Saturday, 24 October 2020

BLOG TOUR: Dead Perfect (Maggie Jamieson thriller, Book 3) - Noelle Holten


A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls? 

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?

What did I think?

After leaving us with the mother of all cliffhangers in Dead Wrong (book 2 of the Maggie Jamieson series), I couldn't wait to get my hands on book 3, Dead Perfect.  I found it really hard to stop my eyes from jumping forward as I was desperate to claw my way back from the precipice Noelle Holten had left us on, but at the same time I didn't want to miss anything either.  Although Dead Perfect picks up where Dead Wrong ended, you could most definitely read Dead Perfect as a standalone thriller.

Things get personal for DC Maggie Jamieson when the latest wave of killings seem to have a link to her friend, Dr Kate Moloney.  The murdered women have all been made to look like Kate so Maggie knows that it's only a matter of time before the killer gets their hands on Kate herself.  Trying to find the killer and keep Kate safe at the same time, Maggie finds herself busier than ever and tempers start to fray as the danger towards Kate increases.

Maggie is quite a complex, guarded character and even though I've read all three books I don't think I'm any closer to getting to know her.  Maggie plays her cards close to her chest with regards to her personal life but she can be very brusque in her work environment, even more so when the case is personal to her.  It doesn't help when an annoying journalist starts sticking her nose in and printing details that the police haven't disclosed.  

Dead Perfect is filled with so much tension that I could almost hear the tick tock as the clock counted down to finding the killer.  It's an excellent plot, as you would expect from Noelle Holten, although I did ruin some of the surprise for myself by inadvertently spotting 'whodunnit' but the 'why' more than made up for that.  Ending with not so much a cliffhanger as a hill-hanger, it leads nicely in to book 4 and I can't wait for more.  

Dead Perfect is a great addition to the Maggie Jamieson series and if you've not discovered Noelle Holten yet then you're missing out on some cracking crime fiction.  

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

My rating:

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Thursday, 22 October 2020

Death on a Dirty Afternoon (The Terry Bell Mysteries Book 1) - Colin Garrow

Two deaths. A suspicious cop. A taxi driver in the firing line.

When taxi driver Frank is found dead on his dining room table, ex-cabbie Terry Bell assumes his old friend died of a heart attack. But when Terry's former boss also turns up with his face bashed in, it starts to look like there's a connection.

Faced with a Detective Inspector who doesn't like coincidences, and a series of threatening letters, Terry does a bit of investigating of his own, but when another body is discovered, the temperature starts to rise - in more ways than one.

Death on a Dirty Afternoon is book #1 in the Terry Bell Mystery series. 

What did I think?

Death on a Dirty Afternoon is the first book in the Terry Bell Mystery series and what an amazing start to the series it is.  It's an absolute delight to read; witty, intriguing and fraught with danger as Terry gets himself into some entertaining scrapes.  You would be forgiven for thinking that Terry is a member of law enforcement but no, he's a taxi driver in Whitley Bay, a seaside town on the North East coast.

Terry returns to work as a taxi driver when the firm he used to work for find themselves two men down; Frank and Ronnie aren't off sick though, they're both dead and Terry finds his fingerprints at both crime scenes.  Luckily for Terry, he used to go to school with Charis, the local DI, otherwise he might have found himself behind bars.  At least that would have been a safe place for him as it looks like Terry could be the next victim.  Terry just can't keep his nose out of trouble and can't help doing his own investigating, which sees him and his colleague, Carol, ending up in serious danger.

Death on a Dirty Afternoon is such a refreshing read; yes, there's murder, mystery and a cracking plot but Colin Garrow's sense of humour really sets it apart.  I found myself giggling, chortling and full-on belly laughing at some parts, whilst still being completely intrigued by the fantastic storyline.  

Filled with colourful characters and with an outstanding eventful plot, my only disappointment was that I finished the 257 page story so quickly, but thankfully there are more books in the series so I can continue reading about Terry's escapades.  I absolutely loved this superb little book where it's definitely a case of quality over quantity.  A very highly recommended read and I can't wait to read more.

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

My rating:

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Wednesday, 21 October 2020

BLOG TOUR: Say Goodbye When I'm Gone - Stephen J. Golds


1949: Rudy, A Jewish New Yorker snatches a briefcase of cash from a dead man in Los Angeles and runs away from his old life, into the arms of the Boston mob.

1966: Hinako, a young Japanese girl runs away from what she thought was the suffocating conformity of a life in Japan. Aiming to make a fresh start in America, she falls into the grip of a Hawaiian gang dubbed 'The Company'.

1967: Rudy and Hinako's lives collide in the city of Honolulu, where there is nowhere left for either of them to run, and only blood remains to redeem them.

Say Goodbye When I'm Gone is a gritty noir thriller with echoes of classic James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy.

What did I think?

Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to Say Goodbye When I'm Gone by the absolutely stunning cover.  I know we are told that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover but you certainly can in this instance as Stephen J. Golds has written a stunning novel.

There are two strands to the story, that of Rudy and Hinako, which become intertwined in 1967 Hawaii.  The story does jump around a bit so you need your wits about you to keep up as we read about Rudy and Hinako's past and present.  Japanese girl Hinako dreams of a life in America but her dream turns into a nightmare when she is enslaved by a ruthless gang.  Hinako only gets a short period of freedom and she chooses to visit an antiques store which is owned by Rudy.  Rudy has his own demons to contend with but after losing everything and everyone he now has nothing more to lose.  Rudy is drawn to Hinako and is determined to help her, at any cost.

If you like watching The Sopranos, you will love Say Goodbye When I'm Gone; it's a dark, brutal and raw retro thriller.  Stephen J. Golds' writing is so vivid and lively but what really stands out are the bold voices and the keen sense of place which bring the story to life.  A very enjoyable read and I'll be keeping an eye out for more by this author.

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

My rating:

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About the author:

Stephen J. Golds was born in London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life. He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His novel Say Goodbye When I’m Gone will be released by Red Dog Press in October 2020 and another novel Always the Dead will be released by Close to The Bone Press January 2021.

Twitter: @stevegone58

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Tuesday, 20 October 2020

BLOG TOUR: Poisoned - Jennifer Donnelly


Beautiful Sophie, with lips as red as blood, skin as pale as snow, and hair as dark as night, is about to come of age and inherit her father's throne. But Sophie's stepmother wants rid of her - beautiful she may be, but too weak and foolish to reign. And Sophie believes her, as she believes all the things that have been said about her - all the poisonous words people use to keep girls like her from becoming too powerful, too strong.

When the huntsman carries out his orders of killing Sophie, she finds a fire burning inside her that will not be extinguished, and sets off to reclaim what was taken from her.

Jennifer Donnelly turns her feminist eye to this most delicious of fairy tales and shows Snow White as she's never been seen before.

What did I think?

In my opinion, you're never too old for fairy tales and I love reading retellings of my favourite stories from childhood.  Before I say anything about the content of the book, I have to mention the amazing cover of Poisoned - the shattered red apple is so striking and of course links in to the story beautifully.

Poisoned is the story of Princess Charlotta-Sidonia Wilhelmina Sophia of the Greenlands, whose name is thankfully shortened to Sophie.  Sophie has always been told that she's too weak and too soft to be queen, which suits her stepmother just fine as it means that she can keep ruling with her iron fist.  Taking advice from her magic mirror, the Queen decides to get rid of Sophie once and for all and after being left for dead in the Darkwood, seven brothers take Sophie into their home.

Anyone familiar with the story of Snow White will recognise many elements of the story that keep it true to the original tale published by The Brothers Grimm in 1812.  Jennifer Donnelly puts her own slant on the story by adding a hefty helping of feminism that allows us to see Sophie evolving from a young naive girl to a strong confident woman.  It's actually rather thought-provoking as I'm sure I'm not alone in listening to that nasty inner voice that tells me I'm not smart, pretty, thin or good enough.  It's about time we took a leaf out of Sophie's book and tell our inner voice to shut the **** up!

I really enjoyed Poisoned; it's an absolutely fabulous version of Snow White for the 21st century.  It may officially be YA but it's definitely a book that can be read and enjoyed by adults, especially those who don't consider themselves too old for fairy tales.  Jennifer Donnelly has taken the magical ingredients originally gathered by The Brothers Grimm and whipped up an absolute feast for the eyes; I greedily devoured every single word and will definitely be back for more.

Wonderfully written and perfectly plotted, Poisoned is a magical and courageous tale with a feminist slant that upgrades a familiar story and brings it into the 21st century.   It leaves the reader with a strong message to believe in yourself and to listen to your heart rather than to other people.  A simply wonderful novel that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

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

My rating:

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About the author:

Jennifer Donnelly is the author of seven novels and a picture book for children. She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History.

Jennifer's first novel, THE TEA ROSE, an epic historical novel set in London and New York in the late 19th century, was called 'exquisite' by Booklist, 'so much fun' by the Washington Post, a 'guilty pleasure' by People and was named a Top Pick by the Romantic Times.

Her second novel, A GATHERING LIGHT, won the Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Borders Original Voices Award, and was named a Printz Honor book. Described as 'rich and true' by The New York Times, the book was named on the Best Book lists of The Times (London), The Irish Times, The Financial Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and the School Library Journal.

REVOLUTION was named a Best Book by Amazon, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the Chicago Public Library, and was nominated for a Carnegie Medal. The audio edition was awarded an Odyssey Honor for Excellence.

In 2014, Jennifer teamed up with Disney to launch the bestselling WATERFIRE saga, an epic series about six mermaids on a quest to rid the world of an ancient evil. The first book in the series, DEEP BLUE, was released in May, 2014; the second book, ROGUE WAVE, launched in January 2015.

Jennifer Donnelly lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs.

Follow Jennifer at or on Twitter: @JenWritesBooks

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Sunday, 18 October 2020

BLOG TOUR: Soldier Boy - Cassandra Parkin


Under the shadow of trauma, Liam has been discharged from the army. As night terrors torment him and he struggles to keep his anger intact, he finds himself in his car, his daughter Alannah asleep in the back, while his wife Emma has gone AWOL. With no idea where to go for shelter, his only goal is to hold onto his daughter at all costs. But Alannah is on a journey of her own.

As the consequences of Alannah’s choices unfold, nothing will ever be the same again.

Soldier Boy is gripping story about secrets, fear, longing, lies and the power of being true to yourself, even when the price is higher than you could have imagined.

What did I think?

I thought there was a bit of my book missing when I turned to the first page of Soldier Boy and the first line appeared to have started mid-sentence.  Sure enough, the same happened with the next chapter but what Cassandra Parkin has so cleverly done is used the final word of each chapter as the first word of the following chapter.  It's not only a very clever format, it really makes you think about how all of the threads of the story weave in and out of one another.

Soldier Boy is such a breathtaking book that I really don't know where to begin as any review I write will not do it justice.  Cassandra Parkin is not just an amazing wordsmith, she's a word thief as she stole all my words and left me completely speechless at the end of the book.  My emotions were put through the wringer as I read Liam, Emma and particularly Alannah's story. 

I'm not going to mention the story at all as I don't want to give away any spoilers of the wonderful (but rather dark) plot; this is a book that each individual reader should experience first-hand.  It's horrific at times but so heart-achingly poignant that I feel as though I left a piece of my heart behind when I turned the final page.

A highly emotional story written in an ingeniously unique format, Soldier Boy is an exceptional novel that will make your heart ache.  It's a sobering reminder to listen to what we're being told rather than only hearing what we want to hear.  So very highly recommended but be warned that there are some shocking moments that will be a bit stomach lurching for the squeamish.

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

My rating:

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Saturday, 17 October 2020

BLOG TOUR: Because of You - Dawn French



Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock . . . midnight.

The old millennium turns into the new.

In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters.

Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl.

Anna leaves with empty arms.

Seventeen years later, the gods who keep watch over broken-hearted mothers wreak mighty revenge, and the truth starts rolling, terrible and deep, toward them all.

The power of mother-love will be tested to its limits.

Perhaps beyond . . .

Because Of You is Dawn French's stunning new novel, told with her signature humour, warmth and so much love.

What did I think?

Because of You is my first Dawn French book and oh my word it has left me completely broken.  It is such a beautiful, heart-rending story that I struggled to contain my tears from start to finish.  I'm just grateful that my heart isn't made of glass as it would have been completely shattered after listening to chapter 1 and there is still more heartbreak to come.

Read solely by Dawn French, there is something so very special about an author reading their own story; the reading is filled with emotion and the relevant emphasis is placed in all of the correct places.  Dawn French's voice is so familiar but so soothing that I could listen to her for hours, which meant that I was completely enthralled and listened to Because of You at every available opportunity.

I don't want to give away any of the plot other than what is mentioned in the blurb so the story starts as the clock ticks over into the new millennium and two couples are eager to meet their newborn child.  Hope's pregnancy came as a surprise but Hope and her partner, quiet Isaac, are already in love with their baby.  Further along the corridor, politician Julius is already planning the press release for when his wife Anna gives birth.  Neither new mother had planned for what happened next.

As heartbreaking as the story is, there are a lot of laugh out loud moments as you would expect from Dawn French.  Most of my laughs were at the expense of Julius and I'm trying to think of a non-swear word to describe him but 'politician' pretty much covers it!  He's such a self-centred show-off but the way that Dawn French brings him to life meant that rather surprisingly I found him funny rather than annoying.

A heartbreakingly beautiful story, Because of You is a stunning novel that left me so filled with emotion that I struggled to contain it.  Don't be surprised to reach for your tissues when listening to this exquisitely emotional book.

I chose to listen to a gifted audiobook from the publisher and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Thursday, 15 October 2020

Parasite? The Secret Diary of a Landlord - The Secret Landlord

Get ready to learn what really happens behind closed doors.

Landlords have become one of the most hated groups in society. Parasites, they’re often called. And there’s a lot of them. The Treasury estimates there are almost 2.6 million landlords in the UK with around 5.45 million rental properties.

But the real life of a professional landlord is very different to what most people think. From burglaries and break-ins to drug raids, police warrants, crazy tenant antics, bailiffs, squatters, lawsuits, wrecked properties, interfering council officers, game-playing freeholders to moments of heartfelt joy and happiness, the life of a landlord is never dull. Especially when the government keeps moving the goalposts.

This explosive front line exposé blows the lid off what it’s really like to be a landlord and the shocking reality of renting out a property. Hovering close to a nervous breakdown and likely suffering PTSD, The Secret Landlord exposes truths rarely shared. Stories that will grip you, move you and smack you in the face.

This is the truth, the other side of the door.

What did I think?

What a complete eye-opener!  I really enjoyed reading Parasite? The Secret Diary of a Landlord.  It's written in diary format, which I often feel guilty about reading, but the voice of the Secret Landlord really stands out and I felt like I had her approval to read her honest account of some very busy and tiring days.

My heart really went out to the Secret Landlord, being on call 24/7/365 and I could have cried when reading about the wrecked properties.  I felt the frustration with the council housing department and the inability to take even a single day off without hassle.  It's not all doom and gloom though as there are plenty of funny moments; I laughed out loud when the Secret Landlord cleared up after a hoarder and went for a bone crunching Thai massage.  

I did briefly consider renting my property when house prices fell during the 2008 recession but, after seeing how tenants treated the rental property next door with total disregard, I thought it would be more hassle than it was worth.  Parasite? The Secret Diary of a Landlord certainly proves me right and makes me so glad that I'm not a landlord.  

Honest, humourous and horrifying, Parasite? The Secret Diary of a Landlord is a superb read whether you're a landlord, a tenant or a nosy neighbour.  I sometimes forgot it was actually non-fiction as it's a highly addictive book and I couldn't put it down; I'm sure there are many more stories that the Secret Landlord can share with us and I do hope that there are more books to follow.

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

My rating:

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About the author:

The Secret Landlord has been renting, refurbishing and selling properties across the UK for almost two decades. An award winning landlord, as judged by the National Landlords Association, The Secret Landlord has provided accommodation for hundreds of tenants from all walks of life. 

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Tuesday, 13 October 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Winter Garden - Heidi Swain

***The sparkling new Christmas novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author Heidi Swain!***

Will love bloom this winter?
Freya Fuller is living her dream, working as a live-in gardener on a beautiful Suffolk estate. But when the owner dies, Freya finds herself forced out of her job and her home with nowhere to go. However, with luck on her side, she’s soon moving to Nightingale Square and helping to create a beautiful winter garden that will be open to the public in time for Christmas.
There’s a warm welcome from all in Nightingale Square, except from local artist Finn. No matter how hard the pair try, they just can’t get along, and working together to bring the winter garden to life quickly becomes a struggle for them both.
Will Freya and Finn be able to put their differences aside in time for Christmas? Or will the arrival of a face from Freya’s past send them all spiralling?

The Winter Garden is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Carole Matthews, Cathy Bramley and Sarah Morgan.

What did I think?

The Winter Garden may be book 3 in the Nightingale Square series, but you definitely don't need to have read the earlier books to enjoy it.  I haven't read the first two books and I had absolutely no idea that it was part of a series until I was reading the final few chapters; Heidi Swain focuses on a particular character to make each book read so well as a standalone that you can't tell they are part of a series.  

Freya is such a wonderful character that I wish I had some of her amazing qualities; she is a strong independent woman with a heart of gold.  Freya's manages the grounds of a country estate and her story starts at a very sad time when the owner of the estate dies.  Eloise was as much of a friend as a boss so her death hits Freya very hard and it's made even worse when Eloise's nephew inherits the estate and decides to sell, leaving Freya out of work.  On a chance trip to Norfolk, Freya gets offered a new job complete with a new home in Nightingale Square and the next chapter of her life is about to begin.

There are some amazing characters to get to know in The Winter Garden, or to revisit if you have read the earlier books.  I loved Harold, whose house Freya takes over after Harold moves into assisted accommodation and the way that Freya handles the move so sensitively and respectfully gave me a warm glow.  I also have to mention Freya's dog Nell, who is quite a character, and seeing how she evolved from being jittery and scared to relaxed and happy really did warm my heart.

Of course, to really get the reader's pulse racing and temperature rising we need a love interest and Heidi Swain has created a Norse god in dark, brooding Finn.  After a rocky start and several misunderstandings, I had high hopes that Freya would manage to thaw Finn's heart.

I could write so much more about this book: the sparkly Christmas market, the cosy local pub, the wonderful winter garden that Freya is tasked to create and the fabulously festive Winterfest but these magical things should be left for every reader to experience for themselves.

The Winter Garden is a snuggly warm hug of a book.  As the temperature drops outside, let the fabulous community of Nightingale Square warm your heart so grab a hot chocolate and snuggle up on your favourite chair with The Winter Garden.

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

My rating:

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Sunday, 11 October 2020

Hysteria (The Alexander Gregory Thrillers Book 2) - LJ Ross


In a beautiful world, murder is always ugly…

Recently returned from his last case in Ireland, elite forensic psychologist and criminal profiler Dr Alexander Gregory receives a call from the French police that he can’t ignore. It’s Paris fashion week and some of the world’s most beautiful women are turning up dead, their faces slashed in a series of frenzied attacks while the world’s press looks on.

Amidst the carnage, one victim has survived but she’s too traumatised to talk. Without her help, the police are powerless to stop the killer before he strikes again – can Gregory unlock the secrets of her mind, before it’s too late?

Murder and mystery are peppered with dark humour in this fast-paced thriller set amidst the spectacular Parisian landscape.

What did I think?

Whenever I recommend books, one author springs to mind time and time again: LJ Ross.  As much as I love the DCI Ryan series, I'm really enjoying the Alexander Gregory books and Hysteria is the second instalment of that series.  Don't worry if you haven't read Imposter though; Hysteria works very well as a standalone.

Alexander Gregory is a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler, delving into the dark and murky depths of some twisted human minds.  His latest case sees him helping the Parisian police when a model is attacked in her hotel room.  The victim has been unable to speak since her attack and nobody else saw the perpetrator so the police are completely baffled.  Only the skill of Dr Gregory will reveal what truly happened behind that locked door.

Hysteria is well named as it felt like my brain was being put through the wringer whilst I was reading.  I was struggling to see how some parts of the story fit and couldn't for the life of me work out where the story was heading.  It's not my first LJ Ross book though, so I knew that everything was there for a reason.  All I'll say is well played, LJ Ross.  Very well played indeed.

The setting of Paris fit well with the modelling story but I've never been to Paris so I'm not familiar with the various arrondissements.  It is clear that the author knows the area well, but maybe too well as I couldn't really conjure a vivid picture of the setting in my mind.  Not that it bothered me too much, as I was more interested in the storyline than the Parisian sights.  Something else to note in relation to the setting, there are a couple of phrases in French that some people might have difficulty with.  I grasped most of it but anyone who hasn't studied French will struggle.  Don't let it put you off though; just remember, that's what Google Translate is for.

Hysteria is a real mind-bender; it's a slick and clever mystery filled with shocks, surprises and Parisian style.  Although it hasn't knocked Imposter off my Alexander Gregory number one spot, I really enjoyed it and wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

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

My rating:

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Saturday, 10 October 2020

The Big Chill (The Skelfs Book 2) - Doug Johnstone


Running private investigator and funeral home businesses means trouble is never far away, and the Skelf women take on their most perplexing, chilling cases yet in book two of the darkly funny, devastatingly tense and addictive new Skelfs series!

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors' and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral that matriarch Dorothy is conducting, she can't help looking into the dead driver's shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny's ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women's lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy's disappears and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves sucked into an unbearable darkness but could the real threat be to themselves?

Following three women as they deal with the dead, help the living and find out who they are in the process, The Big Chill follows A Dark Matter, book one in the Skelfs series, which reboots the classic PI novel while asking the big existential questions, all with a big dose of pitch-black humour.

What did I think?

Since meeting the wonderfully quirky Skelf family in A Dark Matter, I have been looking forward to The Big Chill, the second book in the series.  As with all series, it's always best to read them in order, however, Doug Johnstone provides enough of a recap in The Big Chill to ensure that anyone who hasn't read A Dark Matter will not feel at a disadvantage.

Doug Johnstone has such an amazing sense of humour that you never know what's going to happen in his books.  The Big Chill has such an outstanding first chapter; it's so blackly comic that I struggled to contain my laughter at what certainly wouldn't have been a funny situation if it had happened in real life but is written in such a way that it wouldn't have looked out of place in a comedy sketch.  That's the beauty of Doug Johnstone's writing; if you have a good sense of humour you can pick up a lot of the witty little gems he has sprinkled through his prose.

The Skelf women (mother Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah) are such strong female characters that they effortlessly carry the hugely entertaining storyline along with them.  The Skelfs run a funeral home and a private investigation business which keeps them busy and when a homeless man turns up on the slab, the PI side of the business comes in useful as Dorothy tries to find out who the man is.  I absolutely loved this part of the story and felt like I was travelling the streets of Edinburgh with Dorothy as she attempted to identify the man she had named Jimmy X.

What I love about The Big Chill is that there are so many little strands of storylines running through the book that I could have knitted a multi-coloured scarf with them all.  It never gets confusing though as everything is perfectly timed and new minor characters are introduced at just the right time.  I think it's a female characteristic to personalise things and things certainly feel quite personal in The Big Chill as the Skelfs don't go looking for cases, cases definitely find them!

I absolutely loved The Big Chill; Doug Johnstone couldn't have written a better sequel to A Dark Matter.  Fast paced and deeply, darkly compelling my only disappointment was when I reached the end far too quickly.  I certainly can't recommend it highly enough, so pick up a copy for yourself; you won't be disappointed.

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

My rating:

Thursday, 8 October 2020

BLOG TOUR: Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble: Magical Poems - Paul Cookson


Can you hear the distant dragon's rumble of thunder? And smell the sweet swampy aroma of the ogre? Can you taste the tangy tarantula tarts? And see the girl who's really a wizard? From magic carpets and wands to unicorns, potions, creams and lotions, Paul Cookson's brewing a spell of fantastically magic poems. 

On this tattered magic carpet 
You can choose your destination 
For nothings quite as magical 
As your imagination 

Beautifully illustrated, this enchanting anthology brings together work from a range of classic, established and rising poets including Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard, Valerie Bloom, Matt Goodfellow, Joshua Seigal and A.F. Harrold. Whether you're in the mood for a haunting or a spell gone wrong, this collection of mesmerising poems will have you bewitched from beginning to end!

What did I think?

Bloomsbury have really outdone themselves with this beautiful cloth bound hardback; it's a book to be treasured and brought out every year as the nights become cold and dark.  Not only is it beautiful on the outside but the poems chosen by Paul Cookson and the illustrations by Eilidh Muldoon on the inside are absolutely breathtaking too.

Paul Cookson has done a wonderful job of gathering together magical poems in this Halloween anthology.  Poems from the classic such as Shakespeare, Carroll and Tennyson alongside modern poems that tickled and delighted me.  I couldn't possibly pick a favourite as they are all wonderful and some made me laugh while some gave me the shivers but the quality of the writing is exceptionally high.  

It's amazing how the writing from the likes of William Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll have stood the test of time, the former's poem from Macbeth lending the title of the book.  They really didn't seem out of place set among the modern poems, which undoubtedly had more fun and humour in them but seem like modern classics in their own right.

Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble is a wonderful mix of classic and modern magical poems that are perfect for, but not limited to, Halloween.  It's a wonderful book for kids of any age from 8 to 80 and I'll certainly be treasuring my copy.

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

My rating:

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About the author:

Paul Cookson lives in Retford with his wife, two children, a dog and several ukuleles. He has worked as a poet since 1989 and has visited thousands of schools and performed to hundreds of thousands of pupils and staff. Paul is the official Poet in Residence for the National Football Museum, the Poetry Ambassador for United Learning and Poet Laureate for Slade. He worked as the Poet for Everton Collection at Liverpool Library, was Poet in Residence for Literacy Times Plus and, as part of the National Year of Reading, was nominated a National Reading Hero and received his award at 10 Downing Street. Paul has 60 titles to his name and poems that appear in over 200 other books. His work has taken him all over the world from Argentina, Uganda and Malaysia to France, Germany and Switzerland.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2020

COVER REVEAL: The Running Wolf - Helen Steadman

I'm a huge fan of Helen Steadman's books so it's an absolute honour for me to take part in the cover reveal of her new novel, The Running Wolf.  I'm so excited for this one, so let's have a look at the cover...

Oh my word, the cover is absolutely stunning and it looks so intriguing; it's published on 10th November 2020 and I can't wait to read it. You can read the synopsis of the book below, where you can also find out more about the author and most importantly, click on that preorder link.

Here's a little bit about the book:

When a Prussian smuggler is imprisoned in Morpeth Gaol in the winter of 1703, why does Queen Anne's powerful right-hand man, The Earl of Nottingham, take such a keen interest?

At the end of the turbulent 17th century, the ties that bind men are fraying, turning neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend and brother against brother. Beneath a seething layer of religious intolerance, community suspicion and political intrigue, The Running Wolf takes us deep into the heart of rebel country in the run-up to the 1715 Jacobite uprising.

Hermann Mohll is a master sword maker from Solingen in Prussia who risks his life by breaking his guild oaths and settling in England. While trying to save his family and neighbours from poverty, he is caught smuggling swords and finds himself in Morpeth Gaol facing charges of High Treason.

Determined to hold his tongue and his nerve, Mohll finds himself at the mercy of the corrupt keeper, Robert Tipstaff. The keeper fancies he can persuade the truth out of Mohll and make him face the ultimate justice: hanging, drawing and quartering. But in this tangled web of secrets and lies, just who is telling the truth?

About the author:

Helen Steadman lives in the foothills of the North Pennines, and she particularly enjoys researching and writing about the history of the north east of England. Following her MA in creative writing at Manchester Met, Helen is now completing a PhD in English at the University of Aberdeen to determine whether a writer can use psycho-physical techniques to create authentic fictional characters.   

Visit Helen's website:

Follow Helen on Twitter: @hsteadman1650 and Instagram: @helensteadman1650

Preorder link:

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Choice - Alex Lake

A kidnap…
Matt Westbrook only turned his back for a moment. But when he looks around, his car – with his three young children inside – has vanished.

A ransom…
Panicked, Matt assumes a car thief has got more than he bargained for, but then he starts to receive text messages: This is a kidnap. If you want to see your children again, you will exchange them for your wife.

A choice…
Matt and his wife Annabelle are horrified. They can’t involve the police, or their children will be killed. Which means they have to choose: Annabelle, or their children. Either option is unthinkable. But one is inevitable. And they have only hours to make their decision… 

What did I think?

It is every parent's worst nightmare to have their child go missing, but the anguish is tripled when Matt loses all three of his children.  What a plonker!  He thought they'd be fine left in the car for a few minutes when he popped into the shop but when he returns his car and his children are gone.  What a fantastic start to The Choice.  It starts at breakneck speed and doesn't let up; I certainly couldn't read it fast enough.

When Matt gets text messages from the kidnapper, not only do you think it's somebody he knows (how else would they have his mobile number?) but it's someone who doesn't want money in exchange for the kids, they want Matt's wife Annabelle.  Through flashbacks to the past, the most likely suspects are set out before us and by some miracle I actually guessed the right person.  I'm not saying it's obvious by any means; it really was pure luck as something innocuous jumped out at me and tingled my spidey-sense.  

This isn't so much a 'what would you do in the same situation' kind of book as I'm sure any mother wouldn't think twice before swapping herself for her children.  What it did though, is make you think back over your own past and think of situations you might have been in where other people seemed innocent but they could easily have been hiding an ulterior motive.  Scary thoughts indeed.

Taut, tense and suspenseful, The Choice is an excellent psychological thriller.  The pacing is fast and the hunt for the kidnapper is relentless making it a gripping and riveting read.  I really enjoyed it and I'm now bumping my other Alex Lake books up my reading queue.

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

My rating:

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About the author:
Alex Lake is a British novelist who was born in the North West of England. After Anna, the author’s first novel written under this pseudonym, was a No.1 bestselling ebook sensation and a top-ten Sunday Times bestseller. The author now lives in the North East of the US.

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