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Stranded by Stuart James - Blog Tour

Friday, October 23, 2020


Hello, welcome to my blog for my stop on the tour for Stranded by Stuart James. If you've never been here before please do have a look around my blog. I often read crime thrillers so there's plenty of reviews here for you to read. 

I was intrigued by the premise of this book, so signed up for the tour. I liked Ben and his family and I felt sympathy for them. The book is quite gory and grisly in parts and the ending really got to me!

Here's the book description:

A family trapped. A psychopath on the loose. Let the game begin…

What could be more innocent than going on holiday?

As a family drive along a quiet country lane on their way to the airport, they meet a stranger standing alone in the middle of the road.

Steering them along another path, he tells the driver, Ben, that a tree has fallen and there’s no way through.

But as they make their way along the diverted route, they come across a coach blocking the road.

Getting out of the car Ben goes to investigate and is horrified to find the passengers tied to their seats.

Then a discarded phone starts to ring…

If Ben calls the police, everyone on board will die.

Let the horrific game begin…


And here's the author's bio:

I have always loved scary stories, especially ones that shocked me, left me terrified, looking under my bed or in the wardrobe before going to sleep.

There was just a fantastic buzz whenever I watched or read something that took my breathe away.

I remember going to my nan’s house in Ireland as a youngster with my mother and sister, on the West Coast, staying in a cottage, surrounded by miles of fields and my family sitting around the table in the kitchen at night telling ghost stories. Going out and exploring derelict farmhouses in the middle of nowhere. I remember clearly the field at the end of the road was supposed to be haunted by headless nuns.

My cousins often remind me of the great times we had, frightening each other and running for our lives whenever we’d see something that didn’t look right.

This is why I love nothing more than to tell a story.

I started writing three years ago, penning The House On Rectory Lane which has just won The International Book Award in horror fiction. I got the idea from something that has often seemed scary to me. I know that a terrifying story has to be something that you’re frightened of doing, something that makes the hairs stand on the back of your neck, something that fills you with dread, yet also with excitement.

To me, the thought of going to a house in the middle of nowhere, upping and leaving a busy town and moving to the country is something that scares lots of people and me: the seclusion, the quiet, the darkness. That’s what inspired me to write my first novel.

My second thriller is called Turn The Other Way, which was a world wide number 1 best seller and stayed at number 1 for 19 weeks in the US.

I have multiple stories running, past and present. A family who want answers from the surgeon responsible for their daughter’s death. A young woman looking for her parents after they go missing from a party. A couple driving home and hearing screams for help from the back of the van in front of them. A serial killer on the loose in North London, dragging victims off the street.

I’m so grateful when people not only read my thrillers but also take the time to get in touch and leave a review. To me, that is the greatest feeling, hearing from people that have enjoyed my work. I know then that I’m doing something right.

My third thriller, Apartment Six, was published in January of this year and was a number 1 hot new release on Amazon for 4 weeks.

Stranded goes on pre-order Monday October 12th on Amazon and is released October 19th.

I’m 47, married and have two beautiful children. Currently, I’m a full-time plumber but would love nothing more than to make a living from my writing. I hope I write stories and people continue to enjoy them for years to come. That would be completely amazing and a dream come true.

stuartjamesthrillers.com

@StuartJames73

https://www.facebook.com/stuartjamesauthor/

Five Little Words by Jackie Walsh - Blog Tour and Review

Thursday, October 22, 2020



I'm thrilled to welcome you today to my blog for a stop on the tour for Five Little Words by Jackie Walsh! I previously reviewed The Secrets He Kept on this blog, so when the opportunity came up to read another of Jackie's books I jumped at it. 

Here's the description of the book:

Five Little Words... Can destroy your life

'Wowwow, wow, this book had me guessing all the way to the end!' ☆☆☆☆☆ Reader Review

When new mother, Laura Caldwell, opens the card dropped through her letterbox, she expected to see a heartfelt note, congratulating her on the birth of baby Shay.

Instead, she sees a message that makes her blood run cold. 'Your husband is a murderer.' It couldn’t be true, could it? Not Conor, her adoring husband. He couldn’t be behind the brutal killing of local barmaid, Vicky. Not him.

But while Laura fights to discover the truth about her husband, she’s also holding dark secrets of her own; secrets she’s spent years trying to hide. Could the card be a desperate attempt at revenge – or could her husband really be a murderer? There’s a tangled web between this perfect couple – and the truth might just destroy them...

Here's Jackie's bio:

Jackie Walsh lives in Dublin with her husband Paul and dog Layla. She is a member of the Irish Writers Centre and The Irish Crime writer’s group. After years spent building her own business she decided to take time out and pursue her interest in writing. With a lot to learn, Jackie attended classes, writing groups and travelled to lots of festivals and launches She secured a publishing deal with Hera Books who published Familiar Strangers and The Secrets He Kept in 2019 and Five Little Words in 2020.

Twitter: @JackieWalsh_ie


And here's what I thought:

I was intrigued by the premise, about a person who has just brought home her baby when she hears an accusation about her husband, so I signed up for this blog tour. I read this book while I was on holiday in September and it was perfect holiday reading. 

Laura is an outsider in the village. Conor is the heir to a brewing empire in a little town about an hour away from Dublin. I didn't like Conor much, I could truly believe he was a murderer! He didn't want to inherit the brewing empire, but the premature death of his dad, Seamus, who baby Shay is named after, meant he had to. Laura and he haven't known each other very long. Conor was seeing a girl called Olive, who still works for him at the brewery, when he met Laura, but broke it off when Laura was pregnant. He and Laura got married quite quickly and now obviously have a baby, but it starts to dawn on Laura that she doesn't know her husband at all really. 

They live in a big house and have an ex employee of the brewery, Pat, living on the grounds. Laura finds it difficult to fit into the house, to not feel like she's just a lodger there. She also struggles to get on with Conor's overbearing mother, Maggie. She used to live in the house and does somewhat treat it like her own still. Laura is desperate for just some time with Conor and Shay, but Maggie doesn't know where she's not welcome. 

As for the girl who was killed, Laura had only met Vicky a couple of times, as she was a local barmaid. She doesn't know of any relationship between Conor and Vicky, but now she's suspicious. Then there's Conor's best friend, Noel, who Laura doesn't trust. 

Laura is close to her sister, Amanda, who still lives in Dublin but who is a sympathetic ear for her, and a good auntie to Shay. Laura has secrets of her own, secrets about her painful past, which she hasn't yet shared with Conor, and now feels like she can't. 

I really liked the book - it kept me reading and was compelling. I loved the setting, I could imagine the house and village really well. I liked Laura and felt a lot of sympathy for her. I thought the set up was a good one and enjoyed the mystery. I'll definitely read something else by Jackie Walsh, I think she has a way of telling a story that I really like.

Please do check out the other stops on this tour! 

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons - Review

Sunday, October 18, 2020

 


I can't remember where I heard of this book, but it appealed to me and it was available in my library system, so I requested it to come to my local library and then picked it up. I haven't been in there since early March and it was quite weird. I could only walk one way round the library and a lot of the non fiction was jumbled up and in the wrong place. The reservations were on a shelf in the middle of the library. I did have a look at some other books, and wasn't sure if that meant they would need to be wiped or quarantined, so I left them out on the shelves in case they did need to be. I got my reservation and went to the desk, but the librarian couldn't touch the book, so I had to kind of reach under the screen between us so she could have access to the barcode. I find that quite odd really - if I'd known I wouldn't have put it on the desk but held it, open, but the librarian didn't tell me to do that. Oh well, I suppose it's just more weird things in this pandemic. The library was quite empty; I hope people do still use it so it doesn't get closed. 

Anyway, the book. It's set in the sixties and is about Juliet Montague and her children and family. At the beginning of the book she is turning thirty years old. She's got the day off from her job in her father's spectacle factory, so she goes from her home in Chislehurst into London and there she meets a painter, Charlie. She commissions a painting of herself from him.

She already had a painting of herself, aged nine, when an artist bartered a portrait of Juliet in exchange for some glasses with her father. But her husband, George Montague, took the painting with him when he disappeared on Juliet's birthday eight years earlier. George was a Hungarian war refugee and gambled away a lot of the family's money. When he took the painting he also took some money and some premium bond certificates. 

Juliet is from a Jewish family, and since George disappeared she is an aguna, a woman neither married nor divorced. She can't get a religious divorce because only men can divorce women in Judaism, but she's not free to start another relationship. She is more or less shunned by the community, and doesn't go to synagogue anymore. Her mother despairs, but her dad is very fond of her and becomes very proud of her.

Through Charlie, Juliet meets other artists and opens a galley in London to exhibit them. Over the years, she does better and better at this, much preferring the job to working for her dad. She meets ex war artist, Max, a reclusive figure with whom she starts a relationship - something which she asks the children to keep from their grandma. 

The book is told in vignettes, spanning maybe a year each. The book itself concentrates mostly on the sixties, but towards the end are parts from the 80s and the noughties. Juliet meets a succession of artists, all of whom want to paint her, and the stories of all these paintings are told within the chapters. I liked this - it's a good way to make a novel span so much time, and I liked most of the artists Juliet came into contact with, even if I felt like she was a bit of an unlikely muse. 

The first half of this book REALLY dragged for me. I can't really say why, but I wasn't enjoying it at all. My partner told me to read something else but I was determined to finish it. The second half picked up a lot. I liked the relationship between Juliet and Max, and I liked the odd point of view we got from Leonard, Juliet's son. I liked Juliet and sympathised with her, and didn't blame her for never going to shul with her dad. 

I liked the fact that the family were Jewish and how this impacted their lives and thoughts, but the book wasn't about them being Jewish per se. I liked all the little bits of the culture that were present in the narrative, and how Juliet often recognised this in other people. There's a brilliant bit with a character who has to be based on Brian Epstein, I loved him. 

I would read something else by Natasha Solomons for sure, even though I felt like the first half dragged here for me. I have recommended this book to my book group because I think a few people there would enjoy it. I'm giving it four out of five because the second half made up for a slow first half. 

A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby - Review

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


I had heard loads of good things about this book on Twitter so when I bought a bunch of books off Waterstones a few months ago I added this as I was intrigued and it was only a few quid. I knew it had fantasy elements which isn't usually my jam, but I was determined to keep an open mind. It turns out that I like fantasy when it is rooted in the modern world but has magical elements, and I don't really like ye olde worlde fantasy when the world is totally different. Now that I know that, I may well choose some more fantasy books to read!

Okay, so the main character here is Safiya. She is thirteen years old and at the beginning of the book lives with her dad. Her parents are divorced and her mum lives in a flat nearby. Her best friend is Elle. Elle and Safi's mum seem to have more in common than Safiya does; they go to the theatre and Safi misses out on buying tickets to a video game convention that she wants to go to. Later, Safiya and her mum have a huge argument and Safiya storms out. 

Then Mum has a stroke and ends up in a coma. Safiya is obviously devastated. She goes to visit her mum, and then slips into a kind of dream world. She's back in her mother's home in Kuwait, where the young Aminah grew up. Safi sees her mum's experiences as a young girl and as she does so begins to unlock more understanding about her mum.

At the same time, Safi's friendship with Elle is in trouble. Safiya has always been very much in Elle's shadow, very much the follower to Elle's leader, but then she learns how to stand up for herself. I loved this aspect of the book - it was so true to how friendship as a young teen is. When it hurts and you're growing, but growing apart. I loved this so much, as well as Safiya's new friends and how precious they were. 

Safiya's dad, James, is white, but her mum is from Kuwait and grew up in a Muslim family. This culture is depicted really richly and in a really beautiful way in the book. I don't know too much about Kuwait but I could picture it perfectly and really liked it. I liked how the narrative wound its way through Aminah's past and things that were precious to her, and how while these things were different to Safiya's interests but she still understood why they were precious - which again is something you have to learn about growing up. 

This is a sold middle grade novel with lovely fantasy elements and strong relationships. I loved the ending. I liked Safiya's relationships with both her parents. My only criticisms are from a writing point of view - there are a few continuity errors that I couldn't help but notice and which annoyed me! But I'm giving this four out of five. 

Fattily Ever After by Stephanie Yeboah - Review

Friday, October 9, 2020

 

As you may know, I am a fat woman, and I like to read books about fat people, both fictional and non fictional. I have a tag for the books I've read about fat people. Some are much better than others. I find it difficult when thin people write about us, because they often don't know what it's like to live in a fat body and they write about us in really grotesque ways (this is one of the reasons I hate Every Day by David Levithan...). So when a fat person writes a book about radical fat acceptance, I often buy it because I want to support that person, I want there to be more books by fat people, and I know that we are marginalised and need all the support we can get. 

I know OF Stephanie although I don't know her personally. She's a clothes blogger and we have several friends in common. I like her style, she always looks amazing. So when I saw that she was writing a book at her body and fatness and radical fat acceptance, I immediately ordered it. It arrived at the end of August and I picked it up almost immediately too. 

A lot of the political stuff isn't particularly new to me, but Stephanie wrote about it in a way that is really accessible for people to whom fat acceptance is a new concept. Stephanie writes about her experiences as a fat child and a fat adult, which I really liked. Plus, she's black, meaning there's an extra layer to her marginalisation, one that I have never experienced and never will and which I liked reading and learning more about. I liked Stephanie's careful dissemination of the intersections of fatness and race and how both have affected her life. She's younger than me, and came to fat acceptance in the early 2010s when she started her blog, which is slightly after me but the story of which really resonated with me. I liked reading about her journey and where she is now on her path, and how she encouraged others - especially fat black womxn - to walk alongside her. One thing I've learnt is that thanks to society and the media we are bombarded with anti-fat messages every day, and even though I am a confident person I sometimes get down about my body and have to remind myself why actually I am free to live my life however I see fit. Reading books like this is almost a medicine against all the fat shaming I encounter - it's like a little booster and I come away feeling positive and rejuvenised. 

The book is really colourful - there's lots of patterned pages and lots of pull out quotes printed big, which are both eye catching and serve as a radical manifesto for Stephanie and lots of us like her. There's also some truly gorgeous illustrations which add to the words gorgeously. Stephanie writes in a fun and funny way, meaning that while this book touches on a lot of radical concepts, it's not at all dry or academic. I really liked this book, and would recommend it to anyone! 

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield - Review

Monday, October 5, 2020


Where did I get it? I bought it a few weeks ago. I saw Kathryn talk about the book in one of the YALC at Home panels, and thought it sounded interesting, so bought it on eBay I think. 


What's it about? Ava is sent an invitation to attend some kind of gathering at a pier near her house which has been abandoned for years. The place burnt down and is now left alone by the locals, full of rumours about what happened there. Ava's invitation is basically blackmail - there's a photo on the front about a secret she has, and she doesn't know who else knows that secret. 

When she turns up, there are nine other teens there. One, Jolie, is her best friend, although the two of them have been growing apart recently and there's a lot of resentment between them. Another, Clem, is a really popular boy at school but he and Ava have been working together on a project with her photography and his music. They kind of had a thing, but it's fallen apart and Ava isn't too pleased to see him. Among the other teens are a posh boy called Teddy, an ice queen called Esme, and a boy called Noah who kind of mysteriously disappeared a year ago and hasn't been seen since. 

The pier appears to not be abandoned - there's lights and music and in every reflection there is a man. The old owner of the pier, Baldo, was a magician, and his assistant, Whispers, is the man who appears in the reflections. He can also get into people's heads, and he suggests that each of the teens kill the others in order to protect their secrets. 

Now, I will say a couple of things. Firstly, in reading some reviews of this book, I saw that a few people didn't realise it was in the horror genre and thought there would be some physical explanation for the supernatural happenings. That's an easy mistake to make and I have to say I veered towards wondering that a few times - I hoped someone would be behind it and there would be a rational explanation. As it was, it is pure horror, and if you read that you should know that.

Secondly I felt like there were parts that were written really well, that were genuinely terrifying and which spooked me. There's a great bit with some mirrors that I really liked. But there's lots of bits which are probably supposed to be scary but which just turn out confusing. For instance, as Ava is a photographer, she keeps taking photos. As time goes on, it becomes evident that time is behaving strangely, and there's photos on the camera that Ava doesn't remember taking. Tha's really scary! I love that! But there's no resolution to it, it's baffling as to why it happens, and as a reader it left me unsatisfied. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I think the premise is great but there was a lot going on and too much left unfinished. It took me a week to read this which is unbelievable for me, but it just wasn't gripping me. 

I also thought some of the secrets the teens were being blackmailed with were ridiculous. A few made sense but at least one left a bad taste in my mouth, too 


What age range is it for? 14+ 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, although it's not really a focus


Are any main characters people of colour? I don't think so 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think there's some mental health stuff going on with at least a couple, which could have been expanded upon and I'm sad it wasn't. 


Is there any sex stuff? No 


Are drugs mentioned or used? They're mentioned, and used, but again this was kind of said in passing and not unpacked enough for me. 


Is there any talk of death? Yes, and actual deaths, some of which are graphic. 


Are there swear words? No I don't think so
 

What criticisms do I have? I think I've been quite critical and I'm sad about it because I wanted to really like this book 


Would I recommend the book? Honestly, no 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I had such high hopes for it! 

 

What do I think of the cover? I like it, I think it's eyecatching. I will say also that I don't quite understand the title. Good girls don't seem to really.... die first? I was expecting the title to link in a bit more. 

 

What other books is it like? I don't know any 


How many stars? Three out of five. I will give the author another go, though! But this one just didn't hit it for me. 

Expectation by Anna Hope - Review

Monday, September 28, 2020

 


This book was my book club choice for September. We did The Ballroom by Anna Hope several years ago and I loved it, and I really liked Wake by her when I read that last year too. So when I saw this was coming out too, I chose it for my choice this year. I started to read it towards the end of August. I had a long journey on the Thursday before the bank holiday, and was able to read a lot of this then as I was sitting in the back of the car. It reminded me of being young and reading all the time in the car when we were going somewhere. 

I posted a photo of the front cover of this book on my instagram, like I do with all books I read, and my friend Kathryn commented to say that she thought the story was nothing new but that the warmth for the characters was really good. And that's very much how I felt about it too. The story is one I feel like I've read a hundred times before, but I liked it and wanted to keep reading.

So basically it's about three women who are, in 2010 when the majority of the book is set, around 35/36 years old. The first is Hannah, who works for a charity and who owns a fab flat in London with her husband Nathan, a professor. She and Nathan have been unable to conceive a baby so Hannah is on her third round of IVF and feels quite desperate about wanting a baby. I liked Hannah and felt a lot of sympathy for her situation. 

The second of the women is Lissa, an actor. She has never quite made it big as an actor, and had a missed opportunity that she's sure would have been her big break. She lives alone in the basement flat of a house that all three women used to live in. She had a boyfriend years ago, a fellow actor called Declan, but hasn't had another relationship in quite a while. She was brought up by an eccentric artist mother who she finds difficult to deal with. 

Finally is Cate. She has just moved to Canterbury with her husband Sam and baby, Tom. She and Sam had a bit of a whirlwind relationship and ended up married with Tom on the way very quickly. Cate is suffering from some kind of post natal depression, and feels like she doesn't really know her husband. His overbearing family live in Canterbury and Cate feels smothered by them (and they annoyed me!). She meets Dea, a woman who also has a small child, and the two become friends.

Hannah and Cate were childhood friends, although they came from very different families. Hannah met Lissa at university in London and Cate was somewhat jealous about this. There are little parts of this past interspersed within the book. 

I liked all three women and felt sympathy for all of the paths that they'd each ended up on and the ways that these paths had not lived up to their expectations. However, I didn't feel like this was a revolutionary novel in any way. Hannah is from a working class family and I felt there was some snobbery around this. She owns a flat in London but there's no explanation as to HOW - she must be really rich for that to happen? Cate is kind of a snob and I didn't get why she hated Sam so much - he seemed like a decent guy with a strong work ethic. I liked Lissa the best, but her family background seemed quite cliched to me.

But, I am giving this four out of five as I did like it and found it compelling enough. I will still read anything else by Anna Hope, but I feel this is the weakest of her novels so far. 

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt - Review

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Recently I asked for any recommendations of books set in the American Deep South but that weren't about slavery - it's not that I don't think there are good books with that setting, but often they're written by white people, which is not what I'm after, and I'm also just kind of fed up of reading about the pain and suffering of black people. I got a couple of replies on Twitter asking me why I didn't want books about slavery, which is honestly just tiring, and I don't know why I had to explain myself. So I didn't.

Anyway someone recommended The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, and I knew that someone in my book club had read it recently so I asked if anyone had a copy. It turned out Margaret did, so I went to hers while I was in the area and picked it up. This book is HUGE, it's over 550 pages. For me, that's about twice the size of the books I usually read. It was hardback, too, which I find difficult to manoeuvre thanks to some mild arthritis in my fingers. However, I removed the dust jacket, which helps, and picked up the book after I'd finished the Elly Griffiths I was reading. 

I've never read anything by Donna Tartt and have always meant to. I'm assured I'd love The Secret History, but I've never got round to it. So I was pleased to pick this up. 

It's set in Mississippi in the early 1970s, although the time period could sort of shift and it took me a while to figure out when exactly it was set. It concerns the Cleve family, a white family who used to live in a big mansion called Tribulation, but who lost it thanks to the financial mismanagement of Judge Cleve. He had four daughters - Libby, Edie, Tatty, and Adelaide. They are, by the time of the book, aged between 65 and their early 80s. 

Edie has a daughter, Charlotte. At the beginning of the book she has three children - Robin, 9, Allison, 4, and baby Harriet, only a few weeks old. On Mother's Day in May the children are outside in the front yard and Robin is murdered. His body is left hanging on a tree. No one is ever caught, and the event causes Charlotte to fall into depression and the children's father, Dix, leave the state to live in Tennessee. 

Twelve years later, Harriet, now twelve, is obsessed with finding out what happened to Robin. Charlotte is still depressed and is usually in bed, so the girls are left to their own devices a lot. Allison, it seems, did witness something to do with Robin's murder and has been slightly unhinged ever since. She too sleeps a lot. Harriet is friends with a little boy, Hely, and the two of them run around the town doing basically whatever they want. 

Harriet manages to get some information out of Ida Rhew, their housekeeper, a black lady who is the closest thing Harriet really has to a mother. She says that Danny Ratliff was seen in the yard just before Robin died. Harriet becomes obsessed with Danny and wants to exact revenge upon him. 

Danny is now twenty one ish and lives in a trailer on the same compound as the rest of his family. He has several brothers - Farish, the eldest, has been in both prison and a mental hospital, and now cooks meth on the compound. He gets Danny to help him move it for sale. Eugene, another brother, was burned in an accident and is now a preacher. The youngest brother, Curtis, has learning disabilities. The boys live with their grandma, Gum. Eugene has a friend, who is also a preacher, who has a ton of venomous snakes that he uses in his preaching. It is here that the two stories converge. 

I loved the book, I thought it was so interesting, and it really has that southern gothic feel of too hot summer and vague menace that I was going for. I loved Harriet as a character and loved her family background. They were exactly what I was looking for. It took me nearly two weeks to read the book because it is so dense as well as long. But I loved it and am glad I persevered, and I'm giving it five out of five. 


The Postcript Murders by Elly Griffiths - Review

Sunday, September 20, 2020

I'm thrilled to be reviewing Elly Griffiths' new book, The Postcript Murders. I was granted an electronic copy for review, so thank you very much to Quercus Books for letting me read the book. I was not otherwise compensated for this review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

This book is the second in the Harbinder Kaur series. I reviewed the first, The Stranger Diaries, here on this blog. In it, I said that I thought Elly would write another book starring Harbinder, so I'm pleased to have been proven right. I like Harbinder a lot - she's mid 30s, a detective but not yet a DI, is gay, and lives with her parents. As a dutiful Sikh daughter, she's often left to cook and clean for the family. In this book her mother Bibi has an accident and needs a carer to come in each day - which comes in later. 

So, at the beginning of the book an elderly woman called Peggy Smith is found dead in her sheltered accomadation in Shoreham-by-Sea. She is found by one of her carers, Natalka, a young woman from Ukraine with a bit of a shady past. A heart attack is suspected, and her body is quickly cremated and all seems fine. However, her friend in the accomadation, Edwin, suspects something else has happened, as does Natalka. They learn that Peggy often helped out crime writers in thinking up ways to murder someone, and they learn there might be a clue in an old novel. They enlist the help of their friend Benedict, who owns a coffee shack on the seafront that they both frequent.

Authors including Dex Challoner and J D Monroe have given thanks to Peggy in their novels. Natalka goes to Harbinder with her suspicions over Peggy's death, and Harbinder questions Dex about the old lady. The next morning, Dex is found dead in his house on Millionaire's Row, shot in the head. The police think the two deaths are related.

Natalka, Edwin, and Benedict then all head off to Aberdeen, because J D Monroe and another off Peggy's authors, Lance Foster, are appearing at a literary festival there. Natalka has been followed by two mysterious men, who may be linked to her past. 

I loved the main characters. Natalka remained the most mysterious to me, but I really liked her spirit and the kind of person she was. Edwin used to work for the BBC and is gay, and there's some great storytelling around that. Benedict is an ex-monk and I loved him as a character - he was so interesting. I could have read a whole book about him.

As the book is about books and authors, it gets a bit meta in places. There's a lot of digs at authors and festivals and book bloggers and so on, all of which made it really funny to me. It's quite self-aware in that way which I liked. I raced through it, even though I broke off to read Death Sets Sail. I really hope Harbinder turns up again - and I hope that the friends she made in this book do too. I'm giving this four out of five.

The Postcript Murders will be published on 1st October 2020. 


Death Sets Sail by Robin Stevens - Review

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Nooooo it's the last of the Murder Most Unladylike books! We have to say goodbye to Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong! Nooooooooooo I'm not ready!!! I feel like we've all been waiting for this book for AGES, so as soon as it arrived on Friday the 7th of August I decided to pause the book I was reading (which is great and will be my next review!) and pick this up. I had read some of the blurb and spoilers for the book, and I feel like my review will be better if I share them here.

SO! IF YOU WANT NO SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK, CLICK OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!!!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!!!!!!

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are in Egypt, taking a cruise along the Nile. They are hoping to see some ancient temples and a mummy or two; what they get, instead, is murder.

Also travelling on the SS Hatshepsut is a mysterious society called the Breath of Life: a group of genteel English ladies and gentlemen, who believe themselves to be reincarnations of the ancient pharaohs. Three days into the cruise their leader is found dead in her cabin, stabbed during the night.

It soon becomes clear to Daisy and Hazel that the victim's timid daughter is being framed - and they begin to investigate their most difficult case yet.

But there is danger all around, and only one of the Detective Society will make it home alive...

So that's pretty conclusive, right? I knew that before I started reading and indeed, at the beginning of the book, Hazel is at Daisy's home, Fallingford, just a couple of days before Christmas, and she's there without Daisy. No one feels much like being festive, but Hazel knows she needs to write down everything that happened in Egypt. So she starts one of her casebooks...

A couple of weeks earlier, Daisy and Hazel set out with Amina to Egypt, where Amina is from. They have a nice few days in Cairo and then they board a Nile cruise ship. Also on board are Hazel's dad and younger sisters Rose and May. And then, very ODDLY obviously, George and Alexander from the Pinkerton Society turn up! 

The remaining guests are all adults, and are members of a strange society called The Breath of Life. They believe they are reincarnated souls of famous Egyptians like Cleopatra, and they have strange rituals to go alongside. Daisy and Hazel and the others watch the ritual one night. Afterwards, they go to bed, but in the morning, the head of the society, Theodora, is found murdered in her bed. 

The Detective Society get to work, helped by George and Alex and Amina and also May, Hazel's littlest sister. She is only six, and a total monkey, but she's managed to witness some very important things and the detectives need her help.

All of the rest of Breath of Life are prime suspects, plus Theodora's son, Daniel, who is extranged from his mother but has come on the trip anyway. Hazel comes up against her dad, but the truth is that both she and Daisy, now fifteen, are growing up and finding their own ways in the world.

It was so sad to read this book because it is the last one and I was really aware of that the whole way through. I loved the story, and I thought Robin really encapsulated the feel of Egypt and the Nile. As always, I loved her descriptions of food. I raced to the end because I was really desperate to know what happened and how the series would end. I started crying around page 363 and kept it up to the end. My partner was surprised because I NEVER usually cry at books. But it was so much! I was so sad! 

I'm thrilled to learn that May Wong will return in her own series of books in 2022, and I can't wait to see who pops up in a cameo then.... 


The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde - Review

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Where did I get it? I bought it a couple of months ago. I think I'd seen it recommended on Twitter, and I do love books about music, so I took a chance, I'm really glad I did! 

What's it about? Emmy King is the drummer in the hottest new band The Brightsiders. Based in LA, the band is huge and they should all be having the times of their lives. But Emmy is falling apart. Her girlfriend Jessie keeps making her do things she doesn't really want to do, and she's partying really hard. At the beginning of the book, the two are involved in an accident while drunk, meqaning Emmy's management are on her back, and she gets thrown out of the hotel in which she's been living. 

She has to move back in with her parents, who she really dislikes. They're both a mess of drugs and alcohol, and they have no money, and they're pretty abusive. . Emmy desperately wants to buy her own house, but she's not yet eighteen. She has tried to help her parents out with money, but they sell stories about her to the tabloids and tell her she's useless. Eventually, she goes to stay with her friend Chloe instead.

The other two band members are Alfie and Ryan. She's known both of them since they were young teens, and the three are close friends. However, on a trip with all their friends, Emmy and Alfie start some kind of relationship. They're intensely attracted to each other, but starting a relationship might mess up the whole band. 

Emmy has paparazzi after her constantly, waiting for her to mess up. Her fans are totally dedicated to her, though, so, feeling brave one night at a Pride show, she feels able to come out as bisexual. She then writes a song for their fans, which she wants to sing, but she needs to prove herself to their management before she's allowed.

Plus she and Alfie just keep making out!

The book is a fun story about being famous and all the pressures that entails. I loved Emmy and Alfie and Ryan, and all their friends. 

What age range is it for? 15+, due to some mature themes. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, lots. Emmy is bisexual, she has friends of other sexualities (and a really nice coming out from someone other than herself, which I won't spoil). Alfie is genderqueer (I LOVED HIM) and Emmy's BFF Chloe is nonbinary. There's a plethora of queer people included which I really liked. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yeah, Chloe is black I think. Ryan is Korean. Again, there's a diverse range of characters which do reflect LA currently.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I'm going to see that both Emmy and Alfie have mental health issues. 

Is there any sex stuff? No, not graphically. I liked the way this was done actually. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, mentioned, but I don't think used. There's some alcohol abuse though. 

Is there any talk of death? No. There is some violence though, it is graphic in parts. 

Are there swear words? Yep and I loved them, they were used so well and really fitted in the context especially in the music business.  

What criticisms do I have? Here's the thing. I LOVED the story of the book. If I was fifteen I would be all over this, I love stories about bands and love and friendship and queer teens. The story is excellent, and would get me to read something else by Jen Wilde.

However, some of the writing left me cold. I found the time span really strange - there's a trip that lasts loads of chapters, and then other things go by really quickly? Plus there's some continuity issues which made me flick backwards wondering if I was misunderstanding. The writing alone would have made me give this book just a three, but I liked the story so I'm giving it a little bit of leeway. I hope that makes sense!

Would I recommend the book? Yes totally, even with my reservations. It's fun! It's a really fun book.

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was still hanging out at the side of my bed so I picked it up. 

What do I think of the cover? I LOVE it! It's so badass and colourful. It shows Emmy with her dyed hair and fierce purple lipstick.  

What other books is it like? It really reminded me of This Song Is Not For You by Laura Nowlin. 

How many stars? Four out of five.  

Where is the book going now? I'm keeping it!

Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence - Review

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Where did I get it? My shelves. I saw Patrice speak at YA Shot a few years ago, and ordered this book shortly after. When I saw Patrice speak at YALC At Home last month, I remembered that I really wanted to read something by her, so I pulled this book off the shelves. 


What's it about? Indigo is seventeen and lives with her foster mum, Keely. Her mum was killed by her dad when Indigo was tiny, and Indigo was in the room next door. Indigo has lived in foster care since then, but has had to move around somewhat. She often gets very angry and lashes out. She says it is the "thing" inside her, a thing that she inherited from her dad, who is also now dead. She has just started a new school and is being teased by girls there, who have found out what happened to her family. She is in touch with one of her siblings, Primrose, and is hoping to see her soon.

Meanwhile Bailey is also at school with Indigo. He has a huge crush on her which his friend Austin mocks him for. He tries to stand up for her, and then the two start to get close. His parents - a social worker and a teacher - are wary because of Indigo's "history", which makes them mistrust her. Bailey is then approached by someone to give something to Indigo, which ends up spinning a web of lies throughout the book. 

Indigo is also really wary of letting anyone close to her because she's afraid she'll lash out if they get close, but she really likes Bailey. The two bond over music, which I really liked. 

I did like the book somewhat. There's lot of positives about it - Indigo is a really spunky girl and I wanted her to be okay. I loved her style and her taste in music. Bailey is a very sweet boy and was exactly what she needed. I liked Keely, Indigo's foster mum - she was an excellent example of a caring parent. I liked Bailey's family set up, although I thought it was odd in places. 

However, I thought the story as a whole was quite slow. It's a really long book and it didn't grip me very much. I felt like there was some filler which could have been removed and the book would have still worked. I appreciate that I am not the target audience for this book, and that's fine. I am sure that there are readers for whom this book would mean a great deal. 


What age range is it for? 14+ 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No I don't think so. 


Are any main characters people of colour? Yep. Bailey is mixed race - his dad is black and his mum is white. I think the same for Indigo - her dad is white and her mum is at least mixed race, but if I'm wrong then I'm sorry. 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Indigo is living with at least some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder, yes. 


Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not graphic and there's condom use (yay!) 


Are drugs mentioned or used? They're mentioned because they were a factor in Indigo's mother's death. There's also alcohol use and someone who abuses alcohol. 


Is there any talk of death? Yes, it is somewhat traumatic. 


Are there swear words? Yes, I really loved them actually, they felt very true to life and natural
 

What criticisms do I have? I think I said them above, it just didn't move fast enough for me. 


Would I recommend the book? If you want or need to read about as kid like Indigo then yes, absolutely. Otherwise, it wasn't for me, but I would read something else by Patrice for sure (I think I have Orangeboy somewhere). 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Patrice is a really engaging speaker on a panel, even at home like I watched her in July, and I really wanted to read something by her.
 

What do I think of the cover? I love it, it's really bright and eye-catching.  

What other books is it like? It reminded me of Jackpot by Nic Stone. 


How many stars? Three out of five for me personally. 
 

Where is the book going now? I have a friend who works with vulnerable kids and I think I'll lend it to her!


Killing Dad & Other Short Stories by Keith Wright - Review

Saturday, September 5, 2020


Hello! I'm really happy to today welcome you to my blog for my stop on the tour for Killing Dad & Other Stories by Keith Wright. If you've never been to my blog before, please do have a look around. I often read and review crime fiction. 

I enjoyed this set of short stories. As with all short story collections, I liked some more than the others. Nearly all the stories had some sort of twist at the end, which I personally really like. 

Here's the description of the stories:

KILLING DAD
A family plagued by an abusive father finally take their revenge.
THE SHIFT
A detective completes a shift at work like no other. He couldn’t see the hit coming, and he couldn’t see the positive impact he’d had on so many lives.
THE MISSING LINK
A detective holds a retirement party. His old friend indicates he knows the truth.
THE PARCEL
A devoted son carries out his mother’s wishes.
DEAD TO THE WORLD
A detective stumbles across a murder. The problem is, he is alone with the killer and there is no way out.
THE VERDICT
A woman is abused in her back garden. But are things really what they seem?
THE CONFESSION
A Catholic priest is new to the parish and befriends a lady parishioner.
THE SLEEPER
A loving husband and father, discovers a horrific scene and blames himself.
APPOLLONIA’S MIST
An aging artist falls in love with his muse. But is she as devoted to him?
FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS
An elderly couple find themselves next door to a problem family. Surely they will listen to reason?
FROM THE CRADLE
A young detective discovers his partners impropriety, but he learns a life lesson which conflicts with his instincts.
JIMMY TICKLE’S CHRISTMAS
A boy from an underprivileged family has a run-in with an intruder. It ends in tears…of joy.  



And here's the author Bio:

Keith Wright is the Author of the crime novels in the ‘Inspector Stark series’ available on Amazon, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited|Audiobook on Audible and iTunes.

Visit website: Keithwrightauthor.co.uk

Follow on twitter: @keithwwright

YALC At Home 2020

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The last weekend in July should have been YALC, which is usually held as part of London Comic Con. I've been a couple of times, but wasn't planning to go in 2020 as it's really quite inaccesible to me. I can't walk very far, I get easily overstimulated, and accommodation in London is often really expensive. That's why I've preferred to go to Northern YA Lit Fest as it's so much better for me in many ways. 

But then of course Covid-19 happened, and YALC and the comic con got cancelled. YALC decided to have YALC At Home over the same weekend. There was a really helpful spreadsheet and the time was really packed - there was stuff to be doing for three whole days! Some stuff needed prior registration, and there was stuff happening on Twitter, Instagram, Zoom, and more. I signed up for a few panels on Saturday and Sunday. I mentioned that it was YALC to my friend Lucinda, who is a children's librarian and with whom I often swap books and recommendations. She's been to YALC a bunch of times, but thought she had missed the online one when working the previous weekend. She was pleased to find out she hadn't, so signed up for some of the same panels as me. 

On Saturday morning I got up bright and early to watch The Horror Panel with Melinda Salisbury and Katherine Foxfield, and chaired by P M Freestone. It was really interesting; I don't read much horror but I liked hearing about how each author built tension. Melinda's new book Hold Back the Tide was just 83p on Kindle so I bought it. 

Next I watched a panel on Runaway YA, books starring a runaway in one way or another. Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt, Patrice Lawrence, Amelia Mandeville, and Chloe Heuch were on this panel, and it was really lovely to hear all of them. I was cross-stitching while I was watching, and messaging Lucinda on WhatsApp, which were both nice. Lucinda and I both felt like we were together watching the panels, so it was a good way to hang out. I believe Lucinda was doing chores around the house and then crocheting. 

Watching panels even from home turns out to be as exhausting as watching them in person, so I had a little break after that and had some lunch and watched some other things. I clocked back into YALC at 2pm for the Romance panel. Now, there was a clash with the Supernatural panel, which I also wanted to see, but I'd seen on Twitter that the Walker Books panels were being recorded and would be available to watch later, so I watched the other one live instead. I also passed this information on to Lucinda, who joined me in the Romance one. 

The authors in that one were Simon James Green, Leah Johnson, Chloe Seager, and Katy Birchall. It was a really funny panel and although I wouldn't say I am a romance fan I liked the stories in a lot of these books and I agreed with points made about queering the tropes that we have seen a million times. 


The Romance panel with (top left clockwise) Simon James Green, Chloe Seager, Katy Birchall, and Leah Johnson)

At 4pm Lucinda persuaded me to watch a panel on spin offs, which she wanted to see because Sarah Rees-Brennan was on the panel and Lucinda likes her. I knew next to nothing about the spin offs, but I enjoyed the panel and listening to the authors talk about how they work alongside canon to write their books. I asked a question in this panel, which was really easy to do in the Zoom meetings, which was excellent. 

After that, I logged off for the day and watched a film with my partner instead.

On Sunday there wasn't anything I fancied, so it was 4pm before I started. But I settled down with my cross stitch, messaging Lucinda again, for Feminist YA with Lucy Cuthew, Holly Bourne, Kate Weston, Nikita Gill, and Anna James. There were some interesting books mentioned here, which I will have to check out. I didn't stay in this panel for the Q&A, which is something I would absolutely do in person, too. YALC can be really hard and I'm not good at sitting still for a long time at the best of times. In most of the panels, it's very easy to sneak out if you need to. 

Between 5pm and 6pm I watched a couple of video clips that had been put up, including Lisa Williamson reading part of her new novel First Day of My Life. It sounds good, I think I'll pre order it (and then forget about it, like I always do). 

At 6pm the last panel was with American authors! Clearly due to the time difference this was difficult to do, but it was fantastic to hear Neal Shusterman, Angie Thomas, Maggie Tokuda Hall, Patrick Ness, and Katherine Webber. They were all talking about their new books, all of which I want to buy immediately. It was a really fun and funny end to the panels. 

Lastly, at 7.30 Non Pratt held a quiz on YouTube. Lucinda and I made a team, and we did pretty okay! It was really fun. 

So! I had a really good weekend and I'm really glad that YALC made this happen. It was accessible for me as a disabled and autistic person when in person conferences aren't always accessible for me anymore. The technology was easy to use and worked well. The mixture of panels and panellists was great and a person with more brain bandwidth than me could probably have watched stuff ALL weekend and not got bored. It was nice to watch things with my friend so we could discuss what we'd seen together. 

If YALC can go ahead next year, I would really love it if they could do some kind of hybrid event where they could livestream panels and people like me could watch from home at the same time. The technology exists, and participants could still pay for tickets, only less than the in person ones, obviously. I really hope it's something that the organisers think about. It's the kind of thing that a post-Covid world needs to get on board with. Here's hoping!
 

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