Friday 30 June 2023

BLOG TOUR: The Warriors' Prize - Jennifer C. Wilson

Stirling Castle, 1498

Visiting court for the first time since her father's death, Lady Avelina Gordon finds herself drawn to the handsome warrior, Sir Lachlan MacNair. But as a woman who has seen too many of her friends lose everything for 'love', she keeps her heart guarded.

Castle Berradane, 1502

Lady Avelina is unceremoniously told to expect her new husband within the month. The man in question: Sir Lachlan.

Lachlan arrives in Berradane carrying his own secret, and a determination to control his heart. As attraction builds between the couple, they find themselves under attack and fearful of a traitor in their midst.

Can the teamwork they've shown in adversity so far pull them through one final test, and will they find the strength to risk their hearts, as well as their lives?

What did I think?

Historical romance is a reasonably new genre to me and I really enjoyed The Warriors' Prize.  The two main characters are wonderful and it was an absolute pleasure to see their relationship grow and blossom, although there are the inevitable misunderstandings and insecurities of a new relationship.

Lady Avelina is a feisty character who stands up for what she believes in.  Her staff are more like friends than employees and as Mistress of Berradane she is loved by all who work and live on her lands.  Avelina isn't best pleased when the king selects a husband for her, although Sir Lachlan MacNair is an acceptable choice.  

Living on the border between England and Scotland puts Berradane at risk of being attacked by border reivers.  After one such attack, Avelina and Lachlan hatch a plan to take back what was stolen but it doesn't exactly go to plan as there's some skulduggery afoot.  It's almost a book of two halves as we get to know the characters and the location in the first part of the book but then the pacing really ramps up as the danger increases.   

Enthralling and entertaining, The Warriors' Prize is beautifully written and perfectly balanced between romance and adventure.  The romance is subtle and heartwarming and it was the action and adventure that increased my heartrate.  A recommended read.

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

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About the author:

Jennifer has been stalking dead monarchs since she was a child. It started with Mary, Queen of Scots, then moved onto Richard III. At least now it results in a story!

She won North Tyneside Libraries' Story Tyne short story competition in 2014 (no dead monarchs, but still not a cheerful read), and has been filling notebooks and hard-drives ever since. Her Kindred Spirits series, following the 'lives' of some very interesting ghostly communities, is published by Darkstroke, and her historical romances by Ocelot Press.

Jennifer is currently exploring some new ideas for historical romance, and hoping to visit Kindred Spirit friends old and new, north of the border...

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Monday 26 June 2023

BLOG TOUR: Terminal Black (Relic Black book 1) - Colin Garrow

A stolen identity. A hitman. A bent cop.

Relic Black takes things that don’t belong to him—credit cards, golf clubs, toothbrushes. But when a hitman mistakes him for someone else, Relic lands himself in a difficult situation. With a dead man on his hands and a guilty conscience, he sets off to save the life of the man whose identity he has stolen. And that’s when the real trouble starts…

What did I think?

I love Colin Garrow's books set on Tyneside and this new series sees him head north of the border to Scotland with a main character like no other, Relic Black.  Terminal Black is a book that I didn't try to second-guess or work out, I just buckled myself in and enjoyed the dark, gritty and entertaining ride.   

I can't even possibly begin to describe Relic Black as he's nothing like any other character I have ever come across but I really liked him.  Relic gets himself into some interesting scrapes and the plot is so riveting that I think I read it too fast to fully process everything that was going on, so I'll have to read it again at some point.  

Colin Garrow really brings his characters to life through authentic dialogue - I could actually hear the characters speaking to me in my head in their broad Scottish accents.  Colin's trademark humour is evident throughout and the wit perfectly balances the grit.

Fast-paced, gritty and very entertaining, Terminal Black is a great start to a new series and I can't wait to see what Relic gets up to next.

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

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About the author:

Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland. He has worked in a plethora of professions including: taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate. All Colin's books are available as eBooks and paperback.

His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Word Bohemia, Every Day Fiction, The Grind, A3 Review, 1,000 Words, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine. He currently lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes novels, stories, poems and the occasional song.

He also makes rather nice cakes.

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Wednesday 21 June 2023

BLOG TOUR: Maybe Tomorrow - Penny Parkes

A story of friendship, possibilities and hope that maybe tomorrow will be brighter than today . . .

Jamie Matson had once enjoyed a wonderful life working alongside her best friend, organising adventures for single-parent families, and her son Bo’s artistic flair a source of pride rather than concern.

She hadn’t been prepared to lose her business, her home and her friend. Not all in one dreadful year.

Jamie certainly hadn’t expected to find such hope and camaraderie in the queue at her local food bank. Thrown together with an unlikely and colourful group of people, their friendships flourish and, finding it easier to be objective about each other than about themselves, they decide that – when you’re all out of options – it’s okay to bend the rules a little and create your own.

What a difference a year could make . . . 

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, Penny Parkes, what a rollercoaster of emotions you have just taken me on; I laughed, cried and everything in between whilst reading this delightful book.

Maybe Tomorrow is set in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and single mum Jamie has been hit harder than most as she lost her business partner and friend to Covid, which led to her losing her job and consequently her home.  Struggling to make ends meet, Jamie has no option but to take a minimum wage job in an artisan supermarket but she has to visit the local food bank to feed herself and her son Bo.

Bo completely stole my heart; I absolutely adored him.  There's nothing wrong with being different and it really annoys me when people try to attach labels to others.  Good on Jamie for standing up for her son and fighting for what's best for him.  She may be down, but she's not out; especially where Bo is concerned.

Friendship and community plays a huge part in the book and it was so lovely to see friendships develop in the most difficult of circumstances.  There are a lot of pearls of wisdom in Maybe Tomorrow and one that stayed with me the most is the fact that it's not a weakness to ask for help.

Heartfelt and poignant, Maybe Tomorrow is a beautiful story that is gently paced but completely compelling and I loved every single page of it.  A highly recommended read.

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

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Friday 16 June 2023

Taking Flight: The Evolutionary Story of Life on the Wing - Lev Parikian

This is the miracle of flight as you’ve never seen it before: the evolutionary story of life on the wing.

A bird flits overhead. It’s an everyday occurrence, repeated hundreds, thousands, millions of times daily by creatures across the world. It’s something so normal, so entirely taken for granted, that sometimes we forget how extraordinary it is. But take that in for a moment. This animal flies. It. Flies. The miracle of flight has evolved in hugely diverse ways, with countless variations of flapping and gliding, hovering and diving, murmurating and migrating.

Conjuring lost worlds, ancient species and ever-shifting ecologies, this exhilarating new book is a mesmerising encounter with fourteen flying species: from the first fluttering insect of 300 million years ago to the crested pterosaurs of the Mesozoic Era, from hummingbirds that co-evolved with rainforest flowers to the wonders of dragonfly, albatross, pipistrelle and monarch butterfly with which we share the planet today.

Taking Flight is a mind-expanding feat of the imagination, a close encounter with flight in its myriad forms, urging us to look up and drink in the spectacle of these gravity-defying marvels that continue to shape life on Earth.

What did I think?

Taking Flight is as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside; the cover actually shimmers with the image of a mayfly spread over the front and back cover.  I think it is one of the most accessible and enjoyable non-fiction books I have ever read.  Lev Parikian could be a comedian; I don't think I have ever laughed so much when reading and I'm including humorous books in that statement.

There is a lot of information covered in the 14 chapters and it's a book you could dip in and out of, but it is so entertaining to read (especially the hilarious footnotes) that I couldn't help but read 'just one more chapter'.  I learned so much about flight and I have never felt more insignificant as a human being when reading about these fascinating species.

The chapters cover: mayfly, dragonfly, beetle, fly, bee, butterfly, pterosaur, archaeopteryx, penguin, goose, hummingbird, albatross, pigeon and bat.  Every single chapter is fascinating and I learned something new in each one from the amazing journey of the butterfly to the best way to catch a fly (it really works - thanks, Lev!).

Informative, entertaining and engrossing, Taking Flight is simply magnificent and I can't recommend it highly enough.  It's an easy five stars and it's a book that is going on my 'to be read again' shelf, which doesn't happen often with non-fiction.  

Many thanks to Elliott & Thompson for sending me a beautiful hardback that I chose to read; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Monday 12 June 2023

BLOG TOUR: The Last Lifeboat - Hazel

September 1940. 
In the immediate aftermath of a U-boat attack on an evacuee ship, one lifeboat of terrified  survivors endures a fierce storm in the Atlantic. 

May 1940. 
Four months earlier, two very different women – Alice King, a teacher, and Lily Nicholls, a young  widow- confront life-changing choices as Britain prepares for German invasion and the  devastating Blitz bombing raids begin. 

In Kent, Alice sees a chance to play a part in the war and volunteers as an escort on the ‘seavac’  ships; in London Lily faces the agonizing decision of whether to keep her children with her as  the Blitz begins, or send them to safety in Canada. 

The dramatic events of one fateful night in the mid-Atlantic, and the eight unimaginable days  that follow, bind the two women together in the most devastating way…

What did I think?

The Last Lifeboat should be printed with reinforced waterproof pages as I wasn't just virtually gripped, I was physically gripping the pages as I willed the survivors to hang on.  I was completely moved throughout and I was completely overcome with emotion as I turned the final page and audibly exclaimed: 'That was fantastic'.

This heartbreaking historical fiction novel is based on a true story and, although I had heard of children being evacuated to the countryside during World War II, I don't recall hearing about them being shipped to Canada, America and Australia.  Even more shocking then, is never learning about the sinking of the SS City of Benares by a German torpedo in the Atlantic.  Hazel Gaynor puts that right by bringing this haunting story to light.

I lived and breathed every second of this book and I felt a complete wealth of emotions as I experienced the war from various perspectives.  From the difficult decisions made by parents to send their children so far away to the fear of the nightly bombing and hoping that their children were safe.  It must have been so difficult for all concerned and it completely broke me as I experienced every emotion with them.

Devastatingly breathtaking, incredibly poignant and completely stunning, The Last Lifeboat is a beautiful written haunting novel that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page and dried your tears.  I will certainly never forget it and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes one of my most recommended books; I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.

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

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About the author:

Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning, New York Times, USA Today, and Irish Times bestselling author of historical fiction, including her debut The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter was shortlisted for the 2019 HWA Gold Crown award, and The Bird in the Bamboo Cage was shortlisted for the 2020 Irish Book Awards. She is published in twenty languages and twenty-seven countries. Hazel lives in Kildare with her family.

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Tuesday 6 June 2023

BLOG TOUR: Rendered Incapable (The Quirk Files Book 4) - A B Morgan

Peddyr and Connie Quirk head for the Isle of Man, hoping for a well-deserved break from their private investigation business. However, in an underhand move by Peddyr’s cousin Superintendent Eddie Cadogan, their hotel booking is changed, and they are redirected to Hodge Fell Farm with its farm shop, butchery, cafĂ©, and quaint holiday cottages.
When they meet their hosts - including a certain Nick Popadopoulos - a relaxing holiday of bracing walks by the sea is quickly replaced by pigs, adultery, soap-making, drag queens, smoked sausages, scams and skulduggery. In their quest to work out what despicable scheme Nick has underway, Peddyr and Connie soon realise that not everyone is being honest with them. Time is not on their side, and they must rely on their wits to act before someone gets away with murder.

What did I think?

I started reading The Quirk Files at book 3 so Rendered Incapable is definitely a book you can read as a standalone and it's a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.  I love husband and wife private investigators Peddyr and Connie Quirk whose individual skills complement each other and they always get to the bottom of the mystery.

Set on the Isle of Man, where Peddyr is from, I really enjoyed my virtual exploration of the island but this wouldn't be a Quirk Files book without a mystery to solve.  The Quirks' holiday soon turns into an investigation when Peddyr's cousin convinces him to look into one of the local residents. Nick Popadopoulos.

The book begins with Nick in a bit of a predicament and if I felt sorry for him at the start, I certainly changed my mind pretty sharpish as the story unfolds.  Just what is he up to?  No good, that's what!  As if his wandering eye isn't bad enough, it's pretty scary to see what lengths he will go to in order to get what he wants.

Very intricately plotted and written with a lot of humour, Rendered Incapable is incredibly entertaining.  Even just Connie's version of Nick's surname is enough to still make me laugh when I think about it.  There's a lot going on in the book but it never gets confusing and I love how it all comes together at the end.  It's a cracking read and one I'm happy to recommend.

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

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Saturday 3 June 2023

The Street - Susi Holliday

Their neighbours welcomed them with open arms. Now they’ve vanished without a trace.

Anna and Peter desperately need to escape London for a fresh start. And they’ve found just the place: a perfect house on a perfect street in a perfect new development on the Scottish coast. But before they’ve even unpacked, they discover that the community they’ve moved into might be keeping secrets of its own…

Eager to fit in, Anna and Peter spend their first evening with their new neighbours, a couple who turn up on their doorstep to welcome them with open arms. But when Anna pops over the next morning to thank them for their hospitality, there’s no answer. The house is bare and unoccupied, and the neighbours have vanished without a trace. What’s more, everybody else on the street is convinced that no one ever lived there at all.

As she battles a growing obsession with the mystery, Anna finds herself becoming increasingly paranoid. She thought she’d escaped her own troubled past, but as the truth catches up with her, life starts to unravel. Maybe she’s not the only resident of The Street with something to hide…

What did I think?

I was hooked from the start when I picked up The Street and I couldn't put it down; it's SO intriguing and gets darker and darker as you start to work out what's going on.

There's something not quite right about Anna and Peter's relationship but my interest in that had to be put on the back burner as the freaky street they had moved to took centre stage.  The residents are all strange and a little creepy and the only normal ones seem to be the next door neighbours who disappear without trace overnight.  

I didn't really like Anna or Peter but I did feel sorry for Anna as she starts to feel like she's losing her mind.  Good on her for sticking to her guns though and trying to uncover the secrets of the street, although she doesn't realise how much danger it is putting her in.  I can't say any more for fear of revealing any of the plot and spoiling it for others.

Brilliantly written and filled with tension and suspense, The Street is a massively intriguing mystery that kept me riveted from start to finish.

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

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