Sunday, 28 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: Underneath - Anne Goodwin




He never intended to be a jailer …

After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.

Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.

Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?

What did I think?

I really enjoyed Anne Goodwin's amazing debut, Sugar and Snails, so I was eager to see what Anne had written next.  Firstly, I have to say that the cover of Underneath is fabulous - it's so dark with a little glimmer of light under the earth, giving us a little hint of what we can expect inside.  Whereas Sugar and Snails was heartrending and emotional, if I had to describe Underneath in one word it would be DARK.  As different from Sugar and Snails as chalk and cheese, Anne Goodwin turns to the dark side in her new novel, Underneath.

Steve and Liesel have a rather strange meeting in the canteen at work when Liesel mistakes Steve for someone else.  The pair hit it off immediately, and although traditionally men do the chasing I felt like Liesel was firmly in the driving seat from the offset.  We find out quite quickly that Liesel doesn't want children and Steve is more than happy about that...we perhaps understand the reason for this through several flashbacks to Steve's childhood.  When Steve starts house-hunting he is drawn to one with a particular feature: a cellar. Liesel doesn't seem that keen on moving in with Steve and when he reveals his obsession with the cellar the alarm bells weren't just ringing they were playing RUNAWAY!

I've read my fair share of twisty psychological thrillers, so I know things are never what they seem.  When I was reading passages about someone being locked in the cellar, I wondered who it was.  Liesel seemed far too streetwise to find herself in that predicament but then I didn't know what was going on in Steve's mind.  After reading about his younger self it was clear how very damaged and twisted he was from an early age, not helped by all the mind games being played by his twin sisters.  The more I read about Steve, the more I disliked, or rather detested him and it is through the intensity of Anne's writing that these emotions were stirred up in me.

Dark, twisted and compelling, Underneath is filled with tension and intrigue.  I found it so intriguing that I read it in a few days but I feel a little bit on the fence with this one.  I enjoyed most of it and felt like we really got to see inside Steve's head, however uncomfortable that was at times, but I was left feeling slightly unfulfilled and with a bit of a question mark at the end.  I wasn't sure what was real and what was in Steve's head, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, I just have to dust off my imagination and make up my own mind.

I chose to read to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion, and I am releasing my review as part of the blog tour.

My rating:




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Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Advice Bucket - Heather HIll



Merrick's life was a wild goose chase. Literally.


Somewhere on the remote, Scottish isle of Scarba, Gladys awaits answers. What is the centuries-old secret that rules her destiny? A short distance away, Merrick is on his way to join 35,000 fellow barnacle geese at their annual gathering. Delayed by a sudden fall from the sky, he sustains his first wrist injury in three centuries, and has to catch a boat. Lucy Colwyn wants to go to Scarba to die; if she can only get there unscathed first. Eminent neurologist, Dr. Britten, receives miraculous news: a dying patient is cured. He now has no choice but to abandon everything and track her down before she does the unthinkable. But the journey won’t be easy, as three familiar old ladies have other, rather unorthodox agendas. The Queen of The Hebrides leaves for Islay loaded with strangers. By the time it reaches at its conclusion, some of the passengers are on their way to reaching another. That they’re more connected than they could ever have imagined. 

The Advice Bucket is a comedy-fantasy, and is Heather Hill’s third novel. 

From the author of International Best-Sellers, ‘The New Mrs D’ and ‘I Hate That You Bloody Left Me.’

What did I think?

There's a surprise on every page of this fabulous book. It's so completely different, filled with life stories and humour that you are guaranteed to have a tear in your eye at some point in the book.

There are lots of interesting characters in the book but the main story revolves around Lucy. Lucy has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and having lost her only daughter, decides to travel to remote Scarba island to end her life. Scarba means a lot to Lucy as it is where her mother apparently committed suicide many years ago. It is while Lucy is en route to Scarba that her doctor, Doctor Britten, receives the amazing results of a trial that Lucy has been involved in. Can he reach Lucy in time and does she have anything to live for?

Merrick meanwhile, is also making his way to Scarba as a barnacle goose, when the unearthing of a hidden spell finds him thrust into human form. He needs to meet back up with his flock but it's not only his goose family waiting for him on Scarba...

The Advice Bucket blurs the lines between dying and living forever, they are perhaps one and the same thing. It is a poignant story of living with a terminal illness and a magical account of immortality, with a smattering of Scottish humour that will leave you with a smile on your face. On a serious note, it also draws your attention to the plight of these barnacle geese and the Scottish government's attempts to reduce their numbers. It was not something that I was aware of until now and looking at the amazing photo on the cover of the book, wonder how anyone could harm these majestic creatures.

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

My rating:





Buy it from Amazon

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Forever House - Veronica Henry



Would you know your forever house if you found it?
Hunter's Moon is the ultimate 'forever' house. Nestled by a river in the Peasebrook valley, it has been the Willoughbys' home for over fifty years, and now estate agent Belinda Baxter is determined to find the perfect family to live there. But the sale of the house unlocks decades of family secrets - and brings Belinda face to face with her own troubled past.

What did I think?

I have said previously that I don't read enough Veronica Henry books but with so many books and so little time, I am delighted that The Forever House went straight to the top of my reading queue.  With the boundless charm and sparkling wit I have come to know and love from Veronica Henry, I was completely captivated by The Forever House and started and finished it on the same day.

There is an excellent dual storyline of two very strong women characters: Belinda and Sally who meet when Sally decides to put her beloved family home on the market and chooses Belinda as her estate agent.  Sally's story is quite sad as she doesn't really want to sell Hunter's Moon but rather has to sell due to her family situation.  Belinda tries to make it as painless as possible whilst we learn the stories of these two fabulous women.

Through flashbacks to the 1960's we read about Sally meeting her husband Alexander Willoughby and his eccentric family.  What an absolute HOOT!  There is a scene with a frozen chicken, a hairdryer and the Willoughby's pet where I don't mind telling you I absolutely roared with laughter, I couldn't have kept it in if I tried.  They are such a crazy family but there is much love and laughter in their house, which is why it is so hard for Sally to part with Hunter's Moon.

Belinda meanwhile, throws herself into work as she is more successful in her professional than private life.  She is saving up for her very own forever house and thought she had found it once upon a time but she doesn't like to remember that part of her life as it is filled with painful memories.  Belinda deserves some happiness and you never know what is around the corner for her.

What an absolutely gorgeous book.  From the warm inviting cover to the charming story within, it's a treat from start to finish.  There is laughter but there are also tears and unfortunately such is life.  The Forever House is a perfect life story and I treasured every moment, including the lump in my throat and the tear in my eye at the end.

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

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Cold Room - Karen Long


I had seen a lot of excitement about the Eleanor Raven series by Karen Long but I had managed to resist the books until now.  As one who doesn't normally like to jump in mid-series, I launched into the Eleanor Raven series at book 3 which I found to be an absolutely brilliant read and I am thrilled to release my review as part of the blog tour.

Don't miss the giveaway at the end of my post for your chance to win a signed paperback.


Publication Date: 8th May 2017
Series: Eleanor Raven – Book 3
Genre: Crime / Thriller

The brand new thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from the author of The Safe Word and The Vault.

Winter is settling on Toronto and a series of seemingly unconnected murders are weighing heavily on DI Eleanor Raven. When an army veteran holds his family hostage, leaving chaos and an unidentifiable skeletal human hand in his wake, Raven is left tangled in a web of leads, lies and secrets, with each thread leading her closer to the all too terrifying truth.

But with time running out, Raven needs to re-connect with her past life – the one she thought she’d finally escaped from – if she’s to find out who the killer is before they strike again . . .


What did I think?

I was intrigued from the start as I got my introduction to Eleanor Raven as she is undergoing hypnosis, perhaps this is some clue as to what has happened in previous books.  I will certainly find out shortly as I plan to read the first two books as soon as possible after having read this BRILLIANT instalment.

Eleanor would rather just get on with her job but she has to prove that she is fit for duty, hence the psychiatric treatment, but the case that she is drawn into will certainly play with her mind.  Eleanor finds herself part of a hostage negotiation as an ex-marine kills his wife with his 3 children in the house.  Once the children are secured, the Toronto police go after the ex-marine and they find a bit more than they bargained for hidden in the house.  With such a jam-packed chapter one I knew straight away that I was going to love this book!

When a seemingly unrelated incident sees the uncovering of a boiler room full of dead dogs, it is not long before the perpetrator moves on from canines to humans.  My mind was buzzing as I tried to work out how this could be linked to the marine in chapter one and once the penny dropped I saw the purpose of every single sentence written in this fantastic book.

I do think that I would have benefited from reading the Eleanor Raven books in order, but I know a good book when I see one and The Cold Room certainly fits the bill.  It's gruesome, chilling and AMAZING!  Don't wait as long as I did, make sure you discover the Eleanor Raven series today!

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

My rating:





Buy Links
AMAZON.COM


About the author

Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years. During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing. She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for The Safe Word.  
She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family. She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.   
Karen is happy to correspond with readers and can be contacted through her website KarenLongWriter.com, where she posts regular blogs. 
The Safe Word is Karen's first novel and was an Amazon bestseller, later joined by the second in the Eleanor Raven series, The Vault. 
All author or review enquires please contact Karen Long’s Personal Assistant J.B. Johnston – brookbooks@hotmail.co.uk



Did you know that Eleanor Raven is also online?


GIVEAWAY

PLUS…………..HEAD ON OVER TO GOODREADS FOR ANOTHER CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK!



Saturday, 13 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: Outremer I - DN Carter



Who Controls The Past Controls The Future

An epic love story must overcome religious divide and a plot to eradicate two blood lines, as the Crusades and the search for the ancient mysteries of the Holy Grail gather momentum.

Raised by his father in La Rochelle, France, Paul Plantavalu is known for his artistic nature, inquisitive mind and Christian faith. He also has an unshakable love for his Muslim childhood friend, Alisha al Komaty. Courageous and outspoken, she returns Paul’s love. But their path is paved with obstacles; religion, war, political chaos and a mysterious enemy determined to destroy their family lines.

Sometime between 1110 AD and 1120 AD in the aftermath of the first crusade, a small band of nine knights — the founding knights Templar — recover ancient precious artefacts left by a former, advanced civilisation, beneath the City of Jerusalem. Ruthlessly guarded, the secrets revealed by this discovery are highly prized by powerful and dangerous forces far and wide; the repercussions of their capture are inextricably linked to Paul and Alisha. As Paul starts to experience dark and vivid dreams and the fragile balance of peace starts to crumble, it will fall to an enigmatic man known as Kratos and his female warrior protégée Abi Shadana, to safeguard Paul and Alisha.

Paul and Alisha’s love story weaves between the threads of our reality and other realms — from the Druids to the Sufi mystics, the Magi of the East, the secret political arm of the Knights Templar and the Isma’ilis, the Assassins. Knights and pilgrims alike will witness some of the darkest battles ever fought. The discovery of a unique sword’s lethal power and whispered connections to King Arthur and the Holy Grail lead Paul and Alisha to question if their lives ever be the same again.

The first of a four-part series, Outremer is an historical epic, which sweeps across England, Scotland and France, to Syria, Jerusalem and Egypt. Discover the truth — and crack the ancient code — behind the great mysteries of the High Middle Ages for yourself.

What did I think?


I admit to feeling slightly daunted when faced with the HUGE brick of a book that is Outremer, which showed as 23 hours of reading time on kindle.  Thankfully, I had both a physical and a digital copy so I swapped between paperback and kindle now and then to give my puny arm muscles a well-deserved break.  On turning the first page there is a helpful list of main characters with some amazing images so we don't even have to imagine what each character looks like.  I have to say that there are a lot of characters so it did take me quite a while to get into the book, but once I did I found that I couldn't wait to read the next instalment in this riveting story.

The story of Paul and Alisha is cleverly told through the words of a sword-wielding stranger taking shelter at an inn in France.  As he tells his epic tale to the patrons of the inn, they became as eager for the next part of the story as I did.  Paul is a Christian who falls in love with Alisha, his best friend's sister who is a Muslim.  Due to their different religions, they fear that they can never be together but their fate has already been mapped and their fathers arrange an ancient ceremony so that they can be married.  As they travel across the lands to protect their bloodline, they encounter many who would harm them but equally as many who would die for them.

I felt as if I could be sat around the fire in the inn myself, as the stranger discussed the origins of legends, words and biblical history.  I am rather partial to ancient history, particularly Egyptian history, so I found this absolutely fascinating.  Often, my eyes would widen in surprise as the origins of many words were revealed and I found myself recounting this information, like the stranger in the inn, to my own captive audience.

Despite it being such a huge epic novel, I felt as if we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the amazing story that DN Carter has to tell us.  It's an epic story that will delight any historical fiction lover, and make you look at ancient history in a completely different light.  Although it makes Game of Thrones look like a novella, do not be put off by the size of Outremer as once you get into it you will realise that it's not even nearly long enough.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.  I am delighted to release my review as part of the blog tour.

My rating:





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About the author:
After strange and vivid experiences whilst living in Cyprus as a child, author D N Carter has been fascinated by the history, myths and legends of the Middle Ages and mankind’s past. As he got older travels to Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Languedoc region of France and the deserts of Arabia fuelled his enthusiasm. While not decoding maps and mathematical codes D N Carter enjoys adventure sports from parachuting to microlight flying. Today he divides his time between East Anglia in the UK and the south of France with his family.

Friday, 12 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Other Side - Kaylor Ward



As we have come to expect with the wonderful Brook Cottage Books tours, I've got a fabulous post for you today, with an excerpt, my review and an AMAZING giveaway at the end of the post where you could win the below goody basket.  If you're the lucky winner, you could be reading The Other Side on your new kindle fire, whilst drinking a glass of wine from your gorgeous glass and wearing your fabulous new scarf.  Good luck!




So how about a little extract to whet your appetite before I tell you what I thought of The Other Side?


EXTRACT
Prologue
The door shut with a cold, hard slam sending harsh metallic echoes around her. Her eyes shot warily from left to right as she raked her fingers through her hair and tried to make sense of her situation. She was in a cell. She had asked them not to lock her in, but they hadn’t paid her any attention. Where there had been a face a few seconds ago, there was now a slammed metal door with peeling grey paint showing the cracking blue paint beneath. She hated confined spaces. They told her there was a buzzer if she needed anything. Needed anything?
Panic welled in her chest, her throat and her brain as the grey walls and the naked single white light closed around her. Breathe...breathe...slow...down... This was not the place for a panic attack. Not here, not today. She was alone. She had to get through this. Focus...focus... Think yourself somewhere else.
She thought of her daughters, their smiles and their joy. She lay on the hard thin plastic mattress on the concrete bed, and pulled a thin blue blanket over her head to block out the light, to block out the room, and to block out now.

So after that intriguing prologue, let's see what I though of The Other Side.


Genre: Contemporary Fiction
(Jodi Picoult meets Clare Makintosh)
Release Date: 14th May 2017
Publisher: Parker Press Publishing
Lauren is locked in a cell. She knows she shouldn’t be there.
When Lauren and Rick are left an allotment they embark on a lifestyle change that is supposed to bring their step-family closer together. They embrace the chance for a slice of the good life, fresh air and family times together. Lauren and Rick are in love and happy but sometimes their past issues surface. For Lauren it’s the affair that her first husband had before he left her. For Rick it’s the children he was alienated from and forced to leave behind seven years ago.
One day a new family move into a cottage behind the allotment. That day changes everything. That day they start falling apart. 

What did I think?

What a surprise this book turned out to be.  I thought I was going to be reading a bit of a no-brainer book about a married couple who decided to do a bit of allotment  gardening, but I couldn't have been more wrong.  Yes, there is a married couple who have an allotment but dip beneath the surface and you find that not everything in the garden is rosy.

Lauren and Rick have both been hurt in the past so they are thankful that they have found each other.  Lauren's first husband had an affair, leaving her with her two girls, whilst Rick's ex-wife turned his children against him and he wasn't allowed to see them again. When they are gifted an allotment out of the blue, Lauren didn't expect Rick to spend so much time there, but it isn't just the gardening that has captured his attention...

Rick thinks that he is burying his thoughts and hiding his feelings but as he grows increasingly distant Lauren begins to suspect that he is having an affair.  Lauren even follows the woman that she suspects her husband to be cheating with and sees her arrive at Rick's workplace.  Lauren has been there before though, and is fearful of confronting Rick in case she doesn't like what she uncovers and is left alone again.  Lauren has no idea what is going on in Rick's mind and, as my jaw dropped at the end, clearly neither did I.

A completely unexpected gem of a book by Kaylor Ward, the characters were so well developed that I felt as if I knew them personally. I loved Lauren's close relationship with her sister and the business that they run together, Puffin Island, being not just any old clothes shop but an emporium of makeovers.  There is laughter and there are tears as Lauren deals with the trials and tribulations of her sister, Kate, and her friend, Beth, whilst wondering what is going on in her own marriage and trying not to have her head turned by local attractive bar owner, Jack.  Rick's predicament was excellently portrayed as he tried to hide his feelings from Lauren, whilst inadvertently spinning a web of lies and leading Lauren to jump to conclusions.  There are indeed always two sides to every story, although Kaylor Ward has discovered the secret third side to the story in The Other Side.

The Other Side is so surprisingly multifaceted that I can't think of a better way to describe it than an absolute gem of a book.  Kaylor Ward has taken the contemporary fiction genre by storm by writing something so outstanding and I am delighted to see that she plans a follow up to Lauren's story - Side by Side.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend The Other Side - it's so much more than I ever expected from the beautiful calm and tranquil cover which belies the tempestuous storm that is brewing inside.

My rating:





BUY LINKS




About the author:

Kaylor Ward, originally from London, now lives in South Wales. She worked for many years as a management consultant and trainer, writing part-time until her first book was published under the name, Michaela Weaver (Manic Mondays). She has studied creative writing at Masters level, and in addition to her writing she is a qualified Writing Coach. Michaela is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and a reader for their New Writers' Scheme. Michaela writes cross genre contemporary fiction with psychological twists often about the darker side of family and domestic life.

Twitter: @kaylorward

GIVEAWAY TIME!


PRIZES
Kindle Fire!
Lolita Wine Glass from Jack’s wine bar
Bottle of vino from Jack’s
Scarf from Puffin Island
JUST FOLLOW THE LINK TO ENTER THE COMP!
AND, AS IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH………….There’s a free 6 week novel writing course for everyone run by Kaylor Ward herself! Here’s the link to access it!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: Blue Gold - David Barker



The near future. Climate change and geopolitical tension have given rise to a new international threat - a world war for water. This most vital of resources has become a precious commodity and some will stop at nothing to control its flow. 

When a satellite disappears over Iceland, Sim Atkins thinks he knows why. He is given the chance to join the hallowed Overseas Division and hunt for the terrorists responsible. But his new partner Freda Brightwell is aggrieved to be stuck with a rookie on such a deadly mission. Freda's misgivings are well founded when their first assignment ends in disaster - a bomb destroys a valuable airship and those responsible evade capture. 

Seeking redemption, the British agents follow the trail to a billionaires' tax haven in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and uncover a web of deceit that threatens global war. Whom can they trust? As the world edges ever closer to destruction Sim and Freda must put their lives on the line to prevent Armageddon - and protect the future of 'blue gold'. 

David Barker's gripping debut will thrill fans of Richard North Patterson, Scott Mariani and Steve Berry.

What did I think?

I'm not usually a fan of futuristic or science fiction novels, but I made an exception for Blue Gold as it is set in the not too distant future with a completely believable and frighteningly real storyline: a global water shortage.

Blue Gold really starts with a bang as we meet Sim and Freda, British OFWAT agents, as they are descending a snow covered mountain with a helicopter shooting at them.  To find out what they are doing on a mountain and why somebody wants rid of them, we must rewind a few years to get the full story.  The story takes Sim and Freda across the globe, even stopping off at the wonderfully imaginative exclusive sea state of Marinus, as they track terrorists and encounter double agents.

Hidden throughout the book like little easter eggs are quotes and references to so many movies that I lost count.  The author lists these movies in his notes at the end and I was surprised to see how many I had missed.  Of course, when you are engrossed in the story you don't always spot things like this until they are pointed out but I found it quite fun to spot them as I was reading.  I did laugh out loud when Sim said that he hadn't heard of Star Wars, which he refers to as an ancient two-dimensional film!  As unbelievable as that sounds, it did a very good job of reminding me that I was reading a book set in the future when Star Wars would be over half a century old.

As someone with a keen interest in Roman history, I was delighted with the SPQR reference.  Not used in reference to the state of Rome in this case but to remind OFWAT agents to Serve, Protect, Quench and Ration.  I thought this was a great way to bring a little piece of ancient history along for the ride into the future.

It's quite fast paced and flicks rapidly back and forth between characters, but I do have to admit to the odd moment of confusion and sometimes I couldn't have really told you what was going on but it didn't stop me reading, mainly due to the magnetic pull of the two main characters: Sim and Freda.  Although there are some exciting and gripping moments that maintain the high pace, I would have liked to have read more about the effects of the water shortage to perhaps really drive home the important message within the book. Blue Gold has taken a step in the right direction towards raising awareness of water shortages and kudos to David Barker for doing so; ultimately it is up to us to make a difference before the fiction we have just read becomes reality.

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

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

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