blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Spy Who Inspired Me – Stephen Clarke

For legal reasons, The Spy Who Inspired Me does not mention J-mes B-nd. Which is a shame, because it is a
comedy based on the idea that I-n Fl-ming’s famously macho spy might
have been inspired by a woman…
It is April 1944, and chic armchair naval officer Ian Lemming (sic) is accidentally beached in Nazi-occupied Normandy. With no access to a razor or clean underwear, and deprived of his cigarettes, Lemming just wants to go home. But he is stranded with a young, though hugely experienced, female agent called Margaux Lynd, who is on a perilous mission to unmask traitors in a French Resistance network.
So, as she bullies him across France, Lemming receives a painful crash course in spy craft, and starts to fantasize about a fictional agent – male of course – who would operate only in the most luxurious conditions, and lord it over totally subservient women. A world-famous spy is born …
Stephen Clarke said: ‘In World War Two there really were female undercover agents who were ten times tougher and braver than Ian Fleming. I thought it would be great fun to send him (or rather, someone very like him) on a dangerous mission with one of these women who would show him what real spies got up to.’
Stephen Clarke has combined his knowledge of French history with a fondness for Ian Fleming’s novels (despite their old-school machismo) to create The Spy Who Inspired Me, set in the complex background of real Occupied France.

STEPHEN CLARKE is the bestselling author of the Merde series of comedy novels (A Year in the Merde, Merde
Actually, Dial M for Merde et al) which have been translated into more than 20 languages and sold more than
a million copies worldwide. Stephen Clarke has also written several serious-yet-humorous books on Anglo-French history, such as 1000 Years of Annoying the French (a UK
number-one bestseller in both hardback and paperback), How the French Won Waterloo (or Think They Did), and The French Revolution & What Went Wrong. He lives in Paris.
For more information about Stephen Clarke please visit: Website
Follow Stephen on Twitter

My thoughts: this was a very funny, highly entertaining book and I loved how smart, resourceful and sarcastic Margaux was, not a woman any man could flirt into bed. She’s utterly ruthless when she has to be and ten times the spy a certain 007 claims to be. She’s definitely not going to talk, and won’t even tell her unwanted companion the real mission she’s on.

Lemming is a bit less useful, a military man with a nice desk job in London, the son of a former MP who has led a very nice life in the inter war years, all cocktails and tail coats, and is not exactly prepared for sneaking around behind enemy lines and avoiding Nazis. He gets completely thrown by Margaux’s brilliance and wishes for a different kind of woman, the fantasy kind who doesn’t laugh at him and efficiently murder people.

I went through a phase when I was about 11 or 12 where I watched all the Bond films from the beginning and got quite fascinated by the world they portrayed, a mostly made up one to be quite fair, of sophisticated men in dinner suits and woman who all appeared to have knee issues that meant they went all wobbly when a man in a tux appeared. I understood it was all a lot of nonsense and completely ridiculous. I knew there were women who worked as spies and resistance in conflicts all over the world. A man in a nice suit stands out, a woman, well she might catch the eye but you’d be less likely to suspect her. Besides James B needs to retire, he’s been doing his thing for so long, it’s time to collect his pension. Time for Margaux’s spiritual granddaughters to handle business instead.

*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: Glass Coffin – Gabby Hutchinson Crouch*

The tyrannous Huntsmen have declared everyone in one village to be outlaws, since they insist on supporting the magical beings of neighbouring Darkwood. Why won’t they accept that magic is an abomination?

Far from being abominable, the residents of Darkwood are actually very nice when you get to know them, even Snow the White Knight, who can get a bit tetchy when people remind her she’s a Princess.

In order to stop the Huntsmen from wiping out all magical beings, Snow and her friends have to venture into the Badlands of Ashtrie, and seek the support of the Glass Witch – but she has plans of her own, and let’s just say they’re not good ones.

Gabby Hutchinson Crouch (Horrible Histories, Newzoids, The News Quiz, The Now Show) has a background in satire, and with the global political climate as it is, believes that now is an important time to explore themes of authoritarianism and intolerance in comedy and fiction. Born in Pontypool in Wales, and raised in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, Gabby now lives in Canterbury.

My thoughts: this series is hilarious, mashing up many fairy tales and characters and making new and highly entertaining stories. This volume finds our heroes – Snow the White Knight (do not call her Your Majesty), Gretel, Hansel, Daisy, Trevor, Buttercup and new friends finally take the fight to the Huntsmen (and women) at the Citadel. But first they need to try and convince the Glass Witch to join them, stage a dramatic rescue or two and feed the hungry.

The entire thing is utterly ridiculous and laugh out loud funny, with Buttercup still turning everything into baked goods, Snow’s dwarves still haven’t learnt a new word since “yummy”, and Trevor might just get to do some cool spy stuff.

I’m a big fan of fairy tale retellings, a bit nerdy about them to be honest, but these are such joyous books, definitely read the previous two, Darkwood and Such Big Teeth, so you meet all the characters and learn the entire story first before venturing into Glass Coffin. You won’t regret it.

*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: Love and Miss Harris – Peter Maughan*

Titus Llewellyn-Gwlynne, actor/manager of the Red Lion Theatre, has lost a backer who was going to fund a theatrical tour – when unexpected salvation appears. Their home theatre in the East End of London having been bombed during the war, The Red Lion Touring Company embarks on a tour of Britain to take a play written by their new benefactress into the provinces.

This charming series transports the reader to a lost post-war world of touring rep theatre and once-grand people who have fallen on harder times, smoggy streets, and shared bonhomie over a steaming kettle. The mood is whimsical, wistful, nostalgic, yet with danger and farce along the way.

Peter Maughan’s early career covered many trades, working on building sites, in wholesale markets, on fairground rides and in a circus. He studied at the Actor’s Workshop in London, and worked as an actor in the UK and Ireland, subsequently founding a fringe theatre in Barnes, London. He is married and lives currently in Wales.

My thoughts: this was a lot of fun, with the rag tag cast of the new play, Love and Miss Harris, hitting the road for a tour of the home counties and the seaside. Unknown to them a murderous gangster is in hot pursuit, trailing them through numerous small towns and B and Bs.

Titus thinks he’s living in a Shakespearean epic, Dolly’s reliving the glory days of the music hall, Jack’s getting all the girls and they’re accompanied by the play’s writer and her outsize hound.

Funny, charming and highly enjoyable, I’m glad there’s at least one more book about the Red Lion troupe 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.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman

I was gifted a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley with no requirement to review.

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

My thoughts:

This book was brilliant. Funny, smart, intriguing (insert superlatives here). I thought it was just excellent basically.
The plotting was clever, the characters very enjoyable, all the little side narratives added and not subtracted from the main plot, building a more complete world.
My husband more than once looked at me like I’d gone nuts, that’s how much I was laughing.

I really hope this is the start of a series with the Thursday Murder Club solving as many crimes as possible.

books, reviews

Book Review: Plan for the Worst – Jodi Taylor

I would have trusted this man with my life. Until a couple of days ago, anyway.

You know what they say – hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Max is quite accustomed to everything going wrong. She’s St Mary’s, after all. Disaster is her default state. But with her family reunited and a jump to Bronze Age Crete in the works, life is getting back to normal. Well, normal for St Mary’s.

And then, following one fateful night at the Tower of London, everything Max thought she knew comes crashing down around her.

Too late for plans. The worst has happened. And who can Max trust now?

My thoughts:

The Chronicles of St Mary’s are some of my absolute favourite books, hilarious, ridiculous, thrilling fun.

I am so pleased that another one has been published because they cheer me up no end.

In this, book 11, Max and co are off to Crete, to witness the end of the Minoan culture, get chased by bulls and then several natural disasters, of course.

There’s the general mayhem that ensues whenever the History Department is involved, a few scrapes with the Time Police and an old foe or two, plus Max in the Tower of London, but thankfully not under arrest.

Laughed out loud several times, to the horror of my husband, in my defence he’s normally at work, but that’s lockdown life for you!

I was super kindly sent a copy by the publishers, but all opinions remain, as always, my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Bad Mother’s Christmas – Suzy K Quinn

Juliette and Alex are finally getting hitched, which should be joyous news. But Juliette is now entering `blended family’ territory: Alex will be Daisy’s stepfather – and Daisy’s real father is not happy about it. Yes, after messing up Juliette’s family the first time round, Nick is still trying to elbow his way back into her life, doing everything he can to stop her being with Alex. And Alex’s family are hardly rolling out the red carpet. To them, their new daughter-in-law is a slattern with a Jaffa Cake addiction. But Christmas is the thing that will bring them all together. And Juliette is determined that this Christmas will be a wonderfully happy family affair. Determined. Now where did she put that Jaffa Cake? The fourth in Suzy K Quinn’s bestselling Bad Mother series is a sparkly, shiny Christmas romantic comedy for mothers, and the perfect Yuletide treat.

My thoughts:

This is laugh out loud hilarious, I haven’t read the previous books in this series, and to be honest I don’t think it’s essential to do so. I was kindly gifted this book to read and review, but I think I would have picked it up anyway as it’s so entertaining.

The book feels like one of those sitcoms you find on Netflix that just cracks you up every time you watch an episode. I had to try really hard not to wake my husband while I was reading this in bed, purely as it was cracking me up so much.

There are some more touching, sad parts too, balancing the plot quite nicely. The supporting characters are well developed, even though it’s written as a diary, and you see everyone through Juliette’s lens. Her family in particular are great fun, and I would love a book just about them all running their pub.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted, entertaining read for the holiday season, this one is fantastic – just make sure you put your mug down first so you don’t spill while laughing!!

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Bloodlust & Bonnets – Emily McGovern*

Georgette Heyer meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this smart, funny graphic novel by Emily McGovern, the award-winning author of My Life as a Background Slytherin.

The year is 1820, and bored young debutante Lucy knows there must be more to life than embroidery and engagements – no matter how eligible the bachelor might be. Some bachelors, she has discovered, are less ‘eligible’ than they are ‘bloodthirsty,’ however… literally.

It turns out that there are a lot of vampires in late-Regency England, and Lucy has an eye for spotting them and the desire to rid the world of them. It’s not long before Lady Violet Travesty, leader of a mysterious vampire cult, spots Lucy’s talents and offers her a place amongst her vampire acolytes.

Unfortunately, Lady Violent is most horribly slain by the famous Lord Byron before Lucy can accept. Lucy instead joins Lord Byron and his enormous, psychic eagle Napoleon in their ongoing fight against evils such as bloodsucking ghouls and bad taste.

Before long they’re joined by the mysterious Sham, an androgynous bounty hunter, who catches Lucy’s eye. The trio lie, flirt, fight and manipulate each other as they make their way across Britain, disrupting society balls, slaying vampires, and making every effort not to betray their feelings to each other as their personal and romantic lives become increasingly entangled.

A balm for the soul for readers who love Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, novels by Eloisa James and Jane Austen, and the action and adventure of Xena, Warrior Princess, Bloodlust & Bonnets is the most modern action-heavy love-story set two hundred years ago that you’ll read this year.

Emily was born in the UK but grew up in Brussels, where she attended the European School of Brussels II. After graduating, she began a Foundation Art Diploma course at London College of Fashion. She studiously avoided any fashion, and instead spent her time making hand-drawn animations and weird paintings of witches.

She began a BA degree in Russian Studies at University College London and spent a year in Russia working in a rural commune, where she ran a weekly art “gathering” for the kids. The year abroad allowed her to go to many Russian art galleries, which were a revelation to her – artists such as Vereshchagin and Vasnetsov she found influenced her greatly.

She graduated with First Class Honours and by 2016 was building a comic driven social media platform based around the regular posting of her ‘My Life As A Background Slytherin’ comic. Bloodlust & Bonnets is her first graphic novel.

From the author’s website

My thoughts:

This is hilarious, brilliant and just this side of utterly ridiculous. Lord Byron, in possibly his most sympathetic role ever, is a complete buffoon and the vampires are fairly hopeless. Napoleon the psychic eagle is the best character – trust me.

Even my grumpy husband loved it.

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