Tuesday 30 January 2024

How to Find a Missing Girl - Victoria Wlosok


A year ago, beloved cheerleader Stella Blackthorn vanished without a trace. Devastated, her younger sister, Iris, launched her own investigation, but all she managed to do was scare off the police's only lead and earn a stern warning: once she turns eighteen, more meddling means prison-level consequences.

Then, a year later, the unthinkable happens. Iris's ex-girlfriend, Heather, goes missing, too-just after dropping the polarizing last episode of her true crime podcast all about Iris's sister. This time, nothing will stop Iris and her amateur sleuthing agency from solving these disappearances.

But with a suspicious detective watching her every move, an enemy-turned-friend-turned-maybe-more to contend with, and only thirty days until she turns eighteen, it's a race against the clock for Iris to solve the most dangerous case of her life.
 

What did I think?

I really enjoyed this book from start to finish.  I loved the inclusion of podcast transcripts and the amateur sleuths that reminded me of the Scooby Gang (even before they decided on their Halloween outfits).

Something bad is happening at Hillwood; one missing girl is considered a runaway, but two missing girls make Iris and her friends investigate their disappearances.  Iris has a vested interest as her sister was the first to disappear and the second girl is her ex-girlfriend.  I couldn’t read fast enough to discover whether Iris would find out who is behind the disappearances or whether she would become a target herself.

The writing is fresh and vibrant as Victoria Wlosok draws such vivid scenes with her wonderful words and I was completely drawn into the story.  I really cared about Iris and her friends and I loved their own unique characters.

Gripping, fresh and compelling, How to Find a Missing Girl is an excellent debut novel from an exciting new talent in the YA genre.  Victoria Wlosok is studying at the University of North Carolina so put her on your watch list as I’m sure there are more great things to come from her. 

My rating:

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Monday 22 January 2024

Benidorm, actually - Jo Lyons


“Ladies and Gentlemen, we will shortly be arriving into Alicante. Please ensure your big lips and heavy eyebrows are securely fastened, your eyelashes are stowed in the upright position and your leg tattoos are clearly visible for landing.”

Connie Cooper’s classical music career is at a dead-end. She’s singing cheap covers to a sea of bald heads and the nearest she has been to a romantic relationship in years is watching the Bridgerton buttocks scene on a continuous loop.

The last thing she needs is to be on a flight to Benidorm with strict instructions to impress the boss of Jezebel Music. But as she tries to keep up with support band, The Dollz, and the constant flashmob dancing, the going out in less than you’d wear on the beach and their obsession with the promiscuous bearded-Nuns in the villa next door, the boss seems less and less impressed.

The clock is ticking. She’s meant to be finding her voice, not finding his brooding good-looks irresistibly attractive… How can she show him that she has what it takes to succeed?

That’s right. Instead of just being herself, she’ll follow The Dollz’ advice to dress like a low-rent stripper and impress him by pole-dancing on top of a table full of drinks.

What could go wrong?
 

What did I think?

I absolutely loved this book; it was just what I needed to banish the winter blues as it whisked me away to sunnier climes.  It's so laugh-out-loud hilarious that it should come with waterproof pages as I had tears rolling down my face on so many occasions.

I've never been to Benidorm but Jo Lyons brings the vibrant and colourful holiday resort to life between the pages of her fabulous debut novel as we follow Connie Cooper's last ditch attempt to make it in the music business.  From the minute Connie steps on the plane in Newcastle, the reader is under no illusion that is going to be a regular holiday romance type of book...not with The Dollz around anyway.

I had such a vivid picture of The Dollz in my head and their constant practising of their routines still makes me smile long after turning the final page.  They're supposed to be Connie's support act, both in the story and character weighting, however, they are so much larger than life that nothing will keep The Dollz out of the limelight.

I absolutely loved Connie though; she seems to puts her foot in it every time she opens her mouth, especially with Mr Window Seat who she is destined to run into again (quite literally) when the plane touches down in Spain. 

Filled with sun, sea, sand and singing, Benidorm, actually is an entertaining and hilarious romantic comedy.  It's a sparkling debut from Jo Lyons and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

Thursday 18 January 2024

PUBLICATION DAY PROMO: Zero Kill - M.K. Hill

 
I am thrilled to be taking part in the publication day promo for Zero Kill by M.K. Hill.  I've just finished reading this book and it's SO GOOD.  My review will follow soon but you can find out more about the book below.


A TIMES BEST NEW THRILLER PICK 

'Runs at breakneck speed through a dark and dangerous universe populated with characters who are  never what they seem' KATHLEEN KENT, author of Black Wolf 

'A perfect thriller - page-turning excitement, expert plotting, a good dose of wit, and above all a  fierce heroine you can't get enough of.' ASIA MACKAY, author of Killing It 

Meet Elsa Zero: Bad neighbour. Single mother. Ex-deep cover agent. 
And right now, the most dangerous person on Earth. 

When Elsa's dull but dedicated boyfriend proposes in a packed restaurant, she doesn't think her  evening can get any worse. But as the clock strikes midnight, her world is turned upside down. 

Suddenly Elsa is running for her life, trying to keep her children safe, and desperate to discover what  the hell is going on. 

Every intelligence agency in the world wants her dead because she's in possession of a deadly secret  – she just has to stay alive long enough to figure out what it is. 

But this is Elsa Zero we're talking about. And it's a very bad idea to get on her wrong side. 

Bursting with tension, twists and humour, this is a brilliantly unique action-thriller perfect for fans  of Killing Eve, Lee Child and people who loved watching Nobody and Hunted

Purchase Link: https://geni.us/ZKPBRRR



About the author:

M.K. Hill worked as a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer before becoming a full-time  writer. He's written the Sasha Dawson series, Ray Drake series and the highly-acclaimed psychological  thriller One Bad Thing. He lives in London. Visit him at www.mkhill.uk or find him on Twitter  @markhillwriter 

Social Media Links – 
Twitter: @markhillwriter 

The Widow's Choice - Nancy Revell


1949, County Durham.

From the Shipyards of Sunderland to Lady of the Manor . . .

When Angie marries her sweetheart Quentin and moves into Cuthford Manor to begin their new life together, she feels like the luckiest woman in the world.

But Quentin falls victim to a tragic accident and Angie's life is left devastated. Now, along with the prospect of rebuilding her life, she is faced with an impossible choice that will have far-reaching consequences for herself and those she loves most.

Angie will need to draw on the help of her family, the community of Cuthford Manor and her old friends from the shipyards if she's to find happiness again.
 

What did I think?

I've wanted to read one of Nancy Revell's novels in The Shipyards Girls series since I realised they were set locally in Sunderland and I finally have a Nancy Revell novel in my hands in the form of The Widow's Choice.  There are 12 books in the series that finished in 2022 but The Widow's Choice revisits some of the main characters so fans of the series could see what happens next and new readers would be tempted to see what happened earlier.  

Although the characters are new to me I felt as if I'd known them for years.  I felt Angie's pain at her devastating loss and could totally understand why she wanted to make a new start but memories are more than bricks and mortar.  Luckily, she has her shipyard girls around her to support her through her difficult time.

Angie may be the mistress of Cuthford Manor but it's a title that she doesn't feel she is entitled to and this isn't helped by her devious mother in law who is determined to get her hands on the manor for herself.  There are secrets aplenty to discover in this engaging family saga and I was surprised to find myself researching some true stories that I had never heard of before.

Heartbreaking, heartwarming and completely uplifting, The Widow's Choice has it all: strong female characters, devastating family secrets and a bucketful of emotions.  I am now more than tempted to read The Shipyard Girls series, in fact I feel compelled to do so after encountering these colourful characters for the first time in The Widow's Choice.  

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

My rating:

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Wednesday 17 January 2024

BLOG TOUR: Betrothal & Betrayal (The Empress Irini series Book 1) - Janet McGiffin


Seventeen-year-old Thekla needs her quick wits and knife to track down her betrothed, a soldier who has left her at the altar for the third time. Elias the monk travels with her to Constantinople where she meets Irini of Athens, an extraordinarily beautiful orphan her same age who has been brought by powerful Emperor Constantine to marry his son, Co-Emperor Leon. The two women join forces to survive this vigorous capital of the Roman Empire of the East which is rocked by religious and political strife. But will Thekla help the ambitious and ruthless Irini of Athens find the power that she craves?


What did I think?

Betrothal & Betrayal is set in 8th century Greece and this is a period of history I knew nothing about until I turned the pages of this fabulous book.  With a 17 year-old protagonist, it's in the YA genre but it's hugely enjoyable for adults too.

Thekla is a very strong female character and you certainly don't want to mess with her as she has a knife and she's not afraid to use it.  When her groom doesn't turn up for the wedding, she sets off to Constantinople to find him.  Myrizikos either needs to marry her or break off the betrothal, but Thekla finds that looking for her betrothed is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

What I loved most about this story (apart from Thekla herself) is the real historical figures in the cast of characters.  There is also an actual cast of characters list in the back of the book, which proves really useful as I sometimes lost track of who was who.  I was also delighted to find maps of the Roman Empire and Constantinople at the beginning of the book.

As Thekla is the main character, you could be forgiven for forgetting that this is the Empress Irini series and Irini's part grows bigger as the book progresses.  Irini is another strong female character and again, she is one I wouldn't want to cross.  Irini is married to the Emperor's heir and she is determined to become Empress, despite some devious attempts by other members of the Emperor's household to send her back to Athens.

Entertaining, enlightening and evocative, Betrothal & Betrayal is a wonderfully vivid piece of historical fiction that brings 8th century Constantinople to life and I really enjoyed my virtual visit.  I can't wait to read more of the series to see what happens to Thekla.

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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Amazon




About the author:

Janet McGiffin divides her time between her apartment in Manhattan, her family in Washington State, and her friends in Athens, Greece. She was born in Fairfield, Iowa into a newspaper family and learned to write copy as a teenager by writing obituaries for the Ellensburg Daily Record in Washington state. After university, she worked for the Milwaukee Health Department where she gained first-hand knowledge for her best-selling mystery series published by Fawcett Press, NY, featuring Doctor Maxine St. Clair, an ER doctor in an inner-city hospital. She worked as a press officer for the Washington state senate, then moved to Athens, Greece where she wrote grant proposals for small non-profit women’s organizations in Mediterranean countries. She also wrote a humor column for the Athens News newspaper with field archaeologist Adrian Vrettos, wrote two English language easy readers for Cambridge University Press, UK, and a series of hiking articles for greecetravel.com. She researched her Byzantine-era Empress Irini Series through extensive travel in Greece, followed by six months of research at the Bodleian libraries in Oxford, England. She enjoys hiking in Greece, England, Wales, and Scotland.




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Tuesday 16 January 2024

BLOG TOUR: Return to Half Moon Farm - Holly Hepburn


Discover the beautiful, escapist new novel from beloved author, Holly Hepburn...

When Daisy’s mother falls ill she is forced to return home. With her twin sons in tow, she moves back to Half Moon Farm, her family’s ancient hop farm.  

But a new life in the Kent countryside isn’t necessarily as idyllic as it might seem. Daisy’s relationship with her mother is complicated and the tumbledown farm isn’t the only thing that needs rebuilding. Daisy and her sons must adjust to life with estranged family, a leaking roof, and no WiFi.

Luckily for Daisy, she might yet find some distraction in silver fox farmer, Drew, or in the haughty heir to the nearby estate, Kit, who she can’t seem to avoid.

Daisy must learn to juggle her new life, the boys, and the daunting task of updating the farm. But there are secrets lurking in her family’s past that might throw everything into further disarray…
 

What did I think?

Return to Half Moon Farm is a truly gorgeous Holly Hepburn novel.  It's like a modern day fairy tale with a castle and an earl's brother instead of a prince and I absolutely loved it.

DivorcĂ©e Daisy and her twin boys are temporarily moving to the picturesque village of Mistlethorpe to look after her estranged mother.  The last thing Daisy is looking for is romance but there are two love interests vying for her attention: mistletoe farmer Drew and spare to the heir Kit.  Which one, if any, will win her heart?

There's also the mystery of a long standing family feud between the Moons of Half Moon Farm and the Devereauxs of Winterbourne Castle.  As Daisy gets to know Kit Devereaux she might just get to the bottom of why the two families fell out all those years ago.  I absolutely adored how this mystery was woven seamlessly into the storyline, even though my heart was breaking as the past was gradually revealed.

I love how Holly Hepburn writes magical romances that aren't just filled with moonlight and roses but also real life challenges.  Daisy is trying to rebuild her relationship with her mum whilst juggling the school run and work commitments.  The wonderfully relatable characters are far from perfect and I really enjoyed getting to know them during my virtual visit to Mistlethorpe.

Heartwarming and uplifting, Return to Half Moon Farm is a magical romance that swept me off my feet from the very first page.  It's perfect escapism and I highly recommend it.

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

My rating:

Buy it from:
Amazon




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Wednesday 10 January 2024

Every Exquisite Thing - Laura Steven


A feminist YA horror-thriller-romance retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray by the TikTok sensation and author of The Society for Soulless Girls…

Penny Paxton is the daughter of an icon. Her supermodel mother has legions of adoring fans around the world, and Penny is ready to begin her journey to international adoration, starting with joining the elite Dorian Drama School.

When Penny’s new mentor offers her an opportunity she cannot refuse, to have a portrait painted by a mysterious artist who can grant immortal beauty to all his subjects, Penny happily follows in the footsteps of Dorian’s most glittering alumni, knowing that stardom is sure to soon be hers.

But when her trusted mentor is found murdered, Penny realises she’s made a terrible mistake – a sinister someone is using the uncanny portraits to kill off the subjects one by one. As more perfectly beautiful students start to fall, Penny knows her time is running out . . .

A seductive and searing exploration of beauty, identity, and what the pursuit of perfection can truly cost.
 

What did I think?

Every Exquisite Thing is an incredibly thought-provoking and powerful novel that really makes you question why we strive for what we perceive as perfection.  It’s a modern day retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray and although I haven’t read Oscar Wilde’s classic novel, I know the premise. 

Penny Paxton is following in her mother’s footsteps when she enrols at the Dorian Drama Academy.  Penny just wants her mother to be proud of her but her mother doesn’t seem to have a maternal or caring bone in her body.  Penny strives to be perfect and when she gets the chance to freeze her image, just as she is now, she jumps at the chance.

It’s incredibly thought-provoking and really rather sad to think about what is beneath the surface of the perfect images we see on screen.  Would you rather be happy or appear to be perfect but be miserable inside?

We are all perfect in our own way and we shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells us we’re not.  There’s an incredible line in the book that is very powerful and I can’t stop thinking about it:
“I was so perfect before the world told me otherwise.”
As well as being a powerful warning about obsession with self-image, Every Exquisite Thing is a very compelling, dark and captivating story.  It’s a fantastic retelling that brings a classic novel bang up to date and into the hands of a new audience.

An unforgettable book and a highly recommended read.

My rating:

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