Monday, 31 October 2016

Angel (The DCI Ryan Mysteries Book 4) - LJ Ross



He’ll make you his angel, but first you have to die... 

After a turbulent time, DCI Ryan’s life is finally beginning to return to normal and he’s looking forward to spending an uneventful Easter bank holiday weekend with his fiancée. 

Then, on Good Friday morning he is called out to a crime scene at one of the largest cemeteries in Newcastle. The body of a redheaded woman has been found buried in a shallow grave and the killer has given her wings, like an angel. 

Soon, another woman is found at a different cemetery, followed quickly by another. Panic spreads like wildfire as a new serial killer is born, and Ryan’s band of detectives must work around the clock to unmask him before he can strike again. 

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast paced crime whodunnit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape. 

What did I think?

The DCI Ryan series is going from strength to strength and it is nigh on impossible to contain my excitement when a new book is released.  Angel is the hotly anticipated fourth book in the series and whilst you absolutely could read it as a stand-a-lone, you really don't want to miss out on the other books in the series.  I feel like I read Angel so fast that I want to read it again, but why stop there?  I actually want to read the whole series all over again because it really is that good.  I admit to a slight bias as the series is set in my native North East, but the setting could be anywhere as it is the fast-paced thrills of the amazing storylines that whip DCI Ryan fans into a frenzy.
DCI Ryan and his colleagues in Northumbria CID are just getting ready to enjoy their Easter bank holiday weekend when a body is found.  What is unusual about it is that it has been left posed as an angel in a freshly dug grave.  When another body is found in similar circumstances, it is clear that a serial killer is on the loose in Newcastle.  A few miles away in Rothbury, an older lady is found dead in her house.  On closer examination the pathologist rules strangulation as the cause of death, the same as the bodies in the cemeteries.  Could there be a link?  As Ryan and his team go on the hunt for a killer, they find that it's not just the cause of death that links all of the victims...but the colour of their hair. All of the 'angels' were redheads, just like Ryan's colleague, Denise MacKenzie.

Unbelievably fast-paced, Angel ends on such a cliffhanger that would have had all readers, including myself, screaming "Nooooooooooooooooooooo!".  Not just because of what happens at the end but because the book itself had come to an end.  And the award for the most suspenseful ending of 2016 goes to.....LJ Ross.

I took my copy of Angel on a little tour of the North East on a rare sunny day and ashamedly paid my first visit to The Angel of the North.  I actually live a few minutes away from this impressive landmark and, although I had driven past it on numerous occasions, had never actually been up close.  I was also intrigued by the church mentioned in the book, during the brilliant earring search - St Andrews.  I remember the old bus station in Worswick Street but I never realised there was a church opposite until it was one of the settings in Angel.  The church itself is quite impressive and a hidden gem in the city of Newcastle.  During my visit, I also learnt that Worswick Street was named after Father James Worswick who founded the church in the 18th Century.

The amount of detailed research that goes into these books is phenominal, it makes them interesting and true to life, although there aren't that many murders in Newcastle, honest!  If a book could give a virtual hug to a region Angel, and all of the DCI Ryan books, certainly show the author's love for her home town.  It just proves that you can take the girl out of Newcastle...

Angel is an affectionate virtual kiss for the North East.  So many areas of this beautiful part of the country are mentioned.  If you haven't read Holy Island, Sycamore Gap and Heavenfield I urge you to add these books to your reading list - you really won't be disappointed.  With this fourth book in the scintillating DCI Ryan series, it is no surprise to find LJ Ross repeatedly and deservedly positioned at the top of the Amazon charts.

As I am on tenterhooks for book five, I might just have to read all four books again to satisfy my DCI Ryan craving.  I think there should be a Ryan Anonymous group for all of those struggling to cope with the cliffhanger in Angel - hello my name's Michelle and I'm a Ryan addict.  These books are my most recommended to friends and family and I truly cannot wait for the next instalment.

I chose to read an ARC of Angel and this is my honest opinion.

My rating:




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Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden



A young woman's family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.


What did I think?

I thought this was such an unusual idea for a book that I just had to read it for myself.  I don't believe that anyone is ever too old for fairytales, in fact I think that many myths and legends are kept alive by being told to children as fairy stories.  The Bear and the Nightingale doesn't read like a traditional fairytale, it is definitely a novel for adults but contains a sprinkling of magic and the eternal battle of good against evil.

It was sometimes hard to get used to the Russian names, especially when the characters are also referred to by their affectionate family names.  For example, the main character, Vasilisa is referred to as Vasya by her family.  Once you got the hang of it though, it does become clear who everyone is.

Pyotr and Marina are expecting another child and Marina knows there's something special about this one.  Unfortunately, Marina dies giving birth to Vasilisa (Vasya) but it's like the time that Obi Wan Kenobe felt a disturbance in the force, as the hidden world feels Vasya's presence and the destiny that awaits her.

I had never heard of protective house spirits called domovoi or rusalka, which are water nymphs.  I'd like to think we all have a domovoi residing in our homes, looking after our wellbeing, and it reminds me of the tradition of leaving a glass of milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.  Perhaps we should leave a little glass of something each night for our very own domovoi.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a difficult book to review without giving away any spoilers but I found myself so completely immersed in the book that I could almost feel snowflakes landing on my nose.  There is a jaw dropping battle at the end, not quite between good and evil, and a few of the characters are quite prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice to save their loved ones.  It's goosebumpy reading and not just from the chilly temperatures; The Bear and the Nightingale is an outstanding fantastical fairytale for adults.

I chose to read an ARC of The Bear and the Nightingale and this is my honest opinion.

My rating:




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Saturday, 29 October 2016

BLOG TOUR: Moondance - Diane Chandler




I've made no secret of the fact that I am a huge fan of Blackbird Digital Books and its sister imprint, Nightingale Editions.  Their books are so unique, outstanding and memorable that I know I am guaranteed not just a good book, but I book I will remember and recommend for years to come.  Moondance is certainly one of those books and I am delighted to take part in the blog tour with a review and a giveaway.

This is one book you don't want to miss so make sure you enter the giveaway at the end of my post.



Bittersweet, at times funny, and always emotionally raw, this is by far the most moving and honest novel you'll ever read about IVF and its impact on a marriage.

How can you long for someone who doesn't exist?

Cat has always been in control of her life. Happily married to Dom, but flying high as a political lobbyist, she dismisses his desire to start a family ... until she herself is ready.

But what if it is then too late?

Complex and selfish, intelligent and open, if she is to succeed in having that elusive child, Cat must battle through gruelling fertility treatment and the emotional strain it places on her marriage. By her side, Dom, easygoing and ever the optimist, finds that he too risks being run ragged by their journey.

Both are forced to come to terms with their longing for a baby against the blitz on a relationship tested like never before.

By the winner of The People's Book Prize for Fiction 2016

A rare, raw, engaging fictional account of the traumas of infertility told with frankness and humour.


What did I think?

Moondance is one of those books that you come to the end of and realise that you have just experienced something so very special.  I can tell you now that it will be in my top books of the year.  There is so much emotion within the pages that I often felt so much despair that I could have cried, then something would happen to lift my mood and I would end up wiping away tears of laughter.

Cat and Dom seem like the perfect high flying couple.  They both have good jobs and Cat is so proud of her career that most of her clients were guests at her wedding.  I mean Dom was so selfish for wanting some of his family there when Cat had more clients to invite!  I did actually wonder sometimes as to how matched Cat and Dom really were.  Dom was already in a relationship when Cat first met him.  He was unashamedly drawn to Cat and couldn't get her out of his head.  Surely it's fate and they are meant to be, but fate has dealt a cruel blow when the couple try to conceive to complete their family. 

They are both from very different familial backgrounds.  Dom comes from a loving family where his parents and siblings remain close in adulthood.  Cat, meanwhile, is from a broken family with a mother she barely sees and who she calls 'Lizzie' rather than mum.  Cat is quite close to her brother, Billy, and is a confidante to her niece, Daisy.  It is probably due to her family history that children weren't really on Cat's 'To Do' list but it's always the same old story: wanting something you can't have always makes you want it more.

So the couple turn to IVF with so much hope at the start - Cat has never failed at anything in her life!  As time goes on and each failed procedure takes its toll on their relationship, it isn't long before the fingers of blame are pointed.  You'd think it wouldn't matter who's fault it is, but once that thought is out there, there's no going back.  Every argument, every upsetting moment, out comes the accusation of fault and blame.  Are Cat and Dom strong enough to overcome it all?  I actually felt like I went through the IVF with them, I had hope at the start and then I felt my heart plummet at the same time as Cat realised her procedures had failed.  Diane Chandler has cleverly created some very multi-layered characters -  as each layer is peeled away, I felt my allegiance swing from one to the other.  I made some assumptions from my first impressions and it was fascinating to see how my feelings towards each character changed throughout the book. Everyone seems to be hiding a secret in Moondance; some secrets are funny and some might even be relationship breakers.

Obviously, the thread running throughout the book is the IVF procedure, but there's so much more to Moondance than a couple trying to conceive.  The strong theme for me was family: not the incomplete (in their eyes) family of Cat and Dom, but the family they already have.  Cat has brushed aside some of her family but at difficult times you can always rely on the people who love you.  A strong family is invaluable, they experience every high and low of our lives with us.  Diane Chandler has completely captured the effect of infertility and IVF on every single person in Cat and Dom's life in this honest and candid account.  I think we've probably all been guilty of asking the seemingly innocent question: 'Do you have children?' but you just never know how distressing and devastating the answer to that question might be for some people.

Moondance is an outstanding novel that completely bewitched me from start to finish.  Written so beautifully with such powerful emotions, I really felt as though Diane Chandler had left a piece of her heart within these spellbinding pages.  It's definitely going to be one of my top books of the year and I enjoyed it so much that I plan to read it again.  It's not often that I mark a book for re-reading so that's a Bookmagnet seal of approval right there!  

I chose to read an ARC of this book, all opinions are my own

My rating:




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Win an ebook of Moondance by entering the giveaway now!  Open internationally, winners will be chosen on 6th November and contacted via email.  Good luck!




Wednesday, 26 October 2016

BLOG TOUR: Single by Christmas - Rosa Temple


To celebrate the release of Rosa Temple's second book, Single by Christmas, I have 2 stops on this fabulous blog tour.  My first stop was Tuesday 18th October and you can read my review here, but as an extra special treat Rosa has very kindly allowed me to post an excerpt from Single by Christmas.  Don't miss the giveaway that is running throughout the tour where you can win an e-copy for yourself.


 Single by Christmas by Rosa Temple
Excerpt
You might be wondering what I was doing, sitting in a graveyard at five minutes to midnight on Christmas Eve. And if you guessed gravedigger or graverobber, you’d be wrong. But ask yourself, who sits in a graveyard when it’s cold and out and out spooky unless it’s absolutely critical? The church, where I attend Midnight Mass with my family every year, is just across the way. But sitting on that particular bench just inside the graveyard was absolutely critical.
You see, in the lead up to Christmas I managed to lose something. Well, not something, someone. Charlie; my reason for living, my heart, my soulmate … you get the idea. And before you start crying, don’t worry, he wasn’t buried there. At the time, I wasn’t exactly sure where Charlie was, but he knew I was there. Waiting.
By the stroke of midnight I would have known for sure if I’d truly lost him. I’d asked him to join me and my family for the service. They’d arrived earlier. I smiled and greeted them all – Mum, Dad, big sister, Elise, and her husband and my younger sister, Jo-Jo. They asked where Charlie was and I managed to hide my worst fears and say he’d be along soon, that he was held up. So they just kissed me and piled inside with the rest of the congregation.
My family had been looking forward to seeing Charlie, even more so than they were me. You see, like everyone who meets Charlie, they’d fallen in love with him. Who could blame them? He’s charming, he’s intelligent, he’s sweet, kind, generous. The list could go on. I admit those things weren’t what first attracted me to Charlie. No, the attraction was pure lust and desire. He walked into that New Year’s Eve party the year before and I was stunned into silence. And I’m never silent. Tall, well dressed, mesmerising looks and those dimples that appear every time he smiles, which he does a lot by the way.
And I love Charlie’s family, too. His mum, Leeza, his dad, Don, who Charlie gets his looks and sense of humour from, and his brother. I wasn’t sure Leeza approved of Charlie having a white girlfriend, at first, but I realised that was just paranoia on my part. His family are not like that. His mum, who I grew to admire and love, was just being protective, the way some mothers are.
But, I digress. My family had no idea that I’d seen Charlie twenty-four hours prior to the service and that we’d had a heated argument and that Charlie had practically slammed a door in my face. Minutes before that I’d made a complete and utter fool of myself in front of his wonderful family and he’d walked away with such disgust and disappointment in his face my heart broke in two. He’d closed the door on me but I hadn’t stopped sending begging texts and hysterical voicemails just so he would show up on Christmas Eve – like he’d promised me. I wasn’t expecting a miracle, just praying for one. Because it would have taken a miracle for Charlie to walk towards the church, bypass the tall wooden doors, see me on the bench, push open the graveyard gates and tell me he’d forgiven me.
With everyone nice and warm inside the church, I continued to sit watching puffs of vapour appearing in front of my face from every exhale, brimming with an apology that may never be heard.
You might be saying, “If Charlie’s that wonderful, why couldn’t he just come to the church, it’s Christmas after all?” You have to know, he’d never be that unforgiving without very good reason.
Honestly? It took a whole year of knowing Charlie to finally understand what it is to love someone completely and to be loved the very same way in return and just one month to lose it all.
And this is how … 




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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

BLOG TOUR: Between Sisters - Cathy Kelly


Meet the women of Delaney Square . . .
Cassie has spent her married life doing everything right - making sure her children have the perfect life, being a devoted wife and a dutiful daughter-in-law. Although it's left her so exhausted that 'wine o'clock' comes a little earlier each afternoon . . .
Her sister Coco runs a vintage dress shop and has shied away from commitment over the years. Coco believes men complicate things, and she's got enough to contend with. Until a face from her past returns.
Watching over them is grandmother Pearl, tucked away in her little house in Delaney Square. But something is keeping her awake at night. Was she right to do what she did all those years ago?
And then there's Elsa, the polished face of daytime TV, who's battled demons of her own in the past and come out on top. Now Elsa faces one final fight - but it will require more bravery than anything which has come before.

What did I think?

With such an impressive back catalogue, I am really surprised that I have not discovered Cathy Kelly before now.  It just shows that there are so many amazing authors out there just awaiting our discovery and I don't think I will ever tire of the excitement of finding a new author to add to my favourites list.  With her warm and expressive writing, I will certainly be looking out for other Cathy Kelly books.

Cassie and Coco are sisters who are very close.  After being abandoned by their mother when Coco was just a baby, they were brought up by their dad and granny Pearl.  They've had a good life but Cassie can still remember her mother so feels her loss more than she realises.  Cassie is married to Shay but suffers terribly with abandonment issues and Shay doesn't help by spending a lot of time at his mother's house.  It is no surprise to find Cassie turning to a bottle of wine to keep her company.

Coco was all set to marry Red, the man of her dreams, when she spotted him out with a work colleague and jumped to all the wrong conclusions.  She called off the wedding without letting Red explain and hasn't looked at another man since.  It is so heartbreaking to see how both sisters have been damaged by their family history without even realising it.  When Red comes back for a visit to Ireland, it is his turn to jump to conclusions as he sees Coco with a child, who he presumes is her daughter.  Coco is looking after Fiona after her friend, Jo, had a stroke.  A stark reminder that strokes can affect anyone, not just the elderly.

With all of these misunderstandings, I couldn't see anyone having a happy ending in Between Sisters until Cassie and Coco's mother, Marguerite, comes back into the story.  As granny Pearl struggles with her own guilt over Marguerite leaving, we finally find out why she really left them.  Marguerite has been living with a bucketful of guilt too and believes that she is being punished for abandoning her girls.  It is only with a little help from her friends that she can start her journey on the road to forgiveness.

Between Sisters is an emotional and heart-warming read.  I didn't realise how much the story had affected me until I felt the tears rolling down my face.  It did take me a good few chapters to really get going, but once I did it was a worthwhile read.  The warm and colourful writing flowed effortlessly and addressed some serious issues, like alcoholism and stroke, with sensitivity.  Read it for yourself, then you too can say 'Cathy Kelly made me cry'.

I received this book from the publisher, Orion, in exchange for an honest review and I am releasing my review as part of the blog tour.

My rating:




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Monday, 24 October 2016

BLOG TOUR: Never Again - Nicky Clifford


Mountains, Mystery, Romance: Can you run from your past?

Harriet Anderson’s life is spiralling out of control. Unused to such mayhem, she ditches her high-powered job to take refuge in the Swiss Alps where she meets Philippe Smith, a crime writer with a dark and shadowy past. Thrown together by chance, is their fate intertwined?

Will the karma and romance of the mountains and the quaintness of the Alps soothe their troubled souls?

Or will their rocky paths create avalanches that cannot be avoided...

What did I think?

I wasn't sure what to expect from Nicky Clifford's debut, Never Again, but whatever expectations I did have were greatly exceeded. Harriet is so troubled that you can't help but like her immediately and from that moment on, the book is impossible to put down.

Harriet left her job and her past behind to travel to the Swiss Alps to work as a waitress at a hotel.  What or who is she running from? Harriet arrives with brash American, Becky, who is so materialistic that you can almost hear the boo/hiss every time she appears.  Also waitressing at the hotel is Jo and she and Harriet hit it off straight away.  Guests at the hotel include author, Philippe Smith and elderly ice-cream addict Elspeth.  Both play a massive part in the story, Philippe as the love interest and Elspeth as the confidante.

When Harriet first meets Philippe they don't have the best of starts.  She almost destroys his laptop by spilling his coffee but his anger disappears the minute he looks into her lovely green eyes.  Love at first sight, perhaps?  As they spend more time together they develop a friendship that could be more...but then their exes turn up to throw a spanner in the works.

This book is so addictive!  Harriet has been portrayed brilliantly, just like any normal person with her insecurities and life ups and downs.  There are so many misunderstandings between Harriet and Philippe but they are drawn to each other like magnets.  I could feel Harriet's turmoil when her ex, Greg, turned up.  She had the new buds of a relationship with Philippe but Greg has something she can't resist.

The stunning Swiss location is described brilliantly and I felt like I was there; dining in the hotel restaurant and sipping hot chocolate in the cafe.  There are so many well-rounded characters to complete the story, from Becky the Bitch to Jo and her Welsh farmer brothers - I loved every single one of them.  Harriet, who has two men to choose from but only one really loves her for who she is not what she can do for him.  Will she make the right decision?  Maybe...with a little help from her new friends.

Never Again is an amazing debut; it is real life romance without the fluff.  If this is her debut, I can't wait to read what comes next from Nicky Clifford.  It's an outstanding story which allows the reader to step into the shoes of the main character and experience her turmoil and conflicting emotions - will you be on Team Greg or Team Philippe?

Many thanks to Nicky for sending me an e-book copy for review and I am delighted to release my review as part of the Never Again blog tour.

My rating:




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Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Museum of You - Carys Bray



Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories. 

Darren has done his best. He's studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want - everything he can think of, at least - to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother's belongings. Volume isn't important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be. 

But what you find depends on what you're searching for.


What did I think?

I have just been utterly charmed by Carys Bray.  This is the most lyrical and honest story of a young girl who just wants to find out more about the mother she never knew.  It pulled every single one of my heartstrings and I found it to be quite beautiful and poignant, with many unexpected laugh out loud moments.

Clover has visited many museums in her short life and she gets the idea to create exhibits of her mother's possessions so she can find out more about her.  Clover's mother, Becky, died when she was a baby so she is being brought up by her dad, Darren.  Clover herself made a surprise entrance into the world as Becky didn't even know she was pregnant.  Darren hasn't been able to part with any of Becky's things so Clover goes through them, without Darren's knowledge, to choose her prize exhibits.

This book really is more about feelings than events and Clover buried herself into my heart as each page turned.  I also have a special place reserved for Mrs Mackerel, Clover's neighbour.  She shouts all the IMPORTANT words but often gets her sayings all mixed up like looking in a HAYSTACK full of NEEDLES.  I knew I was going to love Mrs Mackerel as one of the early lines was about Mrs Mackerel lending Catherine Cookson books to her friend and telling each other which supermarkets have gin on special offer.  I wouldn't mind a friend like that myself.

I know A Song for Issy Bradley was one of the big hits of 2015, so after reading The Museum of You I can definitely see why there was so much excitement about Carys Bray's debut.  I plan to add A Song for Issy Bradley to my book wishlist and if it's half as good as The Museum of You, it'll be a winner.

I received this e-book from the publisher, RandomHouse UK, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

BLOG TOUR: Single by Christmas - Rosa Temple



I can't believe it has been almost a year since I read the fabulous Natalie's Getting Married, so when Rosa Temple asked me if I would like to read her new book she got a massive YES PLEASE!  This is a double whammy of a blog tour as you get to read my review today and then on 26th October you can read an excerpt from the book.  There's also a giveaway running throughout the tour where you can win 1 of 5 ebook copies - Good Luck!



You’ve heard the saying, ‘opposites attract’ haven’t you? Well meet 27 year old Alex Marshall, a party girl with a penchant for free flowing Prosecco, and her devilishly handsome scientist boyfriend, Charlie, who loves jazz and dinner for two.

Alex and Charlie are together for 11 blissful months until Alex goes out of town and does something she will later regret. Was she drunk? You bet. Does she want Charlie to know? Well what do you think?

With the couple about to spend their first Christmas together will Charlie be the forgiving kind or will Alex be Single by Christmas?

This is a feel good, Christmas novel with very few mince pies, not much snow and absolutely no mistletoe – just a couple of best friends, a sociopathic nemesis and a lot of drinking.

What did I think?

I first came across Rosa Temple earlier this year when I read and reviewed Natalie's Getting Married, which I described as 'a surprising little gem of a book'.  I absolutely adore Rosa's writing; when reading her books it feels like you are being welcomed by life-long friends. It's not often that I get hooked on a book outside the crime/thriller genre but the drama of Alex's life certainly had my eyes glued to the page.

Alex Marshall seems to have it all: a handsome boyfriend who thinks the world of her, a couple of very close friends and a career heading in an upward direction.  Alex really doesn't realise how lucky she is and she is so dizzy at times that she can't see how her actions are affecting other people.  She is trying to juggle her boyfriend, her friends and her job and it's only a matter of time before she drops a ball or two.

Alex takes her boyfriend, Charlie, for granted and he always seems to get bumped by Alex's friends or her job.  Charlie has a busy and important job too but he has his priorities in the right order and makes time for Alex and his family.  They just seem to be a bit out of sync and like ships passing in the night, so if Alex isn't careful she will lose Charlie.  I could have shook Alex at times and if I hadn't liked her so much I would have said she was selfish.  She gets offered a job in Edinburgh and just assumes that Charlie will support her and move with her, but she has no idea what is going on in Charlie's personal and professional life.

Edinburgh is another story.  When Alex goes up to look at the Edinburgh office she goes out with some of her potential new workmates. After a few drinks too many, she wakes up the next morning with one of her colleagues.  So she hot-foots it back to London but, as we all know, secrets have a way of coming out however deep you bury them.  As Christmas approaches, will time be called on Alex and Charlie's relationship or will they be kissing under the mistletoe?

Single by Christmas is another fabulous book from Rosa Temple.  I thought I was going to dislike Alex intensely due to her apparent selfishness but she really means no harm; she just can't say no to people (friends, family, Scottish men).  Written in Rosa's inimitable funny, warm and modern style, Single by Christmas is full of misunderstandings, secrets, drama and disaster - a bit like most office Christmas parties.  So curl up on your favourite chair with a hot chocolate and read Single by Christmas, you won't be disappointed.

Many thanks to Rosa Temple for providing an e-book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




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About the author




Rosa Temple is a writer of romantic comedies, chick-lit and contemporary romance. To date she has published one novella, Sleeping with Your Best Friend, and her first full length novel, Natalie’s Getting Married, was published on 14th March 2016.
She has tried her hand at various occupations, from tea lady (albeit for one morning only after being returned to the agency because half an office block suffered caffeine deprivation) to supervising the office running the London Bar Exams.
Rosa is a Londoner born and bred and still resides in West London with ambitions to escape to the country when a suitable country pile becomes available.
In 2014 she was awarded a Distinction in her Creative Writing MA from Brunel University.
Rosa admits to being a reluctant keep fit addict. She owns a yoga mat, a pair of trainers and a spin cycle that gathers dust in the corner of her writing room. She vows that she will run the London Marathon again but has been saying this since her first and only marathon, run in 2010. Hence the trainers.
Having been a ghostwriter for several years, Rosa has written several magazine articles and has penned a multitude of one off novellas and novella length series in the romance genre and in its various sub-genres to include: contemporary romance, historical, adult only, romantic comedies and sweet romances.
Rosa is a member of a writing critique group who meet monthly. This lively and hard working group keep her on her toes as she hones her writing, listening and editing skills.
Rosa’s husband and eldest son are both musicians, her second son swims at a National level for his London team.
Before devoting the majority of her time to her writing of romantic comedies and chick-lit, Rosa was a singer (that’s how she met her husband) and still continues to perform and write songs.
Early reviews show that Natalie’s Getting Married is a favourite of many readers and book bloggers and she follows it with Christmas romantic comedy novel, Single by Christmas, with plans to publish a book series in the very near future.
Rosa loves to chat (about anything really) so follow her on Twitter @RosaT_Author or visit her blog, Rosa Temple Writes, on rosatemplewrites.blogspot.co.uk

Read an excerpt of Natalie’s Getting Married on Goodreads or Facebook

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Monday, 17 October 2016

All the Little Pieces - Jilliane Hoffman



She could have stopped an awful crime. She could have saved a life. She tried to forget about it. But now, the truth is out. The terrifying new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Retribution and Pretty Little Things.
Faith Saunders is the perfect wife, mother, and community champion – loved and admired by all who know her. One night will change everything.
As she drives home in the pouring rain, a dishevelled young woman appears out of nowhere, pleading for help. The isolated stretch of road is dark, and with her daughter Maggie asleep in the backseat, Faith refuses to let the stranger in. What she sees next will haunt her forever.
When the missing-person posters go up, Faith’s guilt consumes her. And then it turns out Maggie wasn’t asleep that night, her perfect life begins to unravel. Maggie’s testimony leads to an arrest. But Faith is the only one who can identify a second man involved in the woman’s abduction and subsequent murder. She has one chance to convince a jury of what happened. If she fails, two killers will be set free. And they know exactly where to find Faith and her family…

What did I think?

All the Little Pieces begins at a million miles an hour as a girl runs through a cornfield trying to escape from her attacker.  She sees a car and thinks she's saved, but the driver of the car has had one too many drinks and is afraid to open the door.  The backseat passenger sees it all clearly, though.  The only trouble is she is just a toddler.

Faith Saunders was that driver of the car; driving home from her sister's birthday party with her young daughter, Maggie.  If she calls for help after seeing the girl, questions will be asked.  Questions that could see the end of her already fragile marriage - what kind of mother would drive over the limit with her young daughter in the car?  So Faith keeps silent, but Maggie spots the victim on TV one day and tells her dad that she saw her.  Now Faith has to explain why she kept quiet and understandably face the wrath of the public and the victim's family.

I really felt for Faith; she may have made a bad decision but she was trying to protect her daughter by not opening the car door.  It's a pity she hadn't been thinking of her daughter before she got in the car after a few too many drinks.  As soon as I felt sorry for Faith, my rational brain reminded me of her failings.  We've all made bad decisions and we all know how alcohol affects the human brain, so I really felt as if I'd got inside Faith's head through the writing of Jilliane Hoffman.

All the Little Pieces is a fast paced read that gives us a really good insight into police procedure and court proceedings.  Although I wasn't hooked as such, I found it hard to put down in places especially when Faith started to crack and boy, did she crack!  I thought I would never get my heartbeat back to normal after Faith's wardrobe breakdown.  I'd really like to read more from Jilliane Hoffman so I'll be looking out for her previous books.

I received this book from the publisher, HarperCollins, as a prize from a Goodreads giveaway.

My rating:




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Sunday, 16 October 2016

BLOG TOUR: The Lives of Tudor Women - Elizabeth Norton

I've always listed historical fiction as being one of my favourite genres.  With The Tudors being one of my favourite periods of history, I was really excited to receive a copy of Elizabeth Norton's non-fiction study of The Lives of Tudor Women.  It's an absolutely riveting read, completely immersing the reader into the Tudor period with passages about real women who lived during this time.  You can read my full review after the extract.


I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour and have an excerpt from the book for you.  Although I loved all of the book, I think the chapter on witchcraft was one of my favourites and this excerpt is from that chapter.


The Lives of Tudor Women – Book Extract ‘There are a great number of witches here’

Part of the power of witchcraft in the Tudor imagination was that it know no bounds. It could reach the highest in the land. Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, Margaret Clifford, Countess of Derby, had been imprisoned in 1579 for asking a sorcerer to predict the queen’s death. Such a charge had not surprised the Spanish ambassador to England since, as he considered sagely, ‘there are a great number of witches here’. It was, indeed, no great leap from pulling children sharply away from the poisonous eyes of their grandmothers to considering elderly women capable of black magic.

Henry VIII had made witchcraft a felony in 1542, punishable by death, and Elizabeth I’s Parliament restated much of this legislation in 1563. In an age of great religious faith, it was unsurprising that many people believed in the power of the Devil to possess the unfortunate, or of witches to do them harm. Some men were tried and convicted in the period, but the vast majority of those accused were women. Like poisoning, witchcraft was seen as an indirect – pernicious – crime. As a result, many women were dragged before the courts of Tudor England, with elderly widows being particularly vulnerable to accusations.

In one county –tranquil, leafy Surrey –approximately thirty accused women were rounded up and dragged before the Assize judges during Elizabeth’s reign. The crimes of which they were accused were serious. Joan Gowse of Banstead had, the judges were assured, magicked an ox to death in 1564. The following year, her neighbour, Rose Borow, had ‘bewitched Alice Lambert, wife of Geoffrey Lambert, so that she died’. Both were convicted at Croydon on 7 August 1565 and thrown into gaol. Borow was still there four years later.

In 1582, a veritable coven was uncovered in the pleasant market town of Godalming, in the Surrey hills. The apprehended townswomen filled the assize courtroom at Kingston, on 26 July. Elizabeth Coxe and her daughter, Joan, were supposedly the ringleaders, who had committed four murders by sorcery over a period of more than two years. Their neighbour, Agnes Waters (alias Stevens), had at the same time bewitched ten bullocks and a cow, causing their deaths. Juliana Page, another Godalming matron, had used spells to murder a five-week-old baby. Under questioning, Waters confessed, but the others staunchly denied the charges. They were fortunate, since the court that day displayed a healthy degree of scepticism. Only the unfortunate Waters was convicted.

There had evidently been a rounding up of witches in the area, since one Elizabeth Cowper of Shalford was also brought before the judges that day. She had, they were told, bewitched Joan Lambert ‘so that she became lame’. She, too, was found not guilty. Joan Marlowe, who was accused at the same time of murdering William Haydon, at Egham, by witchcraft, had not seen fit to trust her fate to the jury, fleeing before she could be indicted.

The unfortunate Agnes Waters of Godalming was released under a general pardon not long afterwards; but she was soon back before the Croydon Assizes on 12 July 1585. She was still practising her devilish arts, the judges were told, but now on people. First there was six-year-old Margaret Roker, who had clung onto life for nine months after being hexed in March 1583; then, three months later, there was Richard Charman, who lasted for a little over a month after being bewitched, and finally Catherine Hamond, who survived nine months after a magical attack by Agnes Waters on 26 June 1583. With such long periods between the reported crime and the eventual deaths, it would have been hard to bring any ‘evidence’ to bear. But Waters, already a convicted witch, was predictably found guilty and imprisoned. She was lucky not to face the death penalty: many others accused of witchcraft did.



The turbulent Tudor age never fails to capture the imagination. But what was it actually like to be a woman during this period? This was a time when death in infancy or during childbirth was rife; when marriage was usually a legal contract, not a matter for love, and the education of women was minimal at best. Yet the Tudor century was also dominated by powerful and characterful women in a way that no era had been before.

Elizabeth Norton explores the seven ages of the Tudor woman, from childhood to old age, through the diverging examples of women such as Elizabeth Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister who died in infancy; Cecily Burbage, Elizabeth's wet nurse; Mary Howard, widowed but influential at court; Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of a controversial queen; and Elizabeth Barton, a peasant girl who would be lauded as a prophetess. Their stories are interwoven with studies of topics ranging from Tudor toys to contraception to witchcraft, painting a portrait of the lives of queens and serving maids, nuns and harlots, widows and chaperones.

What did I think?

I've always been fascinated with the period of history from the Plantagenets to the Tudors, encompassing the battle for the crown during the Wars of the Roses to the religious tug-of-war as England's Tudor monarchs switched between Catholic and Protestant. When I think of the Tudors, I first think of Henry VIII but, for once, he has a small part to play in Elizabeth Norton's The Lives of Tudor Women as the Tudor women come to the fore.

I was given a history lesson from the very first page as the first thing that I learned was that Queen Elizabeth I was not the first Elizabeth Tudor.  In fact, the first Elizabeth Tudor was her aunt, the younger sister of Henry VIII.  Elizabeth died when she was 3 so she rarely appears in history books, at least none that I have read.  If you google 'Elizabeth Tudor' you will see the familiar face of Good Queen Bess with no mention at all of her aunt.  So that was my first clue as to the impeccable research that has gone into this book, the second clue being the massive endnotes and bibliography sections in the back of the book.  Clearly, Elizabeth Norton has left no stone unturned in her writing of this Tudor masterpiece.

What I found absolutely riveting about this book were the stories of real women who lived during Tudor times.  Although obviously she features in it as the most famous Tudor woman, this isn't a book solely about Elizabeth I.  There were some lesser known Elizabeths who caught my eye as I read about the visions of Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent and the persecution of Elizabeth Wright, the Witch of Stapenhill.  Each chapter felt like a history lesson but one full of interesting colourful stories rather than one of the history lessons from school that made you fall asleep.  The Lives of Tudor Women definitely doesn't read like a text book, so historical fiction fans will very easily make the leap from fiction to fact.

I truly stepped back in time whilst reading The Lives of Tudor Women, I was so immersed in the era that I felt a deep sense of loss as Elizabeth I breathed her last breath and the glorious flame of the Tudor dynasty was snuffed out.  It's an absolutely brilliant book giving readers the chance to walk in the footsteps of various Tudor women, and leaving us with a deeper understanding of life in the 16th Century to enable us to fully appreciate the Tudor period.  I have no doubt that this will absolutely delight all lovers of Tudor history, especially fans of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory.

Many thanks to Blake from Head of Zeus for providing a beautiful hardback copy in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




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About Elizabeth Norton


I am a British historian, specialising in the queens of England and the Tudor period. Find out more about what I am currently working on at my website, www.elizabethnorton.co.uk

I was awarded a double first class degree from the University of Cambridge and also have a masters degree from Oxford University. I am currently carrying out a research project into the Blount family of the West Midlands in the sixteenth century at King's College London.

I have written twelve non-fiction books, including 'The Boleyn Women', 'Elfrida: The First Crowned Queen of England', 'England's Queens: The Biography' (which has recently been re-released in two parts), 'Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII's Obsession' and 'Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty'.

I make regular television appearances, including on BBC1's Flog It, BBC Breakfast, National Geographic's Bloody Tales of the Tower and Sky Arts' The Book Show. I am also regularly featured on radio and have published articles in The New Statesman, Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, Britain magazine and Your Family Tree magazine, amongst other publications.

I live in Kingston upon Thames (close to Hampton Court!) with my husband and two young sons.



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