Wednesday 31 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: Let in the Light - Gerard Nugent

Let in the Light is the uplifting must-read for fans of Mike Gayle, Nick Hornby and Keith Stuart.

Songwriter, Richie Carlisle never wanted to be famous.

After stumbling into the limelight five years ago, he soon found himself crashing back out of it. Now, he spends his days working in a small music shop in Edinburgh, attempting to live a quiet life as a part-time dad.

But his 15 minutes of fame have taken its toll. His inspiration for songwriting, music and life in general seems to have all but disappeared.

When Richie is given a flyer advertising the first meeting of the Hope Street Songwriters’ Circle, it’s a chance to step back into the world. But after years of hiding away, letting in the light won’t be easy.

What did I think?

The rays of sun on the cover are very apt for Let in the Light; this book is so uplifting that I was positively beaming like a little sunbeam at the end of it.  Set in the turbulent world of the music industry where you only get one chance, this is what happens when you blow that chance.

Richie Carlisle enjoys playing in the Friday Night Jukey (an open mic where the audience gets to choose the songs) at his local pub in Edinburgh.  Just as he finds the love of his life, he is picked up by a music producer and whisked off to London to form a band with the enigmatic Karl King.  Richie and Karl clash from the start and there's an intriguing hint of some previous history between the pair which will all be revealed later.

It all goes terribly wrong when the band plays their first public gig and Richie finds himself hurtling back to Edinburgh, wanting to put this whole nightmare behind him but finding it has scarred him forever.  Fast forward six years or so and although his relationship with Pen didn't work out, they now have a beautiful 5 year old son called Finn.  Although he works in a music shop, Richie has lost his love of music and songwriting but fate has plans to get him back on track.

What a wonderful story!  I loved the glimpse into the music industry when a new band is formed and egos need to be stroked.  My heart went out to Richie when events beyond his control led to his relationship with Pen breaking up and as Finn is his whole world I couldn't imagine Richie coping well without him.  The community of Hope Street plays a huge part in the book and I found it easy to conjure an image in my head of this fabulous little street.

Incredibly uplifting and beautifully written, Let in the Light is a wonderful debut from Gerard Nugent that left me with a huge smile on my face.  It's so easy to get bogged down in the darkness without realising it and this book left me with the inspirational message to always let in the light.

Many thanks to Gerard Nugent for sending me a digital ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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About the author:

Gerard Nugent is a writer living in Yorkshire. 'Let in the Light' is his debut novel, although he has been writing songs for years. Gerard was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. He moved to England in his 20s and worked in various northern towns before settling in beautiful Yorkshire with his family and two guinea pigs. In 2019, he attended a writing class to help him generate ideas for further songwriting, but, instead, started writing a novel.

Profits from the book will be going to Health in Mind - an Edinburgh based charity that creates awareness of mental health and wellbeing within communities.

eBook edition published through Stormlight Press available on Amazon from 22.1.21.

The trailer for the eBook can be viewed here:

Gerard’s website is He can also be found across social media:

Facebook: @gerardnugentwriter / Twitter: @letinthelight20 / Instagram: @gerardnugentwriter

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Monday 29 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: Trust Me - T.M. Logan


Ellen was just trying to help a stranger. That was how it started: giving a few minutes respite to a flustered young mother sitting opposite her on the train. A few minutes holding her baby while the mother makes an urgent call. The weight of the child in her arms making Ellen's heart ache for what she can never have.

Five minutes pass.

The train pulls into a station and Ellen is stunned to see the mother hurrying away down the platform, without looking back. Leaving her baby behind. Ellen is about to raise the alarm when she discovers a note in the baby's bag, three desperate lines scrawled hastily on a piece of paper:

Please protect Mia
Don't trust the police
Don't trust anyone

Why would a mother abandon her child to a stranger? Ellen is about to discover that the baby in her arms might hold the key to an unspeakable crime. And doing the right thing might just cost her everything . . .

What did I think?

I always get excited when I see a new T.M. Logan book being published as they are guaranteed to be exciting and gripping reads.  His latest book, Trust Me, is no exception as it sets off at lightning pace with such an intriguing premise.  

Ellen is left literally holding the baby when she helps a young mother on the train and the mother gets off at the next station, leaving the baby behind along with a note telling Ellen not to trust anyone.  Ellen's senses are immediately heightened and she sees danger at every turn especially as stepping off the train with a baby that isn't hers, she is an assumed kidnapper.

I couldn't help but put myself in Ellen's shoes and believe me, it's not a pair of shoes I'd covet but this is where I got a little annoyed at her.  The note specifically said don't trust the police but she seems intent on handing Mia over to the authorities at the first opportunity.  Of course, I'm not saying I would have been any different and I'm reading a fictional book after all so it's all part of the story.

There's so much going on in the story that I felt quite dizzy at times but I had totally bought into the 'don't trust anyone' storyline so I suspected everybody at one time or another.  My sleuthing skills were way off though as I was surprised at every turn as the story raced towards its heart-stopping conclusion.

Although I read it in 4 chunks, I would still say that this is a gripping and addictive book.  If I'd been reading a physical copy I definitely would have found it difficult to put down, whereas I only read digitally in bed so it takes me a lot longer to read ebooks.

Completely gripping with a constant element of danger that kept me on the edge of my seat, Trust Me is a blisteringly fast-paced rollercoaster of a read and another cracker from T.M. Logan.

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

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Sunday 28 March 2021

Housewife - Karen Crawford

Wife. Mother. Drug Lord.

Erica Forsythe is a wealthy New York City housewife who feels undervalued and unappreciated. On a rainy day, she dashes into a diner, where she meets a mysterious man. 

Plagued by boredom and loneliness, Erica decides to go home with the intoxicating stranger. She is seduced by the dangerous and lurid world of a notorious drug cartel and abandons her family.

Becoming a high-ranking member of the cartel, Erica believes she has found the excitement she has been craving, but her world shatters when she spirals into the true darkness and violence of working in the drug trade.

What did I think?

Housewife is something very different from Karen Crawford.  I absolutely love her Taryn Winter series set in Las Vegas but the streets are definitely much darker and more dangerous in New York City, where Housewife is set.

Erica may appear to have it all; a wealthy husband, three healthy children and a New York City penthouse, but as The Beatles said: 'Money can't buy me love'.  Feeling ignored by her family, Erica is finally noticed by someone when she meets an exciting and attractive man in a diner and her world changes forever, although not necessarily for the better.

It does feel as if fate had a hand in Erica meeting Alejandro that day as they seem very much in love.  Normally, I wouldn't be able to understand a mother walking away from her family but it's easy to empathise in Erica's case.  Erica is so selfish and superficial so its no wonder that her children are also self-absorbed - they are the monsters that she created.  Of course, her husband must also shoulder some of the blame but he is a typical patriarch and sees his role as the breadwinner, bringing home the money to keep his family in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.

Entitled, rich and selfish, there's nothing much to like about Erica or her family but it was heartbreaking to read about her descent into the darkness of drug addiction and the effect of her disappearance on her family.  It's incredibly disturbing to see how quickly drugs can take hold and it was very harrowing to see the devastating effects of addiction.  As she rises to the top of the drug cartel, Erica is in contact with very few people and the warning signs of her addiction go unnoticed.  I've always said that you never notice the decline of someone you love as you see beyond the outer shell; so as mad as I was at Alejandro for not doing something to help Erica, I could also understand that he may not have seen it.

With characters you will love to hate, Housewife is like a cross between The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Billions.  It's harrowing, disturbing and emotive but sobering in its powerful message about addiction and recovery.

Many thanks to Karen Crawford for sending me an ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Saturday 27 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: Behind Closed Doors - Catherine Alliott

When Lucy is unexpectedly widowed, she doesn't know where to turn.

She seeks refuge with her elderly parents in Oxfordshire, hoping for an escape from past memories - and from her overbearing sister-in-law.

But she gets much more than she bargained for when she returns home. Her parents' bungalow is falling apart, and their surprisingly busy social life throws her in the path of an old childhood friend she hasn't seen for decades.

Yet as Lucy begins to move on, others start to ask questions.

Is she running away from her grief? Or did she leave something far worse behind . . .

What did I think?

I haven't read as many Catherine Alliott books as I would like but reading Behind Closed Doors reminded me what a fabulous author she is.  Do not let the beautiful cover mislead you into thinking that this will be a slow-paced, gentle read as this compelling, thought-provoking family drama is incredibly difficult to put down.

Laced with humour from the start, I tittered and chortled most of my way through the book but make no mistake, there are some very serious elements to the storyline.  Lucy, unexpectedly finding herself widowed, moves back home to live with her elderly parents and finds that everything isn't as rosy as they have been painting it.  I think love for our family makes it very difficult to see what is going on right in front of us especially when our loved ones tend to put on a show to hide things from us.

I absolutely loved Lucy's parents; their whole day revolves around gin o'clock and it's no wonder these octogenarians are so sprightly as they're practically pickled.  The antics of them and their equally naughty friends provides endless entertainment and I could have read a whole novel just about them.  It makes a lovely contrast to Lucy's story which is cast in shadow following the loss of her husband.

Lucy's story is absolutely brilliant and makes the title of the book very apt.  Nobody really knows what goes on behind closed doors and it's frightening to think about what people may be hiding from their friends and family.  We may see things that we think are none of our business but it's made me think that it's perhaps better to be seen as an interfering busybody than to turn a blind eye.  

Hugely entertaining and completely compelling, Behind Closed Doors is a wonderfully warm and engaging novel with family at its heart.  I loved it and it's definitely made me want to read more Catherine Alliott books as soon as I can.

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

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Thursday 25 March 2021

Backstories - Simon Van der Velde

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.


Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves, they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?

This book is dedicated to the victims of violent crime, the struggle against discrimination in all its forms and making the world a better place for our children. That is why 30% of all profits will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

What did I think?

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Backstories but the magic was really revealed when I read an excerpt from the book.  In this ingenious concept, Simon Van der Velde peels back the outer layers of famous people and enables the reader to get under their skin and inside their minds to the real person beneath.  It's the mark of a talented writer when each short story has their own unique voice shining through; it's almost as if the personality of each particular character has been supernaturally summoned from beyond the grave.  

There are 14 stories in the book and their subjects range from people from history to rock stars and everything in between; Simon Van der Velde's imagination knows no bounds.  I loved the incredible variety of characters which meant that I recognised some quite quickly, some right at the end and others I had to google.  This book is almost interactive as it sends readers off on a treasure hunt to collect clues in the story then on to google to decipher them.  No matter which story I was reading, the incredible moment of recognition either made me gasp out loud or made my eyebrows attempt to disappear into my hairline; it's a truly astonishing book.

Backstories is so unique that it's impossible to categorise; it covers history, mystery, music and crime (among others) but mostly, it's a kind of magic.  It's definitely the most fun I've ever had with a book and I'm completely hooked.  The stories are quite short so you can either read it in one go, like I did, or choose to dip in and out at your leisure (if you can put it down once you do so, of course).  Even though I've now identified all of the people, I definitely want to read it again.

Unique, astonishing and ingenious, Backstories is the most engaging and entertaining book I have ever read.  Encompassing so many genres, it will appeal to all readers and it is so unusual that it would be the perfect gift for that hard to buy for person; I feel like I want to buy it for everyone I know!  A definite 5 star read and a highly recommended book.  It's an absolute must read!

Many thanks to Simon Van der Velde for sending me an ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Wednesday 24 March 2021

Greenwich Park - Katherine Faulkner

Helen has it all...

Daniel is the perfect husband.
Rory is the perfect brother.
Serena is the perfect sister-in-law.

And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare.

When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel.

Extroverted, brash, unsettling single mother-to-be Rachel, who just wants to be Helen's friend. Who just wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who just wants to know everything about them. Every little secret…

What did I think?

Wow!  What a debut!  Greenwich Park is a very impressive debut from Katherine Faulkner; the writing is so accomplished that I actually had to double check that it was her debut novel.  With secrets, lies and twists galore this is one very addictive thriller that gets under your skin and gestates into a perfect book baby.

After several miscarriages, Helen is pregnant again and the chapters count the weeks of her pregnancy.  I loved this touch; it was both hopeful that the pregnancy would go to term and also suspenseful that something terrible would happen.  You just know that this story is going to end in tears but with a conclusion as breathtaking and explosive as the fireworks at Helen's bonfire party, I could never have guessed the outcome.

I really felt sorry for Helen; she is hoping to attend antenatal class with her husband, brother and pregnant sister-in-law but none of them turn up.  Helen makes friends with Rachel, a single mother-to-be at the class and they seems to bump into each other wherever Helen goes.  Coincidence?  I think not!  Helen is too polite to rebuff Rachel and she is inevitably drawn into Rachel's web like the spider and the fly.  What is Rachel's game and why does she seem so intent on invading Helen's life?  That's quite a hook!

This dark, addictive and mesmerising novel had me completely enthralled from start to finish.  Nothing is as it seems once you scratch the surface of these apparently perfect lives and Rachel isn't the only spider in this stunning web of intrigue and lies.  If this is the quality of her debut, I can't wait to see what Katherine Faulkner writes next.  Greenwich Park is completely unmissable and highly recommended.

I chose to read an ARC provided from the publisher via NetGalley and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Tuesday 23 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: The End is Where We Begin - Maria Goodin

Jay Lewis is a troubled soul. A single father, just trying to keep everything together, he knows he sabotages any real chance of happiness.

Tormented by nightmares and flashbacks, he can’t forget the events from one fateful night that steered the course of the rest of his life. Struggling against the crushing weight of guilt, Jay knows there are wrongs he needs to put right.

Determined to get closure, he seeks out old friends and a past love. But in his quest for a more peaceful future, is he ready to face the trauma of his past?

What did I think?

The End is Where We Begin is a breathtaking book that completely exceeded all of my expectations.  I was expecting a slow, gentle pacing but I was so completely drawn into Jay's story that I couldn't put it down and greedily devoured every single perfectly penned word in this stunning novel.  

We are launched straight into Jay's troubled mind from the very first page as he experiences traumatic flashbacks of an event in his past.  This adds the perfect level of suspense to make sure that the reader is hooked from page one, which I was.  We are teased with snippets from this awful event all of the way through, gradually revealing it piece by piece, and when it fully takes form my heart shattered into a million pieces.

Jay blames himself and carries so much guilt on his shoulders that it's a wonder he doesn't walk with a stoop.  He has an awful lot on his plate anyway, being a 32 year old single father of a 15 year old with all the teenage angst and shenanigans that come with it.  Add in a lost love, a friend who constantly hits the self-destruct button and a father suffering from Alzheimers and we've got quite a story on our hands.

The chapters flow into each other beautifully, often carrying over a word or theme from the previous chapter and I loved this clever, thoughtful touch.  Maria Goodin's writing is stunning, creating loveable and relatable characters that I took to my heart and felt every emotion with them.  Not since the film Stand By Me have I witnessed such beautiful camaraderie between a group of teenage boys.  I was so emotional at the end, struggling to hold back the same tears that are springing to my eyes as I think about it now. 

The End is Where We Begin is a stunning and incredibly moving literary feast for the eyes.  Immersive, emotional and suspenseful, I felt completely bereft when I turned the final page so this is definitely going on my 'to read again' shelf.  I could actually pick it up right now and read it all over again.  An extraordinary novel and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

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

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Sunday 21 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Lamplighters - Emma Stonex

They say we'll never know what happened to those men.
They say the sea keeps its secrets . . .

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

What did I think?

Wow!  This stunning book blew me away!  It's such a mysterious, intriguing story filled with to the brim with secrets that I was totally gripped and completely mesmerised by the beautiful writing of Emma Stonex.

Inspired by the true story of three lighthouse keepers who went missing in 1900 from a lighthouse in the Outer Hebrides, the mystery in The Lamplighters is set in Cornwall in 1972.  As the twenty year anniversary of the disappearance approaches, an author picks up the story and interviews those left behind.  Rather than their loss bringing them together, the three women barely speak to each other and the reader must uncover a web of secrets, lies and misunderstandings.

The sea could very well be the main character in The Lamplighters; it is so dramatic and described with such vigour that really brings it to life; I wouldn't have been surprised to taste salt on my lips whilst I was reading.  It truly is a force of nature and we will never know all of its secrets.  The sea knows what happened to the missing lighthouse keepers but that's one secret it will never reveal.

I really loved everything about this book: the mesmerising writing style, the intriguing plot and the mysterious inspiration behind it.  I read it in two sittings but if I'd timed it right, it would definitely have been a one sitting kind of book.  I have also been googling the original story of the missing keepers from Flannan Isles Lighthouse in 1900 and it's absolutely fascinating; many thanks to Emma Stonex for bringing this to my attention and I can totally see why it inspired her wonderful novel.

Mesmerising, intriguing and mysterious, The Lamplighters is an absolute must read.  It's a breathtaking, suspenseful novel that totally consumed me, much like the hypnotic calling of the sea.  A truly magnificent and unforgettable book; do not miss it!

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

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Saturday 20 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Spanish Girl - Jules Hayes

A country torn apart by war.
Two love stories divided by decades.
One chance to discover the truth... 

Feisty journalist Isabella has never known the truth about her family. Escaping from a dangerous assignment in the turbulent Basque country, she finds her world turned upside down, firstly by her irresistible attraction to the mysterious Rafael, and then by a new clue to her own past. 

As she begins to unravel the tangled story of her identity, Isabella uncovers a story of passion, betrayal and loss that reaches back to the dark days of Spain's civil war - when a passionate Spanish girl risked everything for her country, and for the young British rebel who captured her heart. 

But can Isabella trust the man she's fallen in love with? Or are some wartime secrets better left undisturbed...? 

Heartbreaking, gripping historical fiction about the tragedy of war, and the redemption of love. Perfect for fans of Angela Petch's The Tuscan Secret and Kathryn Hughes' The Letter.

What did I think?

I didn't think I was going to enjoy The Spanish Girl as much as I did; I found it a little hard to get into at first but once I did I was completely enthralled.  I was so captivated by the story that it made me cry at a particular heartbreaking and poignant moment and if that's not an indicator of a good book, I don't know what is!

The dual timeline of 1937 and 1976 works beautifully as both storylines are interlinked and I was equally fascinated by both.  Rather than time flicking back and forth in alternate chapters, Jules Hayes has chosen to group together a good chunk of chapters for each timeline and this really works well.  I felt it helped me to get to know the characters better and made them more memorable when the timeline changed.

Jules Hayes's writing is incredibly authentic, although a little too much at times with a lot of Spanish phrases (followed by translations) but as I don't speak a word of Spanish, they ended up being slightly redundant, although appreciated, words in the prose for me.  I also know very little about Spain's civil war and the Franco regime but the details in the book certainly felt very historically accurate to me.

It may be an era that is often written about but I've never read wartime fiction set in Spain and the effect of war is no less devastating.  The descriptive and emotive writing completely overwhelmed me at times as I was so immersed in the book that I felt as if I was actually there; I could hear the drone of planes overhead and the whistle of bombs as they were dropped.  It's absolutely stunning writing from Jules Hayes.

Poignant, immersive and compelling, The Spanish Girl is an impressive piece of historical fiction; it's beautifully written and highly recommended.

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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About the author:

I have a degree in modern history and I'm fascinated with events from the first half of the 20th century, which is the time period my historical fiction is set.

My work has been longlisted in the Mslexia Novel Competition, and shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport Short Story Competition.

I live in Berkshire, UK with my partner, daughter and dog. Before writing stories, I was a physiotherapist.

Jules Hayes is a pseudonym for JA Corrigan who writes contemporary thrillers. Falling Suns by JA Corrigan (Headline Accent) was published in 2016. 

Twitter @JulesHayes6  -
Facebook Author Page: JulesHayesAuthor -
Instagram: JulesHayes6 -

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Friday 19 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Littlest Library - Poppy Alexander

It's only the beginning of her story...

Jess Metcalf is perfectly happy with her quiet, predictable life - it's just the way she likes it. But when her beloved grandmother passes away and she loses her job at the local library, her life is turned upside-down.

Packing up her grandmother's books, she moves to a tiny cottage in a charming country village. To her surprise, Jess finds herself the owner of an old red telephone box, too - and she soon turns it into the littlest library around!

It's not long before the books are borrowed and begin to work their magic - somehow, they seem to be bringing the villagers together once more...

What did I think?

The Littlest Library is such a lovely story and it involves books so that's a win/win for us bookworms!  I already love books, that's a given, but reading this book has made me want to rediscover my childhood favourites and the many classics I have sitting patiently on my bookshelves.  There is nothing quite as magical as books and The Littlest Library reminds us of that.

Jess is at a crossroads in life after losing both her grandmother, Mimi and her job in a library, so it's the perfect time for a new start.  I adored reading about village life in Middlemass and how a detour off the motorway played a hand in Jess finding herself living there.  I think Jess is very brave to move somewhere new on her own and I loved seeing how her character developed over the course of the novel.   

I can't go any further without mentioning the books!  Oh my word, what an amazing thing for Jess to do: to put all of her grandmother's treasured books into the phone box for people in the village to borrow.  The books really made a huge impact on the village and some of them even have wonderful little notes in the margins that are a lasting legacy from Mimi.  I was so touched by this and although I would never write in a book, I can see how wonderful it must be to find a hidden message like this.

I really liked Poppy Alexander's writing, not just the warm and lyrical style but the way that the story is more realistic than fairy tale.  Jess has quite a few obstacles to overcome and I really felt for her when she was faced with difficult decisions; if only happiness could pay the bills!  I had my fingers and toes crossed that fate would would intervene once again, but you'll just have to read it for yourself to see if Jess gets her happy ending.

The Littlest Library is a charming novel with community (and books) at its heart.  I really enjoyed it and wouldn't hesitate to pick up another Poppy Alexander book.

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

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About the author:
Poppy Alexander wrote her first book when she was five. There was a long gap in her writing career while she was at school, and after studying classical music at university, she decided the world of music was better off without her and took up public relations, campaigning, political lobbying and a bit of journalism instead. She takes an anthropological interest in family, friends and life in her West Sussex village (think, The Archers crossed with Twin Peaks) where she lives with her husband, children and various other pets.

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Thursday 18 March 2021

Everything Happens for a Reason - Katie Allen


When Rachel’s baby is stillborn, she becomes obsessed with the idea that saving a stranger’s life months earlier is to blame. An unforgettable, heart-wrenching, warm and funny debut.


Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.

When a misguided well-wisher tells her that “everything happens for a reason”, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she’s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.

Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, Josephine, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results... Both a heart-wrenchingly poignant portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life-affirming read and, quite simply, unforgettable.

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, where do I start?  What a beautiful, completely unique book.  Katie Allen's debut novel is poignant, incredibly personal and surprisingly funny.  I absolutely loved it and the synopsis is right: it is completely unforgettable.

Rachel suffers a most terrible loss when she gives birth to her stillborn son, Luke.  Perhaps the worst thing that anyone can say to someone who is grieving is 'everything happens for a reason' but Rachel takes this comment literally and tries to find the reason that Luke died.  Rachel believes that saving the life of a man who was about to jump in front of a train was the reason that her son died and this man lived.  Through dogged determination, we follow Rachel's journey as she searches for the mystery man and makes life-long friends along the way.

The format of the book is very special indeed; I actually didn't realise what I was reading in the first few pages and when it hit me I thought my heart would break.  Although it is such a terribly sad subject, especially as the author has first hand knowledge of stillbirth, the whole feel of the book is surprisingly warm and funny.  It feels as if the process of writing her thoughts, feelings and actions is incredibly cathartic for Rachel and, although Luke is never far from her mind, having such a massive project on the go does help take her mind off her loss.

I've often considered how highly sensitive we become when something bad happens to us.  It seems like everyone is so insensitive but I've often wondered if that is because we are so over-sensitive at that particular moment in time.  Rachel has lost her baby and it seems like every way she turns she sees babies; everything reminds her of Luke and the fact that he is not here.  I'm not saying that there aren't insensitive people out there, comments like 'everything happens for a reason' and 'life goes on' prove that people often don't think before they speak, but you don't want others to put their life on hold because you are sad.  It reminded me to be more sensitive to people's feelings and that just being there for someone and saying nothing is better than saying something inappropriate.  Actions really do speak louder than words.

Everything Happens for a Reason is heartrending, honest and humourous; I've never read anything like it before.  So thought-provoking and poignant, it's a completely wonderful debut and highly recommended reading.

Many thanks to Orenda Books for sending me an ARC of this wonderful book; all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday 17 March 2021

On Hampstead Heath - Marika Cobbold

Thorn Marsh was raised in a house of whispers, of meaningful glances and half-finished sentences. Now she's a journalist with a passion for truth, more devoted to her work at the London Journal than she ever was to her ex-husband.

When the newspaper is bought by media giant The Goring Group, who value sales figures over fact-checking, Thorn openly questions their methods, and promptly finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement, reporting heart-warming stories for their new segment, The Bright Side, a job to which she is spectacularly unsuited.

On a final warning and with no heart-warming news in sight, a desperate Thorn fabricates a good-news story of her own. The story, centred on an angelic apparition on Hampstead Heath, goes viral. Caught between her principles and her ambitions, Thorn goes in search of the truth behind her creation, only to find the answers locked away in the unconscious mind of a stranger.

Marika Cobbold returns with her eighth novel, On Hampstead Heath. Sharp, poignant, and infused with dark humour, On Hampstead Heath is an homage to storytelling and to truth; to the tales we tell ourselves, and the stories that save us.

What did I think?

On Hampstead Heath may be the first book I have read by Marika Cobbold but it definitely won't be the last.  I absolutely love her dark humour and had many unexpected laugh out loud moments in this thought-provoking, witty and hugely entertaining book.

Thorn is a journalist with a conscience, most of the time.  There are many things you shouldn't do when drunk - writing a story and submitting it to the news desk is definitely one of them, as Thorn discovers when she wakes up with a hangover and a story that's gone viral.  As events spiral out of control, it's both poignant and hilarious as Thorn struggles with the weight of keeping her secret.

In this humourous and entertaining novel, Marika Cobbold gives us a glimpse into the cutthroat world of journalism through the eyes of her fabulous main character of Thorn.  I really felt for Thorn as nothing seems to go right in her personal or work life but maybe the angel of Hampstead Heath is about to turn that around.  As the secrets and lies begin to snowball into a massive web of deceit, Thorn is trapped between living a lie or coming clean and facing the consequences.  Is she really a journalist with a conscience?

This is definitely a book I will read again and at only 238 pages long it's a quite a quick read.  I think there is so much to be gained from this small but mighty novel; it's not only an entertaining story but for me, it's a stark reminder of the importance of creating a good work/life balance.  Many of us put our work before our home life, but Thorn has given the best years of her life to her job and when she finally gets a glimpse of what a happy and fulfilling life could be like her job still manages to get in the way.

An absolute little gem of a book, On Hampstead Heath is entertaining, thought-provoking and extremely witty.  Marika Cobbold writes with incredible raw honestly and has such hilarious observations of the mundane that I definitely want to read more of her books.  I absolutely unreservedly recommend this magnificent book.

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

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