Tuesday 26 April 2022

Baby Love - Jacqueline Wilson

A heartbreaking, compelling and timely story for older readers about teen pregnancy, family trouble and unlikely friendships, set in 1960.

When Laura meets a French exchange student, Leon, she is flattered by his interest in her. She's never had any sort of boyfriend before.

One night, Leon walks Laura home - and her life will never be the same again.

Things start to change for Laura - first her moods, and then her body. Laura isn't prepared for what she learns next - and doesn't even know how it could have happened.

When her family learns her secret, they are horrified. Sent away to save them from shame, Laura meets girls just like herself, whose families have given up on them - and they become a family for each other at the most difficult time in all their lives.

An emotional and moving tale for fans of Dear Nobody and Juno.
Not suitable for younger readers.

What did I think?

I have never read any Jacqueline Wilson books before but her sparkling reputation precedes her, so I knew I was in for a good read…and I was not wrong.

The book itself is beautiful in hardback and I love the swinging sixties vibe that comes through in the font and illustration.  I always remove the dust jacket when I read hardbacks and I was delighted to find a floral decorated cover underneath.  A lot of thought has gone into the presentation of this book as the endpapers have flowers on them and each chapter has an illustration by Rachael Dean as a hint as to what it contains.

On to the writing and oh what a joy it is to read.  I can see why Jacqueline Wilson is an award winning author as I positively sailed through the beautiful narrative.  The story is heartbreaking and even more so when you think that this happened in real life to so many young girls.  It makes me so mad when unplanned pregnancies are blamed solely on the female; I mean I can instantly think of one phrase that I have actually heard in the past: ‘she got herself pregnant’.  Really? Was it an immaculate conception?

So, it made me mad and it made me sad but I was completely invested in Laura’s story from start to finish and I felt like I knew her personally.  Jacqueline Wilson has given thousands of ‘shamed’ women a voice through her powerful story and I absolutely loved it.

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Thursday 21 April 2022

BLOG TOUR: Fatal Hate (DC Mel Cotton Crime Series Book 2) - Brian Price

DC Mel Cotton is back with a brand new case, the murder of Duncan Bennett. But who would want an unassuming warehouse worker dead?

The case soon becomes far more complex and dangerous, with terrorists, a paedophile network and a hitman in town. And against a background of rising hatred and violence, one woman pursues her deadly revenge.

Mel and her colleagues face their greatest challenge yet. Mel’s own courage will be tested to the limits. No-one is safe.

Fatal Hate is the thrilling sequel to the much-acclaimed Fatal Trade by the brilliant Brian Price

What did I think?

Fatal Hate is book 2 in the DC Mel Cotton series but you can totally read it as a standalone.  I have read book 1, Fatal Trade, so it was good to catch up with the characters again.

I don't think I have read a more detailed police procedural before and it really adds authenticity and depth to the story.  I actually felt as if I was part of the police team hunting down murderers and terrorists in the fictional town of Mexton.

The writing is word perfect and the plot is intricate and sharp; I was entertained from start to finish.  There's danger, shocks and surprises in store for the reader throughout this compelling novel; I did actually gasp out loud and almost dropped my book in shock at one point as I was so immersed in the story.

Hugely entertaining and filled with danger, Fatal Hate is an authentic, tense and gripping police procedural.

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

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Tuesday 19 April 2022

Fatal Trade (DC Mel Cotton Crime Series Book 1) - Brian Price

Fatal Trade is the first, gripping DC Mel Cotton crime thriller from the brilliant Brian Price.

Glasgow, 1999

Reaching the point of no return, Martina is ready to make her move. After years of being the victim, it’s now time to turn the tables.

Mexton, 2019

The small grey-haired woman grimaced as she entered the police station, dragging a tartan shopping trolley containing her husband’s head.

‘What are you useless buggers going to do about this?’

DC Melanie Cotton’s fledgling career is about to take an interesting turn. Freshly transferred to CID, Mel is excited by this disturbing and mysterious case – her first murder investigation as a detective.

She’s determined to make her mark.

But as she discovers, there’s far more to this case than a gruesome killing, and Mel’s skills and courage are about to tested to the limit.

What did I think?

Fatal Trade is a very good debut from Brian Price.  It has one of the most unforgettable openings I have ever read - just look at that innocuous cardboard box on the cover and open the book to find out what is in it.

It's DC Mel Cotton's first murder investigation and it's going to take her down some dark and dangerous paths.  Paths that twist and turn just like the intensely gripping plot as we flashback to the past and discover a chilling story that shows revenge is indeed a dish that's best served cold. 

I really enjoyed this novel, it's brilliantly written and the twists and turns of the plot really kept me on my toes.  It's very dark at times as it delves into the seedy underworld where you can buy anything or anyone for the right price.  As with many tales of revenge, I found myself rooting for the offender and hoped that their abusers would get their comeuppance.

The characters are beautifully drawn and brought to life through Brian Price's vivid writing.  There are such varied members of the police team that there are some I loved (obviously including the main character of Mel) and some I really disliked.  I'm looking forward to catching up with them again as the series progresses.

Fatal Trade is an excellent start to a new crime series; it's dark, entertaining, and feels so very realistic that I was completely immersed in the story from start to finish.  

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

My rating:

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Saturday 16 April 2022

BLOG TOUR: The Dark Flood (Benny Griessel Mysteries Book 7) - Deon Meyer

One last chance. Almost fired for insubordination, detectives Benny Griessel and Vaughn Cupido find themselves demoted, exiled from the elite Hawks unit and dispatched to the leafy streets of Stellenbosch. Working a missing persons report on student Callie de Bruin is not the level of work they are used to, but it's all they get. And soon, it takes a dangerous, deeply disturbing turn.

One last chance. Stellenbosch is beautiful, but its economy has been ruined by one man. Jasper Boonstra and his gigantic corporate fraud have crashed the local property market, just when estate agent Sandra Steenberg desperately needs a big sale. Bringing up twins and supporting her academic husband, she is facing disaster. Then she gets a call. From Jasper Boonstra, fraudster, sexual predator and owner of a superb property worth millions, even now.

For Sandra, the stakes are high and about to get way higher.

For Benny Griessel, clinging to sobriety and the relationship that saved his life, the truth about Callie can only lead to more trouble.

Taut with intrigue, murder and suspense, exploding with action and excitement, The Dark Flood is a masterpiece from the author of Trackers and The Last Hunt.

What did I think?

The Dark Flood starts with a bang and the pacing doesn't slow at all; I had to put it down at times just to stop and catch my breath.  It's the first book I've read in the Benny Griessel series so don't be put off by this being book 7 in the series as you can definitely read it as a standalone.  It's originally written in Afrikaans and translated beautifully by K. L. Seegers;  there's even a glossary at the back to explain the words that have been left in for authenticity.

I loved both Benny Griessel and Vaughn Cupido from the start when they're setting off in pursuit of security van robbers in South Africa.  When it all goes wrong, they find themselves demoted and shipped off to the university town of Stellenbosch.  Their first case is to investigate a missing student that uncovers a lot more than they bargained for.  I loved the camaraderie between the pair and enjoyed finding out about their personal lives too.

Running alongside the missing persons case is a story about estate agent Sandra who is experiencing what it's like to be a woman in a man's world.  It really made my skin crawl when I was reading the passages detailing her interactions with her boss and her client.  Unfortunately, a lot of women have experienced similar things so it's good to keep highlighting it.  Sandra's plotline is superb - I'll never forget it!

So you may be wondering, like I was, how the two stories relate to each other.  Well, it all comes together brilliantly; it's so good that The Dark Flood would be the perfect book to study in a crime writing masterclass.

Accomplished, tense and gripping, I absolutely loved The Dark Flood and it's certainly made me want to read the earlier books.  If you like all the great modern crime writers (such as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and James Patterson) then you will LOVE Deon Meyer.  Very highly recommended.

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

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Friday 15 April 2022

BLOG TOUR: Six Days - Dani Atkins

Two people. One love story. Six days.

He loves me... He loves me not... He loves me...

Gemma knows that she and Finn are destined to be together. They are soulmates. But then, on their wedding day, he never arrives at the church.

Gemma is convinced Finn wouldn't abandon her like this, even though he has disappeared once before. But back then he had a reason. She feels sure something terrible has happened, but no one else is convinced. Even the police aren't concerned, telling Gemma most people who disappear usually turn up in a week... assuming they want to be found, that is.

For the next six days Gemma frantically searches for Finn, even though every shocking revelation is telling her to give up on him. Before long, even she begins to doubt her own memories of their love.

How long can she hold on to her faith in Finn if everyone is telling her to let him go?

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, Dani Atkins has done it again!  Have your tissues at the ready when you start this book as it's a real rollercoaster of emotions.  I was already reaching for my tissues on page 8!  Humpty Dumpty should have called on Dani Atkins as this book completely broke me and put me back together again.

It's Gemma's wedding day and she thinks that the only important person missing from the ceremony is her deceased mother, until the groom doesn't turn up.  Gemma and Finn have a perfect relationship, after a very rocky start, so Gemma is convinced that something must have happened to prevent Finn from turning up at the church.  Until she finds all his clothes missing from his apartment and the joint account funds depleted...

Through flashbacks we examine Gemma and Finn's relationship and much like the he loves me...he loves me not rhyme, I fluctuated between thinking he's done a runner and something bad has happened.  All the evidence seems to point to a moonlight flit so the police won't look for Finn and even Gemma's friends and family think the worst of Finn for hurting Gemma in such a cruel way.

I absolutely loved Gemma to bits and I was completely devastated that her special day had been ruined.  Although many women would have written him off as a jilting rat, I loved how Gemma never lost faith in Finn, although her faith did waiver a bit as it was really put to the test.  So why did Finn abandon Gemma at the church?  You'll just have to read this wonderful book to find out!

So beautifully written, Six Days is a wonderful ride on the emotional rollercoaster; I honestly think I  experienced every emotion when reading this book.  Dani Atkins has fast become one of my favourite authors and I really can't recommend Six Days highly enough.  

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

My rating:

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About the author:

Dani Atkins is an award-winning novelist. Her 2013 debut Fractured (published as Then and Always in North America) has been translated into sixteen languages and has sold more than half a million copies since first publication in the UK. 

Dani is the author of four other bestselling novels, two of which, This Love and A Sky Full of Stars, won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, in 2018 and 2022 respectively. 

Dani lives in a small village in Hertfordshire with her husband, one Siamese cat and a very soppy Border Collie. 

Follow Dani on twitter @AtkinsDani

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Wednesday 13 April 2022

BLOG TOUR: The Fall - Rachael Blok


The sins of the past echo in the present in the new literary thriller from crime-critic favourite, Rachael Blok.

The bigger the sin, the further the fall...

With Easter approaching, the verger of St Albans Cathedral was supposed to be readying the church. Instead he discovers a man lying dead, fallen from the famous 150-foot-high tower. Did he jump, or was he pushed?

For DCI Maarten Jansen, it's a simple case of suspected suicide. Until a witness, Willow, prompts a deeper investigation into a long-buried past, involving a psychiatric hospital, a pregnant woman, and fifty years of silence. As Willow's own family history entwines with the case, Jansen starts to wonder how everything is connected.

The Fall is a haunting literary thriller about loss, trauma, silence, and how our past shapes who we are.

What did I think?

I was initially drawn to this book by the stunning cover; there's just something so dark and menacing about the cathedral and the top of the tower looks such a long way up that I could easily imagine the horror of someone falling from it.  But, did they fall or were they pushed?

St Albans cathedral is the focal point of the novel with a fall from the tower, an exhibition about the history of a psychiatric hospital and a marriage taking place within days of each other.  Willow Eliot is the character who links the events together - she witnessed the fall, she is in charge of the exhibition and it is her twin sister who is due to get married.  I loved the strained relationship between Willow and her twin, Fliss - it's a real case of one-upmanship.

The police investigation is led by DCI Maarten Jansen and I really liked him and his team so I'd love for this to be the start of a new series.  The police procedural elements felt very realistic as I followed every step of the investigation with the team.

Interwoven between the mystery of the fall from the tower and other strange events is an intriguing tale of twins Alice and Betty.  I kept wondering how this was going to fit into the story but it does so beautifully. I can't say any more for fear of releasing any spoilers but it's masterfully done and I really must applaud Rachael Blok's ability to keep the reader hooked and on their toes.

The Fall is a beautifully written thriller touching on mental health and family relationships.  It's the first book I've read by Rachael Blok and it certainly won't be my last - I loved it.

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

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Tuesday 5 April 2022

BLOG TOUR: Virgin & Child - Maggie Hamand

A genre-busting, gender-bending Vatican thriller. What happens when everything you know is thrown into doubt?

And you’re the Pope?

The recently elected Irish Pope Patrick has plans for his future Church. Then he is attacked in St Peter’s Square. Cardinals turn against him. Shocking revelations threaten his traditional status and his faith. In this novel where nothing is as it seems, Catholicism and modern morality are held in tension. Pope Patrick has to face challenges and make choices he could never have imagined.

What did I think?

I was so intrigued by the synopsis of this novel that I just had to read it and I am so pleased that I did as I have never read anything like it.

Patrick is set to make history as the first Irish pope but his tenure may be short-lived when he finds himself in an impossible predicament.  The church will not survive such a scandal but its position is clear so Patrick has quite a dilemma.  Does he go against the church and his own beliefs or does he bring down the church and papacy?

What a dilemma!  It's so easy for people in power to make and enforce rules when it doesn't apply to them, but as soon as it affects them they want to break the very same rules.  It feels like almost every action and thought is a sin in Catholicism, but hypocrisy is more of a sin than the original sin, in my opinion.  I'm being purposefully vague about the highly original plot as it's really one to be experienced for yourself.

Maggie Hamand's groundbreaking novel is beautifully written and completely enthralling.  Brave, bold, powerful and incredibly thought-provoking, Virgin & Child prompts so much debate that I have continued to talk about it long after turning the final page.

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

My rating:

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About the author:

Maggie Hamand is a London-based novelist, journalist, and non-fiction author. She was the winner of the first World One-Day Novel cup and her novel, The Resurrection of the Body, has been optioned for film and television. Maggie followed a degree in Biochemistry and a Master’s in Theology with a PhD in Creative Writing, and lectures at the University of Hull.

Maggie has also taught at Morley College, Holloway Prison, and London University of the Arts. She pioneered creative writing teaching in London through The Complete Creative Writing Course at The Groucho Club, and is the author of the best-selling Creative Writing for Dummies and Creative Writing Exercises for Dummies. As a publisher, Maggie founded and ran the acclaimed independent The Maia Press. Maggie’s home is in Hackney, while Normandy provides a writing retreat. For more information visit: www.maggiehamand.com

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Friday 1 April 2022

BLOG TOUR: Shattered Bones (Maya Barton Book 2) - Kate Bendelow

How do you catch a killer if you can’t identify the victim? A scene of crime officer collects the evidence piece by piece in this gritty British mystery.

SOCO Maya Barton is called to a canal where a heavily decomposed male body has been discovered. A bank card belonging to Trevor Dawlish is found in the cadaver's pocket, and the name matches that of a missing person. 

All seems straightforward - until Trevor's wife phones the police to say that Trevor has returned home, leaving Maya and the team wondering who the unknown male is. 

When it's revealed that the male was dead before he entered the water, Maya finds herself with a murder on her hands. But when another body is discovered, the case becomes further complicated. The hope is that facial reconstruction of the first victim will help solve the mystery - but it may lead Maya and her team down an even darker path.

What did I think?

Oh I really enjoyed this book.  It's my first experience of a book written by Kate Bendelow and it certainly won't be my last.  It's a gripping police procedural that is brought to life through the skilled narration of Annabelle Indge.  It's another cracker from Isis Audio, who have fast become my favourite audiobook publisher.

Although this is the second book in the Maya Barton series, I didn't feel at a disadvantage, having not read or listened to the first book.  Maya does have an ongoing story that is continued in this book (and is to be continued at the end) but there's enough of her backstory covered so that I wasn't at a loss.  I definitely want to read book one now though!

The plot is fantastic so it would be a brilliant book to read but listening to the audiobook made me feel like I was part of the police team, watching events as they happened.  With different voices and accents, Annabelle Indge's narration really makes the characters leap out of the book.  It sounds like there are several different people reading the story.

Kate Bendelow adds a touch of humour to her writing and I absolutely loved the banter between the police officers.  It made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions and I will never look at Battenberg cake the same way again!  You'll just have to read the book to find out what I mean by that.

Shattered Bones is an outstanding police procedural that had me gripped from start to finish.  The writing and narration are both stunning and I can't wait to read or listen to more in the Maya Barton series.  

Shattered Bones is narrated by Annabelle Indge and is out on 1st April on Audible and other trade download platforms, on the digital library platform ulibrary, and on physical CD and MP3 both in libraries and from website The Reading House. https://thereadinghouse.co.uk/

I received audiofiles gifted from Isis Audio to listen to for the blog tour;  this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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