Monday 31 May 2021

BLOG TOUR: Strange Tricks (The Essex Witch Museum Mysteries) - Syd Moore

Rosie Strange is back in the latest of the fabulously creepy Essex Witch Museum Mysteries

Secretly Rosie Strange has always thought herself a little bit more interesting than most people – the legacy her family has bequeathed her is definitely so, she’s long believed. But then life takes a peculiar turn when the Strange legacy turns out not just to be the Essex Witch Museum, but perhaps some otherworldly gifts that Rosie finds difficult to fathom. Meanwhile Sam Stone, Rosie’s curator, is oddly distracted as breadcrumb clues into what happened to his missing younger brother and other abducted boys from the past are poised to lead him and Rosie deep into a dark wood where there lurks something far scarier than Hansel and Gretel’s witch…

What did I think?

I'm really getting into the swing of audiobooks now and Strange Tricks from Isis Audio is the latest addition to my audiobook library.  Although I do already own Strange Magic and Strange Sight, Strange Tricks is my first virtual visit to the Essex Witch Museum and I have to say that it works absolutely brilliantly as a standalone, despite being book 6 in the series.  Listening to Strange Tricks has definitely made me want to pick up the earlier books as soon as I possibly can.

The audiobook is narrated by Julia Barrie but it really felt like I was listening to the main character, Rosie Strange herself.  Julia's narration is outstanding with a range of different voices and accents that kept me enthralled from start to finish.  Julia's warm, expressive and soothing voice actually reminded me of sitting down to story time in primary school but there was no subsequent nap time in this case as the storyline completely captivated me and I just had to keep listening to one more chapter.

I really liked the unusual setting of the Essex Witch Museum, owned by Rosie Strange, and the curious characters that Rosie comes into contact with.  I imagine quite a few of the characters have appeared in previous books but I didn't feel as if I was missing out on anything by jumping in mid-series.  It has made me want to find out more though, especially the will they/won't they relationship between Rosie and Sam.

The main plot follows the historical abduction of boys and the museum curator, Sam Stone has a personal interest as his younger brother went missing in unusual circumstances many years ago.  Whilst the majority of the plot is creepy and strange, Syd Moore adds some outstanding humour to create the perfect balance.  I don't think I'd been listening for long when I almost choked with laughter and this happened quite a few times.  Be careful if you listen to this audiobook in public as it is laugh out loud hilarious and gasp out loud creepy in places.

Mysterious, intriguing, humourous and highly entertaining, Strange Tricks is a fantastic audiobook and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.  I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end; both the writing and the narration are exceptional and it's another amazing production from Isis Audio.

I chose to listen to a audiobook ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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About the author:

Before embarking on a career in education, Syd worked extensively in the publishing industry, fronting Channel 4's book programme, Pulp. She was the founding editor of Level 4, an arts and culture magazine, and is co-creator of Super Strumps, the game that reclaims female stereotypes. Syd has also been a go go dancer, backing singer, subbuteo maker, children's entertainer and performance poet, She now works for Metal Culture, an arts organisation, promoting arts and cultural events and developing literature programmes. Syd is an out and proud Essex Girl and is lucky enough to live in that county where she spends her free time excavating old myths and listening out for things that go bump in the night.

About the narrator:

After graduating from Bristol University and joining The Bristol Old Vic Julia Barrie has worked extensively in Theatre; in rep, touring both nationally and internationally, as a member of the RSC, at the Old Vic and Royal Court and in the West End at The Duke of York’s and the Theatre Royal Haymarket. For BBC Radio she recorded Anthony Shaffer’s Widow’s Weeds and her TV and film credits include Prisoners’ Wives, The Commander, Doctors, Close Relations, Our Friends in the North, Out of Bounds, Ghost in the Machine and Five Greedy Bankers.

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Saturday 29 May 2021

Great Circle - Maggie Shipstead


From the night she is rescued as a baby out of the flames of a sinking ship; to the day she joins a pair of daredevil pilots looping and diving over the rugged forests of her childhood, to the thrill of flying Spitfires during the war, the life of Marian Graves has always been marked by a lust for freedom and danger.

In 1950, she embarks on the great circle flight, circumnavigating the globe. It is Marian's life dream and her final journey, before she disappears without a trace.

Half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a brilliant, troubled Hollywood starlet is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves, a role that will lead her to probe the deepest mysteries of the vanished pilot's life.

An enthralling journey over oceans and continents and a drama of exhilarating power, GREAT CIRCLE is perfect for book clubs and fans of William Boyd and Donna Tartt.

What did I think?

I had to stop and gather my thoughts before writing my review of Great Circle as it's quite a chunky book with a lot to take in.  It's quite dry in places, as historical fiction often is, but I think it is well worth persevering with if you find you're struggling.  With a wonderful map in the opening pages, this is the story of female pilot Marian Graves and her mysterious disappearance which later becomes the subject of a Hollywood movie.

Although it did manage to hold my interest throughout, the book has its peaks and troughs.  The beginning is breathtaking as we are introduced to Marian and her twin brother Jamie in incredibly difficult circumstances which sees them cruelly separated from their parents.  I enjoyed watching the twins growing up, or dragging themselves up as their uncle doesn't put himself out for them.  Marian and Jamie are perfect opposites: Marian is an adventurer and risk taker whilst Jamie is artistic and compassionate.

Hadley is the actress who has landed the role of Marian in a film and to be honest I found Hadley to be selfish and shallow, however, I think these characteristics could apply to many in the film industry as it's such a cutthroat business.  I never really warmed to Hadley despite seeing the seedier side of movie making and what she is forced to do to get a starring role.  It all felt rather flat and I didn't look forward to Hadley's chapters at all.  Talking of Hadley's chapters, hers are numbered whereas Marian's are not and I found that having several chapters between numbered chapters really interrupted my reading rhythm.  I am very particular about numbers so this was probably only annoying to me.

Marian's compulsion to fly is beautifully portrayed.  Needing to fly higher, faster and farther is a complete addiction for her; like an alcoholic needing just one more drink, Marian will never be able to slake her thirst for flying.  I don't think she was looking for fame, she really was born to be a wanderer.  Jamie's story is beautifully written too; he is definitely my favourite character and I experienced a wealth of emotions as his story played out.

Whilst Hadley brings authenticity to Marian's story, Marian is a fictional character but there are some real life heroines mentioned in the book.  I didn't realise that there were so many women pilots during WW2 as I raced off to google Jackie Cochran.  I love books that lead me to discover fascinating facts and I can't believe that I hadn't heard of Jacqueline Cochran before.

I could write so much more about the book as there is a lot covered but it's well worth discovering these elements for yourself.  Filled with adventure, Great Circle is an epic historical fiction novel spanning both decades and the globe.  I'm really glad that I read it.  

I received a gifted copy as part of a Tandem Collective Readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Thursday 27 May 2021

Matilda Windsor is Coming Home - Anne Goodwin

In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.

Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.

As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.

Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.

A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?

In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, Anne Goodwin's new novel is completely heartbreaking.  I felt so incredibly upset and angry at events fifty years in the past that altered the course of Matty and Henry's lives.  It's so annoying to think of how differently their lives could have turned out if one selfish action hadn't tore them apart.

Henry barely remembers his sister Matilda who left when he was a small child; all he has to remember her by is a conker that she gave him when she left.  It's almost as if Henry's life has been put on hold waiting for Matilda to return home.  Meanwhile, Matilda has been hidden away in a psychiatric hospital for over fifty years; her mind creating butlers and maids out of the staff to help her cope with her new life and to keep her safe from the evil prince who destroyed her life.  With the hospital facing closure, Matty's life is set to be changed once more.

The whole story is actually written very cleverly and this really makes Matty so unbelievably endearing to readers.  I was sometimes a little confused and unable to differentiate between memories and actual events, which is exactly how Matty must be feeling.  I felt as if I was not only stepping into her shoes but seeing right inside her head.  It's strange but I never really felt as if Matty's memories were unreliable, however, Henry's were a little more cloudy but this is most likely due to him being a child when they were separated.

I absolutely adored Matty; she may be a batty septuagenarian (Anne Goodwin's words) but she's really quite a character.  I am delighted that Anne is writing a sequel so we can continue Matty's journey as I'm missing her already and I really need to know what happens next.

Matilda Windsor is Coming Home is a truly immersive story that really gets under your skin and you can't help but fall in love with Matty, a wonderfully quirky and charming main character of whom I felt incredibly protective.

Many thanks to Anne Goodwin for sending me a digital ARC to review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

About the author:

Anne Goodwin grew up in the non-touristy part of Cumbria, where this novel is set. When she went to university ninety miles away, no-one could understand her accent. After nine years of studying, her first post on qualifying as a clinical psychologist was in a long-stay psychiatric hospital in the process of closing.

Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, was published in 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, was published in November 2018. Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of prize-winning short stories.

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Tuesday 25 May 2021

BLOG TOUR: Talk Bookish to Me - Kate Bromley

Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely - and inconvenient – places…

Kara Sullivan is definitely not avoiding her deadline. After all, it's the week of her best friend's wedding and she's the maid of honour, so she's got lots of responsibilities. She's a bestselling romance novelist with seven novels under her belt, so she's a pro. Looming deadlines don't scare her, and neither does writer's block, which she most certainly does not have. She's just eager to support Cristina as she ties the knot. Right? Right.

But then who should show up at the rehearsal dinner but Kara's college ex-boyfriend, Ryan? Turns out he's one of the groom's childhood friends, and he's in the wedding party, too. Considering neither Kara nor Ryan were prepared to see each other ever again, it's decidedly a meet-NOT-cute. However, when Kara sits down to write again the next day, her writer's block is suddenly gone. Are muses real? And is Kara's muse . . . Ryan?

What did I think?

Oh I really rather enjoyed this.  For those of us who like value for money, it's also a book within a book as Kara is an author and we get to read the first draft of her historical romance novel tucked within the pages of Kara's story.  It's also a virtual trip to New York and Rome from the comfort of your favourite reading chair.

Ryan may not be the traditional squeaky clean love interest for Kara but it was clear from the moment they met in college that they were meant to be together.  Ten years have passed since they broke each other's hearts when fate throws them together again and the pages virtually crackle with sizzling chemistry.  Kara thinks she can avoid Ryan throughout Cristina's wedding but before she knows it she is offering Ryan (and his overweight bulldog) a sofa to sleep on.  

The minor inconvenience of having Ryan to stay has an unexpected side-effect for Kara as the novel she was struggling to write suddenly bursts back into life.  All the feelings that Ryan has awakened are transferred to Kara's novel and Kara needs to make the most of this before she leaves for 6 months in Italy just a few days after the wedding.  As the sexual tension increases it's no longer a case of will they/won't they it's more a matter of when, but neither of them are being completely open and honest with each other.  Will Kara ever get her own happily ever after?

Reading this book really reminded me how you should always listen to your heart.  It's like a horror novel when you look back over your own dating history and realise how often you have settled for Mr Not Quite Right on the assumption that he's the best you're going to get.  Don't ever settle - someday your prince (or princess) will come and you really will 'just know'.

Talk Bookish to Me is a fun and charming read that sizzles with chemistry.  Even though it's a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, I read most of it with a smile on my face.  Talk Bookish to Me is like catnip for booklovers as you can't get more bookish than a book about books that is also a book within a book.  Book-tastic!

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

My rating:

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Monday 24 May 2021

The Wolf Den - Elodie Harper

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii's brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den...

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father's death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii's infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For now her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara's spirit is far from broken. By day, she walks the streets with the Wolf Den's other women, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii's lupanar, The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels reimagining the lives of women who have long been overlooked. Perfect for fans of Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls and Madeline Miller's Circe

What did I think?

I have had a love of classical history since learning Latin at school and I've always wanted to visit Pompeii, which I did virtually through Elodie Harper's amazing book.  The streets of Pompeii are brought to life through the incredibly vivid writing and I really didn't want my visit to end, feeling rather bereft when I turned the final page.  Thankfully, this is the first book in a trilogy and I simply cannot wait for more.

Even though it is set in a brothel, it isn't salacious at all as it focusses on the women and their feelings rather than the acts that they are forced to carry out.  I had never really considered the circumstances of the women working as prostitutes or house slaves so I felt quite emotional reading their stories.  They must have been so frightened being taken from their homes and forced to do unspeakable acts over and over again.

All they can do is make the best of their new lives and the camaraderie between the women is very uplifting and heartwarming (it reminded me of the Latin phrase fortis in arduis - strong in difficulties).  The main character of Amara is such a strong character; she's not even afraid to speak out to the brothel owner.  Doing what needs to be done to survive, Amara will never stop fighting for her freedom.

I loved the little sentences at the start of each chapter, often sharing actual graffiti from Pompeii or quotes from publications of the time (such as Pliny and Ovid).  It added to the authenticity of the story and brought Pompeii back to life, making the reader feel as if they were actually in AD74 (5 years before Pompeii was smothered by volcanic ash).  The writing is completely breathtaking; there's a scene in the amphitheatre that is described so exquisitely that I could almost feel my face heating up and my ears buzzing with chatter.

The Wolf Den is stunningly atmospheric and beautifully written.  I am delighted that there are going to be more books in the series and I'll be keeping a keen eye out for the next book.  Elodie Harper has found a Pompeii shaped niche in the historical fiction genre that was crying out to be filled and The Wolf Den fits it perfectly.  It's not just for historical fiction lovers either, with such strong female characters this is a book that all readers will enjoy.

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

My rating:

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Sunday 23 May 2021

BLOG TOUR: You Had It Coming - B.M. Carroll


When paramedic Megan Lowe is called to the scene of an attempted murder, all she can do is try to save the victim. But as the man is lifted onto a stretcher, she realises she knows him. She despises him. Why should she save his life when he destroyed hers?

Jess Foster is on her way home when she receives a text from Megan. Once best friends, the two women haven't been close for years, not since the night when they were just the teenage girls whom no-one believed; whose reputations were ruined. All Jess can think is, you had it coming.

Now Megan and Jess are at the centre of a murder investigation. But what secrets are they hiding? Can they trust one another? And who really is the victim?

What did I think?

It's really unusual to have a paramedic as a main character and I loved the moral dilemma that Megan is faced with in You Had It Coming.  You can't help but wonder what you would do in the same circumstances and as tempting as it would be to put a pillow over his face and press down, a paramedic is there to save lives not end them.

When barrister William Newson is despised by so many people, it's impossible to guess who killed him and I didn't even try to work it out as I was so engrossed in the story anyway.  The chapters are told from three points of view: paramedic Megan who is first at the scene, Megan's old friend Jess who swore to kill William Newson at the end of their trial and detective Bridget whose job it is to find out the truth.  

There are excerpts from Jess and Megan's trial scattered between the chapters and I loved these although it did make me rather incensed at the way defence lawyers turn the tables on the victims.  It made me wonder how defense lawyers can do that job, it must be difficult to defend someone when they know they're guilty so they must really have to distance themselves and just do their job.  Personally, I couldn't do it but it did give me pause for thought and I love it when books have points like this that make me continue to think about it long after I have turned the final page.

It felt like a number of professions were put under the microscope in You Had It Coming; not only paramedics and lawyers but also the police.  Bridget constantly puts her job before her family and she's so lucky to have such an understanding husband.  It's just a shame that Bridget's work/life balance is so top heavy as she is missing out on so much family time but her job is never ending as crime never sleeps.  

The well developed, strong female characters carry the story effortlessly and I found myself completely engrossed in this extremely well-written novel.  Filled with tension and suspense, You Had It Coming is an incredibly intriguing murder mystery that invites so much discussion that it would be perfect for book clubs.  It's a book I will continue thinking about for a very long time.

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

My rating:

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About the author

B.M. Carroll was born in Blarney, a small village in Ireland. The third child of six, reading was her favourite pastime (and still is!). Ber moved to Sydney in 1995 and spent her early career working in finance. Her work colleagues were speechless when she revealed that she had written a novel that was soon to be published. Ber now writes full-time and is the author of ten novels, including Who We Were, published by Viper in 2020. Find her on Twitter @bmcarrollauthor.

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Thursday 20 May 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Secret Bridesmaid - Katy Birchall

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year . . .

Sophie Breeze is a brilliant bridesmaid. So brilliant, in fact, that she's made it her full-time job.

As a professional bridesmaid, Sophie is hired by brides to be their right-hand woman, posing as a friend but working behind the scenes to ensure their big day goes off without a hitch. From wrangling rowdy hen dos to navigating last minute portaloo cancellations and family dramas, there's no problem she can't solve.

So when she's hired by an actual Marchioness to help plan the society wedding of the year, it should be a chance for Sophie to prove just how talented she is.

Of course, it's not ideal that the bride, Cordelia Swann, is an absolute diva and determined to make Sophie's life a nightmare. It's also a bit inconvenient that Sophie finds herself drawn to Cordelia's posh older brother, who is absolutely off limits. And when a rival society wedding is announced, things start to get rather complicated...

Can Sophie pull off the biggest challenge of her career, win over a reluctant bride, and catch the eye of handsome Lord Swann - all while keeping her true identity a secret, and her dignity intact?

Heart-warming and hilarious, The Secret Bridesmaid celebrates the joys (and foibles) of weddings, the nuances of female friendship, and the redeeming power of love in its many, unexpected forms.

What did I think?

Well this was just the perfect change of pace I was looking for; now and again I like to escape the darkness of crime thrillers by plunging into the sunny world of chick lit and romcoms.  The Secret Bridesmaid is such a fabulous romcom that it had me laughing out loud on many occasions and I absolutely adored the main character of Sophie Breeze.

Sophie is a professional bridesmaid who takes the stress of wedding planning away from the bride to ensure that they can enjoy their big day without worrying about things going wrong.  Posing as a friend of the bride, the guests are unaware that Sophie is a wedding planner extraordinaire.  Sophie really does throw her all into the role and many of the brides are considered real friends when the wedding day is over.

When Sophie is hired by Lady Meade to help plan her daughter's wedding, it should be a dream come true for Sophie, however, the bride wants nothing to do with her.  Cordelia is a right bridezilla and sets impossible tasks in the hope that Sophie will quit but Sophie is made of much stronger stuff and Cordelia can't get rid of her that easily.

This book was an absolute joy to read; we all need a friend like Sophie in our lives!  It was so delightful to watch friendships grow throughout the book and absolutely hilarious to read emails between Sophie and her suppliers.  Whilst some of the brides' requests may seem far-fetched I bet there have been more outlandish requests in real life making those in the book appear tame in comparison.

Uplifting and hilarious, it's impossible to read The Secret Bridesmaid without a huge smile on your face.  I'm definitely putting Katy Birchall on my 'authors to watch' list and I'll have my eyes peeled for news about her next book.

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

My rating:

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About the author:

Katy Birchall is the author of several young adult novels including The It Girl series, the Hotel Royale series and Morgan Charmley: Teen Witch. She is the co-author of the middle grade Lightning Girl series and Star Switch with Alesha Dixon, and the Find the Girl teen series with YouTube stars Lucy and Lydia Connell. Katy was proud to be the author of a retelling of Jane Austen's Emma for the Awesomely Austen series, a collection of Austen's novels retold for younger readers. She has also written a non-fiction book, How to be a Princess: Real-Life Fairy Tales for Modern Heroines. The Secret Bridesmaid is her first adult novel.

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Wednesday 19 May 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Distant Dead: 8 (The Detective's Daughter) - Lesley Thomson

LONDON, 1940

Several neighbours heard the scream of the woman in the bombed-out house. One told the detective she thought the lady had seen a mouse. Another said it wasn't his business what went on behind closed doors. None of them imagined that a trusting young woman was being strangled by her lover.


Beneath the vast stone arches of Tewkesbury Abbey, a man lies bleeding, close to death. He is the creator of a true-crime podcast which now will never air. He was investigating the murder of a 1940s police pathologist - had he come closer to the truth than he realised?

Stella Darnell has moved to Tewkesbury to escape from death, not to court it. But when this man dies in her arms, Stella, impelled to root out evil when she finds it, becomes determined to hunt down his killer and to bring the secrets he was searching for into the light...

What did I think?

When I picked up The Distant Dead, I didn't realise that it was book 8 in the Detective's Daughter series but I have to say that it works brilliantly as a standalone.  I didn't feel at all confused or disadvantaged by jumping in mid-series but I definitely want to go back and read the earlier books.

I'm always delighted to find maps inside books and The Distant Dead has something just as good: a plan of Tewkesbury Abbey.  With a real life 'googleable' setting, it's really easy to visualise a lot of the scenes in the abbey (as pictured on the cover).  I have to say that my imagination was way out regarding the cadaver tomb; I had never heard of them before so I had to google it and although it did make me go 'eww' I found the history of cadaver tombs fascinating.  I love books that teach me something as well as providing entertainment through their storytelling.

In a dual timeline setting, a spate of modern day murders have a link to a cold case from 1940.  The murder of Maple Greenhill in 1940 is just one of many wartime crimes that remain unsolved but it had a snowball effect that has repercussions throughout the following decades.  Fast forward to 2019 and Stella (the detective's daughter in the series of the same name) is thrust into the middle of a killing spree that could see her becoming the next victim if she gets too close to solving Maple's murder.

The Distant Dead is wonderfully plotted, there's so much going on that it's impossible to work out what's going to happen next.  It's so fast-paced and gripping that it makes the pages turn effortlessly and I was equally riveted by both timelines.  I loved Stella's friend Lucie; she's absolutely hilarious and slightly crazy but fiercely loyal.  It's the characters of Lucie and Stella that make me want to read the earlier books in the series - I really want to find out their stories.

The Distant Dead is a hugely enjoyable read; it's intriguing, surprising and very atmospheric.  Lesley Thomson's writing is so vivid that I could almost feel the chill of the abbey and hear the echo of whispers.  The Detective's Daughter series fans will devour this one and I've no doubt that Lesley Thomson will pick up a few new fans too.

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

My rating:

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About the author:

Lesley Thomson is the author of the Detective's Daughter series of West London-set mysteries featuring private investigators Stella, a cleaner, and Jack, a tube driver. The first novel, The Detective's Daughter, became an ebook phenomenon in 2013, staying at number 1 in the digital charts for 3 months. Since then, the series has gone on to sell 800,000 copies worldwide. Lesley is an active member of the UK crimewriting community, and appeared at several crime festivals in 2019, including CrimeFest, Harrogate, Morecambe & Vice and Capital Crime. She lives in Lewes with her partner and her dog.

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Monday 17 May 2021

Hostage - Clare Mackintosh

You can save hundreds of lives.
Or the one that matters most . . .

The atmosphere on board the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney is electric. Celebrities are rumoured to be among the passengers in business class, and the world is watching the landmark journey.

Flight attendant Mina is trying to focus on the passengers, instead of her troubled five-year-old daughter back at home - or the cataclysmic problems in her marriage.

But soon after the plane takes off, Mina receives a chilling anonymous note. Someone wants to make sure the plane never reaches its destination. They're demanding her cooperation . . . and they know exactly how to get it.

It's twenty hours to landing.
A lot can happen in twenty hours . . .

What did I think?

WOW! What a book!  This is one of those books where I want to tell you to stop reading my review and just buy the book now - it's THAT good.  So for anyone still with me, I'll try to sum up my thoughts of a book that left me completely speechless (and incredibly tired as I really couldn't put it down).

The moment I opened this book, I knew I was going to be hooked.  The prologue is an emergency call transcript that is so chilling it made all of the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.  It haunted me throughout the book and I couldn't read fast enough to get to that point but also felt terrified of reaching it.

Mina is in the middle of a marriage breakdown so she signs up to be a flight attendant on the first ever non-stop flight from London to Sydney, even though this means she will be separated from her daughter Sophia for several days.  Someone on the plane knows all about Sophia and they're banking on Mina being willing to do anything to keep her safe.  Can Mina really sentence hundreds of people to death just to save one life?  That's all I'm going to say about the outstanding plot that kept me reading late into the night.

There is a lot going on behind the scenes of Mina's life and I was very intrigued as to how she ended up becoming a flight attendant.  Clare Mackintosh very cleverly weaves a story into the main thread that shows we can be physically held hostage but also metaphorically held hostage to our past.  This felt like a pearl of wisdom from the Dalai Lama; how often do we hark back to something we wish we'd said or done differently?  Let it go!  It's holding you hostage.

Claire Mackintosh scoops all the stars as well as all the adjectives in her exceptional new novel.  Hostage is breathtaking, jawdropping, awesome, stunning, gripping and terrifying; it's an absolute must read and destined to be one of THE books of 2021.  Very highly recommended.

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

My rating:

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Sunday 16 May 2021

Bloodlines (The Shadow of the Raven Book 4) - Chris Bishop


As the threat of yet another Viking invasion looms over his troubled realm, Alfred, King of Wessex, reviews and strengthens his defences. Among his many concerns is the fate of Edward, his stable boy, who he believes to be the bastard son of revered warrior Matthew, who died serving the Saxon cause. If his heritage can be proved, Edward is not only heir to vast fortune but, more importantly, he has the blood of a warrior in his veins, something the Saxons are likely to need in spades.

More worryingly, Alfred fears that if Edward’s true lineage ever became known, there would be those who might seek to exploit him or, worse still, use him to usurp Alfred’s rule. He confides in just two of his closest advisers and they conspire to send Edward to the relative safety of Wareham on the pretext of having him train Governor Osric’s magnificent black stallion, a horse thought to be all but unrideable.

Edward is treated with disdain when he reaches Wareham and regarded as being too puny to be a warrior. However when the barely-trained members of the fyrd find themselves outnumbered, isolated and confronting a dreaded Viking warband, it is Edward’s quick thinking and extraordinary courage that leads them to victory, leaving no doubt about his true bloodline.

What did I think?

The Shadow of the Raven is one of my favourite historical fiction series so I was delighted to find that Chris Bishop had extended it from his original trilogy.  You don't need to have read the previous books in the series to enjoy Bloodlines as it comprises a new cast of characters (and some familiar faces for series fans), however, I think it will definitely make new readers intrigued enough to pick up the earlier books.

The first three books in the series cover the life of Matthew, a monk turned warrior, and the bloodlines in the title of this book refer to Matthew's offspring - a son and a daughter born of different mothers.  As a further layer of intrigue, Matthew's daughter is a fraternal twin so her brother is not Matthew's son but rather the son of a Viking.  With the twins' mother prophesising on her deathbed that they must be kept apart in order to survive, you can see why Chris Bishop just had to continue his story.

I've said it before and I'll say it again (not just because it's on the cover), this is an outstanding piece of historical fiction.  Chris Bishop's writing is so vivid and authentic that you can't help but immerse yourself in the period.  Although it took me a little while to get into the book (as I was missing Matthew terribly), once I got to know Edward I was completely engrossed.  Edward is definitely a mini-Matthew and I loved his affinity with horses that shows his gentle nature but underneath he has the heart of a warrior.  

The whole story is woven together beautifully with vivid scene setting and strong, memorable characters.  My heart was in my mouth at times with the threat of Viking invasion and danger lurking closer to home that is a thread left tantalisingly dangling with three magical words at the end of the book: To be continued...

Chris Bishop brings Saxon history to life with his stunning writing and Bloodlines is a wonderful addition to an outstanding series.  I simply can't wait for Book 5: The Prodigal Son.

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

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Friday 14 May 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Ladies' Midnight Swimming Club - Faith Hogan

Three women. Three different stages of life. United by one thing: the chance to start again.

'Uplifting, emotional and brimming with warmth and humour' – Cathy Bramley

When Elizabeth's husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, the only person she can turn to is her friend, Jo. Soon Jo has called in her daughter, Lucy, to help save Elizabeth from bankruptcy. Leaving her old life behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.

As life slowly begins to return to normal, these three women, thrown together by circumstance, become fast friends. But then Jo's world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.

In search of solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish Sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice that will bring the whole community together...

From bestselling Irish writer Faith Hogan, The Ladies' Midnight Swimming Club is an emotional story about finding new friends and living life to the fullest, that will appeal to fans of Sheila O'Flanagan, Heidi Swain and Liz Fenwick.

What did I think?

Faith Hogan has done it again!  Her latest novel, The Ladies' Midnight Swimming Club is an absolutely beautiful book; once again Faith Hogan writes from the heart and will warm the heart of every single reader who picks up this book.

We return to Ballycove (the setting of The Place We Call Home) on the west coast of Ireland to meet three fabulous ladies: Elizabeth, Jo and Lucy.  Although it's my second visit to Ballycove, The Ladies' Midnight Swimming Club is a standalone novel with only a brief mention of the Corrigans who featured in Faith Hogan's earlier book.  I felt like I was waving to old friends when they were mentioned; that's how deep Faith Hogan's novels bury themselves into your heart, however, nothing could have prepared me for the impact of The Ladies' Midnight Swimming Club.

Elizabeth has just discovered the extent of her husband's debt following his death and can't see how she can keep her home, never mind keep the doctor's surgery running when she needs to find a new GP.  Jo suggests that her daughter Lucy might be willing to help Elizabeth; Lucy is a doctor in a Dublin hospital and welcomes the change of pace a move back home will bring, besides she can keep a closer eye on Jo as we all know how much our loved ones like to tell us that everything is ok in the brief time we spend with them.

In a story that is a cross between The Calendar Girls and Philomena, the women of the town all come together to take a midnight dip for charity and a stranger arrives in search of answers in the abandoned old convent.  I laughed and cried but mainly smiled my way through The Ladies' Midnight Swimming Club.  Faith Hogan's writing is so uplifting that even the sad bits are heartwarmingly beautiful.  This is a truly gorgeous novel that I will never forget and it's one I most definitely want to read again.

The Ladies' Midnight Swimming Club is Faith Hogan's best novel yet (and her others are pretty amazing); I really didn't want my visit to Ballycove to end.  This breathtaking novel is so full of life that it beats in time with your own heart and burrows its way in to ensure you will never forget it.  Heartwarming, beautiful and filled with emotion, The Ladies' Midnight Swimming Club is an outstanding novel that I really can't recommend highly enough.

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

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About the author:

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women's fiction which is unashamedly ulifting, feel good and inspiring.

She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She's a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger - except of course when it is raining!

Follow Faith:
Twitter: @gerhogan

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