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