Sunday 31 May 2020

BLOG TOUR: No Signal (iMe #2) - Jem Tugwell

Can a game change the world? 

The Ten are chosen - they are reckless, driven and strong. They are tested. Ten become Four. In a country where everyone is tracked, how can the Four hide from the police? 

DI Clive Lussac hates the system that controls everything, but he's ill and it's helping him. He must decide: conform or fight. 

As Clive's world unravels, he and his partners DC Ava Miller and DS Zoe Jordan can't believe the entry price to the game. They strive to answer the real questions. Why does the ultimate Augmented Reality game have four different finishes? And how is a simple game wrapped up in politics, religion and the environment?

What did I think?

If I had to describe No Signal in two words they'd be: FLIPPING AWESOME!  I've always said that I don't read science fiction but if this is an example of the genre then consider me converted.  I haven't read Proximity, the first book in the iMe series, and I didn't feel at a disadvantage at all so you can definitely read No Signal as a standalone but I do really want to read Proximity now too.

In a future UK, everyone is fitted with an iMe - a device that not only tracks a person's location but, among many other things, monitors their health and wellbeing.  You have no secrets from the powers that be therefore crime is virtually non-existent.  You can't even eat a bar of chocolate without it being deducted from your allocated 'Freedom Units' and this is a big issue for the main character, Detective Inspector and chocaholic Clive Lussac.  I thought I liked chocolate but I think Clive would actually die for a bar of chocolate, especially one that he can eat off the radar.  It always amazes me that no matter how complex and secure you think a system is, there's always someone who finds a way to get around it.

Gamers from all over the world have been invited to compete for a place in the ultimate augmented reality game on the 'Forbidden Island', also known as UK.  Ten have been chosen but only four can compete.  I've never been into games but I really enjoyed reading about the very inventive and imaginative tasks that the players had to undertake.  The final four comprises players from France, South Africa, America and Italy, who fly to the UK and are fitted with a compulsory iTourist that tracks their every movement.  The first task in the game is to disable the tracking device and then for each of them to make their way unaided to a particular location.  The first person to reach their location wins the game but disabling the iTourist sends out an alert that sees Clive and his team reverting to good old-fashioned police work to track them down.

The intelligent plot of No Signal is absolutely fantastic; it had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.  It's set in a dystopian future but it's so scarily realistic when you think about the current trend for fitness trackers that monitor our health; it's almost like fitness trackers are phase one and phase two will see a fitness tracker getting implanted in our necks.  I don't think people would even have a problem with that but it would certainly take Big Brother up to the next level.  Speaking of which, I couldn't help but compare No Signal to Orwell's 1984: both books depict a scarily realistic future and 70 years later we are seeing some of Orwell's predictions come true.  As with 1984, I can see No Signal becoming a classic and when the first tracker gets implanted, I'll say I read that in Jem Tugwell's book!

No Signal is an instant classic; it's an absolutely outstanding dystopian crime thriller with an inventive and intelligent plot.  It's fast-paced, gripping and scarily realistic; I really can't recommend it highly enough.  They'll be talking about this book in years to come, so make sure you grab a copy now!

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Jem Tugwell is a crime fiction author with a Crime Writing MA from City University.

NO SIGNAL is the second book in the iMe series and follows his thrilling debut novel PROXIMITY.

Jem is inspired by the fascinating possibilities of technology, AI and the law of unintended consequences. In a past life, Jem had a successful career in investment management, and he now lives in Surrey with his wife. He has two great children and a dog. Outside of his family and writing, Jem's loves are snowboarding, old cars and bikes.

Please visit his website ( to read more.
Follow Jem on Twitter @JemTugwell
or Facebook JemTugwellAuthor

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Friday 29 May 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Babysitter - Phoebe Morgan

On the hottest day of the year, Caroline Harvey is found dead in Suffolk. Her body is left draped over a cot – but the baby she was looking after is missing.  

Hundreds of miles away, Siobhan Dillon is on a luxurious family holiday in France when her husband, Callum, is arrested by French police on suspicion of murder.

As Siobhan’s perfect family is torn apart by the media in the nation’s frantic search for the missing baby, she desperately tries to piece together how Callum knew Caroline.

What happened that night? Was Caroline as innocent as she seemed – or was she hiding a secret of her own?

What did I think?

I love a book filled with secrets and The Babysitter is absolutely bursting at the seams with them.  There's a murder, a missing child and more secrets than you can shake a stick at, making this such a gripping and addictive book that you won't want to put down for a second.  I even felt like I didn't want to blink in case I missed something.

Ipswich is left reeling when Caroline Harvey is found dead in her apartment with no sign of her friend's baby who she was looking after.  The parents of the missing child give local TV executive Callum Dillon's name to the police and he becomes their prime suspect.  Callum is on holiday in France with his family when the police turn up to arrest him and take him back to Ipswich for questioning.  Everything points to Callum murdering Caroline then calmly jetting off on holiday, but why did he do it and what happened to the baby?

With flashbacks to before the murder and present day, The Babysitter sets a blistering pace that ensures the reader will be turning the pages as fast as possible until all of its dark and delicious secrets are revealed.  There are some amazing heart-stopping moments that left me breathless and gasping with shock but my eyes insisted on greedily devouring every single word without giving me the chance to pause.

I love the mixed media that Phoebe Morgan has included in her story; the police interview transcripts and tweets really give an extra dimension to the story making it feel very realistic.  Weirdly, I wasn't that keen on the characters but I think that's kind of the point: Callum is completely detestable and Siobhan just likes to bury her head in the sand to avoid problems with her husband and daughter.  Caroline's story is perhaps the saddest one I have ever read and I was surprised how empathetic I felt towards her.

The Babysitter is incredibly gripping and addictive with such a clever jaw-dropping plot that you won't be able to put it down once you pick it up.  Make sure you clear your schedule and find a nice quiet place to read as you won't want to be disturbed once you start The Babysitter.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Thursday 28 May 2020

BLOG TOUR: Lionheart (Richard the Lionheart Book 1) - Ben Kane


1179. Henry II is King of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine. The House of Plantagenet reigns supreme.

But there is unrest in Henry's house. Not for the first time, his family talks of rebellion.

Ferdia - an Irish nobleman taken captive during the conquest of his homeland - saves the life of Richard, the king's son. In reward for his bravery, he is made squire to Richard, who is already a renowned warrior.

Crossing the English Channel, the two are plunged into a campaign to crush rebels in Aquitaine. The bloody battles and gruelling sieges which followed would earn Richard the legendary name of Lionheart.

But Richard's older brother, Henry, is infuriated by his sibling's newfound fame. Soon it becomes clear that the biggest threat to Richard's life may not be rebel or French armies, but his own family...

What did I think?

As a fan of historical fiction, I've always wanted to read a Ben Kane book so when I saw that he had changed historical period from Roman to Plantagenet I thought it was a good time to pick one up.  Richard the Lionheart is such a famous historical figure and I am ashamed to say that I knew very little about him, although I know a bit more about him now that I have read Lionheart.

Richard is Duke of Aquitaine when we first encounter him in Lionheart and rather surprisingly he is not the main character in the book.  The story is told from the point of view of Ferdia, an Irish nobleman who is being held captive at Striguil (now known as Chepstow) in Wales.  Ferdia is nicknamed Rufus because of his red hair and quickly acquires an arch-enemy, a knight named Robert FitzAldelm, who Ferdia refers to as Fists and Boots due to the constant physical bullying.  Ferdia and FitzAldelm take an instant dislike to each other but fate sees them crossing paths on many more occasions.

Lionheart tells Richard's story through Ferdia's eyes and it covers quite a lot of ground over a 10 year period from 1179 to 1189.  Richard's father, Henry II, is on the throne and growing weary of his four sons feuding and backstabbing each other.  I really enjoyed reading about the plotting and scheming between the boys: Henry, Richard, Geoffrey and John (they sound like a medieval Beatles).  I was aware that Richard and John were brothers, but I didn't realise that there were other siblings so it was really interesting to find out how Richard I became Henry II's successor.

There are not only battles between the brothers, but there are actual battles portrayed in Lionheart.  The level of detail and vivid depiction of battle is clearly Ben Kane's forte.  The sights, sounds and smells of battle jump out of the pages as Richard evolves into the warrior we know he becomes.  I have to say that I found the battle scenes a bit hard going as I'm not terribly interested in strategy and war but I'm sure that most people will find it gripping and thrilling.

I loved reading Ferdia's story as his growing respect for Richard sees him overcoming his hatred of the English.  Ferdia seems very loyal, in both love and war, so I think that Richard has a good man by his side and Ferdia will have many more tales to tell in future instalments.  In this first instalment, Lionheart sets the scene perfectly for what I'm sure will be an epic series.  

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 20 May 2020

The Night Lawyer - Alex Churchill

Sophie Angel is the night lawyer. Once a week, she's the one who decides what the papers can and can't say.

During the day, she's a barrister. She struggles for justice in a system that's close to collapse, where she confronts the most dangerous aspects of humanity. Her life changes when a wealthy Russian offers her the biggest case of her career, a rape trial with a seemingly innocent client. But is someone manipulating Sophie from the shadows or is the danger much closer to home?

With her marriage under strain and haunted by nightmares from the past, Sophie must find the answer to these questions before it's too late. 

This is a story about betrayal, trust, guilt and innocence, played out from the courtrooms of London to the darkest corners of Soviet era Moscow.

What did I think?

If you're like me and you love a courtroom drama then The Night Lawyer is most definitely for you.  There's nothing better than being immersed in a good story and feeling like you're viewing the trial from all angles and Alex Churchill does this absolutely brilliantly in her outstanding debut novel.  The Night Lawyer ticks all the boxes for a thrilling courtroom drama and then ticks a few more boxes for luck. 

Alex Churchill is on to a winner here as Sophie Angel is a superb character with more strands to her story than a plate of spaghetti.  The daughter of a Russian father and English mother, Sophie spent her early childhood in Moscow before her family defected to the west.  Sophie has nightmares about her childhood and there's something about her Uncle Kiril that her parents aren't telling her.  A big tick goes in the family secrets box.

Sophie is a barrister in the prestigious Inner Temple and married to popular QC Theo Frazer so her life should be the envy of all of her peers, however, the couple are struggling to make ends meet and there are rumours that Theo is having an affair.  Barrister by day and newspaper libel lawyer by night, Sophie has a lot on her plate without her personal problems.  Let's tick that box for a potentially cheating spouse and put an extra tick in the gossip box as Sophie hears whispers around court.

As the great comedian Frank Carson would say, 'There's more!'.  A case from the past comes back to haunt her when a prisoner escapes from custody and is rumoured to be obsessed with Sophie.  Sophie has to keep looking over her shoulder whilst also taking on a rape case at the request of the new newspaper owner's wife.  The court case that follows is absolutely sublime; I felt like I was judge, jury, defendant, victim, prosecutor and defence as well as viewing it all from the public gallery.  This is one of those books that you can't put down because you're 'in court'.  A huge tick for realistic courtroom scenes that keep the reader entertained.

Aside from the magnificent story, it was great to get an insight into the workings and history of the British justice system.  Although I already knew about the history behind the black robes, I did look up the gateway at the top of Inner Temple Lane and Fleet Street.  I was amazed to read that the gateway is one of only a few surviving medieval buildings in London and that the rooms above it date back to the 17th Century when they were reputed to be used as council chambers of Charles I when he was Prince of Wales.  I love books where I get a little something extra from them; little nuggets of interesting facts that send me off searching the internet for hours.  That's the exceptional box populated with a big fat tick.

The Night Lawyer is a stunning debut that transports the reader from the present day courtroom in London one minute to Sophie's early childhood in Soviet Moscow the next.  It says on the back cover that this is a Sophie Angel novel so I am crossing my fingers and toes that there are many more Sophie Angel novels to come.  The Night Lawyer is absolutely outstanding and is 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

Monday 18 May 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Cabinet of Calm - Paul Anthony Jones

Open The Cabinet of Calm and discover a soothing word that’s equal to your troubles…

These are words to soothe an unquiet mind. To inspire our creativity. To encourage fellow thinking and community spirit, and to give us fresh hope. In essence, collected here are nothing but kind words, for these unkind times.’

For almost a decade, Paul Anthony Jones has written about the oddities and origins of the English language, amassing a vast collection of some of its more unusual words. Last year, doubly bereaved and struggling to regain his spirits, he turned to words – words that could be applied to difficult, challenging times and found solace.  The Cabinet of Calm is the result.

Paul has unearthed fifty-one linguistic remedies to offer reassurance, inspiration and hope in the face of such feelings as grief and despair, homesickness and exhaustion, missing our friends and a loss of hope.

Written with a trademark lightness of touch, The Cabinet of Calm shows us that we’re not alone. From MELORISM, when you’re worried about the future of the world and AGATHISM, when you’re feeling disillusionment or struggling to remain positive to SELF-SOOTHE, when you’re struggling to sleep and STOUND, for when you’re grieving, someone else has felt like this before, and so there’s a word to help, whatever the challenge.

What did I think?

I absolutely love Paul Anthony Jones' books and his new book, The Cabinet of Calm, couldn't have come along at a better time.  In this crazy world that we're living in where we are afraid to leave our homes without a mask and we have been separated from our loved ones, we can find a word for the myriad feelings we are experiencing in The Cabinet of Calm.

Grief, worry and sadness can make someone feel very lonely.  We have all experienced these emotions at some point in our lives and felt like we're alone in the world.  Knowing that there's a word in the dictionary to describe what you're feeling means that you're not alone.  Paul Anthony Jones, you utter genius!  Just that simple fact can lighten your load, so throw out your self-help books as this little book of words is all that you'll ever need in troubled times.

I was only a few pages in when I found a word for missing my family and I'm sure the majority of us are experiencing antipelargy at the moment.  In the current COVID-19 crisis, if you're feeling overwhelmed and worried about the future of the world you're not alone!  There are words for this!  We all tackle crisis differently and in the current crisis, although under the guise of showing my support to local businesses, I have been guilty of abligurition by  spending lots of money on belly-cheer (the word previously known as beer).

This book isn't just a list of words; along with its description, the origin of each word is explained and linked words are also mentioned.  It was whilst reading about dolorifuge, meaning to be overcome with sadness, that I discovered a word that wouldn't have been out of place on Blackadder: mubble-fubbles for when you're feeling down or out of sorts.  Some of these words may be hundreds of years old but I've already added them to my vocabulary as they perfectly encapsulate my present day feelings.

The Cabinet of Calm is an absolute tonic for these troubled times in which we find ourselves living; it's a veritable treasure trove of facts and stories to charm and delight the reader.  There is so much to discover within these wonderful pages that, even though I've read it cover to cover, I know I will be constantly picking it up and finding something new in this invaluable book.  Every bookshelf should have a copy of The Cabinet of Calm.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Paul has a Masters in Linguistics and is a language blogger from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. His obsession with words began with a child’s dictionary he received as a Christmas present when he was eight years old. As @HaggardHawks he has tweeted obscure words since 2013 and now has a social media following of over 75k, including the likes of JK Rowling, Robert Macfarlane, Susie Dent, Richard Osman, Greg Jenner, Ian McMillan, Rufus Sewell, Simon Mayo, Michael Rosen and Cerys Matthews. brings together the entire HH network including a blog, books, quizzes & games, the 500 Words YouTube series, Instagram gallery and newsletter. He regularly contributes to the media.


He has written seven books, most recently Around the World in 80 Words: A Journey Through the English Language (hardback 2018); The Accidental Dictionary: The Remarkable Twists and Turns of English Words; The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities: A Yearbook of Forgotten Words and Word Drops: A Sprinkling of Linguistic.

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Sunday 17 May 2020

BLOG TOUR: Just My Luck - Adele Parks

What if winning means losing everything?

It’s the stuff dreams are made of – a lottery win so big, it changes everything.

For fifteen years, Lexi and Jake have played the same six numbers with their friends, the Pearsons and the Heathcotes. Over dinner parties, fish & chip suppers and summer barbecues, they’ve discussed the important stuff – the kids, marriages, jobs and houses – and they’ve laughed off their disappointment when they failed to win anything more than a tenner.

But then, one Saturday night, the unthinkable happens. There’s a rift in the group. Someone doesn’t tell the truth. And soon after, six numbers come up which change everything forever.

Lexi and Jake have a ticket worth £18 million. And their friends are determined to claim a share of it.

What did I think?

I have always loved Adele Parks books and it's wonderful to see her evolving over the past 20 years from fantastic contemporary romcoms to compelling psychological thrillers.  Just My Luck is her twentieth novel and it's flipping brilliant; it's so good I couldn't put it down.

When Lexi and Jake Greenwood win the lottery it should be a dream come true but instead it turns into a nightmare; up until the previous week, the winning numbers had previously been used by a syndicate of 3 couples.  The Pearsons and Heathcotes claim that they never dropped out of the syndicate so they challenge the Greenwood's win which smashes their longstanding friendship into smithereens.

'What would you do if you won the lottery?' has to be one of the most asked questions the world over.  We always think of the positives: a new house, a sports car, paying off family mortgages and charitable donations but every positive has a negative: begging letters, security risks and seething jealousy.  Lexi and Jake couldn't be more different in light of their win: Lexi goes into work as if nothing has changed whereas Jake resigns by text and starts spending the money before they have it.  Jake really got on my nerves; not only with his incessant spending but his work ethic (or complete lack of). I'm not a parent but even his parenting rubbed me up the wrong way; I don't know how Lexi managed to stay married to him for so many years! 

The story is told from the viewpoints of Lexi and her 15 year old daughter Emily as the relationships between family and friends are stretched to breaking point.  It amazes me how authors can switch between voices with their own individual characteristics and Adele Parks does this flawlessly.  The characters are so well developed that they virtually leap out of the page and their voices ring out loud and clear.

Just My Luck is an absolutely brilliant domestic thriller; it's like seeing a lovely family turn into monsters overnight when they're hit with the money bug.  As the Greenwoods find out, money definitely can't buy you happiness and it's scary what people will do to get their hands on your money.  It's made me feel glad that I don't play the lottery, that's for sure!

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Saturday 16 May 2020

BLOG TOUR: Questions of Perspective - Daniel Maunz

I'm thrilled to be taking part in the Rachel's Random Resources Blog Tour for Questions of Perspective by Daniel Maunz.  This is a very intriguing and completely unique book so scroll down to see what I thought.

No one knew it at the time, but April 19, 2011, was the most important day in the history of the world.

After his only friend and colleague, John Manta, disappears without a word, Dave Randall further entrenches himself in the humdrum life of an unenthusiastic lawyer. But once he begins to understand what happened, he embarks on a journey to uncover the deeper meanings and implications of John's fate.

Accompanied by Peaches the cat, Dave uproots his life and reinvents himself in the midst of his search. Along the way, he is haunted by his piecemeal understanding of John's fate and what it means for his existence. Little does Dave know, his journey of self-discovery will have ramifications that extend far beyond the borders of his own little life.

What did I think?

Once in a while a book comes along that could change your life and Questions of Perspective will certainly do just that.  Everyone who reads it will take something away with them and it will be different for every single person.  Even though it is fiction, and a brilliant story at that, it inadvertently comes with the added benefit of being something of a self-help or self-reflection book.

With aspirations to join the FBI, Dave studied law at university and finds himself working at a law firm in New York.  Whilst training as an attorney (and rather hilariously simultaneously developing into an asshole) he befriends one of his colleagues, John.  John is a bit of a strange character at work; the partners and his peers dislike him but the secretaries and associates get on well with him.  When John doesn't turn up for work, Dave goes to check up on him and comes away with John's cat, Peaches.  Be warned, Peaches will steal your heart as much as he steals the show.  I don't think Peaches even realises he is a cat, I'm sure he thinks he's just a really cool guy.

When Dave finally finds out what happened to John, it changes his whole life.  Dave resigns from his job, leaves New York with Peaches in tow and retrains as a teacher in a little town near Woodstock.  John's new existence leaves Dave with many questions but also with a new way to look at the world.  I've always been aware of the difference between looking and seeing, but find I'm often guilty of walking or driving on autopilot when going to familiar places.  It's certainly reminded me to make the effort to see my surroundings rather than take them for granted.

The beauty of this book is that you can take as much or as little from it as you wish.  Although it does centre around the existence of god, it's not religious so it won't offend anyone with particular beliefs.  It's naturally very thought-provoking and worthy of further discussion.  I think I'll be bringing Questions of Perspective into conversation for quite some time.

Questions of Perspective is a highly original, unique and thought-provoking book; I can't even begin to describe how awesome it is.  It's a book filled with so many messages that each individual reader will find something that resonates with them.  Questions of Perspective is a completely unforgettable, stunning and captivating debut and one I'll be recommending for a very long time.

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

My rating:

Buy it from:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

About the author:

When he is not writing, Daniel Maunz works as an attorney as in-house counsel for a major insurance company. He currently lives in Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, with his wife Lynne, their son Patrick, and their two cats: Admiral Meowy McWhiskers and Captain Cutie (or "Admiral" and "Captain" for short). Questions of Perspective is his first novel.

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Wednesday 13 May 2020

BLOG TOUR: One Fatal Night - Hélene Fermont

One woman’s quest for revenge unearths a fatal secret from her past.
Astrid Jensen holds one man responsible for her mother’s suicide, and she’ll do whatever’s necessary to get close to Daniel Holst and destroy his life – even if it means sleeping with him to gain his trust. Astrid knows he’s not who he pretends to be. But before she can reveal his dark secret, people from her mother’s past start turning up dead, and it looks like she and Daniel are next. In order to survive, she might have to put her trust in the man she has hated for so long.
Daniel Holst has worked hard to climb into Norway’s most elite and glamorous circles, and he’s not about to let any woman bring him down. But when a psychopathic killer starts murdering people from his shadowy past, he discovers that the only person who might be able to save him is the woman who wants to destroy him.
As Astrid digs deeper into her past, she uncovers secrets long buried and realizes everything she once believed is based on lies. What began as a quest to avenge her mother’s death becomes a desperate struggle for survival and leads to the truth about what happened one fatal night ten years ago—and the surprising mastermind behind the most recent murders.

What did I think?

With amazingly strong female characters and gripping plots, I always really enjoy Hélene Fermont's novels so I was excited to read her novella, One Fatal Night.  It may be a novella but Hélene Fermont sure packs a lot into it; it's definitely a case of quality over quantity in this case.

At less than 150 pages, it's a book that you can easily read in one sitting especially when the storyline gets its hooks into you.  Every action that Astrid takes is one step closer to getting revenge for her mother's murder.  Thinking that he killed her mother, Astrid sets out to seduce her boss, Daniel, but when Daniel becomes a target himself Astrid realises that she doesn't know the whole story.  To get revenge she needs to find out what really happened on that fatal night. 

I really can't get over how much is in this novella; the story digs deep into the past and the characters feel well developed.  Hélene Fermont certainly chooses her words carefully and the writing style makes the storytelling very efficient, which is just what you need so you don't feel like you're skimming the surface in a novella.

The story is very character driven and I really liked Astrid until the end when I didn't agree with her choice, but each to their own; it just felt a little too creepy for me.  I loved how the story unfolded piece by piece and it feels like everyone is drawn to each other for whatever reason without even realising it.

One Fatal Night is a quick but quality read; it's an intriguing and gripping story of revenge and deeply buried secrets.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Hélene is an Anglo-Swedish fiction author currently residing in her home town of Malmo, Sweden, after relocating back from London after 20 years.
Her thrilling character-driven psychological fiction novels are known for their explosive, pacy narrative and storylines.
Hélene is the proud author of four novels – One Fatal Night, Because of You, We Never Said Goodbye and His Guilty Secret.

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Tuesday 12 May 2020

The Secrets of Sunshine - Phaedra Patrick

A single father gets an unexpected second chance at love in the heart-warming new novel from the bestselling author of The Library of Lost and Found.

Only his daughter Poppy knows that behind his prickly exterior, Mitchell Fisher is deeply lonely. He may have sworn off romance, relishing his job cutting off the padlocks that couples fasten to his hometown’s famous ‘love story’ bridge… but underneath it all, he’s still grieving the loss of Poppy’s mum.

Then one hot summer’s day, everything changes when Mitchell bravely rescues a woman who falls from the bridge into the river. He’s surprised to feel an unexpected connection to her, but then she disappears. Desperate to find the mysterious woman, Mitchell teams up with her spirited sister Liza to see if she’s left any clues behind. There’s just one – a secret message on the padlock she left on love story bridge…

Brimming with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and a sparkling cast of characters, The Secrets of Sunshine follows one man’s journey to unlock his heart and discover new beginnings in the unlikeliest places.

What did I think?

You can't cross a bridge these days without seeing love locks attached and as romantic as they are, the combined weight of all of this additional metal seriously weakens the bridge structure.  In The Secrets of Sunshine, Phaedra Patrick reminds us that each padlock has a story but you don't need to damage local landmarks to tell your love story.

It is main character Mitchell's job to remove the padlocks from the bridge in his town and he sees each and every single lock as an act of vandalism.  Mitchell has lost the love of his life and is filled with grief, regret, guilt and anger except when it comes to his daughter, Poppy.  Poppy is Mitchell's whole world and the relationship they have is so heartwarming.  After rescuing a woman who fell from the bridge into the river, Mitchell is devastated to wake up in hospital and be late to collect Poppy from school.  Hailed as a local hero, people start writing to Mitchell sharing their own stories of what the bridge means to them but the only story Mitchell is interested in is that of the nameless woman he rescued.

As we often find, it is a small world and through Poppy's music teacher, Liza, Mitchell finds a link to the woman on the bridge.  Liza has also been searching for the same woman and they double their chances of finding her by working together.  With Liza's influence and the letters he receives, the wall that Mitchell has built around his heart starts to crack.  He must let go of his guilt in order to start to living again.

It was very sobering to read Mitchell's story when his partner, Anita, was alive.  As an architect in a firm with the contract to build a new bridge, Mitchell spends more time at work than at home.  He missed out on so much of Poppy's life and constantly let Anita down but Poppy reminds us that his being home on the day of Anita's accident could have been more devastating.  We often think: 'If only I'd been there' when something bad happens but I certainly have never thought of it in quite the way that Poppy did.  What we think of as a cruel twist of fate, could perhaps have been so much worse.

I love receiving physical letters, which of course I rarely do these days, so I loved this part of the story.  Not only Mitchell's habit of letter writing but the way that strangers poured out their hearts to him through putting down their words on paper.  Phaedra Patrick has reminded me that there is something so very special about a hand written letter and we should never miss the chance to write one.

The Secrets of Sunshine is a warm and uplifting story; it's charming and heartwarming.  At first, I wasn't really sure what the book title had to do with the story but when I finished reading I was left with a warm and happy glow; it was as if sunshine had seeped out of the pages of the book and warmed my skin.  It's the perfect feel-good book for summer.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday 10 May 2020

BLOG TOUR: Fallible Justice (Wilde Investigations #1) - Laura Laakso

Today's post is something a little different for a damppebbles blog tour; it's not just crime, it's paranormal crime.  I have been reading more fantasy lately so I was delighted to join the blog tour for Fallible Justice by Laura Laasko and I'm releasing my review as part of the tour.  Scroll down to find out about the book and to see what I thought.

In Old London, where paranormal races co-exist with ordinary humans, criminal verdicts delivered by the all-seeing Heralds of Justice are infallible. After a man is declared guilty of murder and sentenced to death, his daughter turns to private investigator Yannia Wilde to do the impossible and prove the Heralds wrong.

Yannia has escaped a restrictive life in the Wild Folk conclave where she was raised, but her origins mark her as an outsider in the city. Those origins lend her the sensory abilities of all of nature. Yet Yannia is lonely and struggling to adapt to life in the city. The case could be the break she needs. She enlists the help of her only friend, a Bird Shaman named Karrion, and together they accept the challenge of proving a guilty man innocent.

So begins a breathless race against time and against all conceivable odds. Can Yannia and Karrion save a man who has been judged infallibly guilty?

What did I think?

I don't read a lot of fantasy but I do read a lot of crime so with a foot in both camps, Fallible Justice intrigued me.  I'm so glad that I decided to read it as it turned out to be just the kind of brilliant escapist fiction I needed to take my mind off current events.

With a gifted protagonist and a magical setting, Fallible Justice is certainly a crime novel with a difference.  Yannia is a fantastic main character; she has an intriguing back story, an affinity with animals that allows her to channel their attributes and she's an amazing private investigator.  Taking a case that other private investigators wouldn't touch, she sets out to prove the impossible: the innocence of a man who has been judged guilty by an infallible Herald of Justice.  Racing against the clock, she only has 4 days to prove Jonathain Marsh's innocence before his death sentence is carried out.

What an outstanding story.  The way the crime itself is carried out is good but the investigation into the infallibility of the Heralds is exceptional.  It's very clever indeed and deserves a virtual round of applause as well as a standing ovation.  I did an actual gasp out loud and my jaw did actually drop.  Just as well there was nobody around while I was reading that part!

With a clever and cunning plot, Fallible Justice is an exceptional debut from Laura Laakso.  I loved how the story was wrapped up with a few threads dangling to lead us onto the next book in the series and I can't wait to read more.  I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for Wilde Investigations #2, Echo Murder.  If you're looking for something unique and different to read in the crime genre, look no further.  I unreservedly recommend Fallible Justice.

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

My rating:

Buy it from:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Louise Walters Books

About the author:

Laura Laakso is a Finn who has lived for most of her adult life in England. She is an accountant, dog trainer and author. Fallible Justice is her debut novel and the first in her paranormal crime series Wilde Investigations

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