Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Waxwork Corpse (Charles Holborne Legal Thrillers Book 5) - Simon Michael


Charles Holborne is back – with his strangest case to date! Perfect for fans of John Grisham, Robert Bailey, Michael Connelly and Robert Dugoni.


A deadly crime has been dragged to the surface…

London, 1965

Charles Holborne, maverick barrister, will never fit in at the Bar; he is too working-class, too Jewish and too dangerous.

But that makes him the perfect outsider to prosecute a shocking murder case which has already made its way to the press.

By chance, a body was found, dumped in a lake. It had clearly been there for some time, but the conditions in the water have meant that it was nearly perfectly preserved.

The police have managed to match this ‘waxwork corpse’ to a missing woman and if her husband — a senior judge — was the one who killed her, the scandal threatens to rock the British justice to its foundations.

The waxwork corpse is not the only thing to be raised from the past. The investigation also dredges up a violent mistake made by Charles in his youth which, if revealed, could put his own life at stake…

THE WAXWORK CORPSE, based on a real Old Bailey case, is the fifth crime novel in an exciting historical series, the Charles Holborne Legal Thrillers — gritty, hard-boiled mysteries set in 1960s London.


What did I think?

I'm a huge fan of Simon Michael's Charles Holborne series and I made sure that I had this fifth instalment on preorder so that it dropped onto my kindle on release day.  Although it took me a few weeks to get round to reading it, I can definitely say that it was well worth waiting for.

Simon Michael has taken the Charles Holborne series to the next level with The Waxwork Corpse; not only do we get to see Charles at his lowest ebb but, as it says on the cover, there is a huge twist in this book.  I wasn't going to refer to this at all as it feels like a bit of a spoiler, but all I will say is that it's an absolutely brilliant jaw-dropping ending to an outstanding book.

My heart really went out to Charles in this book.  The prejudice he experiences is a common theme throughout the whole series but it seems to really reach a head in The Waxwork Corpse.  Not only do his peers look down their noses at him because of his Jewish ancestry and his East End upbringing, but his mother has basically disowned him because he refuses to conform to the Jewish faith.  Millie Horowitz is a very bitter woman and when she stops speaking to Charles she turns her forked tongue on her long suffering husband.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Charles Holborne legal thriller without a court case and what a case it is!  Charles is not afraid to take on a high profile case, after all he has nothing to lose and this case of the murdered wife of a judge resonates with Charles as he was in a similar situation in The Brief.  This time, Charles is on the prosecution rather than being the accused and I loved reading about sifting through the collection of evidence and flashbacks to the judge's past.

I actually didn't think Simon Michael's writing had any room for improvement but oh my goodness some of the descriptions in The Waxwork Corpse gave me goosebumps.  The description of Tiffen's Rock on the shore of Wastwater is simply sublime, but one sentence stood out among others and I'd like to share it here.  During one of Charles' own flashbacks during the blitz, he is out with his cousin Izzy when the air raid sirens start sounding and with searchlights scanning the skies for enemy aircraft, Simon Michael writes:
"London holds its breath."
Never before have four words been so powerful and held such meaning.  It feels like Simon Michael has carefully chosen every single one of his words and they all fit together perfectly to complete the jigsaw of The Waxwork Corpse. 

Scarily true to life The Waxwork Corpse is actually based on a real life case and you can find out more about the Lady in the Lake here.  I love that crossover between fact and fiction in novels, although we love to escape through fiction there's something special about books that feel true to life.  I always love it when a book interests me so much that I end up heading off to google to find out more.

Exceptional, outstanding and completely brilliant, The Waxwork Corpse, is Simon Michael at his finest.  This phenomenal series blasts all other legal thrillers out of the water and I can't recommend it highly enough.  Simon Michael, you're accused of stealing all five stars.  How do you plead?  GUILTY!

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday, 24 February 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Guest List - Lucy Foley


Guests are called to a remote island off the Irish coast to celebrate the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules and Will. Everything has been meticulously planned, the scene is set, old friends are back together.   

It should be the perfect day.   

Until the discovery of a body signals the perfect murder.   

A groom with a secret. 
A bridesmaid with a grudge. 
A plus one with motive. 
A best man with a past.  

It could be any, it could be all . . . But one guest won’t make it out alive. 


What did I think?

Although it's only February, 2020 is already turning out to be a year of awesome books and The Guest List by Lucy Foley is an absolute cracker.  Filled with tension and unease, and crammed full of secrets, Lucy Foley has very cleverly crafted a murder mystery unlike any other I have read before.  You might be wondering how it could be different to other whodunnits, well simply because the reader is kept completely in the dark as to which one of the guests is dead.  

When reading murder mysteries or crime thrillers, readers turn into amateur sleuths.  We sift through the evidence set out before us and examine motive of each character.  It's impossible to do this with The Guest List as each character may have motive, but for different potential victims.  Although naturally I did try to guess who was dead and 'whodunnit', all of the unknown variables sent my brain into a tizz so I gave up and just enjoyed the show. 

I have never enjoyed a book so much with so many unlikeable characters in it.  This might sound odd, but it's the individual characteristics and history of each character that drives the story.  Everyone seems to have something to hide or holds a grudge against someone, so there was no way that this was ever going to be the perfect wedding to Will that Jules dreamed of.  Especially not when Will's old school friends turned up and regressed into a wolfish pack of annoying teenage boys.  I could've quite easily pushed any one of them over the edge of the cliff.

The Guest List may very well be compared to an Agatha Christie novel but for building suspense and holding on to all of its secrets until the last possible moment, I think it's even better than any Christie novels I've ever read.  The Guest List is even better than a 'whodunnit, it's a  'you'llneverguesswhodunnit' because you don't know who 'it' is.

With a very cleverly crafted plot, The Guest List is as impossible to second guess as it is to put down.  It's an absolutely sensational book that I'll be recommending to all.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon




About the author:

Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party, an instant Sunday Times and Irish Times no.1 bestseller, was Lucy’s debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more. 








Follow the tour:

Friday, 21 February 2020

Witch Dust - Marilyn Messik


For Sandra, daughter of illusionists, Adam and Ophelia, life’s never been run of the mill! But when Adam’s wandering eye lights on yet another conquest, Sandra’s caught in the reverberations of her parents acrimonious parting. Coerced into restoring her depressed Mother to the bosom of a family Sandra never knew existed, she’s sucked into a situation that even for her is unnerving. 

From being without a single relative, she suddenly acquires several she’d rather do without. Ophelia, it appears, has not been entirely honest about any number of things. There’s no doubt in Sandra’s mind, the sooner she puts as much distance as possible between herself, the newly discovered nearest and dearest with their peculiar tendencies and failing hotel business, the happier she’s going to be.

There are just a few things to sort first including a possessed chef; a hanged housemaid; a fly-on-the-wall documentary and a doppelgänger. Things slide swiftly from bad to farce and then get a hell of a lot darker. One minute she’s saving the family business the next, battling to save their lives. Turns out, some darknesses, once buried, are best left undisturbed.

What did I think?

I've read the first two books in the Strange Series (which I highly recommended) so I know that Marilyn Messik spins a good yarn and standalone novel Witch Dust is a hugely entertaining story.  It starts with a bang and rather like a boulder rolling downhill it seems to gather pace with the turn of each page; I was turning pages so fast I'm surprised I didn't end up with a load of paper cuts.  I also have to say that the cover is completely awesome; it looks like the Bates Motel and that fits perfectly with the story actually.

Sandra's parents, Adam and Ophelia, are famous illusionists and for them all the world is a stage.  In typical showbiz fashion, Sandra's real name is Serenissima but she is happy to stay behind the curtain and out of the limelight.  Over the years, Sandra sees a few strange things going on in the show that appear to be more than an illusion but magic isn't real, is it?

After a fight with Adam, Ophelia turns up in Sandra's living room and asks Sandra to drive her to her family home.  There's nothing odd about that except Ophelia has always told Sandra that she was adopted and had no real family.  Finding out that she has family she never knew about comes as quite a shock for Sandra but there are many more shocks and surprises in store for her when she meets them.  Let's just say that they make The Addams Family look normal.

Much like a disturbance in the force, Sandra and Ophelia arriving at the family home, which the family have turned into a hotel, results in a lot of interest from the local community.  It's not a spoiler to say (as the title is Witch Dust after all) that it could be seen as a 'gathering' and with so many strange things happening, I was reading with a growing feeling of unease and a sense of impending danger.  The story is so compelling, and Marilyn Messik has a knack of ending her chapters with cliffhangers, that you can't help but read 'one more chapter' that turns into about ten more chapters until suddenly you've read the whole book in no time at all.

Witch Dust is such a magical, spooky and unique book; it's like an episode of Supernatural, Bewitched and Charmed all rolled into one.  Prepare to expect the unexpected and you'll still be shocked and surprised; I absolutely loved it.  If you're looking to read something different for a change, you won't get more different than Witch Dust.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Thursday, 20 February 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Will to Succeed: Lady Anne Clifford's Battle for her Rights - Christine Raafat



When the 15-year-old Lady Anne Clifford’s father died in 1605, she was his sole surviving child and expecting to inherit the Cliffords’ great northern estates. But the Earl of Cumberland leaves a will which ignores an ancient law and bequeaths the lands to his brother, in the belief that a prophecy by his great-grandfather will eventually come true and return the estates to Anne. She and her mother vow to contest the will.

Anne spends the next three decades battling for what she believes is rightfully hers. She risks everything by opposing her beloved husband, her family and friends, the nobility, the law courts, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the King. She steadfastly (and treasonably) refuses to accept the King’s decision, whatever the consequences, but is defeated and left with the prophecy as her only hope.

Widowed at thirty-four, she survives an anxious period alone with her two young daughters before surprising everyone with an ill-judged second marriage which gives her access to the highest in the land. But the Civil War destroys that power and confines the 52-year-old Anne to a grand palace in London for six years. Still convinced of her rights, will she ever attain “ye landes of mine inheritance”?

What did I think?

I consider historical fiction to be one of my favourite book genres and set during the Tudor/Stuart crossover, including the English Civil War, The Will to Succeed piqued my interest immediately.  I don't often remark on the format of books but Unicorn Publishing Group have done an amazing job; particularly the fold over front and back covers comprising a map of London within, which gives the book the feel of a quality historical novel and rightly so as it is very high quality indeed.

I am shocked that I have never heard of Lady Anne Clifford, especially now that I have read about what a remarkable woman she was.  Standing firm with her powerful motto of 'Preserve your loyalty, Retain your Rights', Anne did amazing things for women's rights in a time when only males could inherit land and property.  Although slight in stature, Anne was not afraid to stand up to any man for what she believed in, not even her King.  She is such a courageous, determined and admirable woman; she never gave up fighting for her inheritance, despite all of the threats that were thrown at her.  I think even a lot of men would have given in when surrounded by so many bullies telling them they were wrong.

It's huge praise indeed to say that I absolutely raced through this novel; as anyone who reads historical fiction will know, it's often a lengthy process and you don't often refer to an historical novel as a page-turner.  Christine Raafat brings Anne Clifford to life through historical facts, Anne's own words and a smidgen of creative licence, making The Will to Succeed more exuberant than you would expect from historical fiction.  I honestly couldn't put it down.

Anne's life spans the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I when England saw many changes in the way the country was governed.  What didn't change at all was that it continued to be a man's world.  Anne Clifford, in standing up for her rights, must surely be considered one of the very early feminists.  I certainly didn't think that there would be any examples of feminism in 17th Century England.  I was so interested in Anne's story that after reading The Will to Succeed, I scurried off to google to find a portrait of her and to see the photos of the castles that she was fighting for.  I recommend having a look at the Anne Clifford pages on Historic England and English Heritage which give a concise summary of Anne's battle for her inheritance and shows her portrait and castles.  It certainly looks like Lady Anne's Brougham Castle in Penrith could be well worth a visit if I ever find myself en route to the Lake District.

The Will to Succeed is historical fiction at its finest; it's interesting, entertaining and enlightening.  It's a fabulous eye-opening read about a truly remarkable woman and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon




Follow the tour:

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

BLOG TOUR: Saturdays at Noon - Rachel Marks


Emily just wants to keep the world away.

After getting into trouble yet again, she's agreed to attend anger management classes. But she refuses to share her deepest secrets with a room full of strangers.

Jake just wants to keep his family together.

He'll do anything to save his marriage and bond with his six-year-old son, Alfie. But when he's paired with spiky Emily, he wonders whether opening up will do more harm than good.

The two of them couldn't be more different. Yet when Alfie, who never likes strangers, meets Emily, something extraordinary happens.

Could one small boy change everything?

What did I think?

What a truly exceptional book!  Rachel Marks' writing is so accomplished that I must have checked half a dozen times that it was her debut.  This heartwarming, touching and utterly charming tale kept my eyes firmly glued to the page from start to finish and left me thinking about the story long after I finished it.

The story starts when Jake and Emily meet at anger management class, but it is 6 year old Alfie who steals the show and the reader's heart.  Emily doesn't think she has an anger issue so she's very dismissive of the anger management class.  Meanwhile, Jake is a stay at home dad, struggling with his frustration and anger at Alfie's volatile mood swings and agreeing to go to anger management class to try to save his marriage.  When Emily meets Alfie they have an instant connection and Jake agrees to spend time with Emily to avoid Alfie's stupendous meltdowns.  Naturally, their shared love of Alfie brings them closer together but with his marriage on the rocks, Jake has some momentous decisions to make.

In one fell swoop with her beautiful, outstanding debut, Rachel Marks obliterates the stigma surrounding autism; there's absolutely nothing 'wrong' with an autistic child, the condition just needs to be identified and managed correctly.  Alfie's autism is not diagnosed early and he is seen as a naughty, uncontrollable child, leaving his parents at their wits end and feeling like failures.  It is Emily who tries different tactics with Alfie and his need to control his environment and seeing him blossom into a happy, loving child makes all of the meltdowns instantly forgettable.

Although most of the chapters are told from alternating points of view of Jake and Emily, I love how Alfie gets to tell the reader how he is feeling.  It really helped me to understand autism from the child's point of view and I see it in a completely different light now.  From the adult point of view, it is clear that everyone has different coping mechanisms, not only with autism but with life itself.  Although Emily and Jake turn to traditional coping methods, I didn't like Jake's wife Jemma's way of coping with a difficult child, although I can understand it as everyone is different.

I didn't just love this book, I completely adored it; the characters seemed to come alive through Rachel Marks' expressive and emotive writing and I am actually missing Alfie already.  So deeply has he ingrained himself into my heart that I don't think I will ever be able to see Lego without thinking of him.

A stunningly beautiful, uplifting and captivating book, Saturdays at Noon is indubitably worthy of every single one of the five sparkly stars I have awarded it.  Simply breathtaking and highly recommended, Saturdays at Noon most definitely deserves to soar to the top of the bestseller chart.  If you only read one book this year, make it this one!

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon




About the author:


Rachel Marks studied English at Exeter University before becoming a primary school teacher. Despite always loving to write, it wasn't until she gained a place on the 2016 Curtis Brown Creative online novel writing course that she started to believe it could be anything more than a much-loved hobby. Her inspiration for her first book came from the challenges she faced with her eldest son, testing and fascinating in equal measure, and the research she did to try to understand him better.

You can also follow Rachel on Twitter @Rache1Marks and Instagram @rachelmarksauthor.









Follow the tour:

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Unprotected - Sophie Jonas-Hill



She's fighting to save everyone else but will she have anything left to save herself?

Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia’s life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she’s hiding from her hurt and loss in rage.  After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without. 

As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable younglover. 

Unprotected is a raw and punchy story of love, family and accepting yourself for who you really are.


What did I think?

Oh my goodness, what a flipping AWESOME novel.  Reading books you wouldn't normally pick up has to be one of the best things about blogging; it's so easy to stick to your comfort zone with your favourite authors, but by doing so you're missing out on a wonderful world of outstanding literature with books like Unprotected.  It's going to be hard to review Unprotected as it's so fantastic that I all I really want to say is "just buy it", but I'll try to portray some of the reasons why you should definitely do just that.

Lydia is Hurting and I mean that with a capital 'H'.  Having miscarriage after miscarriage and yearning for a baby proves too much for her partner Max who kicks Lydia when she's down and leaves her.  Oh I could have given Max a good kicking alright!  Lydia has never really felt good enough so she takes the failure to carry a baby for longer than a few weeks more personally than most.  When Max leaves her she spirals out of control, and I couldn't really blame her, but I feared that she would fracture into a million pieces if she hit rock bottom.  

To take her mind off her pain, Lydia picks up an unshakeable one night stand who she refers to as 'The Boy'.  As much as he keeps turning up when she doesn't want him to, it turns out that he is carrying his own pain and in order to help him Lydia needs to muster the strength she has deep inside.  With Lydia's mind going round like a washing machine, it's no surprise that she suffers from insomnia.  When she sees strange things with a young girl going on at the local taxi rank, Lydia's maternal instinct kicks in and she turns into a roaring lioness.

Lydia reminded me of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander, not only because she has tattoos and blue hair but because she is such a strong character and is willing to fight to keep people safe.  It's absolutely astounding how Sophie Jonas-Hill has created a character in Lydia that is so personal and completely laid bare that I felt as if I could see the bones of her.  Every flaw, pain and quip builds such a multi-dimensional character that makes it easy to forget that she is fictional.  

Absolutely stunning, Unprotected is gritty, raw, emotional and surprisingly humourous.  If you're looking for something different to read, you've definitely found it.  Unprotected is so unique and painfully compelling; I've never read anything like it.  Very highly recommended.

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon

Thursday, 13 February 2020

My One True North - Milly Johnson


Laurie and Pete should never have met.

But fate has pushed them together for a reason.

Six months ago, on the same night, Laurie and Pete both lost their partners.
Struggling to manage the grief, they join the same counselling group – and meet each other.
From their sadness, Pete and Laurie find happiness growing and they sense a fresh new beginning. 

Except, the more they talk, the more they begin to spot the strange parallels in their stories.
Then Pete discovers a truth that changes everything.

But, as surely as a compass points north, some people cannot be kept apart.

My One True North is a story of friendship and what love means, of secrets uncovered, teashops on corners and the northern lights.


What did I think?

I'm finding it very hard to believe that this is my first Milly Johnson book, but according to my records it does seem to be.  Although I may have arrived late at the Milly Johnson party, I have certainly made a grand entrance arriving with My One True North.  What an amazing, emotional and heartwarming book this is; I have never laughed and cried so much with one book, it should come with a pack of tissues attached.  I feel like I hopped aboard the crying train when I picked up My One True North, travelling through tears of sadness, pain of heartbreak, despair of misunderstandings and peals of laughter.  

What I loved most about Milly Johnson's writing is how she takes a serious subject such as grief and spins it on its head, without belittling the subject at all; from being lost in the sea of despair to soaring hope from seeing a lifeboat appearing on the horizon.  After they both lose their partners, Laurie and Pete meet at a lovely little counselling group in a teashop.  Over tea and the most amazing sounding cakes (I was actually drooling over the butterscotch cake), the newcomers are drawn to each other and find that talking to each other and learning to laugh again is the best therapy.  

I'm trying to say very little about the plot which had me gasping in shock one minute and snorting with laughter the next, so I'll just say a little bit about the two main characters who are both grieving after the sudden loss of their partners.  Pete is a firefighter and I loved reading about his work, especially rescuing local bad boy, Juice, from his various hilarious scrapes.   Laurie is a solicitor who has most of her time taken up with lawsuits against hysterically funny errors printed in the local paper.  Honestly, the newspaper excerpts had me in kinks; I was giggling and chuckling for ages after reading each one. 

My One True North is such an emotional rollercoaster; it's laugh out loud funny, heartachingly poignant and completely perfect.  I guess I could describe this book very much like life: filled with love, laughter, joy and sadness.  Who would have thought a novel predominantly about grief would have provoked so many emotions?  Like the sun coming out on a rainy day, I went from barely able to contain my tears as blow after blow struck my heart to grinning through my tears as my heart burst with hope and joy.  

An absolutely gorgeous story of love, loss and laughter with a twist of fate.  Who needs antidepressants when you've got Milly Johnson?  My One True North is guaranteed to make you smile and what a wonderful gift for Milly Johnson to give her readers.  A definite 5 stars and I can't recommend it highly enough, so much so that I plan to read it again and again to reexperience the magic!  

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon

Monday, 10 February 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Sinner (Tom Killgannon #2) - Martyn Waites


Tom Killgannon, ex-undercover police officer and now in witness protection, is recalled to active service by a local police task force, headed by DS Sheridan. His mission is to befriend notorious child killer Noel Cunningham and find out where he buried the bodies of his final two victims.

The catch? Tom has to obtain that information from within Blackmoor prison itself.

Undercover and with no back-up, Tom soon runs into danger.

In the prison is convicted gangster Dean Foley. He used to run Manchester's biggest gang, until Tom's testimony put him away for life. He recognises Tom, and so begins a cat-and-mouse game as Tom fights for survival before Foley can get his revenge.

But why can't Tom reach DS Sheridan and what is the real reason he has been sent to Blackmoor prison?


What did I think?

Newcastle born Martyn Waites is one half of the husband and wife thriller writing team publishing under the pseudonym Tania Carver.  Although I haven't read any Tania Carver books, the name was well known enough to me to pique my interest in the Tom Killgannon series that Martyn Waites has published under his own name.  I own a copy of the first book in the series, The Old Religion, and I was hoping to read it before I started book two, The Sinner, but as always there are too many books and so little time.

So having jumped into the series at book two and been absolutely blown away, I'd say you could definitely read The Sinner as a standalone, however, it will leave you wanting to explore certain parts of Tom's own story in more detail.  Tom Killgannon is living under a new identity following an undercover operation that saw Manchester drug lord, Dean Foley, imprisoned in Blackmoor prison.  A job well done as far as Tom's previous identity of Mick Eccleston is concerned.

Tom is now living in Cornwall with a young girl named Lila, who he refers to as his niece, and working for Pearl who runs a pub.  Tom is approached by the police to return undercover in order to extract the location of the bodies buried by creepy child killer, Noel Cunningham.  Tom is claustrophobic so the idea of going undercover in a prison is terrifying for him but unfortunately the assignment is an order not a request so he says goodbye to Lila and Pearl and heads to Blackmoor prison.  Yes, the same prison as Dean Foley, who blames Tom for his incarceration.  I'm not going to reveal any more about the plot but suffice to say, Tom is too busy trying to keep himself alive to worry about his claustrophobia.

Due to the changes of identity, it is a little bit confusing at first, but I soon got into the rhythm of the book.  The rhythm being something like a very fast beating heart as there is so much danger around every corner.  It's so fast-paced and perilous that I frequently had sweaty palms and a rapidly beating heart when I was reading The Sinner; I even found that I was holding my breath without even realising.

Tom is a very intriguing character as you don't really know who he is, but I also loved the spunky character of Lila.  I wasn't surprised to learn that Lila has a huge backstory and features heavily in book one, The Old Religion.  Reading The Sinner has made me very eager to read The Old Religion as soon as I possibly can. 

Full of thrills and spills and packed with danger, The Sinner is a supersonic fast-paced page turner; calling it high octane doesn't even come close to doing it justice.  The Sinner is a book that made me forget to breathe and if that isn't a good recommendation, I don't know what is!

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon





Follow the tour:

Saturday, 8 February 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Foundling - Stacey Halls


Two women, bound by a child, and a secret that will change everything . . .

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London's Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, she is astonished when she is told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl - and why.

Less than a mile from Bess's lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend - an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital - persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

From the bestselling author of The Familiars comes this captivating story of mothers and daughters, class and power, and love against the greatest of odds . . .


What did I think?

Having raved on (in fact, I'm still raving) about Stacey Hall's amazing debut, The Familiars, I couldn't wait to get my hands on her second novel, The Foundling,  It's been the longest 5 months since I clicked that pre-order button but finally the most eagerly awaited book of 2020 landed on my door mat.  The cover is absolutely stunning and I love how each carefully chosen detail is of some relevance to the story.

Inside, I was delighted to find a map of Georgian London.  Oh how I love the addition of a map in a book!  It really helps to bring the story to life, although Stacey Hall's amazing writing doesn't need any assistance in that regard.  Stacey Halls' writing is so vivid that I swear I could smell the fish and brine of London's Billingsgate fish market where our main character Bess, is a shrimp seller.

What Stacey Halls brings to historical fiction is not only the ability to transport her readers back in time to the relevant period through her vividly described scenes, but it is her creation of strong relatable female characters, who span the class divide, that stands out for me.  Bess from the slums and wealthy widow, Alexandra, have more in common than they realise; I loved Bess from the start and it surprised me how my feelings towards Alexandra changed as the story progressed.

The mystery surrounding the collection of Bess's illegitimate daughter, Clara, from the Foundling Hospital (which interestingly is a real place) had me absolutely riveted.  Although it's mentioned in the synopsis, my jaw hit the floor when Bess turned up to collect her daughter and found that she had already been collected 6 years earlier by someone claiming to be Bess.  I really felt for her when she returned home for the second time without her daughter in her arms.  Bess doesn't take this lying down though; she is determined to find her daughter and enlists the help of a young doctor at the Foundling Hospital.  Together, they try to piece together the events from 6 years ago without realising that Clara is closer than they imagined.

Completely spellbinding, The Foundling exceeded my expectations in every single way.  It's an outstanding second novel from Stacey Halls who is a breath of fresh air in historical fiction.  My precious signed edition is sure to become a favourite on my bookshelf and will be re-read many times to re-experience Georgian London through Stacey Halls' eyes.  An unreserved 5 star rating and a very highly recommended read.

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon




About the author:

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. 

She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also worked as a journalist for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine. TV rights of The Familiars shave been sold to The Bureau production company.

Bought in a nine-way auction, The Familiars was received with much praise and is nominated for an HWA award. 

Say hello @Stacey_Halls on Twitter and @StaceyHallsAuthor on Instagram.





Follow the tour:

Thursday, 6 February 2020

BLOG TOUR: Traumata - Douglas Renwick


In Khuh Tabar, in foothills of the Hindu Kush, a young Englishwoman witnesses a war crime in which her loved-ones die. In 2020, she returns to England, bereaved and broken. When she discovers the identity of the man who murdered them, her grief turns to anger.

She seeks solace from an on-line bereavement support group. One of them advises her to kill the man. Should she honour the ancient code of the Pashtuns and avenge their deaths, risking a life sentence for murder, or abide by the laws of her homeland and live with her anger forever?

When the killer is found dead, the police question her. She turns to her father for help.


What did I think?

I was completely intrigued when I read the synopsis of Traumata; I expected an angry revenge killing thriller but I was completely wrong as Traumata is so much more involved than that.  I experienced a wealth of emotions, both with Melanie and her father, as the story past and present is revealed.

Dr Melanie Green is serving her country in Afghanistan when she finds herself stranded in a Pashtun village in the mountains.  When she is 'rescued' in a dramatic and devastating way, she returns to England, grieving and alone.  Seeing her 'rescuer', Mr Nasty, climbing the ranks of British politics, her anger intensifies and she turns to an online support group where she meets an American named Rand.  In a series of email exchanges (which are included in the book), Rand and Melanie explore ways to kill Mr Nasty.  When Mr Nasty is found dead in suspicious circumstances, just days after Melanie reports his war crimes, the police turn their attention to Melanie.

Melanie's father, Michael, is a doctor in Spain and he returns home to help Melanie when her case goes to court and her mental health comes under scrutiny.  This is the part I really enjoyed and loved the way it was written to include courtroom scenes, conversations with legal counsel and the hunt for evidence to help Melanie.  The legal system really is like a game; bluff as much as you can and don't reveal all your cards until you have to.  I found the whole case gripping and intense, which kept the pages turning effortlessly.

The feeling I got throughout the whole book is a father's love for his daughter.  Michael never once lost faith in Melanie and was prepared to go to the ends of the earth to help her case.  I think being a doctor conflicted a little with his role as a father as he did question Melanie's mental health on occasion, but he never failed to do his best for her.

Traumata turned out to be completely different to what I imagined, in a very good way.  Aside from the very emotional and devastating story of Melanie's past, I loved the email transcripts and the legal element of the story.  The courtroom scenes were so vivid, I could have been sat in the public gallery myself.  The strapline 'Dramatic, Different, Exciting and Sensitive' is absolutely perfect for Traumata; a legal thriller that has its roots in the British Army in Afghanistan.  

Traumata is explosive, intense, emotional and very compelling; I got so embroiled in the story I didn't even ask myself the most important question: did she do it?  For the answer to that, you'll just have to read it to find out!

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

My rating:


Buy it from Amazon




About the author:


According to his British passport, Douglas Renwick's occupation for many years was 'Government Service'. This included spells in Libya, Malta, Cyprus, Ireland and Germany. He also worked at the Ministry of Defence in London, the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe in Belgium, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

He has spent time in East Berlin, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Argentina, Egypt, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. He has jumped out of planes, swum across Valetta harbour, skied across the Alps and the Rockies, and been transferred by breeches buoy from one Royal Navy ship to another, at sea and under full steam. He has been down a coal-mine in Yorkshire, a salt-mine in Poland and a nuclear bunker in Essex.

Now a grandfather, retired and living in Kent, time allows him to commit some of his experiences to paper. He prefers writing fiction on the grounds that it is safer.





Follow the tour: