Blog Tour: Playdate by Alex Dahl #BookReview

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It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover.
Now it’s an abduction.

Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, her mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and shared a glass of wine with Josie’s mother. Then she kissed her little girl goodnight and drove home.

That was the last time she saw her daughter.

The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.

In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation.

Who has taken their daughter, and why?

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Playdate by Alex Dahl today. My thanks to Sophie Ransom of Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher, Head of Zeus, for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book gave me nightmares. I don’t mean that figuratively, I mean that I had an actual nightmare about being in a similar situation with my own youngest daughter the first night I started reading this book. The story is so profoundly realistic that I was actually able to imagine myself in the situation of Elisa in the book and my sub-concious acted that out in my sleep, jerking me awake in the early hours, sweating and heart pounding in panic. If you like a good horror story, this is it.

We are plunged almost immediately into a hellish scenario in the novel, which any parent will easily be able to relate to with a shudder. Remember one of those times where you lost sight of your child for a moment or two and felt a sudden panic that they were lost? Now imagine that was real and that you KNEW they were gone but had no idea where and how to find them. That they weren’t just lost but taken by someone whose motives were unclear. It doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination for a parent to put themselves in that position, and that is what makes this book so chilling. The way it happens is so completely plausible that it will give you palpitations thinking of how this could easily happen to you. There is nothing more nightmarish than reality at times.

If I hadn’t started reading this book so close to bedtime, I would have devoured it in a single sitting. As it was, it took me less than 24 hours to read the book from start to finish, I simply could not put it down. The narrative is addictive, I just had to know what happened. The book is written from many different perspectives, so we get a fully rounded picture of events from every side – the grieving mother, the confused child, the abductor themselves, and other peripheral but pivotal figures in the drama. Each chapter starts by telling us who we are hearing from, so it is easy to follow, and it works perfectly to slowly peel back the facts of the matter and, more fascinatingly, the motives behind the behaviour of the individuals involved. Just when you think you have a handle on what is happening and why, we are thrown another snippet of information which changes the course of the narrative and leads us down another path. It is totally engrossing.

The chapters are short and punchy, with no words wasted, which leads to a pacy reading experience. There is action and information on every page, no slow spots, no needless descriptions or detours. The tension never lets up for a second and it will keep you on the edge of the seat all the way through. I know this book will be one that haunts me for a long while after I have finished it. It is all too plausible a set of facts for us to able to dismiss as far-fetched the way you can with some more extreme thrillers, and this makes it all the more unsettling (although I did wonder at the very beginning what the mother thought she was doing, giving in to something on the spur of the moment, but I guess it just shows we are all fallible and how easily we can make foolish, impulsive decisions that come back to haunt us.)

This book is an absolutely fabulous and riveting read for anyone who likes a fast-paced, enthralling thriller based on a credible premise that will terrify any parent who has ever watched the news. Close the curtains, lock the door, hug your child and be glad that, in your world, this is only a piece of fiction.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for more great reviews (Meggy from Choc’n’Waffles wrote a much more eloquent one than this yesterday, you can read it here): 

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About the Author

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Alex Dahl was born in Oslo and is the critically acclaimed author of The Boy at the Door.  She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. and is a serious Francophile.

Connect with Alex:

Facebook: Alex Dahl Author

Twitter: @alexdahlauthor

Instagram: @authoralex

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Book Review: Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons

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Eudora Honeysett is done – with all of it. Having seen first-hand what a prolonged illness can create, the eighty-five-year-old has no intention of leaving things to chance. With one call to a clinic in Switzerland she takes her life into her own hands.

But then ten-year-old Rose arrives in a riot of colour on her doorstep. Now, as precocious Rose takes Eudora on adventures she’d never imagined she reflects on the trying times of her past and soon finds herself wondering – is she ready for death when she’s only just experienced what it’s like to truly live?

This week I have been taking part in the One More Chapter Readalong for Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons, and today I am sharing my review of the book. I want to thank One More Chapter for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

It’s going to be very difficult to do this book justice in my review without giving away any spoilers because what I would really like to do is gush endlessly about how marvellous every word of the novel is and tell you in excruciating detail exactly why. However, this blog is, and always will be, guaranteed spoiler-free, so I’ll do my best by the book in more limited terminology.

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is one of those gems of a book that comes along quite quietly, without huge fanfare, but when you discover it you are torn between wanting to tell everyone you meet that they must read it immediately and hugging it to yourself as a cosy little secret. But since I am a kind and generous book blogger, I am going to share the secret with all of you. Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is going to be one of my books of the year, without a shadow of a doubt. I absolutely loved it, have already bought the paperback, want to tell everyone I ever meet about it and am telling you that you absolutely must, must read it at once.

This is a story about loneliness and friendship and family and disappointment and giving up and not giving up and intergenerational relationships and death and all kinds of love and how life isn’t over until it’s over. It has a dual timeline, amazing characters and every single emotion you can think of ranging through it. It will make you laugh and possibly cry (don’t read it at bedtime unless you want to have to sleep on a soggy pillow) and, as soon as you have turned the last page, want to immediately go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Annie Lyons has created a superb character in Eudora Honeysett. She goes on one of the most transformative journeys of any fictional character I have come across in fiction this year. The Eudora I met in the first chapter of this book is a totally different person to the one I left on the last page. The author’s deftness in peeling back the layers of Eudora’s back story over the course of the book at the same time as showing her emotional journey in the present is a thing of joy to behold and I am full of awe and admiration for her skill in playing with the reader’s emotions in this way. Despite being a very prickly character when we first meet her, she is totally sympathetic and, by the end of the book I was completely and irrevocably in love with her as if she were real and a member of my own family. Anyone who loved Eleanor Oliphant, Susan Green from The Cactus or Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things is going to adore Eudora Honeysett.

But Eudora doesn’t go through this transformation in isolation. All changes need a catalyst, and Eudora’s comes in the form of a tiny, rainbow tornado of a next door neighbour who shakes up Eudora’s ordered but sterile life, completely against Eudora’s will. Rose is a bright force of nature and a more delightful character has never been written. She represents all that is good and pure and positive in this cynical world and is the perfect antidote to all the stress and worry and loneliness that we are currently experiencing. This book could not have come along at a more opportune time for all of us and, if you are looking for a cheering, uplifting, escapist read that addresses a lot of issues that we are all currently facing, look no further.

There are a host of other fantastic characters to support these two, including the adorable Stanley ,who everyone must want as their grandad, Rose’s mum and baby sister, and Montgomery, a cat full of personality. The plot is unique and thought-provoking. It really made me think about getting older, loneliness and what it must be like to contemplate your death in old age. The author does an impeccable job of capturing the unique perspectives of the different generations and their individual concerns. Every word of this book is believable and informative and reading it was an enriching experience, as well as being fun and emotionally moving. Quite an accomplishment.

I really cannot sing the praises of this book highly enough. If you haven’t realised by now, I adored it and think everyone should read it. I hope it gets a lot of attention, because it really deserves it. I know it is a book I will continue to think about long after I’ve finished it and will return to again. The pinnacle of uplit and the perfect book for a lockdown lift.

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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After a career in bookselling and publishing, Annie Lyons published five books including the best-selling, Not Quite Perfect. When not working on her novels, she teaches creative writing. She lives in south-east London with her husband and two children.

Connect with Annie:

Website: https://annielyons.com/

Facebook: Annie Lyons

Twitter: @1AnnieLyons

Instagram: @annielyonsauthor

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Blog Tour: One Winter’s Night by Kiley Dunbar #BookReview

One Winters Night

I’m so thrilled to be taking part in this tour today. This author is fast becoming one of my favourites. The prequel to this novel, One Summer’s Night, was one of my favourite romances of last year (you can read my review here), so I was really looking forward to reading One Winter’s Night by Kiley Dunbar. Huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for asking 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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It’s autumn in beautiful Stratford-Upon-Avon and Kelsey Anderson is enjoying her new life in her adopted town. Her Shakespearean tour guide days behind her, she’s now opened her own photography studio and loved up with boyfriend Jonathan – even if a long-distance relationship is sometimes lonely.

When best friend Mirren Imrie moves down from Scotland, Kelsey is delighted to have her friend at her side – and as the nights turn colder, Mirren throws herself into dating, until she finds herself growing closer to sexy journalist, Adrian Armadale. But when Mirren uncovers a long-buried scandal while working at the local newspaper, her big scoop might throw Kelsey’s – and Jonathan’s – life upside down. Will she choose her career over her friends’ happiness?

And when Jonathan returns from America and discovers the secrets Mirren has uncovered about his family, it throws his relationship with Kelsey onto shaky ground. Can they find their way back to love, before it becomes the winter of their discontent?

The author has knocked it out of the park again with this cosy, autumn read. The minute I started reading, I was back in Stratford with Kelsey and eager to find out  what was going on with her fledgling photography business and her blossoming romance with actor boyfriend, Jonathan. This book would work equally well as a standalone, though, if you haven’t read the first book.

Kelsey is absolutely brilliant at creating a sense of place in her books and you can tell she has a detailed knowledge of Stratford and a great affection for the place, it shines out from the page and takes the reader to the heart of the town. Her prose is full of beautiful descriptions which evoke the season and stimulate all of the readers senses, so they are experiencing the action, rather than just reading it. Her writing always gives me the warm fuzzies!

As well as finding out how Kelsey’s new life is moving on in Stratford, the action catches up with Kelsey’s best friend Mirren, who is having a big shake up in her own circumstances and decides that she needs to take a leaf out of Kelsey’s book and make some brave changes. She ends up joining her friend in Warwickshire, with some unforeseen consequences for both of them. It was fabulous to have some new characters to freshen up the scene; I particularly loved Kelsey’s neighbour Blythe.

Kiley’s books are full of charm and warmth, her characters always likeable and empathetic and she makes you care about what is happening to them. Reading one of her books is a bit like sinking into a warm bubble bath, relaxing and soothing. In fact, a warm bubble bath is the perfect place to read them. I absolutely cannot get enough of her books, and she is such an inspiration to me as a writer. I find myself studying her books to see how she manages to create the atmosphere she does, and then stepping back in awe because she is so skilled. I hop this isn’t the end of our visits to Stratford with Kelsey, I have grown so attached to the world that Kiley has created here.

This novel is perfect to curl up with at this time of year and, any fans of cosy romance novels who hasn’t picked up one of Kiley’s books yet needs to remedy that omission immediately. I know you will fall in love with her writing just as I have. I am now just waiting to get hold of a paperback copy of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach now to complete my collection. Please, Hera Books, if you are listening!

One Winter’s Night is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews and other content:

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About the Author

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Hi, I’m Kiley Dunbar, author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places.

If you’re looking for travel adventures, swoony heroes, and dreamy escapism that will let you forget the world just for a wee while then I’m your author.

Take your pick from my first three novels:

Summer at the Highland Coral Beach (2020), the first in the Port Willow Bay Series, takes you on an impromptu crafting holiday in the Scottish Highlands and reminds us that after the storm comes the rainbow. Crafts, ceilidhs, coral bays and gentle recovery. (Part two coming September 2021 – both parts can be read alone)

Christmas at Frozen Falls (2019) will fly you to snowy, remote Finnish Lapland over Christmas where Sylvie Magnussen is getting a second chance at love with an old flame – sexy Stellan Virtanen – the one who got away – well, he ran away actually, and Sylvie never understood why. Hot kisses in a cold climate, Northern lights and a stunning resort setting. (Standalone novel)

One Summer’s Night (2019) whisks you away on a working staycation in beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon during a sultry heatwave summer. Kelsey Anderson, Shakespeare nerd and aspiring photographer, navigates her new life in a new town. A starting over story, handsome actors, backstage passes, and a whole lot of drama in the Heart of England. (Sequel coming September 2020 – both parts can be read alone)

And if you’ve enjoyed one of my books I’d be thrilled if you left a review!

Connect with Kiley:

Facebook: Kiley Dunbar Author

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

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Blog Tour: A Perfect Paris Christmas by Mandy Baggot #BookReview

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United in grief. Pushed apart by tragedy.

Keeley Andrews knows more than anyone that you only live once. So when she receives an invitation to spend two weeks in Paris, all expenses paid, she jumps at the chance.

Ethan Bouchard has had the worst eighteen months of his life. He’s ready to give up on everything, including his hotel chain. So when he meets Keeley, it simply isn’t the right time.

As Keeley and Ethan continue to bump into each other on the romantic Parisian streets, they can’t help but wonder whether this is fate telling them to let go of the past and leap into the future…

My first Christmas read of the year! I don’t normally do them this early, but who could resist the lure of a new Mandy Baggot Christmas novel? Certainly not me! So I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for A Perfect Paris Christmas and I am very grateful to Victoria Joss of Head of Zeus for allowing me to be part of the tour and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

What a great one to start with. I absolutely adored this story from the opening pages right through to the end. Everything about it is warm and appealing and uplifting, just the way a Christmas story should be and anyone who loves this kind of festive fiction will not be at all disappointed if they pick this one up.

It has everything you might want from a Christmassy romcom. Appealing and sympathetic heroine? Check. Hot, sexy but troubled hero? Check. (Bonus points for being French awarded in my not-at-all arbitrary marking system.) Beautiful, romantic, escapist setting? Check. Family drama to cause chaos? Check. Nemesis at whom to direct our ire? Check. Misunderstandings and false victories? Check. Happy ending. Of course. Check, check, check, this book has it all.

Mandy manages to imbue every page of this novel with romance and joy and festive cheer. I was transported to Paris and immersed in a gorgeous, Christmas dream. I totally believed in the characters, their story and their relationship. I thought the novel dealt with some interesting and evocative topics beautifully, and it gave the story that bit of punch that makes it all the more satisfying.

I’ve yet to be disappointed by a Mandy Baggot book. She is fabulous at creating emotion in her readers, and her books are always truly transportive in every way. This might be my favourite yet, and fans of her work will not be disappointed by her latest book. If you have never read one of her books before, this is the ideal one to start with, I guarantee that if you are a lover of festive romcoms with real heart, you will immediately fall in love with this book.

A Perfect Paris Christmas is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 1 October, and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to check out the other blogs taking part in the tour:

About the Author

Mandy Baggot

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Connect with Mandy:

Website: http://mandybaggot.com

Facebook: Mandy Baggot Author

Twitter: @mandybaggot

Instagram: @mandybaggot

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Blog Tour: Love at the Little Wedding Shop by the Sea by Jane Linfoot #BookReview

Love at the Little Wedding Shop by the Sea

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest novel in one of my favourite series, Love at the Little Wedding Shop by the Sea by Jane Linfoot. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Love at the Little Wedding Shop by the Sea

St Aidan: a cosy Cornish village where friendships are made for life and it’s always cocktail hour somewhere…

‘A pure delight’ Debbie Johnson

Return to your favourite little wedding shop by the sea for love, laughter and a romance to sweep you off your feet!

It’s the most romantic day of the year but the girls aren’t just gearing up for Valentine’s Day and a busy wedding season ahead, it’s also the 10 year anniversary of their beloved shop!

Jess is planning the party of the decade and with the champagne and cocktails flowing, sparks are going to fly…and not just from the fireworks display!

I’ve been a fan of this series of books since the very first one, so I was thrilled to be taking a trip back to St. Aidan to catch up with the girls from Brides By The Sea, and to find out more about new girl, Milla.

I have to say, the opening of this book is a little bit of a whirlwind, with a lot of action and information thrown at the reader from the very beginning, which might seem a little confusing to readers who are new to St. Aidan and the Little Wedding Shop set up. I was on a slightly firmer footing, having read the previous books, but even to me it seemed a little frenetic. However, this feeling didn’t last beyond the first chapter and then the narrative settled down into an easier, clearer rhythm, making the book accessible to readers who haven’t read the previous books. Although this is a series, each one works perfectly as a standalone, and not knowing the back stories of some of the characters does not detract from the current plot, although I guarantee you will want to go back and find out more about the other girls from the previous books once you have read this one.

Out main protagonist here, Milla, is a bit of a disaster area to say the least. Clumsy and disorganised, with a sad back story, she is a character whose future doesn’t look too promising when we first meet her. However, she is full of verve and heart and enthusiasm which makes her very endearing, and the series of mishaps she encounters through the first half of the book make us root for her to turn things around even more. The fact that the worst of her mishaps happen in front of a very hot man who is causing flutters in interesting areas of her anatomy just makes things worse and, of course, more fun for the reader!

This is a story about new beginnings, confidence and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. I really wanted Milla to succeed and believe in herself (and to get one over on one character who was loathsome to my mind from the beginning!). I also wanted her to get her man, although there were times at the beginning when I did wonder why she would want him after some of his behaviour (although his pecs and six-pack probably had a lot to do with it!) Milla’s story is full of laughter – Jane’s writing is absolutely hilarious – but there are also moments of real pathos and I defy anyone not to be moved by parts of this book amidst the hilarity.

Throw in the beautiful Cornish setting of St. Aidan with its gorgeous harbour, and all the fun, imagination and celebration of the wedding business, and this is a great escapist read. It is also a fabulous book about friendship, good and bad, as Milla’s friends rally around to help her establish a new life after a terrible betrayal. If you are a fan of chicklit and romcoms, and you are looking for a book to transport you to the seaside, give you some giggles and some feels, this is the perfect book for you, and I know you are going to want to look at Jane Linfoot’s back catalogue once you have read this. Loved, loved, loved it.

Love at the Little Wedding Shop by the Sea is out now as an ebook and will be released in paperback in November, and you can buy your copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Jane writes fun, flirty fiction, with feisty heroines, and lots of heart. Writing is fab, because she gets to wear pretty shoes instead of wellies. She lives in a cottage up a mountain road in Derbyshire, where her family and pets are kind enough to ignore the domestic chaos. Happily, they’re in walking distance of a supermarket. She loves hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage, most things French. When she’s not on Facebook, and can’t find an excuse for shopping, she’ll be walking, or gardening. On days when she wants to be really scared, she rides a tandem.

Connect with Jane:

Facebook: Jane Linfoot Author

Twitter: @janelinfoot

Instagram: @janelinfoot

Pinterest: Jane Linfoot

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Blog Tour: The Dentist by Tim Sullivan #BookReview

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A homeless man. Violently strangled. No leads. Except his past.

An outsider himself, DS George Cross is drawn to this case. The discovery of the dead man’s connection to an old cold case then pulls Cross in further. Convinced this is where the answer to the murder lies, he sets about solving another that someone has spent the past fifteen years thinking they’ve got away with.

Cross’ relentless obsession with logic, detail and patterns is what makes him so irritatingly brilliant. It doesn’t exactly make him popular with colleagues or his superiors, though. He has numerous enemies in the force wanting to see him fail.

Red flags are soon raised as suspicious inconsistencies and errors in the original detective’s investigation come to light. Now retired, this ex-cop has powerful friends in the force and a long-standing dislike of Cross.

Set in picturesque Bristol in the Southwest of England, it’s not long before the city reveals its dark underbelly, in a case of intriguing twists and turns whose result astonishes even those involved.

Difficult and awkward, maybe. But Cross has the best conviction rate in Avon & Somerset Police. By far. Will this case put an end to that?

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Dentist by Tim Sullivan, the first book in the DI Cross series. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The title of the book doesn’t give much away, does it? Nor the blurb. I think I was imagining some gruesome murders involving horrible things being done to people’s teeth and jaws. Thankfully, the book wasn’t as traumatic as I was expecting, suitable even for the squeamish, but none the less engrossing for that.

This is the first in a projected series featuring DS George Cross, and I have to say that he is an absolutely brilliant creation and one who puts a really novel and fascinating spin on the detective character. He is a neurodivergent individual, with traits and behaviours that give him a different way of looking at a case which can give him an edge over his colleagues in his clearance rates, but his atypical behaviour can also make him difficult to work with. The exploration of how his character makes him a great detective, but also awkward in his social interactions, makes for a really riveting plot line, but is dealt with very thoughtfully. The author also gives him some other great characters to interact with – his partner who is learning to work with his processes, his father who truly understands him, his boss who has to manage him, and the new recruit who has to get to know his foibles. The latter, in particular, has great scope for development in future books I think.

The case itself was gripping, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and reading on. There were a few red herrings in the plot line, although I did feel one in particular was allowed to peter out rather than being pursued to its conclusion, but this was a minor complaint. This is an author who is an experienced screenwriter, feeling his feet in the world of novel writing. He does a good job but I am very confident that he will get better as he progresses and I look forward to seeing what he can do in the future if this is his debut effort.

I thoroughly enjoyed this new voice in crime fiction. The book was an easy but engaging read, with original and interesting characters and a lively and twisting plot with a satisfying conclusion. I would definitely pick up the next book by this author and look forward to getting to know DS Cross a lot better.

The Dentist is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure to visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan made his first short film before graduating from Cambridge University. His ambition to become a screenwriter was formed not so much by this experience but as an attempt to foil his father’s determination to turn him into a lawyer.

Within weeks of leaving university armed with a law degree he had met the film maker Derek Jarman and persuaded him to commission an original screenplay from him entitled BOB UPADOWN and so a career was born.

A few months later he joined Granada Television as a researcher. Here he was commissioned to write the first of many television scripts for the company. Two sitcoms entitled THE TRAIN NOW LEAVING and THE GREASY SPOON followed by the crime dramas MYSTERIOUS WAYS and MAIGRET.

While at Granada he was selected for the prestigious Directors’ Training scheme when only 26. Previous encumbents had included Mike Newell, Roland Joffe, and Michael Apted, more recently Julian Farino. Among other credits he directed CORONATION STREET, MADE IN HEAVEN, THATCHER THE FINAL DAYS and THE CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES with Jeremy Brett.

During this time he also co wrote the screenplays for the movies A HANDFUL OF DUST starring Kristen Scott Thomas, Judi Dench and Alec Guinness and WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD starring Helen Mirren and Helena Bonham Carter, both with producer the legendary TV producer Derek Granger (BRIDESHEAD REVISITED).

Upon leaving the bosom of Granada and venturing into the wild wide world of the freelance film maker he wrote and directed the movie JACK AND SARAH starring Richard E Grant, Samantha Mathis, Ian Mckellen, Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins. This led to a commission from New Line Pictures to write the screenplay WALKING PAPERS based on the Jay Cronley novel of the same name.

This screenplay came to the attention of execs at Universal and Imagine who then asked Tim to do a page one rewrite of a western for Ron Howard entitled THE PRETENDERS. Tim enjoyed working with Ron for over a year on this.

He then wrote an original screenplay, PERSONAL SHOPPING, which was promptly snapped up by Paramount for producer Scott Rudin.

He spent four months working for and with Jeffrey Katzenberg at Dreamworks animation as a production writer on the movie FLUSHED AWAY. Impressed by his work Katzenberg commissioned him to write a script for SHREK 4 which wasn’t used as a different storyline was decided upon as a director came on board.

During this time he was actively involved in British television directing the last ever ninety minute episode of the BAFTA award winning series COLD FEET. As well as a TV movie for ITV called CATWALK DOGS written by Simon Nye.

He was commissioned by the BBC to write a pilot for a TV series he invented called BACKSTORY as well as another pilot for the ITV network entitled OFFSPRING.

He also wrote HIS MASTER’S VOICE for the BBC as a radio play starring Rob Brydon which was broadcast in 2015.

He recently wrote the screenplay for LETTERS TO JULIET starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave.

Oscar winning producers of The King’s Speech, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman then commissioned an original screenplay from him entitled THE WEDDING DRESS.

Tim is writing and co-producing and co-writing an animated feature screenplay for Hasbro and Paramount which is in production and scheduled for release in 2021.

He has now embarked on a series of crime novels featuring the eccentric and socially-awkward, but brilliantly persistent DS George Cross. Set in Bristol in the south west of England, Cross’ methods often infuriate his colleagues and superiors “not so much a thorn in my side as a pain in my arse,” according to his boss DCI Carson. But his conviction rate, thanks to his dogged persistence and attention to detail, is the best in the force. The DENTIST is in the first of a series.

Tim lives in North London with his wife Rachel, the Emmy award-winning producer of THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA and PIONEER WOMAN.

He is currently the UK chair of the Writers’ Guild of America (West).

Connect with Tim:

Website: https://timsullivan.uk

Facebook: Tim Sullivan

Twitter: @TimJRSullivan

Instagram: @timsullivannovelist

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Book Review: Mordew by Alex Pheby

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GOD IS DEAD, his corpse hidden in the catacombs beneath Mordew.

In the slums of the sea-battered city a young boy called Nathan Treeves lives with his parents, eking out a meagre existence by picking treasures from the Living Mud and the half-formed, short-lived creatures it spawns. Until one day his desperate mother sells him to the mysterious Master of Mordew. 

The Master derives his magical power from feeding on the corpse of God. But Nathan, despite his fear and lowly station, has his own strength and it is greater than the Master has ever known. Great enough to destroy everything the Master has built. If only Nathan can discover how to use it. 

So it is that the Master begins to scheme against him and Nathan has to fight his way through the betrayals, secrets, and vendettas of the city where God was murdered, and darkness reigns… 

…WELCOME TO MORDEW THE FIRST IN A MONUMENTAL NEW TRILOGY

I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with this book. It was on page 13, before I even got to the start of the story and I was reading the Dramatis Personae. I came across a reference to ‘a family of elephants, unfamiliarly labelled,’ and that was it. I knew then that this was an author in whose imagination I was really going to enjoy getting lost. (Although, I’m not happy at how the unfamiliarly labelled elephants’ story turns out, Mr Pheby!)

Mordew is an amazing feat of a novel. Dense, rich, complex, perplexing and rewarding, it requires a commitment of reading and is not going to be for everyone. However, if you are a fan of gothic fantasy, dedicated and imaginative world-building, challenging characters and ideas that ask questions of you, a book that demands participation from the reader, rather than sitting as an idle bystander to the story, you will love this. It reminded me so much of my first experience of reading Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, and left me with the same desperate anticipation to read more that I felt at the start of that trilogy.

The book describes a complicated world that is an entirely new creation and takes some time to ease yourself into. There are so many new ideas and new terms to get your head around (the glossary for this books runs to a massive 84 pages), and it is all so alien at first that the less-than-intrepid reader may be tempted to give up, feeling the going too hard. Don’t do that. Once you get over the first hurdles and suss out the terrain, the writing has such cadence you will ease into its rhythm, it will sweep you along and the sights to be found up ahead are more than worth any early effort. I promise you, this book will reward you one hundredfold for perseverance and you will be desperate for more, even once you reach the end of the 500+ pages.

The book isn’t always easy, there are some shocking developments that will rock the reader to the core. Sacrifices are made. Disturbing imagery abounds. Unfamiliarly labelled elephants! It is hard at times to know who to trust, who to pity, who to love. Good characters do bad things. Bad characters do good things, no one is entirely virtuous or entirely contemptible. In this way, if no other, Mordew is as our world and this is how we go on an emotional journey with Nathan through the pages and the streets of Mordew.

The ending may not be as you would expect or wish, but the author has set it up brilliantly for the second part of the projected trilogy and, I am hoping that it is well underway and we are not going to have to wait Game-of-Thrones-esque lengths of time for part two. This can’t be the end, it just can’t. There has to be more, an alternative, a salvation. I need to know what it is, I’m fully invested in this world, this journey now.

I had high hopes for this novel and it delivered on them in every respect, and then some. I’ve not read anything like this for a long time and it deserves wide attention and respect. Pick up a copy today and you’ll be thanking me tomorrow.

Mordew is out now in hardback and as an ebook, and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Alex was born in Essex, but moved to Worcester in his early childhood. He has masters degrees in critical theory (Manchester Metropolitan University) and creative writing (Goldsmiths) and a doctorate in critical and creative writing from the UEA. He currently lives with his wife and two children in Greenwich.

Alex’s work deals with madness and social exclusion, loss, and the middle ground between reality and fantasy. Critics have described his writing style as strange, poignant, and luminous.

Connect with Alex:

Twitter: @alexpheby

Instagram: @alexpheby

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Blog Tour: The Memories We Bury by H. A. Leuschel #BookReview

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An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood

Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, whose own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.

Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?

In The Memories We Bury the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

Today is my turn on the blog tour for The Memories We Bury by H. A. Leuschel. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book from reading the blurb and, throughout the book it became obvious that it was something a little different. Part psychological thriller, part study of human nature and how we are formed and influenced from childhood, it was an usual and fascinating reading experiences which I found interesting, with a couple of caveats.

There are two main protagonists in the book, and we hear the story through their alternating voices. Lizzie, a young mother who has been influenced by a mother who she was never able to please, and this seems to have influenced her choices throughout her life, particularly her husband; and Morag, her older neighbour who is looking for a surrogate family to love. Initially, these women seem to be just what the other needs, but when is life ever that simple? It becomes obvious that there are sinister undercurrents at play and things may not end well.

It is hard to tell throughout who is genuine and who is hiding something beneath their cultivated facade, and my opinions on this changed from chapter to chapter. I found the ending quite shocking, and the whole book is disquieting, digging deeper into ideas about our memories and the influences childhood memories have throughout our lives.

I had difficulty getting into this book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it does jump around between voices and timelines somewhat, and I found it quite hard to keep track of where we were at with each character in the plot to begin with, possibly not helped by the fact that I started reading it quite late one night when I wasn’t at my freshest. Also, some of the sentence construction  and phrasing is a little unusual, I suspect because English is not the first language for this author, and that somewhat upset the rhythm of the reading for me until I got used to it. These are minor niggles, easily overcome and possibly may bother other readers less. The main issue I had, I’m afraid, was my lack of connection to any of the characters in the early stages of the book. Two of them I didn’t like at all and, the one I think I was supposed to feel most sympathy for was a bit wet for my tastes. Other readers may have a different reaction. I did read this book immediately following a reread of one of my all-time favourite novels which has, as its protagonist, one of the strongest and most inspiring female leads in literature, so the contrast perhaps worked against this novel and maybe at a different time under different circumstances, I would have felt differently. In fact, if I hadn’t been reading it to a deadline, it may well have been one of those books that you set aside because you aren’t in the mood, then return to and enjoy more at a later date and in a different mindset.

This novel has a lot going for it. It is s detailed dissection of human nature with an interesting premise and some skilfully drawn characters. There are enough twists and turns and red herrings to keep the reader interested, and the end is definitely memorable. I think this is a book that people need to read and judge for themselves, especially if you enjoy psychological fiction and are looking for something unique and outside of the curve. The minor issues I had with it are very likely to prove personal to me and should not in any way discourage potential readers if they like the sound of the blurb. They distracted very little from the worthiness and value of the book.

The Memories We Bury is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Do make sure you follow the rest of the tour for different perspectives on the book.

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About the Author

HA Leuschel

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.

Connect with Helene:

Website: https://www.heleneleuschel.com

Facebook: H A Leuschel

Twitter: @HALeuschel

Instagram: @haleuschel

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Desert Island Books: A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

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Jean Paget is just twenty years old and working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins.

When she is captured she joins a group of other European women and children whom the Japanese force to march for miles through the jungle – an experience that leads to the deaths of many.

Due to her courageous spirit and ability to speak Malay, Jean takes on the role of leader of the sorry gaggle of prisoners and many end up owing their lives to her indomitable spirit. While on the march, the group run into some Australian prisoners, one of whom, Joe Harman, helps them steal some food, and is horrifically punished by the Japanese as a result.

After the war, Jean tracks Joe down in Australia and together they begin to dream of surmounting the past and transforming his one-horse outback town into a thriving community like Alice Springs…

The eighth book on my Desert Island Books list is A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, which is one of my favourite love stories. And I am not just talking about the romance between the young English girl, Jean Paget, and the heroic Australian, Joe Harman, but the underlying, unrequited love that the narrator, Noel, feels for Jean, and which informs the whole way he tells her story.

This is a book of two halves. The story starts with the reader being introduced to a lawyer, Noel Strachan, who is employed by an infirm Scottish gentleman to draw up his will, some time in the early 1930s. The war then intervenes, and after the war, the gentleman dies and Noel has to track down his niece, and inform her that she has come into an inheritance, of which he is the trustee. So Noel’s involvement in Jean’s life begins. 

During the course of administering the trust, Noel hears Jean’s story of being taken prisoner in Malaya during the war and being marched across the country with a party of other women because the Japanese don’t know what to do with them. A terrible incident occurs during this time which deeply affects Jean and stops her fully recovering after the war. She tells the whole horrifying story of her wartime experiences to Noel, so we hear them as he does, firsthand. Before I read this book for the first time as a teenager, I knew very little of what had occurred during the war in the Far East, as my school studies of the period concentrated on the action in Europe, so this story really piqued my interest and encouraged to to expand my reading on the subject to the wider content of the war beyond the repercussions in Europe to the actions of the Japanese and the involvement of our Commonwealth allies. This is what good fiction can do, encourage further reading into the actual events upon which they are based, even if the fiction is written with a little poetic licence.

In the second half of the book, the action moves to Australia and Jean’s attempts to find Joe Harman after the war, and how together they work to expand a community in the Australian outback. I know some people find the second half of the book less exciting, given the horror and high drama of the first half, but they are missing the point. For a young, ambitious girl on the brink of adulthood with big plans for her future, this story of a woman alive in a time of burgeoning opportunity for females, who defies convention and strikes out into the unknown on her own, following her heart but using her head as well, was revelatory. Whilst it is hard to recognise the kind of attitudes that prevailed in that day when reading from a modern day position, I defy anyone not to be inspired by Jean Paget and be cheering her on from the sidelines

If you are coming to A Town Like Alice for the first time in 2020, it is going to make you very uncomfortable in parts. The attitudes to gender, colour and a lot more besides are going to be jarring when you look at them with a twenty-first century eye, and I know people will find this off-putting. This is a book of its time, it reflects society as it was in the early 1950s and needs to be read with that firmly in mind. If nothing else, it gives a clear picture of how far attitudes have moved on since then, even if we have a long way still to go. But setting these acknowledged issues with the novel aside, this is a uplifting and tender love story of triumphs in the face of adversity, powerful love overcoming severe obstacles, and how love can take many forms, and how wonderful it it when reciprocated. For anyone who is a true romantic, this is a beautiful story.

I have read this book many times over the last 30+ years. Inbetween readings, I sometimes wonder whether it will continue to age well, or if one day I will come back to it and find it no longer speaks to me. Although there are aspects of it which are unpalatable in our, hopefully, more enlightened times, the core story of a brave, resourceful and determined young woman setting out to find the man she loves and build a good life for them both is still moving and inspiring and I would definitely like to have it with me on my desert island to remind me what people can achieve if they set their minds to it.

A Town Like Alice is available in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Nevil Shute Norway was born on 17 January 1899 in Ealing, London. After attending the Dragon School and Shrewsbury School, he studied Engineering Science at Balliol College, Oxford. He worked as an aeronautical engineer and published his first novel, Marazan, in 1926. In 1931 he married Frances Mary Heaton and they went on to have two daughters. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve where he worked on developing secret weapons. After the war he continued to write and settled in Australia where he lived until his death on 12 January 1960. His most celebrated novels include Pied Piper (1942), No Highway (1948), A Town Like Alice (1950) and On the Beach (1957).

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Book Review: Summerwater by Sarah Moss

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On the longest day of the summer, twelve people sit cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents.

A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a retired couple reminisce about neighbours long since moved on; a teenage boy braves the dark waters of the loch in his red kayak. Each person is wrapped in their own cares but increasingly alert to the makeshift community around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, starts to draw the attention of the others. Tensions rise and all watch on, unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night finally falls.

My thanks to the publishers for my digital copy of this book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I spent many of my childhood holidays in the damp environs of the Scottish Borders, including in a log cabin, so the premise of Sarah Moss’s latest book immediately appealed to my nostalgic sensibilities. I had no idea what a rich, densely-packed, insightful read it was going to be in so many other ways.

The story, such as it is, follows twelve people relaxing in a Scottish holiday park, where the main, visible feature is the endlessly falling rain. There is no real meaty plot to form the book, instead we are given a series of internal monologues by different residents of the park, who range in age from children to retirees. The author makes the most remarkable job of giving us the authentic voices of each of the different characters which, although they are doing anything particularly memorable, bring the people vividly to life.

It may sound like not much occurs in the story, and this is a valid observation, but it matters not one jot to the appeal and rewards of the book. The internal observations we gain from the different narrators in their stream-of-consciousness internal pronouncements are more than enough to intrigue, engross and entertain. Moss has captured each of the characters perfectly, their thoughts so searing and authentic that you will find yourself laughing, crying, cringeing, grimacing and nodding along with them as you recognise the reflections and concerns that flit ethereal through their minds, and the way their thoughts skip and jump, making connections that make no sense and perfect sense at the same time. The writing is captivating and I could not get enough of it.

The thread tying all of the strands together is the reaction of the park residents to the inconsiderate behaviour of the occupants of one of the cabins, and the way this eventually played out left me shaken, disturbed and moved all at the same time. It was a shocking and perfect ending to the story, and captured and not-quite-tied up the mood of the novel in a lingering, melancholy and thought-provoking bow. This is a book that hangs around in your subconscious long after you’ve finished it, like a dream you haven’t fully deciphered and can’t quite shake.

The chapter featuring the young couple on their first holiday away together, particularly the thoughts running through the girl’s head during an intimate encounter, and the young mother given the blissful hour to herself that she has long been craving were my favourites. The first because it was so humorous and painful to read, the latter because I could relate to it so closely, but the whole book, which is so short it is really a novella, is packed full and dense with marvel and I know I will go back to it again and again to find fresh nuance to enjoy.

This book packs a massive and powerful bang for its size and was joyful to read. When I look back over the 2020’s reading at the end of the year, I know that this is one book I will remember and treasure as one of the stand out novels of the year. Given how unusual this year has been, and how I have lost myself in a larger than average number of great books, this is no mean epithet.

Summerwater by Sarah Moss is out now in all formate and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Sarah Moss is the author of seven novels and a memoir of her year living in Iceland, Names for the Sea, shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. Her novels are Cold Earth, Night Waking (Fiction Uncovered Award), Bodies of Light (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), Signs for Lost Children (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), The Tidal Zone (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize) and Ghost Wall (long listed for the Women’s Prize, shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize). Her new novel, Summerwater, appears with Picador in August 2020

Sarah was born in Glasgow and grew up in the north of England. After moving between Oxford, Canterbury, Reykjavik, West Cornwall and the English Midlands, she now lives by the sea near Dublin.

Connect with Sarah:

Website: https://www.sarahmoss.org