Thursday 30 September 2021

The Collector's Daughter - Gill Paul

An unforgettable discovery

In 1922, Lady Evelyn Herbert’s dreams are realised when she is the first to set foot inside the lost tomb of Tutankhamun for over 3,000 years.

A cursed life

But the months after the discovery are marred by tragedy, when Eve’s father dies suddenly and her family is torn in two. Desperate to put the past behind her, Eve retreats into a private life with her new husband.

A deadly choice

But she is harbouring a dark secret about what really happened in Egypt. And when a young woman comes asking questions years later, the happiness Eve has finally found is threatened once more…

What did I think?

Gill Paul's amazing ability to reach into history and bring her characters to life has made her one of my favourite historical fiction authors.  So I was delighted when I found out that the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb was the subject of her new novel, The Collector's Daughter.

I've always loved Egyptian history and although I've never been to the Valley of the Kings, I have visited Cairo and seen some of the breathtaking treasures discovered in the tomb.  I knew Lady Evelyn was present in 1922, as I remember seeing the famous photo of her stood in between Howard Carter and her father Lord Carnarvon, but I didn't know that she was the first person to enter the tomb.  Considering people at the time thought that there was a curse of the pharaohs, this shows precisely the type of plucky young lady she was.

Although there are flashbacks to 1922 and beyond, the story is mainly set in 1973 when Eve is recovering from yet another stroke with her adoring husband Brograve by her side.  The depiction of a stroke is written so sensitively that it broke my heart in two.  Just the thought of reliving your saddest memories over and over again (as you had forgotten them) brings tears to my eyes.  Eve is determined not to let the stroke beat her and, when she gets a mysterious visitor asking questions about Tutankhamun's tomb, her memories of that time help her recovery.  There's one special memory that she must not share though...

Simply wonderful!  I adored every single page of The Collector's Daughter; Lady Evelyn is a most unexpected heroine and I now have great admiration for her.  Gill Paul's beautiful writing completely swept me away to Egypt and I didn't want to leave!  A poignant story woven around true facts, The Collector's Daughter is a breathtaking novel and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

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

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Monday 27 September 2021

Animus (The Flammark Series Book 2) - P. J. Mordant

It’s midsummer. Months after Emma vanquished the Blackstone curse, she still hasn’t decided where her future lies …

… or whether she wants Westen to be part of it.

And what about the earth tremor that came from Seely Tor?

Something is not right in the under-Flammark, something that’s about to arrive which is far deadlier than the spirit she and her friends battled last year.

And one of them has changed …

What did I think?

I simply could not wait to visit Flammark again after reading When Angels Fear so I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of the sequel, Animus.  As it says on the cover, this is a supernatural thriller so prepare yourself for a stupendous battle of good versus evil.  Just reading the opening lines gave me chills and it gets darker and chillier after that!

You do need to have read the first book in the series to fully enjoy Animus as I think any new readers could be completely lost.  Luckily for me, the characters had remained firmly in my head and I welcomed them like old friends.  Which is why my heart went out to them as it becomes apparent that events in When Angels Fear irrevocably changed them.  If they thought that was bad, they are about to experience something so much worse.

Chilling doesn't even come close to describing Animus, it's so dark and disturbing but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the page.  I love reading the product of Polly J. Mordant's vivid imagination and thank god it is fiction!  It really does remind me of the TV show Supernatural but it goes the extra mile by giving the characters real life issues whilst they are fighting evil.

Brilliantly written, hugely imaginative and very entertaining, Animus is a superbly dark and chilling supernatural thriller.  It's a wonderful continuation of the Flammark series and highly recommend, as long as you've read book one.

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

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Friday 24 September 2021

Wish You Were Dead - Peter James

Wish You Were Dead is a Quick Read short story from bestselling author Peter James.

Roy Grace and his family have left Sussex behind for a week’s holiday in France. The website promised a grand house, but when they arrive the place is very different from the pictures. And it soon becomes clear that their holiday nightmare is only just beginning.

An old enemy of Roy, a lowlife criminal he had put behind bars, is now out of jail – and out for revenge. He knows where Roy and his family have gone on holiday. Of course he does. He’s been hacking their emails – and they are in the perfect spot for him to pay Roy back . . . 

What did I think?

I'm way behind with my reading of the fantastic Roy Grace series but I've wanted to try a Quick Reads book for quite some time.  So as 2021 is the 15th anniversary of the Quick Reads programme, which makes reading entertaining and accessible for less confident readers, I thought it was an excellent time to try one. 

At 124 pages long, Wish You Were Dead is a fantastic novella that possibly comes after book 17 in the Roy Grace series.  As I've only read two so far (shocking, I know), this was quite a jump in Roy Grace's personal story for me, however, the main storyline is completely gripping and thrilling which makes it very easy to read the book in one sitting.

Although the Roy Grace series is so very well established now, I don't think readers will feel terribly disadvantaged if they jump into the series at this stage.  This little intriguing insight into the Roy Grace series is highly likely to make new readers want to discover more of the series and that's an absolutely fabulous result for the wonderful Quick Reads initiative.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Wish You Were Dead and it's given me the nudge I needed to tackle my leaning tower of Roy Grace novels.

I received a gifted ARC to read and review; all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday 21 September 2021

The Last Library - Freya Sampson

You can tell a lot about a person from the library books they borrow

Library assistant June knows a lot about the regulars at Chalcot Library, yet they know very little about her. When her mum - the beloved local librarian - passed away eight years ago, June stepped into her shoes. But despite their shared love of books, shy June has never felt she can live up to the village's memory of her mum. Instead, she's retreated into herself and her memories, surviving on Chinese takeaways-for-one and rereading their favourite books at home.

When the library is threatened with closure, a ragtag band of eccentric locals establish the Friends of Chalcot Library campaign. There's gentlemanly pensioner Stanley, who visits the library for the computers and the crosswords, cantankerous Mrs B, who is yet to find a book she approves of, and teenager Chantal, who just wants a quiet place to study away from home. But can they compel reclusive June to join their cause?

If June wants to save the library, she finally has to make some changes to her life: opening up her heart to friendship, opportunities and maybe even more . . .

What did I think?

As a booklover, I just couldn't resist a book about books!  The gorgeous hardback edition of Freya Sampson's wonderful debut even has a print of a library ticket inside which lists all main characters as if they had checked out the book.  It's such a lovely little touch that makes a book feel extra special when held in the hands of a booklover.

The library is June's happy place; it's where she has fond memories of her mum who also worked there and where she interacts with the colourful characters of the local community.  So, when the council threaten to close the library, June and the library patrons decide to make some noise to show their opposition.  For introvert June, this is way beyond her comfort zone and she is at risk of losing her job if she opposes the council.  The library is clearly important to June so she needs to break free of her shell and stand up for what she believes in.

Oh what a delightful book.  It's a vibrant, fun story with a huge message: libraries are SO important.  There's much more to a library than books; it's the hub of the community and a place where you can send an email if you don't have a computer, read the newspaper or study for school.  This beautiful novel shows us that libraries are a place where you can be alone without being lonely; you can have some peace and quiet (unless it's time for children's storytime) but there's always somebody else there and for some people this could be the only interaction they have with another human being all day.  

Beautifully written with warmth and humour, The Last Library is a truly heartwarming book bursting with community spirit.  Libraries are lifesavers for many people and The Last Library reminds us how important they are. 

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Saturday 18 September 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Family Lie - P L Kane

A scream cut through the night as they watched flames engulf the woodland. Fire ripped through the trees, leaving only charred branches behind. And then they saw it… on the ashen forest floor… was a body.

Police officer, Mitchel Prescott answered the phone with a shaking hand. It was the one call he had been dreading. It was the hospital at Green Acres… his father Thomas, had died in the night.

Returning to the small town he had been avoiding since he was a child, Mitch must lay his father to rest.

When he arrives, the close-knit residents refuse to speak about Thomas’ death, other than to explain he was found burnt to death in the woods and his dementia was the likely cause.

But when Mitch discovers traces of accelerant on his father’s body, he’s certain it wasn’t an accident. Then his childhood home is broken into, his father’s study ransacked, and a rock thrown through the window warning him to leave.

Mitch is convinced Thomas had discovered something that had got him into trouble… something that would threaten his entire family.

But what secret is worth killing for?

What did I think?

I rather enjoyed that!  The Family Lie is pretty creepy with an underlying hint of menace and the town of Green Acres is definitely somewhere I would not want to visit!  Its oddness reminded me of the setting of Royston Vasey from The League of Gentlemen but the characters in The Family Lie are more threatening in a duplicitous kind of way.

Although it has quite a gruesome and intriguing beginning, it took me a little while to get into the story as it flicks back and forth between Mitch and his sister Bella.  When their father dies, Bella refuses to return to Green Acres so Mitch is the one who goes back home to arrange his father's funeral.  Mitch has just quit his job in the police force but he sniffs out something sinister about his father's death and begins to investigate, but someone seems intent to stop him.

I loved the character of Bella and her psychic ability which added a supernatural air of mystery to the whole proceedings.  There is so much more to Bella's story than meets the eye and I loved discovering everything about her.  It's odd but I didn't really take to Mitch as much as Bella, although I loved Mitch's interactions with the cat, but I think perhaps I just found Bella to be a more interesting character. 

Chilling and intriguing with a hint of the supernatural, anything could happen in The Family Lie which makes it impossible to predict and difficult to put down.  I enjoyed it; it's an entertaining, disturbing and imaginative crime thriller.

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

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Wednesday 15 September 2021

Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox - L. B. Griffin

When Harriet Laws loses her grandmother and her job, her happy life in London seems over. Alone, grief-stricken and penniless, she thinks wildly of ending it all. Fate steps in as Tom Fletcher saves her, gives her hope, and guides her to new employment. He takes her to dinner, and she finds him attractive. He's older, but she doesn't mind. Does he? 

Tom, a quiet, hardworking man, is unsure of Harriet's feelings, but he's also very busy building his business interests. So it's no wonder a suave, sophisticated fellow walks off with Harriet right under Tom's nose. 

What follows, no one could have predicted, as Harriet not only loses contact with all her friends but must again fight for her very life...will she ever see Tom again?

What did I think?

Oh I really enjoyed this wonderful book.  What a fabulous debut from L.B. Griffin!  When I first started reading, I thought it was going to be a soap opera style piece of women's fiction but it is so multi-layered that it burst out of every genre box I tried to put it in.  

I loved the main character of Harriet, she's loving and intelligent but very naïve which sees her being taken advantage of in her work and love life.  I felt so sorry for her when she loses her grandmother and her job in quick succession (and in such devious circumstances regarding the latter), but events lead her into the path of love interest Tom.

Harriet and Tom seem so perfectly matched but Tom thinks he's too old for Harriet and that she can't possibly be interested in him, so the pair remain friends.  Meanwhile, someone else has their eye on Harriet (and he always gets what he wants) so before she knows it, Harriet's life changes once more but it's not for the better...

There's so much going on in this novel that I found it an absolute joy to read, although it does take a darker turn which had me feverishly turning pages as the pacing unexpectedly ramped up.  There's also an air of mystery surrounding Harriet's beginnings and an intriguing painting left to her by her grandmother, and there are hints and clues to gather along the way, although the mystery is not revealed so we must wait for the sequel to continue this fabulous story.  I didn't feel cheated at all by this, just more eager to read the next book!

Incredibly well-written, Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox is a magnificent debut from L. B. Griffin.  It's a poignant, disturbing and heartwarming page-turner that has left me chomping at the bit to continue Harriet's story.

I received a gifted digital ARC from the author and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Monday 13 September 2021

Rags of Time (Thomas Tallant Mysteries Book 1) - Michael Ward



Thomas Tallant, a young and ambitious Spice Merchant, returns from India to find his city in turmoil.

A bitter struggle is brewing between King Charles I and Parliament, as England slides into civil war. The capital is simmering with dissent. The conflict is ready to boil over.

But Thomas soon has other troubles to contend with. A wealthy merchant, Sir Joseph Venell, is savagely killed; then his partner Sir Hugh Swofford plunges to his death, in the Tallant household.

Suspicion falls on Thomas, who is sucked into a mire of treachery and rumour within the City of London. As the merchant struggles to clear his name, he becomes captivated by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, whose passion for astronomy and mathematics is matched only by her addiction to the gaming tables.

Pursued by the authorities, Thomas races to unmask the real killer who claims a third victim to implicate him further, toying with his future in a deadly cat and mouse game.

In a desperate race against time, Elizabeth applies her powers of logic and deduction to unearth the clues that will point to the killer, but her way is barred by a secret message from the grave.

Can she crack its code before Thomas, now a wounded and exhausted fugitive, succumbs to the chase?

And, if she succeeds, has Thomas the strength to face his tormentor and win his life and reputation back?

Rags of Time is the first book in an engaging and entertaining new historical crime series, set during the upheaval of the 17th Century. Recommended for fans of Andrew Taylor, CJ Sansom and SJ Parris.

What did I think?

Never has historical fiction been so fast-paced; Rags of Time is as gripping as a modern-day thriller and I positively raced through this magnificent debut.  I loved the characters, the story and the setting and I'm delighted that there is a sequel.

Set prior to the English Civil War, there is an air of unrest in England and the tension is captured perfectly in the book.  The tension is ramped up even further by a series of mysterious deaths that lead the authorities to the Tallant house.  Young spice merchant Tom is innocent but as the evidence mounts up against him he must fight to prove his innocence before the net closes in.

Michael Ward's writing is spectacular; he really brings 17th century London to life with his vivid descriptions of all of the sights, sounds and smells.  I could almost hear the chatter, feel the hustle and bustle and smell the intriguing fruits and spices brought back from various expeditions around the globe.  There's nothing dry or dusty about this fantastic piece of historical fiction; it's thrilling, gripping and entertaining from start to finish.

I can't wait to read more about the wonderful Tallant family and see how Tom's relationship with Elizabeth Seymour progresses.  Elizabeth is a very unusual character in what is very much a man's world with her love of tobacco, astronomy and codebreaking.  I wasn't sure of her motivations at first but she really proves invaluable to Tom in his quest to unmask the real killer.

I really can't recommend Rags of Time highly enough, even if you don't usually read historical fiction I think you will find it fast-paced, intriguing and gripping.  I certainly couldn't put it down and that's definitely the sign of a good book in my opinion.  Well worth every single one of the five stars I have awarded; whether you're a fan of historical fiction or crime thrillers, Rags of Time is an absolute must read.  It's simply outstanding!

Many thanks to Michael Ward for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Saturday 11 September 2021

The Tale of The Vampire Rabbit - Michael Quinlyn-Nixon

A totally fictional and completely unhistorical account of the origins of Newcastle’s mysterious grotesque, known as the Vampire Rabbit.  Written as an original poem and fully illustrated by the author, Michael Quinlyn-Nixon, the story of the quirky Vampire Rabbit is brought ‘alive’ in the year of 1899, with the story concluding in the present day.  Set in Victorian Tyne and Wear, the story illustrates the Vampire Rabbit’s unquenchable bloodlust and the consequences of its villainous actions.  

Suitable for older children (with parental guidance), the book can be equally enjoyed by adults who enjoy dark poems with a drop of humour. 

What did I think?

I always like to visit the Vampire Rabbit whenever I'm in Newcastle so I was delighted when my fiancé gave me a copy of Michael Quinlyn-Nixon's book for my birthday.  At under 30 pages it's obviously a very quick read but not as quick as you'd expect as you can't help but pause to admire the fabulous illustrations.

The Tale of the Vampire Rabbit is a poem set in Victorian Newcastle in 1899 and present day 2020.  Many have speculated about the story behind the famous grotesque, which still remains unknown, and Michael Quinlyn-Nixon weaves a humourous, entertaining and imaginative tale of its fictional origin in his brilliant poem.  

Both the poetry and the illustrations are outstanding.  I'm not usually one for poetry but this one is fun and it rhymes.  It just needs a musician to compose a catchy tune and I could see it being sung in future alongside The Blaydon Races.  The illustrations are drawn in kind of a sepia tone with splashes of pink and red which gives it a dark, gothic feel and totally fits the subject.  The drawings are awesome, they are so incredibly detailed and I simply can't stop looking at them. 

It's a little bloodthirsty at times (it's a Vampire Rabbit after all) so it's not a suitable bedtime story for young children, but it could definitely be enjoyed by older children and adults.  I absolutely loved it and I'll certainly be looking at the Vampire Rabbit in a different light next time I'm in Newcastle.

Hugely entertaining and incredibly enjoyable, The Tale of the Vampire Rabbit is a fabulous poem with breathtaking illustrations.  It's THE book to buy the Geordie who has everything!  Every bookcase in the North East should have a copy.

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Friday 10 September 2021

COVER REVEAL: Always the Dead - Stephen J. Golds

I'm delighted to be taking part in the Red Dog Press cover reveal today for Always the Dead by Stephen J. Golds.  Before I tell you how amazing the book is, feast your eyes on this striking cover.

About the book:

Los Angeles, California. 1949. 

Scott Kelly is a World War Two Marine veteran and mob hitman confined to a Tuberculosis sanatorium suffering from consumption, flashbacks and nightmares from his experiences in The Battle of Okinawa and a botched hit for Bugsy Siegel.

When his movie actress girlfriend disappears, he bribes his way out of the sanatorium to search for her.

What follows is a frantic search, a manic murder spree, stolen contraband, and a briefcase full of cash.

A story that stretches from the war torn beaches of Okinawa, all the way to the playground of the rich and famous, Palm Springs, California.

An exploration into the depths of L.A crime, PTSD and twisted love, this is a semi-fictional novel based around the disappearance of Jean Spangler.

Preorder from Red Dog Press:

Brilliantly written with a vintage feel, Always the Dead is dark, gritty and compulsive reading.  I absolutely loved this breathtaking novel (click here to read my review) so make sure you pop over to Red Dog Press to preorder your copy.

Thursday 9 September 2021

Murder at the Seaview Hotel (A Helen Dexter Cosy Crime Mystery) - Glenda Young

In the charming Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough, a murder is nothing to sing about . . .

After the death of her husband Tom, Helen Dexter is contemplating her future as the now-sole proprietor of the Seaview Hotel.

There's an offer from a hotel chain developer to consider, but also a booking from a group of twelve Elvis impersonators, a singing troupe called Twelvis. Tom loved Elvis and for Helen this is a sign that she should stay.

But the series of mysterious events which follow, suggests that the developer is not going to give up easily. Then, shortly after Twelvis arrive, one of the group disappears. His body is found floating in a lake, with his blue suede shoes missing. Could the two be connected?

With the reputation of the Seaview on the line, Helen isn't going to wait for the murderer to strike again. With her trusty greyhound Suki by her side, she decides to find out more about her guests and who wanted to make sure this Elvis never sang again.

What did I think?

I'm a huge fan of Glenda Young's historical sagas set in Ryhope and Glenda shows that's she's not a one trick pony by changing location and genre in her debut cosy crime mystery set in Scarborough.  Murder at the Seaview Hotel is the first in a new series starring hotel owner Helen Dexter and what a fantastic start it is.

Firstly, I have to say that the location alone is breathtaking to behold through Glenda Young's vivid and descriptive writing.  I felt as if I was there, walking along the promenade with a bag of chips in my hand and seagulls gliding overhead.  I could really tell that Scarborough is a place close to Glenda's heart and her love for the seaside town shines through every beautifully written word.

Murder at the Seaview Hotel has a bit of everything in its outstanding plot: murder, dastardly underhand dealings, grief, friendships and mystery but above all, it's a great fun and entertaining read.  It's like a soap opera in a book with a Mrs. Bucket-like character running the hotel next door to Helen, a dozen Elvis impersonators ingeniously named Twelvis and a hotel chain determined to get their hands on Helen's hotel by fair means or foul... with the emphasis on foul.

Hugely entertaining, Murder at the Seaview Hotel is a fantastic murder mystery and an absolutely wonderful start to a new series.  With a sprinkling of humour, Glenda Young writes with such warmth and vivacity that Murder at the Seaview Hotel is an absolute delight to read.  An easy five stars from me and I can't wait for the next one!

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

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Tuesday 7 September 2021

The Necklace - Matt Witten

The clock ticks down in a heart-pounding crusade for justice

Susan Lentigo's daughter was murdered twenty years ago--and now, at long last, this small-town waitress sets out on a road trip all the way from Upstate New York to North Dakota to witness the killer's execution.

On her journey she discovers shocking new evidence that leads her to suspect the condemned man is innocent--and the real killer is still free. Even worse, her prime suspect has a young daughter who's at terrible risk. With no money and no time to spare, Susan sets out to uncover the truth before an innocent man gets executed and another little girl is killed.

But the FBI refuses to reopen the case. They--and Susan's own mother--believe she's just having an emotional breakdown. Reaching deep, Susan finds an inner strength she never knew she had. With the help of two unlikely allies--a cynical, defiant teenage girl and the retired cop who made the original arrest--Susan battles the FBI to put the real killer behind bars. Will she win justice for the condemned man--and her daughter--at last?

Perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and Harlan Coben

Optioned for film--with Leonardo DiCaprio attached as producer

What did I think?

I loved watching House MD so when I found out that Matt Witten, one of the producers and screenwriters, had made the jump from screen to page I just had to read his new thriller, The Necklace.

The novel is written in a dual timeline following the disappearance of Amy Lentigo and then twenty years later when her killer is set to be executed by lethal injection.  My heart was breaking for Amy's mother Susan as she lives with the loss of Amy every single day.  Susan's marriage was another casualty of Amy's murder and Susan rather intriguingly blames her mother for what happened to Amy.  

Susan may be penniless but she has a lot of friends and they hold a fundraiser to send her to North Dakota to witness the execution.  On several bus journeys that really portray the vast size of America, Susan encounters the full spectrum of humanity and a twist of fate sees her questioning whether the man condemned to die is really guilty of Amy's murder.

As a Brit, it was really interesting to read about an execution.  There seemed to be a buzz in the whole town and it was almost like a show: 'Roll up, roll up, see a man die by lethal injection!'  I can understand that it must bring closure for the victims of crime but I don't think I could sit and watch it happen.  Maybe I would think differently if I was in Susan's place.

The plot is excellent, it's really gripping and intriguing and I was hooked throughout.  The writing is very dialogue focussed and you can sometimes tell that it has been written by a screenwriter as it didn't evoke any mental images of the characters or scenes.  The fantastic plot kept me rapidly turning pages though and I can totally see why it has already been optioned for film.

Fast-paced, gripping and intriguing, The Necklace is a great read and I can't wait to see it on the big screen.  

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

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Saturday 4 September 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Ghostlights - Gráinne Murphy

Can we ever truly escape our past?
The Ghostlights is the poignant story of a family of Irish women who are each looking for the real meaning of home. This is a novel about family, obligation, identity and small-town life, written with deftness and sensitivity by the author of Where the Edge Is.

When a stranger checks into a family B&B – in a small village in rural Ireland – no one takes too much notice... at least until his body is found in the lake four days later.

The identity of the unknown guest raises questions for polar opposite twin sisters Liv and Marianne and their mother Ethel, all of whom feel trapped by the choices they made earlier in life. They each find themselves forced to confront their past, their present and what they really want from their future.

The new novel from Gráinne Murphy, whose short fiction has been longlisted for 2021 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award.

What did I think?

Gráinne Murphy's debut Where the Edge Is is a beautiful novel that has stayed in my mind since I turned the final page over a year ago, so I was eager to read her second novel, The Ghostlights.  Inspired by a true story, The Ghostlights captured me in its spell and my eyes refused to leave the page as I devoured every single beautifully written word in just two sittings.

I continue to be absolutely gobsmacked by Gráinne Murphy's stunning characterisation.  The characters are so well developed that they feel like real people and I felt as if I was peeking into their lives through a hidden camera.  Twins Liv and Marianne, their mother Ethel and Liv's son Shay are completely unforgettable as they were brought to life before my eyes.  They could certainly be described as a dysfunctional family as they all have a lot going on behind the scenes, but I won't spoil the plot by saying any more than that.

It's sad to think that the story of the stranger checking into the B&B before committing suicide is based on a true story but it really makes you wonder how frequently this sort of thing occurs.  I'm sure a lot more than I can even imagine.  As to what lures people to their deaths, could it be the mysterious ghostlights of folklore?  

I loved the references to the changelings and ghostlights of Irish folklore as Gráinne Murphy reminds us that 'real' fairies are nothing like the Disney version.  I also couldn't help smiling at the story about the swaying Virgin Mary statue, mainly because I remembered the hilarious episode from Father Ted, but I didn't realise that the famous reports of moving statues in Ireland all occurred during the summer of 1985.  Of course, I was off googling for hours after this!

Beautifully written with subtle notes of Irish humour, The Ghostlights is a mesmerising and immersive novel.  It's a 4.5 rounded up to 5 stars from me and I'm sure it will be another Gráinne Murphy that I will never forget.

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

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Wednesday 1 September 2021

Hyphens & Hashtags - Claire Cock-Starkey

The punctuation marks, mathematical symbols and glyphs which haunt the edges of our keyboards have evolved over many hundreds of years. They shape our understanding of texts, calculations and online interactions. Without these symbols all texts would run in endless unbroken lines of letters and numbers. 

Many hands and minds have created, refined and promulgated the symbols which give form to our written communication. Through individual entries discussing the story behind each example, 'Hyphens & Hashtags' reveals the long road many of these special characters have taken on their way into general use. 

In the digital age of communication, some symbols have gained an additional meaning or a new lease of life – the colon now doubles up as the eyes of a smiling face emoticon and the hashtag has travelled from obscurity to an essential component of social media. Alongside historical roots, this book also considers ever-evolving modern usage and uncovers those symbols which have now fallen out of fashion. 

'Hyphens & Hashtags' casts a well-deserved spot-light on these stalwarts of typography whose handy knack for summing up a command or concept in simple shorthand marshals our sentences, clarifies a calculation or adds some much-needed emotion to our online interactions.

What did I think?

I love everything about Claire Cock-Starkey's books from their handy size to the wealth of fascinating information contained within, so I was really looking forward to reading her new book Hyphens & Hashtags and I was not disappointed.  

Written in four sections: punctuation, glyphs, mathematical symbols and endangered & extinct symbols, readers can learn about the origin and evolution of both familiar and lesser known symbols.  There's even a chapter on emoticons and emoji to bring us right up to date.  I was equally fascinated by the chapters on symbols I use frequently as I was by those that I hadn't heard of.

I love the short yet informative chapters that are written in such a concise manner that keeps the reader entertained and ensures that you don't feel like you're reading a textbook.  Although I read it cover to cover and was completely captivated, it's a book of which you can dip in and out or flick to a preferred chapter as desired.  I can see my copy being well-thumbed over the coming years as I refer back to it to entertain and enlighten my friends and family.

It's surprising to read that some symbols were on the verge of extinction until the rise of the internet but they have now become an absolute necessity when writing an email or a tweet.  A keyboard would be useless in the digital age without the '@' and '#' symbols.  Of all of the extinct symbols I read about, I really wish the interrobang had taken off - a streamlining symbol that combines the question mark and the exclamation mark and saves both keystrokes and space in the text.  Really?!?!

Another little gem from Claire Cock-Starkey, Hyphens & Hashtags is as entertaining as it is informative and it's a fantastic addition to my ever-growing Bodleian Library collection.

Many thanks to Claire Cock-Starkey and The Bodleian Library for sending me an ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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