Blog Tour: The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan #BookReview

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Three women. Three different stages of life. United by one thing: the chance to start again.

When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, the only person she can turn to is her friend, Jo. Soon Jo has called in her daughter, Lucy, to help save Elizabeth from bankruptcy. Leaving her old life behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.

As life slowly begins to return to normal, these three women, thrown together by circumstance, become fast friends. But then Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.

In search of solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish Sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice that will bring the whole community together…

Today, I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan. Huge thanks to Vicky Joss of Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Sometimes you read a book that just makes you want to call all of your girlfriends, get together for a soul-baring evening of gossip, laughter, tears, big hugs all round, and sharing with them a book that has really moved you because it captures everything that is magical, wonderful and life-affirming about female friendship. There has been far too little of that over the past 18 months and it is one of the things I have missed the most throughout the pandemic restrictions. The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is one of those books. Faith Hogan has managed to distil the essence of all that is wonderful about female friendship within its pages.

There is a character in this book for everyone to relate to. Elizabeth, recently widowed, whose life has always looked polished and perfect to the residents of Ballycove, but who is struggling behind closed doors with secrets that blighted her marriage, and more than have come to light since her husband’s death. She is supported throughout, as she always has been, by her generous friend, Jo, but Jo is now bearing a huge burden of her own. Jo’s daughter, Lucy, has come to Ballycove to work out a new path in life after her divorce, but will she be able to find a happy ever after that works for both herself and her unhappy son, Niall? Then there is Dan, who has come to Ballycove searching for a ghost from his past and a new way forward. Somehow, these people find amongst themselves a community and a peace that will see them all through on their different journeys.

This book is soul-warmingly, heart-squeezingly wonderful from beginning to end. From the very start, the stories of each of these women moved me because they were so real and authentic. I absolutely believed every single thing they were going through and all of their responses. The issues that the author addresses in this book – which may not be easy ones for some people to read about because they are so relatable – are something that will have touched each and every one of us in some way or another over the course of our lives, whether directly or through someone we know and we will recognise some of the joy, fear, pain, anguish, love and happiness portrayed here. Faith has really got under the skins of these characters and portrayed what they are going through in a way that communicates every nuance to the reader, so the book carries you along on its tide.

The notion of the Midnight Swimming Club is what will attract a lot of readers to this book, and it plays out exactly the way you hope it would. I adored the scenes involving the women taking to the sea, the feelings the wild swimming evokes in them, the way they talk and share and heal in the water, I believed all of it and was slightly jealous of their experience, even though I know it is fictional. Being able to draw a reader so completely into a world in this way is the skill of a great writer, and the reason we read in the first place. These are the reasons I love Faith’s books.

This is a truly fantastic read for any fans of intelligent and believable women’s fiction. It really moved me, but also left me feeling hopeful and uplifted. If you are a fan of Calendar Girls or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, this book will give you the same warm feelings that you get from those movies, whilst still feeling that you have read something containing real emotional truth and an insight into the challenges women can overcome in their lives with support, love, friendship and hope. A gorgeous book.

The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 13 May, and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to visit some of the other fabulous blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

About the Author

Faith Hogan portrait for inside cover of her book

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women’s fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.

She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

Connect with Faith:

Website: https://faithhogan.com

Facebook: Faith Hogan Author

Twitter: @GerHogan

Instagram: @faithhoganauthor

Blog Tour: The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar #BookReview

A Borrow A Bookshop Holiday

I am always delighted to be on a blog tour for Kiley Dunbar, who has fast become one of my favourite romance authors over the past couple of years, so I’m thrilled to be reviewing her new book, The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday, today. Huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me a place on the tour, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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The Fully Booked Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop … for a fortnight.

Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café.

Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary).

Apply to: The Fully Booked Bookshop, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.

Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, so can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack.

Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday – running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks – is non-refundable.

Throwing caution to the winds, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart.

But there’s one problem – six foot tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…

As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from – and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.

Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…

Do you ever get the impression that an author has written their book just for you? That, as they have sat writing at their desk, they are thinking, ‘I wonder what Julie would like to read next? I know!’ and then they immediately start banging away on their laptop, summoning up the words for your perfect book. That’s how I feel when I read Kiley Dunbar’s books – it’s like she has been rummaging around in my brain, picking through all the things I like the most and then pulling out a bunch of stuff and piecing it together to make the perfect novel for me. This is definitely what has happened with The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday. Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

Well firstly, the main character is called Jude. That’s almost my name, she’s just cleverly tweaked a couple of letters to avoid any pesky libel problems, clearly. Kiley’s description of Jude – short, curvy, unconcerned with her appearance – makes me think she has been stalking Facebook pictures of me from the early nineties. She’s got my love of books down to a tee (I am absolutely a person who would take a bagful of their own favourite books to a holiday in a bookshop), and my ideal holiday would be running a bookshop by the sea. I would absolutely love to own a bookshop, it is my dream job, the minute I win the lottery I am going to open one. I have its name, logo, colour of the bags… everything already picked out for when it happens. I can’t think of anything I’d love more than having a practice run (sadly, I don’t have a man who shares the same passion to take with me.)

And whilst we are on the subject of men, let’s talk about Elliot for a minute. Earlier this year I did a Facebook Live with a couple of other bloggers for the RNA (an organisation to which Kiley belongs), during which I clearly described my ideal romantic hero as someone who sounds ALMOST EXACTLY LIKE ELLIOT, right down to the tattoos. Coincidence? I think not. She’s flung everything into this book to tailor it precisely to my tastes, the crafty minx.

Joking aside, whatever your tastes in romantic fiction and literary heroes, you’d be quite hard pushed not to enjoy this gorgeous book. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a summery romance. Relatable heroine? Check. Gorgeous location? Absolutely. I so want Clove Lore to be real and to pay it a visit immediately. It made me think a little bit of St. Ives, one of my favourite places to visit in the UK and the real life location that Kiley has used as a basis for the village is now firmly on my radar for my next visit to that part of the world. Great plot hook? Definitely, let’s refer back to the dream of running your own little bookshop for a couple of weeks, what book lover could resist? Fun and engaging supporting cast? There is a matchmaking ice cream seller, pub-owning double act, twin fishermen, supportive best friend and a cute dog, what more can you ask. And then there is the love interest, who is going to give any hot-blooded soul palpitations.

On top of this, Kiley just has such a warm and engaging writing style, that I always feel like her books are embracing me in a warm hug of love and happiness. She clearly loves her characters and is fully invested in their story and giving them the best outcome. On top of this, I can just tell that she is having a ball writing the story, and this shines through in the finished article. The best writing comes from passion, and Kiley’s passion for this book beams from every page to wash over the reader and include them in the joy. If you don’t come away from this book happy and with a big smile on your face, I’ll eat Aldous’ ratty old jumper.

The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 22 July (I already have my pre-order in!) and you can buy a copy here.

(This seems an opportune place to repeat the plea from my last review for one of Kiley’s books. Dear Hera, can you please bring out a paperback copy of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, it is the only one missing from my shelf!)

If you would like to read some other reviews, or find more great content relating to the book, please do visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Kiley Dunbar author portrait

Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places.

Kiley also works as a senior lecturer, teaching creative writing at the Manchester Writing School. One Winter’s Night is shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.

Connect with Kiley:

Website: http://www.kileydunbar.co.uk/

Facebook: Kiley Dunbar Author

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

Instagram: @kileydunbarromance

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Blog Tour: The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs #BookReview

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Huge thrill to be on the blog tour today for the latest Temperance Brennan thriller by Kathy Reichs, The Bone Code. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The Bone Code Cover

A storm has hit South Carolina, dredging up crimes of the past.

En route to Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan receives a call from the Charleston coroner. During the storm, a medical waste container has washed up on the beach. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Chillingly, Tempe recognises many details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she flies to Montreal to gather evidence and convince her boss Pierre LaManche to reopen the cold case. She also seeks the advice—and comfort—of her longtime beau Andrew Ryan.

Meanwhile, a storm of a different type gathers force in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston are struck by capnocytophaga, a bacterium that, at its worst, can eat human flesh. Thousands panic and test themselves for a rare genetic mutation that may have rendered them vulnerable.

Shockingly, Tempe eventually deduces not only that the victims in both grisly murder cases are related, but that the murders and the disease outbreak also have a common cause . . .

I think I have to hold my hands up from the off and state that I am a massive fan of Kathy Reichs. A copy of every Temperance Brennan novel sits on my bookshelves and I am always eagerly awaiting the next in the series. Whether that makes me predisposed to enjoy one of her books or have higher expectations of her writing that someone who hasn’t been invested in Temperance’s story since the beginning, I don’t know, but I’ve tried my hardest to be as dispassionate in this review as possible.

As with every Kathy Reichs novel, we are thrown straight into the action with Tempe in Carolina, facing the imminent arrival of Hurricane Inara, when she is sought out by a woman wanting help establishing if a death mask features the face of her long-missing great aunt. Soon after, the storm washes up a medical waste container on the Carolina shore containing two decomposed bodies. When Tempe is asked to examine them, the details of the case ring alarming bells with bodies discovered in Canada years before. On top of all this, a flesh-eating virus has broken out…

If this all sounds like a lot to contend with, remember that we also have to factor in the fact that Tempe’s time and career is divided between South Carolina and Montreal, and there is her ever-complicated relationship with Andrew Ryan to contend with to. This book has the potential to become extremely complicated, but the genius of Kathy Reichs writing is that she manages to convey a lot of detailed plots and information in a way that is vey easy to follow and pull together complex and diverse storylines to form a coherent and nail-biting plot without seemingly breaking a sweat. This is why die-hard fans such as myself keep returning to her books and these characters after two decades, and why I have never yet been disappointed.

I couldn’t wait to get started on The Bone Code and, as soon as I dove in, I was back in Tempe’s world like I had never left, greeting all the characters like old friends (How have you been, Birdcat? I’ve missed you and your foibles) and desperate to catch up on what they have all been doing. How is the shift in dynamics between Ryan and Tempe working out since the last book? How is his new career going? Where is Katy now? These are all things I want to know, as well as what is going on in the latest cases. I love the fact that Tempe’s personal life is so inextricably wound into the narrative of these stories, as well as her work, since both make her fundamentally who she is and why we love her so much.

As for the plot, I keep waiting for one of these books to fall short – Kathy must be running out of ideas by now surely? – but I am delighted to say this doesn’t happen in this book. Quite how she manages to join together such diverse topics into a seamless, related narrative always amazes me, and I was hooked from start to finish. I was a little dubious about reading about a flesh-eating virus whilst we are still dealing with the Covid pandemic but Kathy’s writing is so engrossing that I soon forgot all about what was happening in the real world and was completely immersed in this one. I was on the edge of my seat all the way through, the pacy narrative and excellent writing carrying me along, even the complex medical and legal jargon not causing a stumble, reading it in record time, and I was sad when it was over and I have to wait another whole year for the next one.

Kathy has knocked it out of the park again with The Bone Code. Fans of her books will de delighted with the latest instalment. If you have never read a Temperance Brennan book, be warned, this book will get you hooked.

The Bone Code is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats, and will be published in paperback in October. You can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

Kathy Reichs Author pIc

Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead was a number one bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The Bone Code is Kathy’s twentieth entry in her series featuring forensic anthropologist Temper- ance Brennan. Kathy was also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.

Dr. Reichs is one of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and as a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada.

Connect with Kathy:

Website: https://kathyreichs.com/

Facebook: Kathy Reichs Books

Twitter: @KathyReichs

Instagram: @kathyreichs

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Blog Tour: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint #BookReview

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Today, I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for allowing me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Ariadne Cover

‘My story would not be one of death and suffering and sacrifice, I would take my place in the songs that would be sung about Theseus; the princess who saved him and ended the monstrosity that blighted Crete’

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Greek myths and legends, a love which I seem to have passed on to my eldest daughter who reads every book of Greek mythology she can get her hands on and will, no doubt, pinch this now I have finished it. But most of the accounts I read when I was younger were all about the heroic feats of Greek heroes, and the temptations and misdoings of women, trying to impede the men, lead them astray, or were there simply to be rescued. How refreshing it has been to see the recent spate of books telling these stories from the female perspective, and Ariadne is the latest book to be added to this canon.

Here, Jennifer Saint has retold the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, but switching the perspective to that of the other central character in the story, Ariadne, whose contribution to the legend is essential but usually downplayed. In addition, this story goes beyond the simple story of Theseus slaying the Minotaur and takes us from Ariadne’s childhood in Crete, all the way to her marriage and motherhood, and encompasses the parallel story of her sister, Phaedra.

The author has placed herself firmly into the shoes of the two women featured in this book and imagined their lives in a way that translates quite startlingly on to the page in a way that will drag you back to the era and the palace of Knossos, to become totally immersed in what was happening. Imagine being brought up in the court of a stern and ruthless king, granddaughter of a god, sister to a monster, waiting to be used as a bargaining chip in the endless struggle for power. This is where this book takes us, and it doesn’t take much of a leap for the reader to feel what these girls must have been going through.

For this is a book that examines and laments the lot of women in Ancient Greece. Devoid of power, useful only insofar as men wanted them for their beauty and graces, at the mercy of those same virtues when some capricious god’s eye landed on them and decided to use them for their sport, and then to bear the brunt of the fallout of that sport. This is the underlying theme of the novel, how the women suffered and were punished for the misbehaviour and misdeeds, ambition and cruelty of the men – be they mortal or immortal – and what little ability they had to protect themselves.

Ariadne is a woman brought up under the shadow of a curse brought upon her family because of the behaviour of men – her father Minos and the god, Poseidon – but laid upon her mother who ended up birthing the monstrous Minotaur. She is aware from a young age how vulnerable women are, and how little agency they have, but she internally rails against this powerlessness, becoming slightly obsessed with Medusa, how she was treated, and the way she refused to take her punishment calmly. It ends up being no surprise when she rebels against the tyranny of her father and helps Theseus, only to be betrayed by Theseus soon after. Ariadne tries throughout her life to look out for herself, ever aware, ever reminding herself that all men, whether god or mortal, are the same and cannot be trusted.

The writing here is stunning, beautiful, rich, evocative and immersive. The book really brings Ancient Greece to life and gives us the characters we know from the myths as 3D, fully rounded people to whom it is very easy to relate. Such is the power of the writing that the book left me distraught and enraged on behalf of these women, so abused and mistreated and so unable to do anything about it, despite the internal strength they have, their intelligence and their awareness of their fragile situations. If this book doesn’t stir your internal feminist to roar, nothing will. A fabulous piece of work.

Ariadne is out now in hardback and ebook formats and will be out as an audiobook on 10 May and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour by visiting the blogs detailed below:

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About the Author

Jennifer Saint Author pic

Due to a lifelong fascination with Ancient Greek mythology, Jennifer Saint read Classical Studies at King’s College, London. She spent the next thirteen years as an English teacher, sharing a love of literature and creative writing with her students. ARIADNE is her first novel and she is working on another retelling of ancient myth for her second.

Connect with Jennifer:

Website: https://www.jennifersaint.com/

Facebook: Jennifer Saint Author

Twitter: @jennysaint

Instagram: @jennifer.saint.author

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Blog Tour: The Lynmouth Stories by Lucy V Hay #BookReview

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Beautiful places hide dark secrets … 

Devon’s very own crime writer L.V Hay (The Other Twin, Do No Harm) brings forth three new short stories from her dark mind and poison pen:

– For kidnapped Meg and her young son Danny, In Plain Sight, the remote headland above Lynmouth is not a haven, but hell.

– A summer of fun for Catherine in Killing Me Softly becomes a winter of discontent … and death.

– In Hell And High Water, a last minute holiday for Naomi and baby Tommy  becomes a survival situation … But that’s before the village floods.

All taking place out of season when the majority of tourists have gone home, L.V Hay uses her local knowledge to bring forth dark and claustrophic noir she has come to be known for.

Did You Know …?

Known as England’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the Devon village of Lynmouth is famous for its Victorian cliff railway, fish n’ chips and of course, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.

Located on the doorstep of the dramatic Valley of The Rocks and the South West Cliff Path, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth have inspired many writers, including 19th Century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who honeymooned there in 1812.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Lynmouth Stories, a short story collection by Lucy V Hay. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a very brief book containing just three short stories but it packs a punch that greatly belies its length. Tightly woven with impressively realised characterisation in such a small word count, Lucy V Hay has produced here a masterclass in the art of the short story.

All three stories are set in the tiny, coastal village of Lynmouth, popular with tourists. However, we visit during the low season, when the village shuts down and empties out, giving it a deserted and melancholy air, which provides the perfect backdrop for this collection  of dark and brooding stories. Focusing on the kind of threats that lurk behind closed doors, they remind us that appearances can be deceptive and we never know what dangers are lurking unseen in the most ordinary of settings.

All three stories have female protagonists, who are all very different. Some strong and determined, some finding strength they never knew they had and some crumbling under pressure, the stories explore different reactions under stress and what women can do in protection of themselves and those they love. Probing the darkest aspects of the human psyche, the author manages to convey an awful lot about these women in a very compact word count so you can feel exactly what they are going through in that moment. I really enjoyed the fact that the focus here was entirely on the women and their experiences, with the men largely remaining nameless, shadowy figures whose feelings and motives exist only in relation to the women’s.

This book left me feeling very unsettled. The author has produced an oppressive atmosphere throughout the stories, asking the reader to put themselves in the far from comfortable shoes of the protagonists and walk a little way in them. The stories will shake you out of your complacency and ask you to think about what other women may be dealing with in places we don’t see, even in the cosy seaside towns that the rest of us visit on happy family holidays for reasons of pleasure. It’s easy to sail along, forgetting that our fellow women may be struggling and fighting against enemies we can’t envisage. Maybe we should be more alert for the signs that may be laying in plain sight. The stories are asking us to look and ask, to think about what we are actually seeing. 

A short, uncomfortable but enthralling read.

The Lynmouth Stories is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

LUCY V HAY AUTHOR PICTURE

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://linktr.ee/lucyvhayauthor

Facebook: Lucy V Hay Author

Twitter: @LucyVHayAuthor

Instagram: Lucy V Hay Author

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Blog Tour: The Dig Street Festival by Chris Walsh #BookReview

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It’s 2006 in the fictional East London borough of Leytonstow. The UK’s pub smoking ban is about to happen, and thirty-eight-and-a-half year old John Torrington, a mopper and trolley collector at his local DIY store, is secretly in love with the stylish, beautiful, and middle-class barmaid Lois. John and his hapless, strange, and down-on-their-luck friends, Gabby Longfeather and Glyn Hopkins, live in Clements Markham House – a semi-derelict Edwardian villa divided into unsanitary bedsits, and (mis)managed by the shrewd, Dickensian business man, Mr Kapoor.

When Mr Kapoor, in a bizarre and criminal fluke, makes him fabulously credit-worthy, John surprises his friends and colleagues alike by announcing he will organise an amazing ‘urban love revolution’, aka the Dig Street Festival. But when he discovers dark secrets at the DIY store, and Mr Kapoor’s ruthless gentrification scheme for Clements Markham House, John’s plans take several unexpected and worrisome turns…

Funny, original, philosophical, and unexpectedly moving, The Dig Street Festival takes a long, hard, satirical look at modern British life, and asks of us all, how can we be better people?

It is my turn on the blog tour today for The Dig Street Festival, the debut novel by Chris Walsh. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for giving me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Let’s get this out in the open right from the off. This book is bonkers. Totally off the wall, a crazy ride, bizarre characters and a series of increasingly unlikely and out of control events might make you think this book is not the one for you. Do not be fooled. In the midst of all the mayhem and madness, at the very heart of this book, is a core of charm and delight that runs through it like words through a stick of Blackpool Rock and it makes this book one of the warmest, funniest and sweetest reads I have picked up this year so far.

At the centre of the book is John Torrington, a man who has found himself on the fringes of life, largely ignored by almost everyone and scratching away an existence on the margins of society. By day he collects trolleys and mops floors at his local DIY superstore, at night he lives in a rundown building full of sad bedsits, inhabited by other lonely, forgotten men, mooning after the bright, young barmaid in his local pub, reading secondhand stories about Scott of the Antarctic and scratching away at his poetry (mainly haikus) and his unfinished novel. A less prepossessing character to carry a book it would be hard to imagine, but John has hidden depths, or so he likes to believe. Almost everyone, except his equally strange friends, Gabby and Glyn, disagree.

I absolutely adored every single character in this book. This author had created some of the most memorable people you will every meet in a novel, and then placed them in equally memorable situations and watched what they do. (I say watched, because it is very clear to me from reading this that each of the people in this book have very individual minds of their own and have done their own, quite bizarre things on the page which I am sure the author had little if any control over in the end.) There are some really memorable scenes in the novel – the one involving the journey to the DIY store on Gabby’s first day at work is a particular standout (parts of which made my slightly gyp to be honest) – and many real laugh-out-loud moments. You can’t imagine a group of people who get into so many mad scrapes as this trio, but in the context of this novel you can completely believe they are happening, and it is quite a ride to take with them.

At the same time, there is so much tenderness within this book. The relationship between the three men is oddly touching. They all look out for each other and clearly care for one another in a way that most of us would be lucky to find in this life. This care extends from their small trio to the other hopeless residents of Clements Markham House, despite the fact they are largely unpleasant, ungrateful and undeserving. John Torrington has a big, soft heart, and lavishes his care around, even to his bullying, sadistic boss, OCD-impaired supervisor and any other waif and stray he comes across in life. But his own vulnerability is really thrown into sharp relief in his relationship with Lois, much younger than him and way out of his league both in terms of social status and intellect. Despite this fact, we long for her to see the qualities he has lurking beneath us outwardly awkward facade and give him a chance.

This book is a really different read, but all the more appealing for that. My favourite thing about blogging is coming across these hidden gems of books that are outside the mainstream and outside your reading comfort zone. It is within these novels that we find something new and exciting, that speaks to us of things we may never have considered before and takes us places we have never been. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Funny and moving.

The Dig Street Festival is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the tour:

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About the Author

Chris Walsh

Chris Walsh grew up in Middlesbrough and now lives in Kent. He writes both fiction and non-fiction, an example of which you can read here in May 2020’s Moxy Magazine.

​Chris’s debut novel The Dig Street Festival will be published by Louise Walters Books in April 2021.

​Chris’s favourite novel is Stoner by John Williams and his favourite novella is The Death of Ivan Illyich by Leo Tolstoy. His top poet is Philip Larkin. He is also a fan of Spike Milligan.

Connect with Chris:

Twitter: @WalshWrites

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Blog Tour: Finding Home by Kate Field #BookReview

Finding Home

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for the new book by Kate Field, Finding Home, as Kate is one of my favourite authors. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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She might not have much in this world, but it cost nothing to be kind… 

Meet Miranda Brown: you can call her Mim. She’s jobless, homeless and living in her car… but with a history like hers she knows she has a huge amount to be grateful for.

Meet Beatrice and William Howard: Bill and Bea to you. The heads of the Howard family and owners of Venhallow Hall, a sprawling seaside Devonshire estate… stranded in a layby five hours from home the night before their niece’s wedding.

When fate brings the trio together, Mim doesn’t think twice before offering to drive the affable older couple home. It’s not like she has anywhere else to be. But as the car pulls into the picturesque village of Littlemead, Mim has no idea how her life is about to change…

I loved the premise of this book as soon as I read the  blurb and I think I would have picked it up, even if I’d never heard of the author before. I’ve never made any bones about my immense love for the writing of Kate Field so, this coupled with the promise of the story meant I was really looking forward to reading it.

This is a story about how a chance encounter can change the course of your life entirely, about the kindness of strangers, how family can mean more than just those people you are related to by blood, and what it really means to find a home. When we meet the main character, Mim, she is about as down on her luck as it is possible to get. She has lost her home, her job and the only person in the world who cared about her and is sleeping in her car. When she meets Bill and Bea and agrees to do them a favour, she has no idea how completely it will change her life and how her kindness will be repaid a hundredfold.

When I first encountered Min, I thought she was an old lady – I think because of her name which is quite old-fashioned – but it soon becomes clear that she is only in her thirties but has had a very difficult life that has lead to her current circumstances. This has made her quite hard-shelled and suspicious in some ways, but we can see from the beginning a softer underside peeking out, which makes her a much more likeable and relatable character than she might have been otherwise. This is one of Kate’s specialities, and the reason I adore her writing, she is extremely skilled as creating complex, difficult characters who have interesting stories and redeeming features that mean you can’t help falling in love with them and wanting the best for them.

The Howard family are very different. They seem to lead gilded lives and have every advantage that anyone could wish for. What could they possibly have in common with Mim? More than she could expect in the end. The book explores the idea that we are all too quick to judge other people according to superficial information in this life and, if we only just give people a chance and put aside our preconceptions, we might be pleasantly surprised. Although Mim hates to be judged by her past herself, she is particularly prone to make snap judgements about people – a lesson she learns during the course of the novel.

The story here is beautifully crafted and realised. I loved everything about it. Aside from the characters, the setting in Devon is a tempting place to visit. The life that Mim begins to build is heartwarming and uplifting, and the people she meets are all gorgeous. I fell in love with all of it, and I know you will too. But the real genius here is the way that the author tugs at your heartstrings. I’ve yet to come away from one of this author’s novels without having shed a tear at some point, and this was no different. Here is an author who really understands human emotion and relationships and knows exactly how to mine and manipulate them to cause maximum reaction in her reader. I always come away from her books feeling like I’ve made new friends and fallen in love.

If I have one complaint about this book it is about the cover. It doesn’t do the book justice, relate to the story, or really communicate to me what the heart of the book is and is too generic. I would probably skim past this on a shelf and that would be a crying shame. The book deserves better and this publisher normally wows me with its covers, which is probably why I am disappointed. This is definitely one book you should not judge by its cover, it is absolutely wonderful.

Finding Home is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 8 July. You can buy a copy here.

Please check out some of the other blogs taking part in the blitz:

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About the Author

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Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

Connect with Kate:

Facebook: Kate Field

Twitter: @katehaswords

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Blog Tour: Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage by Samantha Tonge #BookReview

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A new start can come from the most unexpected places…

It’s been years since Lizzie Lockhart spoke to her parents. But she was safe in the knowledge she knew everything about them. Once upon a time, they were as close as could be. Until they weren’t.

After receiving the earth-shattering news of their passing, Lizzie decides it’s time to unearth some family secrets and find out just who her parents really were… starting with Streamside Cottage. A cottage Lizzie never knew existed, in a place she’s never heard of: the beautiful English village of Leafton.

Leaving behind London, and the tattoo parlour she called home, Lizzie finds herself moving to the countryside. Faced with a tight-lipped community, who have secrets of their own, Lizzie is at a loss for what to do, until her rather handsome neighbour, Ben, steps in to help.

As Lizzie finally begins to piece together the puzzle of her family history she realises she has to confront the truth of the past in order to face her future.

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the new book by Samantha Tonge, Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage. My thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part and providing me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Lots of books start off with a character being jolted out of their current life and into a new situation but few people have such a shocking and dramatic change as Lizzie does at the beginning of Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage. What could possibly persuade a London-based tattoo artist to move to a tiny cottage in a rural setting, and how on earth will she fit it when she does? Was there ever a more fish-out-of-water scenario to open a book?

Well, finding out how this can all possibly work out is the joy of this book, and Samantha does a fantastic job of unfurling a convincing story out of this implausible scenario and making it all make sense. There are family secrets lurking in the walls of Streamside Cottage and Lizzie is determined to weed them out and try and make sense of why she became estranged from her over-protective parents, and why some villagers in Leafdon are so reluctant to talk about the past of Streamside Cottage.

Wrapping up an intriguing mystery with an exploration of family dynamics and what it really means to love and lose another person, this book has so much to offer to a range of different readers. It also seemed early on that the story might have a touch of the paranormal about it, until it took a very different direction. The story jumps backwards and forwards to different points in Lizzie’s life, so you have to pay quite keen attention to the headings at the beginning of each chapter to check what point you are at at any given time or the story won’t make sense, and the time jumps are not linear, but if you do that, the story will flow quite easily. I did have an inkling fairly early on as to what part of the secret might be, but this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book as I was eager to find out if I was right – and the answer was – not 100%!

I loved the fact that Lizzie was a tattoo artist – not something you come across often as a profession in a novel – and Samantha has included a little fact at the beginning of each chapter about tattoos, which tied in with events in that chapter. I found myself googling some of the things she referred to, I was so interested. She had obviously done a lot of research, and it was something Lizzie is very passionate about in the book. After living for 10 years with someone who has a bit of a tattoo addiction and having watched him add to them, I understand how meaningful they can be, and how much thought goes in to them, and this really came across in the writing here.

The storyline of the book is quite complex and dark, and the writing doesn’t shy away from this. I actually found myself in tears close to the end, so this may not be the light and fluffy read people come to expect from this type of fiction. However, this is something that appeals to me, I like the fact that romance novels can address some very personal and intense topics in an accessible way and I think people often underestimate this about the genre. This novel offers the reader a lot to think about during the read, and proved very satisfying.

This is a meaty read from Samantha Tonge, and will be enjoyed by anyone who loves a romance novel that they can get their teeth into.

Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage is out now an an ebook and will be published in paperback in July, and you can buy a copy here.

Please visit some more bloggers taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and extracts:

Summer Secrets at Streamside Blog Tour 1

Summer Secrets at Streamside Blog Tour 2

About the Author

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Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely. When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award

Connect with Samantha:

Website: http://samanthatonge.co.uk/

Facebook: Samantha Tonge Author

Twitter: @SamTongeWriter

Instagram: @samanthatongeauthor

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Blog Tour: Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry #BookReview

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TWO STRANGERS. DANGEROUS SECRETS. THEIR ONLY CHANCE IS EACH OTHER.

Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…

On 6 April, I posted an extract from Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry and now I am delighted to be able to share my review of the book with you, as we celebrate the book’s paperback publication day. My thanks to Graeme Williams for inviting me to be part of the tour and to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book for the purposes of review, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book is a really interesting mix of genres and ideas that take it beyond mere thriller territory and into something more emotionally intense and thought-provoking. That being said, it works excellently as an edge-of-your-seat thriller too!

Cait turns up at Rebecca’s house at midnight to transport her 300-plus miles across Texas and into New Mexico. The two women have never met before. Why Rebecca needs escorting across state lines in the dead of night by a complete stranger is something than unfolds across the course of the book, as do the secrets that Cait herself is hiding, as we flip between the present and the two women’s pasts to learn how they came to be where they currently find themselves.

As they embark on their drive and begin to learn things about what another, it soon becomes clear that they are not alone on the empty, night-shrouded desert roads, and the person keeping them company has intentions that are far from benign. But which of the two women is their target and why? What do they intend to do? Finding these things out are what gives this book its nail-biting edge and will have you racing through the pages to solve the mystery and find out what happens. I have to say, the pursuit of the two women across the desert in the dead of night was extremely frightening and creepy. A terrifying mashup of the movies Thelma and Louise and Duel, if you remember either of those.

Aside from the psychological thriller aspect of the pursuit storyline, the books also explores some much deeper issues that are very topical. It looks at the #MeToo era, inceldom, pro-life activism and women’s rights amongst other things. One thing I really loved about the book was the solidarity and support that develops between women – even those that don’t know each other – when faced with adversity and attacks on their autonomy coming from the patriarchy. There are not many thriller novels that delve so deeply into the idea of women’s rights as this one does, and I think the author has been very brave to do it because the book touches on some areas of controversy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that she didn’t shy away from exploring difficult topics and felt that it elevated the book out of the ordinary.

A great book for anyone who enjoys a scary, psychological thriller with a fierce bite, I highly recommend it.

Don’t Turn Around is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

The other bloggers taking part in the tour will also be sharing their reviews today, so make sure you visit their blogs too:

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About the Author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and was raised on a steady diet of library books and PBS.

She attended Boston University, where she majored in English and Art History, before moving to London in 2004 to pursue an MA from University College London.

She lives with her husband, Simon, and their two cats, Roger Livesey and BoJack Horseman.

Connect with Jessica:

Facebook: Jessica Barry

Twitter: @jessbarryauthor

Instagram: @jessicabarry9

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Blog Tour: The Drowned City by K. J. Maitland #BookReview

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I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part today in the blog tour for a book I have been looking forward to reading so much, The Drowned City by K. J. Maitland. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The Drowned City Cover

Gunpowder and treason changed England forever. But the tides are turning and revenge runs deep…

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

I’ve just spent 24 hours of my life immersed in life in the flood-ravaged Bristol of 1606, caught up in the intrigues of the post-Gunpowder Plot Jacobean court and cutting through a web of spies, lies, superstition and religious rivalry to try and solve a murder mystery and I didn’t really want to come back to reality.

The Drowned City is a fantastic mix of historical novel and murder mystery set against the backdrop of a startling but little known event of Jacobean times – the flooding of Bristol by a freak tsunami or storm surge – that was believed by many to be a sign from God at a time when there was still friction between the Catholic church and the Protestant faith in the fairly-new reign of James I. This is not a period of history that I am very familiar with, being more of a Wars of the Roses obsessive, but I was completely gripped by this fascinating blend of fact and fiction to the extent that I had to keep breaking off to find out which bits of the book were based on actual events and characters and which bits the author had invented; the story-telling is completely seamless.

This is the story of Daniel Pursglove, a proponent of sleight of hand tricks, who has found himself in Newgate Prison awaiting trial on suspicion of witchcraft during the reign of a paranoid and superstitious monarch. He is given the chance of earning a pardon by a man claiming to be a close advisor of the King; all he has to do is go to a flood-blighted Bristol to investigate rumours that a priest who had a hand in the Gunpowder Plot is in hiding there, planning sedition. Faced with the prospect of losing his hands, if not his life, Daniel agrees and sets off, but finds himself investigating a string of murders in a city that is beset by suspicion against outsiders and religious superstition, making it a dangerous place for him and his mission.

To say that the author brings the setting of the book to life would be a massive understatement. I can’t remember the last time that I read a book which presents such a vivid portrayal of a different time and a different life. I felt like Harry Potter when his nose touches the surface of the Pensieve and he is pulled in to Dumbledore’s memory. I literally *fell* right in to the heart of Bristol, surrounded by the clamour and the squalor of the blighted metropolis. The author’s writing is vivid and textured and absolutely perfect. The descriptions she uses to evoke the pictures just filled my heart with delight (‘shave the beard from a herring’ was a particular favourite), I could mentally roll around in her language and revel in the feel of it for hours. To take such delight in not just a story but the very way in which it is told is a rare and particular joy to me.

The murder mystery itself is fiendish and full of suspense and tension; enough by itself to carry the story if the book offered nothing else to the reader and it will appeal to lovers of that genre as well as fans of the historical novel. But the setting of the mystery against the historical backdrop adds another layer of interest to anyone who enjoys that genre, and if you are a fan of both as I am, you will be in hogs’ heaven with this novel. It gave me the same joy as I felt when I first discovered the Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters which has a similar style of murder mystery peppered with actual historical fact.

On every level, The Drowned City worked perfectly for me. The writing, the story, the characterisation were all faultless, and I enjoyed this book as much as any I have read in a long time. This is one of the best books I have read so far this year, and I confident it will feature in my top ten books of 2021. Definitely one for the ‘forever’ shelf and I have bought myself a copy in hardback (which has the most beautiful cover too!). I can’t wait for the next in the series, and have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone and everyone. Reading bliss, I want to do it all over again.

The Drowned City is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats and will be published in paperback in November. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you go back and visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

The Drowned City BT Poster

About the Author

KJ Maitland Author pic

Karen Maitland is an historical novelist, lecturer and teacher of Creative Writing, with over twenty books to her name. She grew up in Malta, which inspired her passion for history, and travelled and worked all over the world before settling in the United Kingdom. She has a doctorate in psycholinguistics, and now lives on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.

Connect with Karen:

Website: https://karenmaitland.com/

Facebook: Karen Maitland

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