Sunday, 31 January 2021

The Stolen Sisters - Louise Jensen

 

Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago. Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?


What did I think?

Louise Jensen is a time thief!  She stole the hours out of my day when I was reading The Stolen Sisters and before I knew it day had turned to night!  With jawdropping cliffhangers at the end of every chapter it's IMPOSSIBLE to put this book down and I read just one more after one more after one more chapter until I'd devoured every single fantastic word that Louise Jensen had written.

13 year old Carly was looking after her 8 year old twin sisters, Marie and Leah, when they were abducted from the street outside their home.  The sisters may have returned physically unharmed after their ordeal but the mental scars run deep.  Each sister blames themselves for what happened, despite assurances from each other that none of them are to blame.  It's a difficult time for the sisters as the twenty year anniversary of their abduction approaches, but it's made even worse by the person responsible being released from prison.  

Blisteringly fast-paced, I absolutely tore through The Stolen Sisters at a rate of knots.  It feels like every character is hiding something so I wanted to uncover each one's story as fast as possible, as well as find out what happened twenty years ago.  As it says on the cover, the Sinclair family were torn apart by the abduction and it's heartbreaking to see the long term effects of this one terrible action.  

It's impossible to say that one of the sisters has been hit the hardest as they are all suffering terribly in their own way, however, I found Leah to be the most intriguing character.  Leah not only suffers from OCD and a fear of germs, but she has a condition called Fregoli Syndrome where she believes that she sees the face of the same person on different people.  Wow, this must be such a scary condition; just imagine that someone is out to get you and you see them everywhere you turn.  Nobody believes you are in danger from your persecutor as you suffer from this rare delusion so you're treated like the boy who cried wolf when you do voice your fears.  It's such an interesting and thought-provoking condition to give a character and it perfectly fits the storyline.

The Stolen Sisters is absolutely brilliant; it's a gripping, fast-paced page turner.  I've read quite a few of her novels and I think it's Louise Jensen's best book yet.  Set aside a couple of hours when you pick up this book as you will not be able to put it down.  It's a fantastic read and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I requested an ARC from NetGalley to read and review; all opinions are my own. 

My rating:

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Friday, 29 January 2021

The Trick to Time - Kit de Waal

 

'There's a trick to time. You can make it expand or you can make it contract. Make it shorter or make it longer . . .'

Some moments you want to last forever. Some moments shape a life.

For Mona, it's the joy of playing on a Wexford beach as a young girl, next to her family's cottage overlooking the Irish sea. The thrill of moving to Birmingham with a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding-house. Meeting the love of her life; a whirlwind marriage; a sudden, tragic loss.

But now, decades later, Mona is determined to find happiness before it's too late. She knows that every moment is precious. But can we ever let go of the past that shaped us?


What did I think?

Oh my goodness, this beautiful book almost broke me!  It smashed my heart into smithereens then put it all back together again.  As soon as I realised what was going on, I was powerless to stop the tears from falling and I was openly sobbing as Mona's past was revealed.

I don't want to give away anything about the breathtaking plot as this is a book that needs to be experienced first-hand by every reader.  It's certainly an emotional rollercoaster as we follow the path of Mona's life from Ireland to Birmingham.  From the wise words Mona's father gave her in Ireland to the selfless acts that Mona now carries out from her home in Birmingham, The Trick to Time is an absolute delight from beginning to end.

Mona is a really interesting character; at first glance she's a sixty year old dollmaker who lives on her own but scratch the surface and you will find an angel with a broken heart.  Although she has loved and been loved, Mona has had such a tragic life but she uses the experience of her own tragedy to help others.  I wish everyone had a Mona in their life.

Written with sensitivity, warmth and humour, The Trick to Time is an exceptionally beautiful novel.  Mona's father's trick to time is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life; time is something that we can never get back so use it wisely.  Keep your tissues handy when you read this heartachingly beautiful book that I unreservedly recommend.

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

My rating:

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UK.Bookshop.org
Amazon

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Away with the Penguins - Hazel Prior


Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she's never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach ('people who litter the countryside should be shot'), trying to locate her glasses ('someone must have moved them') or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen ('Eileen, door!').

Veronica doesn't have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she's going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this. 


What did I think?

I discovered Away with the Penguins when it popped up on my Twitter feed one day and as soon as I saw the fabulous cover I didn't need any further encouragement to buy myself a copy.  I was so eager to read it that it jumped straight to the top of my reading queue and it's such compulsive reading that I devoured it within a period of 24 hours.

I absolutely loved the main character of mid-octogenarian Veronica McCreedy.  Veronica isn't exactly cuddly granny material but she's very strong willed, a little bit naughty and sharp as a tack.  From first appearances, some people might think that Veronica has been lucky in life; she lives in a mansion but she's all alone and has a heartbreaking backstory.  I loved reading the flashbacks to Veronica's childhood, living through World War II and the devastating effects of the war which made her into the woman she is today.

The storyline is absolutely perfect and I don't want to say too much in case I release any spoilers as it's such a wonderful story to experience first-hand for yourself.  It's impossible to put down once you start reading and there are some amazing characters, both human and penguin, that you can't help but take into your heart.  

Away with the Penguins is completely wonderful and incredibly heart-warming.  Delightfully quirky, extraordinarily charming and tremendously uplifting, Away with the Penguins is an absolute must read and well deserving of five shiny stars.

My rating:

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Monday, 25 January 2021

BLOG TOUR: A Curious Cook - Bridget Morton


A comprehensive and supportive guide to vegetarian cooking for people with coeliac disease.

Bridget Morton puts her own personal experiences of living with coeliac to good use in the kitchen, whipping up nutritious, delicious and comforting dishes designed to help manage her symptoms.


What did I think?

I have to say from the start that I don't have coeliac disease, however, I am unable to eat certain foods (particularly white bread) without being crippled by stomach pains.  I try to keep my food as stomach-friendly as possible and I do enjoy cooking and creating tasty dishes in the kitchen.  It's sometimes a bit of lottery whether my slaving over a hot stove will cause stomach pain or not so A Curious Cook by Bridget Morton sounds like the perfect cookery book for me to reduce, if not alleviate, the risk of pain.

Over 95% of the book is dedicated to recipe pages, so there isn't a lot of annoying chat or pointless photos (like it's a photoshoot for Hello magazine) in the front of the book like you find with many other cook books.  The author's concise introduction discusses her cooking journey in a light and humourous way, mentioning her reasons for writing the book and offering snippets of advice.  

Following the introduction, there are handy conversion tables (to save you googling or having to ask Alexa) and a list of store cupboard basics before launching into the main event: the recipe section.  There are 104 recipes in total which are split into 7 sections: Savoury Tarts and Pies; Flatbread Dough; Pancakes, Crackers and Muffins; Small Savouries; Vegetables and Salads; Sugar; and Sauces, Preserves and Drinks.  A good proportion of the recipes are accompanied by a short introduction from the author and colour photos that show the finished product.

I would have liked to have made some of the recipes in advance of posting my review but unfortunately there wasn't enough time before my spot on the blog tour.  There are loads of recipes I want to try that look uncomplicated for novice cooks like me: winter squash and chilli tart (made with a variety of interesting flours); small savoury pies (made in a muffin tin and filled with tomato and feta); fennel seed tarallini (little twisty savoury biscuits); chickpea dal (this looks so easy to make and I love chickpeas) and courgettes with tomato and cumin (a delicious winter stew).  There are other recipes that sound lovely but they involve shallow frying in oil and that's a bit too advanced for me.

I was delighted to find that a lot of the recipes use courgettes.  Not only do I love courgettes but my uncle grows them on his allotment so our kitchen is always well stocked when courgettes are in season.  There are also a good number of chickpea recipes which are a store cupboard staple for me as I love them.  I can see A Curious Cook becoming a well-used and favourite cookbook in my house.

The only tiny gripe I have with the book is in the presentation; the paper in the book isn't coated like you find in a lot of cook books.  You will need to be careful when using it in the kitchen as if you're anything like me, it's sure to get splattered; an acrylic cookbook stand is a useful addition to the kitchen anyway and would be perfect to protect this book from splashes.

A Curious Cook is a fabulous cookbook for both coeliacs and vegetarians with a suspected gluten intolerance.  The recipes are clear and simple, with relatively easy to source ingredients, and they all sound tasty and comforting.  I suspect my stomach will thank Bridget Morton in due course.

I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Saturday, 23 January 2021

Ghosts - Dolly Alderton

 

Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he's going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.

A new relationship couldn't have come at a better time - her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone's moving to the suburbs. There's no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who's caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

Dolly Alderton's debut novel is funny and tender, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships, family, memory, and how we live now.


What did I think?

I was looking for something light to read and decided on Ghosts by Dolly Alderton, expecting a light-hearted and funny dating style rom-com.  Whilst it is partly a rom-com, it's certainly much more than that and I found it surprisingly more poignant and heart-wrenching than funny.

Apart from her day job of food writer, Nina Dean has two main parts to play in Ghosts: girlfriend and daughter.  As (potential) girlfriend we see her negotiating through the tricky minefield of online dating then choosing a man who seems too good to be true.  As if new relationships weren't difficult enough, Nina's dad is showing the first signs of dementia and her mum is going through some kind of identity crisis.  Nina certainly has a lot of balls to juggle.

There are so many things that I liked about Nina; her size 11 size (having been an annoying size 13 in my past), her middle name of George (after George Michael) and her friendship with her ex-boyfriend Joe to name but a few.  I really liked how The Edge of Heaven by Wham was woven into the story and resulted in one or two surprises for the characters.  I defy anyone not to sing the opening 'Yeah yeah yeah' to themselves while reading Ghosts but I had absolutely no idea what the song was about until now.  Yikes!  

Nina's burgeoning relationship with Max made me want to reach into the book and tell Nina to run away very fast.  There must be something in our DNA that makes a woman go all weak in the knees when a man says he wants to marry her, even on a first date.  There would be scorch marks on the floor and a puff of smoke in his place if a woman said that to a man when they first met.  It's all part of the dating game, a game for two players but only one of them knows the rules.

Although it wasn't the laugh out loud book I was expecting, Ghosts is a very enjoyable read; it's honest, heartfelt and surprisingly poignant.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an ebook via NetGalley for the purpose of review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Amazon

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Looking for Leo - J.A. Baker

 

One missing boy. Four possible suspects.

When young Leo disappears after leaving school, it sets a chain of events in motion that will change the lives of the residents of a quiet Yorkshire village forever.

Ashton returns home many years after committing a heinous crime as a child, and starts to teach an art class. Lynda, a stern secondary school teacher who unwillingly gave evidence against him, recognises her tutor as the troubled boy from all those years ago, bringing him the unwelcome attention he fears.

When Sarah, a bored housewife, hears about Ashton’s return, she convinces herself he is responsible for Leo’s disappearance and reports him to the police. 

Terrified, the boy remains locked in a soundproof room, growing ever more scared of his unpredictable captor.

But just who took Leo and why?

And will he be found before it’s too late?


What did I think?

Looking for Leo is J.A. Baker's tenth published novel since she burst onto the scene with her amazing debut novel, Undercurrent in 2017.  I just have to applaud such prolific writing and for all her novels to be completely different and still manage to shock and surprise the reader is nothing short of exceptional.  

With a storyline about the abduction of an 8 year old boy, Looking for Leo is filled to the brim with tension and suspense.  The suspects are set out before the reader like a game of Cluedo and I must have pointed my finger at all of them at one point or another but J.A. Baker still managed to surprise me.

The cover states that there are four possible suspects but the way that the story unfolds and the tension in the writing makes suspicion fall on everyone, so I had so many more characters in my sights.  I love the way that J.A. Baker writes; drawing the reader in various directions, making you focus on different characters and hiding so many red herrings.  It's so very gripping and intriguing and although I wouldn't say that this was a fast-paced book, it certainly had me hooked from the start.

With disturbing, jaw-dropping scenes that left me breathless, Looking for Leo is an absolutely outstanding novel from one of the best suspense authors around today.  Highly recommended reading.

I received an ARC from the author to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Tuesday, 19 January 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Captive - Deborah O'Connor


Hannah knows the cage intimately. Small, the size of a shopping centre parking space. A bed, a basin, a table and chair. A hatch and metal drawer through which to exchange food and other items.

Then there's him. Always there on the edges of her vision, no matter how hard she tries to block him out.

Every day, the same thoughts run through Hannah's mind:

What if he speaks to me?
What if he hurts me?
What if he gets out?

In a near-future justice system Jem, the murderer of Hannah’s husband, arrives at her home to serve out his twenty-year sentence in a cell. There it’s hoped he will learn the true cost of his terrible crime. 

But Jem tells Hannah he’s innocent, and not only that, her husband had been lying to her. Soon Hannah begins to question everything she thought she knew. Was Jem wrongly convicted? Or is he simply a desperate man, willing to say and do anything that might grant his freedom? 

Only he can unlock the truth. Only she can set him free. 


What did I think?

I have read and enjoyed Deborah O'Connor's previous novels but oh my word she has completely outdone herself with her awesome third novel, The Captive.  With an ingenious plot, blisteringly fast pacing and a gripping narrative, The Captive is completely unputdownable and absolutely brilliant.

The government has come up with a solution for overcrowded prisons which sees The Captive set in a future where victims of crimes play host to the criminals who ruined their lives.  This is absolute genius!  It's not only a fantastic storyline, but it's also so very thought provoking.  I can completely understand that victims of most crimes wouldn't want to ever see their culprit again, never mind inviting them into their own home for twenty years or so.  You often hear people saying 'put me in a room with them' when one of their family has been the victim of crime but imprisoning criminals in victims houses is for reparation not retribution.

Hannah is still grieving when a prison cell is constructed in her kitchen for Jem who, despite irrefutable proof to the contrary, professes his innocence.  I loved peeling back the layers of these two main characters, especially Jem who is clearly hiding something.  I could feel Hannah's every emotion about her home invasion and it was amazing to see her evolve over the course of the book.

The Captive is hugely inventive, highly original and completely captivating.  The whole book is simply brilliant; I honestly couldn't put it down.  The Captive is Deborah O'Connor's best novel yet and it is sure to be a huge hit in 2021; it deserves to top all of the charts and I think it's THE book to read this year.  Very highly recommended and unquestionably a 5 star read.

I received an 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:

Deborah O’Connor is a writer and TV producer responsible for well-loved programmes such as ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ and ‘A League of Their Own’.  She lives in North Yorkshire with her husband and daughter. Deborah's first novel was the bestseller My Husband's Son, followed by The Dangerous Kind. The Captive is her third novel. You can follow her on Twitter @deboc77 

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Saturday, 16 January 2021

BLOG TOUR: Children's Fate (The Meonbridge Chronicles Book 4) - Carolyn Hughes


I'm delighted to be one of the bloggers closing the Rachel's Random Resources blog tour for Children's Fate by Carolyn Hughes.  After you've read my review, make sure you enter the fabulous international giveaway at the end of my post to win an Amazon gift card.


How can a mother just stand by when her daughter is being cozened into sin?

It’s 1360, eleven years since the Black Death devastated all of England, and six years since Emma Ward fled Meonbridge with her children, to find a more prosperous life in Winchester. Long satisfied that she’d made the right decision, Emma is now terrified that she was wrong. For she’s convinced her daughter Bea is in grave danger, being exploited by her scheming and immoral mistress.

Bea herself is confused: fearful and ashamed of her sudden descent into sin, but also thrilled by her wealthy and attentive client.

When Emma resolves to rescue Bea from ruin and tricks her into returning to Meonbridge, Bea doesn’t at first suspect her mother’s motives. She is happy to renew her former friendships but, yearning for her rich lover, Bea soon absconds back to the city. Yet, only months later, plague is stalking Winchester again and, in terror, Bea flees once more to Meonbridge.

But, this time, she finds herself unwelcome, and fear, hostility and hatred threaten…

Terror, betrayal and deceit, but also love and courage, in a time of continuing change and challenge – Children’s Fate, the fourth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.


What did I think?

Children's Fate is book 4 of The Meonbridge Chronicles and although I've read every one of the wonderful books in the series, you can most definitely read it as a standalone.  Children's Fate is simply superb and I think it is the best book in the series so far.

For readers new to the series or those who need a refresh, there's a wonderful cast of characters at the start of the book.  I love this thoughtful addition as there are a lot of characters in the book, although Carolyn Hughes introduces them gradually so as not to overwhelm the reader.  Children's Fate focuses on the Ward family, particularly widow Emma and her daughter Bea, who left Meonbridge for Winchester in 1354.  The year 1360 sees Emma with a good job as a weaver and Bea with an apprenticeship as an embroiderer, however, the embroidery business is a front for a bawdy house.  To protect her daughter, Emma moves back to Meonbridge but Bea is far from happy about leaving her lucrative new life behind.

Carolyn Hughes is one of the best historical fictions authors I have ever read.  Her books are based on historical facts but are brought to life by such wonderful characters that the reader gets to know throughout the series.  Even if you haven't read the earlier books, there are reminders of particular characters' backstories within Children's Fate so as not to disadvantage new readers.  Just to reiterate the use of real historical facts in the story, I was amazed to read in the author's note that there was such an embroidery business whose mistress sold her apprentices into prostitution.  

If you like historical fiction you will love Children's Fate and all of the Meonbridge Chronicles.  I love that you can read each chronicle as a standalone but they are even better when read as part of a series.  Carolyn Hughes' writing is so vivid that I felt fully immersed in the story and the return of the plague felt even more scary as we tackle our current pandemic.

Children's Fate is such stunningly vibrant historical fiction that I wholeheartedly recommend.  Even if historical fiction isn't your preferred genre, Carolyn Hughes writes with such vivacity that ensures Children's Fate will appeal to all readers.  Absolutely brilliant and completely faultless - without doubt a five star read.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and all opinions are my own.

My rating:

Buy it from:
Amazon US




About the author:

CAROLYN HUGHES was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After completing a degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the government.

She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage in her life. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Children’s Fate is the fourth novel in the MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES series. A fifth novel is under way.

You can connect with Carolyn through her website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and social media:



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Thursday, 14 January 2021

BLOG TOUR: Dishonoured - Jem Tugwell

 

WE’RE ALL ONE MISTAKE FROM RUIN… 

Dan has worked hard for the perfect life. He has a loving wife, beautiful kids, a fabulous home and is a successful businessman. 

One afternoon Dan steps onto his usual train and sees the waitress who served him an hour earlier. It all seemed so normal, but it was the most dreadful mistake. Four stops later, Dan is a criminal who has lost everything. He’d only just met her, so why did she destroy him—and why did she say 'Sorry'? 

Dan battles through a web of lies and deceit to clear his name and win his life back, but first, he needs to find out who plotted his downfall.


What did I think?

I discovered Jem Tugwell through his amazing iMe series so I was very eager to read his first psychological thriller and I was not disappointed.  Dishonoured is an edge of your seat novel that had my brain constantly screaming 'WHO DID IT?' as I raced through the pages to find out as fast as I possibly could.

It's scary how fast your life can be flushed down the toilet; Dan went from cloud nine to the gutter in the time it took for him to take a short tube ride home.  It's a set up that destroys every part of Dan's life, sees him alienated from his family and friends and leaves him with a criminal record.  With a cast of characters who all had something to gain from Dan's fall from grace, everyone is a suspect.

Dishonoured is SO GOOD!  I couldn't put it down and I couldn't read it fast enough.  I love that Dan refuses to lie down and accept his fate, choosing to confront his suspects despite their best efforts to avoid him.  I had my own suspicions about who was responsible for the set up but I was completely wrong footed and I almost lost my eyebrows as they shot so far up my head when I was finally proved wrong.  

With a razor-sharp plot and lightning fast pacing, Dishonoured is a phenomenal psychological thriller.  Jem Tugwell is an incredibly talented author and definitely one to watch; if you haven't discovered Jem Tugwell yet then you're missing out on a real treat.  Dishonoured is absolutely brilliant and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

I was gifted an ebook to read and review as part of the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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About the author:

Jem Tugwell was born in Berkshire and Dishonoured is his first psychological thriller.

Jem’s first two critically acclaimed novels, Proximity and No Signal are exciting crime fiction novels set in the near future, featuring DI Clive Lussac and his partner Zoe Jordan.

Jem has a Crime Writing MA from City University, an MBA and a BSc in Computer Science and in a past life, Jem had a successful career in IT and investment management. Jem's loves are snowboarding, old cars and bikes. He lives in Surrey with his wife and has two children.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello (The Stonebridge Mysteries 1) - Chris McDonald


Wedding bells are chiming in the idyllic, coastal town of Stonebridge. For Sam and Emily, it should be the happiest day of their lives. But, on the morning of the ceremony, the best man is found dead. The police quickly write his death off as a tragic accident, but something doesn’t seem right to wedding guest and groomsman, Adam Whyte.

Armed with an encyclopaedic, but ultimately ridiculous knowledge of television detective shows and an unwarranted confidence in his own abilities, Adam and his best friend (and willing Watson) Colin, set out to uncover what actually happened to Daniel Costello.
 

The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello is the first in the Stonebridge Mysteries series of cosy crime novellas.


What did I think?

I'm a huge fan of Chris McDonald's DI Erika Piper series so when I heard that he was writing a cosy crime series I couldn't wait to read it.  The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello (what a great book title) is the first novella in the Stonebridge Mysteries series and it's a cracker!  It's a quick read at less than 90 minutes so very easy to read in one sitting, which is just as well as it's impossible to put down anyway!

There's a wedding in Stonebridge but the groom and best man appear to be at loggerheads on the night before the wedding.  When best man Daniel doesn't turn up for breakfast the next day, groomsman Adam goes looking for him and is shocked to find Daniel dead in his bed.  The police are called and declare that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding Daniel's premature demise, however, some things don't add up for Adam.  Being a fan of TV detective shows, Adam enlists his friend Colin to help him investigate Daniel's death.

A bit of a couch potato, Adam is such an unlikely amateur sleuth but when he dons his metaphorical deerstalker he proves that he really does know his stuff.  Although some things are different from TV in real life, Adam knows a suspicious death when he sees one.  Adam and Colin relish their roles as a modern day Holmes and Watson and I love how they are so meticulous in their search for evidence.  Having been friends since primary school, Adam and Colin are a great pairing and I love how well they work together.

Another thing I loved was the quirky and often humourous chapter names that set the scene for the chapter ahead.  One in particular had me laughing out loud and I found myself looking forward to new chapters to see what ingenious title Chris McDonald would come up with next.

Hugely entertaining, The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello is a fun, addictive and riveting whodunnit.  Chris McDonald's tremendous talent bursts from every single page of this magnificent novella.  A quick but quality read.

Thank you to Red Dog Press for sending me an ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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About the author:

Originally hailing from the north coast of Northern Ireland and now residing in South Manchester, Chris McDonald has always been a reader. At primary school, The Hardy Boys inspired his love of adventure before his reading world was opened up by Chuck Palahniuk and the gritty world of crime. A Wash of Black is his first attempt at writing a book. He came up with the initial idea whilst feeding his baby in the middle of the night, which may not be the best thing to admit, considering the content. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs. Whispers in the Dark is the second instalment in the DI Erika Piper series, and Chris is currently working on his latest series, The Stonebridge Mysteries, to be published by Red Dog Press in 2021. 








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Sunday, 10 January 2021

Space Hopper - Helen Fisher

 

This is a story about taking a leap of faith
And believing the unbelievable
 
They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.
 
I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight.
And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.
 
Right now, you probably think I’m going mad. 
Let me explain…
 
Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?
 
Space Hopper is an original and poignant story about mothers, memories and moments that shape life.


What did I think?

As a child of the 70s myself, and a previous space hopper owner, I couldn't wait to read Helen Fisher's debut novel, Space Hopper.  The must have toy of the 70s, I always found the grinning face on the space hopper to be a bit evil, especially when you consider that the handles look like horns.  I think the author and publishers are wise to keep the orange devil off the cover but also roller skates are pivotal to the story.

Faye is a 36 year old happily married mother of two but she feels as incomplete as a jigsaw with a missing piece.  Faye's mother died when she was 8 years old but Faye can remember very little about that period of her life.  Now that she is older, Faye has questions about her mother that her elderly adoptive father can't answer.  When Faye finds her old space hopper box in the loft she magically falls through it into the 1970s...right into her childhood home. 

Space Hopper really is as good as it sounds.  Actually, it's even better if you're a child of the 70s as it's filled to the brim with nostalgia; things like Enid Blyton books, skates that tie over your shoes, biscuits on plates and mothers with tissues up their sleeves.  I had forgotten about those skates and I got a warm fuzzy feeling remembering the noisy clattering sound they made and magic cream being applied to grazed knees after inevitably falling over.

Helen Fisher's writing is completely astounding; it's warm, incredibly vivid and almost interactive as Faye appears to talk to the reader.  I was so immersed in the book that I found myself about to answer her back at one point.  Faye's friend Louis is blind and there's a passage set on bonfire night where Faye describes fire to Louis and I just sat back after reading it and said: wow!  I was impressed, even if Louis wasn't!  With such beautiful writing, I'm definitely putting Helen Fisher at the top of my authors to watch list.

Without going into scientific details, Faye does explore the effect of her time travel.  Although it didn't even scratch the surface of the theory of time travel, I found this to be incredibly interesting and thought-provoking.  It should hopefully pacify those readers with more knowledge and opinions about time travel, whilst keeping those unfamiliar with it engaged and entertained.  

Space Hopper is astonishing, heart-achingly poignant and completely magical; I absolutely adored it and wholeheartedly recommend it.  It's a hugely entertaining nostalgiafest and if this isn't picked up for the big screen, I will eat my hat!

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing an ARC via NetGalley; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Thursday, 7 January 2021

The Charmed Wife - Olga Grushin

 

And they lived happily ever after . . . didn't they?

Cinderella married the man of her dreams - the perfect ending she deserved after diligently following all the fairy-tale rules. Yet now, two children and thirteen-and-a-half years later, things have gone badly wrong.

One night, she sneaks out of the palace to get help from the Witch who, for a price, offers love potions to disgruntled housewives. But as the old hag flings the last ingredients into the cauldron, Cinderella doesn't ask for a love spell to win back her Prince Charming.

Instead, she wants him dead.


What did I think?

I love fairytale retellings and Cinderella was my favourite Disney movie as a child...who am I kidding - it still is!  So I was completely intrigued by Olga Grushin's take on what happens next after the happy couple rush down the steps into their waiting carriage.  Charles Perrault claims that they lived happily ever after but Olga Grushin points out elements of our favourite fairytale that suggest it was very unlikely indeed.

Much like a fairytale, you do have to suspend belief when reading a retelling.  I found The Charmed Wife very easy to read and enjoyable but it didn't quite manage to make me fall under its spell.  I loved the way it made me look at the Cinderella story in a new light.  I mean they don't even tell each other their names when they meet and the prince obviously can't remember what she looks like or he'd have gone looking for her himself instead of sending people out to see who the shoe fits!

One thing I didn't really like in the book was the little interludes with the mice story; it was ok at first but after a while I felt like it interrupted the flow of the main story and I couldn't read these parts fast enough to get back to the main event.  There is a point to the mice story which was well made as it shows the depth of Cinderella's character but there was just too much mousiness for me.

With a lecherous prince and a murderous princess, The Charmed Wife is a dark, sobering and modern adult fairytale.  It's challenging and thought-provoking, reminding us that life never turns out like a Disney movie.  

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Tuesday, 5 January 2021

The Prison Doctor - Dr Amanda Brown


Horrifying, heartbreaking and eye-opening, these are the stories, the patients and the cases that have characterised a career spent being a doctor behind bars.

Violence. Drugs. Suicide. Welcome to the world of a Prison Doctor.

Dr Amanda Brown has treated inmates in the UK’s most infamous prisons first in young offenders institutions, then at the notorious Wormwood Scrubs and finally at Europe's largest women-only prison in Europe, Bronzefield.

From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heartbreaking acts of self-harm, she has witnessed it all.

In this eye-opening, inspirational memoir, Amanda reveals the stories, the patients and the cases that have shaped a career helping those most of us would rather forget.

Despite their crimes, she is still their doctor.


What did I think?

I like to read non-fiction now and again and The Prison Doctor by Dr Amanda Brown caught my eye.  You could be forgiven for forgetting that this is non-fiction as some of the stories are as harrowing and shocking as crime fiction but this is real life.

Dr Amanda Brown's writing is vibrant and honest, which makes the reader feel as if they are in the prison hearing the shouts of the inmates and the clank of the doors.  As she has made some monumental decisions in her medical career, Dr Brown does include a little bit of her personal life and I really liked this aspect.  We often don't realise how much a GP practice is run like a business with targets and requirements being imposed that impact the doctor and the practice financially.

Leaving her GP practice was heartbreaking as the patients Dr Brown had cared for over many years were so sad to see her go.  I'm not surprised her patients were heartbroken as she wasn't just a doctor to many of them, she was often also a counsellor and a friend.  Dr Brown comes across as someone who loves her job and gives 100% to whatever task is presented to her.

The stories vary from funny to disturbing so there's a good mix and I'm sure Dr Brown had many stories to choose from.  I laughed at some of the stories from the young offenders institution and I gasped with shock at some of the stories from the adult prisons.  The Prison Doctor really does give a 360 degree of a doctor working behind bars and gives us a glimpse of what life is like for some of the prisoners.

The Prison Doctor is an interesting, disturbing and often funny memoir that provides an honest insight into the challenging life of a modern doctor.  Very well written and incredibly enjoyable reading.

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