Tuesday 28 February 2023

The Institution - Helen Fields

They’re locked up for your safety.
Now, you’re locked in with them.

Dr Connie Woolwine has five days to catch a killer.

On a locked ward in the world’s highest-security prison hospital, a scream shatters the night. The next morning, a nurse’s body is found and her daughter has been taken. A ransom must be paid, and the clock is ticking.

Forensic profiler Dr Connie Woolwine is renowned for her ability to get inside the mind of a murderer. Now, she must go deep undercover among the most deranged and dangerous men on earth and use her unique skills to find the girl – before it’s too late.

But as the walls close in around her, can Connie get the killer before The Institution gets her?

What did I think?

WOW!  Just WOW!  Do not miss this book!  I have to start my review of The Institution by saying how amazingly brilliant it is.  It's a standalone novel but I was absolutely delighted to be reacquainted with profiler Connie Woolwine and former DI Brodie Baarda who we met in The Shadow Man.  

Set on a criminally insane ward in a remote location, it's fraught with danger as Woolwine and Baarda go undercover to find a murderer after a most heinous crime is committed on site.  It's certainly no mean feat as every man held there is a killer.  Imagine Hannibal Lector being the main character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The Institution is sort of like that.  Are the 'guests' insane or dangerous?  Can any member of staff be trusted?

The increasing danger level had me on high alert throughout the book.  There were several scenes where I gasped out loud or held my breath and I had absolutely no idea who had committed this awful murder, how they'd done it or why.  When all is revealed, the conclusion is immensely satisfying and it left me fist pumping the air (and with a little bit of sick in my mouth - yuk!).

The storyline is very chilling, but it was the last line that gave me goosebumps and chilled me to the bone.  I'm not going to quote it and it could be quite innocent to a lot of people but it really resonated with me as I have been there and regretted it.  I hope it's not something that Connie Woolwine will come to regret and I hope it's a sign that there are more Woolwine and Baarda books to come.

With characters that gave me nightmares, The Institution is gripping, addictive and chilling.  The writing, plot, characters and chilling location are all outstanding and I was left both breathless and speechless at the end.  It's brilliant from start to finish and an easy five stars.  Very highly recommended.

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

My rating:

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Sunday 26 February 2023

BLOG TOUR: The Daughter-in-Law - Fanny Blake

When Hope’s only son Paul met and married Edie, Hope was delighted that he had found love and was settling down to make his own family. Hope has loved bringing up her own child, and is happy to step in and help out now and again – but is always worried about overstepping the line between grandmother and mother.
Edie was hoping that having children with Paul would fulfil her as much as her busy job as a barrister has. But the reality is far from her dream. And with her mother-in-law Hope constantly poking her nose in where it’s not wanted, she finds herself frustrated and alone.
Both women could be each other’s greatest ally, but both have secrets that could ruin their relationship. Secrets neither wants Paul to uncover…

What did I think?

I love books about family secrets so The Daughter-in-Law really appealed to me and as an added bonus, it's written by Fanny Blake, who really knows how people tick. 

Going on holiday with your son's family and two small children is always going to be stressful and Hope can't seem to do anything right as far as her daughter-in-law Edie is concerned.  I disliked Edie immediately, she is so self-centred and she doesn't realise how lucky she is to have Hope on hand to help her out with the children.  I felt sorry for Paul being stuck in the middle between his mum and his wife.

Both Edie and Hope are keeping secrets from Paul and we all know that secrets never stay buried.  Their secrets are huge and I kept changing my mind about which one Paul should feel more betrayed by.  

Fanny Blake really gets under the skin of her characters and I loved discovering all their flaws and fears.  Every reader will pick a side at the beginning but as the story develops there'll be more swapping sides than the English Civil War.  

The Daughter-in-Law is hugely enjoyable and very compelling and I was completely absorbed by the family drama that was unfolding before my eyes.  This is classic Fanny Blake and I loved it.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Thursday 23 February 2023

Lockwood & Co. - Jonathan Stroud

'The Screaming Staircase?' Lockwood edged forward in his chair. 'Please, Mr Fairfax, tell us more.'

For more than fifty years, Britain has been terrorised by an epidemic of murderous ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy them - with mixed results . . .

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping to begin a shining new chapter in her career. Instead she finds herself joining Lockwood & Co., the most ramshackle agency in the city, whose ineptitude is matched only by the charisma of its owner.

But Lockwood & Co. have one last chance for redemption. All they have to do is spend the night in one of the most haunted houses in England . . . and come out alive.

The first book in an amazingly addictive, binge-worthy series, this is an electrifying, witty and brilliantly spooky thriller, perfect for fans of Rivers of London and Good Omens.

What did I think?

Wow!  I absolutely loved this book.  It is aimed at 11 year olds and above so everyone from children to adults will enjoy this fabulous book.

I noticed Lockwood & Co. among the new shows on Netflix but I wanted to read the book before watching it as the book is almost always better.  If the series is even half as good as the book, it’ll be fantastic.

It’s told from the perspective of Lucy Carlyle, who hails from my native North East of England, although Lucy’s England is filled with ghosts and hauntings that only children can eliminate.  Lucy is looking for a job that will put her psychic talent to good use, but every interview ends in disappointment as soon as the subject of her previous employment comes up.  Anthony Lockwood is more interested in Lucy’s present than her past and Lucy finally secures a position as the third member of the Lockwood & Co. team.

Lockwood reminds me of Sherlock Holmes with his almost indifferent nature and you think he’s not listening but he doesn’t miss anything.  George may be always thinking of his next sweet treat but he’s very shrewd and would lay his life on the line for Lockwood.  Lucy has the most intriguing talent as she can feel what the ghost feels so she is led more by her feelings and intuition than with her head.  Lucy is the newest member of the team so she’s still finding her place in this entertaining trio.

The story is told in five parts that contain their own separate storyline but they all link together and flow beautifully from one to the next.  There are a number of mysteries to solve and I was as riveted with this book as I usually am with adult mystery, crime and thriller novels.  I loved the excerpts from newspapers that appear at the start of some of the chapters, it really makes the reader feel as if they’re gathering clues along with Lockwood & Co.

Brilliantly written, perfectly plotted and highly entertaining, Lockwood & Co. thrilled, frightened and delighted me.  I loved it and I definitely want to read more of this wonderfully creepy series.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Paper Boat, Paper Bird - David Almond (Author), Kirsti Beautyman (Illustrator)

A stunning new story from the bestselling, prize-winning David Almond, unfolding the magic of the everyday. Mina, from the unforgettable Skellig and My Name is Mina, journeys to Japan and discovers the wonders of the world around her.

Kyoto, Japan. Mina is on a bus. Everything is strange and beautiful.

Mina watches as a woman folds a piece of paper into an origami boat, then floats it over to her.

As Mina discovers the magic of origami, her eyes are opened to the wonders of the real city around her.

Unfold the magic of the everyday, on a journey with one of the world's best-loved authors - with stunning illustrations from Kirsti Beautyman in black and orange throughout.

What did I think?

David Almond is a local North East author and although I haven’t read Skellig (yet), I wanted to read Paper Boat, Paper Bird.  Mina is a character in Skellig and she gets her own story in Paper Boat, Paper Bird.

The book is beautifully illustrated by another North Easterner, Kirsti Beautyman and I loved the monochrome drawings with a dash of deep orange colour.  The paper quality is excellent as some of the drawings are quite heavily shaded but the pages don’t curl and colours don’t bleed through to the other side.

I love that the story was inspired by something that actually happened to David Almond in Tokyo where a woman on a bus gave David’s daughter an origami paper boat she had made.  In the story, Mina writes her name on the paper boat that she receives and sends it off on a journey.  This lovely story really does make you think about chance, fate and coincidences.

Recommended for 9-11 year olds (I’m a smidgen older), it’s easy to read and it contains a few Japanese words that David Almond breaks down into syllables so you get the pronunciation right.  I think it’s absolutely lovely that anyone reading this book will learn and be able to correctly pronounce the Japanese words for hello, goodbye and thank you.

Simple but charming, Paper Boat, Paper Bird is a beautifully written and beautifully illustrated book.

Sunday 19 February 2023

What a Shame - Abigail Bergstrom

There is something wrong with Mathilda.

She's still reeling from the blow of a gut-punch break up and grieving the death of a loved one.
But that's not it.

She's cried all her tears, mastered her crow pose and thrown out every last reminder of him.
But that's not helping.

Concerned that she isn't moving on, Mathilda's friends push her towards a series of increasingly unorthodox remedies.
Until the seams of herself begin to come undone.

Tender, unflinching and blisteringly funny, What a Shame glitters with rage and heartbreak, perfect for fans of Emma Jane Unsworth, Dolly Alderton and Holly Bourne.

What did I think?

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading What a Shame but I was drawn to it by the description of 'darkly comic' and 'hilarious'.  The story revolves around Mathilda's grief, so it doesn't have a laugh on every page; I wouldn't call it hilarious but it's certainly darkly comic and I found several parts amusing.

My heart went out to Mathilda who is grieving both for a parent and the end of a relationship; she wants to move on but the dark cloud continues to hang over her.  Healing baths, tarot readings and shamanic rituals all help to a degree but to fully move on, Mathilda must confront her past.

I loved the support network of girlfriends that Mathilda has and how they are all there for each other.  Mathilda's story is quite dark but Jeremy the puppy provides some light entertainment and a lot of laughs.

The format of the book is a little unusual, written in sections that flow effortlessly into each other rather than chapters.  I usually struggle with books that don't have any rigidly defined chapters that each start on a new page, but there's just something so incredibly compelling about What a Shame that the rhythm would have been interrupted with unnecessary gaps in the page.

Haunting, dark and often amusing, What a Shame is a masterful debut from Abigail Bergstrom.  It's a compelling and enjoyable read, despite the darkness of the storyline.

I received a paperback copy to read as part of the Tandem Collective readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

Friday 17 February 2023

Main Character Energy - Jordan Paramor

"You have to start romanticising your life, you have to start thinking of yourself as the main character" Inspired by the viral TIK TOK trend, MAIN CHARACTER ENERGY is the essential guide to unlocking your greatness and practising self-love.

It's time to harness your main character energy!

Stop overthinking and start living with this step-by-step guide to becoming that girl. You know her. The one who is confident, assertive and always the leading lady in her life. You already are her; you just need to unlock your potential and remind yourself of your self-worth.

This book will take you on a journey of self-development with tips on how to be a #cottagecorequeen - from creating your dream home aesthetic to finding your unique style, #romanticseyourlife - from spending more time in nature to planning the perfect day, and harnessing your #maincharacterenergy by learning how to be more confident and saying yes to adventure.

This book will give you the tools you need to put yourself first.


What did I think?

There are some wise words in Main Character Energy and although it’s aimed at 16-18 year olds, I found it quite inspiring (and I’m in my forties).

The book itself looks like something you might find in a bargain shop as it’s quite small (13.5cm by 18.5cm) and it has very thin pages that curl easily.  Presentation aside, it actually has quite a strong message, in fact several messages and I think many young girls will benefit from reading it.  I certainly wish I had named and banished my inner gremlin many years ago.

It’s a fun read and there are perhaps a few eyebrow raising, cheesy moments but if you just take one or two things away from a self-help book then it’s worth reading.  For me, I was surprised to find that having such a harsh inner critic is far from unusual.  I also have a few annoying habits that I have struggled for years to break, but I have (so far) managed using the 5, 10, 15 minutes rule mentioned in Main Character Energy.

I perhaps wouldn’t go so far as to say that every young girl should read this, but if every young girl who does read this takes something away from it then it’s a very worthwhile book.

Tuesday 14 February 2023

EXCERPT: Never Never - Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher

What a treat I have for you today!  The lovely people at HQ have allowed me to share the first chapter from Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher.  It's publishing on 28th February 2023, but you can pre-order now by clicking here.  I am beyond excited to read this book, even more so after reading the first chapter.  Have a read yourself and see what you think...

Forgetting is terrifying. Remembering is worse…

Charlie Wynwood and Silas Nash have been best friends since they could walk. They've been in love since the age of fourteen. But as of this morning… they are complete strangers. Their first kiss, their first fight, the moment they fell in love… every memory has vanished.

Now Charlie and Silas must work together to uncover the truth about what happened to them and why. But the more they learn about the couple they used to be… the more they question why they were ever together to begin with.

Forgetting is terrifying, but remembering may be worse.



A crash. Books fall to the speckled linoleum floor. They skid a few feet, whirling in circles, and stop near feet. My feet. I don’t recognize the black sandals, or the red toenails, but they move when I tell them to, so they must be mine. Right?

A bell rings. Shrill.

I jump, my heart racing. My eyes move left to right as I scope out my environment, trying not to give myself away.

What kind of bell was that? Where am I?

Kids with backpacks walk briskly into the room, talking and laughing. A school bell. They slide into desks, their voices competing in volume. I see movement at my feet and jerk in surprise. Someone is bent over, gathering up books on the floor; a red-faced girl with glasses. Before she stands up, she looks at me with something like fear and then scurries off. People are laughing. When I look around I think they’re laughing at me, but it’s the girl with glasses they’re looking at.

“Charlie!” someone calls. “Didn’t you see that?” And then, “Charlie…what’s your problem…hello…?”

My heart is beating fast, so fast.

Where is this? Why can’t I remember? “Charlie!” someone hisses. I look around. Who is Charlie? Which one is Charlie?

There are so many kids; blond hair, ratty hair, brown hair, glasses, no glasses…

A man walks in carrying a briefcase. He sets it on the desk.

The teacher. I am in a classroom, and that is the teacher. High school or college? I wonder.

I stand up suddenly. I’m in the wrong place. Everyone is sitting, but I’m standing…walking.

“Where are you going, Miss Wynwood?” The teacher is looking at me over the rim of his glasses as he riffles through a pile of papers. He slaps them down hard on the desk and I jump. I must be Miss Wynwood.

“She has cramps!” someone calls out. People snicker. I feel a chill creep up my back and crawl across the tops of my arms. They’re laughing at me, except I don’t know who these people are.

I hear a girl’s voice say, “Shut up, Michael.”

“I don’t know,” I say, hearing my voice for the first time. It’s too high. I clear my throat and try again. “I don’t know. I’m not supposed to be here.”

There is more laughing. I glance around at the posters on the wall, the faces of presidents animated with dates beneath them. History class? High school.

The man—the teacher—tilts his head to the side like I’ve said the dumbest thing. “And where else are you supposed to be on test day?”

“I… I don’t know.”

“Sit down,” he says. I don’t know where I’d go if I left. I turn around to go back. The girl with the glasses glances up at me as I pass her. She looks away almost as quickly.

As soon as I’m sitting, the teacher starts handing out

papers. He walks between desks, his voice a flat drone as he tells us what percentage of our final grade the test will be. When he reaches my desk he pauses, a deep crease between his eyebrows. “I don’t know what you’re trying to pull.” He presses the tip of a fat pointer finger on my desk.

“Whatever it is, I’m sick of it. One more stunt and I’m sending you to the principal’s office.” He slaps the test down in front of me and moves down the line.

I don’t nod, I don’t do anything. I’m trying to decide what to do. Announce to the whole room that I have no idea who and where I am—or pull him aside and tell him quietly. He said no more stunts. My eyes move to the paper in front of me. People are already bent over their tests, pencils scratching.

Fourth Period
Mr. Dulcott

There is a space for a name. I’m supposed to write my name, but I don’t know what my name is. Miss Wynwood, he called me.

Why don’t I recognize my own name? Or where I am?

Or what I am?

Every head is bent over their papers except mine. So I sit and stare, straight ahead. Mr. Dulcott glares at me from his desk. The longer I sit, the redder his face becomes.

Time passes and yet my world has stopped. Eventually, Mr. Dulcott stands up, his mouth open to say something to me when the bell rings. “Put your papers on my desk on the way out,” he says, his eyes still on my face. Everyone is filing out of the door. I stand up and follow them because I don’t know what else to do. I keep my eyes on the floor, but I can feel his rage. I don’t understand why he’s so angry with me. I am in a hallway now, lined on either side by blue lockers.

“Charlie!” someone calls. “Charlie, wait up!” A second later, an arm loops through mine. I expect it to be the girl with the glasses; I don’t know why. It’s not. But, I know now that I am Charlie. Charlie Wynwood. “You forgot your bag,” she says, handing over a white backpack. I take it from her, wondering if there’s a wallet with a driver’s license inside. She keeps her arm looped through mine as we walk. She’s shorter than me, with long, dark hair and dewy brown eyes that take up half her face. She is startling and beautiful.

“Why were you acting so weird in there?” she asks. “You knocked the shrimp’s books on the floor and then spaced out.”

I can smell her perfume; it’s familiar and too sweet, like a million flowers competing for attention. I think of the girl with the glasses, the look on her face as she bent to scoop up her books. If I did that, why don’t I remember?


“It’s lunch, why are you walking that way?” She pulls me down a different corridor, past more students. They all look at me…little glances. I wonder if they know me, and why I don’t know me. I don’t know why I don’t tell her, tell Mr. Dulcott, grab someone random and tell them that I don’t know who or where I am. By the time I’m seriously entertaining the idea, we’re through a set of double doors in the cafeteria. Noise and color; bodies that all have a unique smell, bright fluorescent lights that make everything look ugly. Oh, God. I clutch at my shirt.

The girl on my arm is babbling. Andrew this, Marcy that. She likes Andrew and hates Marcy. I don’t know who either of them is. She corrals me to the food line. We get salad and Diet Cokes. Then we are sliding our trays on a table. There are already people sitting there: four boys, two girls. I realize we are completing a group with even numbers. All the girls are matched with a guy. Everyone looks up at me expectantly, like I’m supposed to say something, do something. The only place left to sit is next to a guy with dark hair. I sit slowly, both hands flat on the table. His eyes dart toward me and then he bends over his tray of food. I can see the finest beads of sweat on his forehead, just below his hairline.

“You two are so awkward sometimes,” says a new girl, blonde, across from me. She’s looking from me to the guy I’m sitting next to. He looks up from his macaroni and I realize he’s just moving things around on his plate. He hasn’t taken a bite, despite how busy he looks. He looks at me and I look at him, then we both look back at the blonde girl.

“Did something happen that we should know about?” she asks. “No,” we say in unison.

He’s my boyfriend. I know by the way they’re treating us. He suddenly smiles at me with his brilliantly white teeth and reaches to put an arm around my shoulders.

“We’re all good,” he says, squeezing my arm. I automatically stiffen, but when I see the six sets of eyes on my face, I lean in and play along. It’s frightening not knowing who you are—even more frightening thinking you’ll get it wrong. I’m scared now, really scared. It’s gone too far. If I say something now I’ll look…crazy. His affection seems to make everyone relax. Everyone except…him. They go back to talking, but all the words blend together: football, a party, more football. The guy sitting next to me laughs and joins in with their conversation, his arm never straying from my shoulders. They call him Silas. They call me Charlie. The dark-haired girl with the big eyes is Annika. I forget everyone else’s names in the noise.

Lunch is finally over and we all get up. I walk next to Silas, or rather he walks next to me. I have no idea where I’m going. Annika flanks my free side, winding her arms through mine and chatting about cheerleading practice. She’s making me feel claustrophobic. When we reach an annex in the hallway, I lean over and speak to her so only she can hear. “Can you walk me to my next class?” Her face becomes serious. She breaks away to say something to her boyfriend, and then our arms are looped again.

I turn to Silas. “Annika is going to walk me to my next class.”

“Okay,” he says. He looks relieved. “I’ll see you…later.” He heads off in the opposite direction.

Annika turns to me as soon as he’s out of sight. “Where’s he going?”

I shrug. “To class.”

She shakes her head like she’s confused. “I don’t get you guys. One day you’re all over each other, the next you’re acting like you can’t stand to be in the same room. You really need to make a decision about him, Charlie.”

She stops outside a doorway.

“This is me…” I say, to see if she’ll protest. She doesn’t. “Call me later,” she says. “I want to know about last night.”

I nod. When she disappears into the sea of faces, I step into the classroom. I don’t know where to sit, so I wander to the back row and slide into a seat by the window. I’m early, so I open my backpack. There’s a wallet wedged between a couple of notebooks and a makeup bag. I pull it out and flip it open to reveal a driver’s license with a picture of a beaming, dark-haired girl. Me.

Charlize Margaret Wynwood
2417 Holcourt Way
New Orleans, LA

I’m seventeen. My birthday is March twenty-first. I live in Louisiana. I study the picture in the top left corner and I don’t recognize the face. It’s my face, but I’ve never seen it. I’m…pretty. I only have twenty-eight dollars.

The seats are filling up. The one beside me stays empty, almost like everyone is too afraid to sit there. I’m in Spanish class. The teacher is pretty and young; her name is Mrs. Cardona. She doesn’t look at me like she hates me, like so many other people are looking at me. We start with tenses.

I have no past. I have no past.

Five minutes into class the door opens. Silas walks in, his eyes downcast. I think he’s here to tell me something, or to bring me something. I brace myself, ready to pretend, but Mrs. Cardona comments jokingly about his lateness. He takes the only available seat next to me and stares straight ahead. I stare at him. I don’t stop staring at him until finally, he turns his head to look at me. A line of sweat rolls down the side of his face.

His eyes are wide. Wide…just like mine.

WOW!  What's going on?  I love this kind of mystery and if you like the sound of it too, click here to pre-order for delivery on publication day 28th February 2023.

Monday 13 February 2023

Blood Ties (Steph Grant Murder Mystery Series Book 3) - Lin Le Versha

Hector Percy appears to have it all. He shares his magnificent home, Glebe Hall, with his beloved wife Esme and son Jack, alongside their two closest friends and their daughter. But beneath the veneer of entitlement, Hector lives in fear of those who might snatch away his inheritance. Esme suspects he's right; they'd created the perfect existence but now the arrangement is crumbling. If that happens their blissful life at Glebe Hall would be over.

Then tragedy strikes, forcing Hector and Esme to confront their future far sooner than they expected. One moment tearing the two families apart. Is this the end of their dreams?

Former detective Steph Grant finds herself embroiled in the family dynamics as she, along with partner and former boss, DI Hale, are pulled into the investigation. Delving into the history of the two families and the Hall, Steph and Hale unearth buried secrets - secrets that shake the very foundations of Glebe Hall, secrets that will change the future forever.

What did I think?

Hobeck have scored a hat-trick!  Blood Ties is the third book in the Steph Grant series and I've now read a trio of third books published by Hobeck that have all been outstanding.  Lin Le Versha has clearly had a cup of that magical Hobeck No.3 blend tea as Blood Ties is absolutely brilliant.

It's very fitting that everyone's favourite Hobeck canine Derek gets the first line in Chapter One and what an absolute cracker it is.  I burst out laughing as it's just so Derek.  Derek provides some humour and light relief in what is otherwise a dark and chilling murder mystery.  

I loved the setting of Glebe Hall, although it's a bit of a strange set up with two families living there as well as the many skeletons hiding the closet.  The Percy family are well-connected so any scrapes they get into can be brushed under the carpet with just a quick phone call to the Chief of Police.  

Steph Grant and her partner DCI Hale don't take privilege into account when they investigate an alleged accident on the estate.  This is no accident and it's no coincidence that it happened on Percy land.  Oooh there's just so much mystery and intrigue in this book, Steph and Hale keep scratching away at the surface to reveal the darkness underneath.

Entertaining, gripping and intriguing, Blood Ties is brilliant from start to finish.  I loved everything about this book: the stunning cover, the intricate plot and the impeccable writing.  It's an easy five stars and a book I can't recommend highly enough.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Friday 10 February 2023

BLOG TOUR: Nobody Puts Romcoms in the Corner - Kathryn Freeman

Not an expert, not even close, not in any of this. But nobody will try harder than me to make you happy.

Sally is a classic romantic and Harry is a classic cynic, but when a drunken bet leads the new flatmates to (badly) recreate ‘the lift’ from Dirty Dancing, and the video goes viral (#EpicRomcomReenactmentFailure), they both realise there’s potential financial benefit in blundering their way through the romcom lexicon for their suddenly vast social media following.

Now, as Harry and Sally bring major romcom moments to new life – including recreating that classic diner scene – their faking it turns to making…out and suddenly they’re living a real life romcom of their own! But like all the greatest love stories, the road to happily ever after is paved with unexpected challenges for this hero and heroine…

What did I think?

I always get excited when a new Kathryn Freeman book drops on my kindle as I've been a huge fan of hers since 2016.  With the recent furore over The Sunday Times bestseller list omitting the romance category, the title of Kathryn Freeman's latest novel couldn't be more relevant: Nobody Puts Romcoms in the Corner...not even The Sunday Times!

This is the story of when Harry met Sally and yes, that famous movie scene does get mentioned in the book.  The Sally in this case being Harry's landlady who he meets when his relationship ends and he needs somewhere to live.  Hunky builder Harry couldn't be more different to romcom loving cafĂ© owner Sally but there's definitely a spark there and it's only going to get hotter.

I loved both Harry and Sally's backstories and it's Sally who sees a money-making opportunity in recreating famous scenes from her favourite films and getting sponsorship on TikTok.  Harry is surprisingly amenable, possibly something to do with Sally's alluring big blue eyes and I loved seeing which scene they would come up with next.

It was great fun to relive some iconic movies through Sally and Harry's hilarious re-enactments.  To name but a few, there's scenes from Dirty Dancing, Never Been Kissed, An Officer and a Gentleman, Pretty Woman, When Harry Met Sally, and of course the abomination that is Love Actually.  

Entertaining, funny and completely heartwarming, Nobody Puts Romcoms in the Corner is classic Kathryn Freeman and it's sure to put a smile on the face of everyone who reads it.

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

My rating:

Buy it from:
Amazon US

About the author:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write a book. It may have had something to do with my obsession with reading romance. Real life interfered and I headed off in a different direction – into the world of science, becoming a pharmacist before joining the pharmaceutical industry. I did end up writing, but it was about disease and medicines. Decades later, I’m finally doing what I always wanted to do. 

With a husband who asks every Valentine's Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), all the romance in my life is in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers - and heroes come in many disguises.

Social Media Links – 

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Thursday 9 February 2023

Women Like Us: A Memoir - Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse has built a bestselling career on the lives of fictional women. Now she turns the pen on her own life.

I guess the first question to ask is, what kind of woman am I? Well, you know those women who saunter into a room, immaculately coiffed and primped from head to toe?

If you look behind her, you’ll see me.

From her childhood, where there was no blueprint for success, to building a career as a bestselling novelist against all odds, Amanda Prowse explores what it means to be a woman in a world where popularity, slimness, beauty and youth are currency—and how she overcame all of that to forge her own path to happiness.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side.

One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible—against the odds—to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success, from a woman who’s done it all, and then some.

What did I think?

I adore Amanda Prowse novels but they never fail to make me cry and I thought I wouldn't need my tissues for her memoir, Women Like Us, but I couldn't have been more wrong.  Yep, you got me again, Amanda!

Firstly, I really must applaud Amanda Prowse for sharing her intimate and personal story with us.  Now I know how she can write such heartbreaking and true to life stories as she draws from the wealth of feelings and emotions from her own experiences.  I felt incredibly honoured to read this true story and couldn't believe how much resonated with me; it was almost as if Amanda was talking directly to me through her book.

Much like her fictional novels that mirror real life, it's not all heartbreak in this memoir; it's often amusing and there are some tea spurting out of your nose laugh out loud moments - thanks to Amanda's Aunty Kit's advice for that one!  

The book is well named as I think everyone will see something of themselves in Amanda's story; I lost count of the amount of times I thought 'me too' when I was reading.  I can't believe how many trials and tribulations Amanda has gone through in her life and still remained as bubbly and positive as she is.  You just never know what's going on behind a person's smile; I love Amanda's beautiful smile, by the way.

This book also helped me with something I'm going through at the moment: the dreaded 'change'.  It was incredibly enlightening to read about her own experience of the menopause.  I expected hot flushes but I was really puzzled by the snaps of bone chilling coldness that I experience on occasion.  I didn't know the chilly willies was also hormone related, so it's nice to know I'm not going completely bonkers!

Women Like Us really is for all women like us.  It's beautifully written with humour and heartfelt emotion that I found incredibly moving.  Thank you for sharing your wonderful story, Amanda x

I received a gifted paperback for the LoveBooksTours readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Love Like a Cephalopod - Cassondra Windwalker

To death and to the dragon born.

Being an executioner for the state is exhausting, but after a lifetime of dispatching the criminal and the inconvenient, fifty-eight-year-old Grenda finds it does have its compensations. Her cat-sized dragon Bjartur and the dragon eggs she tends are all the friends and family she needs. Completely cut off from the outside world, she happily accepts the luxuries owed her status – including a pet octopus named Morrigan – without the faintest twinge of conscience or doubt.

All that changes when she encounters the most unexpected nemesis: a young refugee girl whom Grenda is incapable of executing. Against her will, Grenda finds herself shifting from killer to caretaker, risking her life to defy the state she’s never questioned and help young Allora to freedom. Everything Grenda thinks she knows about her world, her life, and even her own identity cascades out of her control—including the dragon-bond she holds dearer than life itself.

What did I think?

Fantasy is not my usual genre but I was so impressed by Cassondra Windwalker's unforgettable novel Idle Hands that I leapt at the chance to read an early copy of Love Like a Cephalopod and wow, I was not disappointed.  

The writing is exquisite and the characters and scenery are brought to life so vividly that I could easily conjure their images in my mind.  The beautiful purple shades of octopus Morrigan's tank and the glittering green scales of Bjartur the dragon as well as the gooey melting cheese that Grenda loves so much.

I loved Grenda, the cheese-loving older protagonist whose life (if you can call it that) revolved around her work as an executioner for the state.  She works, she eats, she sleeps, she works and doesn't question it until she is unable to execute a young girl which completely tips the scales of Grenda's work/life balance.

As much as I loved Grenda, I also loved her dragon Bjartur who is really an extension of Grenda, as the pair imprinted when Grenda was a young girl.  The care they take over nurturing the dragon eggs in their care is very moving and it actually brought a lump to my throat at the end.

For me to love a book that belongs to a genre I don't normally read it has to be extraordinary and I absolutely loved Love Like a Cephalopod.  At only 211 pages long, I could have read so much more about this fantasy world but it might have been a bit daunting for new fantasy readers like me if it had been the traditional epic length of a fantasy novel.

Love Like a Cephalopod is a beautiful, moving and entertaining novel that held my interest from start to finish.  I loved it and could easily read it again right now to revisit and re-experience this highly imaginative and stunning fantasy world.  Cassondra Windwalker is a hugely talented hidden gem of an author and I highly recommend this extraordinary novel.

Many thanks to the publisher Bayou Wolf Press for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday 5 February 2023

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels - Janice Hallett

Open the safe deposit box.
Inside you will find research material for a true crime book.
You must read the documents, then make a decision.
Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the sad story of the Alperton Angels: the cult who brainwashed a teenage girl and convinced her that her newborn baby was the anti-Christ. Believing they had a divine mission to kill the infant, they were only stopped when the girl came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than stand trial, while mother and baby disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed; if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby's trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker and stranger than they'd ever imagined. And the story of the Alperton Angels is far from over.

From the bestselling author of The Appeal and The Twyford Code comes a stunning new mystery for fans of Richard Osman and S.J. Bennett. The devil is in the detail... 

What did I think?

I absolutely loved Janice Hallett's debut novel, The Appeal, written in the epistolary format of letters, emails and texts so I already knew what to expect with her third novel, The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels.  It's incredibly intriguing to be presented with all the evidence and to try to work it all out for yourself, although I didn't manage to predict anything that happened in this extraordinary novel.

The Alperton Angels story has remained a mystery for 18 years.  What really happened the night the 'angels' died?  Where is the baby that narrowly escaped being sacrificed?  That's what true-crime author Amanda Bailey intends to find out.

I didn't really like the main character of Amanda, but I think it's simply because I find journalist types to be ruthless and sneaky as they will do anything to get the story.  I really liked the competition between Amanda and Oliver, who have both been tasked with writing a book on the Alperton Angels.  There is clearly some history between them which adds another layer of intrigue to the story.

I loved Ellie who is transcribing all of Amanda's recordings, often recorded surreptitiously (see what I mean about journalists being sneaky?).  Ellie can't help adding her own comments and opinions to the transcription and it often made me laugh.

There is so much information to dig through in the form of letters, emails, texts, scripts and book excerpts that you really feel as if you're part of the case.  I am completely in awe of Janice Hallett; she is an incredibly talented writer to not only write a captivating and intriguing plot but to create several styles of writing as if many different people had written the material.  

Cunning, clever and compelling, The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels is as impossible to predict as it is to put down; prepare to be up all night reading this one.  Five stars feel woefully inadequate to rate this book and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I received a gifted hardback copy for the Tandem Collective readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday 1 February 2023

BLOG TOUR: Tilly's Tuscan Teashop - Daisy James

Welcome to Tilly's Tuscan Teashop, the first book in a brand new series from the author of the Hummingbird Hotel and the Cornish Confetti Agency series. 
When photographer Natalie Nicholson’s beach hut studio – and everything she’s spent the last two years working on – is destroyed in a fire, she doesn’t think things can get any worse. Until she sees her boyfriend Josh Clarke on Instagram frolicking on a palm-fringed Balinese beach with a fellow cabin crew member. 
Devastated and heartbroken, she heads to Italy to help out at her sister’s English teashop in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, where she encounters sun-dappled hilltop villages with attractive terracotta bell towers, cobbled piazzas housing world-famous art and architecture, and a national fixation with getting from A to B as quickly as possible whether in a glamourous Ferrari, a scarlet Vespa, or a snail-like ape. 
With handsome local filmmaker-cum-waiter Matteo Ferretti on hand to guide her, can Tilly learn to ditch her workaholic ways and embrace the Italian pursuit of la dolce vita? Or will she miss out on her chance at a happy-ever-after? 

What did I think?

I adore Daisy James' books so I couldn't wait to grab my virtual passport and head off to the vibrant landscape of Tuscany in Tilly's Tuscan Teashop.  The story inside is as vivid and colourful as the gorgeous cover as the sights, sounds and smells of Italy are described so beautifully.

Italy is more famous for cappuccino and espresso so you might not expect to find a teashop in Tuscany, but that's where Tilly's sister Oliva has set up her business.  Just when Tilly thinks her life in Devon couldn't get much worse, Olivia asks her to look after the teashop and it's just the break that she needs.

It's an absolute delight to read Tilly's Tuscan Teashop as Daisy James takes the reader on a sensory adventure to experience the mouthwatering food and the breathtaking sights of Italy.  I've never been to Italy but I felt as if I was actually there, taking in the sights of Florence and Pisa with Tilly.

It's not all sunshine and merriment though and I love how the story is multi-layered with challenges for the main character; from Tilly's cheating boyfriend and her grief for her parents to a mystery saboteur who is determined to see the teashop close for good.

Filled with fun and entertainment, Tilly's Tuscan Teashop is beautifully written and I think it's one of my favourite Daisy James books to date.  I loved it - it's a sunny hug in a book that warmed my heart and gave me a huge smile on my face.  Highly recommended.

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

My rating:

Purchase Links: 

About the author:

Daisy James loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. She especially likes to create sunshine-filled settings in exotic locations - the Caribbean, Tuscany, Cornwall, Provence - so she can spend her time envisioning her characters enjoying the fabulous scenery and sampling the local food and drink. 

When not scribbling away in her peppermint-and-green summerhouse (garden shed), she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea - china plates and teacups are a must. 

Daisy would love to hear from readers via her Facebook page or you can follow her on Twitter @daisyjamesbooks, or on Instagram @daisyjamesstories

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