Tuesday, 1 December 2020

CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY (UK ONLY)


Well 2020 has been quite a year, to say the least.  Thank goodness for books; there's never been a better time to escape between the pages of a good novel.  Now that December is upon us, I thought it would be a good time to run a fabulous festive giveaway.  Not only do you get the chance to win an absolutely wonderful book, you also get some lovely tea to drink while you're reading.  

One lucky winner is in for a real treat as I loved Only Human by Diane Chandler (you can read my review HERE) and I've recently tried Duke of Earl Grey from Leafy Bean Co and it's the BEST Earl Grey tea I have ever tasted (you can read my review HERE).

Thank you to Diane Chandler for providing a paperback of Only Human and a Moondance bookmark and to Leafy Bean Co for providing 3 different flavoured boxes of their tea bags.

So get clicking, tweeting and following!  GOOD LUCK!

You could win all this:



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
No purchase is necessary to enter the prize draw. 
Entries are open to UK residents only.
Entries must be received by 11:59pm 7 December 2020.
All entries will be checked and any found to be incomplete or ineligible will be disqualified.
The draw will be made at 10am on 8 December 2020 and the winner will be notified by email the same day.
The winner will be required to provide their postal address to claim the prize.
The prize will be posted within 5 days of being claimed.
If the prize is not claimed within 7 days another winner will be chosen.
No compensation will be given for a prize that has been lost in the post.
By entering the draw you are accepting the terms and conditions listed above.

Monday, 30 November 2020

BLOG TOUR: Sins of the Father - Sharon Bairden


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

Trauma runs deep

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

Truth will out

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

Forgive his sins

But someone must pay for the sins of the father…


What did I think?

Yowzers!  This book is dark; if it was a Pantone it would definitely be Vantablack.  Of course just looking at the absolutely stunning but disturbingly dark cover, it doesn't claim to be anything other than dark.  

Sharon Bairden is a well-known established book blogger and now she has a foot in both camps as a debut author.  I have to say that her writing is very accomplished for a debut author and I was very impressed.  The storyline itself is so harrowing and Sharon's expressive writing brings it further to life, not only making my skin crawl but making me feel like I needed a shower at the end of certain chapters.

I don't want to say too much about the plot other than what is in the blurb but Rebecca sure is determined to destroy Lucas, her husband.  I was really torn in my feelings for the main characters: can you ever really feel sorry for a monster?  There are always two sides to every story but once you're set on revenge, there's no going back.

It's always fun to see characters named after people you know, albeit virtually, and it was really nice to see Sharon Bairden paying homage to her friends by naming characters after them; it's like a who's who of A-List book bloggers.  

Sins of the Father is a brilliant debut; it's an uncomfortable read with a dark and twisty plot that sent shivers down my spine.  Well done, Sharon!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from:
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About the author:

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






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Friday, 27 November 2020

337 - M. Jonathan Lee


337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note.

While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby.

Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth.

Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems. 


What did I think?

Oh my goodness, this book completely blew me away.  The writing is sublime and the story is so powerful and thought-provoking that you can't help but look back over your own choices in life.  The book title is also a little quirky, I'm not sure whether it means something particular (I was wondering weeks or months) but if you've ever keyed in 5376616 on your calculator and turned it round to spell giggles, you'll see the magic behind the title.

Before I talk about the story, I have to mention the book format.  I'm not usually a fan of hardbacks, simply because they're not the easiest to read in bed, but 337 is just the perfect size and weight to make it easy to handle, wherever your preferred reading location.  It's also worth pointing out that the beautiful hardback edition has a double cover of light on one side and dark on the other.  It doesn't matter which way round you start reading as the book directs you to flip over when required and I loved this quirky touch.  You obviously don't get that on kindle!

I love the way the story starts very visually by zooming in from above onto a family picnic.  The family may appear normal from the outside, but drill down a bit further and they are far from happy.  Family is at the heart of this novel as past and present actions are examined and the various mysteries of the Darte family are revealed.  It wasn't just the questions zooming around my head that kept me rapidly turning pages, it was also the perfect fluidity of M. Jonathan Lee's breathtaking prose.

There are times when nothing much is happening but far from being boring, my eyes were glued to the page by M. Jonathan Lee's ability to wonderfully describe the minutiae of the mundane.  What a talent!  It's so very thought-provoking seeing how our actions impact others, how two people can recall the same memory very differently and how we wait too long to build bridges (when it can never really be too late).  The Darte family aren't just dysfunctional, they are fractured into so many small pieces that they can never be put back together, especially when pieces are missing.

337 is a heartbreaking novel of love, loss and the snowball effect of our actions.  As the final word caused me to gasp out loud I could see the whole story rewinding in my mind and playing an alternative version, rather like the double cover of the book itself.  Absolutely brilliant, 337 is a literary masterpiece and I really want to read it again to appreciate the fine nuances.  Take a bow, Mr Lee; bravo!

Thank you to Hideaway Fall for sending me a beautiful hardback to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:


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Thursday, 26 November 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Diabolical Bones (The Brontë Mysteries) - Bella Ellis

 

It's Christmas 1845 and Haworth is in the grip of a freezing winter.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are rather losing interest in detecting until they hear of a shocking discovery: the bones of a child have been found interred within the walls of a local house, Top Withens Hall, home to the scandalous and brutish Bradshaw family.

When the sisters set off to find out more, they are confronted with an increasingly complex and sinister case, which leads them into the dark world of orphanages, and onto the trail of other lost, and likely murdered children. After another local boy goes missing, Charlotte, Emily and Anne vow to find him before it's too late.

But in order to do so, they must face their most despicable and wicked adversary yet - one that would not hesitate to cause them the gravest of harm . . .


What did I think?

After admiring the absolutely gorgeous cover, I squealed with delight when seeing one of my favourite things printed on the endpapers: a map!  It's not just for decoration either; I found it really useful to refer back to the map as the story progresses to put into perspective how far the Brontës must travel (mainly on foot) to get to their various destinations.  I have to share a photo of the endpapers as they are so fabulous.


Although I have read The Vanished Bride, the first book in The Brontë Mysteries series, you can definitely read The Diabolical Bones as a standalone because other than the continuation of the characters' lives, it's a completely separate mystery.  With a poignant undertone, the story begins in 1852 with Charlotte, the last remaining Brontë sibling, reminiscing about a mysterious case in Christmas 1845 that she and her siblings investigated.

It is a freezing December night when the bones of a young child are discovered hidden in a chimney breast in Top Withens Hall.  Rather fortuitous for our nosy spinsters, their brother Branwell is friends with the owner's son which allows them to gain access to the house.  The owner is reluctant to let the sisters see the bones as he wants to bury them on his land but this doesn't deter the sisters as they are determined to identify the child.  When another child goes missing, it seems like something sinister is afoot in Yorkshire.

What an absolutely brilliant mystery!  I'm not going to say anything about the plot for fear of inadvertently spoiling it for others, other than to say it was very well done indeed.  Neither fast nor slow paced, I found the pacing to be just perfect to allow me to be fully consumed by the life of the Brontës.  

The sisters are just reaching out to publishers with their poetry and Bella Ellis includes two wonderful poems by Emily and Anne at the beginning and end of The Diabolical Bones.  At a time when women were to be seen and not heard, we can see how difficult it was to be a woman in the 19th century, always having to rely on men to gain access to places or giving the illusion that they are working for men.  The sisters do have Branwell for this, but he's pickled in gin most of the time!  As I was reading I could see the germination of ideas for their novels as the locations are described so exquisitely that you can't help but wonder if a certain place was the inspiration for Thornfield Hall, Wuthering Heights or Wildfell Hall.  This is something that Bella Ellis explores further in her Author's Note but it really does come through in the wonderful prose.

I simply adored The Diabolical Bones.  The history of the Brontë family interwoven with a fabulous mystery results in a compelling, exquisite and fascinating novel.  An absolute treasure of a novel, I can't recommend it highly enough and I didn't hesitate for a second before awarding the full five stars.

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a beautiful hardback to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Tuesday, 24 November 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Introvert Bears Filthy Witness - Michael Paul Michaud

 

Newly estranged from Donna, The Introvert is selected as one of twelve jurors on a notorious murder trial, forcing him to navigate a litany of uncomfortable social interactions, this time with no avenue of escape. Equal parts harrowing and hilarious, The Introvert Bears Filthy Witness is the third entry in the life of one very anti-social and unexpected anti-hero. 


What did I think?

The Introvert Bears Filthy Witness is the third book in the fantastically quirky introvert series and you could totally read it as a standalone but it'll be better to read it as part of the series to fully understand the main character and his foibles.  Although I think Michael Paul Michaud's introvert series won't be everyone's cup of tea, I absolutely love these books.  An introvert myself, although not to the degree of our unnamed anti-hero, I can really empathise with the main character and his discomfort in social situations. 

Michael Paul Michaud has completely nailed the character of the introvert.  Anyone with any introvert tendencies will recognise the following qualities of our main character: an unwillingness to be around people, a desire to draw as little attention to himself as possible and talking as little as possible, especially to people he doesn't know or care about i.e. most people he meets.  His social awkwardness reminds me a little of Forrest Gump and he seems even more Gumplike when our introvert shares a wonderful little pearl of wisdom about old people being like unopened gifts...  I'll not finish the sentence as I don't want to spoil it for others, but it's so completely charming that I'll never forget it.

In this instalment, the introvert is called up for jury duty and his literal analytical brain makes him perfect for such an important task.  He focuses on parts of the case that others skip over as unimportant and causes no end of conflict with his fellow jurors.  I love a courtroom thriller so I really enjoyed this part of the book as I joined the jurors in sifting through the evidence to find out what really happened.

Putting our introverted anti-hero into such a stressful social occasion seemed to mess with his wiring a bit, especially when he's going through a rocky patch in his relationship.  As he becomes more and more of an unreliable narrator, there are plenty of surprises in store for the reader and I loved this level of unpredictability that really kept me on my toes.

An absolutely brilliant addition to a wonderfully quirky series, my only disappointment was turning the final page of The Introvert Bears Filthy Witness.  I'm completely addicted to this series and I can't wait for the next instalment.

Thank you to Michael Paul Michaud and Book on the Bright Side for providing me with an ebook to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy link to follow




About the author:

I am an American-Canadian citizen, a criminal prosecutor, and author of BILLY TABBS (& THE GLORIOUS DARROW) (bitingduckpress) and THE INTROVERT series (Black Opal Books). I have a B.A. in English from McMaster University, an Honors B.A. in Political Science (summa cum laude) from McMaster University, a J.D. from The University of Western Ontario (with an international exchange completed at Washington & Lee). I have won awards for both my community service and my work as a criminal prosecutor. I am a member of Crime Writers of Canada and International Thriller Writers. I also strive to maintain a strong social media author presence, including at facebook.com/michaelpaulmichaud, and have made regular appearances on SiriusXM’s Canada Talks. I am an unabashed and unapologetic zealot of Twin Peaks. Literary influences are primarily Orwell, Dickens, Vonnegut, Dostoevsky.

I was inspired to write The Introvert after reading Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky) and The Stranger (Camus). It has been likened to Dexter and American Psycho meeting Office Space and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I also consider it the most unorthodox of animals rights books. Every dog lover should read them.

The Introvert Book Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheIntrovertBook/
The Introvert Confounds Innocence Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheIntrovertBook2
Instagram: @MichaelPMichaud
Goodreads page for The Introvert Confounds Innocence: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44490433-the-introvert-confounds-innocence
Goodreads page for The Introvert Bears Filthy Witness: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55516994-the-introvert-bears-filthy-witness




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Sunday, 22 November 2020

TEA & BOOKS: Duke of Earl Grey - Leafy Bean Company


You can tell from my blog that I'm a book lover, but did you know that I am also a tea lover?  There's nothing better than a lovely cup of tea on a morning and I refuse to leave the house until I've had at least two cups.  I enjoy a range of tea and I've always been partial to an afternoon Earl Grey so I was delighted to receive a box from Leafy Bean Company to try.

I chose to read The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis whilst drinking my cup of Duke of Earl Grey.  This is the first book in the Brontë Mysteries series and you can click HERE to read my review of this fabulous book.

There are 15 silky pyramid tea bags in the box filled with Sri Lankan black tea, exquisite blue cornflowers and natural bergamot flavouring.  Just look at how beautiful they are, it seems a shame to drown them in a cup but needs must.

After brewing for 4-5 minutes, my cup was filled with a stunning dark honey coloured tea with the unmistakeable aroma of bergamot.  I've had some blends that are quite floral and perfumed but this one has a more fruity undertone so it smells absolutely amazing.  I wish we had smell-o-vision so you could experience it too.

The taste is completely out of this world; it's Earl Grey but not as we know it.  It's a smoother version of a regular Earl Grey and it's made so much more palatable with a hint of citrus and a sprinkling of blue cornflowers.  I could drink this anytime of day, although nothing will ever replace my morning cup of builder's tea.

If you've always wanted to try Earl Grey tea, then choose Leafy Bean Company's blend.  It's the best Earl Grey tea I have ever had and I'm delighted to award the full 5 cuppa rating.

My rating:





Click HERE to buy



About Leafy Bean Company:

Caffeine crazy and born to brew, at Leafy Bean Co we to-tea-lly love all things tea and coffee.

Founded in 2016 by a tea aficionado who wanted more fun with her cuppa, Leafy Bean Co, creates quality blends bursting with wholesome joy.

We don't take life too seriously - but we ARE serious about what you drink! To discover more about our products, cafe venues and events, and for our online shop, visit www.leafybeancompany.com



Did you know?

Grey's Monument, Newcastle
(photo taken by me)
Earl Grey tea is named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey who was born in Northumberland in 1764.  

Legend has it that Earl Grey was given a gift of tea from a Chinese mandarin and he loved the blend so much that he asked a London teamaker to replicate it.  I've also heard that it was invented to disguise the bad taste of the water at Howick Hall, Northumberland.

Earl Grey was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1830 and 1834 and his government passed The Reform Act of 1832, which set electoral change in motion,  and The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, which abolished slavery throughout the British Empire.  

A 41m high monument to Earl Grey stands at the top of Grey Street in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Vanished Bride (The Brontë Mysteries) - Bella Ellis

 

Yorkshire, 1845. Dark rumours are spreading across the moors. Everything indicates that Mrs Elizabeth Chester of Chester Grange has been brutally murdered in her home - but nobody can find her body.

As the dark murmurs reach Emily, Anne and Charlotte Brontë, the sisters are horrified, yet intrigued. Before they know it, the siblings become embroiled in the quest to find the vanished bride, sparking their imaginations but placing their lives at great peril . . .


What did I think?

This is one book where you can be forgiven for judging a book by its cover; it's just so perfect and I have to say that with the gold foiling and the Brontë silhouettes, this has to be one of the most beautiful book jackets I have ever seen.  I bought the hardback that even looks beautiful without the jacket, with gold foiling on a rich purple cloth cover.  The appearance fits the content of the book perfectly and I loved every single thing about The Vanished Bride.

Like many readers, I have read a novel written by each of the Brontë sisters: Charlotte's Jane Eyre, Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  Other than knowing that they lived in Haworth, Yorkshire and their father was the local vicar, I know very little about the Brontës but thanks to Bella Ellis I fell like I know them a lot better now.  Using well researched facts, I love the way that Bella Ellis has brought the sisters to life and created characters that are entirely believable.  It's also rather poignant to read Charlotte's prologue set in 1851 when she is the last remaining Brontë sibling, but Bella Ellis rolls back the clock to 1845 to make The Vanished Bride an absolutely wonderful tribute to the Brontës.

Having the Brontë sisters as main characters takes the book from brilliant to out of this world.  The sisters turn into amateur detectives when a young bride disappears from Chester Grange and Charlotte sees a way to wangle her way into the house via an old friend of hers who is the children's nanny.  It's a fine line between inquisitiveness and nosiness and it wouldn't be the first time that the sisters were referred to as 'nosy spinsters' which I found quite amusing.

I was so charmed and consumed by the Brontë sisters that the mystery of 'The Vanished Bride' herself seemed almost secondary to me.  It's a jolly good mystery and hugely entertaining in its own right and I loved the way that the sisters used their imaginative brains to carry out their detecting.  It's set in mid-19th century so it's very much a man's world but that doesn't stop the Brontës.  

I absolutely loved The Vanished Bride and Bella Ellis's admiration of the Brontë sisters shines through from start to finish.  It's such a delightful, clever, charming and compelling novel filled with Brontë intellect and finesse.  Highly recommended.

My rating:

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A lovely cup of Earl Grey tea is the perfect accompaniment to The Vanished Bride and Leafy Bean Company have created an amazing blend with their Duke of Earl Grey tea.  I received a box of teabags to review and I have to say that it is the best Earl Grey blend I have ever tasted.  You can read my full review of the tea HERE but do visit Leafy Bean Company by clicking HERE to see their fabulous range of black, green, rooibos and herbal teas.