Monday, 18 December 2017

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor - a chilling thriller

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

My review

Wow - what a fabulously well written book! I can't believe this is a debut novel, it's so slick and accomplished, with a way with words which makes the story slide through your mind like treacle. Move over Stephen King, there's a new kid on the block, she's English and I love her mind.
Being a child of the 80's shows in her writing.

Gliding effortlessly back and forth in time spanning an era of 30 years we follow the life of Eddie and his little gang of mates, fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky when they are young adolescents and in the present time when Ed has grown into a solitary 43 year old who has been shaped by events this fateful year when he was a 13 year old. That summer of 1986 there is a lot going on, there is a terrible accident, a dismembered body, a new teacher, friendship, bullying, parents behaving unpredictably, as parents often do, and a game the lads play with a bucket of coloured chalks sending messages via chalk men to each other which is at the very heart of the terrifying tale which is The Chalk Man.

Between the fun of the fair, cycle rides through the woods and games at the playground a chilling darkness spreads its talons and scary things, that will make your skin crawl, occur. It's wonderfully terrifying, achingly nostalgic and a thoroughly, jaw-droppingly good, read, peppered with tricksy twists to make you gasp.

I had a reading slump in the latter part of 2017 but this (and the wonderful Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon) have completely renewed my faith in my ability to be totally absorbed in a book, in fact, although a very different kind of story, Chalk man reminded me a lot of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by the same Joanna Cannon, both involving kids growing up in a 1980s they made me remember growing up in, even though I was fully grown by then!

I finished the Chalk man last night and I'm still reeling with awe and admiration. If you want something to send shivers up your spine - read it! It's dark, relentless, scary and nostalgic.

The Blurb

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for each other as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing will ever be the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he's put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out his other friends got the same messages, they think it could be a prank... until one of them turns up dead. That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader

Sunday, 17 December 2017

My favourite reads 2107 - another darned list!

As everyones doing it at this time of year I may as well join in by listing my favourite reads of 2017. I'm quite disappointed with myself, at how few books I actually managed to read right to the end this year, perhaps because I did end up with quite a few duds which just didn't float my boat enough to finish them but I struggled on trying to get into them and losing time which could have been spent reading something I loved.

Here are a few of the books which did float my boat and kept me joyously entertained throughout.

Starting with possibly the most enjoyable read this year for me, the perfectly stunning Sealskin by Su Bristow an absolutely enchanting and captivating, tear at your heart, love story with the twist that it’s based on a legend yet is completely believable.

Before the Rains is a great historical romantic read by one of my go to authors for escapism Dinah Jefferies

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull is yet another historical book that stayed with me, a coming of age, a love story and a historical novel about early flight which swept me away.

He said, She Said by Erin Kelly is a delightfully different and darkly convoluted contemporary psychological thriller/ domestic Noir drama that gripped me and twisted my brain.

The very clever Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski blew me away with its quirky take on podcasting and a twisty crime story from six viewpoints.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is a darkly twisted story of a toxic relationship between two women. A stunning and immaculately fragmented tale of twisted perfection.

The amazing Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is an utterly captivating and delightful genre bending book which defies categorization being both hilariously humorous yet darkly profound too.

Maria in the moon by Louise Beech, is also a light/dark book, dealing with a desperately dark subject in a heartwarming and accessible way threaded with wry humour.

The next two books are yet to come for most readers and I appreciate the greatly privileged position I'm in to have had the chance to read them both in advance of publication.

Two to look out for in 2018 are the wonderful

and Three Things about Elsie by the amazing Joanna Cannon

It would be remiss of me to publish this post without a warm mention and LOUD "thank you" to the quite superb Orenda Books from whom many of my very best reads this year have been. 

Many of their titles seem to be tailormade for me and I consider it a real privilege to be afforded advance copies of some of their titles.

If you're reading this maybe we share similar reading tastes, so do yourself a favour and have a browse through their current and forthcoming titles.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Sal by Mick Kitson - survival of the boldest

Sal by Mick Kitson

My review

Firstly, I loved reading this book, secondly I am aware that it could be a bit of a marmite book - for the survival purists it is a big leap of faith to accept the premise of the story which is that a 13 year old schoolgirl and her little sister can survive in the wild armed only with some bear grylls outdoor equipment and knowledge gleaned from youtube videos! It's about not just survival in the outdoors but surviving abuse and ill treatment too.

But as a Bear Grylls fanatic and would-be wild camper myself, I put aside any preconceptions and just rolled with it and found myself enchanted by the voice of Sal and entranced by the characters she meets especially the wonderful Ingrid.

Sal wants to escape the clutches of her alcoholic Mums abusive boyfriend Robert before he turns his attentions to her beloved little sister Pepper. So it follows that she needs to plan this very carefully using any means at her disposal which are mainly a thirst for knowledge and a canny nature.

For a whole year she endures the drunken violence whilst devouring youtube survival videos and binge watching every Bear Grylls episode she can find whilst plotting to escape. Using her stash of stolen credit cards she hoards Amazon and ebay purchases of outdoor all-weather equipment and tools whilst planning and plotting their escape. Until she reaches breaking point and murders the brutish Robert and takes for the wilderness wearing Gore-Tex boots and her rucksack weighted down with Belvita biscuits and Dundee cake.

Into the forest they go and Sal proves to be a capable survivor, with guts and a rough at the edges love for her sibling, coupled with a rare vocabulary of swear words and the innate ability to be able to work out “What Bear Grylls would do” in any given situation. Her rough little voice struck a chord and I loved this kid who shows us how far its possible to go to protect someone we love.

It's delightful and captivating and oh so enjoyable, especially to the kind of reader who dreams of walking out of the door one day and taking up residence in an abandoned shack somewhere remote.

It reminded me of “The Outlander” by Gil Adamson The Outlander which is one of my all time favourite books and I am positive it will be a huge hit. 

I genuinely felt bereft when I finished it, it’s one of those books where I really envy everyone who hasn’t read it yet because you’ve got it all ahead to enjoy. Pure reading delight.

Here is the Blurb

This is a story of something like survival.

Sal planned it for almost a year before they ran. She nicked an Ordnance Survey map from the school library. She bought a compass, a Bear Grylls knife, waterproofs and a first aid kit from Amazon using credit cards she'd robbed. She read the SAS Survival Handbook and watched loads of YouTube videos.

And now Sal knows a lot of stuff. Like how to build a shelter and start a fire. How to estimate distances, snare rabbits and shoot an airgun. And how to protect her sister, Peppa. Because Peppa is ten, which is how old Sal was when Robert started on her.

Told in Sal's distinctive voice, and filled with the silent, dizzying beauty of rural Scotland, Sal is a disturbing, uplifting story of survival, of the kindness of strangers, and the irrepressible power of sisterly love; a love that can lead us to do extraordinary and unimaginable things.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

#TallChimneys by Allie Cresswell #Blogtour extract and #review

Tall Chimneys by Allie Cresswell

Once in a while a book comes along whose description ticks all my boxes and Tall Chimneys is one such novel, so I was delighted to be offered the chance to take part in the blog tour organized by Rachels Random Resources

Read on to read my review and an extract.

Please join me by reading an enticing extract and please visit some of my fellow bloggers on this tour too.

My Review

Tall Chimneys is an engaging literary historical novel set in a rambling tumbledown old country house set in a remote dip in a brooding moorland setting which sets the perfect bucolic scene for this nostalgic tale with a dual time twist.

With plenty of characters to dislike and the antiquity of the location it sets out to draw us into the baleful world of Tall Chimneys, a book about a house and the people who lived there.

Almost as soon as I began reading this book I was reminded of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It has the same sombre, brooding, feel of time passing by behind old Oak doors, a subtle air of faded gentility, crumbling grandeur and something just a little askew in what should be an idyllic setting.

From the outset at the beginning of the 20th century we are thrust firmly into the shoes of Evelyn Talbot, spinster sibling whom the family view as a burdensome reliability. From childhood she has felt unwanted and unloved.  As this disagreeable family cast their fates far and wide Evelyn remains at the crumbling and equally burdensome family pile, a rural mansion falling into decay and disrepair.

Unsurprisingly Evelyn and the house have an affinity, nevertheless the one place this young misfit of a woman feels she fits in, becomes a burden to her too. Poor Evelyn all she wants is affection and to fit in, yet every move seems to place her further apart from the society she craves.

Her family and their staff include some thoroughly obnoxious characters, which make the reader root for Evelyn, even if she isn’t always the easiest of women to like, and makes ill advised decisions galore, you will sympathise with her and the way she lives as you grow to know her.

An unexpected encounter brings an unlikely hero into her world which eventually leads to an unexpected, somewhat blighted romance for the lonely and unloved protagonist and as time passes she finds she must choose between her own chance at happiness and the chance to save Tall chimneys.

There is a meandering and sonorous quality in much of the writing which like the house, shrouded in mist and set apart from the world at large, makes you feel weighted by time itself, but the narrative and the story take an unexpected twist or two.

Spread over a century, the authors love and knowledge of history and the very authentic character she has created in Evelyn complement the rather gloomy dust ridden monument which is Tall Chimneys and where I wouldn’t have been surprised to find Miss Havisham lingering.

This is not a ghost story but has a haunting and mesmerising quality which will keep you turning the pages at Tall Chimneys.

The Blurb

Considered a troublesome burden, Evelyn Talbot is banished by her family to their remote country house. Tall Chimneys is hidden in a damp and gloomy hollow. It is outmoded and inconvenient but Evelyn is determined to save it from the fate of so many stately homes at the time - abandonment or demolition.

Occasional echoes of tumult in the wider world reach their sequestered backwater - the strident cries of political extremists, a furore of royal scandal, rumblings of the European war machine. But their isolated spot seems largely untouched. At times life is hard - little more than survival. At times it feels enchanted, almost outside of time itself. The woman and the house shore each other up - until love comes calling, threatening to pull them asunder. 

Her desertion will spell its demise, but saving Tall Chimneys could mean sacrificing her hope for happiness, even sacrificing herself. 

A century later, a distant relative crosses the globe to find the house of his ancestors. What he finds in the strange depression of the moor could change the course of his life forever.

One woman, one house, one hundred years.

An Extract from Tall Chimneys to whet your appetite

The Author - Allie Cresswell

I often think that the experience of being evacuated during WW2 must have been terrifying for the children. Sent off to strangers, arriving in locations so alien to their experiences, little knowing when or if they would return home or see their parents again. And all this in the days before Child Protection - the hosts might have been cruel, mean, violent, even paedophiles. On the other hand, they may have been kind. In this extract, Evelyn collects three girls evacuated from Leeds. 


At Tall Chimneys we had more mouths to feed. Kenneth drove us to the station and we came back with four evacuees from Leeds, where Lancaster bombers and munitions were being churned out by the factories, some of which were owned by Sylvester Ratton. 

Kenneth and Rose wanted a boy because he would have to share a room with Bobby. A school-age boy would be ideal, as Rose was, by then, expecting a baby and didn’t want an extra child who would be under her feet. They picked Malcolm. He was about Bobby’s age but whereas Bobby was chubby and dimpled, Malcolm was thin to the point of being skeletal. He was filthy; ill-turned out in torn trousers and shoes so badly scuffed we could see his toe through the leather. He was snot-nosed and whiney, standing rather apart from the other boys waiting on the platform. Kenneth chose him in preference to the more appealing alternatives because he looked so frightened and Kenneth felt sorry for him. 

I went in search of the girls and spotted one aged about seven in the waiting room. She was holding the hand of a toddler perhaps two and also cradling a baby who was under a year old. They were all dressed in clothes which, though well-mended, were immaculately clean. The hair of the older girls was neatly braided and in ribbons. The baby wore a home-crocheted bonnet. As I approached the little group, the oldest girl shrank away from me and pulled the toddler behind her.
‘We have to stay together, Mam says,’ she announced, defiantly.

The woman who was supervising bustled over with a clip-board. She was hatchet-faced, prim and terrifying, without a shred of maternal instinct or kindness. The girls shrank even further into the grimy corner of the waiting room. ‘Which will you take?’ she asked me. ‘Madam here says they’re to stay together but I’ve told her nobody will have room for three.’
‘I have room for three,’ I said, quickly. ‘I’ll take them all.’ The big girl’s face remained stoical and determined, but a fat tear oozed from her eye and dribbled down her face.

‘Oh!’ The woman took a step backwards and looked me up and down. ‘Mrs…?’
‘Johns, from Tall Chimneys,’ I said, picking up the small leather suitcase which was propped against a nearby chair leg.

The woman sniffed; she knew me, clearly, by repute. ‘Regulations state…’ she began, but I cut her off.
‘This is no time to be hidebound by regulations,’ I declared, stoutly. ‘There’s a war on. We all have to do our bit.’ I reached out my hand to the toddler, who let go of her sister’s and took mine. It was hot and sticky, as Awan’s often was.
‘I’m not sure I can…’ the woman tried another tack.
‘Have a heart,’ I hissed, glancing at her chest as though I doubted she had such a thing - it was as flat as a board - and then at the pathetic sight of the three children. ‘If you doubt me, Mrs Greene can vouch for me.’ Kenneth’s mother was a redoubtable figure in and of herself and a big mover in the WI world. Her name seemed to do the trick.

‘Very well,’ the woman sniffed, leafing through her file of papers. ‘You’ll take Marion, Audrey and Kitty Blakney. Marion is the big one. It says here she wets the bed.’

The seven year old gave a little cry of outrage and shame. Her brave demeanour collapsed and she sank onto the bench behind her in a torrent of tears. The child whose hand I held - Audrey - began to cry also and the baby, naturally, followed suit. The harridan with the clipboard gave a satisfied smile. ‘Good luck,’ she said, nastily, stalking off to exert her authority elsewhere.

If thats made you want to read the book you can order it now from Amazon uk


Sunday, 10 December 2017

My Review of #ThreethingsaboutElsie by @JoannaCannon

My Review:

Firstly I must confess I’ve been having a bit of a struggle recently to concentrate on my reading and find books which grab and hold my attention well enough to ensure I can’t put them down. 

Three things about Elsie has been the exception to the rule and has renewed my faith in my ability to devour and drown in and adore a book.

It also quite broke my heart – Joanna Cannon how could you put me through this?  By the end I was sobbing those great big ugly gut wrenching Waah’s that you just can’t do quietly – Thank goodness I was reading it in bed and not on the bus!

Like her debut novel “The Trouble with goats and sheep” which I also read and loved, this author peoples her writing with wonderful characters to believe in and peppers it with wry observations and astoundingly astute and beautiful prose.

We are introduced to the narrator Florence as she lies prone on the floor of her sheltered accommodation waiting for someone to find her following a fall.

She spends her time reminiscing, interspersed with detailed imaginings of how different folk will to react if they are the ones to discover and rescue her.

In her mid 80s Florence has a lively mind which treats us to some colourful and detailed observations, yet people assume she is losing her memory because she is old – how can they, she never forgets a thing, well  not when her best friend Elsie is around to help jog her memory. Her BFF is her constant companion and the 2 old ladies have been together since they were friends as teenagers, so what one may have forgotten the other will be sure to remember.

But when a sinister face from the past shows up in the very place Florence feels safe, she takes it upon herself to unravel the mystery of why a man who was supposed to have died donkeys years ago is still very much alive and seems to be posing a threat to Florence.  Not many people believe Florence except of course her loyal pal Elsie, and sprightly pensioner the wonderful Jack, who also becomes her staunch champion.

There are a few mysteries to be solved and dear Florence is determined to solve them all, if only she didn’t have so many little gaps in her ageing memory.

This is a simply stunning book, read it, love it and please take my advice and read it with a hanky tucked up your sleeve.

The Blurb

There are three things you should know about Elsie.

The first thing is that she’s my best friend.

The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.

And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. 

As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly a man who died sixty years ago?

Friday, 24 November 2017

#TheVisitors by Catherine Burns #Review @legendpress

The Visitors by Catherine Burns my Review

A creepy and unsettling dark and twisty thriller that send shudders up my spine ....

You know that big old house at the end of your street, the old one a bit run down but thats been quite grand at some point. The residents seem quiet and unassuming, a little odd but they keep themselves to themselves so they don't bother anyone - Well, they might be Marian and her brother, John. Oh I do hope not!

I certainly felt the location was familiar, an unspecified Northern seaside town (which I pictured in my mind as Redcar)

This deliciously dark and inventive tale is a slow burner, dark and sinister with a sense of creeping menace and building tension and the odd prickle at the back of your neck when you're reading it.

It is narrated by Marian and right from the start it's obvious she is damaged goods. A middle aged woman who lives with her brother, has few relationships and some very strange habits. She sleeps with a whole bunch of teddy bears, hoards and doesn't seem able to cope with normal everyday life.

I felt quite sorry for her, especially when I found out what her life has been like but she did frustrate me. It's also very clear that she closes her eyes to an awful lot that's going on around her including the very unpleasant things her brother gets up to. She looked up to him when they were little as he was the only person who was ever, sometimes, on her side, he cares for her and where would she be without him? She's never had a job, she knows she is plain and fat and dresses in other peoples cast offs from the charity shop she is a misfit and he is educated, he's worked as a teacher so its hardly surprising he's a bit domineering, she knows she's a ditherer.

She puts up with his strange habits and often brusque and even bullying attitude towards her because he is her older brother after all, and she knows how to placate him and ensure she never gets on the wrong side of his nasty temper, as long as she goes along with his way of doing things and never ever questions things he does, down in the cellar, even when she is sure they can't be right everything will be fine.

Or maybe not

Events are about to take an even more sinister turn because she can't avoid the cellar for ever, even though she finds the thought of what might be down there very very disturbing.

One day she acts a little out of character and realises that maybe things can change after all ....

I was rooting for Marion all through but she surprised me with her about turn, its a dark story and I love darkness and macabre characters and this pair certainly fit the bill. It's immensely readable and kept me turning the pages til late at night.

I was left wanting a tad more detail on some parts of the book which are skimmed over. It leaves a lot to the imagination, perhaps that's for the best?

Scary and dark and well written - just my cup of tea.

Here is the official blurb from Goodreads

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden.

As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn't the only one with a dark side.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Man in the #Needlecordjacket by Linda MacDonald #Blogtour and #Review

Blog Tour and Review – The Man in the Needlecord jacket – Linda MacDonald

My thanks go to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for this new novel.

Here are my thoughts after reading it…

All the lead characters in this book are the same side of 50 as me, making it hold great appeal. They are all also putting behind them failed relationships and trying to build new ones and galloping towards old age with dread and disbelief (well I know how that feels!).

The eponymous Man in the Needlecord jacket is Coll, an artist, self-centred and in my eyes a dislikeable arrogant absolute prat. We view him through the eyes of 2 of the women in his life. Sarah, who was widowed young and has been developing a long term relationship with Coll over quite a few years. It’s rapidly apparent that her self-esteem is low and no wonder, she is involved with this revolting man who sneakily manipulates and undermines her, so she is barely aware he is doing it. She loves this deeply unlovable guy, but is this reciprocated?

Coll is a flirty, womanising divorcee, he gathers admiring women to stroke his fractured ego. When he meets Felicity a slightly flighty restauranteur also recently separated and in the midst of great upheaval in her life, the last thing she needs is another complication but it arrives, nevertheless, in the form of Coll who develops an obsession with her and seeks to woo her in his own peculiar way.

The story flows well and drags you into the lives of these disparate characters who are all quite deeply flawed, which gives them great depth whilst making them real and believable, but this also created a difficulty to build empathy with any of them. I was constantly thinking “I’m glad I’m not her” about all of the women, even the sub characters, Marianne Fanclub to name just one, and “I’m glad I don’t know him” about the men!!

But people aren’t perfect and lives even less so, and it would seem that even the people we could most envy, harbour the deepest fears and insecurities. The book focusses on the mental and emotional aspects of why people do things and the long term results of events out of our control and within it but along badly chosen paths.

This is an emotional and engaging read, well angled towards the more mature reader and tackles emotional abuse and coping with loss and broken relationships.

It is part of a series of books by Linda MacDonald, but can be read as a stand alone, though if you intend to read them all getting them in the right order would be the best approach as the characters in this book are featured in her others.

You can find out more about the series by visiting Linda’s Amazon page  where you can also order this book and her other titles.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Watcher Blog tour - Monika Jephcott Thomas an extract

Blog Tour - The Watcher

Today I'm pleased to take part in the blog tour for the new book by Monika Jephcott Thomas entitled - The Watcher

The Blurb:

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. 

Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself. Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. 

Now, if family life isn't tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

Amazon UK

About the author:

Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist.
Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts.
A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published.

Website - 

I have a brief excerpt to whet your appetite:

In this extract we see the messy adult world through the simple eyes of a child, as Netta’s mother Erika bumps into Rodrick, the man she had an affair with while her husband was a POW. Erika is attempting to push her bicycle up a steep hill with Netta sitting in the basket at the front.

‘Let me help you with that,’ he said.
‘We’re just fine, thanks. We don’t need your help.’ Netta thought her mama sounded almost rude and she turned to see who deserved such a response.
It was Rodrick, the man who built her mama’s examination table in the surgery. He was an enormous man with arms like the branches of an oak tree. She remembered thinking that, the first time she saw him when he hauled the heavy table through the front door and into the doctor’s room, which her Opa had made by putting up a new wall in the middle of their living room. Opa had tried to help bring in the table, but Rodrick didn’t need any help. He could do it all by himself. He was very strong. Netta quite admired this mountain of a man then, but at the same time she never liked the way her mother smiled at him, or the way she put her hand on those branches of his. However, after that first time, he only came to the house on two more occasions and on the last time he looked really unhappy as Netta peeked through the window to see her Oma turning him away at the front door. 
‘What are you doing here anyway,’ her mama was saying. ‘Following me?’
‘Don’t be like that. I live just down the road.’ He flicked his fingers towards the village. ‘Or have you forgotten that so soon.’ He cleared his throat. ‘I was coming out of the pharmacy there and could see you needed assistance, so I came to help. That’s all.’
Netta looked from the carpenter to her mama. They both had the same look on their faces. The look Netta herself had worn on the autumn afternoon her Opa had caught her standing on tip-toe trying to sink her teeth into one of the pears dangling tantalisingly from the tree in the middle of the garden. There was no way she could deny her crime. Her little teeth marks were there in the pear for all to see, so she got a huge telling off and had to stand under the pear tree for hours and hours in tears.
Netta watched Rodrick grasp the frame of the bike in his huge knobbly fingers. She watched her mama reluctantly let go of it.
‘And how are you, little princess?’ Netta was surprised to find the adult was talking to her as he began to push the bike up the hill, a lot faster than her mother had been.
‘I’m… I’m a bird,’ Netta said and turned herself back to face the front and enjoy the flight to the top of the hill.
‘A bird indeed!’ the carpenter chuckled.
Netta flapped her wings and the adults were silent for a while. Until Rodrick said:
‘And what about you, Erika? How are you these days?’
‘Everything is fine. My husband is back.’
‘Oh, I know that, but what I—’
‘How do you know that?’
‘Well, here we are. I think you’ll be all right from here. Nice and flat now. And I’m going that way. So, I’ll see you around, no doubt.’
‘I think you know as well as I do it would be better if you didn’t.’
‘Goodbye, little bird!’
‘Bye.’ Netta turned to see a rather jubilant Rodrick wave and plod off towards the village, and her mama’s eyes darting around the street as if the only place they were not allowed to rest was on the receding back of the big tree man.

If that's made you want to read more you can order the book now on Amazon UK

Please visit the authors website too.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Her last Secret - Barbara Copperthwaite - Blog Tour and Review @BCopperthwait @bookouture

Her Last Secret by Barbara Copperthwaite:

Having read, loved and reviewed all of Barbara Copperthwaites previous books I was delighted to accept an invitation to take part in the blog blitz to launch her latest twisty psychological thriller - Her last Secret.

If you like convoluted, dark and twisty domestic Noir grip-lit you'll adore this new title.

My Review

Her last Secret begins at the end and then takes you back in the past to find out who and when and why the terrible event that grabs you and shakes you right at the start, happened.

Its set at Christmas so it's topical for this time of year, but this is no glitter and tinsel fairytale. Its the story of a dysfunctional family and their individual flaws and failings, and boy there are loads! Every member of the Thomas family has dark and deep secrets and every one of them is angry and desperate but are any of them desperate enough to commit the atrocity which is being investigated?

You bet they are! But which member or friend of this feckless clan has committed an atrocity which has left the horrifying jumble of bodies piled up in the family home? The police are called after a shot is heard to ring out on Christmas day.

Then we delve into the past ...

Glamorous wife Dominique and wealthy businessman husband Ben appear to live an enviable lifestyle, with their daughters teenage Ruby and little 8 year old Mouse. But it would seem that all is not as it at first appears and every family member and several folk on the periphery of the family harbour deep secrets, resentments and rage.

They reveal themselves to be a pretty unlikable bunch and as we are treated to their individual thoughts and mood swings, I grew really glad they are not related to me.

Where this authors great strength and skills lies, for me, is in her uncanny ability to worm her way deep inside a fractured psyche and make the reader FEEL a whole host of emotions. I wavered between frustration, anger and sorrow mostly with a smattering of distress, rage and indignation thrown in for good measure.

How these people maltreat each other in their own self centredness seems almost unbelieveable, but then it made me think - if you are stressed and traumatised it would be really difficult to step back and see the bigger picture, so although their thoughts and behaviour is often unforgivable it is believable.

Its a really unputdownable whodunnit thriller, with a really stomach churning ominous sense throughout. Despite being forewarned, so knowing exactly whats coming towards you, there is a shed load I just didn't anticipate. It's like waiting to be hit by a train only to find it's being driven by a fire breathing dragon and followed by a handful of armoured tanks!

About The Book:

Some secrets you can never tell.

Everyone thinks the Thomases are the perfect family: grand London house, gorgeous kids.

They don’t know wife Dominique is a paranoid wreck.

They don’t know husband Ben is trapped in a web of deceit.

They don’t know daughter Ruby lives in fear of the next abusive text.

But someone knows all their secrets.

Can the lies that bind them destroy them all? 

This dark, gripping psychological thriller will have you holding your breath until the very last page. Fans of Behind Closed Doors, Gone Girl, and The Girl on the Train will be captivated.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

#Blogtour and #excerpt of #BeneathTheSkin by Caroline England @CazEngland

Today I'm part of the #blogtour for the newly released debut novel by Caroline England entitled Beneath the skin.

Beneath the Skin is a stunning debut psychological Domestic Noir drama about a life-changing lie.

Caroline England’s, Beneath The Skin is a tense and compelling read, exploring truth, friendships and betrayal.


No-one remembers your past. But you do.

‘Antonia, Antonia. My name is Antonia.’
It’s been her name for many years. But sometimes, like tonight, she forgets. Antonia has a secret. A secret so dark and so deep that she can barely admit it to herself. Instead, she treats herself to Friday night sessions of self-harm while her husband David is at the pub, and her best friend Sophie is drinking too much wine a few doors down.

Nobody close to her knows the truth about what the teenage Antonia saw all those years ago. No-one, that is, except her mother. But Candy is in a care home now, her mind too addled to remember the truth.

Antonia is safe. Isn’t she? The lies start small. They always do. But when the tightly woven story you’ve told yourself begins to unravel, the truth threatens to come to the surface. And then what’s going to happen?

Sounds fab doesn't it?

Well here's an exclusive extract to whet your appetite:


He stands and stares. Is Olivia laughing? He isn’t sure. He hardly recognises her.

‘How would you know?’ she repeats. ‘Tell me, Mike. You’re never here. And even when you are here you’re in some unreach­able place. You don’t notice me, you don’t notice the girls.’

‘That isn’t true.’ He sees his daughters in his mind, dancing to Rihanna. ‘Of course I notice you all. Come on, Olivia, this isn’t like—’

‘When was the last time you gave me a compliment?’ Olivia isn’t laughing, she’s crying, but the soft contours of her pale face are gone. ‘When was the last time you bought me a box of chocolates or some flowers? I had my hair cut last week and you didn’t even notice.’

He gazes at her hair. It’s blonde, elfin short; it suits her petite face and her frame. ‘I did notice. Of course I noticed. It looks lovely. But flowers, chocolates? Come on, Olivia, you don’t do chocolates.’

‘Fuck the chocolates, then. Fuck everything. You just continue to take it for granted that I’m going to be here, the little wife with a smiling face when you come home, your bloody dinner waiting on the table.’

He catches his breath. This is Olivia, calm, capable, witty Olivia; Olivia who takes everything in her stride. She’s never been and will never be ‘the little wife’. She’s clever, opinionated and strong. He stares again, aware that life has shifted, that the world has somehow moved without him noticing.

‘What do I do on a Tuesday, Mike? You never ask me how I am, where I’ve been, what I’ve done. I could be anywhere, with anyone. You’re just so used to me I’ve become invisible.’
‘That isn’t true. Really. You never said,’ he replies quietly.
‘I shouldn’t have to say anything. If you loved me, Mike, you’d see, you’d know.’

She stares at him for a moment, searching his face, her amber eyes wide and sad. ‘What’s the point?’ she mutters, then walks into the kitchen and closes the door.

A wisp of a thought enters Mike’s head, an impulse to turn around and walk out of the door he entered only minutes earlier. But it’s only a thought and only for a moment as his eyes catch the pink fur of Hannah’s favourite slippers. She’s under the stairs, hidden from view, her arms around her knees and her blonde head buried.

‘Is it my fault, Daddy?’

‘Of course it isn’t.’ Mike pulls her to him, his beautiful bag of bones, breathing in the cosy smell of shampoo and baked beans. ‘It’s Daddy’s fault. Don’t worry, I’ll make it all better, I promise,’ he says, hugging his warm living child tightly to his heart, wondering where on earth he should begin.

Intrigued? I know I am. But I'm fortunate enough to have my copy waiting to be read. I love a dark domestic Noir and this promises to be scary and tense.

Join me


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Can You Keep a Secret - Karen Perry - twisty and clever - my #review

Can you keep a Secret by Karen Perry
My Review:

Can you keep a secret? is the latest psychological twisty school re-union gone wrong, chiller by Karen Perry, which is  is the pen name of Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece.

It's a conundrum of a thriller with lots of mystery about, unsurprisingly, secrets and lies.

A group of ex-school chums get back together 20 years after they previously congregated for a tragedy laden 18th birthday party at Thornbury Manor, the family pile of 2 of their peers, brother and sister Rachel and Patrick.

Lindsey is our main protagonist, she was at the original event and is about to be included in this one too.

The Manor house is now run down and rather ramshackle and Patrick can no longer find the upkeep, so he gets in touch with Lindsey then decides that he will hold a final bash before he sells off the hall. As the small group of friends who attended his 18th gather together for the first time in two decades, old scores to be settled and tensions mount, its almost inevitable that its going to prove to be a big and rather costly mistake.

Things start to go wrong from the outset and as the spooky old mansion shivers with a sense of haunting malevolence, human betrayals and secrets come to the surface and you the reader, just go along for the ride, knowing someone somehow is going to get hurt.

Truths will eventually emerge and until then you don't really know quite who did what and to whom, in the past, but you know for sure that this volatile crowd really shouldn't think about having a drink then going around the estate shooting guns, but that's what they decide to do!!

It's a very gripping, tension filled story with a sense of inevitability and few real shockers along the way.

Published by Penguin books it's out already in ebook if, like me, you just can't wait to get stuck in and the paperback will be released on November 30th and can be pre-ordered now

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain - Review

The Stolen marriage by Diane Chamberlain:

I've read many of the books by this author and am never disappointed. The stolen marriage is just the perfect romantic read to curl up with.

It take us back to the 1940s in Southern America, where we meet Tess DeMello an Italian American girl who has her life all mapped out, engaged to be married to the lover of her life boy next door Vincent, bound by their family ties, background and plans to work together in a medical practise as he is a fledgling doctor and she a trainee nurse.

But Vincent is called away to work in far away Chicago where he is needed to help treat victims of the outbreak of polio.

Tess's best friend Gina tries to take her mind off his absence and stop her moping and the 2 girls head off for the bright lights of Washington, where Gina's aunt owns a staid and well chaperoned boarding house, for a girly weekend together.

But Gina is a tad more flighty than Tess and the girls plans go badly awry and end up changing the course of Tess's life.

Events result in her breaking up with Vincent and heading off down South to a small town called Hickory, where she marries Henry, a virtual stranger, whose wealthy family see her as a usurper, are unwelcoming, set in their ways and harbour deep prejudices and she feels she will never fit in. 

Henry is a secretive, though not unkind man, who nevertheless expects her to conform and be a demure housewife and give up on her dream of being a nurse.

But as we watch Tess face tragedy after disaster we see her grow and as she unravels the secrets which surround her new husband and find her place in the world.

It's a lovely story, beautifully told, with a gentleness and much old-fashioned drama which seems outdated now but was so relevant to everyones lives back in this era. It tackles many issues, racial tension, stillbirth, bereavement, death, the polio outbreak, mediumship and prejudice. I found it a quick and easy yet thoroughly enjoyable read.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Friend Request - Laura Marshall - creepy

#FriendRequest - Laura Marshall @laurajm8 #Bookreview

My Review:

Friend Request is a term most of us will take for granted, you use Social Media you connect with people you know and sometmes you get a friend request from someone you haven't seen in a while. It's happened to me ....

Usually it's a pleasant surprise ....

But not for single Mum Louise Williams it isn't!

The friend request she receives is a bit of a shock - it's from her old classmate Maria Weston. She hasn't heard a thing from Maria since leaving school, unsurprisingly, because Maria died, 25 years ago, didn't she?

Louise can't resist having a little peek at her profile though, because Maria has never strayed very far from Louise's thoughts. Not when she was married to Sam who subsequently left her for another woman, even throughout her struggle to conceive her only child Henry, now 4 years old and the centre of Louise's universe, Maria was there in her deepest thoughts and fears.

Because Maria disappeared the night of the leavers ball at High School and Louise was one of the last people to speak to her.

Louise's school days weren't the happiest, they were filled with trying to fit in, making an effort to be accepted and make friends and impress the people she wanted to be seen with and amidst the bullying and, lies, the duplicity and drugtaking she managed to create her own little niche.

Now she is older, she has made a successful business and she's a good Mum. But following the friend request, nothing's ever going to be quite the same again. Sinister messages and veiled threats begin to haunt her and secrets she has kept buried for years emerge to haunt and taunt her and she gets reluctantly drawn back into a circle of acquaintances she'd hoped were firmly behind her, which isn't great for Louise but makes for tense and gripping reading.

The tension cranks up, its a very fast paced book with lots of dark deeds just waiting to burst forth. The big mystery is - Could Maria still possibly be alive? and if not just who is posting messages and why?

This exciting and mystery filled who-dunnit thriller is deserving of the description "grip-lit" I ripped through it in no time because I just kept wanting to know if the secret Louise has been concealing is in fact as bad as she feels it to have been or has she allowed it to build up out of all proportion and dominate her inner peace? You'll have to read it to find out, there are some very clever twists and red herrings along with some rather dark and unpleasant characters. Even the main protagonist with her dark secrets and distinct flaws, makes it hard to sympathise fully with her.

This novel grabs you and keeps you held tightly in its grip throughout and its very relevant to todays reader, though the dual storylines of "then and now" create appeal for a wider audience than purely the Facebook generation.

A brilliant read I feel will appeal to fans of Ruth Ware and Julia Crouch.

The blurb


1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren't. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria's sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she'd severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there's more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what's known to Maria--or whoever's pretending to be her--is known to all.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

#MariaInTheMoon by Louise Beech @Louisewriter - BLOG TOUR and review @OrendaBooks

Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

Follow the blog tour by visiting my fellow bloggers too.

I’m made up to have been selected to be part of the blog tour to launch this wonderful heart-warming book from the amazing selection of beautiful, readable and unforgettable books from Orenda books the wonderful British publishing company whose titles nearly always ring my bell.

If you haven't discovered their titles yet you must have a peek at their website - HANG ON, not yet, please read my review before dashing off.

The cover

My review:

Not having read either of the two previous highly acclaimed novels by this author I opened it without any preconceptions ... and was immediately captivated by the authors easy and engaging writing style, which absorbed me deep into the story instantly.

The main protagonist is Catherine, a 31 year old woman who has recently been affected by locally devastating floods which wrecked her home and affected the lives of many local folk.

Catherine (or Katrina as she becomes known) used to be called Catherine-Maria when she was little, but like many of the fuzzy events of her childhood, she is unable to remember quite why she had a sudden name change when she was 9. In fact a lot of her life is shrouded in fog and her memories have a huge gaping hole in them.

Catherine likes to help other people. Smarting from a recent, broken relationship, living in a flat share whilst her flooded out home is renovated and repaired, doing a job she finds pretty unrewarding, she volunteers to work on a telephone help line set up to enable victims of flooding (and loneliness and despair) to phone in and chat. Whilst she listens and counsels and cares for others it becomes apparent that it’s not just the helpline callers who have problems.

Catherines father died when she was young, her Mum died at Catherines birth and her beloved Nanny Eve died too and now she is left with an uncaring stepmother to rival Cinderella's and the snarling step sister bitch from hell, together with her lovely “Aunt Hairy” whom I adored. Yes I did say Hairy – read it and you’ll find out!

All Catherine’s ever wanted is to be loved, but she's learnt that "if it doesn’t hurt it’s not love" and she just can’t take much more pain, so she puts up a wall, developing a snippy snappy persona and a swear word for every occasion, yet she finds catharsis in listening to other folks woes.

Giving folks secret nicknames is just one way of keeping them at arms length and we will meet Jangly Jane and Robin who’s not called Robin at all.

Just as the incoming helpline calls from actress Kate with which she deals, reveal it’s not really about the trees, I was quite surprised that, being based around a flood help line, it’s not really about the floods either!

Skilfully painted with a deft hand this highly emotional read has a lovely touch of humour, interspersed with some terribly dark and emotive topics.

To say any more would be to be guilty of spoilers and this amazing book doesn’t deserve that. But enough to say some sensitive readers may find parts of the story upsetting to read as dark deeds are revealed and there is definitely something nasty in the woodshed alright.

I loved this novel, suffice to say that I galloped through it, found it wonderful and moving harrowing and uplifting and funny all at the same time, so prepare to have your emotions wrung tightly out and hung up to dry.

I cried so much near the end I was nearly sick – Oh I’m a glutton for a good old sob-fest me!

It's proving rather difficult to find the right words to explain how superb this book is, so I'll leave you with a thought,
THIS thought .....

READ THIS BOOK! (Oh yeah, I think I got that across alright)

Now that I’ve discovered how delightful an author Louise Beech is I will be adding her other books – How to be Brave and The Mountain in my shoe to my to be read list forthwith. I suggest this may be a good course of action for you too.

The Author - Louise Beech

NOW you can dash over to Orenda and drool over their books.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Lost in the Lake – A J Waines - review and Blog Tour

Lost in the Lake – A J Waines - review and Blog Tour

It’s great to be part of the blog tour for this new title, the second book in the Samantha Willerby series of psychological thrillers.

For readers who have read the first in the series “Inside the Whispers” this will be a welcome return to the life of Dr Samantha Willerby, an engaging and professional clinical psychologist.

If you haven’t yet read that you can read my review here although it will make great reading as a stand-alone I highly recommend reading them in order.

My Review

The story begins when Dr Sam Willerby meets her new client Rosie Chandler, who seeks out Samantha to help her remember the events surrounding an accident she was involved in where the vehicle she was travelling in plummeted into a lake. Narrowly escaping with her life has left Rosie, a Viola player in a quartet shaken, traumatised and with amnesia about the accident. Sam has the skills and experience to help Rosie piece together the missing memories and deal with whatever the past throws up.

But as she gets more deeply involved with her client, who seems to develop an almost unhealthy attachment to Sam it grows evident that the young womans past has left its mark on her and she is a deeply troubled individual.

All Sam wants to do is help people but it’s never quite that straightforward. As we discovered in Inside the Whispers, her family life is a little strained, she is trying to build bridges with her only sister Miranda but never seems able to say quite the right thing at the right time and difficult relationship aside, Miranda seems to be keeping something from Sam. She’s also recovering from a broken relationship and feeling a little lonely and vulnerable herself but it’s the old case of healer, heal thyself and she just has to battle her own demons alone.

Wow Sam is such a realistic character I really felt I was back in the company of an old friend. It’s also very easy to sit on the sidelines and see what’s going on under someone else’s nose.

We are treated to the story in a dual narrative, hearing both the thoughts of Sam and of her client the difficult Rosie and at several points I wanted to shout a warning, but had to silently observe, whilst hoping things don’t go quite as badly as they look as though they are going to …

But it wouldn’t be a thriller if everything went smoothly would it? and A J Waines is the mistress of the twisty moral conundrum who paints a picture of mental distress with a creeping sense of menace to satisfy the most demanding reader.

A great book in a brilliant series.

What are you waiting for? Go get your copy now!

The Author

AJ Waines has sold over 400,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website, blog, on Twitter, Facebook or sign up for her Newsletter.  

#TheGiverofStars - Jojo Moyes my #Review #historical #histfic

The Giver of Stars by JojoMoyes My Review Recently I was asked the question who is your go-to author? Whose books I'd read regardl...