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So Many Lies by Paul J. Teague ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: October 19th, 2019
Publisher: Clixeo Publishing
Format: Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for So Many Lies. Thank you to Sarah at Books On The Bright Side Publicity & Promo for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

It began with a family gathering – it ended in a bloodbath.

When the Harrington family rent a private island to celebrate their dad’s 70th birthday, old lies resurface, resulting in a murderous revenge.

Ben Harrington is stuck.

He’s recently separated from his wife of over twenty years, leaving his almost adult son and daughter feeling angry and betrayed.

What’s more, his daughter Alice has cerebral palsy and he can’t forgive himself for letting her down when she needed him most.

Ben left the family house due to an ill-advised fling with Laura resulting in an unplanned pregnancy.

But all that is the least of Ben’s troubles.

It’s his dad Tony’s 70th birthday and he and his wife Susan have invited the family over to a remote tropical island in order to mark the occasion.

That should be cause for celebration, but there are terrible secrets lurking in the Harrington family which are about to burst out into the open – siblings Steve, Ben, Gaby and Richard are all caught up in this web of deceit.

So Many Lies follows the story of the Harringtons through a series of life-changing lies, dating back to 1979, and as the story builds towards the big celebration, so does the gravity of the lies which brought the family to where they are when we meet them in the book.

Thought your family was screwed up? Wait until you meet the Harringtons …

MY REVIEW:

“When the Harrington’s got together, nothing was ever simple.” 

So Many Lies follows the Harrington family over the course of forty years and examines the secrets they keep, the lies they tell, and the far-reaching effects it has on them all.

The Harringtons are a dysfunctional family filled with bitterness and estrangements. They rarely speak to each other let alone all get together. But when patriarch Tony Harringon turns seventy, they all answer the invitation to join a big family celebration on a private island. But things don’t go as planned as rifts lead to tense arguments and shocking secrets are revealed. And all the while there is someone lurking in the jungle waiting for their chance to seek revenge on them all…

With a family like this, who needs enemies? All families have problems but I am glad to not be part of the toxic Harrington family after reading this book. The story begins in June 2018 with Ben Harrington waking up trying to remember the night before. He soon realises something terrible happened, but is then engulfed in darkness and the story jumps back to six weeks earlier. We are then taken on a journey that spans four decades as the history of the Harrington family is slowly told and their secrets are unveiled. 

Though it is told from multiple points of view, our main narrator is Ben, the forty-seven-year-old second child. Ben’s life is a mess. He had an affair that ended his marriage when she got pregnant and doesn’t know how to get out from under the personal and financial mess he’s got himself into. I found Ben to be a bit of a wet blanket and prefered the parts of the story that were from other people’s perspective, especially the villain of the story (though I’ll not say more to avoid spoilers). 

For most of the book, the flashbacks were my favourite part. I enjoyed the insight into how they had become such an estranged and dysfunctional family. All the flashbacks have titles such as The First Lie and focus on significant moments – ie lies – that shaped their future. I loved how later in the book these were told again from different points of view that peeled away the layers of secrecy and revealed the truth to the reader. 

This is a steadily paced, readable thriller, but as we approach the finale the tension radiates from the pages and I was on the edge of my seat as all was shockingly revealed. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Paul Teague writes thrillers, sci-fi and non-fiction books.
Writing as Paul J. Teague, he is the author of the Don’t Tell Meg and Morecambe Bay trilogies as well as several standalones such as Dead of Night, Now You See Her (with Adam Nicholls) and So Many Lies.
Paul is a former teacher, DJ, waiter and BBC radio producer, presenter and journalist.

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We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: April 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Zaffre
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour. Thank you Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and Zaffre Books for my gifted copy.

SYNOPSIS:

‘You can’t save someone that doesn’t want to be saved . . .’

For some people, trouble just finds them.

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?

MY REVIEW:

“None of us are any one thing. We’re just a collection of the best and worst things we’ve done.” 

We Begin at the End is a dark and stormy tale about how far some will go for those they love. Powerful, affecting and full of twists and turns, this is a story about tragedy, guilt, love, loss, justice and revenge, exploring the concepts of good and evil and how we are all made up of the gray area in between.

When seven-year-old Sissy Radley is killed by fifteen-year-old Vincent King, the small town of Cape Haven, California is rocked to its core. His release thirty years later sparks a devastating chain of events that will shake them all over again. 

Exquisitely written, I immediately fell in love with the elegant, lyrical prose that gives this book a distinct and captivating ambience. The complex and layered plot is hard to predict and had my head swimming with questions and theories from the start, with one particular theory that whispered in my ear throughout.  It is a subdued novel and I admit that I found it slow in places. But in the latter half of the book the tension rises as the author expertly weaves together the many tangled webs in ways I never expected. 

“I am the outlaw Duchess Day Radley.”

The author created a community and characters that were richly drawn, gritty, flawed and fragmented. The shining star of these is Duchess, a thirteen-year-old girl who I fell in love with. Duchess is  spiky, straight-talking, foul-mouthed, feisty, jaded and hard as nails. But she is also a vulnerable child, desperately loved and forced to grow up too soon. She has been taking care of her little brother Robin for years and is furiously protective of him, with everything she does – the good and the bad – is for him. It was impossible not to be affected by the two of them as life cruelly knocked them down again and again and they are characters I won’t soon forget. 

We Begin at the End is a thriller with depth; a poignant, weaving tale laced with tragedy and forlorn hope. It is perfect for those looking for an intelligent thriller or those who don’t enjoy the gore that often features in this genre. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. He now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons. His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, was published in August 2017.

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The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: July 11th, 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Special Edition eBook, Paperback
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary Romance

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Melanie Blake’s bestselling novel The Thunder Girls. Selected as one of Kindle’s eBooks of the month for April 2020, you can buy it at the discounted price of 99p until the end of the month.

Thank you to Martina at Midas PR for the invitation to take part.

SYNOPSIS:

THE

Chrissie, Roxanne, Carly and Anita, an eighties pop sensation outselling and out-classing their competition. Until it all comes to an abrupt end and three of their careers are over, and so is their friendship.

THUNDER

Thirty years later, their old record label wants the band back together for a huge money-making concert. But the wounds are deep and some need this gig more than others.

In those decades apart life was far from the dream they were living as members of The Thunder Girls. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, addiction and divorce have been a constant part of their lives. They’ve been to hell and back, and some are still there.

GIRLS

Can the past be laid to rest for a price, or is there more to this reunion than any of them could possibly know? Whilst they all hunger for a taste of success a second time around, someone is plotting their downfall in the deadliest way possible . . .

MY REVIEW:

A riveting page-turner that had me up until the early hours, this is the compelling story of The Thunder Girls, an all-girl band who rode high in the Eighties, amassing a string of number one singles in just two years. It all came to an abrupt end when they were disbanded by their record company in favour of launching one of their members, Chrissie, as a solo artist, leaving the remaining girls: Carly. Roxanne and Anita feeling betrayed. Thirty years later, the label wants them to reunite to perform at Rock Legends along with other Eighties artists. But can they put three decades of bitterness and resentment aside for a much-needed paycheck? And will they notice their enemy lurking in the shadows and plotting their downfall?

Entertaining, thrilling and absorbing, I devoured this novel in under a day. I was completely engrossed in the drama of the women’s lives and the various personal struggles they were facing. The characters are richly drawn. Chrissie is the stereotypical diva and while I would hate to be around her in real life, she was fun to read and lit up any scene she was in. The other women were more likeable and I felt a particular connection to Carly, probably because I have been in a similar relationship and was rooting for her liberation. I loved the group’s dynamic when they came back together. Carly, Roxanne and Anita are still reeling from Chrissie leaving them behind thirty years ago, which culminates in explosive cat-fights, bitching and histrionics that were entertaining to read and added tension as I couldn’t fathom how they’d ever manage to get along long enough to perform together.

This is Melanie Blake’s debut novel and has already been turned into a nationwide play with an all-star cast. It’s easy to see why. The Thunder Girls is the perfect book to binge read and get totally lost in this summer. And with the eBook just 99p in April it is the perfect time to grab yourself a copy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As one of the UK’s most successful female entrepreneurs, over the years Melanie has had two careers at the top tier of the entertainment industry. Her first 10 years were as a music manager with a roster of award-winning artists who sold over 100 million records and the second decade as one of the UK’s leading acting agents representing some of the most famous faces on British television. The Thunder Girls is inspired by her time in the music business and her second novel which is out in 2021 will be inspired by her years in the world of soap opera and drama. Her own management company, which has covered both genres, has turned over more than 30 million.

With no formal education herself, Melanie is a true champion for working class women who are so often overlooked in our society. The Thunder Girls is a celebration of women from diverse demographics and all the lead characters in the novel are over 40 and working class. As well as having written the book, Melanie has penned The Thunder Girls the play which embarks on a nationwide tour in 2021. Melanie Blake might just be the world’s biggest Jackie Collins fan. She first read Rock Star aged 9, after smuggling the copy out of the library by telling the librarian it was for her mum! Melanie was dazzled by Jackie Collin’s world where women clawed themselves from poverty into glamorous, moneyed lives. In Jackie Collins’ novels, women were bosses and winners who achieved everything they wanted and it was these novels that inspired Melanie to become her own boss and a lady entrepreneur. In 2017 Melanie’s connection with Jackie Collins came full circle, when after Jackie’s sad death she bought five pieces of Jackie’s jewellery at auction – two rings and three necklaces inlayed with morganite, citrines and diamonds – which she wears every day.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR: 

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Published: March 31st 2020
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Sexual abuse

SYNOPSIS:

An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher

ALL HE DID WAS FALL IN LOVE WITH ME AND THE WORLD TURNED HIM INTO A MONSTER

Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues of our age.

MY REVIEW:

My Dark Vanessa is the harrowing tale of fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye’s relationship with her forty-five-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, and the lasting impact it has on her life. It also examines themes of consent, coercion and manipulation, and asks what is it that makes someone a victim. It also forces the reader to look at their own preconceptions and the prejudices that are often found when these situations come to light.

The story is told from Vanessa’s perspective, both as an adult and teenager. In both timelines she is under Strane’s spell and believes it was a great love affair rather than abuse. But when another of Strane’s former students claims he abused her, Vanessa is forced to reconsider if it was really love and whether she was a willing participant in a loving relationship or a victim of abuse. 

Kate Elizabeth Russell has written a novel that is powerful, compelling, timely and thought-provoking. Eighteen years in the making, it feels like this story has come at the perfect time with the rise of the #MeToo movement and the increasing number of victims who are finding the strength to vocalise their experiences. She addresses the nuances of this movement, the pressure put on victims to come forward even if they aren’t ready, and the way the tide can turn so quickly in how they are portrayed. 

This isn’t an easy read. The book contained some graphic, nauseating and unsettling scenes of what I consider to be abuse and a number of times I had to put down the book and stop reading for a while. After one particularly distressing scene, I was left feeling utterly broken with tears running down my face. At these times I was especially glad that I was reading this as a buddy read as I was able to talk through my feelings with my reading buddy. 

It has been said that Vanessa is an unlikeable character, and it’s true, she’s not particularly warm or bubbly, but I think the decision to make her so complex made the story all the more compelling and real. Victims of any kind of abuse often don’t see what is happening for a long time, if at all, and Vanessa wouldn’t have begun her affair with Strane if it had been obvious to her. Reading her desperation to be noticed and loved by him as she was unwittingly groomed was heartbreaking. In her adult years we see the immense damage he has done to her psyche, her unwillingness to see the truth and tear down the house of straw she’s built in her mind and heart. I couldn’t help but wonder if she would ever be able to heal.

The real unlikeable character was the manipulative, predatory, and vile Strane. But even he has layers to his character and has an awareness that what he wants and does is wrong. He tells himself it’s true love, that they are soulmates, that she is in control and sets himself boundaries. These are all designed to negate the wrong he is doing and reassure himself that he can’t help it and that he is being ‘good’. The tragic part about Strane is that I think he truly believes these things; even when he’s saying the most awful things to scare her into complying or saying it to another girl, I think in his mind it’s actually all true. This made him someone I detested but also, as much as it pains me to say this, pitied very slightly. He was a sad and pathetic man but also a loathsome predator and there were so many times I wanted to reach into the book and do him actual physical harm for what he did to Vanessa.

My Dark Vanessa is the most dark and disturbing fiction book I have ever read. But it is also a well-written story that offers an insight on the intricacies of the dynamic between an abuser and their victim and on the #MeToo movement, filled with characters, situations and emotions that many will recognise. Just be prepared for a distressing read.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kate Elizabeth Russell is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her debut novel, My Dark Vanessa, is forthcoming from William Morrow (US), 4th Estate (UK), and will be translated into over twenty languages. Originally from eastern Maine, she earned an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas.

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What’s Left of Me Is Yours by Stephanie Scott ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: April 21st, 2020
Publisher: W&N
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Literary Fiction

I am thrilled to be opening the blog tour today for this spectacular debut novel. Thank you to Anne from Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to W&N for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

A gripping debut set in modern-day Tokyo and inspired by a true crime, What’s Left of Me Is Yours follows a young woman’s search for the truth about her mother’s life – and her murder.

In Japan, a covert industry has grown up around the wakaresaseya (literally “breaker-upper”), a person hired by one spouse to seduce the other in order to gain the advantage in divorce proceedings.

When Sato hires Kaitaro, a wakaresaseya agent, to have an affair with his wife, Rina, he assumes it will be an easy case. But Sato has never truly understood Rina or her desires and Kaitaro’s job is to do exactly that – until he does it too well.

While Rina remains ignorant of the circumstances that brought them together, she and Kaitaro fall in a desperate, singular love, setting in motion a series of violent acts that will forever haunt her daughter Sumiko’s life.

Told from alternating points of view and across the breathtaking landscapes of Japan, What’s Left of Me Is Yours explores the thorny psychological and moral grounds of the actions we take in the name of love, asking where we draw the line between passion and possession.

MY REVIEW:

“I realised that of all the lies we are told, the very best ones are close to the truth.” 

Do you ever find yourself deliberately slowing down your reading speed so you can savour a book and make it last? That’s what I found myself doing with this novel; feeling the need to soak it all in and appreciate the sheer beauty within its pages. 

Sumiko Sarashima was raised by her grandfather, Yoshi, following her mother’s death when she was just seven years old. She’s always believed that she died in a car accident, but then a phone call from the Ministry of Justice rocks her world – her mother was murdered. Her grandfather has lied her whole life and everything she knows about her mother and herself is an illusion. Sumiko embarks on a quest for the truth, battling the strict and rather antiquated Japanese laws to slowly unravel the mystery of her mother’s death and to find out who she really was.  

What’s Left Of Me Is Yours is, quite simply, a masterpiece. Compelling, evocative, atmospheric and affecting, this is a book you need to read. Themes of truth and justice are woven throughout the story as it reveals the seedy, shadowy underbelly of Japanese law and the devastating long-term effects on its citizens. But at the heart of it is a story about love and the lengths some will go to in the name of it. A tragic story of a family torn apart by love, resentment, secrets and lies, the author explores the long-term effects of grief and learning your life was an illusion. 

Stephanie Scott is an extraordinary new talent. I fell under her spell within the first few pages as the poetic prose tells the story with beauty and fluency. Flawlessly crafted, it has a calm, graceful pace that builds to a tense and shocking climax. One of my favourite aspects of this novel is the fascinating and eye-opening insights into the Japanese beliefs, way of life, laws and culture. I was charmed by things such as the traditional way Sumiko’s name is chosen and shocked at how harsh and austere their laws were and how little rights their citizens have in circumstances such as divorce and as victims of a crime. The work that has gone into this book: the detail and research, jumps from the pages, as does the stunning Japanese landscape that is portrayed with a rich, vivid imagery that transported me to a place I’ve never been and made me feel like I was seeing it right in front of me.

The story is told through a variety of voices: young and old, men and women, that are sensitively and expertly written; each voice is distinct, offering a unique perspective. Sumiko is the only narrator in the present day, the others giving their voices to flashbacks that slowly tell the story of events leading up to, and immediately following, Rina’s death. I loved Sumiko and Rina. Sumiko is a strong woman who knows where she’s going in life until the phone call forces her to reassess everything and begin a journey of self-discovery and being forced to begin the grieving process for her mother all over again. Rina was a character full of so much joy and so many plans for the future. It tore me apart reading it knowing she was living her final months and all that she would live to never see. 

The catalyst for Rina’s tragic death is her love affair with Kaitaro. Their story is beautifully written, a meeting of two souls finding true love, but it is also complex, with so much hidden beneath the surface that casts a shadow over their happiness, unbeknown to Rina. I could not fathom how they would get to a place where he took her life and was convinced he was innocent for so long. 

An absolute tour de force, What’s Left Of Me Is Yours is a lyrical, immersive, thought-provoking, dark and breathtaking debut. Everyone needs to read this book and I will be telling everyone I know, and even those I don’t to read it.  BUY IT NOW!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Stephanie Scott is a Singaporean and British writer who was born and raised in South East Asia. She read English Literature at the Universities of York and Cambridge and holds an M.St in Creative Writing from Oxford University.

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My Pear-Shaped Life by Carmel Harrington – Extract

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Published: April 16th 2020
Publisher: HarperCollinsUK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Humourous Fiction

Today I’m delighted to share an extract from this heartwarming and uplifting novel as part of the blog tour.. Thank you to Anne from Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.

MY PEAR-SHAPED LIFE:

Chapter 1

Greta walked into the kitchen rubbing her eyes. She smiled her thanks to her mam, Emily, who placed a mug of dark brown tea in front of her. The Gales all drank their tea the same way – brewed or, as some might say, stewed.

‘Sleep OK?’ Emily asked.
‘Like a baby,’ Greta replied.
‘You didn’t take any more of those sleeping pills, did you?’ Emily’s forehead wrinkled in a frown.
‘Give over, Mam. I only take the odd one when my insomnia gets out of hand. I keep telling you that,’ Greta said. Her mother worried way too much. Greta had taken one the previous evening, as it happened, but there was no point worrying her mam admitting that. When it came to her parents, some things were better on a ‘need to know’ basis.
Greta opened her phone and flicked through Instagram.

‘Oh Mam look—’ Greta began, but was silenced with a shush and a wave at the TV screen. Mark Cagney, the main anchor of her mam’s favourite breakfast TV show Ireland:AM was speaking. Emily always denied that she had a crush on him, but when he spoke her face softened, and she hung on his every word.

Only when Mark had finished talking did Emily answer, ‘What’s that love?’

Greta pointed to a photograph of Dr Greta Gale, her famous namesake.

In the photo, Dr Gale was sitting on a red-brick wall, with the backdrop of a green ocean behind her, smiling to the camera. ‘Doesn’t she look beautiful?’

‘How does she get her hair to look like that?’ Emily asked, smoothing down her own shoulder-length bob. ‘Maybe I should grow mine out a bit.’

‘She probably has a glam squad at her disposal twenty- four/seven,’ Greta replied. ‘What do you think she means by being the same personally as well as privately and publicly?’

Drgretagale Be the same person privately, publicly and – most importantly – personally. Can I get a hell yeah? #inspirationalquotes #drgretagale #inspire #mindfulness #strong #whatsinyourcupboard

Emily put her glasses on to read the post beneath the photograph. ‘I don’t know. Half the stuff she posts is a load of mumbo jumbo if you ask me.’

‘Mam!’ Greta loved Dr Gale and wouldn’t have a word said against her. And that wasn’t just because they shared the same name – although that was part of it. It was more because Dr Gale epitomized everything that Greta wished she could be herself. Dr Gale was successful, beautiful and loved. She was living her best life. She represented hope for Greta. Maybe one day she too could have everything that Dr Gale had. There wasn’t a single post that Greta had not read. And with each new double tap of love, she felt her connection to her grow stronger.

Greta would lie in bed, late at night, knowing she should be at least making an attempt to sleep, but somehow unable to take her eyes off Dr Gale’s Instafeed. She would lose hours googling books, food, art and restaurants that Dr Gale tagged in a photo. She followed accounts that Dr Gale followed. Last year she bought a green kaftan similar to the one that Dr Gale wore to a beach party, but that had not ended well. On Dr Gale the kaftan looked very boho chic. On Greta it looked as if she’d eaten all the pies.

More than how Dr Gale looked, lately her Instagram posts felt as if they were speaking directly to Greta. Every word seemed like a secret message just for her, as if Dr Gale had looked into Greta’s mind and knew exactly what to say to help her, support her, advise her.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carmel Harrington is an internationally published novelist from Co. Wexford, where she lives with her family. She has been shortlisted twice (2016 & 2017) for an Irish Book Award and won both the Romantic eBook of The Year and Kindle Book of The Year in 2013. Her books, all regular chart-toppers, have captured the hearts of readers worldwide and are translated into eight languages to date, sold into eleven territories. My Pear-Shaped Life (Harper Collins) will be published in April 2020. Other books include the number one Amazon and Irish Times bestseller A Thousand Roads Home  (Harper Collins), the official ITV novel Cold Feet The Lost Years (Hodder & Stoughton) and The Woman at 72 Derry Lane (Harper Collins). She is a co-founder of The Inspiration Project, a coaching writing retreat and was Chair of Wexford Literary Festival from 2015 – 2018.  Carmel is represented by Rowan Lawton of the Soho Agency.

Her other bestsellers include The Things I Should Have Told YouEvery Time A Bell RingsThe Life You Left and Beyond Grace’s Rainbow.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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The Switch by Beth O’Leary ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: April 16th, 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre:  Fiction, Romance

I’m delighted to share my review for the The Switch, the spectacular new novel by Beth O’Leary, as part of the social media blast. Thank you to Quercus for the invitation to take part and my ARC of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

MY REVIEW:

Reading this book was like reading Spring; when the world starts to bloom and become brighter after the bleakness of Winter. It makes you feel like there’s hope and light in the world. Something that is desperately needed in these crazy and uncertain times. Witty, uplifting, warm, tender, joyous and utterly consuming, I flew through it in under a day, staying up into the wee hours, unable to stop reading until I got to the end. 

The Switch was one of my most eagerly-anticipated books of 2020, so when I received an ARC from Quercus I was giddy with excitement. It has sat in my pile of ARCs taunting me and calling my name ever since, so I was bursting with excitement when I finally got the chance to pick it up. Thankfully, it more than lived up to the hype. 

It is a story about self-discovery, adventure, family and the search for love. The Cotton family are still trying to heal from a tragedy that has torn them apart and the life swap proves the perfect opportunity to heal old wounds and face their aching loss. The author expertly and sensitively tapped into the intricacies of grief, loss, family and relationships, not shying away from the raw and angry aspects that are part of the process. 

I fell in love with Beth O’Leary’s marvellous storytelling when I read her debut novel, The Flatshare, last year. With The Switch she has solidified her place as one of my favourite authors. Her writing is exquisite, smooth and affecting, the honeyed words making the world around you vanish so all that exists is the world she’s created. 

Leena and Eillen are fantastic characters. I loved them both but I was smitten with Eileen from the moment she appeared in the book.  Feisty, fearless, kind and hilarious, she’s a force to be reckoned with and is now one of my favourite female characters of all time. I loved her sweet and close relationship with Leena, which reminded me of the relationship I have with my Nan, how she made everyone better versions of themselves and is always thinking of others. As well as fantastic narrators, the author created a rich, varied cast of characters that radiated from the page, bringing the communities she created to life and immersing me in their world. 

The Switch is an absolute gem. A delightful, lingering and enthralling read, I can’t recommend it highly enough. When I turned the final page, there was a sadness that it was over and I wished I could go back and experience it for the first time all over again. Eileen is such a loveable and delightful character that I challenge anyone not to adore her and get ‘Eileened’. I know I did. It is the perfect book to brighten your day during these strange times and will be one of my top books this year for sure. BUY IT NOW. 

beth oleary

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being in reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey from work.

She is now writing novels full time, and if she’s not at her desk, you’ll usually find her curled up somewhere with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

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Me and my lovely Nan, Esme.

 

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Blog Tours book reviews

I Am Dust by Louise Beech ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: April 16th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Horror, Fairy Tale
Trigger Warning: Self Harm

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for this exquisite novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.

SYNOPSIS:

A haunted theatre
A murdered actress
Three cursed teenagers
A secret that devastates them all…

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?
Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

MY REVIEW:

“I’m still here; I am dust.
I’m those fragments in the air,
the gold light dancing there,
the breeze from nowhere.” 

– Dust, the Musical 

I’ve been left reeling after devouring this breathtaking novel. Atmospheric, haunting, eerie and completely original, something ghostly and ominous crackles between the pages from the start. I was mesmerised and addicted, unable to tear my eyes away from the pages.

The historic Dust the Musical is returning to the Dean Wilson theatre for its twentieth anniversary. It is a controversial decision, the show having been cancelled four days into its first run after the murder of leading lady Morgan Miller. The killer was never caught and Morgan’s name remains on the door of her dressing room where she took her last breath. Some even say her ghost haunts the theatre. 

Chloe Dee saw Morgan’s astonishing performance on opening night and has been obsessed with the show ever since. Now an usher at the theatre and aspiring writer, she isn’t sure what to think about the show’s return. Strange things have begun happening and Chloe wonders if it’s a bad idea. When a face from her past returns to play the lead role of Esme Black long-buried memories begin to resurface and Chloe is plagued with a growing sense of foreboding. 

As Chloe and her old friend get closer again they learn that their past and present are inextricably entwined with the mystery of who killed Morgan Miller. As the layers are slowly peeled away and the truth about that forgotten summer becomes clearer, can Chloe put the pieces together and solve the twenty-year mystery?

I loved, loved, LOVED this book! I’ve heard a lot of great things about Ms Beech and have wanted to read her work for a while. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Orenda Roadshow back in February where she also read a little of this book,  so when the opportunity to take part in the blog tour arose I was thrilled. From the first page I was putty in her hands; completely immersed in her exquisite, lyrical, haunting writing. Richly drawn characters and vivid imagery made this a transportive experience and  I felt like I was there beside Chloe, experiencing every single moment. As I approached the big reveal my heart was racing and I was covered in goosebumps, the anticipation soaring. Would my suspicions about Morgan’s killer be right? Or had I fallen for red herrings? 

Deliciously creepy, evocative, dark and unsettling, I Am Dust is one of the most chilling books I’ve ever read. Ms Beech is an exceptional storyteller, filling the pages with something both beautiful and terrifying. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Just make sure you don’t read it in the dark…

Louise Beech Author pic

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. Her second book, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition,
as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

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book reviews

Strangers by C.L. Taylor ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: April 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books
Format: Hardback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Noir Fiction, Urban Fiction

Thank you to Tandem Collective UK for the invitation to take part in the readalong and to Avon Books for the gifted copy.

SYNOPSIS:

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

The million-copy bestseller returns with a gripping new novel that will keep you guessing until the end.

MY REVIEW:

I read Strangers as part of a readalong via Tandem Collective UK and was so hooked that I read it in one sitting instead of over six days. This book is the definition of unputdownable.  

The story packs a punch from the first chapter, opening with a dead body and our three narrators – Alice, Ursula and Gareth – all wondering what to do. With a sense of foreboding, we then go back to a week earlier, a time when they had never met and had no idea their lives were about to become entwined in such a dark way. 

Each of the narrators is facing their own challenges: Alice is trying to get back into the dating scene two years after the end of her marriage, Ursula finds herself homeless and then living with a weird man because of the cheap room, and Gareth is trying to keep his mother at home despite her dementia worsening, while also working full-time. All the characters leap from the page, even secondary ones we barely saw. To begin with I wasn’t a fan of Ursula but by the end she was my favourite character; a complex person full of compassion and strength. The secondary characters were sometimes even more interesting than the narrators. Ursula’s landlord, Edward, was an odd duck and had me intrigued from the start. There was something suspicious about him, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I loved the cat and mouse game that developed between them and was full of questions about what it meant and where it would end.

C.L Taylor is one of my auto-buy authors but this is only the second time I’ve actually read one of her books. In Strangers she combines magnificent storytelling, edge-of-your-seat tension, mystery and compelling drama to create the perfect thriller. She expertly weaves the seemingly unconnected threads together using clever twists and turns.

Strangers is a tightly plotted, jaw-dropping and utterly brilliant thriller that should be on everyone’s bookshelf. You need to read it now!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014.

She started writing short stories in 2005 and was published widely in literary and women’s magazines. She also won several short story competitions. In 2009 and 2011 her romantic comedy novels (as Cally Taylor) were published by Orion and translated into fourteen languages. HEAVEN CAN WAIT was a bestseller in Hungary and China and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a feature film by JumpStart Productions. Whilst on maternity leave with her son Cally had an idea for a psychological thriller and turned to crime.

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton ⭐⭐⭐.5

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Published: April 2nd, 2020
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Domestic Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to HarperCollins UK for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

At the school gates, there’s no such thing as yesterday’s news . . .

When Liza’s little boy has an accident at the local health club, it’s all anyone can talk about.

Was nobody watching him?
Where was his mother?
Who’s to blame?

The rumours, the finger-pointing, the whispers – they’re everywhere. And Liza’s best friend, Sarah, desperately needs it to stop.

Because Sarah was there when it happened. It was all her fault. And if she’s caught out on the lie, everything will fall apart.

MY REVIEW:

“Tell the truth, lose a friend. Lie, and keep her close.”

An ordinary day becomes the stuff of parents’ nightmares after five-year-old Jack falls from a post at the local health centre. His mother, Liza had asked her friend, Sarah, to check on him only minutes before and was reassured he was fine. But Sarah wasn’t being completely honest when she told her that and is now racked with guilt and facing a dilemma – should she tell the truth and lose her friend or stick to the lie and be there at the worst time in her life? 

There are secrets, lies and rumours abound in this emotionally charged novel. There’s an air of mystery and tragedy from the start and we learn that Sarah isn’t the only one hiding a shameful secret and Liza has one of her own. But we don’t know what it is, only that it gives her husband a hold over her and she will do anything to stop even her best friend from finding out. These secrets have a ripple effect, influencing everything else in their lives and threatening to tear their worlds apart. 

At the heart of this novel is a story about female friendship. The author has created an authentic portrayal of its dynamics, complexities and competitiveness. The WhatsApp messages are a particularly good example of how women can talk to and about each other and the judgements that can come from other women. I’m sure that the women in this book will feel familiar to us all. I know it made me thankful that the days of playground politics and cliques are behind me. 

“Look at everyone here, playing grown-ups, but knowing what the hell they’re doing most of the time.”

I always find it fascinating when we see two very different perspectives on the same events, and enjoyed the dual narration in this book. Sarah and Liza might be best friends, but they are very different people. They are both flawed, complex women who are doing their best. While I found them, and all the characters, well written, I didn’t particularly like any of them. But they were compelling to read and I had a lot of empathy for the things they went through, particularly Liza as she is vilified in the wake of the accident by people who believe she neglected her duty as a mother. It is all too easy to sit behind a screen and judge but sadly it is something prevalent in today’s society, and it must be heartbreaking to be in the middle of a tragedy and face hate and criticism when you need kindness and support. 

The Fallout is a timely, emotional and suspenseful novel that also serves as a reminder of the damage that secrets, lies, gossip and assumptions can wreak on people’s lives.

RebeccaThornton

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rebecca Thornton is an alumna of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course, where she was tutored by Esther Freud and Tim Lott. Her writing has been published in The Guardian, You Magazine, Daily Mail, Prospect Magazine and The Sunday People amongst others. She has reported from the Middle East, Kosovo and the UK. She now lives in West London with her husband and two children.

The Fallout is her third novel.

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