blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line – Ruth Thomas*

Hidden within the confines of the Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies, Sybil is happy enough with her work – and her love life. Then to her dismay, her old adversary, assertive and glamorous Helen Hansen, is appointed Head of Trustees. To add insult, Helen promptly seduces Sybil’s boyfriend. Betrayed and broken-hearted, Sybil becomes obsessed with exposing Helen as a fraud, no matter the cost.

Ruth Thomas is the author of three short story collections and two novels, as well as many short stories which have been anthologised and broadcast on the BBC. The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is her third novel. Her writing has won and been shortlisted for various prizes, including the John Llewellyn Rhys Award, the Saltire First Book Award and the VS Pritchett Prize, and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She lives in Edinburgh and is currently an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund.

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We’re delighted that The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is being read on BBC Radio 4 throughout the blog tour! If you’d like to share a link to the episode guide so your readers can give it a listen, that’s available here

My thoughts:

This is rather lovely, if a little sad, with Sybil trying to work out what she wants from her life while dealing with a break up and the fact that a rather awful woman, a former uni professor of hers, is now both her boss and the woman who stole her boyfriend.

She’s found herself working in a museum classifying various collections of pots, rocks and other archaeological items. She’s also been compiling the index for her boss’ book, which now has a new section thanks to the ghastly Helen.

But Helen’s supposed find of all finds seems a little off to Sybil, it reminds her of a comment she made in her own university dissertation, about ten years before.

In order to process her break up she joins a poetry writing class, but she’s not very good and doesn’t really feel like there’s much point.

This is a really lovely book about life and finding yourself again.

*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: Victoria Park – Gemma Reeves*

A playful, lyrical novel about otherness, change, and the gap between generations in a London community.

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.

Gemma Reeves is a writer and teacher who lives and works in London.

My thoughts:

Told month by month from the perspectives of different local residents living around East London’s Victoria Park, this is a beautiful and moving series of snapshots of life in London. From the elderly Jewish couple who built their lives there after being evacuated, to the teenage boy fascinated by women’s fashion.

As the seasons pass and the year turns, lives change and people deal with loss and change, you catch glimpses of the other characters from different angles, building a complex and fascinating image of one small community.

This is a truly lovely book and deserves a spot on your reading list.

*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: Cooking for Cannibals – Rich Leder*

Fountain of youth? More like murderous medication!

Carrie Kromer pushes the boundaries of science, not her social life. The brilliant behavioral gerontologist’s idea of a good time is hanging out with her beloved lab rats and taking care of her elderly mother and the other eccentric old folks at the nursing home. So no one is more surprised than Carrie when she steals the lab’s top-secret, experimental medicine for aging in reverse.

Two-time ex-con Johnny Fairfax dreams of culinary greatness. But when his corrupt parole officer tries to drag him from the nursing home kitchen, the suddenly young-again residents spring to his defence and murder the guy—and then request Johnny cook them an evidence devouring dinner to satisfy their insatiable side-effect appetite.

As their unexpected mutual attraction gets hot, Carrie and Johnny find themselves caught up with the authorities who arrive to investigate the killing. But even more dangerous than the man-eating not-so-senior citizens could be the arrival of death-dealing pharmaceutical hitmen.

Can Carrie and Johnny find true love in all this bloody madness?

Cooking for Cannibals is a dark comic thriller with a heaping helping of romance. If you like fast-paced plots, unconventional characters, and humor that crosses the line, then you’ll have a feast with Rich Leder’s wild ride.

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Rich Leder has been a working writer for more than three decades. His credits include 19 produced movies—television films for CBS, Lifetime, and Hallmark and feature films for Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, Longridge Productions, and Left Bank Films—and six novels for Laugh Riot Press.

He’s been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, a screenwriting coach, a wedding guru, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a visiting artist for the UNCW Film Studies Department, among other things, all of which, it turns out, was grist for the mill.

He resides on the North Carolina coast with his awesome wife, Lulu, and is sustained by the visits home of their three fabulous children.

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My thoughts:

This book started as one thing and then went completely bonkers but in the best way as a miracle drug that reverses the aging process has a strange side effect – it makes the people taking it into very hungry cannibals.

Aside from a very unpleasant animal death that I did not appreciate, this was a wry, darkly funny, completely crazy story, with a colourful cast of characters and an increasingly messy body count.

*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: Heading Over the Hill – Judy Leigh*

Growing old disgracefully and having a grand old time…

Billy and Dawnie may be in their seventies, but that won’t stop them taking chances or starting
again. Their grown-up children have families and lives of their own, so now it’s Billy and Dawnie’s
turn, and a life near the sea in Devon beckons.

But the residents of Margot Street (or Maggot Street as Dawnie insists on calling it), don’t quite know what to make of their new neighbours. Billy’s loud, shiny and huge Harley Davidson looks out of place next to the safe and sensible Honda Jazz next door, and Dawnie’s never-ending range of
outrageous wigs and colourful clothes, means she’s impossible to miss.

As new friendships are formed and new adventures are shared, Billy and Dawnie start winning their neighbours’ affection. And when life teaches them all a terrible lesson, the folks of Margot Street are determined to live every day as if it’s their last.
Judy Leigh returns with a soul-warming, rib-tickling, timeless tale of true love, true friendship and
happy-ever-afters.

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Judy Leigh is the bestselling author of Five French Hens, A Grand Old Time and The Age of Misadventure and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.

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My thoughts:

When I was little we lived across the road from a very nice Hell’s Angel called Harley Bob and his family. He’s apparently famous in biker circles and once rescued my My Little Pony from the roof after my friend’s grumpy big brother chucked it up there.

So I knew when Billy and Dawnie roared into Margot Close that they probably weren’t the terrible people some of their neighbours took them to be. And indeed they’re kind, generous, joyful people, they’ve not always had it easy but now as they’re getting older and their kids have grown, they’re looking for someone to live out the rest of their lives in peace and comfort. And they’re doing it in Devon, not far from where some of my family live.

It was nice to be reminded how lovely that part of the world is, especially as I can’t exactly go there at the moment, and I loved Dawnie – she’s so glam and full of life. Their friends and neighbours are pretty lovely too, Dilly cracked me up with her love of Bruce Willis and Prosecco.

This book has a lot of heart and is full of funny, warm-hearted and delightful people you want in your life. There are some sad parts too, and one in particular was shocking and jarring, coming as it did towards the end, but that’s part of life too. I recommend keeping some tissues to hand if, like me, you get a little wet eyed (who’s chopping onions?) at those moments.

*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 Sins of Allie Lawrence – Philip Caveney*

After a blazing row with her mother, sixteen-year-old Allie Lawrence impulsively runs away from the family home in Killiecrankie, with no plan other than to go to Edinburgh to ‘be an actor.’

Then a chauffeur-driven car pulls up beside her and she’s offered a lift by its handsome and mysterious passenger, Nick. Against her better judgement, she accepts – and soon discovers that he is a ‘manager,’ who claims he can make all her dreams come true.

She just needs to sign a contract… The Sins of Allie Lawrence is a tale of temptation, inspired by the legend of Black Donald, and set against the vibrant world of the theatre.

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Philip’s Caveney is an award-winning author whose first novel was published in 1977. Since then, he has published many novels for adults and since 2007, a series of children’s books that have sold all over the world, the Sebastian Darke series and another well-received series – The Alec Devlin Mysteries. He has written the successful Crow Boy trilogy for Fledgling Press and The Calling and The Slithers too. Philip also writes as Danny Weston – winner of the Scottish Book Trust Teen award 2016. Philip now lives and writes in Edinburgh.

My thoughts:

Black Donald is a Scottish myth/legend and an iteration of the Devil, and this story about temptation and bring careful what contracts you sign reminded me of another story about Old Nick – Faustus.

Allie is sixteen and while running away from home is offered a lift by a grinning stranger, who introduces himself as Donald “but you can call me Nick”.

After that suddenly all her dreams are coming true, one signed contract, and she has a fancy apartment in Edinburgh, a starring role in a new play and a PA called Sorcha who drinks a lot of wine but never eats.

Is it all too good to be true? Is Nick manipulating everyone around her and what exactly does he get out of this arrangement?

A clever, funny and entertaining remaining of an old tale, which proves you still have to watch out, and thoroughly read all your contracts!

*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 Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside – Jessica Ryn*

She’s not lost. She’s just waiting to be found…

Dawn Elisabeth Brightside has been running from her past for twenty-two years and two months, precisely.

So when she is offered a bed in St Jude’s Hostel for the Homeless, it means so much more than just a roof over her head.

But with St Jude’s threatened with closure, Dawn worries that everything is about to crumble around her all over again.

Perhaps, with a little help from her new friends, she can find a way to save this light in the darkness?

And maybe, just maybe, Dawn will finally have a place to call home….

My thoughts:

This was a gentle, sweet portrayal of mental illness, addiction and homelessness, it doesn’t shy away from the ugliness but treats its characters with kindness and compassion.

Dawn and her fellow residents at St Jude’s all have had very difficult lives that they’re finally starting to move on from when their safety and sanctuary is threatened.

Dawn constantly reinvents herself, in her head, each new life more fantastical than before, running from the pain of her real life.

There is real heart in this story of people with less than nothing finding their way in life and building a family.

The characters are well written and empathetic, I especially felt for Grace and Cara, as well as the irrepressible Dawn.

I will admit a little tear in my eye at a few points but the redemptive and heartwarming ending made up for the sniffling.

*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 Forgotten Gift – Kathleen McGurl*

What would you do to protect the ones you love?

1861. George’s life changes forever the day he meets Lucy. She’s beautiful and charming, and he sees a future with her that his position as the second son in a wealthy family has never offered him. But when Lucy dies in a suspected poisoning days after rejecting George, he finds himself swept up into a murder investigation. George loved Lucy; he would never have harmed her. So who did?

Now. On the surface Cassie is happy with her life: a secure job, good friends, and a loving family. When a mysterious gift in long-forgotten will leads her to a dark secret in her family’s history she’s desperate to learn more. But the secrets in Cassie’s family aren’t all hidden in the past, and her research will soon lead her to a revelation much closer to home – and which will turn everything she
knows on its head…

Discover a family’s darkest secrets today. Perfect for fans of The Girl in the Letter, The Beekeeper’s Promise and The Forgotten Village!

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Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband. She has two sons who have both now left
home. She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time.

Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway. Since then she has published several novels with HQ and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines, and written three How To books for writers.

After a long career in the IT industry she became a full time writer in 2019.

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My thoughts:

Families are complicated creatures and this story of adoption and finding your family struck a real chord with me. My Grandad is not biologically related to me, he married my Nan and adopted my mum and aunt after her first husband, my biological grandfather, died of cancer really young. He is however absolutely my Grandad and my hero, regardless of blood.

Cassie has to wrestle with similar issues, after finding out a few things about her father and indeed about his ancestor, George. Her own biological daughter, who she gave up for adoption, gets in touch as well. Cassie and George both learn that what makes a family is a bit more complicated than it first appears.

This was moving and insightful, well written and I enjoyed the way it moved between Cassie’s life and that of George, 200 hundred years ago.

*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: Just Between Friends – Rosie Nixon*

Aisha Moore is eight months pregnant. She’s thrilled, and a little scared. Not least because her husband Jason hasn’t quite wrapped his head around the fact.

Lucy is having her first child too. She has finally got her wish – although the circumstances aren’t quite what she had hoped. Oscar will be a great dad though, won’t he?

When the two women join the same baby group, they quickly become friends and before long they’re confiding in each other.

Only there’s one thing Lucy hasn’t told Aisha. And while a baby may turn your life upside-down, a secret this big will change everything.

My thoughts:

At first this seems like a rather traditional cosy slice of fiction, but then it develops into something a little darker, a little less cuddly.

When Aisha joins the local group for expectant mothers, she hopes to make a friend or two in the same boat as her. She and her husband have recently moved back from Hong Kong and she’s a bit adrift.

Lucy seems glamorous and funny, rolling her eyes at the over the top group leader, and bringing delicious salads for the group lunches. Aisha bonds quickly with her, and is thrilled to have a new friend.

But Lucy is keeping secrets, and they could destroy Aisha’s happiness. As the women’s pregnancies continue, the secrets start to trouble Lucy more and more.

Building up to something that could be truly awful, but none of these people are truly monstrous, they’re just people, who are fallible and make stupid mistakes.

This is a clever, almost thriller, that doesn’t quite take the turns you expect but is instead something much more enjoyable and realistic.

*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 Love Curse of Melody McIntyre – Robin Talley*

Read my review of Music From Another World here

Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Nina LaCour, this #ownvoices romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley has something for everyone: backstage rendezvous, deadly props, and a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to True Love.

Melody McIntyre, stage manager extraordinaire, has a plan for everything.

What she doesn’t have? Success with love. Every time she falls for someone during a school performance, both the romance and the show end in catastrophe. So, Mel swears off any entanglements until their upcoming production of Les Mis is over.

Of course, Mel didn’t count on Odile Rose, rising star in the acting world, auditioning for the spring performance. And she definitely didn’t expect Odile to be sweet and funny, and care as much about the play’s success as Mel.

Which means that Melody McIntyre’s only plan now is trying desperately not to fall in love.

My thoughts:

I loved, loved, loved this book. Be still my theatre nerd, bisexual heart. Honestly, it’s freaking adorable. Funny, silly and very realistic to the stress of putting on a show.

If this book had been around when I was a teen theatre geek, it would have been my go-to read. I loved the characters, Melody and her friends are so charming and snarky and funny.

The relationship between Melody and Odile is sweet and romantic, their sneaking around less so, but we all make mistakes when we’re young.

The triumphant staging of Les Mis is a joy, when all the disasters of rehearsal (as any theatre kid knows, a terrible dress makes for a great run) finally come together, and if you can get through this book without breaking into One Day More, you’re dead inside (and as someone who is dead inside, I mean really dead inside).

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

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Blog Tour: The Purple Shadow – Christopher Bowden*

In the years before the war, Sylvie Charlot was a leading light in Paris fashion with many friends among musicians, artists and writers. Now she is largely forgotten.

Spending time in Paris during a break in his acting career, Colin Mallory sees a striking portrait of Sylvie. Some think it is a late work by Édouard Vuillard but there is no signature or documentary evidence to support this view.

The picture has some unusual qualities, not least the presence of a shadow of something that cannot
be seen. Perhaps the picture was once larger. Colin feels an odd sense of connection with Sylvie, who seems to be looking at him, appealing to him, wanting to tell him something.

Despite a warning not to pursue his interest in her portrait, he is determined to find out more about the painting, who painted it, and why it was rt this view.hidden for many years.

Colin’s search takes him back to the film and theatre worlds of Paris and London in the 1930s – and to a house in present-day Sussex. As he uncovers the secrets of Sylvie’s past, her portrait seems to take on a life of its own.

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Christopher Bowden lives in south London. He is the author of six colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay.

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My thoughts:

This was a really interesting mystery story, as Colin hunts for the missing half of an intriguing portrait. The trail leads from Paris to London and onto a family home in Sussex. He follows the brief career of an almost forgotten actor, reviving the spotlight.

I really enjoyed the story, the characters of Colin and Alice are great fun and feel realistic, their search for the missing portrait is enjoyable and fascinating.

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