Blog Tour: In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton #BookReview

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This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more…

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is only a short novella, that took me a scant eighty minutes to read, but what a lot the author managed to pack in to the pages. Pretty much all of human life is here, as we explore the life of Ted and Rene over the course of half a century. From the dance halls of post-war Morecambe to the modern day, the book explores the nuts and bolts of the marriage of two ordinary people living in the confines of an isolated, seaside town.

The book does not run in a linear format, but dodges about through the relationship, between the perspectives of Ted and Rene and other important figures in their lives and the life of the town of Morecambe. Despite this, the book is not at all confusing, but works perfectly to illustrate the changing relationship and feelings that Ted and Rene have for one another over the course of fifty years.

This book is all about relationships, their complexities and mercurial nature, ever-changing over the course of a lifetime, as both internal and external factors but different pressures on them at different times. The feelings of the couple ebb and flow like the tides in Morecambe Bay, which provides the constant backdrop to their evolving lives, and the changing seasons and moods and fortunes of the town echoing the shifts in the moods of their marriage, the sadness coming from the fact that the times the two of them seem to be in synch are rare and fleeting.

The book felt so honest to me, so truly reflective of so many people’s lives, full of disappointment and compromise, with small moments of joy and shared triumph, but all the same looked back on through rose-tinted spectacles when it is over and viewed very differently by outsiders than those living within it. Right from the beginning, we see through the individual thoughts of Ted and Rene that they have not entered this marriage on the back of a grand passion, and this somewhat sets the tone. Their life is not filled with terrible disasters, but small sorrows, the like of which we all suffer, made sadder by their inability to address them from the same page. Overall, the feeling for me is one of melancholy, and I wonder how many people go through their lives in this way – probably many more than we realise.

This was a really beautiful story, told with understanding, tenderness and a deep empathy. I found the writing really moving, and I came away from the book feeling like I had read something profoundly truthful and illuminating. Triumphal.

The Sweep Of The Bay is out now and I can recommend highly enough that you buy it here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

Cath Barton. Author pic. Feb 2020

Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. She also writes short stories and flash fiction and, with her critical writing, is a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review. In the Sweep of the Bay is her second novella. 

Website: https://cathbarton.com/

Facebook: Cath Barton

Twitter: @CathBarton1

Publisher Website: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/cath-barton

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Book Review: 337 by M. Jonathan Lee

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337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens.

It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note. While their father pays the price of his mother s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby.

Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth. Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.

I’m delighted to be one of the bloggers chosen to review the new book by M. Jonathan Lee in advance of its publication on 30 November. 337 is a tightly wound family drama, and I want to thank the publisher, Hideaway Falls, for providing me with an advance copy of the hardback for review.

Curiously, this book has a unique, double-ended, upside down format, so you can choose to begin reading from the front or the back. How and why this works, well, you’ll have to buy the book to find out. But, be warned, the double-ended upside-down opening for this book is available in books ordered in hard copy from UK booksellers only!

337 follows the story of, and is narrated by, Samuel Darte. Samuel is a lonely man who lives by himself in his old family home, works a job from home with minimal interaction with the outside world and doesn’t seem to have any friends. Why he ended up in this place is revealed as the book goes on, but it all stems back to the day his mother disappeared when he was a teenager. This is a story of how a single event can cause the lives of a family to completely unravel, and what can bring them back together again.

In some ways this is a small book. The action takes place in only two locations, inside Samuel’s childhood home, and the nursing home half a mile away where his estranged grandmother is dying. However, despite its limited location, this book ranges far and wide in its exploration of human emotion and the finite setting only serves to throw into relief the vast scope of feeling that Samuel experiences over the course of the novel, accentuating how he has chosen to limit his external environment in an effort to control his unbounded inner turmoil.

In addition to having a limited setting, the book also features very little actual action, as you would expect in a book that moves between only two locations and has a very small number of characters. However, rather than restricting the scope of the novel, this again serves to allow the reader to become deeply involved in the lives and psychological development of the characters, Samuel in particular. The author delves deep into the effect that the loss of his mother, and the events that followed on from her disappearance have had on Samuel, so that the reader feels that they are living this experience with him. I went through every emotion whilst reading this book, there is sorrow, humour, anger, love, pain, it is quite the rollercoaster. The author has really poured his heart onto the page, and you can feel every beat through his flowing, easy prose.

This is a book where perception is all, and it changes throughout the book. Perception of Samuel and his brother as to what is happening in their family, of their father and grandmother and their reactions to their mother’s disappearance, and of their grandmother as she lays dying. The perception of outsiders of their family in the aftermath of their mother’s vanishing, including friends, neighbours, police and society at large. The perception of the reader as we travel through the book and more and more facts are revealed – a perception that continues to change until the very last line of the novel. It is a lesson in how things are not always what they seem, how judgements based on limited facts are unwise and often wrong, and how we can never really know what goes on inside the hearts and minds of other people, even those who are closest to us. It is a book that will make the reader think about how we jump to conclusions about people, and how hard it is to change those once we have settled on them, unfair as that may be. But there are circumstances in which our minds can be changed, as Samuel finds out when confronted with his grandmother on her deathbed.

This is a very clever and unique book. It will not fit easily into any genre or niche you may be looking for, but it is a book that is definitely worth picking up and giving some time to. It really explores what it means to be a human, and the complex feelings and emotions we are confronted by day to day, simply by virtue of living in this world amongst other people, and how impossible it is to cut ourselves off from those emotions and connections, however hard we might try. And why, regardless of how hard it is, we shouldn’t want to.

I thought this book was really beautiful and surprising, although perhaps not in the way I expected. Vey different to anything else I have read this year. An intelligent novel.

337 is out on Monday and you can pre-order your copy here.

About the Author

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Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted author who was born Yorkshire where he still lives today with his two children.

His debut novel, The Radio was shortlisted for The Novel Prize 2012. He has spoken in schools, colleges, prisons and universities about creative writing and storytelling and appeared at various literary festivals including Sheffield’s Off the Shelf and Doncaster’s Turn the Page festival.

His second novel, The Page was released in February 2015.

His much anticipated third novel, A Tiny Feeling of Fear was released in September 2015 and tells the story of a character struggling with mental illness. All profits from this novel are donated to charity to raise awareness of mental health issues. This was accompanied by the short film, Hidden which was directed by Simon Gamble and can be seen here.

In 2016, he signed for boutique publishers, Hideaway Fall and his fourth novel Broken Branches was released in July 2017, winning book of the month in Candis magazine for September.

He is a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness and writes his own column regularly for the Huffington Post. He has recently written for the Big Issue and spoken at length about his own personal struggle on the BBC and Radio Talk Europe. His fifth book, the critically acclaimed Drift Stumble Fall was released in Spring 2018.

Connect with Jonathan:

Website: https://www.mjonathanlee.com/

Facebook: M Jonathan Lee Author

Twitter: @MJonathanLee

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Blog Tour: The Chalet by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

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French Alps, 1998

Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.

20 years later

Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.

Someone knows what really happened that day.

And somebody will pay.

Delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Chalet by Catherine Cooper today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Often in publishing you find books with a similar theme being published around the same time. Having recently reviewed One by One by Ruth Ware on the blog, also set in a ski chalet, one might wonder whether it is also worth reading The Chalet. However, the two books are quite different in plot and style and, as a reader, I took something quite different from each.

This is a story with multiple timelines, split in to three different parts. Firstly are the events of 1998, in the ski resort of La Madiere, France, where a young man goes missing on a ski run in a blizzard. We then return to La Madiere in the present day when four people find themselves caught up in events from the past that they thought were long buried. In the middle of the book is a section of unconnected happenings that might eventually connect the two timelines. The author does a skilful job of weaving the two timelines together, revealing little pieces of information throughout the plot, and keeping us straight as to who is narrating, as the book switched between characters – this is no mean feat.

It has to be said that there are a lot of very unlikeable characters in this book. Some so much so, that you are actually willing awful things to happen to them. The author was very clever at throwing the reader off the scent very early on, so that for at least half of the book I had no idea how the people in the two separate timelines were related to one another or the mystery of the skier’s disappearance at the beginning. In the final third, I had my suspicions about who was behind the mystery, but there were still other revelations that came as a shock, and one further red herring that made sure I was not one hundred per cent sure who had done what until towards the end. Overall, the book kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

The wintery setting of the ski resort and the luxury chalet was well set up, it really transported me to the Alps and the whole skiing experience. I thought the way the author threw one of the characters into a ‘fish out of water’ scenario was interesting and very believable, she was one of only two characters I had much sympathy for by the end. The fact that I remained interested in a book where so many of the characters were deeply unpleasant is testament to the author’s writing and skill in plotting. This is a very strong debut and I greatly look forward to reading more by this exciting new author.

This book is highly recommended for anyone who loves a book set in an exotic locale, with tales of violence, loss and revenge and a twisty, turny mystery at its heart.

The Chalet is out now and you can buy your copy here.

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

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About the Author

Catherine Cooper Author Pic

Catherine Cooper is a journalist specialising in travel, hotels, and skiing who writes regularly for the Telegraph and the Guardian among others. She lives near the Pyrenees in the South of France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier. The Chalet is her debut novel.

Connect with Catherine:

Website: http://www.catherinecooperauthor.com/

Facebook: Catherine Cooper Author

Twitter: @catherinecooper

Instagram: @catherinecooperjournalist

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Blog Tour: Problems With Girls by Kelly Creighton #BookReview

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Where are the young women here? Can you even see them?

After taking some leave, DI Harriet Sloane comes back to work at Strandtown PSNI station, East Belfast, to be faced with a murder case. A young political activist has been stabbed to death in the office of a progressive political party where she works as an intern.

The killer seems to have a problem with girls, and is about to strike again.

I am delighted to be posting my review today of Problems With Girls by Kelly Creighton as part of the book’s blog tour. My thanks to the author for inviting me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is my first book by this author, although it is the second book featuring DI Sloane. Not having read the first book featuring this character did not detract from my understanding or enjoyment of this novel. In fact, there were a couple of shocking moments in this book which probably would not have stopped me in my tracks the way they did if I had been privy to more of Sloane’s back story. It did make me want to go back and read the first book though.

The story involves a lot of seemingly disparate goings on in East Belfast that may or may not be connected to the murder of a young political activist which is the crime central to the book. There is a whole parade of suspects, with a variety of motives and no clear path to a solution. To be honest, at times, the whole plot was really confusing because it was impossible to see how the crime could be solved without any obvious clues to the perpetrator. It did mean the book was totally gripping, because I was desperate to see how the author was going to untangle all the strands and tie it up. It looked for a large part of the book like a hopelessly knotted ball of wool that would never get sorted out within the confines of the pages.

Of course, it does get resolved in the end, and I was glad that my suspicions about one of the characters turned out to be true, it made me feel a bit like Miss Marple, a thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to any crime novel. I did have one complaint about the book, which was that the final showdown between Sloane and the antagonist was wound up far too quickly, and deflated the tension for me a little. I’d have liked more of a life-or-death, prolonged tussle please!

One of the great strengths of this book is the exploration of Sloane’s family life outside of the investigation. It really portrayed the struggle that working mothers have, balancing job and career in the modern world, accurately and with sympathy. This is particularly difficult in careers where the hours are erratic, and in traditional communities where women can be looked down upon for neglecting their motherly ‘duties.’

In fact, the exploration of modern feminism, and how it is still a constant struggle in certain communities and sectors, is the main theme running through this book. Here, women who are seen to be pushing back against patriarchal restraints and doing things that are traditionally unfeminine, and then end up as victims are blamed, subject to male rage or disbelieved by many. The protagonist and her colleagues are seen to be taking a stand against these attitudes, in the wake of protests in Northern Ireland and the Repeal the Eighth vote in the Republic. It is a topical plot line well handled and a timely wake up call for those in society who insist that women now have equality and there is nothing further to be done.

This is a fast-moving and intricately plotted crime novel that will please any fans of the genre. The author is skilled at creating character and place, and imbuing the novel with a real sympathy for the players. I came away from the book feeling quite sad. Sad for the victims of the crimes, sad for Sloane and the position she finds herself in, and just for women in general who are still having to struggle for basic human rights and respect in certain parts of the world. I’m not sure I’ve read a crime novel that has left me feeling this way before.

Problems with Girls is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Kelly Creighton is a creative writing teacher and the author of the DI Sloane novels, as well as the psychological thriller ‘The Bones of It’. She also writes short stories, having edited short story journal The Incubator for years.
Creighton published her first short story collection ‘Bank Holiday Hurricane’ to critical acclaim. She lives in Co Down, Northern Ireland.
Connect with Kelly:
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Blog Tour: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright #BookReview

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1928

The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.

Present Day

The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright. Huge thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I am an absolute sucker for any book set around a circus. They have always fascinated me, and something that encapsulates childhood magic and fantasy, a feeling we all love to revisit when jaded adulthood and life stress gets us down. I barely even read the blurb for this, I just saw the title and the cover and said ‘sign me up.’

It’s my own fault then that the book wasn’t at all what I was expected! For some reason, I had got into my head that this was some kind of middle-grade, circus-set murder mystery. How wrong I was ! It was something much darker and more complex, a deeply nuanced novel exploring love, family, stigma, and finding oneself through independence. I absolutely blooming loved it.

This is a dual timeline novel, set in the small town of Bluff River, Wisconsin. The narrators are Pippa Riley, a young woman living in the town in 1928. She is an abandoned child of the circus, taken in by the rich owners and brought up as their daughter. Pippa finds herself irresistibly drawn back to the circus and the mystery of her parentage. But the circus can be a dangerous place to be for young women these days…

The second narrator is Chandler, a single mother struggling with parenthood, holding down a job and the ravages of an autoimmune disease. A troubled relationship with her own family leads to a sense of isolation, and she is wary of the friendly approaches of locals in Bluff River, where she has been sent to formulate development plans for the old railway terminus and other buildings connected to the long-defunct circus. But mysterious discoveries and strange goings on mean she has to team up with a handsome stranger to solve a decades-old mystery.

The lives of the two women have so many parallels across the years. Pippa is living at a time of new opportunities for women, but conservative societies are resisting their emancipation, and Pippa is struggling to balance her strict upbringing against her desire to embrace this newly-minted era of female liberation. Chandler is determined that her own independence will not be undermined by her illness or her single-parenthood, and she hides her struggles from everyone in fear of having restrictions placed on her by those who care about her. The book explores the complex dynamics of family and the struggles of women to balance the expectations and judgements of society with their own needs and desires. These dilemmas have not changed much for women over the centuries, and it is something we can all relate to.

The book also explores they way society views and treats people it views as different or abnormal, and how the circus became a refuge for misfits and loners. Often ridiculed as exploitative and voyeuristic, this book explores the idea that it actually provided a place of understanding and companionship for those on the fringes of society. It is a fascinating dichotomy that the author explores with interest and sympathy.

On top of this, there is a fascinating and quite terrifying murder mystery to be solved. A serial killer known as The Watchman seems to be stalking the circus, but years later, the community is questioning whether the real culprit was identified at the time and whether the stigma his descendants have carried through the years has been placed on the correct shoulders. The idea of disparate relations of a serial killer carrying the tarnish of their ancestor’s actions through the years is sad, but used to great effect for the plot of this novel and I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of the story. The author weaves the two timelines together with great skill, slowly uncovering the truth across the years, and I was on the edge of my seat by the end, in both the 1920s and the present day!

The prose is richly textured, evocative and an absolute joy to read. It is one of those books that you can get totally lost in, so effective is the author in constructing the time and place in which she has set the novel. I was drawn through the book effortlessly, not wanting to break off and destroy the fictional bubble in which I has been ensnared by her skill. As soon as I had finished the book, I wanted to go and pick up her other novels and see if I could get that feeling back again. This was my first book by Jaime Jo Wright, but it definitely will not be the last. Oh, the joy of discovering a great new author with a back catalogue on which you can binge, is there any greater pleasure for an avid reader?

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus is out now and you must absolutely get you copy here.

About the Author

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Jaime Jo Wright is the author of five novels, including Christy Award winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She’s also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her cat named Foo, her husband Cap’n Hook, and their littles, Peter Pan, and CoCo. 

Connect with Jaime:

Website: https://www.jaimewrightbooks.com/

Facebook: Jaime Jo Wright

Twitter: @jaimejowright

Instagram: @jaimejowright

Pinterest: Jaime Jo Wright

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Blog Tour: Crime and Justice by Martin Bodenham #BookReview

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What if we could no longer trust DNA profiling, the silver bullet of our criminal justice system? For years, we’ve relied on it to solve decades-old crimes, convict the guilty, and liberate the innocent from death row. But what happens to that trust when a crime lab scientist is leaned on to manipulate the evidence or, worse still, lose it altogether?

Ruthless Seattle mayor, Patti Rainsford, announces her candidacy for state governor. She’ll do anything to succeed. When her son is arrested for the rape and assault of a seventeen-year-old girl, Rainsford’s political career is in jeopardy.

Detective Linda Farrell is assigned to investigate. After twelve years working in SPD’s sexual assault unit, her career is drifting, not helped by the single-minded detective’s contempt for police protocol and the pressure of her failing marriage. The high-profile rape case is a rare chance to shine and maybe even get her life back on track. Nothing will stop her seeking justice for the young victim.

With a mountain of personal debt and his wife’s business on a knife-edge, Clark Stanton is facing financial meltdown. Then a stranger offers him a lifeline in return for a favor. As the manager of Seattle’s crime lab, all Clark has to do is make the rape kit evidence against the mayor’s son go away.

I am delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour today for Crime and Justice by Martin Bodenham. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The action in this book kicks off from the very first page when Clark Stanton, manager of the Seattle crime lab, is approached by someone with unwelcome demands, and the reader is forced to ask themselves from the beginning, what would you do in this situation. Clark is put in a seemingly impossible position, with no good choices open to him.

I have to say, to begin with, I wasn’t one hundred per cent convinced by the path that Clark decides to take. I could see what the author was trying to do to convince the reader that what he did was reasonable under the circumstances, but I’m not sure he was totally successful in my case. However, if you can put this aside and try and suspend your disbelief as I did, what follows is a rollercoaster ride of action as Clark tries to dig himself out of the hole he has got himself into, while other people fight for justice, or to avoid being brought to justice, depending on their perspectives.

There are a lot of morally dubious characters in this book, in fact they outweigh the ones who are obviously likeable, which makes for an interesting dynamic in the novel. The most sympathetic characters in this novel are the minor ones, the ones who actually have very little voice and are the ones who end up suffering the most as a result of the protagonist’s actions. They were the ones, by the end, who had my thoughts, and I was left feeling saddened for them and the justice they never received.

And this is the main theme of the book. What is justice, and what is it reasonable to do in order to seek it? What lengths can a moral person go to in order to seek justice, and is doing morally dubious, or even downright illegal, things justified if it sees wrong-doers punished in the end? Do the ends justify the means? Would it be better for criminals to go free to spare innocent people pain and suffering, or is the sacrifice of innocents an acceptable side effect in the pursuit of justice? These are dilemmas that have taxed humans for centuries, and I’m not sure everyone will come up with the same answer after reading this book, but it gives the reader food for thought.

The other idea explored here, how far we should trust the conviction of people based purely on DNA evidence when it can easily be manipulated by unscrupulous humans, is also interesting, and I don’t think there is a good answer. It will make you ponder, if you are like me, how we do insure that the criminal justice system is as infallible as it can be, when it has to rely so heavily on the actions of humans who can make mistakes, or who are blinded by bias, prejudice, or open to outside manipulation. If you think about it for too long, it could give you sleepless nights, but I’m not sure that anyone has come up with a better alternative yet.

This book is a gripping thriller, with plenty of moral dilemmas for the reader to chew on, and lots of action to keep the plot rolling along. If the author has to perform some contortions in justifying the motivations of his main character to set up the premise for the book, most readers will probably find this a minor price to pay for a cracking read.

Crime and Justice is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for other reviews and other great content:

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About the Author

Martin Bodenham - Author

Martin Bodenham is the author of the crime thrillers The Geneva Connection, Once a Killer, and Shakedown. Crime And Justice is his latest novel.

After a thirty-year career in private equity and corporate finance in London, Martin moved to the west coast of Canada, where he writes full-time. He held corporate finance partner positions at both KPMG and Ernst & Young as well as senior roles at several private equity firms before founding his own private equity company in 2001. Much of the tension in his thrillers is based on the greed and fear he witnessed first-hand while working in international finance.

Connect with Martin:

Website: https://www.martinbodenham.com/

Twitter: @MartinBodenham

Instagram: @martinbodenham

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Book Review: Love in Lockdown by Chloe James

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Do you believe in love before first sight?

Lockdown is putting Sophia’s life on pause – just as she planned to put herself out there and meet someone. When the first clap for the keyworkers rings out around her courtyard, she’s moved to tears for all kinds of reasons.

Jack is used to living life to the fullest. He’s going stir-crazy after just days isolating. Until the night he hears a woman crying from the balcony under his. He strikes up a conversation with the stranger and puts a smile on her face.

Soon their balcony meetings are the highlight of Jack and Sophia’s days. But even as they grow closer together, they’re always kept apart.

Can they fall in love during a lockdown?

This book was reviewed at the request of the author. I received a digital copy via NetGalley, so my thanks go to Avon Books for supplying the book for review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I am sure there are going to be a proliferation of romance novels set during these strange lockdown times we have been suffering over the last nine months and, I have to say, it was with some trepidation that I approached this book. I am not a fan of gimmicky books that are written just to take advantage of a current trend, they often lack in any passion or conviction. Having just finished Love in Lockdown by Chloe James, wiping tears from the corner of my eyes, I am delighted to say that this is definitely not one of those books and I absolutely loved it.

The book follows the stories of Sophia and Jack who live above one another in a block of flats. They have never met but, as the UK goes into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, they introduce themselves during the Thursday night ‘Clap For Carers,’ and things move on from there. The question is, is it possible to fall in love with someone whom you’ve never seen.

The author has done an absolutely fantastic job of capturing a lot of the tiny things that became symbolic of the pandemic and the unique times we are currently living in. The sense of isolation, but also the new community spirit and idea of caring for others that has grown up out of necessity in recent months. All of the familiar goings on are here – the difficulty of getting supermarket delivery slots, lack of flour, trying to explain Zoom to the elderly generation, NHS rainbows, the importance of pets, antibaccing your shopping, bad haircuts, socially-distanced weddings, furlough, and everything else that is the new normal. Does anyone even remember what the world used to be like?

Despite the fact that she has shoehorned all of this into the book, it never feels contrived or unnecessary. The writing is done in such a sympathetic and understanding way that it is very difficult to believe this book was written while lockdown was going on, and not with the benefit of some distance from the experience. I am amazed that she has managed to achieve such balance and beauty in the writing in these circumstances; there is no doubt that the author is very talented.

There were so many really touching moments in the book that moved me to tears, and other moments of real humour. It is a very uplifting book, which I wasn’t expected, mired as we in this as an ongoing problem and something that is causing so much anguish still. I know that for many people it is going to be too soon to be reading about the situation in a piece of fiction, it is still too close and raw a pain, but if you do want to read a novel set in this time, you won’t do much better. If you are a fan of books such at Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare, this has a similar feel and I am sure you would enjoy this.

Love in Lockdown was an unexpected, positive pleasure and I would not hesitate to recommend it to romance fans everywhere.

Love in Lockdown is out as an ebook on 23 November, and in paperback in March 2021, and you can pre-order your copy here.

About the Author

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Chloe James is a pseudonym for Fiona Woodifield whose debut novel, ‘The Jane Austen Dating Agency‘ was published in February 2020.

Fiona writes uplifting romantic comedies. When not to be found with her head in a book, she is usually out in the countryside enjoying the changeable British weather with her family and three dogs.

Connect with Chloe:

Website: https://fionawoodifield.co.uk/

Facebook: Fiona Woodifield

Twitter: @FionaWoodifield

Instagram: @f.woodifield

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Book Review: Silent Night by Nell Pattison

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What happened while they were sleeping?

A school for the deaf takes an overnight trip to the snowy woods. Five teenagers go to sleep, but only four wake up. Leon is missing, and a teacher’s body is found in the forest…

Sign language interpreter Paige Northwood is brought in to help with interrogations. Everyone at the school has a motive for murder – but they all have an alibi.

As Paige becomes increasingly involved, she suspects there’s something sinister going on. With the clock ticking to find Leon, only one thing is certain: the killer is among them, and ready to strike again…

My thanks to the publisher for my advance digital copy of this book, received via NetGalley for the purpose of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This is my first book by this author. I did see a lot of posts about the first Paige Northwood book, Silent Housewhen it came out earlier in the year but I never got round to reading it. However, the fact I hadn’t read the first book did not detract at all from my enjoyment of this one, although it did make me want to go back and read it to plump out the back story that is reprised briefly in this book.

From the title and cover, you might expect this to be a Christmas book, but it isn’t at all. It is a thriller set in the enclosed world of a school for the deaf. A child goes missing on a school residential trip, and a body of a teacher is found. The protagonist, Paige, is an interpreter brought in to assist the police in solving the crime within the close knit deaf community.

I have never read a book set within this world before and I thought it was absolutely fascinating and illuminating, shedding light on issues that many of us probably give very little thought to in our day to day lives if it is not something we are affected by directly. This is where novels come into their own, educating us without seeming to, which hopefully might give us all some additional insight and compassion into daily struggles we might otherwise unaware of.

I thought the author created a raft of really interesting characters in the novel and an intriguing dynamic. Watching the inter-play between the adult and teenage characters was gripping. You would assume that the children would prove to be the less reliable narrators, but this is not necessarily the case. There are also some interesting issues explored in the book, including recovering from abusive relationships and online child safety. Plenty of meat to get your teeth into here.

The plot was extremely twisty, I had absolutely no idea who was behind the crimes until the very end. If I had any criticisms, it might be that the novel was a little unevenly paced, with a flurry of frenetic action right at the end. There were also some decisions made by Paige in the story that frustrated me, because there didn’t seem to be any consistent logic behind them, other than to serve the plot. One minute she was revealing stuff to someone that she shouldn’t, the next failing to tell someone something that she should. However, this is really me nit-picking. On the whole, I enjoyed the book and the positives far out-weighed any minor niggles I may have. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a gripping thriller and is looking for something with a little more depth than the norm.

Silent Night is out now as ebook, paperback and audiobook and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Nell Pattison is the author of a crime thriller series featuring British Sign Language interpreter Paige Northwood. Her debut novel, The Silent House, was a USA Today bestseller.

After studying English at university, Nell Pattison became a teacher and specialised in Deaf education. She has been teaching in the Deaf community for 13 years in both England and Scotland, working with students who use BSL. Nell began losing her hearing in her twenties, and now wears hearing aids. She lives in North Lincolnshire with her husband and son.

Connect with Nell:

Facebook: Nell Pattison Author

Twitter: @Writer_Nell

Instagram: @writernell

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Publication Day: One By One by Ruth Ware #BookReview

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It’s finally here! It’s Publication Day for One By One by Ruth Ware, her fantastic new thriller. I am a massive fan of Ruth’s books, so I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to be part of the team promoting her latest novel. I want to thank Graeme Williams of Graeme Williams Marketing for the opportunity and Harvill Secker and Vintage Books for my advance copy of the novel, which I am reviewing for you today, honestly and impartially.

Have a very happy Publication Day, Ruth!

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Snow is falling in the exclusive alpine ski resort of Saint Antoine, as the shareholders and directors of Snoop, the hottest new music app, gather for a make or break corporate retreat to decide the future of the company. At stake is a billion-dollar dot com buyout that could make them all millionaires, or leave some of them out in the cold.

The clock is ticking on the offer, and with the group irrevocably split, tensions are running high. When an avalanche cuts the chalet off from help, and one board member goes missing in the snow, the group is forced to ask – would someone resort to murder, to get what they want?

I love to ski, but I’ve only ever stayed in ski hotels, in the heart of bustling resorts with lots of other cheery people and lively apres-ski activity. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to stay in an exclusive chalet, waited on hand and foot and with every luxury at your fingertips after a hard day on the slopes. Well, now I’ve read this book, oppressive, isolated and lonely are the words that spring to mind. I think I’ll stick to my cheap and cheerful accommodation!

Set in the tiny ski resort of Antoine 2000, the book opens with the two chalet hosts, Erin and Danny, setting up the luxury chalet for its latest guests, the management team of hip, music-sharing app, Snoop. The atmosphere begins off in a laid-back way, with Danny and Erin laughing and joking and relaxing in their surroundings, getting to enjoy the luxury themselves for a few hours. This all provides the reader with a false sense of warmth and security, which makes the flip to the nightmarish reality later in the book all the more horrifying.

Once the Snoop team arrive, it becomes clear that they aren’t an altogether pleasant bunch, and that there are tensions running rife through the group with regard to the running of the business and where it is headed. I loved the idea of Snoop, and being able to nosy in on what music other people are listening to in real time. Is this a little insight into who people really are, or would it make individuals feel they had to maintain a facade, even in their private time? This is an interesting theme explored in the book, the difference between the public face we choose to show the world, and who we really are underneath, what truths about ourselves are we hiding.

Anyone who has read any of Ruth’s books before will know that she is the queen of the page-turner. Her chapters are short and snappy, full of action, always driving the plot forward and it is so easy and tempting to read ‘just one more chapter, just one more,’ until your realise you haven’t looked up for a couple of hours and you are halfway through the book. There is always something at the end of one chapter that means you have to read the next, making the book very pacy and addictive. I could have read it in a single sitting, if sleep hadn’t got in the way.

I really loved One By One, it gave me everything I want from a gripping thriller. Fast-paced plot, oppressive atmosphere, clever set up that looks like it gives the protagonist no way out of their predicament, shocking turns of event, cleverly built and atmospheric location, secrets, lies, dilemmas, a mix of likeable and unlikeable characters and a shocking conclusion. I did have my suspicions about who was to blame for what was going on from quite early on, but this did not in anyway detract from my enjoyment of the book or the sense of tension built in the narrative. It is one of those books that you race through to get to the end because you have to know what happens, and then wish you could go back to the beginning and read it for the first time all over again. Excellent stuff.

One By One is out today in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats and you can buy a copy here.

Tonight I will be attending the online launch party for the book, so watch out for reports from that across my social media channels.

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About the Author

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Ruth Ware is an international number one bestseller. Her thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs Westaway, The Turn of the Key and One by One have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times, and she is published in more than 40 languages. Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.

Connect with Ruth:

Website: https://ruthware.com/

Facebook: Ruth Ware Writer

Twitter: @RuthWareWriter

Instagram: @ruthwarewriter

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Blog Tour: Carrion by Graeme Cumming #BookReview

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CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY. WORDS HAVE POWER.

A sheet of black filled his vision as hundreds of birds dived at the cottage, pointed beaks thrust forward. From this angle, he couldn’t see many of them striking it, but the few he did see held nothing back as they hammered into the shutter. The scale of the attack was beyond anything he’d seen or heard of. And bloodied casualties littered the ground: skulls shattered, wings broken, innards spilling from them. The fact that so many of them continued with the onslaught in spite of this filled him with even more dread.

Salin has always wanted an adventure and, when the opportunity presents itself, he grabs it with both hands, taking his friends along for the ride – whether they want to or not.

With strange lands come strange creatures that stand between them and their goal. And that goal is the same for someone else, a man who believes the prize is worth every sacrifice – especially when the sacrifices are made by others.

The future is about to change. But who for?

I am so delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour for Carrion by Graeme Cumming. My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Tours for giving me a place on the tour, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Let me tell you a little story. Two years ago, I agreed to take part in the blog tour for a book by an author I had never read before. I promptly failed to put the tour in my diary and blithely forgot all about it until the tour organiser emailed me the day after my post was due to ask me what had happened. This was the first time I had ever failed to post a review on time and I was absolutely mortified. I went and grovelled to the author, who was grace and charm personified, read and reviewed the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I made a new friend.

That book was Graeme’s last novel, Ravens Gathering (you can read my review here), and since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting Graeme in person. He comes across as the most mild, kind, unassuming person you could wish to meet. Which leads to the question, where the hell is the part of him that wrote this book hiding day to day?

This book is impossible to categorise. Is it horror? (Bits of it definitely are.) Is it fantasy? Is it a thriller? Is it some type of dystopian morality tale? Is it just all of these things mixed together? It is certainly unlike anything you will have read before. The closest I can get to describing it is Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones meets The Birds. It was completely outside my reading comfort zone, but I was thoroughly gripped from start to finish.

The book starts of very Hobbit-like with four people (?) setting off on some kind of quest. I wasn’t sure who they were to begin with, and for the first few chapters you have to concentrate quite hard to sort out who is who and what is going on, as the narrative jumps between quite a few different viewpoints, and there is no clear definition of who is doing what or why. Eventually, all is revealed, but you do need to stick with it to begin with until it shakes itself out. There is plenty of action to keep you occupied while the strands arrange themselves, and I found the book really gripping from the off, and it only got more and more so as it went along. By the end, the strain on my nerves was almost too much to bear, because I absolutely NEEDED things to work out a certain way, such was my absolute loathing for one of the characters, but I wasn’t sure it was going to end to my satisfaction.

The book is a visceral read. I know I referred to LOTR, but the violence level is definitely more George R. R. Martin than J. R. R. Tolkein. Graeme is not shy about bumping off what appear to be central characters, or people you have grown attached to, and he does it in some imaginatively gory ways. There is a strong element of horror in the book, particularly in the first half, and I felt this very strongly. It was oppressive and nerve-shredding, not a book for relaxing in the bath with for sure. If you want something to get the adrenaline pumping, this is it.

Graeme has done some fantastic world-building in this book, I could really picture the setting for the novel and completely bought into it. There are a lot of interesting ideas explored here, and some really well-constructed characters. He may have created the most hateful antagonist of any book I have come across in a long while, which has the effect of making the reader totally invested in the outcome of the quest. The whole thing came together very effectively, and I am really pleased for him, because I know this book has been a labour of love.

This book isn’t going to be for everyone, but it is very original, action-packed, immersive and evocative. I hope lots of people pick it up and experience it for themselves, because it is unlike anything else you will have read this year.

Carrion is out now and you can buy your copy here, if you dare!

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About the Author

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Graeme Cumming lives in Robin Hood country, and has spent most of his life immersed in fiction – books, TV, movies – turning to writing his own during his early teens.

With his interests in story-telling sparked by an excessive amount of time sitting in front of a black and white television, his tastes are varied.  Influences ranged from the Irwin Allen shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, etc.) to ITC series (The Saint, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) and so many more), so the common theme was action and adventure, but crossed into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as crime and espionage.

 This diverse interest in fiction continued with his reading and his discovery of the magical world of cinema.  As a result, his stories don’t always fall into a specific genre, but will always maintain the style of a thriller.

When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking.  He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club.  Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and loves the cinema.

Connect with Graeme:

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

Facebook: Graeme Cumming

Twitter: @GraemeCumming63

Instagram: @graeme_cumming_author

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