Thursday, 29 September 2022

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Blue Man by Leilanie Stewart

Two best friends. An urban legend. A sinister curse.

Twenty years ago, horror loving Sabrina told her best friend, Megan, the terrifying Irish folk tale of the Blue Man, who sold his soul to the Devil in vengeance against a personal injustice. What should have been the best summer of their schooldays turned into a waking nightmare, as the Blue Man came to haunt Megan. Sabrina, helpless to save Megan from a path of self-destruction and substance abuse as she sought refuge from the terror, left Belfast for a new life in Liverpool.

Twenty years later, the former friends reunited thinking they had escaped the horrors of the past. Both were pregnant for the first time. Both had lived elsewhere and moved back to their hometown, Belfast. Both were wrong about the sinister reality of the Blue Man, as the trauma of their schooldays caught up to them – and their families.

Why did the Blue Man terrorise Megan? Was there more to the man behind the urban legend? Was their friendship – and mental health – strong enough to overcome a twenty year curse?

πŸ“–My Review..

We join The Blue Man as two former school friends meet for the first time in over twenty years. Their shared closeness as teenagers is marred by the events which happened during a certain time in their youth and revolves around the mysterious tale of The Blue Man whose paranormal activity shadows much of the novel. 

The author writes well with a fine eye for keeping a controlled narrative which allowed the tension to develop in a slow and considered way in the first half of the story before really making it heat up in the latter half. I particularly enjoyed the Northern Ireland setting which is a place I don’t know at all but thanks to the author’s ability to create time and place, I was certainly able to picture the scene and could hear the accents in my head. There’s a strong gothic element throughout, with a set of complex characters who more than do justice to this rather creepy story about repressed fears, hidden secrets and simmering tension both in the past and in the present.

The Blue Man is a fascinating paranormal mystery which has enough elements to keep you guessing and several creepy moments which had me jumping at shadows.

☕Best read with…restorative coffee..make mine a decaff.

About the Author

Leilanie Stewart is an author and poet from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her writing confronts the nature of self; her novels feature main characters on a dark psychological journey who have a crisis of identity and create a new sense of being. She began writing for publication while working as an English teacher in Japan, a career pathway that has influenced themes in her writing. Her former career as an Archaeologist has also inspired her writing and she has incorporated elements of archaeology and mythology into both her fiction and poetry.

In addition to promoting her own work, Leilanie runs Bindweed Magazine, a creative writing literary journal with her writer husband, Joseph Robert. Aside from publishing pursuits, Leilanie enjoys spending time with her husband and their lively literary lad, a voracious reader of sea monster books.

Twitter @leilaniestewart

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Lady Sapiens by Thomas Cirotteau, Dr Jennifer Kerner and Γ‰ric Pincas (Translated by Philippa Hurd)


Hero Press
12 September 2022

My thanks to the publishers and The Book Publicist for my copy of this book

5,000 years ago, rare and precious statues of faceless women with hourglass figures, sturdy hips and generous breasts surfaced across Europe. Spanning thousands of years and nurturing many a fantasy, they are known as the prehistoric Venus figurines. But what were the women who inspired these artefacts really like?

For 150 years researchers offered no archaeological insights into the daily lives of prehistoric women and underestimated their role in society. In fact, these women became imprisoned by clichΓ©s. Prehistoric man hunted, went on adventures, invented, created and drew, whereas the role of prehistoric women was limited to educating children and carrying out domestic chores. That’s all there was to say about it, or almost.

Over the past fifteen years a new generation of researchers – many of whom are women – have shaken up this model. By establishing groundbreaking analysis protocols and defining new excavation methods, these scientists are finally able to make the invisible visible. It is thanks to their tenacity that the essential and even prestigious role of prehistoric women is emerging. For the first time ever these ancient women are being resurrected before our very eyes, shedding light on a new theory of our origins!

πŸ“– My Review..

What an interesting little book this turned out to be which took me quite by surprise not just by the research which has been undertaken but also by the very readable way in which it is presented. We know very little about our female ancestors and can only guess at what they felt about life, relationships, children and their place in a male dominated world but this well researched look at the evidence presented by archaeology shines a new light on Lady Sapiens.

Divided into seven chapters with the following headings:

The Return of Lady Sapien

The Real face of Lady Sapien

Life, Pleasure, Seduction

Sensuality and Sexuality

Starting a family

Women on All Fronts

Powerful Women

I dipped into and out of the book throughout the various chapters and found something I didn't know before which made me ponder and think about the stereotypes we attach to our prehistoric sisters.

Originally published in French, it has been expertly translated by Philippa Hurd.

About the Authors

Thomas Cirotteau is an author and director. He created and wrote the documentary Lady Sapiens.

Dr Jennifer Kerner teaches prehistory in the anthropology department at Paris-Nanterre University and is responsible for multimedia communications.

Γ‰ric Pincas is a historian and journalist. He co-wrote the documentary Lady Sapiens.

Twitter @Legend_Times_


Tuesday, 27 September 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Hidden Palace by Dinah Jefferies

Harper Collins
25 August 2022

Daughters of War #2

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book
and to Random Things Tours for the invitation to the blog tour

A rebellious daughter

1923. Among the ancient honey-coloured walls of the tiny island of Malta, strangers slip into the shadows and anyone can buy a new name. Rosalie Delacroix flees Paris for a dancer’s job in the bohemian clubs deep in its winding streets.

A sister with a secret

1944. Running from the brutality of war in France, Florence Baudin faces a new life. But her estranged mother makes a desperate request: to find her vanished sister, who went missing years before.

A rift over generations

Betrayals and secrets, lies and silence hang between the sisters. A faded last letter from Rosalie is Florence’s only clue, the war an immovable barrier – and time is running out...

πŸ“– My review..

It's 1944 and Florence Baudin and her friend Jack Jackson have escaped occupied France and arrive in the sleepy Devon village where Jack has a country cottage. Although the immediate danger of war is behind them for Florence's sisters, Hélène and Élise, who are still in France, the war is an ever present danger. When Florence plucks up the courage to visit her mother, Claudette, who is now also living in England, she is given the almost impossible task of tracing her mother's sister Rosalie who hasn't been see since she ran away from home in 1925.
What then follows is an intriguing dual time story which is told from the perspective of both Florence and Rosalie. Each have a fascinating story to tell, especially Rosalie whose life on the tiny island of Malta is filled with intrigue, passion and danger. Both time elements flow beautifully with neither one taking centre stage but allowing both Florence and Rosalie their time in the spotlight. I especially enjoyed the wonderful description of life on Malta, a tiny island whose inhabitants showed such bravery and whose winding streets were filled with so much intrigue. Throughout the story the author gets the balance perfectly pitched between family drama, dangers of war and the intrigues of the heart.

Whilst The Hidden Palace follows on from The Daughters of War, which is the first book in this series, it can be read enjoyably as a standalone story but for greater insight into Florence's relationship with her mother and sisters, and the way that Jack Jackson fits into the story, it would be interesting to read from the beginning. That there is to be another book in the series, released in 2023, is indeed good news for fans of this talented author's work. I look forward to picking up the story again in Night Train to Marrakech

πŸ“– Best read with...Kafe Fit-tazza and a ricotta filled kannol

About the Author

Dinah Jefferies began her career with The Separation, followed by the number 1 Sunday Times and Richard and Judy bestseller The Tea-Planter’s Wife. Born in Malaysia, she moved to England at the age of nine. When she began writing novels, deeply influenced by her Eastern childhood, she was able to return there on annual research trips for each new novel.

With her most recent bestseller, her seventh novel The Tuscan Contessa, she has moved to writing about a European setting for the first time and continues that in this new series.

She is published in 28 languages and over 30 countries and has twice been a Richard and Judy bookclub pick.

Twitter @dinahjefferies #TheHiddenPalace



Monday, 26 September 2022

πŸ“– Ten Poems about Running from Candlestick Press


Nowadays, running is a serious business and we’re all busy recording our PBs on complicated watches. These poems remind us that there’s still plenty of fun to be had – whether navigating a forest trail before breakfast or lying in bed coming up with reasons not to go out at all.

There’s the familiar sight of a runner skirting shoppers in a busy street, leaving behind a trail of bemusement:

“Was that Paul? Was that Sue? unsure
whether the flickering figures half seen
from behind might have been
the friends they knew, or thought they knew.”

from ‘Runners in Town’ by Jenny King

The abiding spirit of the selection is that running remains the most democratic of sports – and that the main thing really is the taking part, be it in a 5K or a marathon or simply a trot around a local forest.

Poems by Helen Allison, Carole Bromley, Wanda Coleman, Mark Granier, Stephen Keeler, Jenny King, Glyn Maxwell, Eugene Ethelbert Miller, Mandy Sutter and David Wagoner.

Cover illustration by Hannah Forward.

πŸ“– My Review

I've not been keen on the idea of running since I left secondary school but am always in awe of those who do run, jog, and sprint to enjoy the freedom it brings. This lovely collection of ten poems with its marathonesque cover is a bright and cheery way to take part in running from the comfort of your armchair.

The opening poem Twelve Reasons Why Not by Carole Bromley summed up my inertia perfectly and made me smile:

Lorry drivers whistling 
Neighbours making remarks
Self consciousness.."

My favourite of the ten comes at the end of the collection with Cross Country by Stephen Keeler which reminded me very powerfully of cross country runs at school with the word 'run' being overly ambitious for a group of fifteen year olds who had no enthusiasm for the activity.

" They made us run the way they tried to make
us pray as though their history passed on 
were indisputable..."

Ten Poems about Running is the perfect gift for anyone who enjoys the sport or as a crafty nudge to someone to maybe take up the challenge. Particularly appropriate this week as the London Marathon is taking place on Sunday October 2nd.

The poems which make up the collection are very well chosen and cover all aspects of the activity with quirky verses which may just inspire you to take up a couch to 5K challenge - who knows 😊

Candlestick Press is an independent publisher based in Nottingham, UK. We’ve been publishing poetry pamphlets since 2008 not only for people who already love poetry, but also for those who will love it but perhaps don’t know that yet. Our ‘instead of a card’ pamphlets make an ideal alternative to a mainstream greetings card and are a small gift in their own right. They have matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message, and are excellent companions on journeys or for a bedtime read. By supporting us, you help an independent press and our supported charities at the same time as treating yourselves, your friends and family to some wonderful poems.

Twitter @poetrycandle

Friday, 23 September 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

27 September 2022

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book
and to Random Things tours for the invitation to the blog tour

1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.

The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie's empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho's gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.

With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson brings together a glittering cast of characters in a truly mesmeric novel that captures the uncertainty and mutability of life; of a world in which nothing is quite as it seems.

πŸ“– My review..

Any new standalone novel from Kate Atkinson, this is the fifth, is always eagerly anticipated so it was with great excitement that I settled down to read Shrines of Gaiety which is set in London in 1926 when the country was just about coming out of the deprivation of the Great War. However, with so many young men lost in the trenches of northern Europe, there is still the burden of loss. To compensate, Nellie Coker, doyenne of the burgeoning London nightclub scene rules her domain with an iron fist and even though she has a large family, their hapless antics leave much to be desired.

With success comes power but also the ability to ruffle feathers and make enemies and Nellie is good at both but when the enemies start encroaching on her personal world, well, things start to heat up. Into the mix comes Gwendolen Kelling, a librarian, from the North of England who is searching for two young runaways who have come to London in search of their fortune. However, with the lure bright lights and the promise of a city paved with gold, Gwendolen has a difficult job in tracking down the young women for whom she so desperately searches. 

The story glides through the city of London and is as bright and shining as the jewels for which Ma Coker names her nightclubs. From the glitz of the Savoy, to a desolate boarding house for distressed females, and from the inside of a Bow Street police station, to the casting couches of theatre land, the story bounces along introducing a wonderful array of characters who are at times as devious as a basket of snakes. Without doubt this is Kate Atkinson writing at her absolute best as London in the late 1920s comes beautifully to life, with its shady corners and riotous nightlife and with 'Ma' Coker in charge there is never a dull moment but what really shines through is the attention to all the quirky little details which make the story such an entertaining read. 

Shrines of Gaiety is bright and witty, sharp and downright evil, and would, given the right direction make an absolutely wonderful TV drama. Think Charles Dickens, crossed with Peaky Blinders. I loved it.

Best read with.. a glass, or two, of  crisp, dry Vouvray

About the Author

Kate Atkinson is one of the world's foremost novelists. She won the Costa Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her three critically lauded and prize-winning novels set around the Second World War are Life After Life, an acclaimed 2022 BBC TV series starring Thomasin McKenzie, A God in Ruins (both winners of the Costa Novel Award) and Transcription.

Her bestselling literary crime novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie, Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog, became a BBC television series starring Jason Isaacs. Jackson Brodie later returned in the novel Big Sky. Kate Atkinson was awarded an MBE in 2011 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Twitter #KateAtkinson #ShrinesofGaiety

@TransworldBooks @DoubledayUK


Thursday, 22 September 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Making Waves at River View Cottage by Jennifer Bohnet

Boldwood Books
21 September 2022

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

Cassie Lewis, a widow for over 20 years has begun to realise there must be more to life. In-between working at the family boatyard in picture perfect Dartmouth and raising two children, she wonders where the years have gone.

Both her children, Tom and Polly, have inherited their father’s love of sailing and currently Tom is preparing for a gruelling round the world race. When an accident forces Tom to pull out, Polly, to Cassie’s horror, insists she is capable of taking his place.

As Polly prepares for the race, Cassie unexpectedly finds herself with two keen and eligible men vying for her love.

With her BIG 5-0 birthday approaching Cassie knows she has some big decisions to make but will the worry over Polly’s safe return, cloud her judgement.

πŸ“– My review..

Cassie Lewis, a widow of twenty or so years, is at a cross roads in her life, she is about to turn 50 and with her two children, Tom and Polly grown up she wonders at the direction of her life. The family boat yard in Dartmouth and the Lewis family's love of sailing, and the sea, plays a huge part in the story especially when, after a terrible accident, Polly volunteers to take her brother's place in a gruelling round the world boat race. When the race gets underway the Lewis family watch anxiously as Polly undertakes her lone voyage and Cassie is surprised to be supported by not one but two eligible suitors who are each vying for Cassie's affection.

As always this clever author gets right into the heart of the story and brings her characters to life in such a lovely heart-warming way. I loved Cassie from the start and welcomed her presence throughout the story and yet I was equally fascinated by nineteen year-old Polly whose stoicism and bravery as she takes on a gruelling personal challenge, is admirable. I know absolutely nothing about the sea, or sailing, but that didn't matter at all as the author gives just the right amount of detail without overloading the story with too many sailing facts.

Making Waves at River View Cottage is a lovely, heartwarming story about love, loss, family, and going forward in life, taking on new challenges and making the most of every day. 

About the Author

Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

@jenniewriter #MakingWavesatRiverViewCottage

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers @BookandTonic


Wednesday, 21 September 2022

πŸ“– Book Review ~ A Question of Identity by Susan Hill



Simon Serrailler #7

My thanks to the publishers and Graeme Williams Marketing for my copy of this book

One snowy night in the cathedral city of Lafferton, an old woman is dragged from her bed and strangled with a length of flex.

DCS Simon Serrailler and his team search desperately for clues to her murderer. All they know is that the killer will strike again, and will once more leave the same tell-tale signature.

Then they track down a name: Alan Keyes. But Alan Keyes has no birth certificate, no address, no job, no family, no passport, no dental records. Nothing.

Their killer does not exist.

πŸ“– My Review..

I don't often come into a well established series especially when the book is several books behind the latest one. However, when I was invited by the publisher to read a 'mystery book' from a well established crime writer I was intrigued to find that it was A Question of Identity which is book number seven in the successful DCS Simon Serrailler crime series.

A Question of Identity starts with a trial in 2002, the outcome of which will have repercussions far into the future especially for those who live in the cathedral city of Lafferton. The story builds gradually, and I think what strikes me most about this story is that there doesn't seem to be a rush to get straight to the nitty gritty of the plot. The author's calm and controlled style shows that it's enough, sometimes, to just observe and get to know the place, the mood and the characters before the investigation starts to climb to its frightening culmination. 

I would imagine that it is perfectly possible to read each book as a clever standalone however, there are occasional references to the back stories of some of the more well known characters which had me a little bit perplexed but putting that on one side I thought that A Question of Identity was a very cleverly controlled crime novel by a writer who certainly gives the reader more than enough to think about and ponder over. I've certainly enjoyed this dip into the series and will certainly look out for more.

Book number eleven in this series, A Change of Circumstance, was published in 2022 with book number twelve expected in 2023.

πŸ“– Best read with ...a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake

About the Author

SUSAN HILL has been a professional writer for over fifty years. Her books have won awards and prizes including the Whitbread, the John Llewellyn Rhys and a Somerset Maugham, and have been shortlisted for the Booker. Her novels include Strange Meeting, I'm the King of the Castle, In the Springtime of the Year and The Mist in the Mirror. She has also published autobiographical works and collections of short stories as well as the Simon Serrailler series of crime novels. The play of her ghost story The Woman in Black is one of the longest running in the history of London's West End. In 2020 she was awarded a damehood (DBE) for services to literature. She has two adult daughters and lives in North Norfolk.

Twitter #SusanHill


Tuesday, 20 September 2022

πŸ“– Book Review ~Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan


 June 2022

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

In the Eternal City, no secret stays hidden forever...

Lottie Archer arrives in Rome excited to begin her new job as an archivist. When she discovers a valuable fifteenth-century painting, she is drawn to find out more about the woman who left it behind, Nina Lawrence.

Nina seems to have led a rewarding and useful life, restoring Italian gardens to their full glory following the destruction of World War Two. So why did no one attend her funeral in 1978?

In exploring Nina's past, Lottie unravels a tragic love story beset by the political turmoil of post-war Italy. And as she edges closer to understanding Nina, she begins to confront the losses in her own life.

πŸ“– My Review

When newly married Lottie Archer moves to Rome it signals a new beginning for her and she is excited to start her job as an archivist researching into the history of old documents. Laura is especially intrigued when she discovers a valuable fifteenth century painting and in her search to discover more about Nina Lawrence, the woman who left this ancient art work behind, Lottie unravels a tragic story which is set in post-war Italy. 

With the clever use of a dual narrative a picture of two very different time periods comes to life and both Nina's time in the 1970s and Lottie's life in the present day are equally as vivid. Both of these women have a story to tell and as the story emerges, the beautiful city of Rome soon becomes very much part of the story. The sights, sounds, aromas and tastes of this vibrant city come to life as scrumptious descriptions of food, wonderful art and intricate gardens are laid out before you.

Two Women in Rome is a lovely immersive read which reveals its secrets slowly and takes the reader on an complex journey through the hidden parts of Rome and to long buried secrets.

Best read with aromatic coffee and rich Italian pastries 

Elizabeth Buchan was a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to wrote full time. He r novels include Consider the Lily, Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman, The New Mrs Clifton, and the Museum of Broken Promises. She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and co-founder of the Clapham Book Festival.

Twitter @elizabethbuchan


Thursday, 15 September 2022

πŸ“– Publication Day Review ~ The Other Side of Night by Adam Hamdy


Pan Macmillan
15 September

Thanks to the publishers and Laura Sherlock for my copy of this book

The Other Side of Night begins with a man named David Asha writing about his biggest regret: his sudden separation from his son, Elliot. In his grief, David tells a story.

Next, we step into the life of Harriet Kealty, a police officer trying to clear her name after a lapse of judgment. She discovers a curious inscription in a secondhand book—a plea: Help me, he’s trying to kill me. Who wrote this note? Who is “he”?

This note leads Harri to David Asha, who was last seen stepping off a cliff. Police suspect he couldn’t cope after his wife’s sudden death. Still, why would this man jump and leave behind his young son? Quickly, Harri’s attention zeroes in on a person she knows all too well.

Ben Elmys: once the love of her life. A surrogate father to Elliot Asha and trusted friend to the Ashas.

Ben may also be a murderer.​

πŸ“– My Review 

This is an interesting and rather unusual book with a reveal I cannot reveal without adding major spoilers so I won't even dare go there. What I can say is that The Other Side of Night is a cleverly written story which tests the limits of your imagination and reveals a complex plot which moves along at a considered pace and reveals its secrets slowly and carefully.

Many have said that The Other Side of Night is a book to read with no prior knowledge of where it is going and I have to agree with that premise and that is why this review is rather vague. Defying genre and refusing to conform to any stereotype, this is a cleverly put together story about love and sacrifice and whilst it caught my attention it frequently left me feeling a little bit puzzled.

Did I enjoy The Other Side of Night? Well now, there's the dilemma, I both did, and didn't, and maybe if you read it, you'll understand why.

About the Author

Adam Hamdy is a Sunday Times bestselling novelist and screenwriter best known for his thrillers, including the Scott Pearce series and the Pendulum trilogy. A finalist for the Glass Bell Award for contemporary fiction and previously selected for BBC Radio 2’s Book Club, Adam receives critical acclaim from peers and media alike. Previously a strategy consultant advising global businesses in the medical systems, robotics, technology and financial services sectors, he now works with studios and production companies on both sides of the Atlantic in addition to writing.

Twitter @adamhamdy #TOSON



Friday, 9 September 2022

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 1926 - 2022


As our nation, the commonwealth and the world mourns the loss of this extraordinary monarch we will take the time to reflect on the life of Queen Elizabeth II.

And as this Elizabethan age passes we thank you Ma'am for your service, your dedication to duty and your love and loyalty to our country and the commonwealth. 

Jaffareadstoo sends its deepest condolences to the Royal Family on the loss of a beloved monarch, mother, grand-mother and great-grandmother.

Rest in Peace

Thursday, 8 September 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Lost Notebook by Louise Douglas


Boldwood Books
5 September 2022

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

A notebook full of secrets, two untimely deaths – something sinister is stirring in the perfect seaside town of Morranez…

It’s summer and holidaymakers are flocking to the idyllic Brittany coast. But when first an old traveller woman dies in suspicious circumstances, and then a campaign of hate seemingly drives another victim to take his own life, events take a very dark turn.

Mila Shepherd has come to France to look after her niece, Ani, following the accident in which both Ani’s parents were lost at sea. Mila has moved into their family holiday home - The Sea House - as well as taken her sister Sophie’s place in an agency which specialises in tracking down missing people, until new recruit Carter Jackson starts.

It’s clear that malevolent forces are at work in Morranez, but the local police are choosing to look the other way. Only Mila and Carter can uncover the truth about what’s really going on in this beautiful, but mysterious place before anyone else suffers. But someone is desperate to protect a terrible truth, at any cost..

πŸ“– My Review...

After a family tragedy, Mila Shepherd has returned to the Sea House in Brittany to care for her orphaned niece, Ani. Looking after a teenager is not without its challenges especially when Ani goes missing, only for Mila to find her talking to Gosia an itinerant woman whose mysterious lifestyle is at odds with the bustling tourist population of Morranez. Taking over her sister's missing persons business, Mila encounters Carter Jackson, a man who once had connections to the town and whose re-appearance opens up more questions than it does answers.

The Lost Notebook starts slowly, which I think is quite deliberate as it sets the scene perfectly and allows the characters to come to life. I especially warmed to Mila, who has had to make some big life changes in order to look after her sister's child and her transition throughout the story is lovely to see. We get little glimpses of Sophie, Mila's sister, whose voice from beyond the grave adds an interesting dimension to the story.

As always this clever author takes the reader on a wonderfully descriptive journey. Beautifully recreating the bustling Brittany town with all its secrets and hidden corners the mystery at the heart of the novel is revealed slowly with more than enough twists and turns. I enjoyed trying to piece together all the jigsaw puzzle pieces and hope that after the tantalising ending we might see a sequel...who knows?

Combining a multilayered mystery with a compelling family drama The Lost Notebook is everything I wanted from this talented author whose stories never fail to entertain.

Best Read with... a delicious millefeuille and maybe a selection of macarons from Morrannez's bijou patisserie..

About the Author

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author and an RNA award winner.TheSecrets Between Uswas a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country.

Twitter @LouiseDouglas3 #TheLostNotebook

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers  @bookandtonic


Tuesday, 6 September 2022

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ In Little Stars by Linda Green

6 September 2022 (ebook and audio)

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Two families divided by hate. A love that will not die.

Sylvie and Donna travel on the same train to work each day but have never spoken. Their families are on different sides of the bitter Brexit divide, although the tensions and arguments at home give them much in common.

What they don't know is that their eldest children, Rachid and Jodie, are about to meet for the first time and fall in love. Aware that neither family will approve, the teenagers vow to keep their romance a secret.

But as Sylvie's family feel increasingly unwelcome in England, a desire for a better life threatens Rachid and Jodie's relationship. Can their love unite their families - or will it end in tragedy?

πŸ“– My Review..

Rachid and Jodie are about to meet for the first time when they are both travelling to Leeds on the same train. Their lives are about to implode as the attraction between them is instant and real. However, regardless of how powerful the attraction, the impact that their relationship will have on their individual families will have far reaching consequences.

In a fractured North of England, reeling from years of political neglect, there is an undercurrent of discontent. Brexit has split families apart but there is also strong racial tension which rears its ugly head and which becomes such a strong theme throughout the story. In Little Stars brings these divisions in our once united nation into sharp focus and there is much to ponder over with characters and situations which feel scarily authentic, and which are so realistically portrayed that the sense of unease and creeping disquiet, from both sides of the divide, makes for uncomfortable reading. 

There is very quickly an emotional connection made with Rachid and Jodie, both are lovely young people who just want to make their way in the world and whose shared hopes, dreams and love for the music of Prince really resonate, but as is the way with star crossed lovers, life has a nasty habit of biting back and, without revealing any spoilers, Linda Green doesn't pull her punches when it comes to what happens next.

I was both visibly shaken and emotionally drained by the conclusion of In Little Stars. Without doubt  this powerful family drama will stay with me for a long time to come.

🍷Best Read with..a mug of tea and a Bakewell slice

Linda Green is the bestselling author of eleven novels. She is an award-winning journalist and has written for The Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and the Big Issue. Linda lives in West Yorkshire. 

Twitter @LindaGreenisms #OneMoment



Monday, 5 September 2022

Book Review ~ End of Innocence by ZoΓ« Apostolides

Mardle Books
18 August 2022

Truly Unforgotten #1

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

End of Innocence is the first in a non-fiction series ('Truly Unforgotten') exploring UK cold cases.

This book focuses on the 1978 disappearance of Genette Tate. The 13-year-old schoolgirl vanished while out delivering newspapers on her bicycle in the Exeter countryside; no trace of her was ever discovered. With new and rarely seen comments from family, police and inside the courtroom, the story links her case to the earlier abductions of April Fabb (also 13), Christine Markham (9) and Mary Boyle (6). 

None of these unsolved cases was assumed to be linked until 1990, when a man was apprehended having just kidnapped a six-year-old girl. That man was Robert Black, a notorious murderer about whom relatively little has been written. Black was eventually charged with four murders and sentenced to life, though the true number of his victims was very likely far higher. Police were preparing to charge Black with Genette Tate’s abduction and murder when he died in prison in 2016.

My Review ..

End of Innocence sees the start of a new crime series which explores infamous and unsolved cold cases. This first book explores the history behind the unresolved disappearances of young girls spanning from the 1960s, the 1970s and right up until the 1990s, all of which may be attributed to the notorious child kidnapper, and murderer, Robert Black.

Without sensationalisng the tragedy of the disappearances of so many young lives the book relates the facts which were available at the time and the police responses to complex investigations which left them baffled. Without the use of modern day technology the investigations relied on 'good old policing' methods, namely door to door conversations and a heavy reliance on witnesses and with paper trails which stretched endlessly it was never easy to correlate information. Although most of these crimes were committed in broad daylight no-one saw ever what happened until a major breakthrough in 1990 when an competent witness saw an abduction take place, and at long last Robert Black was apprehended.

End of Innocence is an interesting and well put together dossier of one man's alleged crimes, the dedication of those investigative teams, up and down the country, who never gave up hope that one day they would be able to offer some sort of resolution to those grieving families who never came to terms with the devastating loss of a beloved child.

About the Author..

ZoΓ« Apostolides has worked as a journalist for 10 years covering lifestyle, literature, art and education for the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and others. She has ghost-written several memoirs and biographies and combines this with editorial work as a literary agent with a particular interest in crime, horror and narrative non-fiction across all genres.


Friday, 2 September 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~JULIA PRIMA by Alison Morton



My thanks to the author for the invitation to read this book

“You should have trusted me. You should have given me a choice.”

AD 370, Roman frontier province of Noricum. Neither wholly married nor wholly divorced, Julia Bacausa is trapped in the power struggle between the Christian church and her pagan ruler father.

Tribune Lucius Apulius’s career is blighted by his determination to stay faithful to the Roman gods in a Christian empire. Stripped of his command in Britannia, he’s demoted to the backwater of Noricum – and encounters Julia. 

Unwittingly, he takes her for a whore. When confronted by who she is, he is overcome with remorse and fear. Despite this disaster, Julia and Lucius are drawn to one another by an irresistible attraction. 

But their intensifying bond is broken when Lucius is banished to Rome. Distraught, Julia gambles everything to join him. Following her heart’s desire brings danger she could never have envisaged…

Lucius and Julia...maybe ?

Huge thanks to Alison Morton for the invitation to be part of this blog tour today and for the opportunity to share a tantalising excerpt from JULIA PRIMA...

From Chapter 1 – Julia is simply dressed for supervising the household making the inventory, and has hurried down to the town market. There, she has a fateful encounter.

Weaving between ambulant hawkers with trays suspended from their necks, I nearly tripped over a pile of metal vessels and tools. Why they had to cover half the street with their goods, I didn’t know. One hot-food trader stirred the contents of a large cauldron suspended over a fire and steaming in the chill, partly tempered by the spring sun. Next to him, a pie and sausage man who wiped his nose on his sleeve. Ugh. More permanent stalls were set up under awnings strung between stakes in the ground. Towards the centre, shops had disgorged onto the pavement and even into the street. The bread and vegetable vendors displaying their produce on wooden tables were more circumspect. At least I didn’t have to make a detour round them like the dratted shoe seller who had set out wooden benches for his customers and marked out his place of sale with curtains hung between columns.

And did they all have to shout so loudly and wave their arms about so much? Along with the chickens squawking, mules braying and children shrieking, my head was fit to burst. At last, it quietened as I reached the crafts and household goods area. Fine pottery, leather and beadwork; one tribesman with curly blond hair and a friendly smile was selling beautifully worked fibula brooches and belt buckles.

At last, I found the Gaul in front of a small glassware shop at the end of the row. The leather cover of the cart behind him was half drawn up to display stacks of redware, bedded in wooden frames lined with straw, but on the table in front of him were the best.

The redware was beautiful; exquisite figures chased one another on the widest part of one serving bowl, another showed a hunting scene with hare and hounds that my father would love. I stayed silent, picking up each piece, examining it slowly and putting it back. He shuffled behind his counter watching intently. Did he think I was going to steal it?

When I stopped and looked him direct in the eye, his face was expressionless. But I decided I would take the two serving dishes, a dozen of the cups and half that number of small bowls and plates. In the end, I relieved the Gaul’s agony, gave the order and told him to deliver them to the service area of the palace.

‘And who are you to give me orders?’ He looked me up and down. ‘I’ll deal with your steward. You run back and get him.’ He flicked his hand at me.

‘How dare you! Do you know who I am?’

‘No, but I know more than to go on a fool’s errand started by some kitchen wench.’ He wiped his hand on his checked tunic and turned towards a newcomer – the new Roman officer. A tall man, he must have been several years older than me, possibly in his late twenties. His face tight with anger above his red neck scarf and scale armour shirt. His boots were dusty as were his breeches. He walked a little wide as if chafed from being on his horse all day. He stopped, set one hand on his belt, the other on the pommel of his short sword. He glanced at the Gaul, then turned his gaze on me. Brown eyes, reflecting the pale light.

Something twisted inside me, immobilised my breath, then settled in my core. Perhaps a meeting of something familiar, a recognition. He didn’t move, just stared at me. I returned the stare. I couldn’t find a word to say. Heat crept up my neck and into my face. Venus Suleviae, he must have thought I was half-witted.

Eventually, he moved, pointing at the Gaul.

‘Is this man cheating you?’

‘What business is it of yours?’ It was out before I could think.

‘None,’ he said, frowning. He looked at me again, then turned away.

Oh, gods, I had behaved like a true barbarian and was ashamed. And he was walking away from me. I had to stop him.

‘Wait, Roman.’

He walked on, ignoring me.

Please, Great Mother, make him stop.

‘I said wait!’ I cried after him.

He walked on. I knew I’d been rude, but he could at least stop and let me apologise. He didn’t need to be so uncivil, even for a soldier. I hastened after him, determined to make him hear me. Nobody turns his back and walks away from me.

When I caught up with him, I seized his arm. He instantly grabbed his sword pommel. The gladius was halfway out of the scabbard by the time he saw it was me. He released it, then looked at my hand on his forearm as if it were a viper about to bite.

‘How dare you touch me!’ He looked at me as if I were the meanest drudge. ‘Remove your hand or I’ll have you whipped.’

‘You can’t,’ I retorted. ‘You have no right.’

‘We’ll see about that.’ He went to raise his hand – to summon some of his men, I supposed – then he let his hand drop. His eyes gleamed and he looked down his Roman nose. I caught my breath and tipped my chin up at him. I knew my face was flushed – I could feel the heat – but I was going to teach him a lesson. When he found out who he’d insulted he’d be broken and sent back to Rome in disgrace. I opened my mouth to tell him exactly what his fate was going to be, but as he prised my fingers off his arm they tingled. The rough skin on his hand chafed my softer one. My fingers were jammed together but I hardly noticed. Before I could protest, he grabbed my wrist and pulled me to him. Gods, he was strong. His arm slid round the back of my waist, and he crushed me against his body. Solid, unyielding. He smelt of horse, a day’s sweat and pine resin. His eyes narrowed then gleamed again. His breath shortened.

I should have struggled, but I didn’t want to. His other hand gripped my buttock. I stared into his eyes. I was lost.

πŸ“– My Review..

It’s AD 370 and Julia Bacausa lives with her father in the Roman province of Noricum, neither married nor divorced, Julia has a modicum of freedom which is unusual for a woman of her noble status. However, it is this very freedom which leads her to an unexpected meeting with the tribune Lucius Apulius and a connection that will alter the course of their lives forever. As the cherished daughter of a local prince Julia is used to a life of power and privilege but when danger and intrigue beckon she has no hesitation in following her heart.

Beautifully recreating the dying days of the Roman Empire, the rise of emerging Christianity and the role of women in Roman society we follow Julia as she embarks on an eventful journey from Noricum to Rome with only a couple of servants to protect her from harm. Thanks to impeccable research the Roman world, with all its faults, foibles and failings comes to vibrant life, add into the mix a vengeful enemy who is determined to track Julia down and you have the perfect ingredients necessary for an exciting historical adventure.

Those who are familiar with the Roma Nova world, which this author has so lovingly created, will be just as excited as I was to go back to the very foundations of this dynasty to discover an ancient world which smoulders with passion and is alive with intrigue and danger.

🍷Best Read with… an earthenware mug of honeyed wine

About the Author

Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her nine-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21st century and is ruled by women who face conspiracy, revolution and heartache but with a sharp line in dialogue.

She blends her fascination for Ancient Rome with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history.
Alison now lives in Poitou in France, the home of MΓ©lisende, the heroine of her two contemporary thrillers, Double Identity and Double Pursuit. Oh, and she’s writing the next Roma Nova story.

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 Thank you for joining us on the JULIA PRIMA Blog Tour Today