Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Review: My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel @HALeuschel #MySweetFriend

Published 6th December 2017. My thanks to the Author for providing me with a review copy.

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives

A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?

Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships. 

But is Alexa all she claims to be? 

As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?

In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

My Thoughts:

My Sweet Friend is a novella and at 92 pages manages to pack a punch and keep the reader in a choke hold from the first page until the last. What the author has managed to pack into such a slim volume is quite remarkable really, although I expected nothing less really having read and reviewed her previous collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives. You can read my review for that here.

My Sweet Friend introduces us to the somewhat claustrophobic, toxic friendship of Alexa and Rosie. Alexa takes up a position within the company Rosie works at. Alexa is everything Rosie isn't. Alexa is polished, charming, outgoing and confident, whilst Rosie is quiet, studious and incredibly kind. The girls form a somewhat peculiar and unlikely friendship. What this novella deals with is the idea of friendship and what it should be and what is is like when it goes drastically wrong. When there is a power struggle and one party is always seeking to gain the upper hand. It puts under a microscope the fact that appearances can be deceptive and some people really aren't who they say they are when the layers are peeled back. 

The author manages to create a tension in her writing that is oppressive and as a reader this means that her writing is not always comfortable, I love it for this as it pushes the boundaries, making it incredibly thought provoking. Alarmingly I would suggest that even if not to this extent if you have worked in an office environment you might have come across characters such as our two protagonists here. 

The author writes with great skill and also manages to hone in on how our minds work and the frailty of the human condition. An entirely compulsive and engaging read.

About the Author:
Helene Andrea Leuschel was born and raised in Belgium to German parents. She gained a Licentiate in Journalism, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. Helene moved to the Algarve in 2009 with her husband and two children, working as a freelance TV producer and teaching yoga. She recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. Manipulated Lives was Helene’s first work of fiction.

You can find her on Twitter: @HALeuschel 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

#BlogTour: The Child by Fiona Barton @figbarton @TransworldBooks #TheChild

Published in Paperback on 14th December 2017. My thanks to the Author and the Publisher for the review copy and Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour. 


When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers this tiny, pushed aside news story is impossible to ignore. 

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her. 

For another, it’s the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered. 

And for a third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

My Thoughts: 

The Child is the second novel from author Fiona Barton. I am now kicking myself because I have yet to read her first, The Widow. I will most definitely be adding that one to the reading pile now. 

The Child is a story of secrets and historical events that unravel slowly over the course of the novel, keeping the reader engaged throughout, it is dark and disturbing. So well written but not overdone. The sort of book that is difficult to tell you too much about the plot without being scared of giving something away. So you are just going to get a snippet and then take my word for it about how great this it really is. 

The remains of a baby have been discovered buried on a building site in Woolwich, the reader is told the story from the perspective of three main protagonists. Emma, who seems to suffer from some mental health issues, is struggling. Secondly we have Jude, Emma's mother. The two ladies seemingly have a fractious and difficult relationship and thirdly we have Kate. 

Kate Waters is a journalist, the paper she works for is making redundancies. She seems a little bored with the work she is doing so when the story of the missing baby hits her desk she seizes the opportunity to make a difference, her investigative skills are second to none and at most points she is one step ahead of the police. I loved the compassion and dedication that Kate shows to those concerned and her persistence at getting to the heart of the story. I loved this character. 

Tension builds throughout this story and is palpable on every page, just when you think you have it all sewn up, something else happens to ramp it up again. The permeating sense of unease as the pages turn makes this a gripping read and extremely addictive thriller. 

I can't not recommend this one. 

About the Author:

Fiona Barton’s debut, The Widow, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been published in thirty-five countries and optioned for television. Born in Cambridge, Fiona currently lives in south-west France. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. While working as a journalist, Fiona reported on many high-profile criminal cases and she developed a fascination with watching those involved, their body language and verbal tics. Fiona interviewed people at the heart of these crimes, from the guilty to their families, as well as those on the periphery, and found it was those just outside the spotlight who interested her most...

You can find her on Twitter: @figbarton
Please do have a look at some of the stops on the blog tour. 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

#BlogTour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour @OrendaBooks @the_cwa

Published on 1st November 2017 by Orenda Books. My thanks the publisher for the review copy and Anne Cater for inviting me on to the blog tour.

Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour. Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.

My Thoughts 

I was delighted to be asked to be a part of this blog tour for the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour. Admittedly, I don't read that many short stories, often feeling that I like my characters to have time to develop and the plot to play out over a longer period of time. That being said I was completely entranced by this selection. I chose to read them in order. Although it is the kind of book that you could keep dipping into as time allows, I couldn't keep my hands off of it and kept going back for more. 

It is a bit tricky to review these stories individually, firstly I wouldn't want to give anything away and secondly I wouldn't want to single any particular one out as I found them all to be completely compulsive and brilliant. 

As the title suggests this is a mystery tour so locations are abundant here, each story offering something different, some shorter some longer. There are of course lots of murders, a disappearance, mystery and intrigue. Sometimes there is justice and sometimes there isn't. 

I am only full of admiration for the writers who have contributed. Each and every one packing such a punch into so few words. I didn't feel disappointed with any of them and in any way. I will be looking into each and every one of these talented writers and all of their back catalogues, particularly those I haven't encountered before.

This Anthology of Short Stories is an absolute must for all fans of Crime Fiction, it would be a perfect gift for the crime lover in your life. It is an absolute treasure chest and there is something for everyone.

I would like to thank the contributors for the trip although I am not convinced I would like to be on any of those journeys in real life!

About the Author:

Some of the finest international crime writers in an exciting new anthology edited by Martin Edwards, award-winning crime writer and critic, and author of the bestselling and multi-award-winning The Golden Age of Crime. He is also vice chair of The CWA.

Contributions from:
Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick

Please do have a look at some of the other stops on the blog tour:

Friday, 24 November 2017

#BlogTour: The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald @LindaMac1 #Needlecordjacket

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket was published on 1st May 2017. Many thanks to the Author and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the review copy and having me on the blog tour.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne. 

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved. 

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a thought-provoking book, written from the perspectives of Sarah and Felicity. The reader is in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on for both of the women, while each of them is being kept in the dark about a very important issue. 

Inspired by the work of Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon, Linda explores the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical. The book will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of relationships, as well as fans of Linda’s ‘Lydia’ series.

My Thoughts:

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is in many ways different from my usual sort of read and having never read any of the Author's 'Lydia' series I was unsure what to expect. What I came across was an extremely thought provoking portrayal of relationships those with others and to a lesser extent with ourselves. 

The focus of the story is two women Felicity and Sarah. Felicity has split from her husband and finds herself often alone in her new flat longing for the days of safety and security in her marriage. Although she was quite responsible for its demise,  I couldn't help to some extent to admire her temerity. 

Sarah is very different from Felicity, she is seemingly the long suffering partner of Coll. Never quite having the happy love story that she wants, the commitment or the connection with Coll. She seems to continue because it is what she is used to and she almost comes across as thinking she doesn't deserve better. 

Coll is the most curious character of all, coming off to Felicity as charming, enigmatic and charismatic. He offers a certain lure to her, more that just selling her paintings for her restaurant. Coll behaves in a very different way with Felicity that he doesn't with Sarah. 

I found it refreshing to read this story as the characters are a little older and were perfect having had life and relationship experience. This is by no means a light hearted story of relationships. I found the characters very three dimensional and the relationship dynamics tackled very interesting. 

The Author has shone a very bright and bold light on mental abuse in relationships and the grey area of how that is made up. She has really got to the heart and mind of the matter and for that I applaud her. 

About the Author:
Linda MacDonald is the author of four novels: Meeting Lydia and the stand-alone sequels, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket. All Linda's books are contemporary adult fiction, multi-themed, but with a focus on relationship issues. 

After studying psychology at Goldsmiths', Linda trained as a secondary science and biology teacher. She taught these subjects for several years before moving to a sixth-form college to teach psychology. The first two novels took ten years in writing and publishing, using snatched moments in the evenings, weekends and holidays. In 2012, she gave up teaching to focus fully on writing. 

You can find her on Twitter: @LindaMac1

Please do have a look at some of the other stops on the blog tour. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

#Review: Ours is the Winter by @LaurieEllingham @rararesources #OursistheWinter

Ours is the Winter is published today by HQ Digital. My thanks to the Authors and Rachel of Rachel's Random Resources for providing me with the review copy and allowing me to take part in today's publication celebration. 

Journeying across the Arctic, their pasts are about to catch up with them.

Erica, Molly and Noah are embarking on the challenge of a lifetime, driving Siberian huskies across the frozen wilderness of the Arctic. Cut off from the world and their loved ones and thrown together under gruelling conditions, it isn’t long before the cracks start to show.

Erica has it all. A loving husband, a successful career and the most adorable baby daughter. But Erica has been living a double life, and as she nears her fortieth birthday her lies threaten to come crashing down.

Molly was on her way to stardom. But when her brother died, so did her dreams of becoming an Olympic champion.  Consumed by rage and grief, she has shut out everyone around her, but now she’s about to learn that comfort can come from the most unexpected places.

Noah has a darkness inside him and is hounded by nightmares from his past. Tortured, trapped and struggling to save his fractured relationship, he knows this journey is not going to help, but try telling his girlfriend that.

As their lives and lies become ever more entwined, it becomes clear that in the frozen wilds there is nowhere to hide.

Purchase from Amazon UK

My Thoughts:

I am delighted to be able to review Ours is the Winter today. Laurie Ellingham has been a guest on my blog before and you can read her post about her journey to publication here.

I was initially drawn in to this book by that gorgeous cover and the setting of the story. The setting is Alaska and the author managed to draw me in with her evocative description of the landscape, of the cold and the snow. Of course as a massive dog lover, the huskies in this book were very welcome.

This books focuses on three main characters. Erica, Molly and Noah, who all have their differing reasons for embarking on the trip to drive Siberian Huskies in an Arctic Challenge. All three hope that the trip will change them and allow them to escape their problems, and I would say to move on with their lives. We are introduced to all three characters and are allowed a little insight into their lives. 

Laurie Ellingham has created some very real and often flawed characters and she has seemingly done this effortlessly. The setting is the biggest draw of this book for me but the story comes together beautifully. I felt emotionally invested in the outcomes of the characters lives as each chapter went by.

I found Ours is the Winter to have a wonderful and evocative setting, excellently drawn characters and a plot that managed to engage me. It really was a beautiful and captivating read and I look forward to reading more by Laurie Ellingham in the future.

About the Author:
Laurie Ellingham lives on the Suffolk/Essex border with her two children, husband, and cockerpoo Rodney. She has a First Class honours degree in Psychology and a background in Public relations, but her main love is writing and disappearing into the fictional world of her characters, preferably with a large coffee and a Twix (or two) to hand.

Follow Laurie Ellingham on..

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

#BlogTour: Lay Me to Rest by @EAClarkAuthor @rararesources #LayMetoRest

 Lay Me to Rest by E.A. Clark was published by HQ Digital on 29th September 2017. My thanks to the Author and Rachel of Rachel's Random Resources for the review copy and having me on the blog tour.

Lay Me To Rest

Some secrets never stay buried for long…

Devastated by the death of her husband, Annie Philips is shocked to discover she is pregnant with his unborn child. Hoping for a fresh start, she travels to a remote stone cottage in Anglesey, amidst the white-capped mountains of North Wales.
She settles in quickly, helped by her mysterious new neighbour, Peter. But everything changes when Annie discovers a small wooden box, inlaid with brass and mother-of-pearl. A box she was never supposed to find…
Annie soon realises that she isn’t alone in the cottage. And now she’s trapped. Can she escape the nightmare that she has awoken, or will the dark forces surrounding the house claim her life – and that of her baby?
A gripping thriller from E. A. Clark, perfect for fans of Kerri Wilkinson, Sarah Wray and Stella Duffy. You won’t be able to put it down!

Purchase from Amazon

My Thoughts:

Lay Me to  Rest was one of those books that just hooked me in from the very first page and I didn't put it down until I was finished. I found it utterly page turning and engrossing. 

Annie Philips is recently bereaved, her husband died in a tragic accident and she is pregnant with his child. In an attempt to get away from all that her grief brings her she rents a cottage in Anglesey. She hopes for a change of scenery, fresh air and a new start. The people at the cottages are friendly and amiable, her neighbour Peter is a bit peculiar but Annie doesn't worry to much. That is until ghostly goings on start occurring, Annie finds this unsettling, upsetting and disturbing, it becomes clear that something has happened at the cottage in the past. Annie with the help of others is determined to find out what, and perhaps lay the ghosts to rest.

There is a real mystery involved in this book, suspense is built up wonderfully across several chapters. I couldn't wait to find out the truth of what had happened. I loved the ethereal quality of this novel, although at times the plot had a certain menace to it and an edgy undertone, never quite knowing what is going to happen next. 

I don't read many books with a supernatural element to them, preferring to keep my feet firmly on the ground. This one however had all the elements that have made it the superb story that it is. 

Vivid imagery and an excellently described setting puts the reader right in the heart of the action and I for one would love to read anything else by this author in the future. 

About the Author:
E. A. Clark lives in the Midlands with her husband and son, plus a rather temperamental cat, a rabbit and a chinchilla. She has three (now grown-up) children and five grandchildren. She is particularly partial to Italian food, decent red wine (or any coloured wine come to that …) and cake – and has been known to over-indulge in each on occasions.
She has a penchant for visiting old graveyards and speculating on the demise of those entombed beneath. Whilst she has written short stories and poetry for many years, a lifelong fascination with all things paranormal has culminated in her first novel for adults, Lay Me to Rest. The setting is inspired by her love of Wales, owing to her father’s Celtic roots.
Follow E.A. Clark on…

Please do have a look at some of the other stops on the blog tour. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

#BlogTour: Last Christmas in Paris by @HazelGaynor and @msheatherwebb #LastChristmasinParis

Last Christmas in Paris was published by William Morrow Publishers on 5th October 2017. My thanks to the Authors and Publisher for the review copy and having me on the blog tour.

They were told it would be ‘over by Christmas’…

When Evelyn Elliott’s brother Will and his best friend Thomas Harding sign up for the front, everyone is convinced that the war will be over in months and they’ll be free to celebrate the festive season in the cafes and boulevards of the French capital. But as the months drag on, their ‘Christmas in Paris’ becomes an increasingly distant dream. 
Evie becomes increasingly frustrated by her life as a privileged young woman and is desperate to contribute towards the war effort. Thomas faces the unimaginable horrors of the front, compounded by his obligations to his father’s newspaper business at home. 
Their letters between each other and their friends and relatives reflect the gradual erosion of their youthful idealism and the growing warmth in their own relationship. As the conflict darkens, will they ever be able to enjoy the Christmas they planned together in happier times? 
Last Christmas in Paris was written by historical fiction authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. They met after working together on a collection of short stories based on The First World War, Fall of Poppies. They’d both enjoyed the novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and thought that an epistolary novel would be a good way of working together.

My Thoughts:

Last Christmas in Paris is a deeply moving novel told in a series of letters between Evie and her brother Will and friend Thomas who have gone away to serve in World War One. There are others letters between friends and family and the format of the letters works really well. 

The authors have managed to create rounded and authentic characters and portrayed the horrors of the war for those away and those left back at home, a war that should have been over in a matter of weeks but instead went on for years. 

Evie is frustrated being at home, lonely and wanting to help the war effort she takes on the writing of a newspaper column engaging with the ladies left behind, I loved the spirit and the fortitude of her character. 

It was very moving when Thomas begins to suffer from his mental health when he had been on the front line for so long and I think that this was sensitivity handled and shone a light on something that was probably rarely discussed at the time.

Last Christmas in Paris really is beautifully written and incredibly moving, I read it in one sitting. I really do enjoy stories in the Epistolary format and it worked amazingly well here. The characters all felt very real, you could feel there excitements, and then their fears and despondencies as the war started to drag on. Everyone's lives on hold, and nothing to return to the same way as before. All lives altered forever. 

Something also struck me in that the art of letter writing seems to have gone out of fashion but I can't help but imagine what waiting for a letter to arrive from a loved one must have felt like, just to know that they are safe and for them the war goes on.

Deeply moving and sensitively written, this book is somewhat of a gem, I can really recommend it. 

About the Authors:
Hazel Gaynor is the author of Irish bestselling novel Hazel Gaynor's 2014 debut novel The Girl Who Came Home was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Hazel writes a popular guest blog 'Carry on Writing' for national Irish writing website and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others. Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. 

Heather Webb is the acclaimed author of historical novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover. In 2015, Goodreads selected Rodin’s Lover as a Top Pick of the Month. Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society and lives in New England with her children and husband, and one feisty rabbit.

Please do have a look at the other stops on the blog tour.