Thursday 29 February 2024

The Long and Winding Road - Lesley Pearse

One of the world’s bestselling storytellers, Lesley Pearse writes brilliantly about survivors. Why? Because she is one herself . . .

Born during the Second World War, Lesley’s innocence came to an abrupt end when a neighbour found her, aged 3, coatless in the snow. The mother she’d been unable to wake had been dead for days. Sent to an orphanage, Lesley soon learned adults couldn’t always be trusted.

As a teenager in the swinging sixties, she took herself to London. Here, the second great tragedy of her life occurred. Falling pregnant, she was sent to a mother and baby home, and watched helplessly as her newborn was taken from her.

But like so many of her generation, Lesley had to carry on. She was, after all, a true survivor. Marriage and children followed – and all the while she nurtured a dream: to be a writer. Yet it wasn’t until at the age of 48 that her stories – of women struggling in a difficult world – found a publisher, and the bestseller lists beckoned.

As heartbreaking as it is heartwarming, Lesley’s story really is A Long and Winding Road with surprises and uplifting hope around every corner . . .

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, The Long and Winding Road by Lesley Pearse is a memoir filled with more drama than a whole series of Eastenders.  No wonder Lesley Pearse has written so many books, she has so much material from her own experiences.

If it didn't have 'My Autobiography' printed on the front cover, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a work of fiction.  It is a story that is filled with so much warmth and character that it is incredibly easy to read and incredibly difficult to put down.

Lesley Pearse doesn't dwell on life's hurdles and her own heartbreak, she turns them into stories that have captivated readers for decades.  I felt like a sponge as I absorbed all of Lesley's life events and I was so saturated at the end that I shed a few tears...but, in true Lesley Pearse style, they were tears of happiness.

The Long and Winding Road is a truly captivating and inspirational memoir and I couldn't give it a sparkle less than 5 stars.  Very highly recommended.

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

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Tuesday 27 February 2024

BLOG TOUR: New Gillion Street - Elliot J Harper


Straight-laced and content with the comforts of his home on politically-neutral Neo-Yuthea, Albert Smith leads a quiet and unremarkable life. His days are filled with sipping tea with his beloved wife and tending to his cherished garden—a picture of tranquillity in an otherwise chaotic universe. Little does he know that destiny has extraordinary plans in store for him.

When Mr. Zand, an agent of extra-terrestrial chaos, launches his mayoral campaign, the once peaceful colony faces uncertain and unsettling times.  Striking deaths attributed to mysterious forest creatures, forced arranged marriages, and a looming threat of suppressing secret garden meetings propel the community toward the edge of turmoil. In the face of this encroaching darkness, Albert and his neighbours must band together to resist oppression and fight for their freedom before their world collapses.

What did I think?

Well you don't get more escapism from a book than one set in a fictional world and, although New Gillion Street is a little outside of my reading comfort zone, I really enjoyed my virtual visit to Neo-Yuthea.

The Odds and the Evens of New Gillion Street have been living in relative harmony until one of the Odds decides to appoint himself as mayor.  Mr. Zand is an evil little man but he seems to have the Odds wrapped around his little finger and he wins a landslide election.  Then the full extent of his tyranny is revealed...

Albert Smith just wants to live a peaceful life with his wife and children but he stands up for what he believes in, even if that means disagreeing with Mr. Zand.  Good on you, Albert!  Albert's willingness to accept other beings, whatever their appearance, stands him in good stead and also introduces the reader to a fabulous talking gnome.

The world of Neo-Yuthea is beautifully portrayed through Elliot J Harper's vivid prose and I had a clear picture in my mind of New Gillion Street and the unknown area beyond its boundary.  It took me a little while to get into the story as I don't read a lot of speculative fiction but I really got behind Albert's fight to save his community.

Highly original and incredibly imaginative, New Gillion Street is a very entertaining novel with a strong sense of community at its heart.  A recommended read for fans of fantasy or science fiction and anyone looking for something a little different.

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

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About the author:

Elliot J Harper is a speculative fiction writer who lives in Leeds, England with his wife, Naomi. His short story, In the Garden, won The Molotov Cocktail magazines' Flash Vision 2021 contest. 

He has short stories in print as follows:
The Curious Case of the Speaking Telegraph in the Spirit Machine: Tales of Seance Fiction & Into the Forest in The Wild Hunt: Stories of the Chase by Air and Nothingness Press, There's a Dead Bear in the Pool in Black Telephone Issue 1 by Clash Books, and Blackout in The Protest Issue of Popshot Quarterly Magazine. He has various short stories online in Maudlin House, Storgy, Neon Books, Coffin Bell, Horrified Magazine and Idle Ink. 

His monthly blog, A Brief Chat, hosts interviews with publishers, magazines, authors, and other creatives.

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Monday 26 February 2024

BLOG TOUR: The Perfect Parents - J. A. Baker

Jackson and Lydia Hemsworth are pillars of the community, feted for having the perfect marriage and three wonderful children – Florence, Jessica and Ezra.

But appearances can be deceptive.

Because behind closed doors Jackson Hemsworth rules his family with cruelty and control. His marriage is a sham; his children for years have cowed in fear.

Until the day that Jackson and Lydia throw themselves off Newport Bridge in a joint suicide pact – the final cruel blow by Jackson to control his wife and torture his adult children.

As the Hemsworth siblings return to their family home, they must try to make sense of their parents’ last act. But there are many dark secrets waiting to be unearthed at Armett House.

Like, why are the townsfolk so suddenly hostile towards them? And who are the strangers who arrive at Armett House unannounced? And why has their mother’s body still not been found?

In the aftermath of their parents’ death, it becomes clear that something terrible is about to be exposed about the Hemsworths’ perfect parents.

A secret they may all wish had stayed hidden…

What did I think?

I've read enough J. A. Baker books to know that the parents in a book titled The Perfect Parents are going to be anything but perfect parents.  Just what sort of parents jump off a bridge for a start?

Three siblings return to the family home after the shock of their parents' suicide.  There is only one funeral to arrange though as their mother's body has not been recovered and the children aren't about to shed many tears over the death of their father.  The people in the town aren't upset about Jackson Hemsworth's demise and there is outright hostility at the funeral.  Just what has he done and why did he kill himself?

It does sometimes get a little confusing as to who is who, especially when the secrets start to be spilled and my poor old tired brain tried to understand the links and repercussions. This is probably because I only read my kindle in bed at night, so I'm sure a more alert brain would have no such issues.

This book is chock-a-block full of secrets and I couldn't read fast enough to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Hemsworths and Armett House.  There are lots of shocks and surprises in store for the reader and I had a veritable gasp out loud moment after one such shock.  I absolutely love books filled with secrets so I really enjoyed The Perfect Parents.

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:

J. A. Baker is a successful psychological thriller writer of numerous books, previously published by Bloodhound. Born and brought up in Middlesbrough, she still lives in the North East, which inspires the settings for her books. Her first title for Boldwood was published in December 2022.

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Sunday 25 February 2024

The Stranger in Her House - John Marrs

Paul’s just here to help, or so he claims—sent by a charity for vulnerable people to do odd jobs for elderly widow Gwen. But for Gwen’s daughter Connie, there’s just something about Paul that rings alarm bells from day one. He’s a little too kind, a little too involved…Worse still, Gwen seems to have fallen under his spell.

The last thing Connie wants is a stranger meddling in the safe routine she’s built around Gwen. She loves being the one Gwen turns to for cooking, cleaning and company. But the more Paul visits, the more Gwen is relying on him. By the time he conveniently finds himself between homes and has no choice but to move in, Connie is certain he’s trying to push her out completely.

It’s her word against his, though, and as her attempts to unmask him become ever more desperate she’s not the only one left wondering if she’s lost her grip on reality. But when events start spiralling rapidly out of her control, should Connie wage all-out war on Paul and risk losing Gwen forever—or has that been his plan all along?

What did I think?

Wow this book is so twisty!  The Stranger in Her House is an absolute cracker!  I've read a few John Marrs books and I think that this is his best one yet.

Gwen has her daughter Connie looking after her and she is getting help from a charity in the form of Paul Michael who is doing odd jobs around the house.  With two caring people looking after her, Gwen is luckier than a lot of people who suffer from dementia...or is she?  It is clear that all is not as it appears and something dark and dangerous is hiding beneath the surface.  The reader is immediately compelled to take sides: are you on Team Connie or Team Paul? 

I'm not going to say any more about the plot as it could spoil it for others but just when I thought I had it all worked out, John Marrs pulled the rug out from under me.  In the blink of an eye I went from feeling smug (Ha! I've worked this one out!) to catching flies in my dropped jaw.  Well played, Mr Marrs, well played!

The Stranger in Her House is twisty, gripping and blooming scary at times, pick this book up at your peril; you'll not be able to put it down until you finish it!  I'd like to see how John Marrs follows this absolute belter of a book.  Very highly recommended.

I received an ARC for the Tandem Collective readalong and it was torture reading it in instalments!  This is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Friday 23 February 2024

BLOG TOUR: The Memory of Us - Dani Atkins

If you can't trust your head, can you trust your heart?

If she had been found moments later, Amelia's heart would have stopped and never recovered. Instead she was taken from the desolate beach to the nearest hospital just in time to save her life. When her sister Lexi arrives from New York, Amelia's heart is beating, but the accident has implanted a series of false memories. These memories revolve around a man named Sam, and a perfect love story that never existed.

Determined to help her sister, Lexi enlists the help of Nick, a local vet who bears a striking resemblance to Sam. Together, Lexi and Nick recreate and photograph Amelia's dream dates in the hopes of triggering her true memories.

But as love starts to stir between Lexi and Nick, they must navigate a complex web of emotions. How can Lexi fall for Amelia's dream man without hurting her sister?

Filled with breathtaking romance, heart-wrenching emotion, the magic of destiny and the power of sisterhood, The Memory of Us is a must-read for fans of Holly Miller and Colleen Hoover.

What did I think?

Dani Atkins is one of my favourite authors so I was delighted to get an invitation to join the blog tour for new noveI, The Memory of Us.  Oh my word, this beautiful book broke me into a million pieces and I didn't simply cry, I sobbed through the second half of it.  I had to put the book down on numerous occasions to dry my eyes or the book would've ended up in as soggy a mess as I was.

A phone call in the middle of the night is never good news and Lexi jumps on the first available plane home to visit her sister Amelia in hospital.  Amelia is lucky to be alive but she's not the same girl as she was before her accident; Amelia thinks that she has a husband called Sam but her family know that Sam doesn't exist.  

It's heartbreaking when Amelia looks to the door of her room every time she hears footsteps in the corridor but she is waiting for a man who will never appear.  Upset and frustrated by her family's doubts about Sam's existence, Amelia draws a picture of him and in a strange twist of fate Lexi meets Nick, who looks just like Amelia's drawing.

This book is filled with so much love that it bursts out of the pages and I absorbed every drop of it into my heart.  I cared about the characters so much that I couldn't contain my emotions and I was so riveted to the book that I kept trying to read even when my eyes were blurring with tears.

The Memory of Us is a beautiful and unforgettable multifaceted love story that is filled with emotion.  I simply adored it and I plan to read it again, although I'm sure I will still cry my eyes out at the same points of the story.  I really can't recommend it highly enough and make sure you have a box of tissues handy when you read it.

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

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Thursday 15 February 2024

False Summit (A Tyler Zahn Novel Book 2) - Cam Torrens

Chaffee County Search & Rescue is known for finding lost people in the Rocky Mountain backcountry. But they've never lost one of their own before.

Cam Torrens, author of Stable, has written another psychological thriller that will have readers racing to answer the question...what happened to Kristee Li?

Veteran pilot Tyler Zahn is finally recovering from the tragedies that cost him his family and drove him from the Air Force, when his best friend, Kristee Li, disappears on a remote search and rescue mission. A massive effort to find her fails. No clues. No body. Kristee is presumed dead.

A fellow team member claims the disappearance is no accident and Zahn begins to question what really happened in the mountains. Who would have wanted Kristee dead? More importantly...why? Plagued with grief, Zahn probes for answers while slowly slipping into the familiar depression he's worked so hard to escape.

False Summit proves when it comes to money, sexuality, and cultural norms, the truth is in short supply. 

What did I think?

I absolutely loved the first Tyler Zahn novel, Stable, so I was very excited to read the follow up, False Summit, and I was not disappointed.

Set in the Rocky Mountains, the mountainous location is almost a character in itself as it holds the answer to the question on everyone's lips: what happened to Tyler Zahn's Search & Rescue colleague Kristee Li.

The disappearance of Kristee is the hook that reeled me in immediately but it's the gradual revealing of the days leading up to her disappearance that kept me riveted.  There are so many different strands to her story and I absolutely loved putting her life under a virtual microscope to piece together her last known movements.  

I love Tyler Zahn's dogged determination to never give up, even when the Sheriff warns him to stop investigating.  Kristee is his friend and if you want anyone in your corner, it's Tyler Zahn.  It's clear that there is more to Kristee's disappearance than anyone first thought and a few of the characters in Kristee's life are hiding something so they don't want the police poking around too much.  They didn't bargain on Tyler Zahn though and he's not going to give up until he finds out the truth.

False Summit is a novel that held me in an icy grip from start to finish.  It's so cleverly written that I simply couldn't read fast enough to get to what actually happened on the mountain and it left me on tenterhooks for book 3.
Many thanks to Cam Torrens for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Monday 12 February 2024

BLOG TOUR: Token - Beverley Kendall

Kennedy Mitchell is brilliant, beautiful and tired of being the only Black woman in the room.

Two years ago, she was plucked from reception for a seat at the boardroom table in the name of “representation”. Rather than play along, she and her best friend founded Token, a boutique PR agency that helps diversity-challenged companies and celebrities. With famous people getting into reputation-damaging controversies, Token is in high demand and business is booming, but when her ex shows up needing help repairing his reputation, things get even more complicated and soon Kennedy finds herself drawn into a PR scandal of her own.

What did I think?

Token is a book that I have not been able to stop thinking about, long after I read the final page.  It highlights and explores so many different prejudices that I found both shocking and sobering.

Kennedy is the right sex and colour required to secure a new client for the company where she is working as a temporary receptionist.  The ruse works and the company have their important new client but, what is most shocking, is that I can totally see companies doing this.  This devious trickery gives Kennedy the idea for a new business where she can help companies to diversify or at least give the illusion of doing so.

Although I questioned the ethics of her business model, I absolutely loved Kennedy Mitchell; she has really had to work hard to get where she is but whilst she may be a successful businesswoman she is not quite so successful in love.  I think her own prejudices about herself hold her back from revealing her true feelings to the man she loves.

I was hooked from the very first page and I just knew that I was going to love the strong and sassy main character of Kennedy.  There are lots of serious thought-provoking subjects to ponder and reflect on later as well as some steamy sex scenes that had me reaching to turn down the thermostat.  

Token is a fresh, modern and powerful novel that completely captivated me from start to finish.  I am 100% invested in the characters and can't wait for Beverley Kendall's next novel after reading the sneaky peek at the end of the book.  An important and 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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Tuesday 6 February 2024

BLOG TOUR: Blood Ribbons (Steph Grant Murder Mystery Series Book 4) - Lin Le Versha

Arnhem 1944
British paratroopers launch one of the most audacious plans of the Second World War – Operation Market Garden. Private Duncan Shaw records his experiences as his unit fights desperately to capture a vital bridge from the Germans.

Arnhem, Present Day
Duncan’s great granddaughter Zoe retraces his steps as part of a college project to accompany veterans of the battle and record their experiences. What Zoe doesn’t anticipate is uncovering a series of disturbing family secrets, some with deadly consequences.

Another dangerous case for Steph and Hale
A body is found tangled in the rushes on the banks of the Rhine, close to the river boat where former police officer, Steph Grant, and her partner, Chief Inspector Philip Hale, are chaperoning students from the college where she now works. Working with Dutch police, the pair investigate further, and quickly discover that no one is safe – be they pupils, veterans or staff.

What did I think?

Blood Ribbons is the fourth book in the Steph Grant Murder Mystery series but it can be read as a standalone.  Although the characters are familiar to fans of the series, it has its own contained storyline and it's a real good 'un.

The college that Steph works at are planning to write a book to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, which was the World War II battle for the bridge at Arnhem that inspired the film A Bridge Too Far.  One of the students has a personal link to the battle and she shares poignant extracts from her great grandfather's journal.

With Steph and Hale around, there's bound to be a dead body or two and the pair find themselves investigating once again.  The plot is very clever as Lin Le Versha catches the reader in a pincer movement with both a present day and a past mystery to solve.  I was completely riveted by both strands of the story and I simply couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

Of course it wouldn't be a Steph Grant book without an appearance from Derek, her faithful hound.  Derek may not make an appearance until towards the end of the book but it's definitely quality over quantity as he has a big part to play in the story.

Blood Ribbons is an outstanding murder mystery that had me on the edge of my seat throughout.  The historical element is beautifully and sensitively portrayed and I found it quite emotional and poignant.   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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Sunday 4 February 2024

BLOG TOUR: The Philosophy of Love - Rebecca Ryan

What is love? Is it something spiritual or wholly physical? Can our feelings be explained and quantified? Or are we all actually two halves of a whole?

Ask Alice and Luke and you’d receive vastly different answers.

Despite her world having been recently dismantled by a messy break-up, Alice would tell you that love is the most important – albeit ineffable – human experiences. But when she once again crosses paths with her old school nemesis, Luke, he challenges this. Luke is a scientist and he’s certain love can be measured and explained – just like everything else.

So the two decide to make a bet: they’ll each venture back into dating and if one of them falls in love, Alice wins, if not, then Luke does.

But can anyone win when you’re playing with emotions?

What did I think?

I absolutely loved Rebecca Ryan's debut novel, My (extra)Ordinary Life, so I was very excited to read her new book, The Philosophy of Love.  Well, just imagine my delight when I found out that it was set just a few miles down the road in Easington Colliery.  What a lovely surprise!

After breaking up with her boyfriend, who was also her boss, Alice suddenly finds herself homeless and unemployed.  So, she packs her meagre belongings and leaves London to live with her parents in a little village in County Durham.  It's not long before Alice bumps into her old schoolfriend Luke and the sexual tension between them virtually sizzles off the page, although neither of them can see it; they're too busy trying to win a bet about love.

The chemistry between Alice and Luke is like a smouldering candle just waiting for a little draught of air to ignite it, but the last place that Alice thinks to look for love is right in front of her.  Of course it would have been a very short story if she had fallen for Luke right away!

As well as the wonderful romance, there's a really strong sense of family and community in the book as the villagers all come together to save their local community centre.  I loved how Alice's family all rallied around her, along with her friends new and old.  Village life in the north-east is depicted beautifully in this book as well as the warmth and friendliness of the people in the region.

Rebecca Ryan admits to using a lot of artistic license to recreate Easington for her readers and her writing is so wonderfully vivid that it really brings the village to life.  Whilst I understand the need to change and embellish some things in the village, it's a shame that the names of a north-east landmark and university were changed.  It didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book at all though, it's just that I get a kick out of seeing places I know in print. 
Funny, flirty and completely captivating, The Philosophy of Love is filled with north-eastern charm and wit and it delighted me from start to finish.  Rebecca Ryan is certainly one to watch and I definitely consider myself a fan.

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

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Thursday 1 February 2024

What Hides in the Cupboards - Cassondra Windwalker

Following a traumatic accident, ceramic artist Hesper Dunn trades life in Chicago for the enchanted deserts of New Mexico. But not all is quaint, and it’s far from what it seems. There’s a mystery buried deep in the heart of her new home.

Love, guilt, and grief demand that Hesper remain within the haunted pueblo. To free herself, she must free the trapped spirits…but the creatures lurking in the shadows are not what they appear. Hesper dares to wade through the murky fog of tragedy to uncover the truth. A truth that will be harder to handle than she ever dared imagine.

What did I think?

I've been a fan of Cassondra Windwalker's writing since I read her unforgettable novel, Idle Hands, so I was delighted to get the chance to read an early copy of her latest novel, What Hides in the Cupboards.  

You never know what to expect with a Cassondra Windwalker novel so I am purposefully keeping my review brief to avoid spoilers.  You know from the cover that this is going to be a creepy novel but it's so very clever and also unexpectedly moving.

I loved the main character, Hesper and really felt her pain as she struggles to deal with her own demons as well as the spooky young boy who haunts her new house.  I was completely riveted as I raced through the pages to uncover who or what the boy is and I had an actual gasp out loud and a lump in my throat at the end.

The writing is absolutely exquisite and I often had to stop reading for just a moment to fully appreciate the breathtaking perfection of the words.  It's a book that both creeped me out and broke my heart - I loved it!    

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