Friday 26 April 2019

BLOG TOUR: Under the Rock - Benjamin Myers

Carved from the land above Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable; to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves hid out, where the town tip once sat, and where suicides leapt to their deaths. Its brooding form presided over the early years of Ted Hughes, who called Scout Rock ‘my spiritual midwife . . . both the curtain and backdrop to existence’.

Into this beautiful, dark and complex landscape steps Benjamin Myers, asking: are unremarkable places made remarkable by the minds that map them? Seeking a new life and ­finding solace in nature’s power of renewal, Myers excavates stories both human and elemental. The result is a lyrical and unflinching investigation into nature, literature, history, memory and the meaning of place in modern Britain.

UNDER THE ROCK is about badgers, balsam, history, nettles, mythology, moorlands, mosses, poetry, bats, wild swimming, slugs, recession, ­floods, logging, peacocks, community, apples, asbestos, quarries, geology, industrial music, owls, stone walls, farming, anxiety, relocation, the North, woodpiles, folklore, landslides, ruins, terriers, woodlands, ravens, dales, valleys, walking, animal skulls, trespassing, crows, factories, maps, rain – lots of rain – and a great big rock.

What did I think?

I love dipping into non-fiction now and again to broaden my horizons and increase my knowledge pool, so Under the Rock, encompassing a myriad subjects, sounded so unusual that I had to add it to my reading list.  I usually have a much slower reading pace when I read non-fiction but the writing in Under the Rock is so poetic, mesmerising and compelling that I read it almost as quickly as I would have read a book in the fiction genre.

Funnily enough, if you ask me what the book is about, I'd be hard pushed to tell you.  It's about so many things as Benjamin Myers leaves no stone unturned (no pun intended) in his writing about Yorkshire's Scout Rock.  I admit, when reading the first couple of chapters, that I wasn't really sure that this book would hold my attention but stick in the word 'claggy' which is one of my favourite words and BAM! confirm attention locked in indefinitely.  

I'm a huge tea drinker so I loved the many references to tea; the book is set in Yorkshire after all, which has as many lovers of tea as we have in the North East.  Not to be outdone, Yorkshire have created their very own tea style beverage, the Yorkshire Espresso or Yespresso, that I think even I would find difficult to imbibe.  It's made by twice brewing tea and leaving the teabag in for a couple of hours; it's drunk without milk or sugar and sounds unbelievably bitter.  I'd definitely try one though!

So many parts of the book stood out for me and it's one of those books that is so varied in subject that individual readers will find different parts that resonate with them.  One part that really stood out for me (and this may sound a bit odd) was a story about an old style dustbin.  It takes a very talented writer indeed to turn something so ordinary and mundane into prose so beautiful and engaging that it took my breath away.  I found it so memorable that I actually recounted this story to some friends who asked me what I was reading.

Written in four parts: Wood, Earth, Water and Rock it has field notes containing poems at the end of each part.  I'm not usually a fan of poetry but I found myself looking forward to Benjamin Myers' field notes at the end of each section.  This is another testament to the quality of Benjamin Myers' writing as I never thought I would see the day when I enjoyed reading poetry.

I also have to give a special mention to the amazing cover which looks like a piece of art and it's so eye-catching that it constantly invited me to pick up the book for just one more chapter, thereby smashing my non-fiction reading time record.  With the inimitable Yorkshire spirit woven throughout, coupled with a dash of humour, Under the Rock is as mesmerising as it is informative.  It is a book that is beautiful both inside and out.

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

My rating:

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Tuesday 23 April 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Evidence Against You - Gillian McAllister

Izzy's father is finally released from prison, seventeen years after he was convicted of murder.
Izzy wants nothing to do with him. But then her father writes her a letter, begging her to believe he's innocent.
Against her better judgement, Izzy is tempted to believe him. But how can she?
Because the woman they say he killed was Izzy's mother . . .

What did I think?

Gillian McAllister is one of those authors where you know you're guaranteed a great read when you pick up their book and The Evidence Against You, Gillian McAllister's fourth novel, is no exception.  Being first published in 2017, I still think of Gillian McAllister as a new author but, with four cracking thrillers under her belt already, she certainly seems to have caught the writing bug, which is excellent news for us readers.

I really loved the character of Izzy; she is filled with so much emotion that all of her feelings spill out of every page.  Her family was snatched away from her in an instant when her father was imprisoned for killing her mother.  Izzy has taken over the running of her mother's restaurant, Alexandra's, mainly as a way to keep her mother's memory alive as Izzy's love is for ballet not food.  So when Izzy's father, Gabe, is released from prison he knows exactly where to find her.

Izzy's feelings for her father are so mixed.  Naturally, she is confused, as she was quite a daddy's girl when she was younger (weren't we all), but all of the evidence points to the fact that her father killed her mother, Alex.  When Gabe gets the chance to speak to Izzy, you can feel her defences crumbling as he adds the crucial ingredient of doubt; but the other man in her life, her husband Nick, is a police analyst and he keeps reminding Izzy that her father was convicted so he must be guilty.  Right?

I experienced a see saw of emotions whilst reading The Evidence Against You as the evidence and facts all point to Gabe's guilt but he continues to profess his innocence, as do all convicted criminals.  So who do you believe?  I loved the flashbacks to the time around Alex's death, with viewpoints from both Gabe and Izzy.  It's really interesting to see both sides of a story and to see how easily you can jump to conclusions from hearing just part of a conversation.

I know without a doubt that Gillian McAllister will be at the top of the charts with everything that she writes but as much as I enjoyed The Evidence Against You, something didn't quite give it the full five star experience for me.  I didn't really connect with the characters, although they are expertly fully formed, and the story interested, but didn't fully grip me.  I guess it might depend on whether you believe Gabe's version of events or not, as to whether you'll get that jaw dropping moment at the end.

The Evidence Against You reminded me of one of those adventure books you may have read when you were younger, where you can choose your own path in the story.  Whether you are on Gabe's side or not will determine your experience of The Evidence Against You; either way you're in for a mighty fine story written by one of the finest young authors around at the moment.  Keep an eye on this author; Gillian McAllister is setting out for world domination, so make sure you read all of her books right now!

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

My rating:

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Wednesday 17 April 2019

COVER REVEAL: The Girl I Used to Know - Faith Hogan

It's no secret to anyone who follows my blog that I love Faith Hogan books so I'm thrilled to be part of the Aria gang who are revealing the brand new cover of The Girl I Used to Know today.

So without further ado, scroll down to see the beautiful new cover of The Girl I Used to Know and a little bit about the book.  You can also click here to read my review.

Two women. Two very different lives. One unexpected friendship.

Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn't be more different.

Amanda seems to have the perfect life. But the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.

While Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.

But if they can open up to one another, these two women may just learn that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.

Perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond, Marian Keyes, Rowan Coleman and Veronica Henry.

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About the author

Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has an Hons Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.

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Twitter: @GerHogan
Facebook: @faithhoganauthor

BLOG TOUR: The Strawberry Thief (Chocolat #4) - Joanne Harris

Vianne Rocher has settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home. With Rosette, her 'special' child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend.

But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray. The arrival of Narcisse's relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in the place of the florist's across the square - one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own - all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence - even, perhaps, a murder...

What did I think?

As soon as I opened The Strawberry Thief I remembered what an exceptional author Joanne Harris is.  Her books are so compelling and magical that I found myself completely absorbed into the story from the very first page.  It has reawakened a need in me to not only read Chocolat all over again but to fill in the blanks between Chocolat and The Strawberry Thief by reading The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Father Francis, rather shockingly for the very first time.

It did take me a little while to recognise the different voices in the story, as it is told from several different perspectives, but each character quickly becomes recognisable through their own style of speaking.  As I think she was meant to, Vianne and Roux's daughter, Rosette, completely steals the show with her distinctive 'shadow voice' and the magic that surrounds her.  Not forgetting Narcisse's intriguing story, which plays out through a confession that he has written to Reynaud the priest.  Then there is the mysterious tattooist who appears in the town when the wind changes.  With such a colourful cast of characters, this is a very quick read as you simply can't put the book down.

There are some very wise words in The Strawberry Thief; I love how Vianne talks about her children being on loan until she releases them into the world.  As much as we want to keep those we love close, if you love someone you must also set them free.  It's also very thought provoking, especially when reading Reynaud's story, as it shows how easily little seeds can be planted in the brain and can grow to such a height that they block out the light, plunging the mind into darkness and despair.

I've read a number of Joanne Harris books over the years so I definitely feel qualified to make the statement that she is a natural storyteller.  The way that the aromas of the chocolaterie are described is both breathtaking and mouthwatering, with the added secret ingredient of magic floating in the air.  I am astounded that it has been 20 years since I read Chocolat but it just shows how timeless Joanne Harris books are; books that are destined to become classics and grace the shelves of my library for many years to come.

The Strawberry Thief is so captivating and beautifully written that it could easily be read as a standalone novel, but I think the full magical experience will be enhanced by reading the whole Chocolat series, and this is something I plan to do as soon as possible.  Joanne Harris is such an amazing author that I felt as if I last caught up with Vianne yesterday rather than an astonishing 20 years ago.  I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Joanne Harris has a little bit of magic in her to have created such memorable characters that have so effortlessly stood the test of time.

Memorable, enchanting and completely flawless, it gives me great pleasure to award 5 stars to The Strawberry Thief.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French writer, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories. Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. In 2000, her 1999 novel CHOCOLAT was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. CHOCOLAT has sold over a million copies in the UK alone and was a global bestseller. She is an Honorary Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.  

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Monday 15 April 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Librarian of Auschwitz - Antonio Iturbe

For readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice: this is the story of the smallest library in the world – and the most dangerous.

'It wasn’t an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less sombre times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns…’

Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the ‘living books’ - prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be ‘borrowed’ to educate the children in the camp. 

But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children’s block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor…

What did I think?

This is the second book about Auschwitz that I have read recently, and you can probably guess the title of the other very publicised book, but I have to say that The Librarian of Auschwitz stands head and shoulders above the rest.  From early on, I knew that this wasn't going to be an easy read as the level of detail in the book depicted the full horror of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp; a level of detail that was welcome, however difficult to read, as this period of history should be portrayed as close to the truth as it can be.

Dita was only 9 years old when the Germans invaded her home in Prague; and at aged 14, Dita is imprisoned in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.  This is a book based on real facts from Dita's life with a bit of fiction woven into it to create a compelling story from which you cannot bear to tear your eyes away.  The way that the prisoners in the camp tried to create elements of normalcy showed a strength of character that was beyond admirable in the face of adversity.  A school for the children, with teachers no more than children themselves, and Dita taking charge of the precious eight books in the camp gave the prisoners a reminder of the normal life they once knew.

As Dita's story is told, I loved reading the actual true facts, albeit sometimes horrific and shocking, but it adds gravity and depth to the story and reminds us that it's not a purely fictional account of a nameless Holocaust survivor.  I really enjoyed reading about the customs performed at Passover and the symbolism of the traditional food prepared for the meal.  It's always good to learn from books, especially when you're least expecting it.  I certainly know a lot more about the concentration camps than I did before reading this book; although it's not a pleasant history, it's one that should not be forgotten.

I feel slightly guilty saying that I enjoyed The Librarian of Auschwitz but it is such a compelling read; it's vivid, descriptive and informative and a MUST READ for all readers, not just those who enjoy historical fiction.  I will say that you need to wrap up warm to read The Librarian of Auschwitz as, despite sitting in a warm sunny spot to read, I was constantly getting goosebumps from the powerful and emotional words in this outstanding book.  A very highly recommended read.   

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Sunday 14 April 2019

BLOG TOUR: I Want You Gone - Miranda Rijks

As with all book bloggers, I have a lot of books in my TBR pile but when an invitation came through from Emma at to join the blog tour for I Want You Gone, it sounded far too good to miss out on and I'm pleased to say that I was right!  I am posting my review today for the blog tour so scroll down to read my thoughts.

The only obituary you never want to read – is your own.
Laura Swallow is dead. 

A life cut tragically short, says the newspaper obituary.

But that’s a lie. 

Estate agent Laura did not die in a car accident. She is alive and well.

At first, Laura thinks it’s a sick joke. 

But multiple announcements of her death are followed by increasingly sinister real-life events. Already fragile, struggling to recover from a recent divorce, Laura is plunged into a living nightmare. 

Who can she trust? Her new lover? Her clients and work colleagues? What about her ex-husband and his smug fiancée? Can Laura even rely on her best friends? And why is it that Laura’s present troubles are so tied up with her sister’s sudden death all those years ago?

But one thing Laura is sure of – someone out there wants her to suffer. Wants her gone. 


What did I think?

Oh this excellent book gave me the heebie jeebies; not only the scary power of social media but the way that efforts are ramped up at such a rapid speed by the person who is out to ruin Laura's life.  It made the book a certain page-turner and I absolutely whizzed through it.

Although a pretty nasty thing to do, it doesn't sound like such a big deal at first when Laura's death is announced on Facebook, as when she logs on to check it the post has already been removed, but this is closely followed by an announcement in the newspaper and an official death certificate.  Whoever is out to get her clearly means business and Laura lists 9 possible suspects as she tries to work out who is out to get her.  I had my own suspicions, and I'm not going to say if I was right or wrong, as I was enjoying the fast pace of the story so much that I was more interested in what was going to happen next rather than trying to guess who was doing it.

This book evokes an awful lot of feelings in the reader: I felt as scared and threatened as Laura but I was also angry at what was happening to her.  Through the vivid and descriptive writing of Miranda Rijks, I effortlessly immersed myself in Laura's story and felt as if I was actually seeing it through her eyes.  It certainly raised my blood pressure and heart rate on more than one occasion, as the story's pace continues to ramp up and the threats become more tangible.

It's finding authors like this that makes book blogging worthwhile; with so many books to choose from you can easily miss such talented authors as Miranda Rijks, so many thanks to Emma at damppebbles for drawing my attention to an author I will definitely be adding to my watch list.  

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon UK
Buy it from Amazon US

About the author:

Miranda Rijks is a writer of suspense novels. I WANT YOU GONE is her first psychological thriller. 

Miranda has an eclectic background ranging from law to running a garden centre. She’s been writing all of her life and has a Masters in writing. A couple of years ago she decided to ditch the business plans and press releases and now she’s living the dream, writing suspense novels full time. She lives in Sussex, England with her Dutch husband, musician daughter and black Labrador.

Up next is FATAL FORTUNE, the first of three books in a mystery romance series that will be published in May 2019. They feature Dr Pippa Durrant, a psychologist and specialist in lie detection, who works alongside Sussex police getting embroiled in some scary stuff!

Miranda loves connecting with her readers, so you can reach out to her at

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Thursday 11 April 2019

BLOG TOUR: You Die Next (Starke and Bell) - Stephanie Marland

When a group of urban explorers stumble across a murderer's kill room in a derelict film studio, terror strikes. And when one of the group is found dead, the team realise - they're being hunted.

DI Dominic Bell is investigating the murder, but as the body count rises, time is running out. The only person who can help him is a figure from his past, Clementine Starke - but Clementine is haunted by her own demons. Can the two of them pair up to catch the killer? Or is it already too late?

What did I think?

You're always guaranteed a good read with a Stephanie Marland (aka Steph Broadribb) book so I was really excited to read You Die Next, the second book in the Starke and Bell series.  I think it does read well as a standalone as there are enough references to the story in the first book, My Little Eye, to give any new readers the history of our leading pair.

I have to say that I read this book pretty fast to get my review posted in time for the blog tour, so I don't think I experienced it at its finest.  I didn't really understand the point of urban explorers and what they get out of doing what they do.  Having said that, what drives the story along for me are the strong leading characters of Clementine Starke and Dominic Bell.  They aren't a traditional duo, being very much apart in this book, but I particularly loved how Clementine's character has developed; she's a bit like Darth Vader, being lured to the dark side.

Not only do we have the story of the urban explorers being picked off one by one with increasingly vivid and imaginative demises, but Clementine has a mystery of her own to solve: the death of her father.  The reader is teased quite a lot by Stephanie Marland as Clementine starts to dig into her father's history and I loved how it brought Dom closer to her when he agrees to look into it.  It definitely left me hanging and eager to read the next Starke & Bell book.

Vivid, chilling, ingenious and unique You Die Next is a superb instalment in the Starke & Bell series which I'm sure will become a firm favourite with crime and thriller readers.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Wednesday 10 April 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Lonely Hearts Crime Club - Tanya Bullock

An elderly resident of an inner-city tower block is brutally attacked and left for dead. Her neighbours, a pregnant alcoholic, a vulnerable youth, a failed actress and a cameraman with a dark secret, are thrown together in their search for answers. Misfits and loners, they are forced to confront uncomfortable realities about themselves and each other, as their investigation leads them towards the shocking finale. A third novel by the award-winning film-maker.

What did I think?

This is the second book I've read by Tanya Bullock and whilst very different to Homecoming, it has the same trademark warmth and poignancy that I associate with this author.  Tanya Bullock doesn't just write a story, she creates characters of such depth that you easily warm to them and the story remains with you long after you've turned the final page.

What a fantastic cast of characters we have here in The Lonely Hearts Crime Club.  The story starts with Aggie being attacked in her own home and each of her neighbours showing varying degrees of concern when they hear Aggie's dog barking in her flat.  As with all social situations, some people know Aggie better than others but, once the gravity of Aggie's situation becomes clear, the neighbours get together to piece together the clues of what could possibly have happened to Aggie.  

This is one of those books where each reader will have their own favourite character; either pregnant recovering alcoholic Ella, cameraman Ethan, socially awkward William or my personal favourite actress Birdie, who dreams of being escorted to the Oscars by Hugh Jackman (well of course, who doesn't?!).  So not only do we get a mystery to solve, there are also several different colourful lives into which the reader can sneak a peek and uncover each character's story.

Although there are some serious subjects in The Lonely Hearts Crime Club, for me it's ultimately a fun, lighthearted story with a cast of characters who would rival the Scooby gang.  Beautifully written with sensitivity for each character's flaws, the added sprinkling of humour makes The Lonely Hearts Crime Club a highly entertaining read.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Tanya Bullock is a college lecturer, writer and award-winning filmmaker. She lives in the UK with her husband and two young children. She has a passion for foreign culture and languages (inherited from her French mother) and, in her youth, travelled extensively throughout Australia, America, Asia and Europe. As a filmmaker, she has gained local recognition, including funding and regional television broadcast, through ITV’s First Cut scheme, two nominations for a Royal Television Society Midlands Award, and, in 2010, a Royal Television Society Award in the category of best promotional film. On maternity leave in 2011 and in need of a creative outlet, Tanya began to write That Special Someone, the story of a mother’s quest to help her learning-disabled daughter find love. It was a finalist for The People's Book Prize and The Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award 2016. Her second novel, Homecoming, a love story with an unexpected twist, was published in 2016. The Lonely Hearts Crime Club is Tanya's third novel. A mystery thriller with a shocking finale, it will be published on April 16th 2019. 

Follow Tanya on Twitter at @TanyaBullock15

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Tuesday 9 April 2019

BLOG TOUR: Sleep - CL Taylor

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…
To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.
Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they're on the island. There's a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they've set their sights on Anna.
Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.
Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

What did I think?

Oh she's only gone and done it again!  CL Taylor continues to write excellent books which result in my exclaiming that each one is her best book yet.  Well I repeat myself gladly because Sleep is simply outstanding and most definitely her best one yet; I fail to see how this can be bettered.  With a first sentence that may very well be the hook of the century, this book grabs the reader from the start and doesn't let go until the final page is turned.

Events in Anna's past result in her leaving her job and relocating to a remote Scottish island to work in a small hotel.  Unfortunately, her memories travel with her so she continues to be haunted by her past.  If Anna thinks past events were bad, she hasn't seen anything yet.  When seven guests arrive at the hotel for a walking tour, they all have something to hide but one of them hasn't come for the walking tour; they've come for Anna.  Like a game of Cluedo, the reader must gather the clues and work out who the killer is but good luck with that as it could be absolutely any one of them.

I loved delving into the psyche of each character; seeing what made them tick and unearthing their deepest darkest secrets.  One of the guests is ahead of the game though; only letting us see a little part of the real person underneath, but they are so cleverly masked that I was completely thrown off the scent by CL Taylor's amazing art of deception.  

With all the perfect ingredients for a gripping murder mystery, CL Taylor has crafted a superb whodunnit.  Sleep is a completely addictive modern day murder mystery which the great Agatha Christie would have been proud to have written.  I couldn't read Sleep fast enough and it's so very well named as I didn't want to put it down to catch up on my own sleep until I had devoured every single word.

Breathtaking, enthralling and almost too brilliant for words, Sleep is well deserving of every one of the five stars I don't hesitate in awarding it.  A very highly recommended read and if you haven't discovered CL Taylor yet, make sure you put Sleep on your wishlist; you won't regret it but be prepared to be up all night reading!

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Monday 1 April 2019

BLOG TOUR: Sunwise - Helen Steadman

The sequel to Widdershins, when Jane’s lover, Tom, returns from the navy to find her unhappily married to his betrayer, Jane is caught in an impossible situation. Still reeling from the loss of her mother at the hands of the witchfinder John Sharpe, Jane has no choice but to continue her dangerous work as a healer while keeping her young daughter safe. But, as Tom searches for a way for him and Jane to be together, the witchfinder is still at large. Filled with vengeance, John will stop at nothing in his quest to rid England of the scourge of witchcraft. 

Inspired by true events, Sunwise tells the story of one woman’s struggle for survival in a hostile and superstitious world. 

What did I think?

Never a day goes by when I'm not excited about books, but I have to say that I was super-excited to get my hands on an early copy of Sunwise by Helen Steadman, the sequel to the superb Widdershins.  Although you could read Sunwise as a standalone, I recommend reading Widdershins first, not only because it is firmly fixed as one of my favourite books, but to fully understand the history between healer Jane Chandler and witchfinder John Sharpe.

Jane should be happy with her life now that John Sharpe has left Newcastle and headed to Berwick to terrorise innocent women there.  Jane is married with a beautiful daughter, who is the image of her father, and has another baby on the way but she feels great unease while John Sharpe remains free to roam the country hunting witches.  John isn't the first face from Jane's past to appear though, as her sweetheart Tom, who Jane thought had died at sea after being press-ganged, returns home to find Jane married.  My heart went out to this pair who were clearly meant to be together but devious minds would go to any lengths to keep them apart.

Helen Steadman's writing is exceptional and I adore the authenticity of her books, as I learned about some fascinating customs in this amazing historical fiction novel.  Sunwise describes the harvest tradition of the corn dolly which was made to preserve good fortune for future crops and was also an ancient symbol of fertility.  The way that Helen Steadman weaves the corn dolly custom into the story is breathtaking; it literally stole my breath as I gasped out loud at the brilliance of her imagination.  I will certainly never underestimate the power of the corn dolly.

Based on true events, Sunwise is exceptionally well researched whilst still ensuring that the reader's eyes are firmly glued to the page as the threads of the fictional story begin to unravel.  With the threat of John Sharpe hovering over Jane like a black cloud, it's only a matter of time before they meet again.  Jane is the 'witch' that got away from John Sharpe last time they met, but will the luck of the corn dolly save Jane from his evil clutches once again?

I didn't just read Sunwise; I lived and breathed it.  It's authentic, gripping and extremely compelling reading; if you're looking for something fresh and original in historical fiction, then look no further.  I am still recommending Widdershins to friends, but with the addition of Sunwise Helen Steadman has created a perfect pair.  Read one, and you'll be compelled to read them both; I can't predict the future but I know for sure that I will be recommending Helen Steadman's books for a very long time to come.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

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

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