Book Review: Sleepless in Sicily by Emma Jackson #BookReview

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Under the starry Italian skies, anything can happen…

For most women, getting locked into a storeroom with movie star and undeniable heartthrob Rowan during a pre-production shoot in London would be the stuff of dreams. But for shy makeup artist Lila, it’s more like a nightmare. It doesn’t matter that Rowan is kind, easy to talk to and even more gorgeous up close. With her social anxiety, she can’t bear the idea of being embroiled in gossip and rumours about what exactly they were doing together.

More scandal is also not an option for outspoken Rowan, whose agency is threatening to drop him if he doesn’t toe the line. After the two make their escape, they promise to keep the incident a secret, and when they meet again on set in stunning Sicily, they pretend not to know each other. But between the blue skies and sizzling Italian heat, it becomes impossible to ignore the attraction simmering between them…

Lila and Rowan couldn’t be more different… but can they find a way to bring their worlds together?

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, for which they have my heartfelt thanks. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

The cover of this book leads you to believe that is going to be a certain kind of holiday romance that you have seen many times before, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I absolutely love holiday romance stories, I read them by the stack in the summer and have several waiting for my attention as we speak that I can’t wait to sink back into my deckchair and devour in place of actually going on an overseas trip this summer. However, this book doesn’t fall quite comfortably into that niche, it is something a bit different, but no the less fabulous for it.

When you read the blurb, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is going to develop along the standard lines, and it does contain all the bits of those holiday romances you love. A trip to the sun-drenched shores of Sicily, a glamorous film set location, hunky leading man sets shy, ingenue makeup artist’s heart a-fluttering. However, the book goes beyond this superficial love story to delve deeply into the motivations and personality traits of the leading characters in a way that is painfully observant and so realistic that, if you have any of these traits yourself, it will make your heart hurt in empathy. Or that is certainly what happened to me when I read it.

Whether she meant to or not, it is clear to the reader that the author has left a big part of herself on the pages of this novel. Noone can truly write such an authentic character as Lila if they haven’t had some personal experience of what she is suffering, whether themselves or through a loved one. The portrayal in this book of what it is like to live with social anxiety is the closest thing to reality that I have ever read. Although this is something that I experience to a much lesser extent than Lila, her thought processes are something I recognised all too readily, which meant I felt complete sympathy for her throughout the novel, really living the highs and lows with her, feeling the pain and pleasure. Being so immersed in a character’s story is a rare and precious experience and only happens when the author has felt the same thing as they write. I could feel the author living this book as she created it.

This is a fantastic book that takes the sun lounger novel to a different place. I’m not sure if I felt this just because I could relate so closely to the main character, but it has all the elements I look for in a summer read, as well as a profoundly relatable character in Lila. It left me feeling moved and seen in a way that in unusual in a genre many people deem superficial and fluffy, which just goes to prove that the people who look down on romance, probably don’t read many. True gems are out there if you look hard enough, and this is one.

If you are looking for something both entertaining and insightful to add to your holiday reading, here it is.

Sleepless in Sicily is out now in ebook format and you can buy a copy here. What are you waiting for, go, go, go.

About the Author

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Author of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Following her debut, SUMMER IN THE CITY and ONE KISS BEFORE CHRISTMAS were released in 2020 and her next contemporary romance SLEEPLESS IN SICILY is scheduled for 29th July 2021.

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://esjackson.co.uk

Facebook: Emma Jackson Author

Twitter: @ESJackson1

Instagram: @emma_s_jackson

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Desert Island Children’s Books… A Dog So Small by Philippa Pearce

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This month’s pick for the children’s book I would take to my island is probably going to be a surprising one because it is not the best-loved book by this author. Philippa Pearce is most well-known as the author of Tom’s Midnight Garden but the book of hers which I have chosen is A Dog So Small.

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Young Ben Blewitt is desperate for a dog. He’s picked out the biggest and best dogs from the books in the library – and he just knows he’s going to get one for his birthday. Ben is excited when the big day arrives, but he receives a picture of a dog instead of a real one! But the imagination can be a powerful thing, and when Ben puts his to work, his adventures really begin!

This is the story of a young boy who longs for a dog to be his friend. Ben is the middle child in his family of five. With two older sisters and two younger brothers, Ben doesn’t really fit in with either group and would love a dog to alleviate his loneliness. But, living in a small house in south London with six other people, it just isn’t possible. His only contact with dogs is when he visits his grandparents in the country. However, Ben’s hopes are raised when his grandfather hints that they may give him a dog for his birthday.

On the day, he is disappointed when only a picture of a tiny dog is delivered. However, after his initial disappointment, Ben becomes intrigued by the image of the tiny dog that his great-uncle brought back from Mexico. As he learns more and more about the chihuahua embroidered in the picture, his imagination begins to imbue the dog with life until it becomes more real to him than what surrounds him in real life. As Ben is consumed by his imaginary life, things in the real world take a terrible turn, but then finds sometimes dreams come true in unexpected ways.

The story really captures the power of a child’s dreams, and the disappointment that needs to be faced when the reality which manifests doesn’t match the fantasy. This author really understands the emotions of a child and is adept at expressing them on the page. When I was young and read this book. I could relate to what Ben was feeling and all the range of emotions he went through, and the book is still powerful even now when I went back to it. The way he feels loneliness and isolation in the midst of a big family, and the comfort and love animals can bring is a universal experience that many people share. The thing children want most is to be understood, and this book can make a child feel that way, which is a real skill in an author.

A very unique story that I can still see why I loved as a child.

You can buy a copy of A Dog So Small here.

About the Author

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Philippa Pearce spent her childhood in Cambridgeshire and was the youngest of four children of a flour-miller. The village, the river, and the countryside in which she lived appear more or less plainly in Minnow on the Say and Tom’s Midnight Garden.

She later went on to study English and History at Cambridge University. She worked for the BBC as a scriptwriter and producer, and then in publishing as an editor. She wrote many books including the Modern Classic, Tom’s Midnight Garden, for which she won the Carnegie Medal. She was also awarded an OBE for services to Children’s Literature.

Sadly, Philippa died in 2006, at the age of 86.

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Book Review: Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan #BookReview

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In the Eternal City, no secret stays hidden forever…

Lottie Archer arrives in Rome excited to begin her new job as an archivist. When she discovers a valuable fifteenth-century painting, she is drawn to find out more about the woman who left it behind, Nina Lawrence.

Nina seems to have led a rewarding and useful life, restoring Italian gardens to their full glory following the destruction of World War Two. So why did no one attend her funeral in 1978?

In exploring Nina’s past, Lottie unravels a tragic love story beset by the political turmoil of post-war Italy. And as she edges closer to understanding Nina, she begins to confront the losses in her own life.

I am delighted to be posting my review of Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan today. I received an advance digital copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, and I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I am all about novels set in Italy at the moment. For some reason, it is a place I am craving a visit to in these times where it is practically impossible to go anywhere at all. So since I can’t hop on a plane there at the moment, I am taking my tours via books, and Two Women in Rome is my latest foray.

A lot of my armchair travelling is done via romcoms, but this is a much more serious book, with a dual timeline that centres on Lottie in the present day and Nina, back in the 1970s when Italy was going through a period of immense political upheaval. Lottie, an archivist, discovers a lost painting, and a cache of papers that tell part of Nina’s story. Lottie becomes almost obsessed with uncovering what happened to Nina, largely because she can relate to her in some way, her struggle to fit in to Roman society as an English woman, and for authenticity when there are parts of your life which cannot be revealed for a variety of reasons.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it was a rather slow burn. The switching between Lottie’s current life in Rome and Nina’s time there in 1970s was easy to follow, and the women have two distinct voices in the book which each spoke to me with equal strength. I found the historical exploration of Italy in these tumultuous years absolutely fascinating. It is not a period of Italian history I am familiar with at all, and it made me want to go and read more about it, always a sign that a book has caught my imagination. I found the things that Nina is forced to do to carry out her work quite shocking, again not something I have ever thought much about before but intrigued me a great deal. I am sure that the author has researched the topic thoroughly and that what she describes is authentic, which makes it even more unbelievable.

Lottie latches on to Nina’s story as a way to explore her insecurities as an alien in a foreign land, especially when she is married to a man who has lived there so long that he is part of the place, and has a long history with the people and the city, part of which makes Lottie feels threatened. She also has parts of her past missing, which she hasn’t really processed, and investigating Nina’s story is a way of working through all this, and finding something in Rome that is hers, anchoring her to the place and marking herself out as an individual, instead of an appendage to her husband. I could really understand where she was coming from, her story really resonated with me and I was invested throughout in her quest.

This is a thoughtful, considered and rich novel that explores a time and place that will be alien to most of us. It takes the reader beyond the superficial tourist experience of Rome and in to the darker, seedier underbelly of the city and part of its history. It gave me a view of the place from a new perspective, as well as pulling me in to an involved mystery that was fascinating. Speckle all that with complex romantic issues, and you have me thoroughly hooked.

An engaging and rewarding read that provides something for anyone looking for a book with a little more depth to take to their sun lounger this summer.

Two Women in Rome is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Authors

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Elizabeth Buchan was a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time. Her novels include the prizewinning Consider the Lily, international bestseller Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman and The New Mrs Clifton. She reviews for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes. She was a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and for the 2014 Costa Novel Award.
Connect with Elizabeth:
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Book Review: The Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant #BookReview

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1584: Elizabeth I rules England. But a dangerous plot is brewing in court, and Mary Queen of Scots will stop at nothing to take her cousin’s throne.

There’s only one thing standing in her way: Tom, the queen’s trusted apothecary, who makes the perfect silent spy…

2021: Travelling the globe in her campervan, Mathilde has never belonged anywhere. So when she receives news of an inheritance, she is shocked to discover she has a family in England.

Just like Mathilde, the medieval hall she inherits conceals secrets, and she quickly makes a haunting discovery. Can she unravel the truth about what happened there all those years ago? And will she finally find a place to call home?

I was provided with a copy of The Queen’s Spy by the publisher via NetGalley for the purposes of review, so my thanks to them. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I was a huge fan of Clare Marchant’s debut novel, The Secrets of Saffron Hall, so I was very keen to read her ‘difficult second novel’ which features a character from the first novel, but has moved forward slightly in time historically to the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

Well, Clare has made the ‘difficult second novel’ look as easy and breezy as the first with this book. Again we are dealing with a dual timeline, in modern day Norfolk, and sixteenth century London, following the lives of two nomadic souls. In the present day, rootless Mathilde has travelled to England to find out more about an unexpected inheritance and family she had no idea existed. However, she has no intention of staying in the ancient house with its hidden secrets any longer than she must. But the ghosts that haunt the place aren’t keen on letting her go until she has uncovered their stories.

Back in the 1500s, Tom also also travelled from France to make a new life. Both deaf and mute, he also finds it difficult to fit in and put down roots, until he finds how useful he can be to England’s powerful Queen in her war against the cousin who would usurp her throne. Tom and Mathilde’s stories run parallel in their quests for a home and a family they never knew they wanted or believed they could ever have.

What I really loved about this book, and what makes it stand out for me in the canon of dual timeline romances, is the featuring of a male protagonist as the vessel for the story in the past timeline. Clare slips as easily into the skin of sixteenth century male servant just as easily as she did the shoes of her female protagonist in the historical part of her previous novel. She has managed to capture life from his perspective – poor, foreign, physically disadvantaged – absolutely perfectly so that he feels fully authentic and really brings the period to life. The peril in which those without power lived day to day, subject to the whims of their capricious overlords and living in a court full of danger and intrigue. You can feel the fear emanating from the pages.

Equally, in the modern day, I loved the prickly character of Mathilde, thrust into an equally strange environment. Fiercely independent but secretly lonely and vulnerable, she has put up a barrier to everyone else that is going to be hard for anyone to break down. However, over the course of the novel we understand, along with the other characters, why she is as she is and how to get at the real person underneath. Despite her awkward character, you can’t help but sympathise with her, and long for her to see what she could have if she lets people in.

The author has woven the two timelines together perfectly again, the transition between past and present not at all jarring to the reader. Bothe timelines are alive with imagery – sights, sounds, scents bringing each setting fully to life. Exploring the flat, open landscape of Norfolk, and the dank, crowded streets of Elizabethan London with equal aplomb, this is a truly transportive novel. Particularly emotionally, I found, as both the plights of Mathilde and Tom moved me, especially the ending.

This is a great read for anyone fond of this historical period, fans of dual timelines, or those who just love a well-written, immersive novel exploring love and relationships and what humans really need to live fulfilling lives.

The Queen’s Spy is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Growing up in Surrey, Clare always dreamed of being a writer. Instead, she followed a career in IT, before moving to Norfolk for a quieter life and re-training as a jeweller.

Now writing full time, she lives with her husband and the youngest two of her six children. Weekends are spent exploring local castles and monastic ruins, or visiting the nearby coast.

Connect with Clare:

Facebook: Clare Marchant Author

Twitter: @ClareMarchant1

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Blog Tour: Dead Secret by Noelle Holten #BookReview

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Psycopaths can take root in the unlikeliest soil…

DC Maggie Jamieson crosses paths once again with Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood when a domestic violence survivor stumbles into her new refuge, unable to speak, desperate for help.

Then another case hits Maggie’s desk. A young man has been murdered, and a curious constellation of black dots has been inked onto his cheek.

That’s when DCI Hastings goes missing and Maggie uncovers a shocking connection that turns the case on its head.

Every family may hide secrets, but not every family buries them…

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the paperback release of Dead Secret, Book 4 in the maggie Jamieson thriller series by Noelle Holten. It is no secret that I LOVE this series ( you can read my previous reviews here, here and here.) My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books on the Bright Side Publicity for giving me a place on the tour, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Maggie Jamieson has become one of my favourite characters in detective fiction over recent years, so I was very keen to get back to finding out what was going on in her world. This time, one of their own is caught up in some trouble, just to ramp up the drama.

This book has two distinct storylines to follow. Firstly, Lucy has found an unidentifiable beaten woman at the gates of her as-yet-to-be-opened refuge and feels obliged to take her in. The woman is scared and reluctant to reveal her story; as a survivor herself Lucy sympathises and doesn’t pressure her, but is curious about what she has gone through. Then there is the body of the young man, killed in the woods by a blow to the head. Whilst the investigation into this is going on, it becomes apparent that Maggie’s DCI and his family are missing and may be in terrible danger. Is this enough chaos to keep you entertained?

It definitely was for me as, along with the police, I tried to follow the threads of the different investigations they were juggling. There seemed to be so many loose ends to follow and red herrings to eliminate, and the small team were pulled in all directions trying to follow the different leads, none of which made much sense to begin with. Quite how the author managed to plot all this out and keep it straight I have no idea, in my imagination the plot looks like an impossibly tangled ball of wool with just a few loose ends trailing out which, eventually and with great skill, Noelle manages to gently pull until it all unravels neatly and beautifully into a straight line. So clever.

I was honestly flummoxed through most of the book. I even had a suspicion about someone close to Maggie that has always been one of my favourite characters and now I feel quite guilty about that! Although I did guess one tiny aspect of the outcome, the big reveal I had no idea about and it came as a complete shock, which only happens in the best type of thriller.

Alongside the mystery, we delve further into Maggie’s complex love life and her own tussles with her relationship status and how she feels about it. The portrayal of Maggie as a confused and vulnerable person in her love life contrasts sharply with her confident, maverick work persona and lends her a depth that makes her a more likeable and relatable character. She is someone I become more and more fond of as the books progress, and it parts of what makes me so eager to come back to them each time a new one is released.

All in all, this is an entertaining thriller that makes for compulsive reading. If you are already a fan of the Maggie Jamieson thrillers, this new one will not disappoint. If not, what are you waiting for? Dive one now, you won’t regret it.

Dead Secret is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour and visit some other fab blogs:

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About the Author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog. Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

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Blog Tour: Under A Greek Moon by Carol Kirkwood #BookReview

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It’s my turn on the blog tour today for Under A Greek Moon by Carol Kirkwood and I want to thank 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.

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Hollywood actress Shauna Jackson left the Greek island of Ithos twenty years ago and thought she would never return. Reeling from a scandal that has tarnished her success, she is drawn back to the beautiful olive groves and endless azure skies – and to the secrets she has tried hard to forget.

Looking down from his hilltop villa, enigmatic tycoon Demetrios Theodosis knows he can’t change the past, and looks to the future through his tempestuous daughter Ariana, but in trying to tame her free spirit, is he driving her further away?

Set against bleached white houses bounded by a sapphire sea, a yearning for the truth will compel them both to confront their shared past, and take them back to a distant summer that seemed to hold so much promise …

When I started reading this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The blurb makes it sound like a standard summer romance set on foreign shores. However, it starts out with a young girl being drawn into a glamorous world of money, fast cars and yachts where she is out of her depth and at the mercy of a playboy tycoon, so it initially read more like the start of a bonkbuster from the 1980s. In fact, the author even pays homage to Jackie Collins and Colleen McCullough early in the novel. Whichever of these genres the book was going to fall into was not going to be a problem for me, I love them both.

The story jumps around in time a little, between Shauna’s youth and the present day, so you need to pay attention to what is going on to keep up, but then the story is entertaining. Shauna is one of the luckiest people in the world, I have to say, with all the breaks she gets in her life. I wish just one of these things had ever happened to me, so be prepared to suspend your belief just a little. If you can do this, you will find a fun and intriguing story that will whisk you from Ireland to Monaco to Greece to LA, and from the student halls of Manchester to the Grimaldi palace. If you are looking for some pure escapism in you summer reading, this book will hit the spot.

Shauna is a sympathetic character to carry the story, and the author does a great job of getting the reader on side early in the book (despite her great dose of the luck of the Irish following her about). Demetrios is also a great character to play off against her. He is suitably ambiguous to begin with for the reader to wonder about his motives and worry about Shauna, but redeemable as we see things from his perspective as the book progresses. Carol also gives us some great minor characters to flesh out the story, Roxy and Nikos being my particular favourites.

I did enjoy this book, reading it over the course of only 24 hours. I loved the globe-trotting aspect particularly, and the glimpse into some of the sparkling worlds of monied Europe and Hollywood. However, I did feel that this book hadn’t quite decided what it wanted to be. Packaged as romance, but with bonkbuster undertones, I wish it had planted itself firmly in one camp or the other.

Under a Greek Moon is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats and will be published in paperback in November. You can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for this book and see the opinions of some other great bloggers:

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About the Author

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 Carol Kirkwood is one of the BBC’s most loved TV presenters, best known for presenting the weather. She lights up viewers’ homes every day, appearing on programmes such as BBC Breakfast, Strictly Come Dancing, Wimbledon Tennis Fortnight, and Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show.

She is hugely popular with fans and Carol frequently trends on Twitter. Beyond the television screen, she can often be found ensconced in a book, singing, dancing, and driving fast cars.

Connect with Carol:

Twitter: @carolkirkwood

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Publication Day Post: The Missing Pieces of Us by Eva Glyn #BookReview

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There are three versions of the past – hers, his, and the truth.

When Robin Vail walks back into widow Isobel O’Briain’s life decades after he abruptly left it, the dark days since her husband’s unexpected passing finally know light. Robin has fallen on hard times but Izzie and her teenage daughter Claire quickly remind him what it’s like to have family…and hope.

But Robin and Izzie are no longer those twenty-something lovers, and as they grow closer once more the missing pieces of their past weigh heavy. Now, to stop history repeating, Izzie and Robin must face facts and right wrongs…no matter how painful.

Today is publication day for The Missing Pieces of Us by Eva Glyn, so huge congratulations to Eva today. I previously reviewed this book when it was in a slightly different version, so I am reposting my review here today to celebrate publication of this book by One More Chapter.

(Please note, the review is of the original version of the book, I have not read the revised version, although I have been advised that the book remains substantially the same.)

I really did not know what to expect from this book, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be fantasy or magical realism, either of which I would have enjoyed, but it is neither. It is a surprising, powerful and emotional story of relationships, family, grief, loss and the way our minds react to trauma. I found the novel profoundly moving and was hooked from start to finish.

The author draws a trio of very strong and likeable characters in the novel, in Izzie and Robin, who tell the story in a dual narrative, and Izzie’s daughter, Claire, who is both an anchor and a catalyst in the tale. The story moves easily between Izzie and Robin’s recollection of events, and between current and historic happenings – it is incredibly well constructed. I thought the premise was fascinating and deftly explored, how reliable are our memories of events and how much does our psyche alter them to protect us from ordeals that we are not emotionally equipped to survive.

The Faerie Tree of the former title of this book is symbolic, and represents people’s hopes and dreams, a place where the protagonists come to reveal their innermost wishes, offload their concerns and voice their fears in the hope someone can hear them and help them process these desires. It then represents a place of blame and haunting, when those hopes and dreams are dashed and there is no one else to inculpate. It draws the focus of the family’s pain and becomes a way of them reaching out to it, and then each other, to share and understand and come together. I thought it was a really beautiful idea that was carried off without any mawkishness or sentimentality. The author explores the ideas of our connections to nature and spirituality through gratitude to the earth and its bounty, how this is important to some but misunderstood and ridiculed by others but, in the end, it is something that is likely to be fundamental to the survival of our species and our planet. Jane does this very cleverly and subtly, without any hint of preachiness, but I felt it through the narrative and it really resonated in present times.

The core of this story though, is love and relationships, how difficult they can be when people can’t make themselves understood by one another, or really understand themselves. In the end, success really comes down to openness, open-mindedness, trust and commitment. It feels to me a very true and very resonating story, and it left me warmed and thoughtful. It also contained some gorgeous pieces of description.

I really loved this book and I hope it finds its way to a large audience because it is a thoughtful, insightful and rewarding piece of work.

The book is out now as an ebook, and will be published in paperback in October, and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Eva Glyn writes emotional women’s fiction inspired by beautiful places and the stories they hide. She loves to travel, but finds inspiration can strike just as well at home or abroad.

She cut her teeth on just about every kind of writing (radio journalism, advertising copy, PR, and even freelance cricket reporting) before finally completing a full length novel in her forties. Four lengthy and completely unpublishable tomes later she found herself sitting on an enormous polystyrene book under the TV lights of the Alan Titchmarsh Show as a finalist in the People’s Novelist competition sponsored by Harper Collins. Although losing out to a far better writer, the positive feedback from the judges gave her the confidence to pursue her dreams.

Eva lives in Cornwall, although she considers herself Welsh, and has been lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for twenty-five years. She also writes as Jane Cable.

Connect with Eva/Jane:

Website: http://janecable.com

Facebook: Jane Cable

Twitter: @JaneCable

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Blog Tour: Grown Ups by Marie Aubert; Translated by Rosie Hedger #BookReview

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Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and starting to panic. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs, but forces these worries to the back of her mind as she sets off to the family cabin for her mother’s sixty-fifth birthday.

But family ties old and new begin to wear thin, out in the idyllic Norwegian countryside. Ida is fighting with her sister Marthe, flirting with Marthe’s husband and winning the favour of Marthe’s stepdaughter. Some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets tensions simmering even further, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, her whole family.

Exhilarating, funny and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups asks what kind of adult you are without a family of your own.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for Grown Ups by Marie Aubert. My thanks to Tara McEvoy of Pushkin Press for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, provided via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was such a melancholic book to read, I wasn’t expecting it at all. We are following the story of Ida, as she goes out to her family’s holiday cabin on the edge of a fjord to celebrate her mother’s birthday, along with her stepfather, her sister and her sister’s family. Ida’s life isn’t going to plan at all. She is forty, alone and contemplating freezing her eggs before time runs out.

Ida is quite a hard character to like, to be honest. She seems pathologically jealous of her sister, to the point where she is actively destructive. I understand where she is coming from. Her sister is hugely annoying – demanding and self-centred – and everyone seems to pander to her. At least this is how it looks to Ida, and she feels side-lined by the rest of the family. I have three sisters, and sometimes they can wind me up because we are all very different people, but I would never behave to them the way Ida does. She seems quite sly, which is hard to warm to.

In fact, most of the people in this story, and it is a small cast, are quite dysfunctional. The one person who isn’t, probably because he is so peripheral, Ida hates, probably because he observations on her behaviour are so acute and she doesn’t like having her faults mirrored back at her. In fact, I am sure the author meant Stein to act a little as Ida’s conscience, not that she takes much notice of him.

This is an excoriating treatise on family relationships, and how some people’s are so transactional. If you don’t behave a certain way, affection can be withheld. It is a diatribe against the expectations society has, with the family acting as a microcosm of society here, on women and how women feel when they can’t meet those expectations. How it undermines their own opinion of themselves. I didn’t get the impression that Ida liked herself very much, she certainly isn’t happy, but I also wasn’t convinced she wanted the things she was pursuing particularly for herself, but because that is what society expects her to do.

The book is beautifully written, with very detailed and well-developed characters who were very realistic on the page. Perhaps too realistic. I fully believed in the relationships that were playing out on the page, and they made me deeply sad. It is astounding to me that this book was written by someone young, as it has such a world-weary air. It is a sorry reflection of modern society that this is how it still makes women feel when they do not conform to an outdated stereotype.

This is a fantastically crafted novel, with some beautiful imagery, impressive characterisation and thought-provoking themes. It reminded me of how I felt after reading Sarah Moss’s exceptional Summerwater last year. Moved but profoundly sad. If you are looking for something meaningful to read, look no further.

Grown Ups is out now in paperback and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Marie Aubert made her debut in 2016 with the short story collection Can I Come Home With You, which sold more than 10,000 copies in Norway. Grown Ups is her first novel, and won the Young People’s Critics’ Prize (Norway’s equivalent to the Goncourt des lyceens) and was nominated for the Booksellers’ Prize. Rights have already been sold in ten other countries.

Connect with Marie:

Twitter: @marieau

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Book Review: No Place Like Home by Lynda Stacey #BookReview

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He knows where you are…

Sisters Molly and Beth Winters thought the remote clifftop house would be the perfect place to hide away after their mother’s brutal murder. They were wrong….

He wants revenge…

Because someone from the girls’ past has already found their safe house and he is watching and waiting in the shadows ready to make them pay.

He won’t stop until you’re dead…

Their new home should have been the place the sisters were safe.

But no place is safe forever.

I love supporting authors local to me, and Lynda Stacey is one of my favourites, so I just had to grab a copy of her new book. It is set on a stretch of the North Yorkshire coast that I am very familiar with, which is always a point of interest in a book. Add to this a cracker of a plot, and you have a winning psychological thriller.

The main protagonists are a pair of sisters, Molly and Beth, who have been through a very traumatic experience. Molly has taken them away to a deserted clifftop house where she hopes they will be safe from whoever it was who killed their mother. Beth is less keen on being cut off from the rest of the world, as you would as a teenager, and she isn’t afraid of letting Molly know exactly what she thinks. I thought the relationship between the two sisters was very honest and well drawn. I am sure there are many parents of teenage girls out there who are familiar with the door slamming and histrionics!

There are several different people in the girls lives upon whom suspicion is cast regarding the murder of their mother. Is this the same person who is watching them? What are their motives? What is their plan? There are plenty of red herrings in the plot to throw you off scent and I guarantee that your gaze will flit from one suspect to another over the course of the book, but I doubt you will guess what is really behind the whole thing. I certainly didn’t see the ending coming and was shocked by what unfolded in the final chapters.

I did really feel sorry for poor Molly, alone and trying to make ends meet whilst looking after an ungrateful sister, working through some complicated emotions and worrying about the strange things going on in the house. However, despite this, she does make some odd and unwise decisions. I’m not sure I’d be dragging myself to a remote house whilst there is a murderer on the loose!

I really enjoyed this book by Lynda Stacey. It took me no time at all to whizz through it, as I was thoroughly entertained by the plot and the characters. The only slight niggle I had was the amount of chin cupping that went on in the book, which I am not sure actually happens that regularly in real life. If this is the only fault you can find to point out in a book when you are looking for something to balance a review, it’s probably safe to say that it is a great read! I highly recommend adding it to you TBR this summer.

No Place Like Home is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire,

Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for almost 30 years.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

Blog Tour: Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley #BookReview

Blooming Murder

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey 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.

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MURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.

Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?

This is the first book in a new cosy mystery series featuring, Aldermaston, the Marquess of Mortiforde. Mortiforde is a small market town on the Welsh borders and, at the start of the book they are taking part in the annual border towns flower competition, which they have lost the past fourteen years in a row. This year, they are desperate to break their duck, but someone in their rival town of Portley Bridge seems equally determined to stop them, even to the extent of murdering prominent citizens involved in the campaign. There is something very fishy going on, and Aldermaston is determined to get to the bottom of it.

This book is very, very funny. It is the literary equivalent of slapstick, where one ridiculous thing happens after another in the quest to win the accolade of most blooming market town. I mean, the whole premise if ludicrous, that people would be prepared to murder over a gardening competition, which makes it funny from the off. Of course, there is much more to the story than that, involving dark deeds and money, so the plot goes on convoluted twists and turns that make the story more and more ludicrous, which is all part of the fun. We do get to the bottom of who has been carrying out the murders and why at the end, but by this time we barely care, because we’ve had so much fun along the way. 

The best thing about the book are the characters. The author has created a cast of the most unusual and entertaining characters you can think of in this book. Aldermaston, newly made Marchioness of Mortiforde, is a reluctant inhabitor of the title and seems a little out of his depth through much of the book. His wife, Felicity, has been taken unexpectedly from her old life and thrust into society, where she is uncomfortable and unfulfilled. She makes a new friend in Letitia, who is my favourite character in the book and has set some old lady goals for my life for sure. Lisa and Mark are a great couple of supporting characters who I look forward to seeing more of, Lisa playing a kind of Watson to Aldermaston’s rural Sherlock. The villains are suitably ruthless, there are some other great cameos (‘Hortie’ being a particular highlight), and they all get up to some fabulous shenanigans.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is a piece of ridiculous, riotous fun. If you are a fan of Midsomer Murders, with it pretty settings, eccentric characters and bizarre and convoluted murders, you will absolutely love this novel. I am really looking forward to the next in the series and can recommend this as a great few hours’ entertainment.

Blooming Murder is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book for alternative opinions:

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About the Author

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Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Connect with Simon:

Website: https://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/

Facebook: Simon Whaley Author

Twitter: @simonwhaley

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