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First Lines Friday: Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves

“At the end of Wolfie’s garden in a shed he built in the summer of 1951, the same year he turned nineteen and opened the kosher deli next to Victoria Park. He scavenged timber from a house shattered by the Blitz, and laid the roof with red clay tiles prised from the rubble.”

What is your first read of 2021? Today’s first lines are taken from mine, which is Victoria Park, a debut novel which is published on January 7th. I’m not far into it, but I’m really enjoying it so far and finding it a refreshing and uplifting read.


Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year. Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.

With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.

Keep an eye out for my review on January 14th as part of the blog tour.This sounds like the perfect way to start my reading year.

You can pre-order a copy here.

First Lines Friday

Festive First Lines Friday – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got Father and Mother and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

Today’s first lines are taken from a book that needs little introduction; Little Women. This is one of my favourite classics and always makes me think of two things: Christmas, and the 90s film adaptation. I’ve not read it for a number of years now but really should do a reread soon.

Have you read Little Women? What does the book mean to you?

Blog Tours book reviews Tandem Readalong

After The Silence by Louise O’Neill

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Riverrun
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Literary Fiction

I read this book as part of a readalong with Tandem Collective UK. This post is also part of a social media blast in connection with Quercus. Thank you to Hannah at Quercus for my gifted copy of the book.


Nessa Crowley’s murderer has been protected by silence for ten years.
Until a team of documentary makers decide to find out the truth.

On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella’s wild party at their big house a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrun, cutting it off from the mainland. When morning broke Nessa Crowley’s lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder.

The killer couldn’t have escaped Inisrun, but no-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever.

Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, there to lift the lid off the Kinsella’s carefully constructed lives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry’s guilt and Keelin’s complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.

In this bold, brilliant, disturbing new novel Louise O’Neill shows that deadly secrets are devastating to those who hold them close.


“There were three of them in the beginning, and we called them the Crowley Girls. They were born of this island, as we were; sister-children, brethren, kin. Soil and bone. A common blood running through our veins, for our ancestors, had been family, once, if you understand the ways of Insirun before we begin our story – we were all connected here. But those girls were not like us.”

Darkly atmospheric, haunting, tense, claustrophobic and addictive, After The Silence is a richly drawn amalgamation of whodunnit and character study that examines the power of silence, and the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive. 

This was my first Louise O’Neill book but won’t be my last. I have fallen in love with her exquisite writing and her ability to write about such a difficult subject with such truth and sensitivity. Because, while this is a murder mystery, the author has cleverly woven into that an examination of domestic abuse, coercive control and violence against women. It is clear that she highly researched the subject as she writes with a depth of knowledge and truth as well as great sensitivity to a harrowing subject. 

Her characters are fascinating, flawed and real. They’re people you might even recognise yourself in. As someone who lived in an abusive relationship for twelve years, I saw myself in Keelin, my past relationship in hers and my ex in some of the male characters.   I loved how using the Kinsella’s beauty, wealth and faux happiness, she highlights that domestic abuse can happen to ANYONE, even those who are strong and independent, and that coercive control is so much harder to recognise as abuse than physical abuse.  

Setting the story on the small, secluded island of Inisurin added an extra layer to the book; a threatening, eerie and claustrophobic atmosphere that permeates everyone and everything. The island is also like a character in itself, and acts as a metaphor for how Keelin feels about her marriage: the island keeping her prisoner just like her marriage. There is a very real sense of being trapped with help being out of reach. That no one can save you.  

Dark, brooding, tense and twisty, After The Silence will keep you guessing right until the end. I am now such a fan of this author that I’ve already started ordering her back catalogue so I can devour her other books. 

 Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰


Louise O’Neill was born in west Cork in 1985. She studied English at Trinity College Dublin and has worked for the senior style director of American Elle magazine. While in New York, she also worked as an assistant stylist on a number of high-profile campaigns. Louise has written two award-winning books, Only Ever Yours and her most recent, Asking For It, which won Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. She is currently working as a freelance journalist for a variety of Irish national newspapers and magazines, covering feminist issues, fashion and pop culture. She lives in Clonakilty, west Cork.



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Blog Tours book reviews

The Home by Sarah Stovell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Publisher: Orenda Books
Published: November 28th, 2019 on Kindle. January 23rd, 2020 in Paperback
Genre: Mystery, thriller, suspense, coming of age fiction.

Welcome to my first blog tour of 2020. I am thrilled to be taking part in the tour for this wonderful book. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Karen at Orenda Books for the gifted copy of this novel.

The Home Cover


When the body of pregnant fifteen-year-old Hope Lacey is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, who’s violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations…and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

A gritty, dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also an emotive drama and piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live…if they are allowed to live at all.



“Because we were young, it was true. We were fragile too. But we weren’t fragile like flowers. We were fragile like bombs.”

A mesmerising, soulful and haunting novel, The Home is a sorrowful love story, a tragedy and a tale of redemption. I was instantly captivated as the story opened with a young girl’s murder, talk of betrayal and the promise of revenge….

This beautifully written novel tells the story of three young girls – Annie, Hope and Lara – who have been forgotten, abused and neglected. They live together at an underfunded children’s home that is dreary and unwelcoming. Lara is so scarred by her past she doesn’t speak, but Annie and Hope bond over their shared hardships in life, and soon embark on a passionate but forbidden love affair that turns into obsession. But something goes wrong and on Christmas morning, one of them is found dead. The police suspect the other girl killed her but the staff don’t believe she is capable of it. Instead, they suspect that someone from the dead girl’s past has come for payback. The subsequent investigators leads to shocking and heartbreaking revelations.

Firstly, I will admit that I was initially drawn to this book because it is published by Orenda. I’ve become a big fan of the dark, bold, original and compelling books they publish. When I saw the haunting cover and read the synopsis I knew I had to read this book. The Home is all the things I’ve come to expect from Orenda and more. It is a bleak, fierce, powerful and intriguing story that reached into my soul.

“The thing about us was we weren’t afraid of the darkness. It was part of who we were. It was normal.”

The girls were fractured, broken characters who came to the home because they had seen and experienced things no one should have to. They had been forced to become hardened survivors and learned to trust only themselves. Their pasts are a mystery and the details of the abuse and neglect they’ve suffered is slowly unveiled over the course of the book. As we get to know them we find that inside that hardened shell they’re just kids who want to be safe and loved. They’re suffocating, drowning, and looking for a life raft to hold on to, only to have one they thought they’d found snatched away from them. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of maternal instinct towards each of them, wishing they could have had a family that treated them better and a life free from the trauma they have witnessed. I wondered how much they could possibly take, if they can overcome this latest tragedy or it will be the incident that leads to them spiraling out of reach forever.

This was the first time I had read a book by this author and I can’t wait to read more. Her subdued style was beautiful and haunting. She moved smoothly between the narrators and timelines, keeping the reader guessing about the truth of Hope’s death right until the final pages. I know I vacillated between a couple theories over the course of the book. I was under Ms Stovell’s spell from the opening lines until the final sentence and can’t wait to read more so she can do it again.

The Home is an eerie, heart-rending and alluring novel. I went through all the colours of my emotions as I read this fateful tale. As I approached the finale, it felt like I was on a train hurtling towards tragedy at breakneck speed and I was powerless to stop it. I couldn’t stop reading, finally feeling sure of my suspicions and with just one niggling unanswered question. But I was blindsided as the jaw-dropping truth was revealed, leaving me wrecked. A phenomenal novel that I can’t recommend highly enough.

Sarah Author Picture


Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer ’ by Sunday Times.

The Home BT Poster