Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: May 14th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense,  Lesbian Literature, Youth Novel

TRIGGER WARNING: Child Abuse

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Orenda for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Single-mother Fran returns to her sleepy hometown to care for her dying father when a devastating bush fire breaks out. A devastating, disaster-noir thriller from the author of The Cry.

Fran hates Ash Mountain, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.

She returns to her hometown to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.

As old friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…

Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that you will never forget…

MY REVIEW:

“There’s a firestorm coming straight for Ash Mountain.” 

For Fran Collins Ash Mountain is a place that holds unwanted memories and stirs a sense of anger and injustice inside her. She left as soon as she could but is now back to care for her dying father. Little has changed in the rural town where everybody knows your business and never lets you forget. But there are some dark, sinister secrets that are still waiting to be discovered….

The small, sleepy town of Ash Mountain and it’s residents are vividly brought to life in this captivating novel.  From the opening chapter with its descriptions of the sky red and black with fire and the unrelenting heat, the author immerses you in Fran’s world as clearly as if you were watching it on a movie screen. I could see the fire raging towards me, feel it  scorching my skin and the smoke choking my lungs. Later on, when the flames take hold and burn through the town, there are heartbreaking scenes as the residents are caught in its clutches and descriptions of charred bodies that serve as a stark reminder of the true cost of disasters such as these.

Though there are multiple narrators and the book tells the stories of many of Ash Mountain’s inhabitants, it is Fran’s story that is at the heart of the book. When we meet Fran she is in her early 40s and a single parent to sixteen-year-old Vonny. Her son Dante is now twenty-nine, the product of a scandalous one night stand when she was fifteen, and still lives in the small town. Fran is a likeable and relatable protagonist and as the story moves between multiple timelines spanning thirty years, we begin to understand why she has such venom for her hometown and many of its residents. But lurking in the shadows, there is a much darker story waiting to be unearthed. And as the tension rises, harrowing discoveries bring to light the town’s most sordid secrets.

Atmospheric, original and pulsing with tension, this was a quick and fast-paced read. It is the first time I’ve read one of Helen’s novels and I will definitely read more. Don’t miss the acknowledgments and photographer’s note at the back of the book to learn the story behind the book’s beautiful front cover.

Helen Fitzgerald Author Pic

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of Dead Lovely (2007) and ten other adult and young adult thrillers, including My Last Confession (2009), The Donor (2011), The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and Viral (Out Feb 2016). Helen has worked as a criminal justice social worker for over ten years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia. She now lives in Glasgow with her husband and two children.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Website
Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

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Book Depository
Google Play
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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – April 2020

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I can’t believe we’re a third of the way through the year already. April has been a strange month for the world with us being in lockdown. For me, that’s meant mostly getting used to not having a quiet house during the day Monday to Friday, which is when I do a lot of my reading and blogging. I’ve also had to hand over my laptop to our eldest as his is broken so I’m restricted in my times I can write.

In terms of reading, April has been another strong month for me. I’ve read thirteen books, taken part in fifteen blog tours, two cover reveals, one readalong and one buddy read. So here is what I’ve read this month:

  1. Mine by Clare Empson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. Strangers by C.L. Taylor ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Philosopher’s Daughters by Alison Booth ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. All In Her Head by Nikki Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton ⭐⭐⭐.5
  7. The Switch by Beth O’Leary ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. I Am Dust by Louise Beech ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. What’s Left of Me Is Yours by Stephanie Scott ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
  11. The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. The House Guest by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. So Many Lies by Paul J. Teague ⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can read the synopsis and reviews for what I’ve read this month by clicking on the links above except for The House Guest, which will be reviewed next month.

So many great books means it’s hard to choose a favourite. And this month it was almost impossible. I loved Hamnet and was sure nothing would top that; until I read the breathtaking debut novel, What’s Left Of Me Is Yours. I still think about that book many times each day and am constantly recommending everyone read it. So if you haven’t yet bought a copy you can use the links in my review to do it now! Other books I feel deserve a shout out are the fantastic thrillers Strangers and All In Her Head, the heartwarming and uplifting The Switch, and the brilliantly sinister I Am Dust. Each of these were also contenders for my book of the month.

Thank you to the publishers for my gifted copies of the books and the blog tour organisers for all their hard work.

What have you read this month and what was your favourite? Comment below.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

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!

Stephanie Scott Author Pic

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.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Website
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon
Waterstones
Book Depository
Google Books
Apple Books
Kobo

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Categories
Blog Tours

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.

Carmel Author Pic

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:

Website
Twitter
Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon
Waterstone
Book Depository
Google Books
Apple Books
Kobo

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Categories
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.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Website
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BUY THE BOOK:

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Book Depository
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Categories
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.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Book Depository
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1586036420571_The Fallout BT Poster

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

All In Her Head by Nikki Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: April 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this debut thriller. Thank you Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Orion and NetGalley for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Her life is a pack of lies. But what if she is the liar?

Alison is more alone than she’s ever been. She is convinced that her ex-husband Jack is following her. She is certain she recognises the strange woman who keeps approaching her at work.

She knows she has a good reason to be afraid. But she can’t remember why.

Then the mention of one name brings a whole lifetime of memories rushing back in.

Alison feels like she’s losing her mind . . . but it could just lead her to the truth.

MY REVIEW:

Nothing is as it seems in this compelling, haunting and emotionally charged debut. I raced through the pages, not wanting to put the book down until all my questions were answered. 

OMG! What a rollercoaster ride! This complex, multi-layered thriller dripped with suspense and had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Told in dual timelines by two narrators, there’s an atmosphere of foreboding from the start. What did Jack do that ended their marriage and fills Alison with fear? What is it that Alison isn’t remembering? Who is Sarah and what does she want? 

The brilliance of this book is in its iceberg quality – so much is hidden beneath its smooth surface. A masterclass in thriller writing., it is spectacularly written, deftly plotted and full of so many twists and turns it made my head spin. My head was full of theories and questions, which shifted as truths were slowly revealed. And while I did guess some of the twists early on, I also fell for many of the red herrings expertly plotted along the way. Alison and Jack are both complex, captivating but flawed characters. I felt for Alison immediately, her fear and anxiety radiating from the pages. It also made her an unreliable narrator, making the story all the more intriguing and unguessable. 

A merging of psychological thriller, suspense and domestic fiction, All In Her Head is a breathtaking debut from an exciting new talent. There are a lot of great thrillers out at the moment, but this is one you shouldn’t miss.

Nikki Smith Author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nikki studied English Literature at Birmingham University before pursuing a career in finance, working in a variety of different companies including an investment bank and a trampoline park. She always had a passion for writing and in 2017 she had a ‘now or never’ moment and applied for a Curtis Brown Creative 3 month writing course which she absolutely loved. Later that year she had a short story published in the Writer’s Forum Magazine, and submitted the opening chapters of her novel to a competition where she won the opportunity to be mentored by the author Amanda Reynolds. She lives near Guildford with her husband, two daughters and a very friendly Burmese cat called Saffi.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

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Waterstones
Book Depository
Kobo
Google Books

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Blog Tours Guest Post

Guest Post: Martin Edwards, author of Mortmain Hall

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Today I’m delighted to share a guest post from Martin Edwards whose debut novel Mortmain Hall was released April 2nd.

My Top 10 Sherlock Holmes Stories – Martin Edwards

Sherlock Holmes is not only the most popular fictional detective, he is the most popular fictional character of all time. From his very first appearance in A Study in Scarlet, he cuts a truly unforgettable figure. His friend Stamford describes him to Dr Watson as ‘a walking calendar of crime’, but he’s much, much more than that.

At the age of ten I wrote my first crime story, very much inspired by Sherlock and Agatha Christie. Thankfully it was never published, but to this day the idea of the Great Detective fascinates me, and I’ve tried to give this classic notion a fresh spin in the shape of Rachel Savernake, the dark star of my latest book, Mortmain Hall.

But Sherlock is always, to paraphrase Arthur Conan Doyle, the detective. Here are ten of my favourites.

The Hound of the Baskervilles
This classic is by far the best of the four novels about Sherlock. The Dartmoor setting is superbly evoked and the legend of an old family curse sets our man on the way to solving a fiendish crime. The dialogue is vintage Doyle: ‘Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!’

‘The Red-Headed League’
The second short story featuring Sherlock is also one of the finest detective short stories ever written. The brilliant deductions at the start introduce a marvellously intriguing scenario and a mystery packed with excitement.

‘The Five Orange Pips’
What frightening secret lies behind a message taking the form of the eponymous orange pips? This story was also one of Doyle’s own favourites because of its dramatic quality.

‘The Speckled Band’
This is a masterpiece, chock-full of vintage ingredients. A hateful villain, a baffling ‘dying message’ clue, and a locked room mystery – what more could a detective story fan wish for?

‘The Copper Beeches’
This is a dark story, which demonstrates the truth of Sherlock’s famous observation that ‘the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.’

‘Silver Blaze’
The tale of dirty dealing in the world of horse racing would merit classic status if only for the legendary passage in which Sherlock draws Inspector Gregory’s attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time…

‘The Priory School’
There’s a clue in this story about bicycle tracks which is far from credible, but it’s a tribute to Doyle’s storytelling gifts that the verve and power of the narrative make us willing to suspend disbelief.

‘The Dancing Men’
As with ‘The Five Orange Pips’, the starting point for the mystery is a puzzling message. Stories about codes and ciphers can be fascinating, and this tale of revenge is perhaps the most successful example of all.

‘The Musgrave Ritual’
T.S. Eliot paid homage to this story in Murder in the Cathedral. It’s a highly evocative tale, a memory of Sherlock’s early life, and again one of Doyle’s own favourites.

‘The Final Problem’
Sherlock engages in a life-or-death struggle with Professor Moriarty, ‘the Napoleon of Crime’, at a vividly described Reichenbach Falls. Doyle intended this story was intended to mark the end of the maestro. But Sherlock was too strong for him as well as for Moriarty. He has proved immortal.

Mortmain Hall is published by Head of Zeus on 2 April, £18.99 hardback

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Martin Edwards is the latest recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing, given for the sustained excellence of an author’s contribution to the genre. His most recent novels, set in 1930, are Mortmain Hall and Gallows Court, which was nominated for two awards including the CWA Historical Dagger. British librarians awarded him the CWA Dagger in the Library in 2018 in recognition of his body of work. His seventh and most recent Lake District Mystery is The Dungeon House. Earlier books in the series are The Coffin Trail (short-listed for the Theakston’s prize for best British crime novel of 2006), The Cipher Garden, The Arsenic Labyrinth (short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year award in 2008), The Serpent Pool, and The Hanging Wood.

Martin is a well-known crime fiction critic, and series consultant to the British Library’s Crime Classics. His ground-breaking study of the genre between the wars, The Golden Age of Murder, was warmly reviewed around the world, and won the Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating and Macavity awards. His The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books won the Macavity and was nominated for four other awards.

Martin has written eight novels about lawyer Harry Devlin, the first of which, All the Lonely People, was short-listed for the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger for the best first crime novel of the year, The early Devlin books are now enjoying a fresh life as ebooks, with new introductions by leading authors such as Val McDermid and Frances Fyfield, as well as other new material.

In addition Martin has written a stand-alone novel of psychological suspense, Take My Breath Away, and a much acclaimed novel featuring Dr Crippen, Dancing for the Hangman. The latest Devlin novel, Waterloo Sunset, appeared in 2008. He completed Bill Knox’s last book, The Lazarus Widow. He has published many short stories, including the ebooks The New Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and Acknowledgments and other stories. ‘Test Drive’ was short-listed for the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2006, while ‘The Bookbinder’s Apprentice’ won the same Dagger in 2008.

A well-known commentator on crime fiction, he has edited 40 anthologies and published diverse non-fiction books, including a study of homicide investigation, Urge to Kill.An expert on crime fiction history, he is archivist of both the Crime Writers’ Association and the Detection Club. He was elected eighth President of the Detection Club in 2015, spent two years as Chair of the CWA, and posts regularly to his blog, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: March 31st, 2020
Publisher: Tinder Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in this blog tour and Tinder Press for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

MY REVIEW:

For months I have been itching to get my hands on this book and was green with envy of those fortunate enough to get an early proof. So when the chance arose to take part in a last minute blog tour for this eagerly anticipated novel I jumped at it. Breathtaking, atmospheric, tender and absorbing, this exquisite story has instantly become my favourite book this year. It feels almost impossible to write this review as I know whatever I write cannot do justice to its sheer brilliance. But I will try.

Hamnet is a fresh perspective on Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy; the heartbreaking events that touched his family in 1596. It seamlessly moves between characters and timelines, using flashbacks to tell the story of the family prior to that fateful year. Before reading this book I knew almost nothing about Shakespeare’s personal life, but I was immediately immersed in their world as the author brought to life sixteenth century England. It is a work of both fact and fiction, the author creating a rich tapestry woven from the little known facts of Hamnet and his family. The writing is lyrical, poetic, and meticulous, telling the story with fluency as I savoured each word. 

Each character is deftly and vividly written, with Agnes, Hament and Judith being the ones I particularly felt a connection with.  Hament’s energy shines from the pages while his twin, Judith, exudes a delicate aura that, like her brother, made me want to protect her. Agnes took me some time to warm to but she was soon the character I related to most of all, probably because we are both mothers and I could recognise my own maternal feelings in hers. The myth of her childhood also made her incredibly fascinating and a bit of an enigma.

The most surprising element for me was how timely this story felt. I’ve read a lot about the plague, particularly Eyam, but until now have never been able to relate to the idea of being quarantined for fear of spreading a deadly illness for which there is no cure. Being able to relate to this made the fear, helplessness and heartache all the more palpable and like something that could actually happen to me and my family, rather than simply a tragic story that only happened to people many years ago.

Hamnet is an outstanding work of literature. Affecting, poignant and lingering, it is also an example of storytelling at its finest. I’m ashamed to say that this is the first time I’ve read the author’s work and I’m now wondering why I waited so long. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough. Read it now!

Maggie Author Pic

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Maggie O’Farrell is the author of the Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling memoir I Am, I Am, I Am, and eight novels: After You’d Gone, My Lover’s Lover, The Distance Between Us, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand That First Held Mine, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, Instructions For A Heatwave, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award,  This Must Be The Place, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, and Hamnet.

She lives in Edinburgh.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Philosopher’s Daughters by Alison Booth ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: April 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Red Door Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Red Door Press for my gifted copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

A tale of two very different sisters whose 1890s voyage from London into remote outback Australia becomes a journey of self-discovery, set against a landscape of wild beauty and savage dispossession. London in 1891: Harriet Cameron is a talented young artist whose mother died when she was barely five. She and her beloved sister Sarah were brought up by their father, radical thinker James Cameron. After adventurer Henry Vincent arrives on the scene, the sisters’ lives are changed forever. Sarah, the beauty of the family, marries Henry and embarks on a voyage to Australia. Harriet, intensely missing Sarah, must decide whether to help her father with his life’s work or to devote herself to painting. When James Cameron dies unexpectedly, Harriet is overwhelmed by grief. Seeking distraction, she follows Sarah to Australia, and afterwards into the outback, where she is alienated by the casual violence and great injustices of outback life. Her rejuvenation begins with her friendship with an Aboriginal stockman and her growing love for the landscape. But this fragile happiness is soon threatened by murders at a nearby cattle station and by a menacing station hand who is seeking revenge.

MY REVIEW:

Thought-provoking, compelling, tender and evocative, this delightful novel explores issues such as equal rights for women and all races in nineteenth century London and Australia. 

Sisters Sarah and Harriet Cameron were raised in London by their progressive, philosopher father. After his death, Harriet travels to Australia to join Sarah, who is there on an extended honeymoon with her husband Henry. Living in Dimbulah Darwin, deep in the Australian outback, the sisters must adjust to a harsher, more dangerous existence, but soon find joy and friendship in their new home. But as racial tensions rise, they must find a way to protect not only themselves, but those they’ve come to care about.

I love historical fiction because of the opportunity to immerse myself in another place and time, and the chance to learn more about those periods. This novel captures a moment in history I knew little about, which is part of the reason I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour. Themes of injustice run through the novel and are explored through topics such as women’s and equal rights, appropriation, and racism. It was jarring to read the stark reality of the Aborigines lack of rights and the fear in which they were forced to live in a land that was taken from them. Harriet’s battle for independence and autonomy was a reminder of those who fought for equal rights and to be thankful for the rights women enjoy living where and when we do today.

The characters are compelling, flawed and real. Harriet and Sarah are very different people but are both complex women with a heart of gold and great strength. We watch them wrestle with themselves as they embark on a journey of self-discovery, going through great changes in the seven years over which the story is told. Harriet in particular suffers an identity crisis and does a lot of soul searching during her time in the outback, embracing the teachings of the Aboriginals. I loved this inclusion of so many Aboriginal characters and the inclusion of them as memorable characters in their own right rather than simply being nameless background workers. 

Told in short, tightly crafted chapters, this is a subtle and steadily paced novel. But as the threat towards those at Dimbulah Darwin escalated, the tension radiated from the page and my heart raced in anticipation. The author’s prose is lyrical and bursting with rich imagery that made me feel like I could actually see the bright colours of the Australian Outback. 

I highly recommend this uplifting, powerful and endearing story. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alison Booth was born in Melbourne and grew up in Sydney. She is a professor at the Australian National University and the author of three novels: Stillwater CreekThe Indigo Sky and A Distant Land, all set in the fictional town of Jingera. She lives with her husband in Canberra’s inner north, and has spent two decades living and working in the UK.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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BUY THE BOOK:

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The Philosophers Daughters BT Poster