Friday, 19 October 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Eyes That Look - Julia Grigg


This compelling novel of art and adventure, Julia Grigg’s debut, is set in the feverish creativity of mid-sixteenth century Italy. Francesco Bassano wants to find out how and why an extraordinary painting was made; the story traces his quest to discover the secrets of the portrait’s past. Francesco’s journey, his coming-of-age, takes him and his questions to Venice, Verona, Maser and Florence. Encountering the High Renaissance’s masters Titian, Veronese and Vasari in the very act of creating and recording the era’s stupendous art and architecture, he is witness to astonishing achievements. Enthralled, he learns of the determination needed for innovation and the sacrifices demanded of an artist if cherished ambition is to become reality. Little by little he unravels what lies behind the painting, gaining new understanding of love, truth and beauty, and of loyalty, devotion and the unbreakable bond between a master and his dogs. However, in delving deeper, the past’s dark side reveals itself: cruelty, inhumanity and human frailty ­­– and Francesco cannot avoid the experience of bitter betrayal.
A spirited, entertaining fiction drawing on historical facts, The Eyes that Look is multi-sensual in its storytelling, inviting readers to revel in the unrivalled artistic riches of the Italian Renaissance.


What did I think?

A book with a theme of art is not my kind of thing at all but Julia Grigg has opened my eyes to a whole new world with her beautifully written colourful book set in 16th Century Italy.  The line chosen for the blog tour poster is so perfectly apt in summing up the book: 'Only by looking will you learn to see'.  This is a book that both art lovers and historical fiction fans will never forget.

The beautiful painting of Two Hunting Dogs by Jacopo Bassano is depicted on the inside cover and through the pages that follow we learn the story behind this painting through several different voices, but mainly through Jacopo's son, Francesco.  Francesco's story is an absolutely riveting adventure through the vivid sights and sounds of Italy and I enjoyed it so much more than I expected to.

Julia Grigg's love for her subject really shines through every page but by creating such colourful characters she has made the story so accessible to those of us without knowledge of art.  It's silly I know, but I have never thought about the story behind paintings; of course there had to be one to inspire the artist in the first place.  This is how Julia Grigg has opened my eyes to a whole new world as I now find myself looking more closely at not only paintings but photographs in order to see the story behind them.

An absolutely stellar debut that both surprised and delighted me from start to finish.  I feel like I have been given a life lesson as I can see the world in so much more colour after reading The Eyes That Look and I intend to keep looking in order to learn to see.

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

My rating:


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Tuesday, 9 October 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Promise - Katerina Diamond


No one can protect you from your past…
When a young woman is found strangled in her own bedroom, DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles are plunged into an investigation to find a twisted serial killer who likes to date his victims before he kills them.
Determined to stop the horrific deaths, Imogen is forced to act as bait – but will she get caught in her own trap? As the search for the killer ramps up, attention falls on the strange new boy in town. Why does he watch his neighbours through the windows? And could the truth be closer to home than any of them realise?

What did I think?

I absolutely loved Katarina Diamond's first book in the DS Grey and DS Miles series, The Teacher, but I am guilty of reading The Promise which is book 4 before books 2 and 3.  It definitely reads well as a standalone because there are references to earlier events that made me want to find out more, rather than feel as if I had missed something crucial.

With many of us singletons turning to online dating these days, The Promise is very relevant and a little scary.  It is very well written and clearly well researched as it is always a fear of mine that the person you are talking to online is somebody entirely different in real life...aka a catfish.  This is what is happening to the women in The Promise as they are chosen and groomed into meeting their perfect man who kills them on the first date.  DS Imogen Grey is so determined to catch the killer that she puts herself on a dating site as bait...but will hers or the killer's trap be sprung first?

There's also a dual storyline about a teenage boy, Connor.  Connor is a very troubled teen and he has moved to the UK from America with his Dad who beats him.  Under times of stress, Connor has seizures and you can't help but feel for this young man.  He has been written with a huge heart underneath his cool exterior and I loved how he was drawn to his neighbour, Selina, who isn't one of the popular girls at school.  It was so sad to see how his character has evolved due to his family history and it's scary to think how events in our past can shape us.

Fast-paced, current and gripping, The Promise is another fabulous page turner from Katerina Diamond that has me frantically back peddling to fill in the gaps between The Promise and The Teacher.

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

My rating:


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Sunday, 7 October 2018

BLOG TOUR: What Happened to Us? - Faith Hogan


Carrie Nolan is devastated when she is dumped by Kevin Mulvey after more than a decade without even a backwards glance! On reflection, she has sacrificed her own long term happiness establishing their critically acclaimed Dublin restaurant and pandering to his excessive ego.

Meanwhile Kevin can’t believe his luck. Valentina, their new waitress is a stunner, the kind of girl that turns heads when she walks in a room and surprise, surprise she has chosen him! He is living the dream!

Carrie seeks solace from a circle of mismatched friends who need her as much as she needs them. Jane, who struggles to run the pub on the opposite side of the street, Luke, who has stopped drifting while his father settles in a nearby nursing home and Teddy, a dog who asks for nothing more than the chance to stay by Carrie’s side.

With Christmas just around the corner, all is not quite as it seems and a catastrophic sequence of events leads to the unthinkable...

How far do you need to fall before you learn the true value of family and friends? And is it ever too late to start again...


What did I think?

I absolutely adore Faith Hogan's books so I was really eager to read her latest book, What Happened to Us?  With a main character that you will instantly take to your heart, this is a beautiful story of relationships and friendship with a surprising twist of fate.  

Carrie and Kevin seem to have the perfect partnership: a long standing relationship and owners of a prestigious restaurant in Dublin.  When Kevin drops a bombshell that he is dumping Carrie for their sexy Columbian waitress, Valentina, Carrie thinks her world has ended.  With Valentina eager to get her claws into Kevin's business too, Carrie feels more and more pushed out.

Taking a step back from the restaurant, Carrie spends more time with Jane Marchant who owns a pub over the road.  It may seem like an unlikely friendship but fate has played a hand in this one, especially when handsome Luke and cute dog Teddy enter Carrie and Jane's life.  It just shows that some things are meant to be.

I loved the characters in this book, from lovable Carrie to detestable Valentina with spineless Kevin in between.  Carrie has such a huge heart and Kevin clearly didn't deserve it so I was delighted when he gets a taste of his own medicine with Valentina.  I also loved the story around Jane who has kept her pub running after being widowed despite being scared to be on her own.  The growth of her friendship with both Carrie and Luke left a warm fuzzy glow around my heart; something that Faith Hogan always seems to manage to do through her beautifully emotive writing.

What Happened to Us? is a heartwarming story of love, loss, friendship and new beginnings that completely captivated me and effortlessly spirited me away to Dublin for a short while. 

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

My rating:


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About the author:

Faith was born in Ireland and currently lives there with her husband, four children and two fussy cats. She gained an Honors Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate from University College, Galway. She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair- an international competition for emerging writers. When she’s not writing, she’s an enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger.

Follow Faith
Twitter: @gerhogan
Facebook: @faithhoganauthor



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Wednesday, 3 October 2018

BLOG BLITZ: One Perfect Witness - Pat Young


On a remote Scottish hillside, three paths meet. On each path, a boy, one carrying a gun.

When their paths cross, a shot is fired and a boy dies.

That leaves two - one killer and one perfect witness.

This killer will stop at nothing to make sure the witness says nothing. Difficult for most people, even for someone who's been guarding a secret of his own for five years.

What if the witness decides he's been silent too long? Sometimes even the unspeakable must be spoken, if we can find the words.


What did I think?

Pat Young is such a talented writer and I am pleased to say that I have read all three of her excellent books.  One Perfect Witness is her latest book and I have to say that it completely tugged on my heartstrings, often bringing tears to my eyes, as Charlie struggled to be noticed by his parents.

Charlie totally stole the show as the main character and you can't help but take this young lad to your heart.  Now twelve years old, he stopped talking when he was younger and nobody knows why.  He is tired of going unnoticed by his parents and he makes a rash decision to steal his father's gun that will have explosive consequences.  All of this happens in chapter 1 and with such an amazing jaw dropping ending to an opening chapter, I just had to read on.

Sebastien, meanwhile, is going on an adventure.  Swapping sunny Paris for a summer job in wet and windy Scotland, but his mother has a bad feeling about him leaving.  A mother's instinct is never wrong and my heart was breaking for Catherine as she tried to locate her son.  With someone now assuming Sebastien's identity, Catherine's emotions were put through the wringer as she went from worrying about her son's safety to elation that he was safe but too busy to call her.

Unfortunately, Charlie and Sebastien's paths were destined to cross, albeit briefly, which will change both of their lives forever.  Can Charlie ever speak the words that will take Sebastien home?

With an absolutely killer first chapter, One Perfect Witness hooked me from the start.  I was willing Charlie to find the strength to speak and put an end to the campaign of terror he was being subjected to.  There was a strong sense of family running through the story and I couldn't help but compare Charlie and Sebastien.  The love that Sebastien's family had for him was plain for all to see but Charlie felt like he was invisible and that absolutely broke my heart.

One Perfect Witness is another unforgettable book by Pat Young; it's a book that will simultaneously get your heart racing and breaking with the fast paced dysfunctional family storyline.

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

My rating:


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About the author:
Pat Young grew up in the south west of Scotland where she still lives, sometimes. She often goes to the other extreme, the south west of France, in search of sunlight.

Pat never expected to be a writer. Then she found a discarded book with a wad of cash tucked in the flyleaf. ‘What if something awful happened to the person who lost this book?’ she thought, and she was off.

Pat knew nothing of writing, but she knew a thing or two about books, having studied English, French and German at Glasgow University. A passion for languages led to a career she loved and then a successful part-time business that allowed her some free-time, at last.

Pat had plans, none of which included sitting at her desk from daybreak till dusk. But some days she has to. Because there’s a story to be told. And when it’s done, she can go out to play. On zip-wires and abseil ropes, or just the tennis court.

Pat writes psychological thrillers. Her debut novel Till the Dust Settles, has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable Stag trophy. Following publication in July
2017 Pat was delighted to be chosen as an ‘emerging talent’ for Crime in the Spotlight and read from Till the Dust Settles to an audience at Bloody Scotland – another dream come true.

Published by Bloodhound Books, I Know Where You Live is the much-anticipated sequel to Pat’s gripping and unmissable debut thriller, Till the Dust Settles. It too is a psychological thriller with a skilfully told story that makes for an enjoyable stand alone read. It will hook you from the start.

One Perfect Witness, Pat’s third novel to be published, tells a completely new story. If, like Pat, you’re fascinated by what happens when someone disappears, you’ll enjoy this book of secrets, lies and deception.

Links:

Twitter: @py321_young 



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Tuesday, 2 October 2018

BLOG BLITZ: The Cornish Retribution - Amanda James


After a tragic car accident, Samantha is left widowed and bereft.  Her husband Adam was everything to her. But at least the home they shared together in Cornwall provides her with some security. Or does it?

Upon returning from a school reunion in Sheffield, where Sam met her old friend, Penny, and an old flame from her school days, Dan, she discovers that Adam had invested money unwisely and she is now penniless.

When Penny and Dan, who are now married, arrive in Cornwall to visit Sam, Dan comes up with a way in which Sam can keep the house. He suggests she turns it into a writing retreat. And he is willing to invest.

Despite his wife’s reservations, Dan gets his way but at what price?

Why is Dan so keen to help? Has Sam put herself in harm’s way?

Some relationships are built to last. Others are deadly.


What did I think?

I am a huge fan of Amanda James books; not only are you guaranteed a gripping and suspenseful storyline but the dramatic Cornish landscape is woven into the story as if it's a character in its own right.  I have never been to Cornwall but it's definitely somewhere I want to visit after reading Amanda James' fabulous books.

I loved the story of Sam going to her school reunion, the thought of which gives me goosebumps as everyone tries to compete to see who has become the most successful.  Recently widowed, Sam makes the decision to go up to Sheffield to face her demons in the form of old flame Dan and ex-best friend Penny who are now married.  I could feel the sexual tension between Dan and Sam as the years seemed to melt away as if they were teenagers again, then the temperature plummets when Penny arrives on the scene.  Despite their tempestuous history, which they all seem willing to forget, Sam decides to let Dan and Penny invest in her writing retreat...but is this a decision she will regret?

I really worried for Sam as I felt as if she was a fly caught in a spider's web with so much suspense and tension written into the story.  Dan seemed too good to be true, swooping in like a knight in shining armour to rescue Sam's home, but I feared he had an ulterior motive.  The whole story had me balanced on a knife edge as it spun off in different directions and I wondered who would be left standing at the end.

I am never disappointed by Amanda James books and The Cornish Retribution is no exception.  In fact, I think it is one of my favourite Amanda James books; it's suspenseful, gripping and utterly engrossing.  A highly recommended read.

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon



About the author:

Amanda has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published, given that she left school with no real qualifications of note apart from an A* in how to be a nuisance in class. Nevertheless, she returned to education when her daughter was five and eventually became a history teacher. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true when her first short story was published. Amanda has written many short stories and has six novels currently published. 

Amanda grew up in Sheffield but now has realised her lifelong dream of living in Cornwall and her writing is inspired every day by the dramatic coastline near her home. She has sketched out many stories in her head while walking the cliff paths. Four of her mystery/suspense novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel, Behind the Lie and Rip Current. The Cornish Retribution is also set in Cornwall and will be published by Bloodhound Books in October 2018.

Amanda, known to many as Mandy, spends far more time than is good for her on social media and has turned procrastination to a fine art. She can also usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

Links:

Amanda's blog: http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @akjames61

Facebook: mandy.james.33



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Monday, 24 September 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Toymakers - Robert Dinsdale

I am delighted to be the final stop on The Toymakers blog tour and I am re-posting my review of this imaginative and enchanting book.


Do you remember when you believed in magic?

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

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

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


What did I think?

I was immediately drawn to the striking cover of The Toymakers and decided to read this on the run up to Christmas to inject a little magic into my life.  I didn't expect to feel so emotional at the end but the power of Robert Dinsdale's writing clearly worked its way into my heart like a toy soldier scaling a battlement.  Don't be mistaken: this is not solely a magical feel-good story, it is mainly set during World War I so be prepared for loss and devastation but you can forget about it for a while when you enter Papa Jack's Emporium.

The Emporium is hidden away down a side street in London and you could easily walk past it, if you didn't know it was there.  This magical toy shop opens at first frost and closes as the first snowdrop flowers but in the short time it is open you can find every toy imaginable in its four walls, but even more toys that you could never have imagined.  Papa Jack and his sons, Kaspar and Emil, create all the toys themselves and there's quite a rivalry between the boys as to whose toys are the best.  

Cathy Wray is drawn to the Emporium after she sees an advert in the newspaper, just when she thought she could not escape her predicament.  So she runs away from home and starts a job in the Emporium, but when the first snowdrop flowers she has nowhere to go and hides in the wendy house in the Emporium.  Both brothers find her at different times and keep it a secret from each other as their rivalry extends to who will win Cathy's heart.  After the war, this intense rivalry threatens to be the downfall of the Emporium when Kaspar meddles with Emil's precious toy soldiers...the toy soldiers don't want to fight anymore and seem to have minds of their own.  Can the Emporium ever survive when Kaspar, Emil and thousands of toy soldiers are at loggerheads and Hitler's bombs are flying overhead? 

Let your imagination run wild and expect the unexpected in The Toymakers.  My imagination went into overdrive and I thought of those horrific Chucky movies as the toy soldiers were scuttling about all over the place.  I found it terribly heartbreaking as the horrors of the First World War were touched on and hoped the soldiers had somebody like Kaspar in the trenches with them to give them some comfort.

The Toymakers is so magical but slightly scary that I think of it as a fairytale for adults.  The Emporium is painted in such glorious colour through the magical prose that I felt as if I was visiting it myself.  I think The Toymakers is a little like the Emporium itself, it's only going to be enjoyable to those who believe in magic but know that the big bad world is right outside the door.

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

My rating:




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Sunday, 23 September 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Anniversary - Hilary Boyd


Is the one you tried to forget the one you can't live without?

Stella once thought that if she never saw Jack again, it would be too soon.

But life has other plans for her and her stubborn, handsome ex-husband.

Looking after their daughter in a time of need, Stella finds herself unwillingly reunited with the man she shared the best years of her life with - followed by the worst.

Where tragedy once tore them apart, now Stella and Jack are being drawn back together. But each of them has a new partner and a new life.

Should they fight temptation?

Should the past remain the past?

Or are some loves simply meant to be?

What did I think?

I can't even begin to describe the level of emotion in this book, it's almost as if it's woven into the very fabric of the pages.  Although it is ultimately a love story, there are so many trials and tribulations to contend with which cause heartache and pain for the beautiful characters in the book.

I loved the character of Stella; she seems so strong and brave but underneath she is quite fragile and insecure.  You can't help but warm to her after what she has gone through in her life; a life that she thought would see her and Jack grow old together as they watched their family grow up.  Alas, fate had a different path in store for Stella and Jack which saw them splintering off in different directions, that is until their pregnant daughter needs their support and they realise that the love that they once shared has never fully left them...but now they're with other people, is it too late?

Oh my word, The Anniversary is such a heartbreaking love story, encompassing tragedy and hope but filled with nail-biting family drama.  It really broke my heart that Stella and Jack lost so many years of their life together but I completely understood that what happened to them would break up the strongest couple.  I loved how Eve's pregnancy brought them back together with the shared love they have for their daughter.  It felt like there was a low simmering pot on the stove as Stella and Jack's fractured relationship gradually began to repair and I was willing them to kiss before the pan bubbled over!

The Anniversary is a beautiful tragic love story, written with such intense emotion that I can't imagine any reader failing to be moved by this compelling story.

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

My rating:


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