Thursday 18 July 2024

πŸ“– Book Review ~ We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker



Right. Wrong. Life is lived somewhere in between.

Duchess Day Radley is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Rules are for other people. She is the fierce protector of her five-year-old brother, Robin, and the parent to her mother, Star, a single mom incapable of taking care of herself, let alone her two kids.

Walk has never left the coastal California town where he and Star grew up. He may have become the chief of police, but he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. And he's in overdrive protecting Duchess and her brother.

Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released. And Duchess and Walk must face the trouble that comes with his return. We Begin at the End is an extraordinary novel about two kinds of families—the ones we are born into and the ones we create.

πŸ“– My Review

Sometimes I finish a story and think, wow, I wish I’d written this one and even though I’m really late to the party, I can’t recommend We Begin at the End highly enough. By the end of the first chapter I was hooked on a story which had such a visceral pull that I couldn’t let go of the plot or get the characters out of my head.

Duchess Day Radley is thirteen years old, and considers herself an outlaw, she is also the protector of both her younger brother, Robin, and Star, her troubled and misguided mother. With little money and no parental guidance Duchess is fiercely independent and doesn’t take any nonsense from people with the exception of Walk, who is a family friend and also the chief of police. After serving a thirty year prison sentence, local man, Vincent Hall is released back into the Cape Haven community, tensions are running high, particularly for Star Radley and her children.

Duchess is now one of my all time favourite characters and We Begin at the End is up there with the best of any thriller I’ve read in a long time. It’s quite an extraordinary story, effortless and pieced together so carefully, with characters who are so flawed that you can’t help but connect with them on an emotional level. There is a constant sense of doom running throughout the story and whilst I anticipated that things were never going to work out neatly,  I was constantly surprised by the cleverness of the twists and turns, with some genuine surprises I really didn’t see coming. The writing is sharp and concise. beautifully controlled with no words wasted, or emotion unexpressed. It both broke my heart and angered me at the same time. 

Flipping between the enclosed small town atmosphere of Cape Haven, California and the wide open skies of Montana, this complex drama is really difficult to sum up without giving away huge spoilers and I won’t do that as it would be a terrible disservice to a story which wraps itself around you, biting deep into your heart and leaving you bereft when it finishes.

The author has a new book, All the Colours of the Dark which was published in June. It’s already on my radar of books to read as I’ve heard that it’s another masterclass in thriller writing. Watch this space…

Chris Whitaker is the award-winning author of Tall Oaks, All the Wicked Girls, We Begin at the End, and The Forevers (YA). His debut Tall Oaks won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award.
An instant New York Times and international bestseller, We Begin at the End was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month, a Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick and a Good Morning America Buzz Pick. The novel won the CWA Gold Dagger Award, the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year, the Ned Kelly International Award, and numerous awards around the world.

We Begin At The End has been translated into twenty-nine languages, with screen rights going to Disney, where ‘Hamilton’ director Thomas Kail and producing partner Jennifer Todd will develop the book for television.

Chris lives in the UK.

X @WhittyAuthor #WeBeginAtTheEnd


Wednesday 17 July 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Irish Child by Daisy O'Shea

16 July 2024

Thanks to the publisher for the book and invitation to the blog tour

A salty breeze whips the tears from my eyes as I stare out at the emerald Irish Sea. Everything I’ve lost, the child my great grandmother Nellie lost, all feels so present here, in the land my family left years ago. How will I ever move on? Will I ever uncover the truth about the little girl who went missing all those years ago?

When Boston-born Erin arrives in wind-tossed Roone Bay, she’s heart-sore, tired and lonely. Her marriage is over: she’s come to build a new life for herself on Ireland’s rugged southern coast. And to unravel the story behind the mysterious note in her family’s ancient Bible that has haunted her since childhood. But hazel-eyed former lifeboat volunteer Finn, the only local historian around, quietly refuses her pleas to help.

So Erin settles in to the town, with its whitewashed cottages and ruddy-cheeked fishermen, and begins her quest alone. Who was her ancestor, Nellie, and why did she leave Ireland for America? What happened to her missing child, Annie, and did Nellie ever see her again?

Just as Erin despairs ever uncovering the truth, one rain-soaked night she is rescued by Finn, who finally agrees to help. And by firelight and candlelight each evening, just as it would have been in her great-grandmother’s time, Finn and Erin grow closer as they share their stories.

But just as Erin wonders if Roone Bay could be her forever home, she makes a devastating discovery. Will she be able to face the truth, which changes everything she thought she knew about herself, her past, and her family’s Irish legacy? Or will she run, just as Nellie did all those years ago, and lose the best chance at happiness she’s ever had…?

πŸ“–  My Review..

Boston-born Erin arrives in Roone Bay ostensibly to search for her Irish roots and to discover why her ancestors left Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century to make a new life in America. However, there are complex personal reasons as to why Erin has left America and we learn that she too has secrets and has suffered her own fair share of heartache.

As always the author draws you into this lovely Irish coastal town which we first came across in The Irish Key, and whilst this is definitely a stand alone story and can be enjoyed as such, it was  lovely to meet up with some of the well loved characters we have met before. The gentle pace of the story moves between two time frames so that we can picture life during the troubles of the past whilst at the same time enjoy Erin's journey of discovery in the present day.

There's a gentleness to the story which I rather enjoyed, and with neither time frame seeking to steal the limelight, I felt an affinity with Erin's story as she tentatively made changes to her life and her burgeoning relationship with the handsome Finn brought an interesting romantic element. Bringing the past to life in a special way Nellie's rather sad story explained her reasons for leaving Ireland during the time of the Great Hunger and as my own ancestors also left Ireland during this tragic time I felt an immediate connection to her story.

The Irish Child looks at the heartbreaking secrets of the past, weaving together the bonds of motherhood, and of the family ties which, even though broken, can be pieced together in time.

About the Author

Sue Lewando was a teacher for several years before migrating to the office environment, where she was PA to the Treasurer of Clarks Shoes, a multi-national company, then, briefly, PA to Susan George, the actress best known for Straw Dogs. Sue had many genre books published (M&B and Virgin), under pseudonyms, and self-publishes her crime thrillers. She was on the committee of the Romantic Novelists’ Association in England, for whom she assessed typescripts. She has been a fiction tutor for the London School of Journalism for twenty years. She has two grown-up children, a happy second marriage, and a bundle of cats and dogs. She moved to West Cork with her husband to undertake a farmhouse refurbishment project, foster their joint passion for playing Irish traditional music, and to invest time in their individual academic projects. She recently completed a Masters in Creative Writing at UCC, taking the opportunity to explore diverse writing genres. She works with the Jeremy Murphy Literary Consultancy in the capacity of typescript analyst, ghostwriter, editor, and online publishing advisor. She loves good commercial fiction, and is a devotee of the Oxford comma.

Twitter / X @westcorkwriter #TheIrishChild

@bookouture #BooksOnTour

Tuesday 16 July 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Daughters of Tuscany by Siobahn Daiko

Boldwood Books
10 July 2024

My thanks to the publishers and  Rachel's Random Resources
for the book and invitation to the tour 

Two women, one community, everyone’s war…

With the arrival of English prisoners of war on Marchese Ginori’s farmhouse estate, Rosa is immediately wary. Her husband was killed by the Allies and she will not trust any inglesi around her daughter.

The marchese’s daughter, Emma, is thankful for the extra help. Especially when Italian soldiers are forced into hiding, fleeing the Nazis. Emma vows to protect her childhood best friend, Marco, at any cost.

It’s a dangerous time to be harbouring fugitives, and as the POWs prove their allegiance in helping the Italian men, Rosa begins to become close to one in particular – an alluring Scotsman named Tom.

Both women will do what it takes to protect their loved ones, but daring to hope for a better future in wartime is a dangerous dream. And what starts as a quest to keep their men safe soon turns into a mission to save their whole community…

πŸ“– My Review..

This descriptive historical novel, set during the latter years of WW2, takes us deep into the heart of Italy during the German occupation. We meet two young women, from different backgrounds, who, together with their families, try to keep hope alive. However, protecting their families from German hostility is really challenging but is their strength of spirit which sees them cope during the worst of times. Well researched, the story recounts this dark period in history especially in the descriptions of the harsh treatment given out to the fugitives and prisoners of war whilst at the same time championing the bravery of those who fought against oppression.

The author writes well, bringing both the beauty of place and the strength of the people alive in a very realistic way so that I soon became immersed in Tuscan life, watching as the olive harvest is brought in, the fields are tended and also enjoying the detailed descriptions of food, even though mostly peasant food it is described in a delicious way. The history feels authentic, the struggles of the people and the danger placed upon those who were part of the resistance is done well and with danger never far away there is always the anticipation of what will happen those characters who have such an emotional appeal. There are some nice romantic interludes which gives the story a lighter edge and I enjoyed seeing how these special relationships would play out especially when everything looked so hopeless. 

The author has a great way of bringing history alive and whilst I have to admit that I didn’t know very much about the WW2 German occupation of Italy, it has been fascinating to learn a little more in Daughters of Tuscany which shows the strength and resilience of those who were fighting for freedom during a very harsh time in our history.

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 #DaughtersOfTuscany


@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers

Monday 15 July 2024

πŸ“– Book Tour ~ Before She Fell by Natalie Sammons


Bloodhound Books
10 June 2024

Thanks to the publishers and Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour

An ostentatious party descends into violence—and a disgraced cop sets out to redeem herself by solving the case . . .

Susan Grey’s fiftieth birthday party promised to be a talked-about event—an over-the-top extravagant gathering of a hundred guests at her sprawling Georgian home. But it would be talked about for all the wrong reasons . . .

From an escalated argument to the disappearance of an expensive piece of jewelry, the party was quickly spiraling out of control. But the worst was yet to come, when Susan suffered a horrific fall down the grand staircase. Was it an accident or was she pushed?

For DI Grace Roth, relegated to desk duty due to an internal investigation, this could be a high-profile case and a chance to redeem herself. But every lead seems to send her in circles. As the badly injured Susan lies in her hospital bed, DI Roth must try to gather the scattered pieces of the puzzle and make them fit—before anyone else gets hurt.

πŸ“– My Review..

Susan Grey wants her fiftieth birthday party to be something really special and has pulled out all the stops to make the evening memorable. However, it becomes unforgettable for a rather different reason as Susan suffers a devastating accident. With no-one around to see Susan fall it is assumed it is a tragic accident but DI Grace Roth, newly returned to the investigative team, thinks that there is more to this accident and sets out to discover just what happened on the night of Susan's party.

Filled with twists, turns, and red herrings we are given the story from Susan's perspective, as it starts months before the actual party, whilst at the same time we witness the way in which DI Roth goes about piecing together all the clues. Fastidious and meticulous the young detective has much to prove and so she is determined to discover just went on that night and why Susan Grey went spiralling down her grand staircase. Accident, or attempted murder, all is revealed in this cleverly put together 'whodunnit'. 

I enjoyed the pace of the story as it evolves with just the right amount of mystery, the characters are well drawn, some I liked more than others but that's what makes the book appealing. There was a satisfying conclusion to the mystery and, I think, that there's definitely a door left open for DI Roth to return in the future.

Social Media

X @rararesources

Friday 12 July 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Future of The Self by Joanna Nadin

Melville House
4 July 2024

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

Exploring the changing nature of ‘self’ through the lens of popular culture and how changes in science, philosophy, technology, and society might impact our sense of self in the future.Look in the mirror – what do you see?We all feel, instinctively, that self exists. That somewhere inside us, under the clothes, the make-up, and self-tan, lurks a hard ‘pearl’, a kernel of truth called ‘me’. And it’s big business uncovering that ‘authentic’ kernel. It’s also a fool’s errand, because that ‘true self’? It doesn’t exist.

Self is no more than a story we tell ourselves. It’s mutable, pliable as Plasticine. Worse, it’s not even strictly autobiographical, but co-authored with those around us. And as such, there is no one version, but myriad, and the number is growing as we are exposed to ever more connections.We are already seeing the effects travel, television, and celebrity culture can have on the formation of self, but as digital and social media exposure grows, and in the advent of AI, what will happen to our sense of self? 

Can we become ever more multiple and adapt better to our globalised world? Or will we dissolve into narcissitic, detached ‘nobodies’?The Future of the Self will explore our current understanding of self in both philosophical and neuroscientific terms and through the lens of popular culture. It will ask what might happen to it in the coming years, and what a ‘useful self’ might look like in the future.

πŸ“– My Review

Coming in at just over a hundred pages this is a quick read however, it's not light on content. In exploring the concept of 'self' the author examines just what it is which makes us who we are and poses the question that as we get swept further and further into the maelstrom of social media and popular culture, are we are in danger of losing ourselves forever as we seek to be the perfect self?

I enjoyed the informal way in which the author presents her findings which makes it a very thought provoking little book, posing questions which made me stop to consider whilst at the same time the author shares her own personal reflections. What struck a chord right at the start of the book was the author being told that 'There are pretty girls, and there are clever girls' . I recall at my all-girls grammar school, in the seventies, being made aware that clever was preferable over pretty but like the author, I wanted to be both. I like to think that  I have succeeded at both...

This well written little book has given me a different perspective and one I had not really thought before especially in the way in which popular culture can alter our perspective. I have learned that we all have very different versions of self, some are entirely independent, some are obsessive or narcissistic, whilst others converge into whatever role in life we are playing, but I think what's comes across is that, in the end, we can be whoever we want to be.

The Future of the Self is one of those absorbing little books which will remain on my book shelf, to pick up whenever the mood takes me..

About the Author

Joanna Nadin is an English author of juvenile fiction best known for the Rachel Riley series of teenage novels Based on Nadin's own childhood, the series follows the comedic narration of a 13-year-old girl. Nadin has also written several books of juvenile fiction. These include two books for the Oxford University Press "Project X" series designed to encourage boys to read. Nadin previously worked as a policy writer for the Labour Party (UK).In 2001, she became a special adviser to Tony Blair.

Social Media

X @joannanadin #TheFutureoftheSelf #Futures

X @melvillehouse

The new FUTURES series from Melville House presents imaginative future visions on a wide range of subjects, written by experts, academics, journalists and leading pop-culture figures. Seeking to publish a rich array of opinions, covering as wide-ranging a view as possible on our potential futures, we ask our authors to experiment with the kinds of daring ideas that can help change public conversation. As a series we hope the FUTURES books will inspire readers to imagine what might lie ahead, to figure out how they might like the future to look, and think about how, collectively, we might get there.

Melville House

Thursday 11 July 2024

πŸ“– Publication Day Review ~ The King's Mother by Annie Garthwaite

11 July 2024
Thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

1461. Through blood and battle Edward has gained England’s throne – king by right and conquest – eighteen years old and unstoppable. Cecily has piloted his rise to power and stands at his shoulder now, first to claim the title King’s Mother.

But to win a throne is not to keep it and war is come again. As brother betrays brother, and trusted cousins turn treacherous, other mothers rise up to fight for other sons. Cecily must focus her will to defeat every challenge. Wherever they come from. Whatever the cost.

For there can be only one King, and only one King’s Mother.

πŸ“– My Review

The King's Mother takes us into the turbulent world of the War of the Roses when cousins were fighting against each other. Cecily Neville has grieved the loss of her husband and eldest son but has never lost sight of the crown. When her son Edward takes the throne from the beleaguered Henry VI, Cecily, at last, takes her place at the new King's side and proudly stands with him as the King's Mother. 

However, fate is fickle and the crown of England never sits easily especially when Edward's controversial marriage to Elizabeth Woodville only makes more divisions within the House of York. The York brothers are a fascinating bunch. Edward IV by the Grace of God, and the skill of his sword, is King of England, whilst it is his brother, George, Duke of Clarence who is the proverbial thorn in his side. Younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is depicted in a more sympathetic light which I rather enjoyed and with a new slant on a old story it gave me much to ponder over.

In this dangerous Game of Kings we soon become immersed in Cecily's life as she fights for the security of her son and once Edward is recognised as King she does all she can to ensure the stability of her family, often remorseless in her regard for those she considers her enemies. That Cecily was a strong matriarch is never doubted but it is her absolute strength of spirit and stoic determination which keeps this tentative house of York from floundering but even the King's Mother is no match against deadly conspiracy and political unrest which seems to thwart all her attempts to keep the peace. The author captures the unease of the time perfectly and jumping at shadows we become privy to a world of deadly conspiracies and hidden secrets which, if discovered, will blow the House of York wide open. 

The King's Mother follows on from this author's first book Cecily which explained much about Cecily's determined personality and her earlier life as a young wife and mother. This continuation is just as expertly written, beautifully researched and historically accurate it can be read as a standalone however, Cecily Neville is such a fascinating woman that her life, and that of her family, deserves to be discovered from the very beginning of the York story.

About the Author

Annie Garthwaite grew up in a working-class community in the north-east of England. She studied English at the University of Wales before embarking on a thirty-year international business career. In 2017 she returned to her first love, books, and set out to write the story of a woman she had always felt drawn to: Cecily Neville. This became her debut novel, Cecily.

@anniegarthwaite #TheKingsMother


Wednesday 10 July 2024

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Summer Meadow : Forty Acres of Shared Earth by Miriam Darlington

Candlestick Press
Summer 2034

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this pamphlet

What could be more evocative of heady summer days than a meadow in all its blowy, flowery glory?

In this exquisite prose essay, leading naturalist Miriam Darlington takes us deep into the heart of a local meadow in her beloved Devon. She describes how a “drained and threadbare place” is regenerated, how it slowly fills with flowers, insects, mammals and birds until it is teeming with life – a “patchwork of heaven”.

The meadow does its own work, but it is helped by human hands – something that creates a passionate bond between the writer and this special habitat:

“I turned myself over to the hot blue sky, lying among eyebright, pimpernel and meadowsweet. My senses attuned to a tide of cricket-sound, the whirring voice of the grassland.”

from ‘The Summer Meadow’ by Miriam Darlington

There are many kinds of meadow, we are told. By paying close attention to the particular, a treasured place is brought to life in all its vivid and unique beauty.

Poems by EJ Scovell and Katharine Towers.

Cover illustration by Niki Bowers.

πŸ“– My Review..

There is nothing better to lift the spirits than a summer meadow in full bloom. The gentle fluttering of butterflies, the quiet hum of industrious bees, and the wide sweeping of swifts and swallows as they hunt for insects in the cool of a summer's evening.

Sandwiched between two beautiful poems, Miriam Darlington's prose essay looks at the summer meadow and reminds us that meadows are not all the same. They sprawl over acres, the sheltering home to millions of tiny creatures, food sources for birds, bees and butterflies and a colourful cornucopia of wild flowers and grasses that sway in the breeze, releasing their seeds to  flutter on the wind. Bringing this natural world alive she paints a colourful picture of the glory of nature, from the tumble of bank voles in the long grasses, the chattered conversation of birds, the paint box perfection of a flag Iris and the secretive glimpse of marsh marigolds. It is such a beautiful essay that I read it through several times each time finding something new to delight and marvel in, as the author suggests, this patchwork of heaven.

The two poems either side of The Summer Meadow are equally stunning:

The beautiful simplicity of The Clover Fields by EJ Scovell

'The fields are overcast with light at evening
With marguerites increased, a chalk white setting.
With mist of the damp breath of clover leaves and grasses,
And slanting light reflected from their press of faces.

The whole pamphlet is summed up quite beautifully in the final poem :

greensward by Katharine Towers which is such a vivid description of the hidden life of the meadow I was quite enchanted:

'there are the flowers whose petals dangle like earrings and there are those
who scrape a living against the earth and never see the light
there are those who in spring are like lifted candelabras
and those who in late summer rattle as a warning...'

The beautiful cover of The Summer Meadow also deserves a mention as it brings the whole of this lovely pamphlet to glorious life.

Whilst our summer this year is proving to be a little dismal, this beautiful pamphlet reminded me that there is beauty to be found all around us. The Summer Meadow is the perfect gift 'instead of a card' for someone with a summer birthday, or for anyone who may need a little pick me up in these rainy days.

About the Publisher

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

Twitter/X @poetrycandle

Tuesday 9 July 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Thank you, Next by Kathryn Freeman (Giveaway)

One More Chapter
30 June 2024

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

In this game of hearts, the stakes have never been higher…Molly Harris is used to being left. Parents, boyfriends – she’s the queen of rejection. Her latest boyfriend, gym-fanatic Duncan, dumps her to go on reality dating show The One which sets up hot singletons to date for four weeks before meeting at the altar to say, ‘I do’.

But Duncan was the one who picked Molly up and put her back together the last time her heart got broken, so, determined not to let ‘The One’ get away, she follows Duncan onto the show. If she can prove that they’re meant to be, she might just get the happily ever after of her dreams…

But on the first day of filming, another reminder of her painful history walks into Happily Ever After Ben Knight, her it’s-not-you-it’s-me heartbreaker. The one she loved before Duncan.

In four weeks’ time, who will she meet at the altar? Duncan, the first person who ever made her feel loved, or Ben, the first person who made her feel?

πŸ“– My Review..

I have to own up and say that I don’t watch any of the current TV reality dating programmes and so Thank you, Next has introduced to me to the world of quick fix weddings, which seems a strange concept but the author brings this bizarre idea to life in an entertaining and sizzling rom-com.

Molly Harris is a sweet character who seems to have made some bad life choices, hooking up with the wrong men, so when the opportunity arises for her to go on a reality dating programme, she takes the chance to meet her future marriage partner. Her reasons for doing so are a big part of the story so I won’t spoil it by revealing who she meets there but it’s all done quite tongue in cheek which I rather enjoyed. 

Thank you, Next is an entertaining read which I devoured in the space of one afternoon. It made me laugh out loud in places especially about the intricacies of being filmed whilst building a relationship on television, I can’t imagine why couples would open themselves up to so much public scrutiny. The author brings the characters to life in such a good way that you can well imagine them, some are definitely more likeable than others, of course, I had my favourites and hoped that every thing would work out for them and that, just like the focus of the dating programme, they would also get their happy ever after ending.

Thank you, Next is fun and flirty, with more than a hint of sizzling sexual tension, it’s perfect summer escapism.

About the Author

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write a book. It may have had something to do with my obsession with reading romance. Real life interfered and I headed off in a different direction – into the world of science, becoming a pharmacist before joining the pharmaceutical industry. I did end up writing, but it was about disease and medicines. Decades later, I’m finally doing what I always wanted to do.

With a husband who asks every Valentine's Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), all the romance in my life is in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers - and heroes come in many disguises.

X @kathrynfreeman1 #ThankYouNext



Giveaway – Win a Paperback copy of Thank You, Next (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.

Friday 5 July 2024

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Modern Fairies by Clare Pollard

13 June 2024

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Why don't they tell you it is the beautiful princess who becomes the evil queen; that they are just the same person at different points in their story?

Versailles, 1682: a city of the rich, a living fairy-tale, Louis XIV's fever dream. It's a place of opulence, beauty, and power. But strip back the lavish exterior of polite society, and you'll find a dark undercurrent of sexual intrigue and vicious gossip. Nobody is safe here - no matter how highly born they are.

No one knows this better than Madame Marie d'Aulnoy. Each week, a rogue group of intellectuals gather at her Parisian home to debate, flirt and perform Contes de FΓ©es - fairy tales - that challenge the status quo, at a salon that will change the course of literature forever. But while they weave tales of glass slippers, enchanted beasts and long-haired princesses, a wolf is lurking, who threatens to destroy the members of the salon one by one.

Brilliant and bawdy, romantic and provocative, The Modern Fairies is a dazzling novel inspired by real events, about the delights and dangers of storytelling in dark times.

πŸ“– Review..

In the lavishly decorated salon of Madame Marie d'Aulnoy, the great and the not so good of Paris gather to listen to Contes de FΓ©es. We would know these as fairy tales, stories which tell of enchanted forests and beautiful princesses but these are troubled times and the tales have a much darker message. Beautifully recreating the seventeenth century decadence of the Sun King’s court, we can be found walking the myriad corridors of the Palace of Versailles, or sipping sickly syrups in the gossipy confines of Madame d’Aulnoy's salon, listening to stories which fascinate as much as they frighten their selected audiences.

Bawdy and sexually intimate in places The Modern Fairies is a quirky little story which is both fun and frivolous but is also quite, quite tragic. It shows the attempted empowerment of women in a time where they were viewed as little more than the property of their husbands and fathers to do with as they willed, however, given freedom in their story telling attempts to make up for the imprisonment of their spirit. The author writes well, the atmosphere is gloriously alive and the way in which these fairy tales evolved is done with fine attention to every detail.

Based on the life of the real Madame Marie d'Aulnoy, who lived in the seventeenth century, this lively historical romp shines the spotlight on this fascinating time in French history.

About the Author

Clare Pollard is a British writer (poet, novelist and playwright), literary translator and critic. She lives in London with her husband and children.,

X @poetclare #TheModernFairies

@FigTreePenguin @PenguinUKBooks

Thursday 4 July 2024

πŸ“– Book Tour ~ The Butterfly Garden by Rachel Burton

Boldwood Books
28 June 2024

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

A gripping and beautiful tale of love, loss and secrets. Perfect for fans of Rachel Hore, Lorna Cook and Kathryn Hughes.

1963: When Clara Samuels buys Butterfly Cottage, she knows the scandal she’ll cause. A single woman buying property is not the ‘done thing’, especially not in a village like Carybrook. But Clara has been in love with Butterfly Cottage, and its garden, since she used to play there before the War. And when she reconnects with her childhood friend James, her decision feels serendipitous. But the true scandal is yet to come, because within six months, Clara will leave England under mysterious circumstances, and Butterfly Cottage will stand empty for more than 50 years.

2018: No one is more surprised than Meredith when she’s bequeathed a cottage by a great aunt she’d never heard of. She hopes, briefly, that the inheritance could be the answer to her financial problems. But when she arrives in Suffolk, she is shocked to discover a man is already living there. A young gardener, who claims he was also bequeathed half of Butterfly Cottage.

As the pair try to unravel their complicated situation, they unearth a decades old mystery involving Clara, the garden, and a stack of letters left unread for over 50 years…

πŸ“– My Review...

Meredith didn’t expect to inherit a cottage especially from a great aunt she never knew existed. When she arrives at Butterfly Cottage she is surprised to find that there is a handsome man living there who has also been left a share of the cottage. By cleverly intertwining the past and the present we learn more about Meredith’s great aunt Clara who bought the cottage in the mid-1960s when life in the idyllic Suffolk village was very different from its modern day counterpart. And as Clara’s story is revealed so we get a glimpse into why, fifty years later, the house has been left to Meredith.

The story flips between time frames really prettily and with neither outshining the other I found that I was eagerly looking forward to spending contemporary time with Meredith and Zach before being whisked away to the 1960s and to the complexity of Clara’s life. There’s a nice sense of atmosphere, with the historical aspect being particularly well done, as it shows that not everything about the ‘swinging’ sixties was enlightened, especially in a small country village. The story is written with a lovely light touch and gorgeous attention to detail, from the description of the dresses designed by Mary Quant, to the stunning beauty of the garden at Butterfly Cottage. 

As The Butterfly Garden gradually reveals its secrets, so a story of family drama, long buried secrets and the hope of second chances is finally revealed.

About the Author

Rachel Burton is the bestselling author of historical timeslip novels and has previously written romantic comedies.

Rachel was born in Cambridge and grew up in a house full of books and records. She has read obsessively since she first realised those black squiggles on the pages that lined her parents’ bookshelves were actually words and it has gone down in family history that any time something interesting happened, she missed it because she had her nose in a book.

After reading for a degree in Classics and another in English Literature she accidentally fell into a career in law but her love of books prevailed as she realised that she wanted to slip into imaginary worlds of her own making. She eventually managed to write her first novel on her lunch breaks.

She is obsessed with old houses and the secrets they keep, with abandoned gardens and locked gates, with family histories and surprising revelations, and with the outcomes of those surprises many generations later.

She lives in Yorkshire with her husband, a variety of cats and far too many books. By writing novels she now has an excuse for her head being forever in the clouds.

X @RachelBWriter

X @BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers

X @rararesources


Wednesday 3 July 2024

πŸ“– Book Review ~Wish You Were Here : Fourteen Poems about Holidays from Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
Summer  2024

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of this pamphlet

The moment of pulling a suitcase or rucksack down from a cupboard or out from under the bed always carries a particular kind of excitement. It’s as if going away promises a new life – even though it’s only for a week or two. What counts is the thrill of departure, whether by car, train or plane:

“I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls.”

from ‘Vacation’ by Rita Dove

These poems celebrate all sorts of holiday – from a motel in Florida which holds a lifetime of childhood memories to a first experience of Greece at eighteen, complete with sunburn, flip-flops and retsina. We meet dolphins and feral cats, a tea house high in the mountains and an estuary walk with daughters in Wales.

The selection, which incorporates winners in our recent competition, brims with nostalgia and affectionate humour – and then there’s the simple bliss of a pink sunset on a beach.

Poems by Wendell Berry, Richard Blanco, Carole Bromley, Jeanette Burton, Rita Dove, LB JΓΈrgensen, Beth McDonough, Claire Lynn, Stephen Payne, Pete Taylor, Steve Waling, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Polly Walshe and Sarah Ziman.

My Review..

In the days before everyone had a telephone the first thing we did on holiday was to send a postcard to let those at home know that we had arrived safely. Invariably, one of the stock phrases written on the postcard was always 'wish you were here'.

Although our weather seems to have forgotten it's summer, now, at the start of July, is the time we think about going away on holiday and this collection gives us fourteen poems which each express the magic and excitement of being on holiday. 

From the excitement of seeing the sea :

' You sing the song that lays claim to the sight
I can see the sea, the sea the sea...

The Moment by Clair Lynn

And the otherness of being a different country :

'I know nothing about the Parthenon except
it's somewhere to sit down and the view's great
and round our feet stray cats yowl and beg
and we want to put them in our pockets
and smuggle them back to our hotel room..'

Postcards from Athens by Carole Bromley

And a wet Bank holiday, we've all experienced those:

' I was in the wrong skin, under canvas
on a wet Bank Holiday, so I trailed 
behind the family as we walked from Heysham and back..'

What I did on my holidays by Steve Waling

Each of fourteen poems are great, individually very different but collectively they celebrate all sorts of holidays, from Florida to Morecambe, there is something to enjoy in each of them, and even if we are not holidaying over summer we can remember these words from:

Holiday by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

The holiest of holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart..'

Wish You Were Here is the best sort of accompaniment to any holiday. It is a lovely summery gift 'instead of a card' and a perfect size to read on a plane, train or automobile and wherever you are travelling to, or from, safe travels.

About the Publisher

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

Twitter/X @poetrycandle

Tuesday 2 July 2024

πŸ“– Book Tour ~ The Mother by Valerie Keogh

Boldwood Books
27 June 2024

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

A terrible wife...

Sarah Westfield is unhappily married to perfect husband Nick. Handsome, devoted and kind, he should be the ideal man for her, but Sarah knows their marriage is the biggest mistake she’s ever made…and she wants out.

But then Nick offers her one last chance to make their marriage work – a baby.

Sarah is horrified – a baby would tie herself to this man forever…wouldn’t it? Or could it be exactly what she needs?

So Sarah agrees.

A terrible mother?

When the baby arrives, Sarah struggles with motherhood and her resentment towards Nick only grows. Sarah feels more trapped than ever, but she loves her precious daughter...doesn’t she?

And then baby Kaya goes missing...

And everything Sarah has ever believed in comes crashing down around her...

πŸ“– My Review..

Although Sarah Westfield is married to the perfect husband she is strangely dissatisfied with everything about her life. When her husband Nick persuades her to have a baby Sarah instinctively knows this is the wrong decision for her and yet she finds herself agreeing that a baby would be good for them. When the baby arrives Sarah is just as cold towards motherhood as she is towards her husband.

What then follows is a convoluted story which takes Sarah on  nightmare journey which looks at the complicated bonds of motherhood, marriage and female friendship and wraps them all together in a story which grabs our attention right from the opening prologue which hints at dark deeds ahead.

This clever author never fails to offer up a really good story. Filled with all the twists, turns and red herrings which we have come to expect, I love how all the loose ends come together and even though I try and second guess the ending I am never completely correct and that's what makes these clever thrillers such a joy to read. The Mother doesn't let up on excitement until the climax with an ending to the story which more than matched my expectations.

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 #TheMother

@BoldwoodBooks #Boldwoodbloggers @bookandtonic