Monday 30 January 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Mrs Van Gogh by Caroline Cauchi


One More Chapter
30 January 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

She’s been painted out of history…until now

Who tells her story?

In 1890, Vincent Van Gogh dies penniless, unknown, a man tortured by his own mind.

Eleven years later his work is exhibited in Paris and his unparalleled talent finally recognised. The tireless efforts of one woman gave the world one of its greatest creative minds.

But twenty-eight year old Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, Vincent’s sister-in-law and the keeper of his immense collection of paintings, sketches and letters, has, until now, been written out of history. This beautiful, moving novel finally gives this extraordinary woman a voice...

πŸ“– My Review…

There is something very special about the work of Vincent Van Gogh and the world would be a poorer place without his iconic works. As we know, Van Gogh was troubled soul and didn’t, during his lifetime, sell any of his paintings, however, after Van Gogh’s death it is largely due to his sister-in-law, Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger’s persistence that Vincent’s work finally started to gain recognition.

Whilst Mrs Van Gogh is a fictional account of the life of Johanna Bonger, it is based on what little is known of her, especially her brief marriage to Vincent’s brother, Theo, who was a respected art dealer in Paris. Vincent is portrayed in vibrant detail and the more we get to know this troubled genius so we begin to appreciate the man behind the myth. The Belle Epoque of late nineteenth century Paris comes vividly to life and the author has done a great job of giving Johanna a voice as she escapes from her stultifying existence in her childhood home in Amsterdam and falls in love with a more bohemian lifestyle in Paris.

Mrs Van Gogh paints a wonderful picture and places us with the Van Gogh’s as they settle into a life filled with colour, mayhem and madness. Beautifully descriptive, what shines through is the vibrancy of the story so that it becomes perfectly possible to twirl with the dancers at Le Moulin de la Galette and sip rich red wine whilst getting to know Joanna as we read her diary entries and imagine her life glossy with art, and awash with all the sights, sounds and atmosphere of a lively city and of a strong and determined young woman caught in the middle of an extraordinary life.

Beautifully written and meticulously researched each chapter reads like a painting and I particularly enjoyed noting the arty title of each section. There is no doubt that Mrs Van Gogh is a wonderfully descriptive historical novel which entertains and informs from start to finish.

About the Author

Caroline Cauchi also writes as Caroline Smailes. Caroline worked as a lecturer for several years before turning her hand to fiction. She lives in Liverpool with her husband and children.

Twitter @Caroline_S #MrsVanGogh


Wednesday 25 January 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Flame Tree by Siobahn Daiko (Giveaway)

Asolando Books
19 January 2023

Hong Kong Collection #2

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

Based on a little-known true story, from award-winning author Siobhan Daiko comes a tale of love and survival against all the odds set in Hong Kong at the start of the Pacific War.

In the spring of 1939, dashing young William Burton and the beautiful Constance Han set sail from London on the same ocean liner to Hong Kong.

Romance blossoms while they enjoy games of deck quoits and spend sultry tropical evenings dancing under the stars. Connie is intrigued by Will’s talent for writing poetry, and she offers to give him Cantonese lessons to help him with his new job— a cadet in the colonial service.

But once in Hong Kong, Connie is constrained by filial duty towards her Eurasian parents, and their wish for her to marry someone from her own background. She can't forget Will however and arranges to meet him in secret under the magnificent canopy of a flame of the forest tree—where she fulfils her promise to teach him to speak Chinese.

Before too long, trouble looms as Japanese forces gather on the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. Will joins a commando group tasked with operating behind enemy lines, and Connie becomes involved in the fight against local fifth columnists.

When war breaks out, they find themselves drawn into a wider conflict than their battle against prejudice. Can they survive and achieve a future together? Or do forces beyond their control keep them forever apart?

πŸ“– My Review...

Based on factual events this fictional WW2 story takes us into the heart of a country torn apart by conflict but which at the heart of it all is a love story between two people who refused to let prejudice and war tear them apart. 

William Burton and Constance Han meet on board the P&O liner RMS Carthage heading for Hong Kong. Twenty-three year old Will is to take up a post as a cadet in the colonial services, whist Connie is returning to her family after studying in England for three years. Irresistibly attracted to each other from the start, and once in Hong Kong, Will and Connie continue their relationship in secret as Connie’s Eurasian parents would not approve of Will’s background. However, the shadow of war beckons ever closer and soon both Will and Connie find that they are caught up in a fast moving conflict which places them both in grave danger.

The Flame Tree is well written historical fiction which sheds light on a particular moment in history and brings to life the horror of living through a time of conflict and of the political and cultural differences leading to the fall of Hong Kong in 1941. Whilst I knew something of the events around the war in the Pacific, it has been interesting to have this fictional account which describes everything so vividly and in such well researched detail.

Intricately written, and with a beautiful love story at its heart, The Flame Tree is a story which stays with you long after the last page is turned.

About the author

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and a rescued cat. Siobhan was born of English parents in Hong Kong, attended boarding school in Australia, and then moved to the UK—where she taught modern foreign languages in a Welsh comprehensive school. She now spends her time writing page-turners and enjoying her life near Venice. Her novels are compelling, poignant, and deeply moving, with strong characters and evocative settings, but always with romance at their heart.

Twitter @siobahndaiko #TheFlameTree


Giveaway to win a signed copy of The Flame Tree (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions– Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

Good luck.


Friday 20 January 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Marriage Act by John Marrs

19 January 2023

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

and the invitation to the blog tour

From the bestselling author of THE ONE, now an eight part NETFLIX series. Set in the same world as THE ONE, THE MARRIAGE ACT is a dark, high concept thriller.

What if marriage was the law? Dare you disobey?

Britain. The near future. A right wing government believes it has the answer to society’s ills – the Sanctity of Marriage Act which actively encourages marriage as the norm, punishing those who choose to remain single.

But four couples are about to discover just how impossible relationships can be when the government is monitoring every aspect of our personal lives, monitoring every word, every minor disagreement…And it will use every tool in its arsenal to ensure everyone will love, honour and obey!

πŸ“– My Review..

The Marriage Act was the book I needed to read in the aftermath of Christmas as it certainly took me out of my comfort zone and right into a futuristic world which is both scarily realistic and dangerously addictive so much so that I read the book in a couple of sittings carefully carrying it from room to room so I wouldn't miss anything.

Written in easy to read character vignettes, The Marriage Act takes us right into the very heart of a frightening dystopian world which this clever author recreates so very well. I enjoyed meeting all the characters whose lives very quickly become integral to this clever thriller which I am being particularly vague about as I don't want to give away any spoilers as, believe me, this is one of those books you need to go into without any prior knowledge of what is to some. Right from the opening the story is scarily plausible, and by using the concept of smart devices, watching and listening to every conversation, there was never a moment when the story didn't pulsate with menace. 

The Marriage Act is a clever and sophisticated dystopian thriller which moves seamlessly between flawed characters who, although in the main each of them are largely unlikable, they all, very quickly, become as familiar as a friend who you don't want to spend time with and yet their company is so compelling that you find yourself  irresistibly drawn towards them with a strange fascination.  

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Marriage Act and can easily see it on my books of the year list πŸ˜Š

About the Author

John Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author.

Twitter @johnmarrs1 #TheMarriageAct


Wednesday 18 January 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Picture Bride by Lee Geum-yi (Translated by An Soen Jae)


10 November 2022

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Could you marry a man you’ve never met? Three Korean women in 1918 make a life-changing journey to Hawaii, where they will marry, having seen only photographs of their intended husbands.

Different fates await each of these women. Hong-ju, who dreams of a marriage of ‘natural love’, meets a man who looks twenty years older than his photograph; Song-hwa, who wants to escape from her life of ridicule as the granddaughter of a shaman, meets a lazy drunkard. And then there’s Willow, whose 26-year-old groom, Taewan, looks just like his image …

Real life doesn’t always resemble a picture, but there’s no going back. And while things don’t turn out quite as they’d hoped, even for Willow, they do find something that makes their journey worthwhile — each other.

πŸ“– My Review..

It’s 1918 and three young women leave Korea to start a new life to be married to a man they have only seen in a photograph. Leaving behind their lives of poverty and oppression each of the women have a hope for a better future. However, as they arrive at their destination there is disappointment and sadness waiting for them as all is not as it was promised.

During the course of the book we follow the story of Willow, whose marriage to Taewan gets off to a shaky start, but determined to make the best of her new situation we grow to admire Willow for her perseverance and stoicism. Her two friends, Hong-ju and Song-hwa each have their own challenges when they discover that the promise of a better life doesn’t meet with their expectations.

The Picture Bride is beautifully written historical fiction which shines a light on a forgotten period, bringing to life the uncertainty of living in a time which was, not just politically uncertain but was also a time of great social change. Each of the women are brought vividly to life but it is Willow who really captured my imagination and for that reason I felt that she encapsulated the spirit of the novel.

Expertly translated, The Picture Bride is an enlightening story which will stay with me for a long time.

About the Author

Lee Geum-yi is a bestselling YA author in Korea. The Picture Bride is her debut adult novel, and her debut in the English language.

About the Translator

An Seon Jae has lived in Korea since 1980. He was born in Cornwall in 1942, and since 1969 has been a member of the Community of TaizΓ©, where he is known as Brother Anthony. He has published some 50 volumes of translated Korean poetry, as well as translations of several Korean novels.

Twitter #ThePictureBride


Tuesday 17 January 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Stardust in Nuala by Harriet Steel

November 2022

The Inspector de Silva Mysteries #12

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

A celebrated Indian film company comes to Nuala, sprinkling its stardust over the quiet little town and keeping Inspector de Silva busy. With the end of the visit at last in sight, he looks forward to returning to a more peaceful existence, but a sudden death dashes his hopes. With Jane’s help and that of a new ally, he’s drawn into the turbulent affairs of a warring family. Meanwhile, a mysterious intruder is causing trouble at the Residence.

πŸ“– My Review

There is great excitement in Nuala when an Indian film crew descends upon the town and of course, it falls upon Inspector de Silva to keep everything under control. However, even as the film crew are packing up to leave Nuala, the inspector is informed that there has been an unexpected death in the hotel where the main members of the cast have been staying. This mysterious death of one of the main actors opens up a whole set of mysterious circumstances and places several other members of the cast under suspicion. As always, this careful detective leaves no stone unturned, or wall unclimbed, in his quest to get to the bottom of this complex crime.

It's always a huge pleasure to return to Nuala and spend time in the company of de Silva and his lovely wife Jane as they quietly go about their lives in this beautiful part of what was once Ceylon. Set in 1941, the colonial atmosphere still persists although with the war raging in Europe there is definitely a hint of change in the air. The place and its people come alive especially with all the colourful sights, sounds and tastes which this author describes so thoughtfully. The mystery at the heart of this gentle crime story is beautifully explored and everything comes together in a satisfactory conclusion which I felt was entirely appropriate.

Whilst this is the twelfth novel in this cosy crime series it is perfectly possible to read as a standalone mystery although for greater enjoyment and to get to know the Inspector it is better to read the series from the beginning that way you get to spend time in this pretty little hill town with de Silva, his wife Jane, and their two cats Billy and Bella.

Harriet Steel wrote four historical novels before turning to crime with the Inspector de Silva mysteries, inspired by time spent in Sri Lanka (the former Ceylon)). Her work has also appeared in national newspapers and magazines. Visit her blog to sign up to her monthly newsletter for news of new releases and great offers, Blog 

Harriet is married with two daughters and lives in Surrey. When Harriet is not writing, she likes reading, long walks and visiting art galleries and museums.

Twitter @harrietsteel1


Monday 16 January 2023

πŸ“– Book Feature ~ You’ll Never Walk Alone by Rachel Kelly

Yellow Kite
3 November 2022

My thanks to the publishers and Midas for the opportunity 
to feature this book on the blog

You'll Never Walk Alone is a collection of the kind of inspirational texts - mainly poems - that can accompany us, whatever we are feeling, from sorrow to delight. The texts are not just about words which can console us or comfort us - though they often do this too. Rather these are poems that allow us to enjoy a full range of emotions. The poems are organised according to the season in which they 'belong': we all have seasons of our minds, be they wintery and dark, or more spring-like and hopeful. Comprising 52 poems, with analysis by Rachel, You'll Never Walk Alone introduces a poem for each week of the year plus tips on bringing poetry into your life.

This book will show you how to bring poetry into your everyday emotional reality, where it can be a new tool for well being. And one that means you'll never walk alone.

The texts are introduced by Sunday Times bestselling author Rachel Kelly, who cites the therapeutic power of poetry as one of the key factors in her own recovery from depression, as she shows how poetry can be a tool for well being – one that means you'll never walk alone.With this book by your side, you will feel comforted when times are tough and cheered when they are joyful.

Having spoken all over the world from Delhi to Sydney, America and across the UK, former Times journalist Rachel runs Healing Words poetry workshops for mental health charities, at festivals and in prisons, and has been a judge for the Koestler Poetry Prize and the Rethink Mental Illness Poetry Awards, as well as being an official ambassador for Rethink Mental Illness, SANE, The Counselling Foundation and Head Talks. 

We all need a bit of help sometimes with our mental health and in those quiet moments when we sit and reflect on what’s going on in our lives it’s often very comforting to have a gentle books of words which helps to focus our minds.

You’ll Never Walk Alone is the perfect antidote for #BlueMonday. It’s available in hardback and ebook from wherever you buy your books.

Twitter @RachelKellyNet 




Tuesday 3 January 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Dirty Briefs by Dave Fendem


Ad Lib Publishers
Mardle Books

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

From top to bottom – a shocking and hilarious journey through the legal profession unlike anything seen before.

Straight from the bowels of back street police stations, locked psychiatric wards and the criminal courts, these are the brazen tales of a bare-knuckle barrister.

For those who think that all barristers are high flyers blessed with fabulous incomes and sophisticated lives, this book will decisively re-inform you. It will dispel any myth that those we trust to steer the ship are any less maladjusted than the clients they represent.

Unapologetically rude and irreverent, welcome to the real world of criminal barristers; an unruly place where nudity, misappropriation of sex toys and dirty protests are not just for the accused, and where judges’ discomfort brings widespread joy.

πŸ“– My Review...

I'm no expert on the criminal justice system and have no idea what goes on in the mysterious world of criminal defence however, as this book is written by someone who knows the system well it soon becomes a rather ironic account of what goes on behind the scenes with a criminal defence barrister. Well written, with entertaining anecdotes, the book made me smile with stories about incidents I never expected to find amusing.

At just over two hundred pages this comes in as a quick read which makes it the perfect sort of book to settle down with on a rainy afternoon. If you have an interest in the law and want to know more about some irreverent behind the scenes shenanigans then Dirty Briefs might be just your cup of tea.

Twitter @DFendem

@AdLibPublishers @MardleBooks

Monday 2 January 2023

🌟 Featured Book of the Month in January ~ The Trophy Wife by Valerie Keogh


Boldwood Books
2 January 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

From the moment I saw Ann, I knew she was perfect for me.

Her beauty and her social connections would make my miserable life so much better. It didn’t matter that I didn’t love her. I would give her the lifestyle she craved, and she would give me the life I deserved...

But soon my marriage vows were a noose around my neck.

I longed to escape my beautiful, horrible wife.

And then I saw her and I knew there was only one way out…

πŸ“– My Review...

Jake escapes his boring parents and against their wishes takes up the offer of studying at a prestigious Oxford college. Leaving his working class roots far behind him, Jake finds that, after university, and with financial success offered to him, he is set on the path to the perfect life he always dreamed off. However, material success, financial security and a beautiful wife, proves to be not enough to satisfy Jake, and that’s when his life starts to go disastrously wrong.

I’ve read this author’s work before and I really enjoy how she turns her rather flawed characters into people you start to believe in and although I found Jake unlikable I was thoroughly invested in his story. The Trophy Wife, takes the idea of social and financial success and shows how shallow this lifestyle can be without the right attitude and with unrealistic dreams.

This drama filled domestic noir story was just what I needed to read in that lull between Christmas and New Year. Perfect escapism with a clever, quirky plot, a seriously flawed protagonist and a set of peripheral characters who really helped to turn this into a drama filled read. 

I am delighted to have The Trophy Wife as my featured Book of the Month for January.

About the Author

Valerie Keogh is the internationally bestselling author of several psychological thrillers and crime series, most recently published by Bloodhound. She originally comes from Dublin but now lives in Wiltshire and worked as a nurse for many years. Her first thriller for Boldwood was published in August 2022.

Twitter @ValerieKeogh1 #TheTrophyWife

Twitter @BoldwoodBooks #Boldwoodbloggers  Instagram @bookandtonic