blog tour, books, lifestyle

12 Days of Clink Street: One? – Jennifer L. Cahill

It’s London in the mid-noughties before Facebook, iPhones and ubiquitous wifi, and One? follows the highs and lows of a group of twenty-somethings living in leafy SW4.

Zara has just moved to London for her first real job and struggles to find her feet in a big city with no instruction manual.

Penelope works night and day in an investment bank with little or no time for love. At 28 she is positively ancient as far as her mother is concerned and the pressure is on for her to settle down as the big 3-0 is looming.

Charlie spends night and day with his band who are constantly teetering on the verge of greatness.

Richard has relocated to London from his castle in Scotland in search of the one, and Alyx is barely in one place long enough to hold down a relationship let alone think about the future.

 

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With a sigh, Miss Miller adjusted her horn-rimmed spectacles to survey her classroom of five-year-olds. The heat was really getting to her, mixed up with the sporadic hot flashes, it was becoming unbearable. A small bead of perspiration made its way slowly down the middle of her back. Her polyester, pointed collar shirt was growing clammy from the heat. Miss Miller stood up and gazed down at the children who were fidgeting and terribly restless. Her hands were clammy, and suddenly, without warning, she dropped her wooden blackboard duster onto the desk. The loud thud broke the silence, and a little cloud of chalk dust puffed up from where it had landed. The sunshine was streaming in through the windows, and the children watched… mesmerised, as the chalk dust particles danced on the sunbeam. They were convinced that the fairies were busy at work in their classroom that sunny June afternoon. This was quite enough to unsettle the class of five-year-olds especially so near to going home time. The children started giggling and wriggling around in their seats. Miss Miller gave them a stern look and settled herself behind her desk on the oak rostrum. She decided that it was Alyx’s turn to share his homework with the class. ‘Alyx,’ she said, as she peered over her glasses.
Alyx didn’t flinch; he was far, far away… gazing at the fairies on the sunbeam…‘Alyx! Alyx! Wake up! Come along now, we are waiting…’ Miss Miller snapped. Alyx nearly jumped out of his little skin! He began to stammer.‘What? Em, ok,’ Alyx stuttered as he struggled to his feet from behind his tiny little desk. ‘… when I grow up, I wish I were, no, I wish I would be a Beatle!’ Alyx breathed a small sigh of relief, he was happy that he had remembered the words in English.Miss Miller went puce, as the whole class started laughing. Alyx stood there defiantly. Alyx hated talking in front of the whole class; he was used to speaking French in school….not English! He would only be in this school for a few weeks while his mother was on location for a film in London, he didn’t understand these English people at all! He was constantly in trouble!Miss Miller was livid! All she needed was the most minor disruption to set the class of five-year-olds off, today of all days. It was easily 30C outside and there was no escaping the heat. Miss Miller struggled to regain composure.‘Don’t be silly Alyx, you can’t be a beetle, you are a little boy… why would you want to be an insect?!’ Miss Miller snapped.‘No, Miss, not an insect… I want to be like one of the Beatles!’ Alyx went bright red, and started staring down at his feet, while he shuffled from one tiny little foot to the other.‘The rock group?! Alyx really! Everyone else in the class has prepared their homework, sit down and come and speak to me at the end of class!’ Miss Miller was still puce as she said this, she took a deep breath to regain composure. She had no time for these ungrounded “celebrity” fantasies…Meanwhile the whole class had erupted into fits of giggles. Alyx slumped back into his tiny little chair, feeling very sorry for himself indeed. Life is tough when you are five and grownups keep trying to break your dreams.Miss Miller looked down at her list again, completely exasperated. Who should she ask next, who would be a “safe bet”?‘Next? Who is next?’ Miss Miller spoke sternly to silence the laughing five-year-olds. ‘Yes, Penelope?’‘Miss? Miss? May I go next?’ Penelope’s little hand shot straight up the minute Miss Miller had said ‘Next?’ She was dying to tell the teacher her ambition.‘Well, yes dear, if you really want to, I don’t see why not….’ Miss Miller sighed as she sat back in her chair.Penelope stood up in front of her desk, her little hands clasped tightly behind her back.‘When I grow up, I want to be a beautiful princess, and I want to live in a castle…’ Penelope beamed at Miss Miller, waiting for the praise that she was so used to. The teacher usually said things like ‘Excellent, Penelope’ and ‘Good girl’ to her. Sadly Penelope did not expect the reaction that was heading her way.With a sigh, Miss Miller adjusted her horn-rimmed spectacles to survey her classroom of five-year-olds. The heat was really getting to her, mixed up with the sporadic hot flashes, it was becoming unbearable. A small bead of perspiration made its way slowly down the middle of her back. Her polyester, pointed collar shirt was growing clammy from the heat. Miss Miller stood up and gazed down at the children who were fidgeting and terribly restless. Her hands were clammy, and suddenly, without warning, she dropped her wooden blackboard duster onto the desk. The loud thud broke the silence, and a little cloud of chalk dust puffed up from where it had landed. The sunshine was streaming in through the windows, and the children watched… mesmerised, as the chalk dust particles danced on the sunbeam. They were convinced that the fairies were busy at work in their classroom that sunny June afternoon. This was quite enough to unsettle the class of five-year-olds especially so near to going home time. The children started giggling and wriggling around in their seats. Miss Miller gave them a stern look and settled herself behind her desk on the oak rostrum. She decided that it was Alyx’s turn to share his homework with the class. ‘Alyx,’ she said, as she peered over her glasses.

Alyx didn’t flinch; he was far, far away… gazing at the fairies on the sunbeam…

‘Alyx! Alyx! Wake up! Come along now, we are waiting…’ Miss Miller snapped. Alyx nearly jumped out of his little skin! He began to stammer.

‘What? Em, ok,’ Alyx stuttered as he struggled to his feet from behind his tiny little desk. ‘… when I grow up, I wish I were, no, I wish I would be a Beatle!’ Alyx breathed a small sigh of relief, he was happy that he had remembered the words in English.

Miss Miller went puce, as the whole class started laughing. Alyx stood there defiantly. Alyx hated talking in front of the whole class; he was used to speaking French in school….not English! He would only be in this school for a few weeks while his mother was on location for a film in London, he didn’t understand these English people at all! He was constantly in trouble!

Miss Miller was livid! All she needed was the most minor disruption to set the class of five-year-olds off, today of all days. It was easily 30C outside and there was no escaping the heat. Miss Miller struggled to regain composure.

‘Don’t be silly Alyx, you can’t be a beetle, you are a little boy… why would you want to be an insect?!’ Miss Miller snapped.

‘No, Miss, not an insect… I want to be like one of the Beatles!’ Alyx went bright red, and started staring down at his feet, while he shuffled from one tiny little foot to the other.

‘The rock group?! Alyx really! Everyone else in the class has prepared their homework, sit down and come and speak to me at the end of class!’ Miss Miller was still puce as she said this, she took a deep breath to regain composure. She had no time for these ungrounded “celebrity” fantasies…

Meanwhile the whole class had erupted into fits of giggles. Alyx slumped back into his tiny little chair, feeling very sorry for himself indeed. Life is tough when you are five and grownups keep trying to break your dreams.

Miss Miller looked down at her list again, completely exasperated. Who should she ask next, who would be a “safe bet”?

‘Next? Who is next?’ Miss Miller spoke sternly to silence the laughing five-year-olds. ‘Yes, Penelope?’

‘Miss? Miss? May I go next?’ Penelope’s little hand shot straight up the minute Miss Miller had said ‘Next?’ She was dying to tell the teacher her ambition.

‘Well, yes dear, if you really want to, I don’t see why not….’ Miss Miller sighed as she sat back in her chair.

Penelope stood up in front of her desk, her little hands clasped tightly behind her back.

‘When I grow up, I want to be a beautiful princess, and I want to live in a castle…’ Penelope beamed at Miss Miller, waiting for the praise that she was so used to. The teacher usually said things like ‘Excellent, Penelope’ and ‘Good girl’ to her. Sadly Penelope did not expect the reaction that was heading her way.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: All The Wrong Places – Joy Fielding*

You always know who you’re meeting online . . . don’t you?

Turning to online dating each with their own reasons, four women download an app, hoping to swipe their way to love and happiness.

But not everyone is who they seem online. Hidden behind a perfect smile and charming humour, he appears to be the perfect date. But the night he has planned is unlike any other.

The clock is ticking, and for one woman, this date might just be her last . . .

My thoughts:

I’ve never tried online dating, meeting my husband in a rather old-fashioned way at work, but my cousin met her husband on Tinder, so it works well for some. Unless of course a serial killer is hunting his victims through an app.

Paige is single, her long-term boyfriend having cheated on her with her cousin Heather, and living with her mother, she’s also currently unemployed. So between job hunting, she decides to see if she can find Mr Right, but what if he isn’t quite so nice?

I love a clever thriller and this one is that, told from the perspective of both Paige, and the mysterious murderer, Boston forms the backdrop to a world of interviews, dates and coming to terms with your mother dating again!

There some humorous bits as well as lots of death, will Paige end up on the killer’s list of matches?

I’m not telling!

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*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Vagabond King – Jodie Bond*

T hreon, the Vagabond King, is torn from a life in the palace by raiders and forced to scrape a living on the streets of a foreign land.

Meeting a witch from distant mountains, a rebel soldier and a woman cursed by a god, he seeks retribution through a quest to reclaim his home and throne.

Together they rekindle old allegiances, face an immortal army and learn to trust one another.

But when the gods begin to interfere with their plans, is it a curse or a blessing?

Jodie Bond comes from a family of gin makers in the mountains of north Wales. She works in marketing and performs as a burlesque artist.

She had an unconventional childhood, dividing her time between a quiet life on her mother’s farm and her father’s home which was infamous for holding some of the UK’s biggest raves in the 90s.

My thoughts:

This is an interesting start to what could be a cracking series, as Threon, the titular Vagabond King reclaims the kingdom that was stolen from him and fights for his people.

The premise is interesting and I found the direct involvement of the gods reminded me of Greek mythology, where everyone treats it as normal for a god to just pop by for a chat, and a bit of manipulation.

There are also several strong female characters, Savanta and Azzania in particular, one gods-touched and one a powerful Druid type figure.

I look forward to seeing this series grow, building on from this one and developing the characters further and expanding the world building the author has already developed.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part on the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Tour: Love Potions and Other Calamities – Charlie Laidlaw*

Love Potions and Other Calamities by [Laidlaw, Charlie]

Rosie McLeod, pub proprietor and a gifted herbalist of local renown, is thirty-nine and holding, but only just. The talons of her fortieth birthday are in her back and her bloody, bloody husband hasn’t laid a lustful hand on her for months.

Rosie sets out to discover if her husband is having an affair, using deductive powers based solely on the careful preparation of plants and herbs. But as her well-laid plans entirely fall apart, the sighting of a large black cat sets off another chain of events.

Rosie now realises that a psychopath is on the loose and that she’s been selected as his next victim.

My thoughts:

This was a clever entertaining read, Rosie is fast approaching forty and is fed up, her skills in herbal medications mean that she knows all about what effects something as simple as a few herbs and hedgerow flowers have on the human anatomy.

While she’s wrapped up in fears over her marriage, someone is following their own conspiracy – about witches.

I liked the links with Scottish history, including the tragic history of women accused of being witches, Scotland being the only place in the British Isles who burned witches (everyone else hanged them).

There has been a resurgence of modern witchcraft and herbal knowledge and this feeds nicely into this, becoming a crime thriller as the witchfinder circles closer.

Then there’s the mysterious giant black cat, a bit like the Beast of Bodmin, that several people have seen and an election campaign taking place in the village at the same time.

The book is very funny at points and great when you need something fairly light-hearted (murders aside) to read.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: What She Saw Last Night – MJ Cross*

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin … but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.

My thoughts:

Trains have famously been the place where crimes take place – thanks to a certain Agatha Christie. But instead of a grand trip across Europe, Jenny is taking the sleeper to Edinburgh when the crime she says she witnessed takes place.

The plot that unravels goes to places you don’t expect – what seems like a straightforward case of murder and maybe missing person turns out to be a lot more dangerous and shocking.

The plot whizzes along, the writing is tight and carries you along with it, just like a train.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

12 Days of Clink Street: The Watcher – Monika Jephcott Thomas*

The Watcher by [Jephcott Thomas, Monika]

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

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My thoughts:

This started slowly but once things began to happen and you learnt about the characters it picked up. It was really interesting to see the German side of the post-conflict history I learnt about at school. As well as the trauma of his experience, there is also a national period of reconciliation going on around Max after he returns from the Siberian POW camp, and attempts to readjust to his life, family and role.

Max was a non-combatant, being a doctor, but was still treated incredibly poorly by the Russian soldiers who haunt his nightmares. His family, including his wife and the daughter who has never met him before, also have to adjust to their new family dynamic, and Max’s PTSD, which leaves him with horrific night terrors and cut off from his loved ones.

I know a little about Allied soldiers returning from WWII but very little is said about life in occupied West Germany, and what support, or lack thereof, there was for the men returning to their lives.

Tragedy strikes the family, first with the murder and then in more intimate ways, even closer to home. The police detective is not a pleasant man and makes the family afraid.

It was also interesting to have Netta’s perspective as the children are often forgotten in stories like these, how strange it is to have someone you’re told is your father, but who is actually a total stranger, come to live with you and disrupt your life.

This book is well written and moving, capturing a picture of the period and the characters with a compassion and understanding that is often lacking in historical recollections of post-war Germany.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for helping Clink Street publishers to celebrate their authors and books.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Forest Lake Mystery – Palle Rosenkrantz*

Detective Sergeant Eigil Holst is on holiday in the countryside when the body of a baby is washed up on the banks of a nearby lake. The local magistrate orders the lake to be drained and the body of a young woman is discovered, naked and weighed down with stones tied to her feet and neck. Her identity is a mystery.

Holst then takes it upon himself to find out where this woman came from, why she was in this remote location and who could have had motive to kill her. His investigations take him across Scandinavia and into central Europe as, gradually, he realises that the solution to the mystery could have huge implications on his own future.

My thoughts:

Considered the first Danish crime novel, now published in a new translation, the author lends his name to the Danish crime writing awards. First published in 1903, this is another book that deserves to be more widely known and read.

A lot more convoluted and complex a case than it first appears, the plot criss crosses Europe as Detective Holst searches for the truth of the murdered woman in the lake. This is a clever and confident novel, intelligently plotted and tightly paced.

Fans of the genre should definitely get themselves a copy.

*I was kindly sent an advance copy of this book with no requirement to review. All opinions remain my own.