Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Book Review ~ Poisoned at the Priory by Antony M Brown

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Mirror Books
23 January 2020

Cold Case Jury #4

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Balham, 1876. When the newly-wed barrister Charles Bravo ingests a rare poison, all evidence suggests suicide. But in one of the most infamous inquests of all time, a coroner finds it to be an unlawful murder. So what really happened that day? 

With dramatic reconstructions of four main theories on how Bravo may have died, this fourth book in the popular 'Cold Case Jury' series picks apart the notorious case that gripped Victorian Britain - and continues to spark debate to this day.

Why did Bravo refuse any help, even when going through agonising pain? Was his wife, with her scandalous past, to blame? Or perhaps it was her ex-lover, jealous of her newfound happiness… or another sinister hand, moving silently?

What did I think about it..

I think what's so intriguing about this cold case crime is that since the unsolved death of newly wed barrister Charles Bravo in 1876 so many people have tried to figure out just whether a murder had indeed been committed, or whether the victim was,an alleged suicide.

In Poisoned at the Priory there's a comprehensive breakdown of the alleged crime, along with transcripts from witnesses and descriptions of exhibits used in the subsequent inquests, all of which add up to a meticulous examination of the clues and facts as they were presented to the Victorian jury. Also at the time of the inquest into Charles Bravo's death there was an unprecedented interest with all the popular newspapers carrying items of scurrilous gossip and dubious facts. The author puts forward a very comprehensive case, explaining the situation in intricate detail so that the lives of Charles Bravo, and his new wife, Florence, are opened up to scrutiny, and the scattered clues which ooze piece by piece help to bring their individual stories to life. So many times I thought I had the perpetrator, if there was one, into the frame, only for another theory to be put forward so that by the end of the story, there are still at least four possible solutions. However, I have come to my decision...and when you come to your decision head over to Cold Case Jury and leave your verdict!

Poisoned at the Priory is the fourth book in this Cold Case Jury series and whilst I haven't read the previous three books, something I plan to rectify as soon as possible, each of the books are complete standalone and describe, in great detail, a different unsolved crime in each book. 

Recommended : Yes, if you enjoy reading True Crime and following clues to make up your own mind ✔

Cold Case Jury Collection:

The Green Bicycle Mystery: The curious death of Bella Wright

Death of an Actress: A true story of sex, lies and murder on the high seas

Move to Murder

About the Author

Antony M. Brown's books are perfect for the armchair detective. He takes a cold case crime from British history, paints an intricate picture of the main characters while weaving in social history, and presents the reader with different scenarios leading up to the murder. He displays the evidence - both original and anything that has since come to light - and ends with his personal opinion of the likely outcome. The reader is then invited to give their own verdict via his website and become a member of the Cold Case Jury.

Antony's previous titles Move To Murder, Death of an Actress and The Green Bicycle Mystery are all standalone cases of unsolved British murders.


Twitter @TheMirrorBooks

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Book Review ~ American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

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Tinder Press
21 January 2010

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

What did I think about it..

After a catastrophic event involving her family, Lydia Quixano Pérez and her eight year old son, Luca, are forced to flee their Acapulco home in search of a safer life in the United States. However, this exodus is fair from straightforward and Lydia and Luca face atrocious danger as they become two of many others who are leaving Mexico in search of a better, and safer, life.

This book took me by surprise, not because the story was disappointing, far from it, the story telling is really very good indeed. It was more my reaction to the events of the story which surprised me as, perhaps naively, I had no idea that  immigrants leaving Mexico for the United States faced such a perilous journey. The author brings the situation alive in a meaningful and thought-provoking way and I must admit to having my heart in my mouth on more than one occasion as Lydia does what she needs to do in order to keep both her and Luca safe. The pace is fast and the

American Dirt is cautionary story of our time and is an absolute testament to the bravery and fortitude of the many thousands of immigrants who have made a similar journey a country teeming with danger in the same horrific and perilous circumstances.

Recommended Read -  Absolutely ✔

Jeanine Cummins is the author of four books: the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven, and the novels The Outside Boy, The Crooked Branch, and American Dirt. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Twitter @jeaninecummins


Monday, 27 January 2020

Book Review ~ Ten Poems about Baking from Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
January 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this pamphlet

Poems still warm from the oven

These ten poems celebrate all that’s wonderful about baking – the time-honoured recipes, the patient kneading and stirring of ingredients, the sticky fingers in the mixing bowl.

Baking, the poems seem to say again and again, is a profoundly human art: a homemade summer pudding can create “a stillness lost in taste” at a dinner party with friends, while an old spice jar can transport us swiftly back to childhood:

“I opened one: faint kitchen scents (a trace

of fruit breads, Welsh cakes, and the kitchen warm

and welcoming from school) took shadow form:

allspice and nutmeg, cinnamon and mace...”

from ‘Spice Jars’ by DA Prince

These are poems for anyone who loves to bake, as much as for those who simply appreciate the glory of a well-made Victoria Sponge.

Helena Nelson is a poet and publisher – and a dab hand at choux pastry.

Poems by Harry Clifton, CJ Dennis, Cathy Grindrod, Grevel Lindop, Gill McEvoy, Graham Mort, Helena Nelson, Kenn Nesbitt and DA Prince.

Cover illustration by Alice Pattullo.

What did I think..

Baking smells are the substance of my childhood, I remember coming home from school to find newly baked bread, crisp shortbread biscuits and luscious lemon cake, layering the house with the delicious warmth that home baking instantly instills.

So it comes as no surprise to find that this group of talented poets have been inspired to capture the sensation of baking in ten thoughtful verses which take us on a culinary journey through the sights, tastes and aromas of baking, from the yeasty power of freshly made bread, to the culinary magic of cakes and pastries, Ten poems about Baking is truly an experience for all the senses.

So many of the poems resonated particularly Mrs PhilPott Makes a Cake By Helena Nelson in which a cake made for visitors 'will rise, like heaven, and then be gone'. There's nothing more welcoming than a slice of homemade sponge cake.

In How to make Apple Crumble, incidentally, my favorite of all puddings, Cathy Grindrod recreates this delicious delight in a totally new way:

'Smother your slivers of apple moon like a fresh snowfall. 
Make it white hot.
Take a cold spoon; dig deep into its creaking core'

All the poems have something very special about them and all credit to the poets involved who bring such a joy to their verses, instantly conjuring, like magic, the alchemy of creating something truly special with every whisk, mix and stir.

Ten Poems about Baking is a perfect gift for anyone who loves baking and, even better, for any one who loves to eat the delicious results. Win, win all round!

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 Clouds, Walking, Birds, Home and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Connect: /  @PoetryCandle

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Sarah Hardy

On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast, and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo

I'm delighted to welcome Sarah Hardy who blogs over at By the Letter Book Reviews 

Sarah with James Bowen

☼ Good morning, Sarah. Happy Sunday!

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch? 

Probably lots of snacks. I'm terrible for snacking. So plenty of nuts, crisps and dips.

Would you like a pot of English Breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz? 

I actually love green tea, especially the berry ones. Failing that it would have to be a G&T for me please.

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today?

 Is there a limit? There are so many I would love to be able to have sat around a table having a chat with. Enid Blyton and Sue Townsend would have to be two from my childhood. From my teens it would have to be Stephen King and James Patterson. As for current authors whose books I love, it would have to be Robert Bryndza and Noelle Holten.

What’s the title of the book nearest to you? 

When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby. Unexpected book post from No Exit Press. I actually read her previous novel which I really enjoyed so was over the moon to receive this one and can't wait to read it.

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No Exist Press
7 May 2020

What’s the oldest book on your book shelf? 

I have a couple of Stephen Leather books that my brother gave me about 5 years ago and he'd had them for quite a while before that. I used to have the full collection of Agatha Christie novels and also used to buy every book that came out by Stephen King. When I left home, my mum gave them away to a charity shop. Got to say I was a bit gutted when I realised but am sure they have given lots of other readers hours of enjoyment. 

Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet! 

Oh gosh, there are lots. Probably the main one is How To Fall In Love Again by Amanda Prowse. I've read Anna and Theo's story and this is the third and final one following Kitty's journey of which I hope we get some sort of conclusion for all of them.

Head of Zeus

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it? 

Not really but I do tend to try and got to bed between and 9-10 so I can snuggle up in bed with a book and the guilty bit is I usually have a couple of biscuits or packet of sweets to enjoy whilst reading. Hence why I struggle to lose weight lol.

If the house was on fire which book would you rescue? 

Not sure if it's cheating but my Kindle. It's a bit like my phone or keys. It has to be the next important thing that I panic about if I don't know where it is at all times.

Do you have a reading playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading? And if so will you share with us a favourite song, or piece of music that makes you feel happy?

 I don't actually listen to any music whilst reading. I find it distracts me to much as a lot of my favourite songs tend to have meanings behind them and memories so end up drifting off away from my book so tend not to listen to it.

Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read?

Yes my bed. I love being able to fully relax and stretch out but only on a night time.

Give us four essential items that a blogger absolutely needs?

A diary to note down any blog tours I'm on or books that I've agreed to read and review for a publication date. 
Laptop, I would struggle to type my reviews and get my blog posts ready on anything other than my laptop. 
Notebooks, I actually also write down every book I agree to and what date i agree to them so I can keep check on where I am up to and highlight them when I've read them. I find it easier this way and also books that I have agreed to read but not to a date, they don't get forget about and I read them within a certain timescale. 
A good pen. Can you tell I love my stationery?

Tell us a little about your blog and why you are so passionate about books and reading? 

My blog is bytheletterbookreviews and I will have been blogging 5 years in April. I have always loved reading and when I became aware of blogs and book bloggers, I thought it was the perfect way to help shout about the books and authors I love and enjoy. It's a great community to be part of and following so many blogs, I am never spoilt for choice of what books and authors I should be reading. Having my blog has opened me up to so many new authors and publishers of who I would probably never have heard of if it wasn't for blogging. 

Twitter @sarahhardy681


Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Els Ebraert

On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast, and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo

I'm delighted to welcome, Els Ebraert, blogger at BforBookreview

 ☼ Good Morning, Els. Happy Sunday!

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch? 

Hmm good question. I think I will go for something that typical for Belgium and what’s a brunch with something sweet? So expect me to arrive with Belgian waffels and chocolate of course. 

Would you like a pot of English Breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz? 

I’ll go for a glass of Bucks Fizz, please 

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today? 

I would love to meet Angela Marsons, Emma Tallon and Lisa Regan. I could invite a lot more of course 

What’s the title of the book nearest to you? 

It’s ‘Murder at the Dolphin Hotel’ by Helena Dixon

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What’s the oldest book on your book shelf

I can’t really answer that. I have given all my paperbacks away for charity due to problems with my shoulder and I only have my Kindle now. The oldest books that are on there are only about 2 years old. 

Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet! 

I almost finished reading the series by Betty Rowlands with Melissa Craig and I am looking forward to read the last ones. 

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it? 

No, not really. I cannot easily say no when I see a new blog tour with a book that I find interesting. I don’t know is that counts? But I have learned to say no because I have found out that a day only has 24 hours. :) 

If the house was on fire which book would you rescue? 

Because I don’t have any paperbacks anymore, I simply have to take my Kindle, but I would certainly have rescued my Janet Evanovich series with Stephanie Plum 

Do you have a reading playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy? 

I would be too distracted when there is music playing, but I love to have Eurosport on while I read. 

Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read? 

In the summer in the garden, in the winter on the sofa and every night in my bed before I go to sleep 

Give us four essential items that a blogger absolutely needs? 

A diary or 2 for scheduling blog tours. I use one on my phone and a paper one, trustworthy, 

Punctuality and honesty 

Tell us a little about your blog and why you are so passionate about books and reading? 

I started my blog because I wanted to share my love for books and then suddenly I was introduced to the world of blog tours and I thought it was wonderful. Of course you cannot read every book and that’s why I always want to help to spread the word. I also do guest posts, Q&A, spotlight posts or extracts. Any way I can help authors or publishers and I try to read as much as possible. 

My mum read and my sister reads too and I always saw books in our house. We had a lot of comic books and we were a big fan of Agatha Christie. We went to the library and when we were young reading was one of the things young people did. And I still enjoy it many years later. 

Where can we find you on Social media? 

I am on Twitter and on Facebook and together with a very good friend I run a Dutch book group on Facebook as well. We have been doing this since June 2012 already. 

Twitter @BookReviewB

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Hist Fic Saturday Blog Tour ~ Homecoming by Ellie Dean

On Hist Fic Saturday

I'm delighted to be part of this Blog Tour

And go back to ...1945

23 January 2020

Cliffehaven series #18

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

Peace has finally been declared in the Far East, but for those living at Beach View Boarding House, the news brings mixed emotions.

Peggy Reilly is devastated that her husband Jim will not be coming home for Christmas. And Sarah and Jane, who have lived at Beach View throughout much of the conflict, dread what they will find when they go back to Singapore.

Life in Cliffehaven is in a whirlwind of change as the men return from the war and Peggy’s evacuee chicks begin to spread their wings and start new lives in different corners of the world.

Peggy and Jim have longed to be together after so many years apart, but war has left them profoundly changed. Can they rekindle the loving, close relationship they’d shared before..

What did I think about it..

For those who have followed this popular series from the beginning, reading Homecoming is something of a bittersweet experience as it heralds the conclusion of the story for the inhabitants of Cliffehaven, and for those familiar characters who are picking up the pieces in the aftermath of WW2. However, for Peggy Reilly, and her husband, Jim, life is still very unsettled, as Jim, following the brutal events of the war with Japan, is still stationed in the Far East, with no indication of when he will be allowed home. Never downhearted for long, Peggy sheds her tears in private as she allows her life goes on in Cliffehaven, her unique ability to chivy people along is never far away.

This is a really lovely series and I must admit that I have only read a couple of the books but what I have loved is the author’s care and consideration towards, not just her characters, who are wonderfully authentic, but also to her readership who have invested emotionally with all those diverse characters who call Beach View Guest House Home. Sure there have been trials and tribulations aplenty but throughout the whole of the series, and particularly in this last book, there’s a real sense of  history, and whilst inevitably there’s the knowledge that the author is tying up loose ends, she also allows her lovely characters to have their own special moments in the spotlight.

The Cliffehaven series spans the momentous years of WW2, from 1939, through to the end of 1945, and does so with humour, sadness and love. Teeming with memorable moments Homecoming concludes the series with a fine eye for historical detail and the deep knowledge by the author of giving her readers exactly what they wanted in this touching finale.

If you are new to this author’s exceptional ability to bring history alive, it going to be advisable to start at the very beginning and enjoy the experience of the Cliffehaven series for yourself.

Ellie Dean

Twitter #EllieDean #Homecoming


Friday, 24 January 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Home by Sarah Stovell

Thrilled to host today's stop on this Blog Tour

Orenda Books
10 January 2020

Thanks to the publishers and to Random Things Tours for my ecopy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

When the body of pregnant, fifteen-year-old Hope Lacey is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away… As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge. 

A gritty, dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also an emotive drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all.

What did I think about it..

Like the horror that continually engulfs them, Annie, Hope and Lara are lost and abandoned young souls caught up in a care system which offers neither hope, nor salvation, and which has continually let them down throughout the whole of their young and shattered lives.

Bound together in a bleak, cost cutting environment on the edges of the majestic scrutiny of the English Lake District, the three girls hide their secrets and keep their mouths shut but when the body of 15 year old Hope is found it opens up the residential care home, and its inhabitants, to a scrutiny which is as vicious as it is necessary.

Once you start reading The Home it suffuses your every waking thought, not just because the reasons for Hope’s untimely death are heartbreakingly tragic, but also because the story scrutinises the lives of these three very damaged young girls, and exposes all the horrific circumstances which have led them to live out their fragile lives amongst people who used, abused, and then tossed them aside.

The Home is by no means an easy read, in fact parts of it are really quite harrowing and I had to sometimes stop and take a moment or two to consider the emotional effect the words had on me, often trying to rationalise the horror by reminding myself that this was fiction, but, of course, at the same time acknowledging that some young lives in our social care system really are as harrowing as those of Annie, Hope and Lara's. And yet, for all the joylessness of their individual stories, they were all compelling characters, particularly Hope, whose tough exterior belies her vulnerability, her story, amongst the three, is the one that will stay with me for a very, long time.

I remember reading this author’s previous book, Exquisite, and being incredibly aware of her amazing and undeniable talent. Her impeccable ability in creating beautiful, and memorable, characters from the ashes of tragedy, is outstanding.

These broken girls, on the cusp of adulthood, filled with the scars of their past will break your heart into a million pieces, and in this third week of my new reading year I have found another thought-provoking, and all-consuming story to add to my Reads of 2020 list.

About the Author

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.

Twitter @SarahLovescrime #TheHome