Tuesday, 28 January 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Home - Sarah Stovell


A dark and emotive thriller which shines a light on the troubling issue of children in care, The Home marks the return of Sarah Stovell, author of the 2017 international bestseller Exquisite.

When the body of pregnant, fifteen-year-old Hope Lacey is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away. 

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge. 

A dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also a heartbreaking and insightful portrayal of the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all. 


What did I think?

It's a slight change to my 'I discovered this author at Newcastle Noir 2019' record, as I had already bought a signed copy of Sarah Stovell's debut, Exquisite, from the awesome Forum Books in Corbridge but of course I haven't read it yet (so many books so little time).  So The Home may be the first novel I've read by Sarah Stovell but it's definitely one I won't forget.

Despite not having a problem saying it with regards to crime thrillers, I feel a bit guilty saying that I enjoyed a book that's so dark and disturbing, but it's a whole different ball game when there are children involved.  Set in a children's home, it's inevitable that the characters will be damaged and disturbed; through the power of Sarah Stovell's writing I felt incredibly disturbed myself.  It's not all darkness, as where there is dark there is light, and I'm glad that Hope and Annie found each other and experienced the unconditional love they both missed out on in their childhood.  

To be able to write about such a dark subject matter with such beautiful words is an amazing feat in itself.  From the very first page, I was completely in awe of Sarah Stovell's writing and think I may have read the best line ever written in a book: "We were fragile like bombs."  It's giving me goosebumps just typing it here.  Those five little words set the tone of the book perfectly as we delve into the past of the three girls in The Home.

Although The Home is mostly set in The Lake District, Hope spent her brief childhood in North East England.  I always get a little kick out of reading local places I know in books and it was great to see Jesmond and Tynemouth getting a mention.  Hope's story is not for the faint-hearted and as much as it saddened me, it also angered me at the thought of what some unfortunate people have to do to survive.  It made me wonder: if you need to take drugs to escape your life, is it even worth surviving it at all?

Deeply disturbing, The Home is a powerful, haunting and completely unforgettable book.  The harrowing subject matter is portrayed so eloquently as to be shocking yet heartbreaking.  It's books like this that make me question whether 5 stars are even enough, but 5 stars is all I can give but it doesn't come close to showing how simply stunning this book is.  It's an absolute must-read and I can't recommend it highly enough.

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon




About the author:

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.












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Monday, 27 January 2020

Dear Edward - Ann Napolitano

A luminous, life-affirming novel about a 12-year-old boy who is the sole survivor of a deadly plane crash

One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles. There are 192 passengers aboard: among them a young woman taking a pregnancy test in the airplane toilet; a Wall Street millionaire flirting with the air hostess; an injured soldier returning from Afghanistan; and two beleaguered parents moving across the country with their adolescent sons, bickering over who gets the window seat. When the plane suddenly crashes in a field in Colorado, the younger of these boys, 12-year-old Edward Adler, is the sole survivor.

Dear Edward depicts Edward's life in the crash's aftermath as he struggles to make sense of the meaning of his survival, the strangeness of his sudden fame, and find his place in the world without his family. In his new home with his aunt and uncle, the only solace comes from his friendship with the girl next door, Shay. Together Edward and Shay make a startling discovery: hidden in his uncle's garage are sacks of letters from the relatives of the other passengers, addressed to Edward.

As Edward comes of age against the backdrop of sudden tragedy, he must confront some of life's most profound questions: how do we make the most of the time we are given? And what does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?


What did I think?

Oh my!  Once in a while a book comes along that makes your heart ache and Dear Edward is that book for me.  Against the terribly emotional backdrop of a plane crash is a beautiful story filled with love and hope that left me feeling very emotional.  Having gotten to know Edward through the book I was surprised how deeply I felt the loss of his family; it was if I was experiencing some of his own emotions along with him.

The story is told in three timelines: Edward in the aftermath of the crash, the last hours of the crash and back stories of some of the passengers.  All three timelines are equally poignant and often distressing, knowing the conclusion that we are hurtling towards.  It's quite a dilemma when the book is so good that you don't want to put it down, yet knowing that the quicker you read, the sooner you will reach the devastating ending for most of the characters.  Reading the last moments of the flight was so heart-achingly poignant that I still feel emotional thinking about it now.

Ann Napolitano writes so beautifully and rhythmically that the story flows like a piece of music.  Dear Edward not only pulled my heart strings but played them like a violin virtuoso as I experienced a full musical spectrum; from deep mournful doloroso tones, gradually rising through the crescendo, to making my heart sing with joy in the finale.

Stunning, breathtaking and heart-achingly poignant, Dear Edward is absolutely superb and very highly recommended.  

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon

Sunday, 26 January 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep - H. G. Parry


For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can't quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob - a young lawyer with an utterly normal life - hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other.

But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world, and for once, it isn't Charley's doing. There's someone else out there who shares his powers and it's up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them - before anyone gets to The End.


What did I think?

Now this is one book that I couldn't wait to get my hands on; being a book magnet, a book about books is just my kind of thing!  I think H. G. Parry should be crowned Queen of Booklovers; she clearly loves books so much that she has brought the characters to life in her astonishing debut, The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep.

So many readers remark that well-written characters often pop out of books when they're reading; of course they mean metaphorically not literally, which is not the case for Charley Sutherland.  Charley has the amazing ability to be able to conjure a literary character from within the pages of a book, often by accident when he is so immersed in his reading.  The only trouble is, once the character has been released from their literary prison, they don't always want to go back.  As the literary community grows, Charley and his brother, Rob, face an epic battle of good versus evil before the world as they know it is destroyed forever.

What a wonderful character H. G. Parry has created in Charley; his love of books and words is simply breathtaking.  When I say 'books', I mean physical paper books and I'm totally with Charley on that.  There is an extract from his notebook where he says: 
'Words aren't the same to me on a screen.  I can see them but I can't connect with them.  They're too hard and bright; I float on top of them, like a leaf on the surface of a pond.  Words on paper are quiet, and porous; in the right mood, I sink down between the gaps in the letters and they close over my head.'
How beautiful is that?  Although I read digitally when I absolutely have to, I have struggled to explain why I prefer books to ebooks and H. G. Parry has described this feeling so eloquently and exquisitely.

Who hasn't read Pride & Prejudice and imagined Mr Darcy so vividly that you expect him to materialise in the room with you?  Obviously quite a few people have done so as numerous Mr Darcys have been brought to life in this book and, after the 1995 TV adaptation, unsurprisingly one of them bears a striking resemblance to Colin Firth.  If ever you wanted to bring a literary character to life, what a one to choose, eh?  <<swoon>>

Wonderfully imaginative, The Escape of Uriah Heep is a dream come true for bibliophiles who believe in magic.  There certainly is magic within these pages and it's most definitely best kept there!

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon



About the author:


H. G. Parry has a PhD in English literature and teaches at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. She has published a number of short stories; The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is her debut novel.













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Saturday, 25 January 2020

BLOG TOUR: All the Rage (DI Fawley) - Cara Hunter


The first girl came back.
The next might not be so lucky.

History doesn't repeat itself. Does it?

A distressed teenage girl is found on the outskirts of Oxford. The story she tells is terrifying: grabbed off the street, a plastic bag forced over her head, then driven somewhere remote and subjected to an assault.

DI Adam Fawley is doing the best he can to investigate, but the teenager refuses to press charges. All he can do is try to ignore the sickening feeling he's seen something like this before...

But when another girl goes missing, Fawley knows his time is running out.

Because if he ignores the past any longer, this girl may not be coming back.


What did I think?

I must apologise to Cara Hunter; when I started All the Rage I was dizzy with the introduction to a lot of characters and I was annoyed at the lack of chapters.  It turns out that these are very forgivable and forgettable sins when you get immersed in an amazing and completely addictive story.  Who needs chapters?  They would have just slowed me down!

Although this is my first Cara Hunter book, it is the fourth book in the DI Fawley series; I can say without doubt that it can definitely be read as a standalone, but I guarantee that you will want to read the previous books.  Not necessarily just to fill in any blanks, as Fawley's history is covered, but because it sounds so very intriguing.  Cara Hunter has created a strong and interesting lead character which, along with a fast-paced and intriguing storyline, ensures that the book is impossible to put down.

What happens to teenager, Faith, is so horrendous; being grabbed off the street and abducted.  It's an awful thing to happen at any time, but to realise at such a young age that you're not invincible is quite a reality check.  Faith is lucky to escape but she doesn't want to press charges, and there's a very good reason for this which is handled with sensitivity and respect, but when another young girl goes missing police fear that she won't be as lucky as Faith.  With a modus operandi that looks suspiciously like the work of the Roadside Rapist from almost 20 years ago, DI Fawley comes under scrutiny but he is confident that he sent down the right man...or did he?

With the inclusion of interview and court transcripts, texts, social media excerpts and maps, there are so many extra additions to the storyline that make it virtually pop out from the page.  I love how Cara Hunter has included different media; it really brings a whole new dimension to the story and I actually felt like I was part of the investigation.  I'm not a very good investigator though as even though I suspected a few people, Cara Hunter definitely had me fooled.

All the Rage is an exceptionally gripping page-turner that had me riveted from start to finish; it's a book that I can see myself continually recommending to my family and friends.  I don't just want to read the previous books in the DI Fawley series, I absolutely MUST read them and if they are even half as good as All the Rage, it'll be reading time well spent.  

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon



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Thursday, 23 January 2020

BLOG TOUR: I Could Be You - Sheila Bugler


A life has been taken. But whose life is it?

On a stifling hot day, former journalist Dee Doran finds the crumpled body of her friend at the roadside. Katie and her little boy, Jake, have been a light in Dee’s otherwise desolate life – now a woman is dead and her son is missing.

Katie has been keeping secrets for a long time. Years earlier, she fell for the wrong person. But he was in love with someone else; who he couldn’t have but couldn’t keep away from. When jealousy and desire spilled over into murder Katie hid the truth, and has been pretending ever since.

As Dee assists the police with their enquiries she’s compelled to investigate too. She realises Katie wasn’t who she claimed to be. Lies are catching up. Stories are becoming unravelled. Revenge is demanded and someone must pay the price. The question is: who?


Don’t miss this explosive crime thriller perfect for fans for Alex Marwood and Fiona Barton.


What did I think?

I Could Be You is a book that grabs the reader's attention not just from the first page, but from the very first line when Dee finds her neighbour, Katie, dead in the road and only an empty pushchair where toddler Jake should be.  It soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary hit and run as Sheila Bugler takes us on a twisty journey through Katie's dark and mysterious past.

Dee is a former journalist so she's no stranger to investigating stories and sniffing out deep, dark secrets but she's not the only one interested in finding out the truth about Katie; both Dee's ex-husband and her cousin are journalists too.  Dee is warned by the police to stay out of the investigation but Katie was her friend and I loved that she put herself in danger in the hunt for justice.

A lot of the story revolves around Katie's past and after her mother disappeared, it's no surprise that Katie was a troubled teen.  Her father had a busy job running a pub so he didn't have a big hand in her upbringing and she was left to her own devices, which is when she hooked up with local bad boy, Shane.  I felt so sorry for Katie when she was growing up; she was overweight and felt invisible so it's no wonder she grabbed on to the attention that Shane lavished on her, even though she knew that he was using her.  I knew this story would end badly, but I didn't realise how many lives would be ruined.

With past and present mysteries to solve, I Could Be You is a definite page-turner.  It's full of mystery and intrigue and some eye-popping moments that really did make me gasp out loud.  With fast-pacing and a gripping storyline, I Could Be You is a tense and twisty thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat.

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon




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Tuesday, 21 January 2020

BLOG TOUR: The 24 Hour Café - Libby Page


Day and night Stella’s Café opens its doors for the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It is many things to many people but most of all it is a place where life can wait at the door. A place of small kindnesses. A place where anyone can be whoever they want, where everyone is always welcome.

Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They work at Stella’s but they dream of more, of leaving the café behind and making their own way in life.

Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café; a day when Hannah and Mona’s friendship will be tested, when the community will come together and when lives will be changed . . .


What did I think?

I picked up The 24 Hour Café based on all the excitement around Libby Page's debut, The Lido, which I haven't read.  It took me a little while to get into the book as I felt that we had only just started to scratch the surface of a story before the clock chimed the next hour and new customers entered the shop, but the long-running thread of Hannah and Mona's friendship kept me interested.  

Hannah and Mona are flatmates who work in Stella's Café which is situated opposite Liverpool Street Station in London.  It is open 24 hours so attracts a myriad clientele throughout the day and night.  The main story is around Hannah and Mona's friendship which is put to the test during the 24 hours we observe the cafe, but there are lots of little stories based on the lives of customers in the café.

Hannah has recently broken up with her boyfriend and I could tell he was a bad 'un from the start; preferring Star Trek to Star Wars is not a good sign!  I enjoyed this part of the story though, showing how Hannah's relationship with Jaheim not only changed her but consumed her and left Mona well outside Hannah and Jaheim's bubble.  I wondered how much of this was Hannah's own doing, but I suspected Jaheim liked that level of control over her.  Mona is a very good best friend to Hannah; she keeps quiet and bides her time knowing that boyfriends come and go but friends remain.

If you've ever people-watched and wondered what their story was, this book is for you!  Libby Page has put people watching into print and it did feel like I was there in the corner of the café, sipping my cuppa and observing the goings on myself.  Maybe I'm just nosy but I would have liked to delve a bit more into the lives of the customers, however, for Libby Page to have done so she would have ended up with several volumes of The 24 Hour Café.  

Libby Page's writes in such vivid colour that The 24 Hour Café brings London to life in front of your very eyes; the hustle and bustle is evident but also a more humane side.  Whereas a visitor to London might find it impersonal and inhospitable at first, Libby Page shows that there's more to Londoners than might first meet the eye.  I think you could call The 24 Hour Café a love letter to London, as Libby Page paints our capital city in such glorious light.

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon




About the author:

LIBBY PAGE is the author of the SUNDAY TIMES bestseller and runaway success of 2018, THE LIDO. THE LIDO has sold in over twenty territories around the world and film rights have been sold to Catalyst Global Media.

After writing, Libby’s second passion is outdoor swimming. Libby lives in London where she enjoys finding new swimming spots and pockets of community within the city. She and her sister run a blog and Instagram account @theswimmingsisters, documenting their swims and the benefits of outdoor exercise for mental health.

Follow Libby on Twitter @libbypagewrites







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Sunday, 19 January 2020

BLOG TOUR: Firewatching - Russ Thomas


ONE FALSE MOVE 
Someone is setting fire to Sheffield. It starts with small things – dustbins and abandoned sheds so people don’t notice at first. But the calling card is there if you look for it. 

WILL IGNITE 
Soon the fires spread to offices, homes, people. The Firewatcher’s followers are growing and they have one particular blaze in mind – one that the police would do well to pay attention to. 

THE CITY 
But DS Adam Tyler is distracted by a case, one that he is unknowingly connected to. And if he can’t discover the link between the fires and himself, he will burn – along with the entire city. 


What did I think?

Oh my word!  Firewatching is an absolute firecracker of a novel; what an astonishing debut from Russ Thomas.  It's so outstanding that I had to triple check that it was in fact his debut and I'm already so excited to find out what Russ Thomas has in store next for DS Adam Tyler.

Russ Thomas completely captures the readers attention with his engrossing story in this impossible to put down thriller set in Sheffield.  I was gripped from start to, not just the finish but, beyond the finish as I'm chomping at the bit to read more.  That's not to say that it ends on a cliffhanger by any means but along with the main story and a couple of sub-stories there is also Adam Tyler's personal story, resulting in multiple layers of intrigue.  With more hooks than a coat rack, this book really is impossible to put down.

With such a blistering pace, I absolutely raced through this scorching novel.  Please excuse the fire related puns but they really do describe the book perfectly.  I loved the character of Adam, even though I didn't take to him right away.  He's so very flawed and guarded that we're not even close to seeing the real him right now.  I'm looking forward to getting to know him so much better over what I hope will be a long running series.

There's so much I could write about this book as there are so many areas for discussion, but I don't want to give away any spoilers of the outstanding plot.  Russ Thomas is a fresh new voice in the crime thriller genre and I have no doubt that he will hold his own against so many brilliant well-established authors.  Established crime writers beware, there's a new voice in town and it's magnifique!

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon




About the author:


Russ Thomas was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. He grew up in the 80s reading anything he could get from the library, writing stories, watching large amounts of television, playing videogames, and largely avoiding the great outdoors. He spent five years trying to master playing the electronic organ and another five trying to learn Spanish. It didn’t take him too long to realise that he’d be better off sticking to the writing.

After a few ‘proper’ jobs (among them: pot-washer, optician’s receptionist, supermarket warehouse operative, call-centre telephonist and storage salesman) he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day.  

His debut novel Firewatching is the first book in the DS Adam Tyler series. 






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