna?

My review of Edna's Death Cafe

Edna's Death Cafe is a book full of honesty, poignancy, beautiful writing and lashings of dark humour. I loved reading this book. Set in a sleepy village in the very heart of the Peak District, Ms Boden has managed to write a book about death and dying that is enlightening, funny and at times, sad. It's an entertaining, yet thought provoking read.

I'll be honest and say that I had never heard of a death cafe until I picked up this book. The title alone intrigued me and  made me want to find out more. Death cafes are now becoming increasingly popular, and allow people to openly discuss death and dying while in a friendly cafe environment. I love this idea, and so does Edna, who starts her own following the death of her partner, Ted. By day, Edna runs the Happy Oatcake, no mean feat at seventy-nine, and then once a week she hosts her Death Cafe.

Edna is at the heart of this story. A sprightly elderly woman who is educated and who sees the absolute best in people. I loved her dearly. Although she sets up the death cafe to allow members of the small community to express their feelings and thoughts about death, ultimately it allows her to confront her own feelings, and gives her an outlet in which  to talk about what is happening in her life. It's such a small village that everyone knows everyone else's business, and we constantly see Edna standing at her cafe door, watching the coming and going of the inhabitants in the nearby cottages.

This is a book laced with dark humour and it made me laugh  I loved all of the  wonderful characters. Ruth the religious fanatic, who I felt great empathy towards. Manny, Edna's long term friend who I would love as my friend, and Martine, the mysterious new villager from Canada. All of the villagers have their own unique stories to tell.

The novel weaves together stories of loss, while exploring fears about dying. What is so magical about this book, is that it made me question my own mortality. Made me think about the future. It also  highlights that we should be able to talk about death in an open and frank way, that it needn't be a taboo. Edna shows us that. She's a remarkable lady. It's a remarkable book.

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

Edna's Death Cafe was published on 3 September by Matador.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Notes on a Nervous Planet @matthaig1

About Notes on a Nervous Planet

The world is messing with our minds.
Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.
- How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad?
- How do we stay human in a technological world?
- How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?
After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him. Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the twenty-first century.

My review of Notes on a Nervous Planet

Matt Haig's books always manage to soothe my soul. I feel instantly calmer once the book is in my hand. I feel ready for some much needed escapism and me time. This book is no exception. It's a remarkable book that is so incredibly raw and honest, and which talks about the absolute truth. It's a breath of fresh air.

This is Matt Haig at his absolute best. He writes about his past and present, his way of coping with life's stresses and his panic attacks. He writes from the heart and from reality. But most of all this book is real. It's almost a life's guide on how to be human, on how to reconnect with other humans, and that at times we simply need to switch off that phone for the benefit of our mental health.

For me, the reading of this book was very much about getting back to the basics, getting back to nature. Enjoying that walk with nowhere in particular to go. Just to sit and watch a sunset, or to read a good book. Today life is busy and we find ourselves ever more disconnected. This book is very much about connecting with others, and with our environment.

 It is full of wisdom and insight. One section in particular, The Beach, really resonated with me. It's about how the beach is timeless, that it existed before us and will be here long after we die. It's somewhere we can sit and just 'be' and that it doesn't care what we look like, or what we wear  it's about how we perceive ourselves to be.

This book is one of those books that you will go back to again and again. I've seen online that people have made notes in the margin of this book and have undermined their favourite parts. And I can completely understand why. It's a book that is good for our soul, for our mental health, as it reminds us that we are human. Stop stressing the big stuff, take time out to have fun with the kids and step away from your phone. This really is a must read.

I purchased my own hardback copy.

Notes on a Nervous Planet was published on 5th July by Canongate.

Monday, 10 September 2018

#AbsoluteProof @peterjamesuk @panmacmillan

About Absolute Proof

From the number one bestselling author, Peter James, comes an explosive standalone thriller that will grip you and won't let go until the very last page.

Investigative reporter Ross Hunter nearly didn’t answer the phone call that would change his life – and possibly the world – for ever.

‘I’d just like to assure you I’m not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I’ve recently been given absolute proof of God’s existence – and I’ve been advised there is a writer, a respected journalist called Ross Hunter, who could help me to get taken seriously.’

What would it take to prove the existence of God? And what would be the consequences?

This question and its answer lie at the heart of Absolute Proof, an international thriller from bestselling author Peter James.

The false faith of a billionaire evangelist, the life’s work of a famous atheist, and the credibility of each of the world’s major religions are all under threat. If Ross Hunter can survive long enough to present the evidence . . .

My review of Absolute Proof

Wow, just wow. I LOVED this book. At just shy of 600 pages, I raced through this novel unable to put it down. It has everything. A protagonist that you root for heart and soul, villains galore, car chases, and so many twists and turns with the fast moving narrative that it left me breathless.

The novel revolves around Ross Hunter, an investigative journalist, who is set on the path to prove God's existence  following a phone call from a retired academic, Dr. Harry Cooke. This starts a whole string of events, in which follows multiple murders, and Ross fighting for the truth and his life.

Ross is at the heart of this story, and the novel works because of him. He's a likeable guy, a family man who does the right thing and who has strong moral principles He's the boy next door who just happens to be an award winning journalist. I liked him immensely, and I wanted him to keep safe and to succeed in his quest.

The action never stops in this book, and I found myself travelling the world meeting a whole host of interesting and intriguing characters. The boss of the pharmaceutical company who does not believe in God, is cold and calculating, but he fascinated me. The billionaire evangelist was hilarious and conjured up many questions about faith and what it means to each and every one of us.

The search for absolute proof puts Ross in danger, as well as those he loves, but he is determined to find the truth, in the hope that he can save mankind. Whether you believe in God or not, this is a truly exciting and thought provoking book with the deep mystery of faith at its very core. It's a wonderful thriller that will get under your skin. Brilliant!

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

Absolute Proof is published on 4th October by Pan Macmillan.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

The Coordinates of Loss @MrsAmandaProwse

About The Coordinates of Loss

When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.

In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.

Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?

My review of The Coordinates of Loss

Oh my heart! This book! Where on earth do I start? It's heartbreaking and beautiful and poignant and I became fully immersed in thut story from the very first page. I've enjoyed every single Amanda Prowse book that I've had the pleasure to read, and this book is no exception.

This book is about every parent's worst nightmare, that of losing a child. It's hard to even think about this, and what Rachel and James go through is gut wrenching and difficult to read. It's an uneasy book, in the sense that you are reading an uncomfortable subject, you are thrown into the middle of what should be private, and I felt the absolute grief of both of these characters for the loss of their little boy.

Amanda Prowse writes so beautifully and with so much heart. I couldn't help but feel as if I knew Rachel and the inner turmoil that she was going through. How would you come to terms with the loss of a child at sea? I understood completely her reasons for leaving everything behind and the absolute guilt that she felt. I just wanted her to rebuild her life and to be happy.

The relationship between Rachel and James changes forever on that fateful trip. As I read, I saw the cracks slowly appearing as Rachel withdrew from him, mentally and physically. This exploration of a marriage under stress, under blame, is beautifully written and I felt its pain.

Amanda Prowse takes the most difficult subjects and tackles them head on with sensitivity, care and undrstanding. The loss of a child and breakdown of a marriage are traumatic subjects in themselves, but she manages to weave a story that touches both the heart and soul, and one that conjures up hope.

The Coordinates of Loss is a remarkable book. It features two strong female characters, in Rachel and Cee-Cee, who share an unlikely bond. This strength and courage is what ultimately begins to heal Rachel. Those feelings of guilt and blame that she has, because she feels that she did not protect her child. All of these thoughts and feelings are written  with huge sensitivity. It's a book about hope and the strength of women. It's such a special story. All the stars. 

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

The Coordinates of Loss is published on the 25 September by Lake Union.

Monday, 3 September 2018

#TheDarkestPlace @SpainJoanne @QuercusBooks

About The Darkest Place 

Island of the Lost was the isle's name long before the hospital was built. In winter, they say the fog falls so heavy there that you can't see your hand in front of your face. Storms rage so forcefully you can be blown from the cliffs. Once St. Christina's was built, the name took on a new meaning. Very few who went into that place ever left.'

Christmas day, and DCI Tom Reynolds receives an alarming call. A mass grave has been discovered on Oileán na Caillte, the island which housed the controversial psychiatric institution St. Christina's. The hospital has been closed for decades and onsite graves were tragically common. Reynolds thinks his adversarial boss is handing him a cold case to sideline him.

But then it transpires another body has been discovered amongst the dead - one of the doctors who went missing from the hospital in mysterious circumstances forty years ago. He appears to have been brutally murdered.

My review of The Darkest Place

This is the fourth book in the DCI Tom Reynolds series and I simply couldn't wait to dive on in. I loved the previous three books and once I started to read The Darkest Place I couldn't put it down. This is one disturbing and eerie read that is based upon Ireland's mental health past. It's a disturbing yet gripping read.

Once I began to read, it was like  being reunited with old friends. We have all the usual favourites, including DCI Tom Reynolds and DS Ray Lennon, who are joined by a cast of interesting characters from the island. 

The team investigate the findings of a mass grave on a remote island, the place that was home to a psychiatric hospital. The only way in and out of the island is by a small ferry boat, and that only runs when the waters are calm enough. The desolate building, coupled with the strange inhabitants of the island and buried secrets, creates a story that chills the bones. It unearths the cruel mental health practices that occurred on the island, and in Ireland in  general. While reading, you realise it really wasn't that long ago.

The findings of the mass grave coincide with the disappearance of one of the doctors who worked at the psychiatric institution , over forty years ago. Why was he murdered? What happened to him and why was his body put in the mass grave?

What this book also highlights is the era in Irish mental health health services when the doctor was all powerful. They could pretty much do as they pleased with the patient, most often women, who had no voice, nor power  The scenes that described past practices were deeply shocking, but they needed to be told, as much of this history is still taboo. People simply don't like to talk about what went on but it's important that we learn from the past, so that we never go there and do those things again 

The Darkest Place really is about the darkest place on earth, a psychiatric hospital on a remote island, where the doctors were all powerful. Both the island and the remains of the hospital  made me feel claustrophobic. It's a dark and disturbing read with many twists and turns. It's stark, compelling and I raced through the pages. Highly recommended 

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

The Darkest Place is published by  Quercus on 20th Sept.