Tuesday, 26 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ The Playground by S D Robertson


24 September 2023

My thanks to the publisher for the copy of this book and the invitation to the tour

He saved my little girl when I couldn’t. I invited him into our lives. But I had no idea he knew my darkest secret…

It is an ordinary September morning when I nearly lose my little girl. My mouth is dry, my hands shake when I see that she has darted unexpectedly into the playground…

The place where my own childhood ended.

Where I can’t set foot inside.

As she wobbles on top of the climbing frame about to fall, a silent scream freezes in my throat. So when a stranger hears her cries and rushes to help, I feel weak with relief.

I thank him as my daughter presses her tear-stained face into my skirt. Looking into his warm brown eyes and gentle smile, I feel an instant connection. When our paths cross again, I invite him for dinner. I’ve been so lonely since the breakdown of my marriage. What harm could come of it?

Soon we are seeing each other daily and I feel a spark grow between us. But then he says something that makes my heart beat fast in my chest. Something that makes me think he knows my secret.

That he knows what really happened at the playground all those years ago.

And if he knows that, he could destroy my precious family in a second…

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

There is a distinct creepiness about The Playground which hits the ground running when Beth and her daughter are involved in an incident at a local park. Coming to her daughter's rescue, a stranger soon becomes indispensable to Beth and offers her friendship and is someone she can rely on and as the story progresses we discover more about Beth and the real reason for her very real fear of playgrounds. 

The story evolves quickly and there is enough edginess to lend a chill atmosphere and the clues into Beth's past story certainly makes the story compelling. The twin narratives between Beth and Billy work well, I enjoyed getting to know them both with one being more likeable than the other. Beth is a typical mother, wanting the best for her family but struggling in a whole new world and whilst Billy is a comforting presence in her life it soon becomes apparent that he has complex secrets of his own. The tension mounts and I enjoyed how the author kept the momentum of the mystery alive, and I enjoyed trying to piece together all the pieces of this complex puzzle.

The Playground is a well thought out family drama with plenty of twists, turns and red herrings which kept me guessing until the final denouement.

Former journalist S.D. Robertson is a USA Today and #1 Kindle bestseller. He quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist – and he’s never looked back. Stuart, whose work has been translated into ten languages, is a reluctant DIYer and unofficial tech support provider for his family. He lives in a village near Manchester and is married with one daughter. There’s also his cat, who likes to distract him from writing by any means possible.

Twitter @SDRauthor #ThePlayground

@bookouture #booksontour

Monday, 25 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Pulpit Rock by Kate Rhodes #TeamScilly

Simon & Schuster

DI Ben Kitto #4

My thanks to the publisher and Tracy at Compulsive Readers for my copy of this book


As the scorching summer sun covers the small Scilly island of St Mary’s, DI Ben Kitto and his team are training for the annual Swimathon. But their morning session comes to a climactic end when they discover a body hanging from Pulpit Rock. The victim has been dressed up in a bridal gown, and Ben quickly realises that a dark and sinister killer is at large on the island.

To prevent the killer from escaping, Ben has no choice but to lock down St Mary’s, yet in doing so he is unwillingly trapping the killer’s next victim. When another woman is attacked, Ben gathers the island’s at-risk residents inside the local hotel for safety, but the killer is already watching and remains one step ahead . . .

Everyone is a suspect. No one is safe.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

Pulpit Rock is the fourth book in the DI Ben Kitto series of crime novels and sees a welcome return to the Isles of Scilly, a beautiful place, which Ben, together with his dog, Shadow, calls home. Whilst in training for the annual swimathon, Ben makes a chilling discovery with the sight of a young woman's body hanging precariously from Pulpit Rock. With sinister, and macabre undertones, this discovery leads Ben and his small team of investigative officers on a wild goose chase around the small island of St Mary's. The race is on before the killer can strike again but with such a small community everybody, including close friends are a suspect.

The action moves along quite quickly and there are the usual twists, turns and red herrings which make this series so compelling. I thoroughly enjoy observing Ben Kitto at work, he's an unconventional detective, filled with self doubt and invariably gets it wrong sometimes. However, there is always a real sense of anticipation, with perpetrators who very often go on to commit more crime, before the inevitable denouement, which always leaves me wanting more. Wonderfully atmospheric, with an abundance of fascinating characters, it is always great to meet up again with those who have featured in past novels whilst at the same time getting to know a new set of people who bring their own dynamic to what is, after all, a fascinating and complex crime story. And of course, taking centre stage, once again, are the beautiful Scilly isles with all their stark and often rather bleak beauty. 

As with all long running series it is better to read from the beginning in order to become invested in the main characters however,  Pulpit Rock can be read as a standalone story.

About the Author

Kate Rhodes is an acclaimed crime novelist and an award-winning poet. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, the writer and film-maker, Dave Pescod. She visited the Scilly Isles every year as a child which gave her the idea for this new series. She is one of the founders of the Killer Women writing group.

Twitter @K_RhodesWriter #TeamScilly



Friday, 22 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ For the Want of Silver by Michael E Wills

17 May 2023

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

A novel based on the true story of a Viking raider who, over 30 years, acquired a fortune in English silver.

In the churchyard of the village of Orkesta, just north of the city of Stockholm, there are two eleventh century rune stones. One of them, in a few brief words, tells the world of the extraordinary achievements of Ulf of Borresta, who lived nearby. During a long career as a Viking raider, he became extremely rich on the proceeds of Danegeld. The carved runes mention the names of real Norse historical figures with whom he ravaged the English countryside. These names can be dated and the vicious raids and bloody battles where the Danegelds were won, identified.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

I have read several of this author's books for children so it was with great interest that I started this latest book which is aimed at the adult historical fiction market. As with all his books the author places you very firmly in the ancient world and with his fine eye for detail and impeccable research the eleventh century world of the Norsemen comes alive in the imagination.  The rune stones which mention Ulf of Borresta, a runemaster from Sweden, can still be seen and I must admit to googling in order to find out a little more about this mysterious person who I had never heard of before. 

Once the story began I was immediately taken back into a world which was filled with danger and intrigue all of which is brought to life by an author who really does know how to tell a good story as, whilst keeping to the known historical facts, he also brings the unknown into sharp focus. I enjoyed following Ulf's exploits as together with Erik, his boyhood friend, they follow a life of adventure whilst at the same time Ulf acquires much wealth in the form of Danegeld which he uses in order to make his life more prosperous. The story moves along quickly with some graphic detail, after all this is a time of Viking battles but there is also an authentic historical feel to the story with detailed description of what life was like during the eleventh century. 

Ulf of Borresta was a fascinating character and, thanks to this talented author, I am pleased to know a little more about him and the dangerous time in which he lived. For the Want of Silver brings a forgotten period of history to life with well drawn characters and the author's genuine love for this long forgotten period in world history.

Michael Wills was born in Newport on the Isle of Wight and attended the Priory Boys School and Carisbrooke Grammar. He trained as a teacher at St Peter’s College, Birmingham, before working at a secondary school in Kent.

Twitter @MWillsofSarum


Thursday, 21 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ The Traitor by Ava Chase


14 September 2023

Alias Emma #2

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
and the invitation to the blog tour

From the glittering shores of St. Tropez to the sun-drenched streets of Barcelona, The Traitor is former spy insider Ava Glass’s high-octane thriller set in the billionaires’ playground of the glamourous French Riviera.

A dead body in a padlocked suitcase, chemical weapons, and an MI5 traitor selling secrets to the Russians sets the scene for British agent Emma Makepeace’s thrill packed mission on the med.

Emma must go undercover, working below deck as a crew member on luxury super yacht The Eden. Setting sail from St Tropez, The Eden’s Russian owner and his bikini-clad supermodel girlfriend are under surveillance by MI6, suspected of procuring illegal weapons from the UK.

Out at sea with no escape, Emma must tread carefully as she races to uncover who the traitor on board the oligarch’s yacht is. Witnessing a murder and with her cover wearing increasingly thin, one false move and she could be dead. As the hunt intensifies, Emma must find the traitor before he finds her.

From a glittering yacht party to a powerboat chase over deadly rocks, and from living below deck to being hunted through the streets of Barcelona, never before has the turquoise sea and golden sands of the Rivera been so deadly.

๐Ÿ“– My Review...

Emma Makepeace makes a welcome return in this second book which sees her, once again, embroiled in a high octane adventure which places her in grave danger. This time she is aboard, The Eden, a luxury super yacht which is owned by a Russian oligarch who may be involved in a deadly crime. Emma’s ability to go undercover is put to good use when she becomes a member of the crew of The Eden and her uncanny ability to get right into the centre of the investigation is what makes these stories so compelling.

The Traitor hits the ground running with an opening chapter which shows just how ruthless are the people who Emma and the rest of the team at The Agency are up against. The plot is fast and furious and I especially enjoyed following in Emma’s footsteps, watching her transformation from secret agent, to crew member, and observing her interactions with the other crew members. Emma’s feisty nature inevitably leads her into danger and it is this danger which gives the story its focus. There’s lots of fast action, some genuinely heart in mouth moments, and a great deal of trepidation as Emma takes on the bad guys using mainly her wits and the strength of investigative skill.

I raced through the book in a day, unwilling to stop for a second in case I missed out on the action. The final third of the book is particularly gripping and the dรฉnouement brings a satisfying conclusion to an exciting and adventurous spy thriller novel. May be read as a standalone story but do bear in mind that this is the second in the series and there are some references to Emma’s past adventure, which the author explains well.

About the Author

Ava Glass is a former civil servant with the highest security clearance bar one. She has seen just enough of the inner workings of espionage to ensure that she will always be fascinated by spies. Prior to working at the home office, Ava Glass worked as a crime reporter, covering multiple homicides, making her writing both fresh and dangerously believable.

The Traitor is the highly anticipated follow up to Ava Glass’ 2022 debut spy thriller The Chase.

The Chase is currently shortlisted for Best Spy Novel at the 2023 Crime Writer Awards alongside established names including Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) and Linwood Barclay. No small feat for a debut novelist.

Film rights to The Chase and The Traitor have been acquired by Ink Factory, producers of The Night Manager, who are currently working on a pilot in conjunction with Sky Atlantic, now in the final stages of editing. Next step will be casting!

Twitter @AvaGlassBooks #TheTraitor #FindThemBeforeTheyFindYou

@PenguinUkBooks @cstone_press

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Ten Poems From Yorkshire from Candlestick Press


Candlestick Press
August 2023

Selected and introduced  by Ian McMillan

My thanks to Candlestick Press for my copy of this poetry pamphlet 

Vikings, Romans, Normans. Grand industrial cities and national parks. Yorkshire encompasses so much that it probably takes poetry to do it justice. And who better to choose the poems than the ‘Bard of Barnsley’ Ian McMillan, who still lives in the Yorkshire town where he was born.

The poems travel the length, breadth and depth of the county, taking in weather (there’s more than enough rain), cricket and coal-mining, alongside barges on the Humber and the wild glories of the Dales. Everywhere there is the sense of a deep-rooted history in a county where:

“what you see is not
the whole story but the seam of something
precious gone underground, a darkly silver trail”

from ‘The 1984 Perspective’ by Maura Dooley

Yorkshire, it appears, is not only a place but a state of mind – and these poems demonstrate that invigorating fact in a rich variety of ways.

Poems by Maura Dooley, Helen Dunmore, David Harmer, Geoff Hattersley, Zaffar Kunial, Harold Massingham, Ian McMillan, Pete Morgan, Genny Rahtz and Florence Tweddell.

Cover illustration by James Green.

๐Ÿ“– My Review

Although a proud Lancastrian I did live over the border in Yorkshire for several years and my eldest child is Yorkshire by birth, so I feel that I have a lasting connection to this place I once called home. This cleverly selected collection of poems which have been chosen by Ian McMillan, the 'Bard of Barnsley', really bring this historic county to vibrant life.

As always the ten poems selected show the diverse nature of poetry whilst at the same time giving a real Yorkshire welcome. The opening poem The Spinner's Final Over by David Harmer reminded me of Yorkshire folk's distinct love of cricket:

' he asks if I am still the slowest 
bowler Yorkshire knew..'

A poignant ode to Barnsley can be found in Geoff Hattersley's The Penistone Line

''this is Barnsley,
glamorous Barnsely, the town I threw up in..'

I loved the vernacular in Coom, stop at yam to-neet, Bob by Florence Tewddell, there's a definite sense of another era and the passage of time. I could hear the Yorkshire dialect so strong it took me right back to country markets and drinking sturdy Yorkshire ale during nights at my local pub:

'Coom, stop at yam to-neet, Bob
Dean't gan oot onnywhere:
Thoo gets thisel t'leeast vex'd lad,
When thou sits i't'awd airm-chair..'

I have really enjoyed this quick poetry trip around Yorkshire with some fascinating and well chosen poems which bring the place and the county to life in lovely detail. It's the perfect gift ' instead of a card' for anyone who lives in, or who loves, Yorkshire and is even a perfect read for a Lancastrian like me !

And a definite shout out for the wonderful cover which is beautifully designed by James Green.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Mountains, Clouds, Walking, Birds, Wine and Happiness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @poetrycandle

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

๐ŸŽง Book Review ~ Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Hodder & Stoughton
Audio : November 2022
Paperback : August 2023

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father's beekeeping business.

Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely . . .

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

๐ŸŽง My Review..

Searching for something to listen to whilst I completed a complicated crochet project my eyes alighted on this beautiful honey bee cover and decided to take a chance on listening to Mad Honey. Jodi Picoult has long been one of my favourite American authors but I wasn't familiar with Jennifer Finney Boylan so did a quick google search to discover more about her.

Small town America comes alive in this coming of age story which looks at the poignancy of first love alongside a story of undeniable tragedy. Mad Honey is told in two distinct voices that of Olivia McAfee and Lily Campanello, a pretty teenager, who is involved romantically with Olivia's son, Asher. Both voices are compelling and during this dramatic and rather sad court room drama we get to know in intimate detail Olivia's past life with her ex-husband and the reason for her, and Asher, making their lives in Adams, New Hampshire. Lily Campanello is a fascinating enigma and it is her voice which comes across so breathtakingly beautiful that I was, at times, reading through tears of sadness.

Covering some relevant topics we learn of Lily's struggle to find her identity and of the prejudice which has followed her and her mother, Ava, from place to place. The small town of Adams offers another new start for them and it is here that destiny will bring Lily and Asher together. I'm conscious of not saying too much as I went into the story not knowing any of the details so when the reveal is made it came as a real surprise and took the story in a whole new direction. Sensitive and compelling Mad Honey had me captivated from beginning to end, and Lily Campanello's sad story will stay with me for a very long time to come.

Beautifully narrated by Carrie Coon and Key Taw, in two very different voices, this audio version of the story was particularly powerful and the 15 hours and 12 minutes flew by in a flash.

Twitter @jodipicoult #MadHoney



Monday, 18 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ Christmas at the Cat Cafรฉ by Jessica Redland


Boldwood Books
15 September 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book
 and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour

It had always been Tabby's dream to work with cats and an inheritance from her beloved nanna has finally made that a reality. Idyllic Castle Street in Whitsborough Bay couldn’t be a better place for pastry chef Tabby to open a cat cafรฉ with her boyfriend, Leon. But when Leon leaves her in the lurch, the pressure mounts for Tabby. With Christmas fast approaching, she has to open the cafรฉ on her own – a daunting prospect, especially when she's been hiding her health issues from the ones she loves. Faced with local resistance to the cafรฉ – and somebody seemingly determined that she won’t succeed – Tabby will need her friends, family and cats more than ever to recover her broken Christmas spirit and pull together for a Christmas miracle. Will the cat cafรฉ bring the festive joy to Castle Street as Tabby had hoped or will it be a cat-astrophe? And can the magic of Christmas on Castle Street mend Tabby's broken heart as well as her business?

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

I couldn't resist taking part in this blog tour for Christmas at the Cat Cafรฉ as not only does it involve some of my favourite creatures but it also sees a welcome return to Castle street in the beautiful area of Whitsborough Bay which this author brings to life with such enthusiasm. Introducing us to Tabitha, Tabby for short, just as she is about to open her much longed for Cat Cafรฉ but with opening day fast approaching,Tabby is dealt a devastating blow and it is going to take all of her strength to carry on. However, Tabby hasn't bargained for the help of friends, and family, who rally round to make sure the cat cafรฉ is a success. The story brings into focus the sharp reality of how sometimes life deals a devastating blow and Tabby, battling her need to succeed in business and with her health problems, must learn how to ask for help,

I've really enjoyed being back on Castle Street especially as some of the familiar characters make an appearance which helps give a real sense of community and a feeling of familiarity to this new adventure. The cats who inhabit the cat cafe are equally delightful and I fell in love with each of them but especially Marmalade who reminded me of a couple of ginger cats who are close to my own heart.

I read Christmas at the Cat Cafรฉ in one sitting as I couldn't put it down and wanted to know how everything would play out for Tabby and her cats. Despite the book title it's not an overly festive story so could comfortably be read at any time of year and whilst it does mention the characters from previous books in this series, Christmas at the Cat Cafรฉ can be read as an enjoyable standalone story about friendship, love and cats.

About the Author

Jessica Redland writes emotional but uplifting stories of love, friendship, family and community. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast where she lives with her husband, daughter and sprocker spaniel. Her Hedgehog Hollow series, set in a hedgehog rescue centre, takes readers into the beautiful rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds.

Twitter @JessicaRedland

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers