Monday, 14 December 2015

Behind Closed Doors - B. A. Paris - twisty genius

My thoughts

Fabulous read, a real page turner of a psychological domestic noir.

Jack and Grace - the perfect couple, recently married, in the flush of a new relationship, it's hardly surprising that they're so devoted to each other. At first I observed the relationship as others see it, their friends attending dinner parties Grace has carefully and lovingly prepared. They probably envy her - her handsome, successful and very attentive husband. She's so in love with him, she's happily given up her career to make sure he's content. She spends her days caring for their lovely designer home and looking forward to the time in the not too distant future when her younger sister Millie comes to live with them. Their guests certainly want to include her in their social lives, invitations to lunch and offers of friendship are made, despite Grace having let them down by not turning up before.

I then began to see behind the closed doors, once the guests have gone, catching glimpses of Grace's life, both when she first met Jack and in the present. There is something very off kilter but quite what it is I had yet to work out .... and that's when my blood began to run very, very, cold. From small tinkling alarm bells grow huge clangs of disbelief and as teeth clenching realisation dawns to why Grace is like she is, I couldn't put this book down. It switches between now and before with ease, painting a detailed picture of a doomed relationship that is unlike any I've come across before.

Grace is in a situation I can only pray I never end up in. At first I began to think why on earth does she put up with the things she does, but the author very cleverly covers all bases in assuring us that escaping is pretty darned impossible. Jack is evil and manipulates her effortlessly, and I kept thinking "No, for heavens sake, how far can my incredulity stretch" yet, I did end up believing this story and warmed to Grace, especially towards the latter part of the book.

I really can't say too much about this book without giving too much away. It's obvious it's about some form of abusive relationship and I went into it expecting some kind of battered wife story - Oh but this is SO much more than that. It's extremely twisty and so clever it's a work of genius.

That I loved reading this wonderful book from a talented new author is not in doubt. That Jack will haunt my nightmares for some time to come is also assured!

My gratitude goes to the folks at Netgalley for offering this advance copy for review purposes and to the publisher for granting me access to it.

The Blurb:

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace.

He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.

You’d like to get to know Grace better.

But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.
Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Sometimes, the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

Friday, 11 December 2015

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep - Joanna Cannon - The Avenue or Memory Lane?

My thoughts:

What a refreshing and enjoyable trip down memory lane this book is. It was intended to be my Christmas read this year, but reading some very complimentary advance reviews made me long to pick it up sooner and I did, and I read it and I wasn't disappointed!

Set in the long hot school summer holidays of 1976, set to go down in history as "the hot one" and make all of us over 45 repeatedly mutter "I remember when summers WERE summers", even though there was really only the one like this.

In The Avenue, a normal street on an ordinary housing estate live 2 little girls, Grace and her friend Tilly, They don't quite fit in with the other kids but it doesn't matter because they are a formidable duo, full of imagination and ideas.

When a resident of the street a Mrs Creasy goes missing one day Grace decides that she and Tilly will solve the mystery of her disappearance by finding Jesus, who of course knows everything, and as they try, in their own inimitable way, to unravel what is behind the missing woman they uncover secrets and years of cover ups and hidden flaws amongst the residents of The Avenue.

Behind the veneer of suburban respectability lurks a hint of decay, like a vase of flowers on the brink of rotting.

Every resident is harbouring some kind of secret, every person has hidden vices and not so hidden prejudices.

When and if the girls do find Jesus will he bring everyone together or tear them apart?

What unfurls is a melodic story, written in prosaic thoughts and sentences of singular beauty, the voices of the 2 young girls echoing across the intervening years and making me feel their memories were mine.

With the flavour of angel delight, pick and mix and custard creams and the sound of Hilda Ogden on tv in the background we are transported back in time watching the mystery of a missing woman unravel everybody's secrets.

What the book is about at a deeper level is not fitting in and prejudice, friendship and betrayal.

Overall it's an utterly charming and delightful read with a mystery at heart that will have you wondering more than once whether someone is a gentle sheep following the flock innocently or a feisty goat head butting their way through life.

My gratitude to the kind folks at Harper Collins publishing who made me very happy by kindly providing a proof copy for review purposes.

The Blurb

England, 1976.

Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.

And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…

Early Praise
'An utter delight’ Sarah Winman
‘A treasure chest of a novel’ Julie Cohen
‘One of the standout novels of the year’ Hannah Beckerman
‘I didn't want the book to end’ Carys Bray
‘An excellent debut’ James Hannah
‘Grace and Tilly are my new heroes’ Kate Hamer
‘A wonderful debut’ Jill Mansell
‘A modern classic in the making’ Sarah Hilary
‘A stunning debut’ Katie Fforde
‘Phenomenal’ Miranda Dickinson

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Green Room - Faith Mortimer - murder and mayhem

My thoughts:

The Green room is a stand alone thriller in the Dark Minds series by Faith Mortimer.

I found it to be a fast paced, easy to follow murder mystery which I galloped through in a couple of sittings. I just kept turning those pages to find out what was going to happen to our main protagonist Ella.

The book begins with a gruesome and violent murder - of a victim with my name! This wasn't coincidence, I "won" the chance to have my name in print by this author and I was very excited and pleased to have a character named after me. I was however rather surprised how terribly uneasy it made me feel when reading it! This added to the eerie sense of prickling at the back of my neck, though and got me in that spooked frame of mind which is the best way to feel when you're reading a thriller.

There is a serial killer on the loose in and around Guildford and the victims are all dark haired young actresses, connected with the theatre and in particular the Green Room theatre bar.

35 year old Ella, settling into her first flat of her own, is a hard working nurse, the only theatre she works in is an operating theatre so she'll be safe from this brutal serial murderer - or will she? Her boyfriend is a policeman too so she's doubly more likely to avoid becoming a victim. But things start to happen around her which have her wondering if the killer may be closer to home than she would like. A handsome but mysterious man moves into the flat next door, a work colleague is behaving strangely, her parents seem absent more than usual and her love life is on the rocks. Poor Ella, surely things can't get much worse for her? ....

What follows is the chance to watch Ella's life spiralling out of control, to think "no, no, don't go there" and to feel relieved and a touch smug that it's not actually happening to you. Ella no longer knows who she can really trust any more and thats the scariest part for her.

The author cleverly plants lots of red herrings to throw the reader off the track and onto the wrong one and back again.

It's a very tense and creepy book. It's more of a who-dunnit than a psychological thriller to be honest and I really didn't feel I'd got inside the mind and motivation of the killer, once their identity is fully revealed. But it's a hugely entertaining read, very fast paced and gripping and a must read for anyone who enjoys a jolly good scare and loves reading about murder and mayhem.

I was provided with a free copy to read and review, and my thanks go to the author.

The Blurb.....

Ella, a thirty-five year old nurse, believes she has a good life: no money worries, a job she enjoys, a gorgeous apartment and an undemanding boyfriend…until one fateful evening when everything changes. 

A young woman is found raped and strangled near Ella’s home. The latest victim in a serial killer’s rampage across Surrey. 

Ella’s boyfriend Michael, a police constable on the team conducting the investigations of the crime, pleads with Ella to be vigilant at all times…the killer is bound to strike again. 

When a handsome, enigmatic stranger rents the empty apartment above Ella, the brutal death toll rises…but against her better judgement, Ella doesn’t listen to her boyfriend’s warnings about strangers until it is far too late… 

She is convinced that there must be a connection between the murdered women, and for some reason it is all linked to the Green Room…

Monday, 7 December 2015

Excerpt - The Broken Road - Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

Today I'm delighted to share an extract from the new book by Lindsay Stanberry Flynn - The Broken road. I love the cover but haven't been able to fit it into my reading schedule yet so am sharing this extract kindly provided by the author herself. It sounds lovely I hope you enjoy it.

The Blurb:

What do you do when the past returns to haunt you?
When no one around you tells the truth?

Ollie’s life is in crisis. Estranged from his father when he refuses to take over the family hotel, his artistic career is floundering, and his marriage is under strain. His wife, Jess, blames him, but is she as innocent as she appears?

Louise, Ollie’s sister, takes on the hotel in his absence, testing her emotional fragility to the limit. She knows her father considers her to be second best, and her husband is hostile to her new role. 
As the action moves between London, Plymouth and Venice, the family implodes under the weight of past betrayals, leading to a nail-biting, fast-paced climax.

In another emotionally compelling novel from the award-winning Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, the complex ties that both bind us to family and drive us apart are laid bare. Can Ollie heal the fault-lines before it’s too late? Above all, can he salvage his relationship with his young daughter, Flo, before tragedy strikes?

Praise for Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn
Real insight into character Bel Mooney

The pages turn faster than an autumn leaf in the wind Reading Writes

The Extract:


If Ollie had been a lark, things would have been different. He envied larks: the glow of sainthood flooded their lives. They caught the worm; they got things done. If Ollie had been a lark, he’d have been up hours before his mobile buzzed at nine o’clock. He’d already have been for a run, dashed off half a dozen paintings, and made breakfast for Jess and Flo. But Ollie was an owl, not a lark, so he reached a hand from under the duvet, slammed the phone into silence and went back to sleep.

He was sorting through the paintings stacked in the hallway when it rang again. He let himself dream of good news. That new gallery in Highgate might be offering him an exhibition. Or there was a chance the American customer had come good and wanted to commission more of his Hampstead Heath scenes. He studied the painting in his hands: an avenue of lime trees in Alexandra Park. Sunshine pierced the canopy of leaves, spreading a lacework of light on the path below. He’d painted it during a period of inspiration last summer. Jess had loved it: ‘Hey, that’s good!’ she said. ‘You’ve got your magic back.’ She’d kissed him, the sort of kiss she used to give him when they first met.

A dog barked in the street below. A hacking, insistent noise, like a consumptive’s cough. It dragged him away from that summer day made forever idyllic by his painting. Traffic noise from the Holloway Road rumbled through the open window in the kitchen; a magpie screeched in the gardens behind the flats. The mobile had stopped, but rang again almost straight away. He propped the picture in front of the others and ran into the bedroom, snatching the phone from the chest of drawers.

It turns out the call is from Ollie’s father who has come up to London to visit and wants to meet. They don’t get on following Ollie’s refusal to take on the family hotel in Plymouth. Ollie agrees to meet him for a pub lunch, but the atmosphere is strained. And then ...

His father gripped the edge of the table, spreading his fingers wide. ‘But let’s cut to the chase, eh?’ A line of dark hairs sprouted above the knuckles, and the familiar gold signet ring decorated the little finger of his left hand. Physically, Ollie took after his mother’s side of the family, tall, skinny, dark-haired, but his hands with their wide palms and square-tipped fingers were identical to his father’s.

‘You haven’t been down to Plymouth for over a year.’

‘Our last meeting wasn’t exactly positive, was it?’ He fixed his eyes on his father’s face. ‘I seem to remember you said, “Don’t come back until you’re ready to discuss the next steps”.'

‘It’s breaking your mother’s heart, you know.’

‘Don’t do the emotional blackmail, Dad. I phoned Mum last week, and she’s fine.’ Ollie indicated the empty glass. ‘Another one?’

His father shook his head. ‘We need to talk business. I’m sixty-four this year. I’m getting tired, and I want to secure the future of the hotel.’

‘We’ve been through this before. You know how I feel.’

His father’s fingers drummed on the table. ‘I need you down in Plymouth, Oliver. One day the hotel will be yours –’

‘No, Dad!’ Ollie had been determined to keep his cool, but the words exploded from his mouth. The couple at the next table stopped talking and stared at him. ‘I’ve told you. I’m not interested in running the hotel.’

‘The South-West is renowned for its light. You could do a bit of painting on the side.’

‘I don’t want to do a bit of painting. I’m an artist; it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.’

‘It’s your inheritance, Oliver. The hotel has been in the Anderson family for generations, father to son, father to son. You’re my first born –’

‘You’ve only got one child, Dad.’

‘What are you talking about? There’s you and Louise.’

‘The hotel has always been the only child you care about.'

‘Just because I took my responsibilities seriously. I regarded running the hotel as an honour and a privilege.’

‘Even at the expense of your family?’

‘You’re thirty-nine –’

‘Thanks, Dad. I’m well aware of my age.’

‘Come and join me in the hotel.’ Beads of sweat on his top lip were the only sign his father was agitated. ‘I can pay you a proper salary, show you the ropes, and when the time comes, you’ll be ready to take over.’

Ollie thumped his balled fists against his knees. ‘You haven’t listened to anything I’ve said. You can’t ride roughshod over other people’s feelings.’

‘I could have been all sorts of things. I was good at science. I’d like to have been an engineer.’

‘Then you should understand what it means to feel passionate about something.’

‘What I understand is duty. I promised your grandfather on his deathbed that I'd pass the hotel to you, his namesake. And it's your duty –'

'You can't promise on someone else's behalf, Dad.'

'A deathbed promise is sacred. I can still hear your grandfather's voice now: Another Oliver Anderson to take over the hotel. I can die in peace. You're asking me to break that.'

‘And you're trying to make me to feel guilty about something that was nothing to do with me.' Ollie jumped up, his hand knocking against the bottle. It crashed on the ground, and the glass splintered. ‘I’m not taking on the hotel, Dad. Sell it. Do whatever.’

His father looked up at him, grey eyes glinting in the sunlight. ‘I can’t believe it’s come to this. I always told your mother you’d see sense one day.’

‘Leave Mum out of it. Just because she’s had to do as she’s told, doesn’t mean I have to.’

His father stood up and faced him across the table. ‘You’ll regret that.’

Ollie dragged the band from his pony tail and shook his hair free. ‘I doubt I will, Dad. And you needn’t bother with the allowance any more. I don’t want your money.’

The silence grew around them and he sensed other people’s eyes on them. His father’s fists were clenching and unclenching. Their stares locked for several seconds. Then Ollie pushed back his chair and walked away.

Available now for your kindle from Amazon

Visit Lindsay's website here

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Favourite reads 2015

I've decided to choose my favourite reads of the year now because I'm working lots of overtime followed by being away at Christmas and New Year. I hope you enjoy my selection and find one or two new reads yourself.

My main criteria is to choose books which have stayed with me in some way. There are quite a few books which I read, love and give a great review or rating to but a few months later they have faded. If I can read my review and remember the great feeling the book engendered or feel as though I'm revisiting old friends THAT'S when I call a book a raging success.

It always surprises me a little to discover how many of the books I enjoyed most are historical fiction and period dramas. I read a lot of psychological chillers hence many of these make it through but often the books I really lose myself most deeply in are the epic historical dramas with quirky everyday characters in unusual settings, and there are actually too few of these around which fit the bill.

To read my review of any of them click on the title.

A brilliant, heartstopping, thriller which begins rather gently then explodes midway into a grippingly twisted storyline about Jenna trying to rebuild her life whilst re-living nightmares about the hit and run which killed Little Joshua.

A wonderful, epic historical drama with a great sense of place and brilliant characters who stayed with me a long time after finishing it. It tells the life story of Harry who abandons his life and family to become a homesteader in remote aerly 20th century Canada.

A very clever, creepily enjoyable book about a teenage girl who doesn't fit in and will go to almost any lengths to create a friendship.

An atmospheric historical novel which lives up to its promise. Set in turn of the century New York and Coney Island, with circus acts, sword swallowing women, asylums, night soil ceaners and illegitimate babies its brimming with authentic drama.

Emotional wonderful romantic fiction which tore my heart in two and sewed it back together as only a book set in a hospice and peopled by wonderful characters created by the wonderful Rowan Coleman can.

An engaging and irresistibly readable psychological drama with quirky characters and a twist of dark humour. Single parent Roz is th eone who makes the mistake and we watch her life spiral out of control as a result.

A truly magical historical romantic, drama set in a slightly alternative steampunkesque London and featuring a clockwork octopus you'll fall in love with. Unique, original and highly entertaining.

Compelling and poignant, bleak and haunting world war 2 drama that is both thought provoking and dreamlike. It's about the journey made and people met by Owen. trying to find his way home after awakening in a field in 1945 with no memory of who he is or how he got there.

A nostalgic and somewhat tragic story set in the 1980s with a lonely teenage girl becoming invloved with a rather bohemian family. Very atmospheric with a dreamlike reminiscent quality.

A stunning historical family drama set in Ceylon in the 1920s.The description and detail just oozes off the page and I was immersed in the life of newly married Gwen trying to adapt to marriec life on a tea plantation amidst unrest and prejudices.

This historical novel  seized me by the wrist and dragged me back in time to the late 18th century where it beguiled me throughout. Two womens paths cross and shape their lives - convicted criminal Mary Jebb transported to Australia and naive young bride Grace trying to adapt to marriage and life in a crumbling old mansion in England.

Brimming with hidden secrets, family tension, and the overwhelming sense of something nasty lurking underneath the surface. set mostly in the 1960s in a dilapidated cottage by a brooding lake its a tense mystery drama surrounding a young teenage girl who disappeared and Amy who comes to the cottage years later to work as a nanny/ companion.

A chilling and scary look into the mind of a serial killer, takes the reader deep beneath the cold killer to the damaged psyche of a mass murderer I couldn't help but have sympathy for.

A thriller chiller set in Social media land. This murderously scary, twisty who-dunnit is peppered with larger than life characters, scary events and a touch of tongue in cheek quirkiness making it a fun yet dark page turner.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Looking back

It's coming up to that time of year when I begin to choose my favourite reads of the past year.

Boy is it going to be hard this year! Not because I haven't read any good ones but because I'm fortunate to have read so many delightful new books I can hardly decide which I liked best of all.

I've received and read some truly wonderful books and as I begin to look back I'm finding there are more books this year where I want to shout at the top of my voice "If you haven't read this yet - go out and buy it NOW"

In part this has been helped by my membership of a fabulous book group on Facebook called #bookconnectors started and run by my lovely friend Anne Cater whose fascinating book blog Random things through my letterbox you can find here. This group brings together, keen reviewers, book bloggers, authors, publishers and book publicists ensuring readers are introduced to some amazing new writing talents and get to know a little more about the authors, in fact some of them have now become true friends in real life.

I've also been a more active member of Twitter this year (find me there as @Beadyjan) and am thrilled to now have over 800 followers, most of whom are book lovers and influencers.

I feel I will have to have a top 20 opposed to a top 10 and am still reading so am sure to add a few more by the end of the year.

When I looked through my record of books I've read (I keep track of them on Goodreads, which is an excellent tool for the keen reader and another good place to find recommendations) I felt glad and excited that reading still brings me such unashamed pleasure and sorrowful for those poor folk who have never discovered the joy of books and whose lives must therefore be so much less rich and nurtured as mine feels when I lose myself in a great read.

I'll be posting my list of favourites later in the year - so if you want some excellent recommendations - watch this space!

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Widow - Fiona Barton - a different point of view

My thoughts:

Having been lucky enough to be offered and sent a copy of this already well publicised book in advance of publication for a review, I wanted to be blown away by what is being described as "the ultimate psychological thriller" but I have mixed feelings now I've finished it. I'm sitting on the fence somewhat, because I liked it enough to keep reading and wondering but didn't like it enough to want to shout about it.

On the one hand it kept me reading late into the night, it's a competent page turner and rather cleverly written, jumping about in time, over a few years, there are a few deliberate red herrings and hints at some massive twist coming.

We know at the beginning that Glen Taylor is dead, that’s obvious without even picking up the book, as it’s told in retrospect by his widow Jean. Jean stood by Glen throughout his trial for the abduction of a child and as she prepares to tell her story to the press we are permitted insight to what the past few years have been like for her since little toddler Bella went missing from her Mums front garden and the finger of suspicion begins to point at Glen.

As Jean begins to talk to a reporter about her exclusive inside story, we are taken back in time to just after Bella is abducted, to earlier in Jean and Glen's marriage and a picture of a pretty loveless marriage emerges.

For me it doesn't have the required elements of a psychological thriller. The twists and turns, the great reveal, the OMG moment which are so essential for this type of book to work for me just weren't there. The ending was completely predictable and felt like a real let down. I kept thinking "it's going to be something different" - and it wasn't. It's more or less a straightforward story of a police investigation into a missing child, and the story behind the husband suspected of this crime from the perspective of his wife.

Oh and the characters, they are in the main, bland and shallow and completely unlikeable. Even when the police bungle the investigation, I only become mildly exasperated with them. I'm all for dark, despicable flawed characters the ones you love to hate but I just couldn't summon up enough emotion to care enough about one single character in this story, to be secretly rooting for them despite their flaws, to be appalled or horrified or annoyed by them or feel any sympathy and I still don't grasp their motives. They were just sad little people with even sadder little lives that I got sucked into for a while.

Jean has a few very unpleasant character traits, I almost worked up enough dislike to despise her and at one point felt a smidgeon of sympathy but on the whole I just wanted to shake my head and tell her she was a misguided fool.

However there was something very compelling about being on the wrong side of the fence regarding a missing child, I've read a few books recently which explores this theme from the viewpoint of the family of the abducted child but although we are introduced to Bella's Mum is from the viewpoint of the people on the wrong side of the police investigation.

If you like police dramas and murder investigations you may love this story written from a different viewpoint but don’t expect a twisty edge of your seat psychological screamer because if you do, like me you may feel a little let down by the time you reach the end.

The Official blurb from Goodreads:

We've all seen him: the man - the monster - staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

'The ultimate psychological thriller' Lisa Gardner

The Secret by the Lake - Louise Douglas - Blog Tour

I am delighted to take part in the current blog tour for the new book by Louise Douglas as not only is it a stunning read, Louise is a genuine and lovely person.

I'm very selective about which blog tours I take part in, because they can take over your time so much you end up with no time to read or write reviews. But this is one I felt I couldn't say no to.

Mr review was publsihed a few weeks ago so here is a reminder and some more information about Louise and her book The Secret by the Lake.

My Review

This haunting, romantic mystery beguiled me throughout, it has everything the discerning reader could wish for in a captivating and intriguing new novel.

Brimming with hidden secrets, family tension, and the overwhelming sense of something nasty lurking underneath the surface this book is narrated by Amy, with a patchy childhood herself she has always sought to belong and when she landed a job as nanny with a wealthy family in France it became not merely a job but a whole new life and family to belong to and cherish.

Returning home to the UK to visit her ailing father out of a sense of duty more than familial love, she doesn't hesitate when she receives an urgent summons from her former employer Julia to whom tragedy has befallen. She drops everything to join Julia and young daughter Viviane in a tumbledown cottage overlooking a lake where Julia lived as a child with her hapless, misfit sister Caroline, an upbringing no more love filled than Amy's own.

What Amy finds is a fractured family living in near poverty in a dilapidated house where a young woman once lived and died in mysterious circumstances and a close knit rural community reluctant to let go of the past.

She also finds love and her own inner strength as she tries to uncover the truths about what really happened to Caroline.

Set mainly in the 1960s it captures the essence of buried small town secrets, the closeness of a rural community and a creeping sense of apprehension, desolation and imminent 

The whole book simmers with mysteries, camouflaged secrets and deeply shrouded unpleasantness that has been buried for years, as Amy begins to peel away the layers, the messages which are revealed are about to release unexpected corruption and depravity.

I loved the progressive sense of malignance and the ethereal quality of the brooding lake and the spectral brooding presence of the much maligned Caroline.

About the Book:

Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.

But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen. 

Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves?

Author Links:

About the author:
Louise was born in Sheffield, but has lived in Somerset since she was 18.  She has three grown up sons and lives with her husband Kevin.  The Secret By The Lake is Louise’s sixth novel and she currently writes around her full time job. 

In her spare time, Louise loves walking with her two dogs in the Mendip Hills, meeting up with her friends and she’s also an avid reader.

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Day of Second Chances - Julie Cohen - wonderfully absorbing

The publishers description

Can you imagine keeping a secret so devastating, you couldn’t even tell the people you love?

Honor’s secret threatens to rob her of the independence she’s guarded ferociously for eighty years.

Jo’s secret could smash apart the ‘normal’ family life she’s fought so hard to build.

Lydia’s secret could bring her love - or the loss of everything that matters to her.

One summer’s day, grandmother, mother and daughter’s secrets will collide in a single dramatic moment.

Is it too late for second chances?

My thoughts

I've read some lovely books recently and this is another brilliant read which blew my socks right off!

It's difficult to praise a book I loved without resorting to cliches and overuse of superlatives, so I won't even try and avoid them. I found it to be incredibly enjoyable, terrifically captivating and wonderfully heart warming.

It's an absorbing and moving story of relationships, and love and secrets. Focussing on the interconnected lives of 3 women, 3 generations, 3 very different secrets. Theres a lot of warmth and love and hugely believable relationships yet there are a few gritty issues faced by the characters keeping it firmly grounded in realism.

Between these pages we meet Jo, she's 40 with 2 marriages behind her and 3 children, a teenage daughter and 2 lively, loveable, handfuls of toddler Oscar and Iris around whom her whole world revolves.

Jo is so ordinary, so normal and so very special! When life offers her a glimpse of happiness for her alone she finds it hard to put herself first for once. We meet her when she is struggling onto a busy bus, overladen with shopping, a buggy and 2 very lively toddlers, this scene paints her life so realistically I was there on the bus with her and despite never having been in this situation myself I could SO feel her frustration, exhaustion and desire to remain smiling. She deserves some happiness.

Lydia is her teenage daughter, bright, with a great future ahead of her, many friends including her bff Avril, exams are looming and her secret threatens to spill over, she battles to keep it hidden despite the fact its almost killing her not to reveal it. She is a typical angst ridden teenager whom Jo finds it increasingly bewildering and difficult to deal with, her sweet loving little girl is rapidly growing into a woman concealing a life altering awareness she can't bring herself to face head on.

Into this family comes Honor, Jo's Mother in law from her first marriage the 2 women have never seen eye to eye in fact they can barely tolerate each other. When Honor falls downstairs she is reluctant to ask for support, but having been completely alone for many years Jo is the person she is forced to turn to. Honor is feisty, intractable, irascible and fiercely independent, she's not a warm cuddly Nana, isn't used to children and likes her own company, so it's unthinkable that she could fit in with Jo's noisy slapdash household.

Honor is the character I most closely related to, when she is first introduced to a noisy family meal with toddlers screaming and a sulky teenager I cringed with her.

The lives and pasts of these 3 incredibly real women are so stunningly written, believable and incredibly moving, that what could be an everyday family drama is transformed into a page turner I just couldn't put down. I was so deeply immersed in their lives, I emerged at the end, blinking and wondering who and where I was!

By featuring 3 women equally each of a different generation the book will assuredly appeal to women of any age from Teen, to Mum to Grandmother so if you're a woman - I think you'll relate more to one character than the others but I'm certain you'll love them all.

Author Julie Cohen has already written 2 previous fabulous novels which I loved, the Richard and Judy choice Dear Thing and the wonderful Where Love Lies which I just heard today has won a prestigious award Best Romantic Read 2015. Very well deserved, congratulations Julie. I have no doubt in my mind that this, The Day of Second chances will be as great a success.

My thanks go to the super for providing my copy to review and the wonderful publisher

Monday, 16 November 2015

Follow Me - Angela Clarke - murderously scary

What the Publisher says:


The ‘Hashtag Murderer’ posts chilling cryptic clues online, pointing to their next target. Taunting the police. Enthralling the press. Capturing the public’s imagination.

But this is no virtual threat.

As the number of his followers rises, so does the body count.

Eight years ago two young girls did something unforgivable. Now ambitious police officer Nasreen and investigative journalist Freddie are thrown together again in a desperate struggle to catch this cunning, fame-crazed killer. But can they stay one step ahead of him? And can they escape their own past?

Time's running out. Everyone is following the #Murderer. But what if he is following you?


My Review

Follow me is the perfect thriller chiller for the noughties.

This murderously scary, quirky who-dunnit is peppered with larger than life characters with flaws and foibles galore, who make it a pleasure to read.

We start with Freddie a young woman addicted to the internet and Twitter, who hankers to be a renowned journalist. She's making ends meet (just) working in a rail station coffee bar, she hasn't much of a life, home is a sofa bed in a shared flat full of itinerant flat sharers she has little in common with. She has few friends, her abrupt sometimes agressive nature has seen to that. She lurches from drunken one night stand to self reproachful hangover, all the time longing for the BIG journalistic break she dreams of but fears will always elude her.

When she spots her old school pal Nasreen, in her police uniform taking part in some exciting crime busting team event, Freddie makes a spur of the moment decision to take matters in her own hands and inveigle her way into the police investigation and maybe find a breaking story to finally make her name. What she ends up involved with IS life changing, but probably not in the way she's envisaged.

The police are investigating a gruesome murder, soon to be tagged the #murderer as tweets bearing inside knowledge of the murders soon appear on Twitter feeds, and as the public begin to follow whowever is posting them things spiral out of control, a serial killer is on the loose concealed by the anonymity of, yet in plain view on, the internet. The world waits with baited breath, commenting and reacting and helping the murderer go viral.

Running alongside the very fast paced murder investigation is the second part of the story of Nas and Freddies shared past, once bosom buddies they drifted apart and we don't know why, something happened, but is it someting they can put behind them now they are back in touch?

It's inventivelyy written, the twists and turns are masterful, the fact that Freddie probably isn't someone you'd instantly choose as your best mate, actually endeared her to me, she is definitely the underdog, a position she accepts and seem determined to maintain by her aggressive stance and selective failure to sustain relationships of any kind.

All the way through, large parts of the story take place on-line and rely on Twitter interactions to build the pace and shows how quickly internet sensations can build into something massive. It cleverly educates as you go, even as a keen Tweeter myself there are lots of descriptions of how things work, explanations of text speak, acronyms used on Twitter and blogs which I wasn't fully aware of and these are cleverly explained by having a couple of non techy police in the investigation who don't really get the internet and as stuff is explained to them so does the reader who doesn't understand Twitter learn and the one who is familiar feels instantly at home. Whilst reading this novel I was looking over my virtual shoulder every time I tweeted!

The story is a real page turner, I was alternately horrified, frightened, sickened and sometimes amused by the way events unfurl. Theres a deft wittiness threaded through the dark and very tense crimes being committed, the police are almost parodies of themselves, Freddie is so brash and faux tough you could be forgiven for allowing her to annoy you just a little bit too much but it all boils down to a heady mix of murder and mayhem, taking place today in an online world we are all too familiar with.

I think I suspected just about everyone at one point or another, the author places some vividly red herrings at random points throughout the story and I began to mistrust inoocent peoples motives, then felt guilty about it!

When the reveal comes its not what I was expecting and the finale wraps everything up creditably. An exceptionally engaging read and a must for any thriller or psychological chiller lover. 

Pre-order your copy now on Amazon

My thanks go to The publisher - Avon/ Harper Collins, The author Angela Clarke and Netgalley for providing me with an advance ebook copy to read and review at my leisure.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Flowers for the Dead - Barbara Copperthwaite - Perfectly horrific, moving and terrifying

The description from goodreads:

"A chillingly drawn serial killer. Will have you looking over your shoulder and under your bed... Original, gripping, with a deep psychological impact," Sunday Mirror "Enthralling, tense and moving," Real People magazine ADAM WILL DO ANYTHING TO MAKE YOU HAPPY. EVEN IF IT KILLS YOU. Adam Bourne is a serial killer who thinks he is a saviour. When he murders his victims and cuts off the women's lips, he believes he has done it to make them happy. How did he become warped from the sensitive four-year-old who adored his gran and the fairy tales she read to him? What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends? When he meets Laura Weir, Adam weaves a fairy tale romance around them. A tale she has no idea she is part of. As he hatches his twisted plan for their fairy story ending, can anyone stop him before he creates the ultimate sacrifice to love?

My thoughts


What a chilling and scary look into the mind of a serial killer. In Flowers for the dead, we are taken deep into the psyche of Adam, he is the main protagonist of this killer thriller. There is never any element of who dunnit, we know he did it, we know who he did it to and we are pretty darn sure we know who he's going to do it to next!

Given that the other part of the storyline focusses on the life of Laura who has had a really tough time of things, it's evident that her and Adams paths are going to cross. Laura has lost her entire family in a tragic accident which has left her struggling to cope, when she begins to feel she is being stalked, by of all things someone unknown who is doing kind but scary things in her home and for her, she wonders if she is just plain going bonkers We as reader know who's doing it, and bit by bit we find out why.

What this cunning and twisted tale does is reveals Adams past bit by bit and I really don't think I'll be alone in saying, I was actually rooting for this guy, despite being appalled at his terrible, dreadful, actions he is such a tragically damaged guy and underneath it all lurks a nice bloke but so deeply hidden his nice side emerges in horrific ways, when he undertook one particular unspeakable act it actually made me want to cheer, I was thinking I don't blame you mate, I don't blame you one little bit. Is that sick? I don't know. I felt mildly ashamed of myself.

I also thought when we found out more about Laura, even though I knew Adam was the most twisted and sick mass murderer, I did think for a brief time "Oh my she's PERFECT for him" then I realized, by even thinking this I was virtually condemning her to death!

Oh and I cried - near the end - and not for the reason I thought I was going to be mourning - did anyone else cry?

The most perfectly horrific, moving and twisted story one could possibly imagine, done with the most impeccable panache by talented author Barbara Copperthwaite. Bravo!

(Did I mention I loved this book?)

I received a free copy of this book to read and this has not influenced my review - I'd have loved it regardless.

You can buy a copy on Amazon

Friday, 6 November 2015

A Brief Affair - Margaret Leroy - terrific ww2 atmosphere

The tagline:

Reminiscent of classic films like Brief Encounter and The End of the Affair, this is a stunningly captured story of a woman finding herself whilst the world is at war

The Blurb:

September 1940. England is a war once again and London has become an ever-fragile place for widowed Livia Ripley and her two young daughters, Polly and Eliza. When Livia meets charismatic publisher Hugo Ballantyne, she is hopeful that her life is about to change for the better. But as clouds gather in the clear autumn sky, the wail of the siren heralds the arrival of the Luftwaffe.

As the raids intensify, Livia volunteers to be a warden at the invitation of enigmatic Justin Connelly. Here she experiences the true reality and despair of war, a contrast to the world of comfort and cocktails provided in fleeting afternoons at the Balfour Hotel with Hugo. And ultimately, Livia discovers a strength she never knew she had that will give her the power to save those she loves. For when you don't know what tomorrow may bring, there is no choice but to live for today.

My thoughts

Wow this was a real eye opener, turned out to be one of the most atmospheric, dramatic and readable world war 2 books I've read. I was expecting a light read, a saga, but what I found between these pages is gritty, eloquent and authentic and captures the feel of being a young widowed Mother struggling to find her identity and forgive herself for her own past, beautifully.

Livia is bringing up 2 young daughters alone in her childhood home, having been widowed and is trying to launch herself as a photographer, in fact her pictures have been accepted by a London publisher and the heightened emotions of war building and loneliness encroaching lead Livia into a passionate and ill advised affair with the charimatic, and married Hugo.

Meanwhile bombs rain down on London and her daughters Polly and Eliza seem to be growing apart, with Eliza in particular seeming affected by the war and behaving out of character.

Livia is haunted by past events, a sister who died when they were both children, even her husbands death, hold elements which cause her to question her own role in everything that happens she blames and punishes herself for things she has no control over.

When she is presented with a chance to give something back by helping others in the war effort she fears she isn't brave enough but we see her develop and grow.

The descriptions of being in air raid shelters and going through the Blitz are gutsy, sombre and in parts intensely harrowing, reminiscent of The Night Watch The book has a haunting, ethereal quality and Livia is a fantastically substantial character, I did like her, despite being slightly flawed she is very believeable.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, the perfect winter pastime is to curl up in the warmth with a beguiling book like this.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Beside myself - Ann Morgan - dark and compelling

The blurb

Beside Myself is a literary thriller about identical twins, Ellie and Helen, who swap places aged six. At first it is just a game, but then Ellie refuses to swap back. Forced into her new identity, Helen develops a host of behavioural problems, delinquency and chronic instability. With their lives diverging sharply, one twin headed for stardom and the other locked in a spiral of addiction and mental illness, how will the deception ever be uncovered? Exploring questions of identity, selfhood, and how other people's expectations affect human behaviour, this novel is as gripping as it is psychologically complex.

My thoughts:

This dark domestic drama heavily featuring mental illness is going to be quite hard to review without giving too much away, yet I wouldn't really describe it as a thriller, like the blurb makes out.

As described its the story of identical twins Ellie and Helen who when very young decide to confuse everyone by swapping identities and seeing if anyone can tell them apart, but this misfires on one twin when the other refuses to swap back and the other is unwillingly trapped in her twins identity. This continues to have major repercussions in her life and when we meet her in her adult years, she is barely holding on to reality, struggling to cope with life, mentally confused and yet I really warmed to her.

It's rather confusing, written in the main by a person with complex mental health issues, it's disjointed in parts and rather hectic, jumping about and I also found it confusing working out which twin was which to begin with never mind once they played the silly game of swapping identities which has a massive impact on the rest of their lives.

However it's compellingly readable, grabbed my attention and made me want to stick with it all the way and had rather a lot of empathy for "Smudge" the narrator with the obvious problems, its immediately obvious she is one of the twins, but you wonder if what she has become, living a chaotic and sad life has been created by the circumstances surrounding the identity swap or if and what are the underlying issues which have caused this to come about.

Bit by bit the way her life has developed is revealed and it's terribly sad, harrowing in fact and makes for pretty thought provoking reading. However I was expecting some kind of OMG moment, a big reveal, but it's more a series of little events revealed gradually that dismay rather than shock.

I agree with other readers that the twins Mother is a completely despicable person. The whole book is overflowing with flawed and dislikeable people, as is real life. There are a couple of questions which remained unanswered and unaddressed, and something I began to think we would discover had happened which never came to light. Its very well written, albeit in a necessarily manic and confusing way that sets the tone extremely well. As an insight to mental health issues its a must read, for anyone expecting a thriller it may disappoint a little.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Bloomsbury for my advance ebook copy.

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Glass Girl - Sandy Hogarth - compelling

The official blurb

Say thank you to your sister for me.
His parting words cause sixteen year old Ruth to flee to Australia in shame and fear, telling her mother, "it's just a year Mum, then I'll be home". But even there her secret drives her to the isolation of the outback.
Seven years later the death of her mother brings Ruth home to England. Now she must confront her sister, Alexis. But there are darker secrets that threaten to tear apart the family she thought she knew and Alexis' betrayals are not over.
Sometimes you can't keep running. In a world of lies and betrayal by the people she loved, is Ruth strong enough?

My thoughts

The Glass Girl is an exceptional read, beautifully written in succinct yet compelling prose.

It's so easy to say about books "I couldn't put it down" but that is true of this one, I became so absorbed in the writing, time just slipped away when I was reading it.

I was asked if I would read this and provide a review and I was a touch apprehensive, debut novels by self published authors can be hit and miss and I'm always wary of holding someones life's work in my hands then loathing it. Well this was a refreshing revelation, it is utterly delectable, individual and uncommonly good.

It tells the story of Ruth who spends her life running away, from commitment and relationships, following a traumatic event in her youth. She escapes the constraints of her childhood home by going to Australia, where she licks her wounds and harbours a huge secret which is about to colour her whole life. We follow her story over the years as she returns to the UK and it's fascinating to see how she develops from teenager through to adulthood.

The book is about keeping things hidden, how decisions made can create ripples which reach far into the future, it's about families and the frailties of human beings. It's chock a block with deeply flawed, very realistic characters (one in particular so hateful, I wanted to scream). Some are damaged by circumstance and one or two are just plain evil, despicable or weak. There are also a couple of likeable characters to balance things out, I was ambivalent towards Ruth, I didn't dislike her but couldn't really relate to her, but I did love Ben and Ruths loyal childhood friend Lucy.

The style of writing really impressed me, literary in qaulity and structure but not highbrow, it's essentially an intriguing family drama, with a clever little twist I didn't work out. It's also very poignant and intensely moving. I shed tears at a couple of points. It's not an uplifting kind of story but it shows how Ruth grows in strength despite setbacks. Its not all hearts and roses it tackles some unpleasant and rather dark subjects. There is a pensiveness which invades Ruth's soul and one could be forgiven for thinking she is chronically unfortunate.

If you're looking for a hearts and flowers romance forget it, however if you're seeking a gritty, authentic, exeptionally well written book do add the Glass Girl to your library.

Monday, 19 October 2015

After You - Jojo Moyes - a humorous follow up

The Official synopsis

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

After You is quintessential Jojo Moyes—a novel that will make you laugh, cry, and rejoice at being back in the world she creates. Here she does what few novelists can do—revisits beloved characters and takes them to places neither they nor we ever expected.

My Thoughts

This is quite a difficult book for me to review, as like so many readers I was utterly blown away by Me Before YouMe before you which was deeply emotional and mind blowingly wonderful. I was excited and apprehensive about this follow up especially as one of the leading characters from the first book is no longer present, and I felt his absence yet was really keen to take up with Lou again.

After You follows the life of Lou, after the end of the first book, she finds herself alone and bereft and unable to fully move on after the ending of her intense and quite unusual relationship with quadruplegic Will.

Her story is interesting and engaging and sweeps you up right from the start and I continued rooting for her all the way through as she struggles to overcome her grief and find her place in the world whilst working in a really crappy job and finding it hard to build new relationships or resume old ones.

The first book was very emotional with deft touches of wry humour and thats what worked best for me. Book 2 is essentially a comedy with some emotional moments so it reads very differently for me. I love every book by Jojo Moyes that I've read (and I've read most of them) and this is no different. It's a hugely engaging read with great characters and a storyline that flows like silk, but, and there is a but, Me mefore you is such a huge and hard act to follow I feel the author has tried just a little too hard to inject humour into this book and what should be sweet and amusing at times occasionally spills over into farce, especially the storyline about Lou's parents, and the grief counselling support group.

I've given After You 4 stars rather than 5 as it is a really enjoyable piece of chick-lit but just not quite in the same calibre as it's predecessor. I'd say you do really need to have read and loved Me before you to appreciate this one, it just wouldn't work as a stand alone as you need to experience the depth of emotions in the former to understand Lou's motivation in the second book.

If you loved Me before you - you must read this one it doesn't spoil the former in any way, but do read them in order and be aware that they are very different. I didn't shed one tiny tear in the second book whereas I wept copiously throughout the first.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Secret by the Lake - Louise Douglas - romantic mystery

The Blurb

Amy's always felt like something’s been missing in her life, but as a nanny for the Laurent family - Julia, Alain, Viviane - she feels complete.

So Amy wouldn’t think of leaving them when a sudden tragedy forces them to move from France to the small lakeside cottage in the isolated Somerset village where Julia grew up.

But there’s something strange about the cottage by the lake. This is where Julia spent her childhood. But she used to have an older sister, Caroline, whom she rarely speaks about...

Who disappeared at just seventeen...

Who has a secret the whole village wants kept hidden for ever...

My thoughts

This haunting, romantic mystery beguiled me throughout, it has everything the discerning reader could wish for in a captivating and intriguing new novel.

Brimming with hidden secrets, family tension, and the overwhelming sense of something nasty lurking underneath the surface this book is narrated by Amy, with a patchy childhood herself she has always sought to belong and when she landed a job as nanny with a wealthy family in France it became not merely a job but a whole new life and family to belong to and cherish.

Returning home to the UK to visit her ailing father out of a sense of duty more than familial love, she doesn't hesitate when she receives an urgent summons from her former employer Julia to whom tragedy has befallen. She drops everything to join Julia and young daughter Viviane in a tumbledown cottage overlooking a lake where Julia lived as a child with her hapless, misfit sister Caroline, an upbringing no more love filled than Amy's own.

What Amy finds is a fractured family living in near poverty in a dilapidated house where a young woman once lived and died in mysterious circumstances and a close knit rural community reluctant to let go of the past.

She also finds love and her own inner strength as she tries to uncover the truths about what really happened to Caroline.

Set mainly in the 1960s it captures the essence of buried small town secrets, the closeness of a rural community and a creeping sense of apprehension, desolation and imminent

The whole book simmers with mysteries, camouflaged secrets and deeply shrouded unpleasantness that has been buried for years, as Amy begins to peel away the layers, the messages which are revealed are about to release unexpected corruption and depravity.

I loved the progressive sense of malignance and the ethereal quality of the brooding lake and the spectral brooding presence of the much maligned Caroline.

I'd like to add my thanks to Louise Douglas and her publishers Black Swan for providing me with an advance copy to read and review. (less)

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The girl with no past - Kathryn Croft - hidden secrets

The blurb

Leah Mills lives a life of a fugitive – kept on the run by one terrible day from her past. It is a lonely life, without a social life or friends until – longing for a connection – she meets Julian. For the first time she dares to believe she can live a normal life.

Then, on the fourteenth anniversary of that day, she receives a card. Someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the life Leah has created.

But is Leah all she seems? Or does she deserve everything she gets?

Everyone has secrets. But some are deadly.

My thoughts

I was rapidly swept up into this psychological chiller. It begins with a car crash but you don't know who it's happened to or when its taken place so this sets the tone of mystery and concealment very nicely.

We are then allowed a glimpse of life as Leah, in her late 20's she leads a rather solitary existence, she lives in a rather grim, bare little apartment, has no friends, a tense relationship with her Mother, all that keeps her going is her job in a library as she buries herself in books when her own life becomes too bleak. She is hiding from some cataclysmic event in her past, has obviously been hurt by other people and, in flashbacks to her childhood we are given glimpses of her past but it's not until almost the end of the book that any reasons are revealed and things really begin to make sense.

We're not told why she lives the life of a hermit and why she can't trust anyone but it's obvious she can't build relationships easily. But we see her begin to emerge from her shell a little bit, reaching out to a few people, but who is really to be trusted? Someone doesn't want her to forget the past, but who is it and what do they want from Leah?

The tension builds to a nail biting climax and I was kind of waiting for a big let down, but the reveal when its comes is pretty darned shocking and not really what I was expecting. I loved the little teasers, the red herrings and the many surprises along the way and a very easy style of writing which made the book a pleasure to read and easy to enjoy.

My thanks to Bookouture for providing me with a copy of this competent and quirky thriller to review.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Perfect Daughter - Amanda Prowse

The blurb

Wife. Mother. Daughter. What happens when it all becomes too much?

Jackie loves her family. Sure, her teenage children can be stroppy. Her husband a little lazy. And providing round-the-clock care for her Alzheimer's-ridden mother is exhausting. She's sacrificed a lot to provide this safe and loving home, in their cramped but cosy semi with a view of the sea.

All Jackie wants is for her children to have a brighter future than she did. So long as Martha, the eldest, gets into university and follows her dreams, all her sacrifice will be worth something... won't it?

My Thoughts

I was quite surprised at just HOW much I loved reading this delightful novel. For me it turned out to be the perfect Autumn read, I put on my snuggly sweater and curled up with this book and a mug of hot chocolate and lost myself in the pages and the life of Jackie (Jacks) I fell into her world with a bump and was instantly there, living her life and to be honest I found it a little depressing to begin with, she doesn't have it easy, yet there were feelings I could really relate to and a deft touch of lightness to lift the gloom which made it sing.

A caring daughter, loving wife and devoted Mum to two kids, Jacks lives a life of what-ifs, her life hasn't turned out that bad, but she often feels she could have done so much MORE with her life - and who can't relate to that? (If you're the one who never thinks this, I take my hat off to you as you're very lucky)

She spends her days struggling to make ends meet, caring for her discontended, alzheimers-ridden Mother and feeling taken for granted, often annoyed by her husband and frustrated by her kids and the monotony which has become her daily routine, and she daydreams about how things might have been if she'd ended up with a different man, the childhood sweetheart, the one that got away.

She has a wonderful, loyal friend Gina who injects a few moments of bright humour into the proceedings but the real sparkle in her eyes is provided by teenage daughter Martha on whom Jacks is pinning all her hopes. Martha is bright, does well at her studies and is going to do all the things Jacks blew the chance at doing and Jacks is planning to experience success vicariously, through the achievements of Martha - the perfect daughter.

The whole story is set in Weston Super Mare, a place I've never visited but through the book I felt I knew it, it has that small town "Broadchurch" ffeel and in my mind (possibly erroneously) the characters spoke with similar burring accents to the families in this popular tv drama.

What delighted me most is the beautifully compassionate and descriptive writing. This is a romantic novel about everyday life that is SO wonderfully believeable and deliciously readable I galloped through it and felt bereft at the ending - all the signs of the perfect read. I will most certainly be reading more by this author who I'm delighted to have discovered.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Apologies if you've tried to offer me books!!

A humble apology to people who have tried to contact me via email through this blog - there was an error in my email address, oops my bad, sorry!

I dread to think how many people have tried to contact me before I was alerted and checked it out.

The error is now rectified and I'm happy to hear from book publicists, accept review requests and blog tour invitations etc.

Publishers and authors please email me with review requests.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Penny Heart - Martine Bailey - captivating

The Blurb

A historical novel of suspense, seasoned with recipes and remedies, THE PENNY HEART draws on age-old themes of cooking, trickery and revenge.
The North of England 1787. Sentenced to death for a simple confidence trick, Mary Jebb escapes the gallows … but her reprieve is harsh: seven years in the unforgiving penal colony of Botany Bay. Yet Mary is determined not to be forgotten, sending two pennies, engraved with a promise, to the two men who sealed her fate. Timid artist Grace Moore jumps at the opportunity to marry handsome gentleman Michael Croxon – happy if only to get away from her drunken father. But when Grace takes on a new cook, the two penny heart love tokens reveal she is tied to a world she didn’t know existed … A world of deceit, double-crossing, revenge and murder.

My thoughts

I KNEW I was going to love this one, from the enticing description to the delicious cover - I was captivated from the first sentence, and entranced throughout.

I'm a sucker for a very particular kind of historical novel, it must have a ring of authenticity, a strong female protagonist or two and a quirky, thrilling storyline. What it mustn't be is a bodice ripper, fluffy and feminine, an insipid romance.

The Penny heart ticked all my boxes, seized me by the wrist and dragged me back in time to the late 18th century where it beguiled me throughout. I was introduced to not one substantial female but two and immersed in the decaying grandeur of a crumbling mansion, presented with mystery upon mystery and whisked back and forth between here, and Botany Bay penal colony.

The two fascinating females are Mary Jebb, a cunning and enterprising orphan with skill at impersonating her betters and conning people. Her immersion into the criminal underworld of Manchester leads to her downfall when she is caught mid scam and punished with a death sentence from which a last minute reprieve sees her instead transported to Australia. Life here is cruel, brutal and unforgiving, so it's hardly surprising that she carries with her a desire for vengeance which gives her the strength to seek it out.

Meanwhile gentle, innocent, Grace Croxon, a dreamy artistic girl whose only burning desire is to escape the life of drudgery she endures at the hands of her spiteful alcoholic father who constantly belittles her every attempt to make something of herself. Salvation is offered in the guise of marriage to one Micheal Croxon and although they have barely met, she is relieved when he turns out to be handsome and debonair, that she feels an instant attraction to him seems to be the icing on her cake - or will it be her downfall?

In the faded grandeur of neglected, semi derelict mansion DeLaFosse Hall the two womens lives evenually cross paths and we begin to unravel a mystery which keeps us guessing throughout the book.

Each chapter is preceded by a recipe which features in the following chapter and as they become increasingly more bizarre I found it fun to try and guess just how and where this particular "receipt" would appear in the storyline.

The mystery is cleverly written and I went from being gently guided along and thinking maybe really nothing much was happening, to whoah, hold on, I wasn't expecting this!

The beauty lies in two admirably created characters and a strong sense of place and authenticity. I loved the book and felt quite bereft on finishing it. May I give my hearfelt thanks to the author Martine Bailey for very kindly providing me with a copy to review and for entertaining and enthralling me with her delicious storytelling skill.

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour Hello blog readers and book lovers. Today I am joining in t...