blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Retreat – Alison Moore

Since childhood, Sandra Peters has been fascinated by the small, private island of Lieloh, home to the reclusive silent-film star Valerie Swanson. Having dreamed of going to art college, Sandra is now in her forties and working as a receptionist, but she still harbours artistic ambitions.
When she sees an advert for a two-week artists’ retreat on Lieloh, Sandra sets out on what might be a life-changing journey. She anticipates a friendly and supportive little community but does not get quite what she was hoping for.
The Retreat is a story about pursuing dreams and suffering artists, which unfolds with Moore’s trademark compelling unease.

ALISON MOORE’s first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards, winning the McKitterick
Prize. Both The Lighthouse and her second novel, He Wants, were Observer Books of the Year. Recent publications include a series for children. Her short fiction has been included in Best British Short
Stories, Best British Horror and Best New
Horror anthologies, broadcast on BBC Radio and collected in The Pre-War House and Other Stories.
Born in Manchester in 1971, she lives in a village on the Leicestershire-Nottinghamshire border with her husband and son and is an honorary lecturer in the School of English at the University of Nottingham. Website Twitter

My thoughts: this was an interesting read, I found the dual timeline confusing at first as I couldn’t work out which one happened when, but as the plots continued, I started to see what might be going on. I felt sorry for Sandra, the other “artists” at the retreat were a right bunch of meanies, annoyed because she was vegetarian, and behaved really childishly. They just wanted a holiday, she was there to paint, and be closer to the mysterious Valerie Swanson. It’s not a long story and it stops before it really gets interesting – which is disconcerting, things are hinted at, but no definitive answers given. What happened at the house on Little Lieloh?

*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: The Guide – Peter Heller

Kingfisher Lodge, nestled in a canyon on a mile and a half of the most pristine river water on the planet, is known by locals as “Billionaire’s Mile” and is locked behind a heavy gate. Sandwiched between barbed wire and a meadow with a sign that reads “Don’t Get Shot!” the resort boasts boutique fishing at its finest. Safe from viruses that have plagued America for years, Kingfisher offers a respite for wealthy clients. Now it also promises a second chance for Jack, a return to normalcy after a young life filled with loss. When he is assigned to guide a well-known singer, his only job is to rig her line, carry her gear, and steer her to the best trout he can find.

But then a human scream pierces the night, and Jack soon realizes that this idyllic fishing lodge may be merely a cover for a far more sinister operation. A novel as gripping as it is lyrical, as frightening as it is moving, The Guide is another masterpiece from Peter Heller.

My thoughts: this was clever and disturbing as Jack and Allison try to discover what’s really going on at Kingfisher Lodge, with the strange supposed neighbour and the young people in hospital gowns being shuttled about beyond the fence.

Set in a near future where coronaviruses are more common place and the threat of another pandemic looms large, the idea that wealthy people might isolate themselves in luxury isn’t that strange, and the only way anyone else can access that is by being staff. But when things don’t add up, and the manager makes threats, it’s easy to see why Jack can’t leave well enough alone and starts digging.

*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: Newport Writers Anthology

Welcome to our first anthology. Since the group started, it has always been Tony’s vision to put together a collection of stories and poems penned by our members. Please proceed with caution – these short stories and poems will introduce you to the alternative side of Newport: ghostly grandparents, a displaced porpoise, a little bit of Welshness, two philosophical security guards, a child whose food plays music, the awesome side of autism, a woman who made teddy bears in a concentration camp, and much more. Take a whirlwind tour through bereavement, love, regret and parenthood. Laugh and defy fate as you run the gamut of life’s experiences – seen through the eyes of a bunch of writers who celebrate their individuality. You will meet a diverse group of people who enjoy what they do and want to share it with you. We invite you to sit back with a cuppa or maybe something stronger, relax and enjoy what promises to be a whirlwind ride.

We are a diverse group from south Wales with over 20 members, covering a broad age range and a variety of styles within the sphere of writing. We include poets, novelists, writers of flash fiction and short stories, plays and film scripts. 

We published an anthology in February 2020 entitled Newport Writers – An anthology of poetry and prose. Available from Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.

We met on Zoom during the pandemic, but have now found a venue in central Newport where we can get together with plenty of space for social distancing. 

We hold an Open Mic night once a month at popular Newport coffee shop Horton’s, and in the summer of 2021 we participated in several spoken word events.

Some members of our group are available to read and offer critique, and we have a proofreader among our membership.

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My thoughts: this was an interesting collection of poems and flash fiction, covering a wide variety of themes from a diverse group of writers. Some are humorous, some sad, moving and clever. It was interesting to read these pieces by unknown writers, although some have been published elsewhere, and many hint at the potential for real success with a writing career.

*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: Theo & the Secret of Elshon – Melanie Ansley

A rabbit with the secret ability to read. An axe wielding bear. A warrior princess.

Together, they must find the fabled Library of Elshon, and fight the human empire bent on turning animals into mindless beasts of burden.

In the sequel to the award winning “Theo and the Forbidden Language”, Theo, Brune, and Indigo must find the infamous and feared muskrat, Orjo the Terrible. For only he can lead them to the legendary Elshon, a lost library in a land where reading and writing are punishable by death. At Elshon, Theo hopes to find the cure to Pacification—the empire’s power to make animals mute and mindless.

But can they find the Library and its hidden powers before Theo’s enemy, the vengeful human warlord Ornox, hunts them down? Can they even trust the notoriously conniving Orjo? It’s a race against time and overwhelming odds as Theo and his team must test their friendship, courage, and wits to uncover the secret to defeating the empire. For fans of Redwall, the Chronicles of Narnia and Watership Down comes a fantasy adventure about faith, self-acceptance, and the power of the written word.

Add to Goodreads Available on Amazon Both books are currently free to Kindle Unlimited members.

Excerpt
Theo and his friends, the warrior rabbit princess Indigo and the bear Brune, are forced to drink with Orjo (a sly muskrat) in order to persuade him to lead them to the fabled Library of Elshon.
***
“There now! I suppose we should toast.” Orjo raised his cup. “Last to drain has manure for brains.” At their stiff expressions, he sighed. “Mankahar is losing its sense of fun along with its freedom, is it? You’ll never get me to take you to the Library if you don’t drink.”
Brune and Indigo each took cautious sips, while Theo couldn’t get beyond the smell. He pretended to drink, but kept his lips closed. Even so, he immediately wiped an arm across his mouth. Indigo made a guttural sound and nearly spat it back up.
“It tastes better once your tongue goes numb,” Orjo said, refilling their cups. “That’s the way. Now, who else knows you’re here?”
“No one,” Theo said.
“The sea bats,” Brune blurted. He looked surprised, then grimaced, as if trying to get the taste of the drink out of his mouth.
Orjo drained his cup again. “Good. Anyone else?”
“An otter rowed us here in his boat.” Indigo frowned, as if confused by her own words.
The muskrat chuckled at her expression. “Like I said, brew loosens the tongue, doesn’t it? So it sounds like you’ve exposed my whereabouts, and more than once. Doesn’t make me want to help you.”
“Even if it meant defeating the Urzoks?” Indigo pushed her cup away.
“That’s a noble cause. But I’ve found noble causes tend to be bad for your health.”
“The stories say you’re immortal,” the bear growled.
“I can live forever, if that’s what you mean. But that’s assuming something like a blade, let’s say, doesn’t find its way into my neck.” Orjo raised his cup. “To life! And longevity.”
At his expectant look, Brune downed his drink, and Indigo reluctantly pulled her cup back for a sip.
“How did you become immortal?”
“That’s a long story.” Orjo brushed Theo’s question away. “And I’m doing the asking here. Tell me about you, Griffinrider.”
“I never rode the griffin.”
Orjo made a sour face. “Some free advice, from one legend to another? Never spoil your reputation with truth, lad.”
“So your advice is to lie.” Theo sniffed his cup. It definitely didn’t smell like any liquor he’d known.
The muskrat put his eye to the bottle, then shook it and listened. “There’s a difference between lying and letting others believe what they want to believe. And I’ve enjoyed all the stories about you.”
Orjo stood, teetered unsteadily, and half walked, half groped his way to the cupboard, where he began to rummage for another bottle.
“You’re not the one who has to survive the stories.” Theo thought back to the bats. The exaggerations about him were almost more dangerous than the Urzoks themselves.
“True! My favorite is the children’s song.” Orjo pushed aside a jar, then pulled out what looked like another bottle of liquor. Not satisfied, he put it back and kept searching. “Aha!” He pulled out a third bottle and returned to the table. “Have you heard the children’s song? No? The gulls sing it once in a while when they pass through here, it goes like this:
The omatje’s riding now
Riding now, riding now
Theo the Omatje’s riding now
On his wings of flame.
Hide your gold and lock the door
Lock the door, lock the door
Hide your gold and lock the door
For Theo the omatje rides tonight.

“Infantile,” Orjo said, setting the bottle on the table and fishing out a knife from his pocket. “But catchy.”
“We need you to find the…” Indigo frowned, as if trying to herd her thoughts. “Library. And then I can kill you.”
Theo and Brune stared at her. She glared at Orjo. “There’s something in this brew!”
“I told you, brew makes conversation flow.” Orjo leaned forward. “So you want me to take you to the Library, and then kill me. Is that your plan?”
“No!”
“Yes.”
Theo had never seen Indigo drunk. She had the occasional cup of ale, he knew, but she was too keen on control to ever let it get any edge on her. But she clearly had no control of her words and seemed to know it.
“Well, Theo,” Orjo commented. “Seems you don’t know your own friends’ intentions. Doesn’t make me trust you.”
“Orjo, no one is killing anyone! We just want to find the Library,” Theo insisted.
Now Brune was swaying a little, eyes glazed. Theo had a sudden, random memory of his best friend Pozzi from Willago, who’d always argued that drinking brew was like sport. You got better at it with practice. How practiced was Orjo? Could he possibly outdrink a bear ten times his weight?
Pop.
Orjo had managed to work the wood cork out of the bottle and began refilling the cups. “The cups don’t lie, Theo.”
The cups.
Theo cursed his stupidity, and snatched the drink from Indigo’s paw. But it was too late. She slumped over the table. Brune stared at her, blinking.
“The cups…” The bear managed a slur of words and tried to stand, but his legs wouldn’t cooperate. Bottles and sheaves of paper flew as the giant crashed into the wall, then slid to the ground, blinking.
“You poisoned them!” Theo scrambled to his feet and put a paw to Indigo’s nose. She was breathing. Brune tried to push himself up on the toolbox, but only managed to knock it over before succumbing to the brew and lying still.
Orjo calmly poured himself another serving. “I said the brew wasn’t poisoned. And it wasn’t.”
“What do you call this then?”
The muskrat smiled. “A very simple truth tonic that I dipped the cups in. I needed to know who you told about my island. But if you manage to kill me, they’ll wake up with nothing but nasty headaches and the thirst of a four-humped camel.”
Theo clumsily freed Indigo’s sword from her scabbard, trying to keep his paws from shaking. “And if I don’t?”
The muskrat wiped his lips with his sleeve and stood. His smile, unlike his stance, was disturbingly sober. “Then I kill all of you.”

Melanie was born in Windsor, Ontario to a Chinese mother and a Canadian father, and grew up in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Beijing. She spent grades one to three in a Chinese primary school with concrete floors and no heating, so when she moved to a school with carpets and its very own library, she thought she’d gone to heaven. She spent all her free time devouring books of every kind—including ones that most adults probably wouldn’t recommend for children. Animal Farm, Watership Down, and The Chronicles of Narnia became staples, with a generous helping of Stephen King thrown in. She is currently a producer and screenwriter, with an MFA from USC in film producing. Over her diverse career she has directed a zombie film, been held at gunpoint, and had the good fortune to work with some of her idols. She lives with her husband and two impossibly energetic children in Ballarat, Australia.

Melanie enjoys writing dark fantasy stories about the power of language, self-acceptance, and the courage to stand up for one’s beliefs. Her first novel, Theo and the Forbidden Language, was the winner of Best YA at the 2018 IndieReader Discovery Awards, and the sequel, Theo and the Secret of Elshon, will be released November 2021.

Want to know about future releases and get a FREE book? Sign up to her reader’s list at https://www.melanieansley.com/subscribe

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Theo and the Forbidden Language (The Book of Theo #1)

For fans of Watership Down, Redwall, Lord of the Rings, and Dragon Riders of Pern comes a fantasy adventure about courage, friendship, and the power of the written word.

In the land of Mankahar, where reading and writing are punishable by death, a battle is raging. The human empire is robbing animals of speech using a poison called “pacification,” and is marching to the furthest corners of the land to enslave creatures large and small. The only thing standing against them is the Order, a society of free animals determined to defend their way of life. On the western fringes of Mankahar, the rabbit Theo hides a secret: he knows the forbidden language, the symbols used to “catch words”. When his village exiles him, he joins Brune, an axe wielding bear and loyal member of the Order, in the epic fight against the empire. But the Order’s cause proves dangerous. Whom can Theo trust, when the empire punishes those who read or write with death? Worse, his fellow animals view the written word as sacrilegious. As the war for Mankahar’s fate looms, Theo must risk everything to learn the full power of the forbidden language, or be silenced forever.

Available on Amazon

My thoughts: growing up most of my favourite books were ones with animal characters (Black Beauty, Narnia, Redwall Abbey, the collective works of Dick King-Smith, KM Peyton, The Animals of Farthing Wood, City Cats and many, many more, all of them rife with traumatic storylines in many ways) And of course I read Watership Down, another deeply traumatising book and one I was definitely a bit too young for (I think I was about 6 or 7). I still have the slightly tatty paperback copy I found in our house when we moved in.

So I was excited to read about Theo and his friends. I recommend reading the first book so you know all the ins and outs of the world Theo lives in and why he’s so special. It also helps to understand the world building and mythology underpinning the friends quest in this book.

In this installment of Theo’s adventures, the naive bunny and his friends, set off in search of the mythical library of Elshon, where Theo will hopefully be able to find a way to stop the Uroks (humans) and reverse the grim pacification process that robs animals of their speech and intelligence. Along the way they meet new friends and enemies, and Theo has be braver than ever.

This is a really fun series, although definitely not for children as it is violent and some scenes are upsetting – no one likes to think of animals hurt or killed, even by sword wielding animals! I like the magic system being words and Theo’s ability to read being what makes him so special – all the answers they need are in books. I like Theo, his journey towards being a hero is interesting and he uses his herb knowledge to help others as well as his “word catching”. His friends, Brune and Isabel are brave and supportive, they’re much more battle hardened than Theo is but they help him in other ways too. I hope there’s more adventures to come.

*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: Psychopaths Anonymous – Will Carver

When AA meetings make her want to drink more, alcoholic murderess Maeve sets up a group for psychopaths. Maeve has everything. A high-powered job, a beautiful home, a string of uncomplicated one-night encounters. She’s also an addict: a functioning alcoholic with a dependence on sex and an insatiable appetite for killing men. When she can’t find a support group to share her obsession, she creates her own. And Psychopaths Anonymous is born. Friends of Maeve. Now in a serious relationship, Maeve wants to keep the group a secret. But not everyone in the group adheres to the rules, and when a reckless member raises suspicions with the police, Maeve’s drinking spirals out of control. She needs to stop killing. She needs to close the group. But Maeve can’t seem to quit the things that are bad for her, including her new man… Will Carver returns with the electrifying and original Psychopaths Anonymous, a scathing, violent and darkly funny thriller about love, connection, obsessions and sex – and the aspects of human nature we’d prefer to hide.

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Will’s latest title published by Orenda Books, The Beresford was published in July. His previous title Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize, while Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

My thoughts: Will Carver is a terrifying genius, and if you’ve read Good Samaritans, you’ll be familiar with Maeve and Seth. If not, you’re in for a treat.

Maeve really is a psychopathic serial killer, although she doesn’t see why that’s a problem, she’s trying to make amends, to find a way to make it up to all the dead bodies she’s left along the way. And manage her alcohol intake. But things keep happening to her. And people just need killing sometimes.

This is a very blackly comic book, I have a perverse sense of humour that this appeals to. I loved Maeve and her schemes, her complete disregard for the lives of other people and her slightly bonkers way of making amends. It was great seeing where it all started, and who she and Seth were to begin with. Another cracking read from Mr Carver’s dark, twisted mind.

*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: Two exciting new children’s books!

Today I’ve got 2 lovely new children’s books to share with you. Perfect for Christmas presents!

When lying in his bed, a boy is visited by a genie. He is given a week to try out different superhero powers. What adventures will he have, and which power will he choose to keep?


Publisher Author

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Izzy Rees was born in West London, but has spent the last thirty years living in Derby.
Ten years ago, when her three girls were young, she began work on a series of rhyming picture books, created in snatched moments, and initially written on small scraps of paper or whatever was
available. She always intended to revisit them, and Covid and lockdown presented the opportunity; unable to continue her work as a neurophysiotherapist, working with vulnerable patients, she decided it was now or never! She has written six books so far in the ‘The Boy Who’ series, The Boy Who Breathed Underwater being the first one. The others will be published in the near future.
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King Mark is a higgledy-piggledy king and he gets into a pickle every day. “Do something, Bert!” he shouts, and Wizard Bert, and his sidekick, Broderick the bookworm, always save the day. When snow fell on Windy Hill Castle, everyone was delighted – except for King Mark! King Mark didn’t like snow and he started to sulk. Will Bert and Broderick save the day again? Will King Mark walk into trouble?
Do the children of Windy Hill Village have the answer…?

Publisher Amazon UK Amazon US


A

Author Bio –
Jocelyn’s writing career began when she was asked to write a story for a preschool magazine. That story was the first of many. Jocelyn became the writer/editor of several preschool magazines and
continued in that role for 15 years. Writing one new story every month, plus rhymes and activities was a tough gig, but very exhilarating.
Time is the big difference between writing for a magazine and writing a book. You see your work on the supermarket shelves within a few weeks of completion. A book takes longer – a lot longer.
Jocelyn has to be patient now – not something she’s good at.Before becoming a writer, Jocelyn work in higher education as International Students Officer. It was a rewarding and interesting job even though she was on call 24/7.
Jocelyn also trained as a counsellor and volunteered at drop-in centers. She never knew who would arrive for counselling and had to be prepared for anything. This work gave her insight into some of
the darker corners of life.
Motor sport was one of Jocelyn’s early loves, she had spine tingling thrill of taking part in a 24-hour national rally as navigator – those were the days when rallies were held on public roads!
Jocelyn worked as an au pair in Paris in her teens. Having visited the city on a school trip, she fell in love with it, and always wanted to return.
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My thoughts: The Boy Who Breathed Underwater – this colourfully illustrated, rhyming tale takes on wish fulfilment and happiness. With all of the super powers our hero tries out, there’s great fun at first but then he sees the downsides to being able to fly and indeed, breathe underwater. A clever, entertaining story.

The King Who Didn’t Like Snow – grumpy King Mark is stopping wizard Bert and his pal Broderick the bookworm from having fun with his complaints, their first plan fails so it’s onto a better one – get King Mark to see the fun side of snow. Then they can get back to tiddlywinks. Suitable for slightly older readers than the other book, this is a fun story about embracing the joy in life and not complaining about everything – sadly we don’t all have a wizard to fix our problems for us.

I think my little goddaughter will enjoy The Boy Who Breathed Underwater being read to her and her older siblings, who are learning to read, The King Who Didn’t Like Snow, although they’re still little enough for bedtime stories still. I think these books would make lovely Christmas gifts.

And both of these books have a charitable bent too – The Boy was printed and bound by NMC Design+Print, a social enterprise that is part of the NeuroMuscular Centre in Cheshire and a percentage of the profits from The King will be going to help support Hospital Radio Plymouth, so by buying these books from the above links, you’re supporting great causes too.

*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: Buried Lies – Jenny O’Brien

Read my review of the previous book in the series – Lost Souls

HER PARTNER. HER SON. SHE’S NEXT.

Hannah Thomas returns home one morning to every mother’s worst nightmare: a missing child and a dead fiancé. When DI Gaby Darin questions her, Hannah insists she can’t think of anyone who’d want to hurt her family – and yet it all feels disturbingly personal. 

But when Gaby stumbles upon Hannah’s tragic secret, it doesn’t bring her any closer to the truth. Can she connect the dots before the killer strikes again?

Mere hours into the investigation, a second body is found. As Gaby and her team dig into the victims’ lives, they hit dead ends at every turn – particularly when it comes to Hannah’s past. What is the grieving woman hiding? 

My thoughts: I was involved in the cover reveal for this book so I was already looking forward to, and having gone and read all of the previous books in the series, I was sure I wouldn’t be let down.

The deaths of both Hannah’s son and partner are horrific, brutal and tragic, but whoever killed them isn’t done with Hannah yet. Something must have sparked this campaign of hate but what? Hannah doesn’t have any family, and there’s only one incident in her past that might make someone come after her.

As Gaby and the team prepare for Amy’s wedding, they must work quickly to solve the case and find a dangerous person with revenge in mind.

Fast paced, gripping and very clever, this is one of those books that keeps you guessing, there’s red herrings a plenty and a lot of digging needed to locate the truth. But can they get there in time? I’m not telling!

*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: Secrets in the Dark – Ceril Campbell

Glamour. Deceit. Sex. Deadly ambition.
They have the world at their feet.
And they want it ALL.

Innocent Phoebe has only known a life of privilege.

Street-smart Paula has had to make her own way in the world.

When the two girls meet as teenagers, they form a deep sisterly bond, recognising in one another a yearning for love and for lives that are different from the ones they were born into. But when they each suffer a personal trauma, they are torn apart and set out on very different paths.

So begins a rollercoaster journey throughout the 1970s of extreme highs and lows for Phoebe and Paula, as they travel from the epicentre of cool on the Kings Road, Chelsea, to the glamour of Paris, LA and the South of France.

It’s a scandalous world of sex, drugs, celebrity and wealth – alluring, addictive…and deceptive.

Ceril Campbell has always been passionate about fashion. For over thirty years she has worked as a celebrity stylist, fashion commentator and expert on TV and radio with her own magazine columns and features. Her debut novel, Secrets in the Dark, is not autobiographical in any way, but is inspired by her insider knowledge of the glamorous world of celebrity.

Ceril is now a broadcaster and motivational speaker, helping clients with lifestyle, image, life change, self-esteem, positive body confidence and mental wellness.Ceril has also written self-help books, including Discover the New You: Celebrity Stylist Secrets to Transform Your Life and Style. She lives in London and has two adult children.

To find out more about Ceril, visit her website http://www.cerilcampbell.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @cerilcampbell.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this, it was a pure slice of escapism. Fans of Jackie Collins, Lace and Jilly Cooper would enjoy this, as would anyone else who wants to read a fun, extravagant story. I liked Phoebe and Paula, they were very different girls but their bond keeps them together even when events conspire to force them apart.

I loved the 70s fashion bits as my mum was a bit of a hippy back then and still has an Ossie Clark dress hanging in her wardrobe (which she can probably still fit into). All the places Phoebe, Simon and Jake go felt familiar and made me smile, as my mum’s own youthful stories mention some of them.

My heart broke for the terrible things that both Phoebe and Paula dealt with, neither of them should have had to deal with any of it. When they finally reunite I wanted to cheer. And their group of friends are wonderful too. Because ultimately this is a story about friendship, it’s Phoebe’s friends who are always there for her, as she is for them.

*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: Behind Her Smile – J.A. Andrews

There are two sides to every story…
Grace Thomas and her husband Cameron live busy urban lifestyles and decided to take a short break away in the countryside to reconnect as a family with their two children. Suspecting her husband of
having an affair, the trip is ruined when Cameron’s personal assistant Chantelle, arrives unannounced with some devastating news. Chantelle appears to be everywhere Grace turns, and her instincts can’t all be wrong.
Not only does Chantelle resemble Grace, It soon becomes clear that she is desperate for Cameron’s attention, but at what lengths would she go to get it?
Determined to save her marriage, Grace begins to unravel all the secrets in her relationship by scrutinising the clues. Chantelle is always in the background, but behind her smile is a dangerous lie that has devastating consequences for everyone.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

JA Andrews is from Devon in the UK and the author of gripping twisty psychological
thrillers. As well as writing fiction, he enjoys reading a mix of genres, watching reality TV and spending time with family and friends. He is a member of the Crime Writers Association and is often plotting his next novel…
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My thoughts: I found the dual timelines a bit confusing at first, especially as I wasn’t clear who was narrating what, but as the plot unravelled and Chantelle’s true nature started to be revealed it all made a lot more sense, horrifying and terrible sense. Grace is absolutely right not to trust her an inch, shame Cameron can’t see the same. He feels sorry for her and wants to help, which is bad news all round.

The cruise sections are a mass of strange events and death, what is going on? Where’s the missing suitcase? Why is Sarah insisting that’s not her name?

A dizzying set of twists and turns, is Grace going crazy? Or is something far more sinister going on?

*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: Betsy Roberts – N.G. Neville

This incredible story is based on true events concerning young Betsy Roberts – how she was kidnapped, abused but survived America’s first serial killers – the evil Harpe brothers – how she outlived and ultimately profited using her wits and sheer determination.

Betsy Roberts, a young woman from Kentucky is brutally kidnapped by notorious outlaws Micajah and Wiley Harpe who abuse then exploit her. The novel describes how Betsy uses her wits and courage to survive, and then ultimately prosper despite the most appalling conditions and treatment she suffers, in the wilderness of late eighteenth century America. She gradually becomes tainted by the evil, murderous activities of the Harpe brothers who, amongst other things, use her as bait to lure travelers to their deaths. She does this under duress initially but later becomes indifferent, even to the extent of being a willing accomplice.

Part 2 of the novel describes her long, gruelling journey of escape to New York in the early eighteen hundreds. It covers how she became a key figure there, developing businesses, illicit and legal, and the family dynasty she establishes.

The story is an extraordinary and gripping tale of horrific violence, a kaleidoscope of extraordinary characters, settings and and yet also incredible willpower, survival instincts. Betsy ultimately becomes a strong, determined woman but also uses almost any means to achieve her ends.

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N.G. Neville is the pseudonym or pen name of Geoff Burke and Nick Fisher, co-authors of ‘BETSY ROBERTS’ their first major novel. It was preceded by a shorter novel entitled ‘DEGENERATION The Story of Betsy Roberts’ which forms the first part of the full novel ‘BETSY ROBERTS’.

A sequel or more accurately prequel, a collection of short or not so short in some cases, stories will be published in 2021. It has a working title ‘DEATH and SALVATION’. Many of the amazing characters in ‘BETSY ROBERTS’ are present before they appear in the full novel. How they got to where they were in the novel forms a fascinating collection of truly extraordinary stories.

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My thoughts: inspired by the real life Betsy Roberts, this novelised biography is packed full of details of her nefarious dealings and the trail of corpses left in her wake. From rural Kentucky to the high society of New York City, Betsy proves to be a ruthless and determined woman, whether surviving being kidnapped by two outlaws, to escaping justice, travelling cross country with her young son, and engineering her way to wealth and success, she doesn’t let anyone or anything get in her way. Including husbands.

I felt sorry for Betsy at first, with her murdered parents and having been kidnapped and treated brutally by the Harpe brothers. But instead of escaping them, she breaks them out of jail and goes on the run with them again. She’s so cold hearted and utterly without remorse, even murdering her own husbands to get her own way. While I can’t quite say I admire her, she is after all a murderer and criminal, she sounds like a force to be reckoned with, and her rags to riches tale should be encouraging – as long as you don’t go with the body count too.

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