Saturday, 18 September 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Family Lie - P L Kane

A scream cut through the night as they watched flames engulf the woodland. Fire ripped through the trees, leaving only charred branches behind. And then they saw it… on the ashen forest floor… was a body.

Police officer, Mitchel Prescott answered the phone with a shaking hand. It was the one call he had been dreading. It was the hospital at Green Acres… his father Thomas, had died in the night.

Returning to the small town he had been avoiding since he was a child, Mitch must lay his father to rest.

When he arrives, the close-knit residents refuse to speak about Thomas’ death, other than to explain he was found burnt to death in the woods and his dementia was the likely cause.

But when Mitch discovers traces of accelerant on his father’s body, he’s certain it wasn’t an accident. Then his childhood home is broken into, his father’s study ransacked, and a rock thrown through the window warning him to leave.

Mitch is convinced Thomas had discovered something that had got him into trouble… something that would threaten his entire family.

But what secret is worth killing for?

What did I think?

I rather enjoyed that!  The Family Lie is pretty creepy with an underlying hint of menace and the town of Green Acres is definitely somewhere I would not want to visit!  Its oddness reminded me of the setting of Royston Vasey from The League of Gentlemen but the characters in The Family Lie are more threatening in a duplicitous kind of way.

Although it has quite a gruesome and intriguing beginning, it took me a little while to get into the story as it flicks back and forth between Mitch and his sister Bella.  When their father dies, Bella refuses to return to Green Acres so Mitch is the one who goes back home to arrange his father's funeral.  Mitch has just quit his job in the police force but he sniffs out something sinister about his father's death and begins to investigate, but someone seems intent to stop him.

I loved the character of Bella and her psychic ability which added a supernatural air of mystery to the whole proceedings.  There is so much more to Bella's story than meets the eye and I loved discovering everything about her.  It's odd but I didn't really take to Mitch as much as Bella, although I loved Mitch's interactions with the cat, but I think perhaps I just found Bella to be a more interesting character. 

Chilling and intriguing with a hint of the supernatural, anything could happen in The Family Lie which makes it impossible to predict and difficult to put down.  I enjoyed it; it's an entertaining, disturbing and imaginative crime thriller.

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

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Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox - L. B. Griffin

When Harriet Laws loses her grandmother and her job, her happy life in London seems over. Alone, grief-stricken and penniless, she thinks wildly of ending it all. Fate steps in as Tom Fletcher saves her, gives her hope, and guides her to new employment. He takes her to dinner, and she finds him attractive. He's older, but she doesn't mind. Does he? 

Tom, a quiet, hardworking man, is unsure of Harriet's feelings, but he's also very busy building his business interests. So it's no wonder a suave, sophisticated fellow walks off with Harriet right under Tom's nose. 

What follows, no one could have predicted, as Harriet not only loses contact with all her friends but must again fight for her very life...will she ever see Tom again?

What did I think?

Oh I really enjoyed this wonderful book.  What a fabulous debut from L.B. Griffin!  When I first started reading, I thought it was going to be a soap opera style piece of women's fiction but it is so multi-layered that it burst out of every genre box I tried to put it in.  

I loved the main character of Harriet, she's loving and intelligent but very naïve which sees her being taken advantage of in her work and love life.  I felt so sorry for her when she loses her grandmother and her job in quick succession (and in such devious circumstances regarding the latter), but events lead her into the path of love interest Tom.

Harriet and Tom seem so perfectly matched but Tom thinks he's too old for Harriet and that she can't possibly be interested in him, so the pair remain friends.  Meanwhile, someone else has their eye on Harriet (and he always gets what he wants) so before she knows it, Harriet's life changes once more but it's not for the better...

There's so much going on in this novel that I found it an absolute joy to read, although it does take a darker turn which had me feverishly turning pages as the pacing unexpectedly ramped up.  There's also an air of mystery surrounding Harriet's beginnings and an intriguing painting left to her by her grandmother, and there are hints and clues to gather along the way, although the mystery is not revealed so we must wait for the sequel to continue this fabulous story.  I didn't feel cheated at all by this, just more eager to read the next book!

Incredibly well-written, Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox is a magnificent debut from L. B. Griffin.  It's a poignant, disturbing and heartwarming page-turner that has left me chomping at the bit to continue Harriet's story.

I received a gifted digital ARC from the author and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Monday, 13 September 2021

Rags of Time (Thomas Tallant Mysteries Book 1) - Michael Ward



Thomas Tallant, a young and ambitious Spice Merchant, returns from India to find his city in turmoil.

A bitter struggle is brewing between King Charles I and Parliament, as England slides into civil war. The capital is simmering with dissent. The conflict is ready to boil over.

But Thomas soon has other troubles to contend with. A wealthy merchant, Sir Joseph Venell, is savagely killed; then his partner Sir Hugh Swofford plunges to his death, in the Tallant household.

Suspicion falls on Thomas, who is sucked into a mire of treachery and rumour within the City of London. As the merchant struggles to clear his name, he becomes captivated by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, whose passion for astronomy and mathematics is matched only by her addiction to the gaming tables.

Pursued by the authorities, Thomas races to unmask the real killer who claims a third victim to implicate him further, toying with his future in a deadly cat and mouse game.

In a desperate race against time, Elizabeth applies her powers of logic and deduction to unearth the clues that will point to the killer, but her way is barred by a secret message from the grave.

Can she crack its code before Thomas, now a wounded and exhausted fugitive, succumbs to the chase?

And, if she succeeds, has Thomas the strength to face his tormentor and win his life and reputation back?

Rags of Time is the first book in an engaging and entertaining new historical crime series, set during the upheaval of the 17th Century. Recommended for fans of Andrew Taylor, CJ Sansom and SJ Parris.

What did I think?

Never has historical fiction been so fast-paced; Rags of Time is as gripping as a modern-day thriller and I positively raced through this magnificent debut.  I loved the characters, the story and the setting and I'm delighted that there is a sequel.

Set prior to the English Civil War, there is an air of unrest in England and the tension is captured perfectly in the book.  The tension is ramped up even further by a series of mysterious deaths that lead the authorities to the Tallant house.  Young spice merchant Tom is innocent but as the evidence mounts up against him he must fight to prove his innocence before the net closes in.

Michael Ward's writing is spectacular; he really brings 17th century London to life with his vivid descriptions of all of the sights, sounds and smells.  I could almost hear the chatter, feel the hustle and bustle and smell the intriguing fruits and spices brought back from various expeditions around the globe.  There's nothing dry or dusty about this fantastic piece of historical fiction; it's thrilling, gripping and entertaining from start to finish.

I can't wait to read more about the wonderful Tallant family and see how Tom's relationship with Elizabeth Seymour progresses.  Elizabeth is a very unusual character in what is very much a man's world with her love of tobacco, astronomy and codebreaking.  I wasn't sure of her motivations at first but she really proves invaluable to Tom in his quest to unmask the real killer.

I really can't recommend Rags of Time highly enough, even if you don't usually read historical fiction I think you will find it fast-paced, intriguing and gripping.  I certainly couldn't put it down and that's definitely the sign of a good book in my opinion.  Well worth every single one of the five stars I have awarded; whether you're a fan of historical fiction or crime thrillers, Rags of Time is an absolute must read.  It's simply outstanding!

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

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Saturday, 11 September 2021

The Tale of The Vampire Rabbit - Michael Quinlyn-Nixon

A totally fictional and completely unhistorical account of the origins of Newcastle’s mysterious grotesque, known as the Vampire Rabbit.  Written as an original poem and fully illustrated by the author, Michael Quinlyn-Nixon, the story of the quirky Vampire Rabbit is brought ‘alive’ in the year of 1899, with the story concluding in the present day.  Set in Victorian Tyne and Wear, the story illustrates the Vampire Rabbit’s unquenchable bloodlust and the consequences of its villainous actions.  

Suitable for older children (with parental guidance), the book can be equally enjoyed by adults who enjoy dark poems with a drop of humour. 

What did I think?

I always like to visit the Vampire Rabbit whenever I'm in Newcastle so I was delighted when my fiancé gave me a copy of Michael Quinlyn-Nixon's book for my birthday.  At under 30 pages it's obviously a very quick read but not as quick as you'd expect as you can't help but pause to admire the fabulous illustrations.

The Tale of the Vampire Rabbit is a poem set in Victorian Newcastle in 1899 and present day 2020.  Many have speculated about the story behind the famous grotesque, which still remains unknown, and Michael Quinlyn-Nixon weaves a humourous, entertaining and imaginative tale of its fictional origin in his brilliant poem.  

Both the poetry and the illustrations are outstanding.  I'm not usually one for poetry but this one is fun and it rhymes.  It just needs a musician to compose a catchy tune and I could see it being sung in future alongside The Blaydon Races.  The illustrations are drawn in kind of a sepia tone with splashes of pink and red which gives it a dark, gothic feel and totally fits the subject.  The drawings are awesome, they are so incredibly detailed and I simply can't stop looking at them. 

It's a little bloodthirsty at times (it's a Vampire Rabbit after all) so it's not a suitable bedtime story for young children, but it could definitely be enjoyed by older children and adults.  I absolutely loved it and I'll certainly be looking at the Vampire Rabbit in a different light next time I'm in Newcastle.

Hugely entertaining and incredibly enjoyable, The Tale of the Vampire Rabbit is a fabulous poem with breathtaking illustrations.  It's THE book to buy the Geordie who has everything!  Every bookcase in the North East should have a copy.

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Friday, 10 September 2021

COVER REVEAL: Always the Dead - Stephen J. Golds

I'm delighted to be taking part in the Red Dog Press cover reveal today for Always the Dead by Stephen J. Golds.  Before I tell you how amazing the book is, feast your eyes on this striking cover.

About the book:

Los Angeles, California. 1949. 

Scott Kelly is a World War Two Marine veteran and mob hitman confined to a Tuberculosis sanatorium suffering from consumption, flashbacks and nightmares from his experiences in The Battle of Okinawa and a botched hit for Bugsy Siegel.

When his movie actress girlfriend disappears, he bribes his way out of the sanatorium to search for her.

What follows is a frantic search, a manic murder spree, stolen contraband, and a briefcase full of cash.

A story that stretches from the war torn beaches of Okinawa, all the way to the playground of the rich and famous, Palm Springs, California.

An exploration into the depths of L.A crime, PTSD and twisted love, this is a semi-fictional novel based around the disappearance of Jean Spangler.

Preorder from Red Dog Press:

Brilliantly written with a vintage feel, Always the Dead is dark, gritty and compulsive reading.  I absolutely loved this breathtaking novel (click here to read my review) so make sure you pop over to Red Dog Press to preorder your copy.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Murder at the Seaview Hotel (A Helen Dexter Cosy Crime Mystery) - Glenda Young

In the charming Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough, a murder is nothing to sing about . . .

After the death of her husband Tom, Helen Dexter is contemplating her future as the now-sole proprietor of the Seaview Hotel.

There's an offer from a hotel chain developer to consider, but also a booking from a group of twelve Elvis impersonators, a singing troupe called Twelvis. Tom loved Elvis and for Helen this is a sign that she should stay.

But the series of mysterious events which follow, suggests that the developer is not going to give up easily. Then, shortly after Twelvis arrive, one of the group disappears. His body is found floating in a lake, with his blue suede shoes missing. Could the two be connected?

With the reputation of the Seaview on the line, Helen isn't going to wait for the murderer to strike again. With her trusty greyhound Suki by her side, she decides to find out more about her guests and who wanted to make sure this Elvis never sang again.

What did I think?

I'm a huge fan of Glenda Young's historical sagas set in Ryhope and Glenda shows that's she's not a one trick pony by changing location and genre in her debut cosy crime mystery set in Scarborough.  Murder at the Seaview Hotel is the first in a new series starring hotel owner Helen Dexter and what a fantastic start it is.

Firstly, I have to say that the location alone is breathtaking to behold through Glenda Young's vivid and descriptive writing.  I felt as if I was there, walking along the promenade with a bag of chips in my hand and seagulls gliding overhead.  I could really tell that Scarborough is a place close to Glenda's heart and her love for the seaside town shines through every beautifully written word.

Murder at the Seaview Hotel has a bit of everything in its outstanding plot: murder, dastardly underhand dealings, grief, friendships and mystery but above all, it's a great fun and entertaining read.  It's like a soap opera in a book with a Mrs. Bucket-like character running the hotel next door to Helen, a dozen Elvis impersonators ingeniously named Twelvis and a hotel chain determined to get their hands on Helen's hotel by fair means or foul... with the emphasis on foul.

Hugely entertaining, Murder at the Seaview Hotel is a fantastic murder mystery and an absolutely wonderful start to a new series.  With a sprinkling of humour, Glenda Young writes with such warmth and vivacity that Murder at the Seaview Hotel is an absolute delight to read.  An easy five stars from me and I can't wait for the next one!

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

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Tuesday, 7 September 2021

The Necklace - Matt Witten

The clock ticks down in a heart-pounding crusade for justice

Susan Lentigo's daughter was murdered twenty years ago--and now, at long last, this small-town waitress sets out on a road trip all the way from Upstate New York to North Dakota to witness the killer's execution.

On her journey she discovers shocking new evidence that leads her to suspect the condemned man is innocent--and the real killer is still free. Even worse, her prime suspect has a young daughter who's at terrible risk. With no money and no time to spare, Susan sets out to uncover the truth before an innocent man gets executed and another little girl is killed.

But the FBI refuses to reopen the case. They--and Susan's own mother--believe she's just having an emotional breakdown. Reaching deep, Susan finds an inner strength she never knew she had. With the help of two unlikely allies--a cynical, defiant teenage girl and the retired cop who made the original arrest--Susan battles the FBI to put the real killer behind bars. Will she win justice for the condemned man--and her daughter--at last?

Perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and Harlan Coben

Optioned for film--with Leonardo DiCaprio attached as producer

What did I think?

I loved watching House MD so when I found out that Matt Witten, one of the producers and screenwriters, had made the jump from screen to page I just had to read his new thriller, The Necklace.

The novel is written in a dual timeline following the disappearance of Amy Lentigo and then twenty years later when her killer is set to be executed by lethal injection.  My heart was breaking for Amy's mother Susan as she lives with the loss of Amy every single day.  Susan's marriage was another casualty of Amy's murder and Susan rather intriguingly blames her mother for what happened to Amy.  

Susan may be penniless but she has a lot of friends and they hold a fundraiser to send her to North Dakota to witness the execution.  On several bus journeys that really portray the vast size of America, Susan encounters the full spectrum of humanity and a twist of fate sees her questioning whether the man condemned to die is really guilty of Amy's murder.

As a Brit, it was really interesting to read about an execution.  There seemed to be a buzz in the whole town and it was almost like a show: 'Roll up, roll up, see a man die by lethal injection!'  I can understand that it must bring closure for the victims of crime but I don't think I could sit and watch it happen.  Maybe I would think differently if I was in Susan's place.

The plot is excellent, it's really gripping and intriguing and I was hooked throughout.  The writing is very dialogue focussed and you can sometimes tell that it has been written by a screenwriter as it didn't evoke any mental images of the characters or scenes.  The fantastic plot kept me rapidly turning pages though and I can totally see why it has already been optioned for film.

Fast-paced, gripping and intriguing, The Necklace is a great read and I can't wait to see it on the big screen.  

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

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Saturday, 4 September 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Ghostlights - Gráinne Murphy

Can we ever truly escape our past?
The Ghostlights is the poignant story of a family of Irish women who are each looking for the real meaning of home. This is a novel about family, obligation, identity and small-town life, written with deftness and sensitivity by the author of Where the Edge Is.

When a stranger checks into a family B&B – in a small village in rural Ireland – no one takes too much notice... at least until his body is found in the lake four days later.

The identity of the unknown guest raises questions for polar opposite twin sisters Liv and Marianne and their mother Ethel, all of whom feel trapped by the choices they made earlier in life. They each find themselves forced to confront their past, their present and what they really want from their future.

The new novel from Gráinne Murphy, whose short fiction has been longlisted for 2021 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award.

What did I think?

Gráinne Murphy's debut Where the Edge Is is a beautiful novel that has stayed in my mind since I turned the final page over a year ago, so I was eager to read her second novel, The Ghostlights.  Inspired by a true story, The Ghostlights captured me in its spell and my eyes refused to leave the page as I devoured every single beautifully written word in just two sittings.

I continue to be absolutely gobsmacked by Gráinne Murphy's stunning characterisation.  The characters are so well developed that they feel like real people and I felt as if I was peeking into their lives through a hidden camera.  Twins Liv and Marianne, their mother Ethel and Liv's son Shay are completely unforgettable as they were brought to life before my eyes.  They could certainly be described as a dysfunctional family as they all have a lot going on behind the scenes, but I won't spoil the plot by saying any more than that.

It's sad to think that the story of the stranger checking into the B&B before committing suicide is based on a true story but it really makes you wonder how frequently this sort of thing occurs.  I'm sure a lot more than I can even imagine.  As to what lures people to their deaths, could it be the mysterious ghostlights of folklore?  

I loved the references to the changelings and ghostlights of Irish folklore as Gráinne Murphy reminds us that 'real' fairies are nothing like the Disney version.  I also couldn't help smiling at the story about the swaying Virgin Mary statue, mainly because I remembered the hilarious episode from Father Ted, but I didn't realise that the famous reports of moving statues in Ireland all occurred during the summer of 1985.  Of course, I was off googling for hours after this!

Beautifully written with subtle notes of Irish humour, The Ghostlights is a mesmerising and immersive novel.  It's a 4.5 rounded up to 5 stars from me and I'm sure it will be another Gráinne Murphy that I will never forget.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Hyphens & Hashtags - Claire Cock-Starkey

The punctuation marks, mathematical symbols and glyphs which haunt the edges of our keyboards have evolved over many hundreds of years. They shape our understanding of texts, calculations and online interactions. Without these symbols all texts would run in endless unbroken lines of letters and numbers. 

Many hands and minds have created, refined and promulgated the symbols which give form to our written communication. Through individual entries discussing the story behind each example, 'Hyphens & Hashtags' reveals the long road many of these special characters have taken on their way into general use. 

In the digital age of communication, some symbols have gained an additional meaning or a new lease of life – the colon now doubles up as the eyes of a smiling face emoticon and the hashtag has travelled from obscurity to an essential component of social media. Alongside historical roots, this book also considers ever-evolving modern usage and uncovers those symbols which have now fallen out of fashion. 

'Hyphens & Hashtags' casts a well-deserved spot-light on these stalwarts of typography whose handy knack for summing up a command or concept in simple shorthand marshals our sentences, clarifies a calculation or adds some much-needed emotion to our online interactions.

What did I think?

I love everything about Claire Cock-Starkey's books from their handy size to the wealth of fascinating information contained within, so I was really looking forward to reading her new book Hyphens & Hashtags and I was not disappointed.  

Written in four sections: punctuation, glyphs, mathematical symbols and endangered & extinct symbols, readers can learn about the origin and evolution of both familiar and lesser known symbols.  There's even a chapter on emoticons and emoji to bring us right up to date.  I was equally fascinated by the chapters on symbols I use frequently as I was by those that I hadn't heard of.

I love the short yet informative chapters that are written in such a concise manner that keeps the reader entertained and ensures that you don't feel like you're reading a textbook.  Although I read it cover to cover and was completely captivated, it's a book of which you can dip in and out or flick to a preferred chapter as desired.  I can see my copy being well-thumbed over the coming years as I refer back to it to entertain and enlighten my friends and family.

It's surprising to read that some symbols were on the verge of extinction until the rise of the internet but they have now become an absolute necessity when writing an email or a tweet.  A keyboard would be useless in the digital age without the '@' and '#' symbols.  Of all of the extinct symbols I read about, I really wish the interrobang had taken off - a streamlining symbol that combines the question mark and the exclamation mark and saves both keystrokes and space in the text.  Really?!?!

Another little gem from Claire Cock-Starkey, Hyphens & Hashtags is as entertaining as it is informative and it's a fantastic addition to my ever-growing Bodleian Library collection.

Many thanks to Claire Cock-Starkey and The Bodleian Library for sending me an ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Monday, 30 August 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Bookshop of Second Chances - Jackie Fraser

Set in a charming little Scottish town, The Bookshop of Second Chances is the most uplifting story you'll read this Winter, by a hugely talented debut author.
Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving.
Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance.
Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from...
An enchanting story of Scottish lords, second-hand books, new beginnings and second chances perfect for fans of Cressida McLaughlin, Veronica Henry, Rachel Lucas and Jenny Colgan.

What did I think?

Novels set in bookshops are like catnip to booklovers so I just had to read Jackie Fraser's debut: The Bookshop of Second Chances.  I think it's very hard to place The Bookshop of Second Chances into just one genre as it is something so different that it feels like romance for realists and chicklit for older chicks.  

Thea is 44 years old, so she's just a wee bit younger than me, and it's so refreshing to read a novel with a middle aged lead character.  Although we still have our insecurities, I think the older you get, the less you care about what people think of you and I love that Thea is often very forthright.  Thea has nothing left to lose after losing her job, her husband and her home in close succession, so when her Great Uncle dies and she inherits his cottage in Scotland she doesn't think twice about upping sticks to live north of the border.

The little town of Baldochrie is just what Thea needs to lick her wounds and find herself again.  Her neighbour is Lord Charles Mactravers and Charles' brother Edward owns the local bookshop.  I wished I could have visited Edward's bookshop and Jackie Fraser granted that wish by transporting me there through her beautifully descriptive words.  A true booklover, Edward keeps his shop quite dark to protect the books and it reminded me a little of Black Books (from the TV show of the same name), only a lot neater.

As potential suitors for Thea were laid out before the reader, I was reminded of Pride and Prejudice.  As she's not looking for a man, Thea is very Lizzie Bennet when fending off unwelcome advances with her forthrightness and Edward is SO Mr Darcy: brooding, grumpy and unfriendly.  I don't know whether or not it was intended, but I think Jackie Fraser's debut novel is a wonderful retelling of Pride and Prejudice for the 21st century.  I've probably made Jackie Fraser's day by comparing her to Jane Austen!

Wonderfully uplifting, The Bookshop of Second Chances is a booklover's dream and a fabulous debut from Jackie Fraser.  It is so beautifully written with a sprinkling of humour throughout and it will appeal to so many readers, leaving a smile on the face of everyone who reads it.  

Many thanks to TeamBATC for sending me a beautiful paperback to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Friday, 27 August 2021

The Pact - Sharon Bolton

A golden summer, and six talented friends are looking forward to the brightest of futures - until a daredevil game goes horribly wrong, and a woman and two children are killed.

18-year-old Megan takes the blame, leaving the others free to get on with their lives. In return, they each agree to a 'favour', payable on her release from prison.

Twenty years later Megan is free.
Let the games begin . . . 

What did I think?

What an absolute scorcher!  The Pact is so good I couldn't put it down and I devoured it in two sittings.  This is a great example of when friends become frenemies and I loved every single second of it.

Six friends have the world at their feet until a stupid dare has earthshattering consequences.  I was shocked and appalled as events played out and I couldn't believe that they were all willing to let one of their friends take the blame so they could get on with their lives, pretending nothing ever happened.  It really made my blood boil.  Megan has the foresight to get them all to sign a pact so she gets a favour from each of them when she is released from prison, but 20 years inside gives Megan plenty of time to think... and the others to forget.

The Pact has everything you want in a great thriller: revenge, secrets, unlikeable characters and a fast-paced twisty plot.  The plotting is stunning, the writing is flawless and the whole package is breathtaking.  It's one of those Pringles-type novels - once you open it you can't stop reading it, so make sure you block out a good chunk of time and find a comfortable seat when you pick up a copy of The Pact.

Sizzling with suspense and tension, The Pact is an outstanding thriller.  It's dark, twisty and completely compelling, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

I received an ARC from the publisher to read and review; all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, 24 August 2021

BLOG TOUR: She's Mine - A. A. Chaudhuri

Twenty years ago, Christine Donovan took a call she should have ignored while shopping. In those few seconds while her back was turned, her toddler, Heidi, was kidnapped. She’s never been seen again.

Despite having two other children with husband Greg, Christine remains guilt-stricken that her neglect caused her child to be stolen, while haunted by a secret that consumes her.

Just as she takes measures to finally heal, a note is posted through her door, with the words she has always longed to hear: Heidi isn’t dead.

Christine might finally get the answers she craves - but what she doesn’t know is that finding her daughter will uncover dark secrets close to home.

In seeking the truth, Christine might destroy everything that she loves … so how far is she willing to go to find Heidi?

With a truly jaw-dropping end twist, She’s Mine is a dark, scandalous, and gripping read from a major new talent in psychological thriller writing. For fans of Harriet Tyce, C.L. Taylor and Apple Tree Yard.

What did I think?

I loved A. A. Chaudhuri's legal thrillers that I listened to on audiobook so I was really excited to read her debut psychological thriller She's Mine and what a cracker it is!  It's so gripping that it blew my reading plans out of the water and I raced through it a lot quicker than I had planned.  Even though I thought I had it all worked out (and of course I really hadn't) I just couldn't put it down.

I had conflicting emotions for Christine, whose daughter Heidi disappeared from a department store when she was a toddler.  Of course I felt sorry for Christine as her life changed irreparably the moment that Heidi was taken and her pain and guilt damaged all of her relationships, but Christine was far from the perfect mother.  I don't want to spoil the plot by saying any more than that as you really need to read this book for yourself to experience all of the shocks and surprises.

It's heartbreaking to see how one terrible event can damage a family so badly and I would be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind that Christine only had herself to blame.  Karma is indeed a b!tch, but even more so when it's manipulated.  Christine and her family would be stronger together but they are broken beyond repair and somebody is out to destroy them...

Gripping and twisty doesn't even come close to describing this fantastic book.  With characters you will love to hate, it's impossible to put down and even when you think you have it all worked out, there are still more surprises in store.  A. A. Chaudhuri is super-talented and she's fast becoming one of my favourite authors, so if you haven't discovered her novels yet make sure you pick up a copy of She's Mine.  

I received a digital ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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About the author:

A. A. Chaudhuri is a former City lawyer. After gaining a degree in History at University College London, she later trained as a solicitor and worked for several major London law firms before leaving law to pursue her passion for writing. She is the author of The Scribe and The Abduction, books 1 and 2 of her Kramer & Carver legal thriller series featuring the feisty Maddy Kramer, also published in audio. Her first psychological thriller with Hera Books, She's Mine, will be published in 18th August 2021. Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency, she lives in Surrey with her family, and loves films, all things Italian and a good margarita!

#1 Amazon Australia Amateur Sleuth Mysteries (Aug '19); #1 Amazon Canada Women Sleuth Mysteries; (Aug '19) top 10 Amazon UK Legal crime thrillers (Aug '19); #1 Amazon Australia Legal Thrillers (November '19)

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Monday, 23 August 2021

BLOG TOUR: Nobody's Perfect - Stephanie Butland

Does your past define your future?

When her daughter was born with cystic fibrosis, Kate Micklethwaite vowed that Daisy would never be defined by the illness. Kate is determined that her perfect little girl will be known for her love of butterflies and croissants and nothing else. Kate does all she can to be the perfect mother - whatever that means - and yet, somehow, has started seeing herself the way others see her: single parent, source of small-town scandal, drop-out, former mistress. Half a family.

When Daisy starts school, Kate meets her new teacher, the kind and charming Mr Spencer Swanson. Now, with more time on her hands Kate can start thinking about her own future. With her Open University dissertation deadline looming, Kate needs to decide what she wants next. But as she and Spencer get to know each other, Kate notices that people are whispering behind her back once more . . . 

What did I think?

I planned to read Nobody's Perfect over four days but I ended up read it in two sittings as I couldn't put it down.  It just shows that a book doesn't have to be a thriller to be gripping.  In mother and daughter pairing Kate and five-year-old Daisy, Stephanie Butland has created loveable and believable characters whose story I felt emotionally invested in.

Kate is a single parent after an affair with a married man caused tongues to wag in her home town.  Although Kate may be an outcast, the positive result of her affair is adorable Daisy and I absolutely loved her.  Daisy is so vibrant as she flutters to school wearing her butterfly wings, but beneath the surface a deadly illness looms.  Daisy has cystic fibrosis which means that any threat to her respiratory system could see her ending up in hospital.  

Kate is a brilliant mum and I love how she tries to make Daisy's life as normal as possible but has a constant eye out for anything that can be harmful.  It's very thought-provoking to think that something like the common cold might be a bit of a nuisance to you or me but to others it can have serious repercussions.  Daisy is Kate's whole life but a new teacher at the school reignites Kate's passion and she has a chance to be Kate again, rather than 100% mum.  Mr Swanson does seem perfect but as the book title tells us, Nobody's Perfect.

Stephanie Butland's writing is beautiful and her characters are so well-developed that they virtually leap out from the page.  I felt every beat of Kate's heart as her love for Daisy shone through every wonderful word and I had my fingers crossed as her relationship with Spencer blossomed.  With so much to find out about each other, it was interesting to see how they both tackled a new relationship.  Kate is very much all in with all her secrets laid bare but Spencer is clearly keeping something back and you can't help but wonder whether his intentions are honourable.

Beautiful, heartwarming and thought-provoking, Nobody's Perfect is a stunning novel and one I will never forget.  It's a wonderful contemporary romance and very highly recommended.

I received a digital ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Thursday, 19 August 2021

The Gathering Storm (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy Book 1) - Alan Jones

Kiel, Northern Germany, 1933. A naval city, the base for the German Baltic fleet, and the centre for German sailing, the venue for the upcoming Olympic regatta in 1936.

The Kästners, a prominent Military family, are part of the fabric of the city, and its social, naval and yachting circles. The Nussbaums are the second generation of their family to be in service with the Kästners as domestic staff, but the two households have a closer bond than most.

As Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party claw their way to power in 1933, life has never looked better for families like the Kästners. There is only one problem.

The Nussbaums are Jews.

The Sturmtaucher Trilogy documents the devastating effect on both families of the Nazis’ hateful ideology and the insidious erosion of the rights of Germany's Jews.

When Germany descends ever deeper into dictatorship, General Erich Kästner tries desperately to protect his employees, and to spirit them to safety.

As the country tears itself apart, the darkness which envelops a nation threatens not only to destroy two families, but to plunge an entire continent into war.’ 

What did I think?

Wow wow wow!  This book is seriously good.  Alan Jones has written an outstanding piece of historical fiction and better yet, it's the start of a trilogy so it's only the beginning of the story.  I usually like to read historical fiction in physical form because of the added extras like maps and glossaries that are handy to refer back to, but at 800 pages long The Gathering Storm would be quite weighty so I was pleased to read this one on kindle.  It really doesn't feel like a long book as I was so immersed in the story that I didn't want it to end and could have happily kept on reading.

Set in Germany in 1933 when war is just a twinkle in Adolf Hitler's eye, it's unusual to read a WWII novel written from this perspective and I absolutely loved it.  Germany building up to war is a huge story in its own right but I found The Gathering Storm to be surprisingly character driven.  The Kästners and the Nussbaums, along with their acquaintances, were brought to life right before my eyes and I felt all their hopes and fears with them.

It's shocking to think that this is real history as the treatment of the Jewish people is horrific and it makes for uncomfortable reading at times.  Of course, this part of history is well known but when it happens to characters you care about it's even more disturbing.  I found it amazing how easily the German people were brainwashed by Hitler but I'd never really considered how losing the First World War had affected them.  Reading about Hitler's rise to power and the measures he took to stay there is quite astounding and I could see how the population found him so charismatic.

Alan Jones' research is meticulous and it really adds depth to the sketchy history I already knew of this period.  I felt like I learned more reading The Gathering Storm than I ever learned in a whole year of history lessons.  History is brought to life in this exceptional novel.

The Gathering Storm is stunning, breathtaking and so very highly recommended.  It really deserves more than 5 stars to show how exceptional it is.  I can't wait to continue this epic story.

I received a digital ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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About the author:

Alan Jones is a Scottish author with three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. He has now switched genres, and his WW2 trilogy will be published in August 2021. It is a Holocaust story set in Northern Germany.

He is married with four grown up children and four wonderful grandchildren.

He has recently retired as a mixed-practice vet in a small Scottish coastal town in Ayrshire and is one of the RNLI volunteer coxswains on the local lifeboat. He makes furniture in his spare time, and maintains and sails a 45-year-old yacht in the Irish Sea and on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. He still plays football despite being just the wrong side of sixty.

His crime novels are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence, and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.

He is one of the few self-published authors to be given a panel at Bloody Scotland and has done two pop-up book launches at the festival in Stirling.

He has spent the last five years researching and writing the Sturmtaucher Trilogy.

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