Saturday, 31 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Beach Reads Book Club - Kathryn Freeman


Welcome to the Beach Reads Book Club. Where love is just a page away…

When Lottie Watt is unceremoniously booted out of her uptight book club for not following the rules, she decides to throw the rulebook out the window and start her own club – one where conversation, gin and cake take precedent over actually having read the book!

The Beach Reads Book Club soon finds a home for its meetings at Books by the Bay, a charming bookshop and café owned by gorgeous, brooding Matthew Steele, and as the book club picks heat up, so too does the attraction between Matt and Lottie.

If there’s anything Lottie has learned from the romances she’s been reading, it’s that the greatest loves are the ones hardest earned. 

A love letter to chicklit, romance, romcoms, whatever you want to call them!


What did I think?

Well this book turned out to be a breath of fresh air and as it's about a book club set in a book shop it's the perfect read for book lovers.  I loved it and read pretty much the whole book with a smile on my face so I must say a huge thank you to Kathryn Freeman.

Lottie's experience of the book club in her local library is precisely what puts me off book clubs: reading a book that somebody else has chosen and then having to discuss it.  I love books but speaking about them in front of people is my idea of hell.  Lottie isn't the only book club member to find that they're not having as much fun as they'd hoped so when Lottie decides to set up her own book club she already has a couple of founding members.

A book shop café is the perfect location for Lottie's book club and owner Matthew Steele provides the sexual tension as a brooding Mr Darcy style love interest.  Lottie is an electrician (and her surname is Watt which is rather amusing) so there's more than a few sparks as she is drawn to Matt but both of them have been hurt in the past so they're each reluctant to make the first move.

If all book clubs were like this one, I wouldn't mind joining!  Although I'd be the size of house with so much gin and cake!  I loved every single character as each one is brought to life through Kathryn Freeman's wonderful writing.  I have to say that my favourite character was Lottie's dog Chewie and it just shows the depth of character portrayed that he is so multidimensional without having the ability to speak.

You're always guaranteed a smile with a Kathryn Freeman book and The Beach Reads Book Club is no exception.  It's perfect escapism and I picked up one or two book recommendations along the way so it's a book lover's dream.  So cut a slice of cake, pour yourself a (large) gin and tonic and pick up a copy of The Beach Reads Book Club - you won't be disappointed.

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 former pharmacist, I'm now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it's the reaction to a sexy hero. 

With a husband who asks every Valentine's Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers - and heroes come in many disguises.

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Thursday, 29 July 2021

The Devil's Advocate (Eddie Flynn #6) - Steve Cavanagh


A DEADLY PROSECUTOR

They call him the King of Death Row. Randal Korn has sent more men to their deaths than any district attorney in the history of the United States.

A TWISTED RITUALISTIC KILLING

When a young woman, Skylar Edwards, is found murdered in Buckstown, Alabama, a corrupt sheriff arrests the last person to see her alive, Andy Dubois. It doesn't seem to matter to anyone that Andy is innocent.

A SMALL TOWN BOILING WITH RAGE

Everyone in Buckstown believes Andy is guilty. He has no hope of a fair trial. And the local defense attorney assigned to represent him has disappeared.

A FORMER CON-ARTIST

Hot shot New York lawyer Eddie Flynn travels south to fight fire with fire. He plans to destroy the prosecutors case, find the real killer and save Andy from the electric chair.

But the murders are just beginning.

Is Eddie Flynn next? 


What did I think?

This is only the second Eddie Flynn book that I have read but I was so excited to receive a copy that it didn't linger very long on my TBR.  That's the beauty of Steve Cavanagh's Eddie Flynn books: you can jump into any of them mid-series and they are still AWESOME!

I love New York lawyer Eddie Flynn and the way that he and his team work.  It seems like they are really up against it this time when they are called to Alabama to defend a young man against a district attorney who has a 100% death penalty conviction record.  DA Randal Korn is evil personified and Andy Dubois is his latest target; he doesn't care whether Andy is guilty or not, he just wants to watch another man die and know that he had the power to put him in the chair. 

Eddie Flynn believes that Andy is innocent but with corruption in the local sheriff's department and the whole town baying for Andy's blood he really has his work cut out to prove it.  Enter Flynn's new partner Kate Brooks, investigator Bloch (armed with her impressive gun named Maggie) and not forgetting old pal Harry and the dream team is ready to fight evil in Alabama.

Korn is so creepy he really made my skin crawl and if I thought he was evil then I was completely unprepared for 'The Pastor'.  I don't want to give away any plot spoilers but wow this is a powerful storyline.  The Pastor is the puppet master pulling the strings of the whole town to play out a shocking plan.  It's frightening to see how easily people can be manipulated and this is wonderfully portrayed by Steve Cavanagh in his breathtaking plot.

The Devil's Advocate is FANTASTIC!  I raced through it, only pausing to tell people how brilliant it is.  I may have only read two of them but Eddie Flynn is fast becoming one of my favourite series.  With vivid courtroom scenes and an incredibly sharp plot, The Devil's Advocate is crime writing at its finest.  It's so very highly recommended and don't worry if you haven't read any of the earlier books, it's exceptional as a standalone.

I received an ARC from the publisher and boy did I choose to read it - just try and stop me!  All opinions are my own.

My rating:

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Monday, 26 July 2021

In the Middle of Middle America - David B. Lyons

 
WHEN LIVES ENTANGLE, WEBS WILL WEAVE...

Time: September, 1997.

Place: Lebanon, Kansas—quite literally, as marked by a monument, the very middle of middle America.

A teacher. A soldier. An immigrant. A joker. A loner. A chancer. A carer.

A mosaic of seven regular townsfolk are going about their days, blissfully unaware their lives are about to interweave, interchange and interact; entangling into such a messy web that, together — and unbeknownst to them — their lives end up changing the face of America forevermore.

In the mold of movies such as Traffic, Magnolia & The Usual Suspects, In the Middle of Middle America follows multiple characters and allows the reader to become a fly on the wall to observe these seven lives entangling into such a mess that they ultimately lead the reader into a head-spinning twist.


What did I think?

OMG!  This may very well be one of the best books I have ever read.  Just scroll down to the bottom of my review and click the buy link now - you will not be disappointed.  For anyone still reading, I'll tell you why I loved this book so much.

With a number of character storylines to follow, it is indeed a tangled web that is woven by David B. Lyons in his latest novel, In the Middle of Middle America.  There may be a decent number of characters but it never gets confusing as each one is brought to life through the absolutely flawless writing and I really cared about each and every one of them.  Even the small town location of Lebanon, Kansas feels like almost a character in itself and there really is a monument there marking the very centre of America.

This book is so perfectly plotted that it will blow your mind.  I know I was left like a gaping fish out of water at the end, gasping for breath and flapping around in excitement as the magnitude of the absolute masterpiece I had just experienced finally hit me.  David B. Lyons is the Master of Misdirection and this is without doubt his magnum opus - it really is nothing short of a masterpiece.  Stand up and take a bow, Mr Lyons!  I certainly gave him a virtual round of applause at the end.

Five stars is not enough for In the Middle of Middle America; it's simply outstanding!  Honestly, I can't stop raving about this book - it's an absolute MUST READ!  It's a book I would like to read again, even though I now know the awesome twist, just to see how cleverly it is written.  David B. Lyons is such a talented wordsmith and coupled with his intricate plotting makes him one of the cleverest authors I've come across.

Easily my favourite book of 2021, In the Middle of Middle America is an outstanding small town mystery suspense that sure packs a big punch.  I challenge you to read a better book this year!  I don't just recommend it, I implore you to read it - I guarantee you won't regret it.  

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

My rating:

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Friday, 23 July 2021

The Therapist - Helene Flood (Author), Alison McCullough (Translator)

 
At first it's the lie that hurts.

A voicemail from her husband tells Sara he's arrived at the holiday cabin. Then a call from his friend confirms he never did.

She tries to carry on as normal, teasing out her clients' deepest fears, but as the hours stretch out, her own begin to surface. And when the police finally take an interest, they want to know why Sara deleted that voicemail.

To get to the root of Sigurd's disappearance, Sara must question everything she knows about her relationship.

Could the truth about what happened be inside her head?

Translated from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough


What did I think?

Helene Flood's debut adult novel starts with such a great hook that it kept me riveted from start to finish.  I love the drama of secrets and lies and there are a lot of buried secrets to unearth in The Therapist.  I have to say that the translation by Alison McCullough is so flawless that it's easy to forget the book was originally written in Norwegian.

The main character of Sara is a bit of a strange one; she doesn't seem to like people that much despite having to deal with them in her role as a therapist.  Sara is always tired and lethargic making me wonder whether there is an underlying reason for her lack of energy or whether she is just plain lazy.  Sara's marriage to Sigurd certainly seems to have sucked the life out of her and she's very quick to believe his friends (who she clearly doesn't like) rather than his voicemail when Sigurd disappears.  That speaks volumes!

With her strange actions, little inconsistencies and even questioning herself sometimes, Sara turns out to be a very unreliable narrator.  I loved the intriguing little glimpses into Sara's past and found myself almost creating a virtual painting of Sara's character, adding layer upon layer as more is revealed.  There are a number of suspects in the book and I was delighted to find that I was completely blindsided and had pinned my colours to the wrong mast!  I think I need to read it again to see how I was misdirected.

So very atmospheric and tense, The Therapist is an enthralling mystery and one that had me questioning everything I read.  It's definitely more of a slow burner but very well written and I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another Helene Flood book.

I received a gifted copy to participate in the Tandem Collective readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Wednesday, 21 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: Reckless - R. J. McBrien


 
You think you'll stay the same – you won't. Infidelity will change you forever. There can be no going back.

Kirsten Calloway knows she should be grateful. She has a stable marriage, decent job, and a wonderful teenage daughter. But she also has a raging libido that won't shut up, and a husband who'd rather go on a bike ride.

She bumps into an old friend at a school reunion who faces a similar problem. Dianne, though, has found the answer: a discreet agency which arranges casual sex for people just like them, people who want to keep their marriages but also scratch that itch.

Enter Zac: younger, handsome and everything Kirsten could hope for in bed. For a while, they seem to have it all. Kirsten even finds herself becoming a better wife and mother. But Zac wants more – a lot more, and he'll stop at nothing to get it.

Sexually charged, shocking and relatable, Reckless is a profound exploration of marriage, motherhood and desire.


What did I think?

Reckless sounded like something a little different to what I would usually read but it just happens to be the title of my favourite album so I couldn't resist.  I was worried that it would have more than a foot in the erotica camp but my fears were unfounded as it barely dips a toe in that genre, being more of a suspenseful mystery thriller.

Kirsten's marriage seems to have stagnated so she is considering cheating on her husband.  Obviously talking to him about it would be the obvious choice but that would have resulted in a very short book!  The mysterious agency she uses to find a hook-up is very cloak and dagger and this adds an extra layer of suspense to the illicit nature of the plot.  With flashbacks to her past, Kirsten appears to be trying to re-experience the feelings of her first love and 'Zac' seems to do the trick.  That is until Zac gets more serious and wants more from Kirsten but that's definitely not what she has signed up for.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Reckless and I actually said out loud when I finished it that 'I really rather enjoyed that!'  R. J. McBrien's writing is very accomplished and the plotting is so intricately constructed that it left me breathless.  I loved the inclusion of police reports and witness statements that made me feel part of the investigation and added a police procedural slant to the novel.  The mystery is very well played and I didn't see it coming at all.

Reckless is a suspenseful page-turner and an absolutely stunning debut.  Adding the fizz of sexual tension to an already tense novel makes it a real firecracker and it's a well deserved rating of 4.5 stars from me.  I definitely recommend it.

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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Monday, 19 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: The C Word: For some lockdown has been murder - various authors

 
100% of all royalties from The C Word will be donated to NHS Together Charities.

So, what do writers do during Lockdown? They create murder, mystery, death and destruction of course!

The C Word is a collection of short stories collated during the COVID-19 pandemic to raise money for NHS Charities Together. A plethora of wonderful stories created by a wide variety of writers, each with their own unique style. Some you will know already and some we’ve yet to introduce you to. However, we’re sure you’ll want to hear from each & every one of them again as we leave 2020 behind us.

With contributions from Steve Mosby, Sophie Hannah, Elly Griffiths, Sarah Hilary, Rob Scragg, Trevor Wood and many more


What did I think?

Compiled by SpellBound Books with 100% of royalties being donated to NHS Together Charities, there's something for everyone in this wonderful anthology.  With 26 contributors, you could find some of your favourite authors and maybe even a new favourite among them.  I often struggle with short stories but I have to say that this collection is fabulous and there's not one single story that I would rate less than four stars.  

It states on the cover that it's an anthology of murder, mystery, death and destruction so the stories have one thing in common: they're all dark.  Of course, some are darker than others but whether it gives you a gasp out loud or a goosebumpy surprise, I think every reader will find at least one favourite story that sticks with them.

The C Word is an outstanding charity anthology for a very good cause, so make sure you click one of those buy links below to show your support and gratitude for everything the NHS has done for us over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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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Sunday, 18 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: 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.

I received an ARC 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, 17 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: All the Fun of the Fair - Caroline Hulse

 
The Fair is the only good thing that happens every year. And Fiona Larson is the only person in town who's never been.

She's pretended to go - but she's never been allowed. Because, before Fiona was even born, her sister died there.

This year, everything will be different.

Fiona is about to turn twelve - older than her sister was. This summer, Fiona will save some money, make new friends, and finally have some fun at The Fair.

But what she'll actually do is:
- Find a mysterious bag in a bush
- Spy on everyone
- Lose her only friend
- Make a lot of lists
- Learn the truth about what happened at The Fair...

Fresh and hilarious, All the Fun of the Fair is a deeply poignant coming-of-age novel from sensational talent Caroline Hulse.


What did I think?

I was drawn to All the Fun of the Fair not only by the mystery of what happened to Fiona's sister but by the allure of Fiona herself and the intriguing setting of 1996.  Now to an oldie like me that doesn't seem so long ago and I had to pinch myself when I realised that it was actually 25 years ago!  I may have been a lot older than Fiona in '96 but Caroline Hulse's wonderfully nostalgic novel transported me back to my own schooldays.  I'd totally forgotten about those paper fortune tellers - we were totally obsessed with them back in the day.

There's something so magical about the fair coming to town but for 11 year-old Fiona Larson it is a complete mystery.  Fiona is not allowed to go to the fair because her sister died there.  A sister who was perfect in every way and still has a bigger bedroom than Fiona.  Oh you can't help but have all the feels for Fiona, she is living in her sister's shadow and her parents just can't see it.  Fiona is so inquisitive and she is naturally curious about her sister's death so, with the help of The Junior Spy's Secret Handbook, she starts to investigate what actually happened all those years ago at the fair.

It just shows you that keeping secrets, even when you think it's for the best, can cause assumptions to be made that morph the secret into something even more frightening.  Left to run wild, there is no end to the lengths your imagination can go especially when you're a child.  Rather interestingly, that's not the only secret that Fiona's parents are hiding and it's something that's hinted at throughout the novel but possibly won't be picked up by all readers and I'm saying no more about it in case Fiona returns with a sequel (and I do hope she does).

Caroline Hulse's wonderful writing really brings Fiona Larson to life and gives her such a distinctive and unusual voice.  I loved Fiona's list making and her inventive way of making money to go to the fair which had me almost crying with laughter.  I felt quite sorry for Fiona's parents at times as their grief is never-ending and I can't imagine how devastating it must be to lose a child.  Fiona has such a lot to deal with in her young life, you can't help but take her to your heart.

All the Fun of the Fair is a quirky, nostalgic and incredibly poignant read; I won't be forgetting Fiona Larson in a hurry.  It's unusual, funny and charming and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

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

My rating:

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Friday, 16 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Beginner's Guide to Loneliness - Laura Bambrey

 
The perfect feel-good read from an exciting new voice in women’s fiction, for fans of Heidi Swain, Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan.

Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.
 
When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).
 
From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .
 
Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness! Where you can learn to move mountains by picking up the smallest of stones…


What did I think?

I LOVED THIS BOOK!  Yes, I'm shouting but if just one person hears me then it's a job well done.  Laura Bambrey's awesome debut novel should come on prescription as it's not only perfect escapism for our troubled times but it's guaranteed to leave a smile on your face.  

Tori is such a wonderful character and I loved her from the start.  Owner of the blog, The Beginner's Guide to Loneliness, she readily admits that she is lonely but she has built up a following online that reminds her that there are other lonely people out there.  With no family or friends in her life, Tori has a select group of 3 virtual friends she has never met but who she loves dearly.  When she is invited to review a wellbeing retreat for her blog, Tori must step out from behind her screen and meet some real people.

Everyone at the retreat is there for a reason, some to escape the real world and others to work through deep-rooted issues.  I don't think Tori realises how much she fits into the latter category until the magic of the retreat starts to work on her.  The double whammy of events in Tori's past resulted in her pulling down and bolting the shutters but her new friends at the retreat have the key and together they have the strength to overcome any difficulty.

I feel like I went to the retreat with Tori as I found myself looking at my own life, particularly how I think about and talk to myself, and I don't think I have ever used the Kindle highlight function so much.  I loved the completely honest and enlightening excerpts from Tori's blog at the beginning of every chapter and I must have highlighted most of them.  I need to read the book again just to revisit these pearls of wisdom because I absolutely raced through the whole book in my eagerness to get back to The Farm to find out what would happen next.

Beautifully written, The Beginner's Guide to Loneliness is a completely awesome debut.  It's uplifting, heartwarming and surprisingly enlightening.  Perfectly plotted, it's painted like a masterpiece with just the right amount of shade so it's not all sweetness and light.  It's so good that I will be reading it again and if that's not the highest recommendation I can give, I don't know what is.  A stunning debut and an absolute must 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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Thursday, 15 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: Cabin Fever - Alex Dahl

 
Alone and isolated in a vast Scandinavian forest, a therapist begins to read her client's novel manuscript, only to discover the main character is terrifyingly familiar...

You are her therapist.
Kristina is a successful therapist in central Oslo. She spends her days helping clients navigate their lives with a cool professionalism that has got her to the top.

She is your client.
But when her client Leah, a successful novelist, arrives at her office clearly distressed, begging Kristina to come to her remote cabin in the woods, she feels the balance begin to slip.

But out here in the woods.
When Leah fails to turn up to her next two sessions, Kristina reluctantly heads out into the wilderness to find her.

Nothing is as it seems.
Alone and isolated, Kristina finds Leah's unfinished manuscript, and as she reads she realises the main character is terrifyingly familiar...


What did I think?

Alex Dahl has been on my radar for a while but Cabin Fever is the first book of hers that I have read.  It's very well written with believable characters and intriguing plotlines, both past and present, and I love the slow build up of tension that you only seem to get in Scandi-Noir novels.

Although the cover and title suggest a very claustrophobic read, I would say that Cabin Fever is more of a slow burn.  This isn't a bad thing by any means, it just surprised me that it seemed to take a while for the book to get going.  I found it to be a book of two halves, with the first half being slower-paced scene setting and then the pace ramps up when Kristina actually gets to the cabin.

I think I may have read too many books (if there's such a thing) as I did work out what was going on quite quickly, however, there are past and present plotlines so there were still some surprises in store for me.  I can't really say much about the plot or characters as it will spoil it for others but both the disappearance of Leah and Kristina's past are two excellent hooks that kept me rapidly turning pages.

Dark, disturbing and intriguing, Cabin Fever is a compelling and suspenseful read that builds tension gradually like layers of snow.  This would be a great book to curl up with on a dark winter's night as snowflakes graze your window.

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

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Monday, 12 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: Songs in Ursa Major - Emma Brodie

 
Behind every greatest hit, is an even greater love story.

THE SUMMER OF 1969

From the moment Jane Quinn steps barefoot onto the main stage at Island Folk festival, her golden hair glinting, her voice soaring into the summer dusk, a star is born – and so is a passionate love story.

Jane’s band hits the road with none other than Jesse Reid, the musician whose bright blue eyes are setting hearts alight everywhere. And as the summer streaks by in a haze of crowds, wild nights and magenta sunsets, Jane is pulled into the orbit of Jesse’s star.
 
But Jesse’s rise could mean Jane’s fall. And when she discovers a dark secret beneath his music, she picks up her guitar and writes her heartache into the album that could make or break her: Songs in Ursa Major.

Set against the heady haze of the 70s and alive with music, sex and sun-soaked hedonism, SONGS IN URSA MAJOR is an unforgettable debut and the soundtrack to a love story like no other.


What did I think?

Wow!  What a debut!  I simply couldn't put it down.  I loved Songs in Ursa Major from the start and not just because it starts in the Summer, the Summer of '69 - oh yeah!  (I just had to get a bit of Bryan Adams in there).  Partly inspired by the life of Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, Songs in Ursa Major is set in the cutthroat music industry and filled with drama and beautiful music.  It actually reminded me a little of the tv show Nashville, although Jane Quinn is a LOT nicer than Juliette Barnes, and it really is the perfect cure for fans of the show who are suffering from a Nashville hangover.

I adored the main character of Jane Quinn and enjoyed reading about her warm and loving family along with an intriguing mystery about her mother's whereabouts.  Jane has such amazing natural talent but the music industry is definitely a man's world in the 60s and 70s.  Jane is thrust into the limelight by a twist of fate that results in her band going on tour with huge folk star Jesse Reid.  It feels like Jane and Jesse are made for each other as the pair get closer but Jane has a difficult decision to make as becoming Jesse's girlfriend will eclipse her musical career.  

Emma Brodie's writing feels incredibly authentic as the music industry is laid bare, warts and all.  There are tantrums and power struggles as well as some beautiful songwriting.  The whole book virtually vibrates to the beat of the incredible music within and I found myself composing my own melodies in my mind to match the wonderful lyrics.  Being both visual and audible is something I've never experienced in a book before, showing what an amazing writing talent Emma Brodie has.

An absolutely stunning debut, Songs in Ursa Major is a compelling and entertaining novel.  I felt rather emotional at the end but I know it's not the last I'll see of Jane Quinn as I plan to read Songs in Ursa Major again.  Songs in Ursa Major is definitely the soundtrack to my Summer of '21.  Highly recommended to all readers and one not to be missed by music fans.

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

My rating:


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Thursday, 8 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: Home - Penny Parkes

 
A gripping and heartfelt story about overcoming the past and finding where you belong.
 
Anna Wilson travels the world as a professional housesitter – stepping into other people’s lives - caring for their homes, pets and sometimes even neighbours. Living vicariously.
 
But all Anna has ever really wanted is a home of her own – a proper one, filled with family and love and happy memories. If only she knew where to start.
 
Growing up in foster care, she always envied her friends their secure and carefree lives, their certainty and confidence. And, while those same friends may have become her family of choice, Anna is still stuck in that nomadic cycle, looking for answers, trying to find the courage to put down roots and find a place to call home.

Compelling, rich and evocative, Home is Anna’s journey to discovering that it isn’t where you settle down that matters, but the people you have around you when you do. 


What did I think?

I can't believe that Home is the first book by Penny Parkes that I have read but oh my word I loved it.  I love how the cover of the book perfectly encapsulates the variety of homes in this wonderful novel about Anna Wilson's search for a home to call her own.

Housesitting for the rich and famous sounds like a wonderful job...at first.  Wouldn't we all love to see how the other half live?  Of course the downside of that is moving from house to house and living out of a suitcase but Anna is used to this as her life in foster care saw her constantly on the move.  Anna's backstory has resulted in her stuck in a cycle of moving from house to house, afraid to push the pause button and settle down in her own home in case happiness is cruelly ripped away from her.

I absolutely adored the wonderful character of Anna, from her unwavering professionalism in the face of adversity to her undying love for her friend Kate.  Page by page her story curled around my heart like creeping vines until they bloomed in a torrent of tears at Anna's graduation.  I was so proud of Anna, she felt like my best friend and I didn't even realise I was crying until tears dripped onto the page.  

There are multiple layers to this fabulous story that kept me completely engrossed and totally immersed in the book, as evidenced by my tears.  Home really does feel like it contains the full spectrum of emotions as it evoked so many emotions in me.  Above all I felt incredible gratitude for my own home life and it made me consider how our childhood has the power to influence our adulthood.  

Warm and uplifting, Home is a compelling and surprisingly emotional novel.  It was an absolute delight to read and I'm definitely going to check out Penny Parkes' earlier novels.

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

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Wednesday, 7 July 2021

BLOG TOUR: A Cut for a Cut (Detective Kate Young #2) - Carol Wyer

 
DI Kate Young can’t trust anybody. Not even herself.

In the bleak countryside around Blithfield Reservoir, a serial murderer and rapist is leaving a trail of bloodshed. His savage calling card: the word ‘MINE’ carved into each of his victims.

DI Kate Young struggles to get the case moving—even when one of the team’s own investigators is found dead in a dumpster. But Kate is battling her own demons. Obsessed with exposing Superintendent John Dickson and convinced there’s a conspiracy running deep in the force, she no longer knows who to trust. Kate’s crusade has already cost her dearly. What will she lose next?

When her stepsister spills a long-buried secret, Kate realises she’s found the missing link—now she must prove it before the killer strikes again. With enemies closing in on all sides, she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to bring them down. But time is running out, and Kate's past has pushed her to the very edge. Can she stop herself from falling?


What did I think?

I love everything that Carol Wyer writes and A Cut for a Cut, the second book in the DI Kate Young series, is no exception.  It's absolutely brilliant: fast-paced, gripping, tense and fraught with danger.  As it summarises the main plot points from book 1 (An Eye for an Eye), A Cut for a Cut can be read as a standalone, but it is so much richer and impressive when read in series order.  Whichever order you read the books in, the Detective Kate Young series is a must-read for crime fiction fans.

Kate Young and her team are on the hunt for a serial rapist but Kate has one eye off the ball as she strives to bring her husband's killer to justice.  With corruption in the force, Kate's every move is watched and reported back to dodgy Superintendent John Dickson.  As Dickson works feverishly to cover his tracks, Kate is slowly gathering evidence against him but time is running out unless Kate delivers on the rapist case.

Ooh this series is SO good and Carol Wyer's plotting in A Cut for a Cut is dazzling.  I was on the edge of my seat and feeling suspicious of pretty much everyone throughout this fantastic novel.  With so much going on, it really kept me on my toes and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.  As much as I wanted to find out who the rapist was, I was equally intrigued by Dickson's cover up as this is the thread that binds the series together.

Simply brilliant!  A Cut for a Cut is outstanding from start to finish.  It's a stunning addition to a marvellous series and I can't wait to see what's next in store for Kate.  Very highly recommended.

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

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About the author:

USA Today bestselling author and winner of The People's Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer writes feel-good comedies and gripping crime fiction. 

A move from humour to the 'dark side' in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in LITTLE GIRL LOST and demonstrated that stand-up comedian Carol had found her true niche.

To date, her crime novels have sold over 750,000 copies and been translated for various overseas markets.

Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ''Irritable Male Syndrome' and 'Ageing Disgracefully' and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines 'Woman's Weekly', featured in 'Take A Break', 'Choice', 'Yours' and 'Woman's Own' magazines and the Huffington Post.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr Grumpy... who is very, very grumpy.

When she is not plotting devious murders, she can be found performing her comedy routine, Smile While You Still Have Teeth.


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