Wednesday, 19 January 2022

You'll Be the Death of Me - Karen M. McManus


From the international bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying comes a brand-new addictive thriller.

Ivy, Mateo and Cal used to be close - best friends back in middle school.

Now all they have in common is a bad day. So for old time's sake they skip school together - one last time.

But when the trio spot Brian 'Boney' Mahoney ditching class too, they follow him - right into a murder scene.

They all have a connection to the victim. And they're ALL hiding something.

When their day of freedom turns deadly, it's only a matter of time before the truth comes out . . .

It's Ferris Bueller's Day Off with murder, perfect for fans of One Of Us Is Lying and A Good Girl's Guide To Murder. This explosive new thriller is impossible to put down.


What did I think?

I already own a few of her books but You’ll Be The Death of Me is the first Karen M. McManus book I have read and I was certainly not disappointed.  It even looks good on the outside with stunning purple spredges!

Although it’s YA fiction as it’s set in and around a school, it holds its own against many of the adult thrillers I have read over the years and I found it gripping, mysterious and entertaining throughout.  

I loved the dynamic between Ivy, Mateo and Cal, who, like every set of teenagers, have been through their ups and downs of friendships blowing hot and cold.  They are each harbouring secrets about their past relationship and this causes extra tension when they are thrust together again (right in the middle of a murder investigation) on the day they decide to skip school.

There’s a lot to untangle in this story but I loved every second of it.  For anyone who has ever loved Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you will absolutely love this book!  It not only reminded me of this fantastic film but also pays homage to it.  I’m not even sure that Ferris would have got out of this scrape in one piece!

Fast-paced, gripping and hugely entertaining, I loved You’ll Be The Death of Me and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

My rating:

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Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Insomnia - Sarah Pinborough


In the dead of night, madness lies…

Emma can’t sleep.

CHECK THE WINDOWS

It’s been like this since her big 4-0 started getting closer.

LOCK THE DOORS

Her mother stopped sleeping just before her 40th birthday too. She went mad and did the unthinkable because of it.

LOOK IN ON THE CHILDREN

Is that what’s happening to Emma?

WHY CAN’T SHE SLEEP?


What did I think?

OMG!  This book is AWESOME!  I didn't think Sarah Pinborough could ever outdo the brilliant #WTFThatEnding in Behind Her Eyes but her new novel, Insomnia, is even better (in my humble opinion).  I even experienced temporary insomnia as I was up all night reading this fantastic book - I just couldn't put it down!

Emma has to be the most unreliable narrator I have ever come across; with her 40th birthday approaching, she can't sleep and believes she is losing her mind…just like her mother.  Strange things are happening to Emma, her husband is distant, her children are afraid of her and her estranged sister has just turned up.  Emma's whole world is falling apart but is she doing it herself or is someone else to blame?  

I'm not going to go into any more details of the stunning plot so I don't inadvertently release any spoilers, but it is breathtaking.  The shocking scene from the prologue was never far from my mind as it was very cleverly woven throughout the novel and I found myself holding my breath in anticipation as the story played out.

I love Sarah Pinborough novels as you really can expect the unexpected so the big reveal is pretty impossible to predict.  I had absolutely no idea which direction Insomnia was going in but I simply couldn't read it fast enough to find out.  I absolutely LOVED it and if this one isn't picked up by Netflix too I will be very surprised.

A stunning, addictive and intensely gripping novel, prepare to be up all night with Insomnia.  Insomnia has to be the must-read book of the year, and it's not even the end of January yet!

I chose to read a digital ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Saturday, 8 January 2022

BLOG TOUR: The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello (The Stonebridge Mysteries 1) - Chris McDonald


Wedding bells are chiming in the idyllic, coastal town of Stonebridge. For Sam and Emily, it should be the happiest day of their lives. But, on the morning of the ceremony, the best man is found dead. The police quickly write his death off as a tragic accident, but something doesn’t seem right to wedding guest and groomsman, Adam Whyte.

Armed with an encyclopaedic, but ultimately ridiculous knowledge of television detective shows and an unwarranted confidence in his own abilities, Adam and his best friend (and willing Watson) Colin, set out to uncover what actually happened to Daniel Costello.


What did I think?

I'm a huge fan of Chris McDonald's DI Erika Piper series so when I heard that he was writing a cosy crime series I couldn't wait to read it, or in this case listen to it.  The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello, narrated by Stephen Armstrong, is the first novella in the Stonebridge Mysteries series and it's a cracker!  It's quite a short audiobook at only 2 hours 56 minutes long so it's very easy to listen to it in one sitting, which is just as well as it's impossible to stop once you start anyway!

There's a wedding in Stonebridge but the groom and best man appear to be at loggerheads on the night before the wedding.  When best man Daniel doesn't turn up for breakfast the next day, groomsman Adam goes looking for him and is shocked to find Daniel dead in his bed.  The police are called and declare that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding Daniel's premature demise, however, some things don't add up for Adam.  Being a fan of TV detective shows, Adam enlists his friend Colin to help him investigate Daniel's death.

A bit of a couch potato, Adam is such an unlikely amateur sleuth but when he dons his metaphorical deerstalker he proves that he really does know his stuff.  Although some things are different from TV in real life, Adam knows a suspicious death when he sees one.  Adam and Colin relish their roles as a modern day Holmes and Watson and I love how they are so meticulous in their search for evidence.  Having been friends since primary school, Adam and Colin are a great pairing and I love how well they work together.

The narration is fantastic, with Stephen Armstrong's dulcet tones and lyrical Northern Irish accent bringing the book to life.  What I found quite stunning about the narration is that the narrator doesn't attempt to do different voices for each character, it's simply read with such vivacity to entertain and enthrall the listener.  Another thing I loved was the quirky and often humourous chapter names that set the scene for the chapter ahead.  One in particular had me laughing out loud and I found myself looking forward to new chapters to see what ingenious title Chris McDonald would come up with next.

Hugely entertaining, The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello is a fun, addictive and riveting whodunnit that captivated me from start to finish.  Chris McDonald's stupendous writing and Stephen Armstrong's wonderfully entertaining narration make this audiobook another winner from Isis Audio.

Many thanks to Isis Audio for sending me the audiobook to review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello is narrated by Stephen Armstrong and is out on 1st January on Audible and other trade download platforms, on Isis Audio's digital library platform ulibrary, and on physical CD and MP3 both in libraries and from Isis Audio's website The Reading House. https://thereadinghouse.co.uk/




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Tuesday, 4 January 2022

BLOG TOUR: The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures - Holly Hepburn

 
Originally published in four parts this is the full story in one package. 

When Hope loses her husband, she fears her happiest days are behind her. With her only connection to London broken, she moves home to York to be near her family and to begin to build a new life.  
 
Taking a job at the antique shop she has always admired, she finds herself crossing paths with two very different men. Will, who has recently become the guardian to his niece after the tragic death of her parents. And Ciaran, who she enlists to help solve the mystery of an Egyptian antique. Two men who represent two different happy endings.
 
But can she trust herself to choose the right man? And will that bring her everything she really needs?


What did I think?

This gorgeous book is as stunning inside as out.  Just look at that amazing cover, perfectly encapsulating the narrow, charming streets of York with the famous minster in the background.  Don't worry if you've never been to York, just let Holly Hepburn take you there through her wonderfully vivid and huggably warm writing.

I simply adored this book from start to finish.  The setting of The Ever After Emporium is to die for.  If I ever found such a shop, I'm sure I would be lost in there for days never mind hours, especially when I discovered the book room.  I warmed to the main character of Hope immediately; she is so likeable and friendly, despite being in terrible pain following the untimely death of her husband.

A chance discovery at the antique shop brings two very different men into Hope's life: jeweller Will and Professor of Egyptology Ciaran.  It was Will's niece, four-year-old Brodie, who completely stole my heart though.  Holly Hepburn brings this wonderful little girl (and her other characters) to life with such breathtaking descriptions that they virtually leap out from the page.  The thread of which man will win Hope's heart is woven throughout the book and I was most definitely rooting for one over the other.  You'll just have to read the book to find out which one, if any, she ends up with.

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures was originally digitally published in four parts so this novel is the full collection of those four ebooks.  You do, therefore, get a little bit of repetition at the beginning of each part as the reader is reminded about the characters and the story.  It did interrupt the flow of my reading a little as I didn't take a break between parts, however, I'm sure that any slower readers won't even notice.

I love Egyptian history so that's what initially drew me to the book but I got so much more than I expected from this delightful novel.  It's both a heartwarming romance and an Egyptian mystery rolled into one.  I loved it so much that I plan to read it again.  

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures is a big warm fluffy hug in a book and it's the perfect book to snuggle up with over the winter months.  Grab a blanket and a hot chocolate, curl up in your favourite reading chair and let Holly Hepburn whisk you away to the charming streets of York.  I adored it and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and all opinions are my own.

My rating:

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Tuesday, 28 December 2021

The Wrecking Storm (Thomas Tallant Mysteries Book 2) - Michael Ward

 
1641.

London.

The poisonous dispute pushing King Charles and Parliament towards Civil War is reaching the point of no return.

Law and order in the city are collapsing as Puritan radicals demand more concessions from the King. Bishops and lords are attacked in the streets as the Apprentice Boys run amok. Criminal gangs use the disorder to mask their activities while the people of London lock their doors and pray for deliverance.

No one is immune from the contagion. Two Jesuit priests are discovered in hiding and brutally executed - and soon the family of spice merchant Thomas Tallant is drawn into the spiral of violence. Tallant's home is ransacked, his warehouse raided and his sister seized by kidnappers.

Thomas struggles to discover who is responsible, aided by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, a devotee of science, maths and tobacco in equal measure. Together they enter a murky world of court politics, street violence, secret codes and poisoned letters, and confront a vicious gang leader who will stop at nothing to satisfy his greed.

Can Elizabeth use her skills to unpick the mass of contradictory evidence before the Tallants are ruined – both as a business and a family?

And as the fight for London between King and Parliament hurtles to its dramatic conclusion, can the Tallants survive the personal and political maelstrom?


What did I think?

The Wrecking Storm is the sequel to the outstanding historical fiction novel, Rags of Time, that I thoroughly enjoyed (you can read my review here).  Whilst you could read the The Wrecking Storm as a standalone, I'd recommend reading the Thomas Tallant Mysteries in order to fully understand the characters (and also because Rags of Time is a mighty fine read).

Michael Ward effortlessly weaves real history into his fictional story so you get a little history lesson as well as a fast-paced mystery and adventure.  If you read historical fiction, you'll know that it's rarely considered fast-paced but somehow The Wrecking Storm is just that and I read it over a period of 48 hours; it's so difficult to put it down once you pick it up.

The scene is painted so vividly that I felt fully immersed in the dangerous and dirty 17th century streets of London.  England is on the brink of Civil War and my kindle was virtually vibrating with the underlying tension of the population that came across beautifully in the wonderfully descriptive writing.  

I'm purposefully avoiding mentioning the fantastic storyline so I don't inadvertently reveal any spoilers, suffice to say it's a good 'un!  There's actually quite a lot going on in the book which kept me entertained and enthralled from beginning to end.

Filled with danger, tension, suspicion and adventure, The Wrecking Storm is a fast-paced mystery and historical fiction of the highest quality.  So very highly recommended and I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series.

Many thanks to Michael Ward for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Wednesday, 22 December 2021

The Stars Will Shine Again: Helping Our Heroes One Page at A Time - Various Authors, edited by Emma Mitchell


The Stars Will Shine Again is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty crimes that will shake you to your core, magic and mystery, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Malcolm Hollingdrake, Tony Forder, Val Portelli, and Andrew Barrett, and several debut authors, including Sarah Hardy and Yvonne Bastian, you are in for one heck of a ride.

The Stars Will Shine Again is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life.

A Note from Emma Mitchell:

As the blurb tells us, The Stars Will Shine Again is a multi-genre collection of short stories compiled to raise money for our armed forces and every penny made from the sales of both the digital and paperback copies will be donated to the charity Help for Heroes. Covid has made fundraising a difficult job for everyone, so it’s an honour to able to do something like this and I’m thankful to everyone involved. With huge thanks going once again to Amanda Horan for her support and fabulous cover design. You can find her at Let’s Get Booked.

I’ve picked the best of the submissions to bring you a thrilling book which is perfect for dipping into at lunchtime or snuggling up with on a cold winter’s night. I have been completely blown away by the support from the writing and blogging community, especially the authors who submitted stories and bloggers who have been so generous with their time to help advertise and spread the word.

There isn’t a person in the country who hasn’t benefited from the sacrifices our troops, past and present, have made for us and they all deserve our thanks.

It has been an honour working on these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.
 

What did I think?

What a cracking little anthology!  There are lots of charity anthologies around at the moment and there's no easier or better way to support charities than by buying a book.  Help for Heroes is already a charity I support so it was my absolute pleasure to read and review this wonderful collection.

This book is filled with superb short stories, written by authors you may know and some names you may recognise from the book blogging community.  Each and every story is of amazingly high quality and I couldn't pick a favourite out from among them, although I have picked out a few authors to add to my watch list.

It's quite a quick read at only 261 pages, and you can dip in and out of it as the mood takes you or read it cover to cover in one sitting.  However you choose to read it, I can guarantee that you will enjoy every minute of it.  

I really must applaud Emma Mitchell for giving up some of her valuable time to organise and edit this fabulous collection.  With every penny made from the sale of each book being donated to such a worthy cause as Help for Heroes, I really can't recommend this book highly enough.

Many thanks to Emma Mitchell for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Saturday, 18 December 2021

The Turn of The Tide (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy Book 3) - Alan Jones

 
The Turn of the Tide is the third book in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy: a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

As Hitler's greed turns eastwards to the fertile and oil rich Soviet heartlands, life for the Kästner and the Nussbaum families disintegrates and fragments as the Nazis tighten the noose on German and Polish Jews. Implementing Endlösung der Judenfrage, the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’, Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann plan to have Germany, and Europe, Judenrein, ‘cleansed of Jews’.

General Erich Kästner, increasingly alone, fights a losing battle to protect his friends, and their fellow Jews, putting himself and his family in jeopardy.

As the tide of war turns, he looks anxiously to the Soviets in the east, and to the Western Allies, desperately hoping, despite his patriotism, that Germany is defeated before there are no Jews left in the countries occupied by the Third Reich.

When an assassination attempt on Hitler and his henchmen fails, Erich Kästner himself comes under the scrutiny of the Gestapo, and his own survival, and that of his family, becomes uncertain.

As the war draws to an end, with Germany in ruins, time is running out for the Kästners and the Nussbaums…


What did I think?

The Turn of the Tide is the stunning conclusion to the magnificent Sturmtaucher Trilogy that I have lived and breathed for the past few months.  Even when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and now that I’ve finished it, I’ll never forget it.  It's an epic novel that took me around 20 hours to read and I simultaneously wanted to devour it quickly and savour it slowly. I opted for savouring as this is a story that’s not to be rushed. 

Although you could read The Turn of the Tide as a standalone, you really do need to read the books in order to fully appreciate the rich depth of character and the history behind the families in the book.  I can't even begin to describe this breathtaking novel but it's a story that completely consumed me as I experienced all the trials and tribulations along with each character.  I'm not ashamed to say that I cried several times, especially as the novel drew to a close, but whilst the story is terribly harrowing it's also hopeful and uplifting as the characters show strength, tenacity and resilience against pure evil.

The research that must have gone into this novel is mindblowing and Alan Jones must have dedicated a significant number of years gathering information and sifting through details.  Although the characters are fictional, it's still shocking to think that this is real history and it only happened 80 years ago.  It is a period of history that should never be forgotten and Alan Jones has played a massive part in ensuring that 'the final solution' is never wiped from our memories. 

Each book in this trilogy is an absolute masterpiece and for an author to write three books of such consistently high quality is incredible.   Alan Jones deserves every accolade that is coming his way and I can't see anybody honestly rating this book less than five stars - I would give it more if I could.  I don’t do top 10 books of the year anymore but if I did, I can guarantee that all three books of this superb trilogy would be fighting for the top spot.

Historical fiction at its absolute finest, The Turn of the Tide and the complete trilogy are simply not to be missed.  A masterpiece and an absolute triumph!

I really can't thank Alan Jones enough for sending me a digital ARC to read and review as no review I write could ever do it justice.  This is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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