Monday, 23 May 2022

The Sky Over Rebecca - Matthew Fox

Winner of The Bath Children's Novel Award 2019

There was a single trail of footprints, the first I'd seen all morning. They were fresh tracks, I saw, the edges of the impressions in the snow quite hard. Small feet. Like mine. Someone my age.
Then they stopped.

When mysterious footprints appear in the Stockholm snow, ten-year-old Kara must discover where they've come from - and who they belong to. They lead Kara to Rebecca, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl, and her younger brother Samuel. Kara realises they are refugees - from another time, World War Two - and are trying to find their way home.

The grief and loneliness that Rebecca and Samuel have endured is something Kara can relate to - feeling like you're always on the outside looking in - and she finds herself compelled to help them. Through her eyes, we rediscover the magic that lies in the world around us, if only we have the courage to look for it.

Kara is a heroine for modern times: fragile but fierce, in this utterly compelling story from a stellar new voice in children's literature, Matthew Fox.

What did I think?

What a joy to read; I read this beautiful book in one sitting.  I’m a little older (just thirty years or so) than the 10-12 year old age group it is written for but I absolutely loved it.

Kara is an inquisitive and intelligent child living in Stockholm with her single mum.  When Kara finds an intriguing snow angel and an historical coin she begins an adventure that leads her to an island in the middle of the lake and two Jewish children hidden there.  Only Kara can see Rebecca and her brother Samuel as they are from a different time and only Kara can help them escape the Nazis who are persecuting them.

We must never forget the atrocities of the second world war and I applaud Matthew Fox for bringing the holocaust to the attention of a new generation in such a poignant, yet magical way.

The Sky Over Rebecca is beautifully written and I am getting goosebumps just thinking about it now.  It’s an extraordinary, compelling and completely unforgettable story.  Highly recommended to readers both young and old.

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Saturday, 21 May 2022

BLOG TOUR: Curtain Call at the Seaview Hotel (A Helen Dexter Cosy Crime Mystery book 2) - Glenda Young

In the charming Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough, the stage is set for murder . . .

Helen Dexter has started a new chapter in her life as sole proprietor of the Seaview Hotel.

But things take a dramatic turn when an acting troupe book into the hotel to rehearse a play they hope will save a much-loved theatre from being closed down. Helen immediately picks up on tension between the actors, but there is worse to come when the charismatic leading lady is found dead.

With so much at stake, it's clear the show must go on. Helen is roped into helping the troupe with their performance, giving her ample opportunity to discover who wanted their diva dead.

However, the murder is not the only thing on Helen's mind. She's receiving threatening phone calls, her car is vandalised - and she's just learned of an impending visit from a hotel inspector which could change the fortunes of the Seaview Hotel.

With her trusty greyhound Suki by her side, Helen is determined to uncover the identity of the killer - even if it means she has to give the performance of her life.

What did I think?

Glenda Young is such an amazing storyteller that I always get excited when she has a new book coming out, whether it's her family sagas or cosy crime series.  Curtain Call at the Seaview Hotel is the second book in the Helen Dexter Cosy Crime Mystery series set in Scarborough but it can totally be read as a standalone.

Helen Dexter runs a guesthouse in the picturesque seaside town of Scarborough and her latest booking is a group of actors who are performing in the town's theatre, in an attempt to save it from closure.  As Helen observes the actors at close quarters, they aren't as friendly towards each other as they first appeared and one of them is about to be murdered.  They all appear to have motive but Helen and her faithful greyhound Suki are determined to sniff out the murderer.

Add in a hotel inspector, a snooty neighbour, and a secretive new boyfriend and you've got a hugely entertaining tale.  There's more drama and entertainment in this one book than in a week's worth of Coronation Street episodes.  The setting is beautiful and Glenda's love of Scarborough shines through in her stunning, evocative writing.

Curtain Call at the Seaview Hotel is absolutely brilliant from start to finish.  There is so much drama and entertainment crammed into this fantastic book that it's impossible to put down.  I loved it and most definitely recommend it.

I received a digital ARC via NetGalley and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Tuesday, 17 May 2022

BLOG TOUR: Yes, I Killed Her (DI Mel Cooper Series Book 2) - Harry Fisher

For fans of Ian Rankin, Val Mcdermind and Chris Brookmyre, Yes, I Killed Her is Harry Fisher's audacious follow-up crime thriller, starring Edinburgh detective Mel Cooper. She takes no crap, not even from the bad guys.

In the 21st century, is the perfect murder remotely possible?

Edwin Fuller is convinced it is. He’s cunning, calculating and chilling. He makes a plan. He carries it out. And he kills his wife.

His plan has worked; he’s got away with murder. Case closed.

Until he makes a big mistake.

What did I think?

OMG!!! This book is AWESOME!!  I absolutely LOVED it.  I have never been so gripped by a book when you already know who the murderer is.  It's the second book in a series but you can most definitely read it as a standalone as I haven't read book one (Be Sure Your Sins) but boy, do I want to now!

DI Mel Cooper is a cracking character, I love her and the whole team and I couldn't read fast enough to see how they would deal with their latest case.  It looks like they have an easy case when a body is found and all the evidence points in one direction, however, Mel thinks it's just a little too easy and something about the victim's husband isn't sitting right with her.  Edwin Fuller is a horrible little man; he thinks he's executed the perfect murder but his ego could end up being his own worst enemy.  

This book is so clever, the plot is razor sharp and the writing is perfectly balanced between detailed police procedural and entertaining dark humour.  It's just brilliant from start to finish and I simply couldn't put it down.  This is a series that I definitely want more of and I'm already adding it to my favourites list, even though I've just jumped in at book two.  Yes, it's that good!!

Yes, I Killed Her is fast-paced, gripping, entertaining and very clever.  It's an outstanding police procedural that's a little different from the norm and I loved every second of it.  VERY highly recommended - don't miss this one, crime fans!

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

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Thursday, 12 May 2022

The Twenty-One Year Contract - L. B. Griffin

Kathleen Gray -- talented, a little wild, at times rebellious, but always popular -- has a fun, easy life in rural Somerset, with a doting family. Suddenly, they are gone, everything is changed, and she has only Uncle Jack. Try as he might, he cannot be father and mother to her -- he has a business to run and his own life to manage. Kathleen takes a chance and becomes Kate Westfield, fending for herself in London, with a new life built on her hopes and dreams and new friends. She could hardly have imagined that one of those friends has a shoebox full of answers.

What did I think?

Having read and adored Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox, I couldn't wait to read the sequel, The Twenty-One Year Contract and I am delighted to say that it is just as outstanding as its predecessor.

Whilst it is a sequel, it can definitely be read as a standalone but for anyone who has read Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox, it's like seeing that novel in high definition as I saw some of that story from another angle.  This book concentrates on Kathleen's story from her tragic beginnings to her later success and friendship with Harriet, a character I remember fondly from the previous book.

The writing is sublime; L.B. Griffin doesn't just write with her heart, she writes with her heart and soul.  You can't help but be drawn into Kathleen and Harriet's stories as they ebb and flow and eventually intertwine.  The characters are so well developed that they leap out from the page and I feel like I know them and consider them friends.  So much so that I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed a tear or two at the end.

With an exquisite storyline, I devoured every single page and I'm not mentioning any plot details at all as it is sure to spoil it for other readers and I really do urge you to discover L.B. Griffin's novels for yourself.  The Twenty One Year Contract is described as a sequel but it is so much more than that as it accompanies and enhances Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox.

The Twenty-One Year Contract is a genre busting novel that will appeal to so many readers; it's historical, family saga, women's fiction, mystery and contemporary.  It's poignant, hopeful, heartwarming and utterly breathtaking.  So very highly recommended.

Many thanks to L.B. Griffin for sending me an ARC to read and review; all opinions are my own.

Monday, 9 May 2022

BLOG TOUR: Blood Lines (Steph Grant Murder Mystery Series Book 2) - Lin Le Versha

Set within the mysterious beauty of coastal Suffolk, this gripping new crime series is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end when the final shocking twist is revealed. Lin Le Versha is not to be missed, the brilliant new talent on the British crime writing scene.

Eighteen year-old Darcy Woodard appears to have it all – intelligence, good looks and artistic gifts. His teachers adore him, as does former policewoman Steph Grant, who is now the receptionist at Darcy's college.

But beneath the surface - all is not as it seems.

Adopted and mixed race, Darcy is convinced he doesn't fit in. He tries to ignore the racial taunts.

There's Darcy’s dysfunctional mother Esther who is trapped in a literary time warp.

Then there's his sister Marianne, who Darcy desperately wants to protect from the dark forces that surround her.

Then tragedy rocks Darcy’s life when a drugs gang forces its way into his life and all the people he cares for.

What can Steph and her former boss DI Hale do to protect the local community? And can they really trust Darcy to help them defeat the county lines gang?

Blood Lines is the second thrilling book in the Steph Grant murder mystery series by the brilliant Lin Le Versha.

What did I think?

Blood Lines is the second Steph Grant Murder Mystery book and although I haven't read Blood Notes, the first book in the series, you can absolutely read this as a standalone as I really enjoyed it.

Set mainly on a college campus, it's pretty dark in places as Lin Le Versha takes her readers on a tour of the dark and dangerous drug underworld.  Drugs are rife in the college and the principal decides to take action, with the help of former policewoman and college receptionist Steph Grant and her partner DI Hale.

I love how the Woodard family are incorporated into the story.  Steph knows Darcy and Marianne from college, but she just happens to meet their mother Esther when they are both visiting the local cinema on their own.  Steph soon becomes a friend of this incredibly dysfunctional family but when Darcy seems to turn up at every strange event, Steph realises there's more to this family than meets the eye.

Dealing with drugs, the plotline is quite dark but Lin Le Versha injects (no pun intended) an element of lighthearted humour in the form of Steph's dog Derek.  I mean just him being called Derek made me smile and I loved him tagging along with Steph as she tries to bring down the leader of the drug gang.  I also really enjoyed the college setting with the inevitable power struggles as some tutors vie to show their authority.

Blood Lines is a gripping, fast-paced, dark and twisty murder mystery; it's entertaining and surprising and I definitely want to read more of Steph Grant's story.

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

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Saturday, 7 May 2022

BLOG TOUR: When I Close My Eyes - Jemma Wayne

For so many years it haunted. And in the end, all it took was a decision. One decision.

When an old friend reappears in her life, Hollywood screenwriter Lilith is forced to confront childhood demons that threaten to destroy the world she has created to keep herself – and others – safe.

Can she trust anyone?

Can she even trust herself?

What did I think?

When I Close My Eyes starts out as a bit of a slow burn but it heats up significantly in the final third and I couldn't read it fast enough.  It's beautifully written with some chapters being incredibly poetic in their length and carefully chosen wording.

It took me a little while to get into the book as Lilith is the type of person who keeps everyone at arms length so she is very difficult to get to know.  Once I got to know her, I really felt for her as she is haunted by her past and even her name.  Sensitively touching on the subjects of OCD and sleepwalking, I began to empathise with Lilith and even started to understand a little more about this debilitating condition.

While I was reading I kept wondering where the story was going to go but I could never have imagined the twists and turns it would take.  Jemma Wayne certainly has a few surprises in store for her readers in this hugely entertaining novel.

When I Close My Eyes is a beautifully written contemporary novel; it's sensitive, lyrical and surprising.  An absolute delight to read.

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

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Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Baby Love - Jacqueline Wilson

A heartbreaking, compelling and timely story for older readers about teen pregnancy, family trouble and unlikely friendships, set in 1960.

When Laura meets a French exchange student, Leon, she is flattered by his interest in her. She's never had any sort of boyfriend before.

One night, Leon walks Laura home - and her life will never be the same again.

Things start to change for Laura - first her moods, and then her body. Laura isn't prepared for what she learns next - and doesn't even know how it could have happened.

When her family learns her secret, they are horrified. Sent away to save them from shame, Laura meets girls just like herself, whose families have given up on them - and they become a family for each other at the most difficult time in all their lives.

An emotional and moving tale for fans of Dear Nobody and Juno.
Not suitable for younger readers.

What did I think?

I have never read any Jacqueline Wilson books before but her sparkling reputation precedes her, so I knew I was in for a good read…and I was not wrong.

The book itself is beautiful in hardback and I love the swinging sixties vibe that comes through in the font and illustration.  I always remove the dust jacket when I read hardbacks and I was delighted to find a floral decorated cover underneath.  A lot of thought has gone into the presentation of this book as the endpapers have flowers on them and each chapter has an illustration by Rachael Dean as a hint as to what it contains.

On to the writing and oh what a joy it is to read.  I can see why Jacqueline Wilson is an award winning author as I positively sailed through the beautiful narrative.  The story is heartbreaking and even more so when you think that this happened in real life to so many young girls.  It makes me so mad when unplanned pregnancies are blamed solely on the female; I mean I can instantly think of one phrase that I have actually heard in the past: ‘she got herself pregnant’.  Really? Was it an immaculate conception?

So, it made me mad and it made me sad but I was completely invested in Laura’s story from start to finish and I felt like I knew her personally.  Jacqueline Wilson has given thousands of ‘shamed’ women a voice through her powerful story and I absolutely loved it.

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