books, reviews

Book Review: Secret Keeping for Beginners – Maggie Alderton

Recently divorced Rachel is juggling her new dream job in interior design PR with the demands of two young daughters. She’s full of creative ideas but – even with a colourful childminder or two – some days she can’t make it into the office in time and in matching shoes. Her life is balanced more precariously than she cares to admit. Tessa, a talented muralist, is feeling flat. Her kids are growing up and she’s feeling upstaged by her husband’s new-found celebrity as the host of a reality TV fireplace restoration show. But everything turns on its head when she gets a surprise from her past. Youngest sister Natasha leads a glamorous jet-setting life – she’s one of Vogue’s favourite make-up artists who regularly creates the looks for the biggest shows in Paris and Milan. Single and childless, she’s been focused on her career – but when the lie she’s concealed for years threatens to come to light, the truth will make her question everything. Meanwhile their mother, Joy, a hippy vegetarian caterer, is carefully ignoring the letters that keep arriving at her door. Into the mix comes Simon, Rachel’s urbane boss, hiding secrets of his own. And everything lurking beneath the surface of this seemingly happy family is about to come out …

My thoughts:

I was kindly sent this by the publisher to read and review, but I managed to misplace it and only just found it again! I suppose I could have reviewed it while it was on its trip through the black hole in my bookcase, but I couldn’t remember any of the characters names!!

I really loved this book, it was like a comfy, enjoyable, mug of hot chocolate type of read. I love the relationship between the sisters and their mum; that family bond is one I wish I had with my own sister.

The plot was clever, funny, well written and enjoyable, an excellent read for when the nights are drawing in and you can’t face more Netflix.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Doing Time – Jodi Taylor*

Introducing The Time Police, the brand-new series by international bestselling author, Jodi Taylor – an irresistible spinoff from the much-loved Chronicles of St Mary’s series. Perfect reading for fans of Doctor Who, Ben Aaronovitch and Jasper Fforde.

A long time ago in the future, the secret of time travel became known to all. Everyone seized the opportunity – and the world nearly ended. There will always be idiots who want to change history.And so, the Time Police were formed. An all-powerful, international organisation tasked with keeping the timeline straight. At all costs.Their success is legendary, and the Time Wars are over.

But now the Time Police must fight to save a very different future – their own.This is the story of Jane, Luke and Matthew – arguably the worst recruits in Time Police history. Or, very possibly, three young people who might just change everything.

Jodi Taylor is the internationally bestselling author of the Chronicles of St Mary’s series, the story of a bunch of disaster-prone individuals who investigate major historical events in contemporary time. Do NOT call it time travel!

Born in Bristol and now living in Gloucester (facts both cities vigorously deny), she spent many years with her head somewhere else, much to the dismay of family, teachers and employers, before finally deciding to put all that daydreaming to good use and write a novel. Nearly twenty books later, she still has no idea what she wants to do when she grows up.

My thoughts:

I love the disaster magnets of St Mary’s and was thrilled to get the chance to read this book ahead of publication and tell you it is brilliant. The Time Police are often the thorn in St Mary’s side, refusing to even try to blend in when they appear to arrest people for time crimes.

Here the tables are turned somewhat; with three new recruits trying not to mess up the timeline while carrying out their duties. One of them is Matthew Farrell, son of Maxwell and Leon from St Mary’s, genetically attracting chaos!

Funny, silly, brilliantly written and completely marvellous.


*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: Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five Part One – R.J. Furness*

SHADOWS: Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five (Part One) by [Furness, R.J.]

Have you ever seen something you can’t explain? Did it vanish as fast as it appeared?
Perhaps that thing you saw was lurking in the shadows, and you caught a glimpse of it before it went back into hiding.
There’s a good chance, of course, that the thing you saw simply emerged from your imagination.
Or maybe, just maybe, it didn’t…

Sapphire Smyth is no stranger to rejection. When she was only a baby, her father abandoned her after her mother died. Since then, Sapphire has never felt like she belonged anywhere, or with anyone. To make things worse, her foster carers have now turned their back on her – on her eighteenth birthday. After living with them throughout her childhood, Sapphire has to find a new home. Is it any wonder she finds it hard to trust people?

Abandoned by the people she called family, Sapphire is alone and searching for some meaning in her life. Except that meaning has already come looking for her. When she discovers mysterious creatures lurking in the shadows, Sapphire soon realises that her fate is unlike anything she had ever imagined.

My thoughts:

The serial novel isn’t something new, Charles Dickens serialised his stories in magazines, as did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, back in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. We don’t really do the same thing nowadays, but the rise of e-books could potentially be a new way to serialise stories for a modern readership.

However, I don’t think this particular story needed that treatment, in fact I think it could have done without it. This first tranche is weak, needing to pack a lot of information into its pages, and with multiple chapters, perhaps gives too much. Tighter editing would have been a real blessing as the concept and ideas within the story are pretty sound.

Sapphire Smyth turns 18, inherits an unusual heirloom, and discovers the world beneath the humdrum existence that she never knew was there. That’s a pretty decent concept, and one that could have been really interesting to play with.

But, the plot is all over the place, as is the characterisation. Sapphire isn’t very empathetic or relatable, she’s just a spoilt brat really. And the other characters are so weak as to be non-existent, where they needed to be stronger, in order to balance Sapphire out.

I have the next two instalments to read, and hopefully it improves and becomes a much more interesting and enjoyable read, and this uneven and overly exposition heavy first section is just a glitch as I really did want to enjoy this.

IMG_20191010_140736.jpg

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

books, reviews

Book Review: North – Edith Pattou

This is a beguiling epic of magic, love, loss and betrayal based on the traditional fairytale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”. The lyrical writing and bold sweep of the story as Rose travels north will cast a spell over every reader. “A rich tapestry that will resonate with readers…The stuff of epic tale-telling, replete with high drama and compelling characterisations.” – Booklist. Rose was born into the world facing north, and as a north child, superstition says that she will be a wanderer, travelling far from home. This prophecy is fulfilled when she is taken on the back of a white bear to a mysterious empty castle, where a silent stranger appears to her night after night. When her curiosity overcomes her, she loses her heart, and must journey to a land east of the sun and west of the moon to reclaim it.

My thoughts:

I won this book in a Twitter giveaway from Usborne and will be published in November.

This is a beautiful retelling of a fairy tale hailing from Scandinavia, with a clever and resourceful young heroine who goes on a magical quest to find her white bear and bring him home. A love story, not just between the two protagonists, but also between Rose and her family.

While this book is aimed at younger readers (what publishing calls Middle Grade) this gentle, moving tale would resonate with readers of all ages.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Cage – Lilja Sigurđardóttir*

The prison doors slam shut behind Agla, when her sentence for financial misconduct ends, but her lover Sonja is not there to meet her. As a group of foreign businessmen tries to draw Agla into an ingenious fraud that stretches from Iceland around the world, Agla and her former nemesis María find the stakes being raised at a terrifying speed. Ruthless entrepreneur Ingimar will stop at nothing to protect his empire, but he has no idea about the powder keg he is sitting on in his own home. And at the same time, a deadly threat to Sonja and her family brings her from London back to Iceland, where she needs to settle scores with longstanding adversaries if she wants to stay alive… The lives of these characters are about to collide in a shocking crescendo, until the winner takes it all…

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare and Trap, the first two books in the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

My thoughts:

I really liked the two women at the centre of this; Agla, a criminal financier and Maria, an investigative journalist. Their relationship is complicated but in this case beneficial to both – but more deadly for Maria.

The writing is slick and compelling, the plot clever and intriguing. I wolfed this down in one sitting, driven to find out what was going to happen next.

*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: Don’t Get Involved – Fiona Curlew*

A missing shipment of cocaine

Three street-kids fighting for their lives

A Mafia hitman intent on killing them

A naïve expat who gets in their way

Who would you bet on?

Ukraine, 2001. A time of lawlessness and corruption. Three street-kids stumble upon a holdall full of cocaine, belonging to the Mafia. Mafia hitman, Leonid, is given the job of retrieving the cocaine and disposing of the street-kids. To do so he is forced to step back into his old life and he doesn’t like it. The children run on their wits. Leonid hunts them down. Nadia, a young woman with her own dark past, arrives in Ukraine looking for a fresh start. She wasn’t expecting this!

“She had no idea of what, or who, she was supposed to be running from. Right now everything was a threat. Definitely militsiya, but who else? Everyone. Right now it felt like everyone.”

Amazon 

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor and close-up

Fiona spent fifteen years working as an international school teacher, predominantly in Eastern Europe. Much of her inspiration comes from her travels. Her writing has been described as, “Human experience impacted upon by political situation, interwoven with a love of nature.”

She now lives on the East Coast of Scotland with Brockie the Springer, and Fingal the rescued Portuguese street-cat. Her days are divided between dog-walking in beautiful places and working on her stories. Not a bad life!

Don’t Get Involved is her third book.

Facebook  Website  Twitter 

My thoughts:

This was a really interesting read, I am always interested to read books set in other countries, and see the contrast between the UK and abroad. I also happen to have a specific interest in Ukraine (and Russia) following several years studying their history. So this was very specific to my interests.

A clever, pacy thriller, I was definitely rooting for the kids involved. Well written, with exactly enough attention to detail to really place you in the action, and the plot grips hold tight, dragging you into a world you would probably manage to ignore otherwise.

*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 Birthday House – Jill Treseder*

The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon.

In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party – a party that never takes place.

Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.

Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influenced the events that led up to the tragedy.

Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with the past?

Amazon

I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.

But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.

Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved, but left because I could no longer cope with the system.

This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.

All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book The Wise Woman Within resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.

Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.

I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing course to explore this genre in more depth.

I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.

Website

Twitter

My thoughts:

This novella may be slim but it packs a punch. Based on the real life death of the author’s childhood friend, told from a variety of viewpoints, including the killer and his victims, Treseder attempts to unpack the reasons a man would destroy his family. Powerful, direct and shocking, the gentle title hides a hell of a narrative.

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