Thursday, 21 March 2019

THE MISSING SISTER
BY
DINAH JEFFERIES

GUEST REVIEW
BY
JULIE WILLIAMS



I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for the new Dinah Jefferies and I am extremely thankful to my friend and guest reviewer, Julie Williams for reviewing this one. Julie W is a huge fan of this author and by the sounds of it, this one didn't disappoint either! Please find Julie's review below.


Review
This is yet another beautiful atmospheric story by Dinah Jefferies which was a joy to read. 

This latest book transports us to Burma, where Belle, the leading character, has been employed as a singer, but she secretly longs to discover exactly what happened to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her baby sister Elvira many years earlier.

All Belle knows is that she disappeared from the family garden one day changing the family’s life forever. 

Woven in between this intriguing and intoxicating story are chapters set in England relating to Diane, Belle's Mothers' early life.  It is in these chapters that we learn of Diane’s grief and how the loss of her baby Elvira and Belle affects her. 
During her time in Burma Belle has to decide just who to trust in the hope of unravelling secrets, lies and corruption, as well as keeping safe as danger appears to be close by. 

There are many interesting characters in this book and I found myself trying to decipher who are the honest and trustworthy ones as each appear to befriend Belle in a true way.

It is obvious that a lot of research has gone into this book as the attention to detail and exceptional descriptions are second to none.

My thanks to Net Galley and Penguin Books for the ARC digital copy.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

The Taking of Annie Thorne
by
C.J. Tudor
BLOG TOUR

Guest Review
by
JULIE WILLIAMS
It's my turn on the Blog Tour for The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor. This is the second novel by this author and my very good friend and guest reviewer, Julie Williams, has very kindly reviewed this one for me.

Review

The Taking of Annie Thorne is the second book by
C J Tudor and I found it just as enjoyable as her debut The Chalk Man. This story has a very dark feel to it and no doubt will haunt my mind for a while to come.
Joe Thorne returns to his hometown Arnhill to settle old scores with his former school pals. With no good childhood memories due to his Dad and his beloved sister Annie dying there and a somewhat strained relationship with his Mother, his return is not a welcome one.
This creepy tale certainly made me use my brain in understanding as I found Joe to be a deep, loner and weird type. My eagerness to find answers had me desperate to read on in to the early hours.
A fabulous well written psychological thriller that was a pleasure to read.  My thanks to Net Galley for the ARC digital copy. This is my own opinion of The Taking of Annie Thorne



Wednesday, 20 February 2019

The Geography of Friendship
by
Sally Piper
BLOG TOUR



Extract
SAMANTHA WALKS WITH A KIND OF idleness with intent; daydreaming in motion. She swings one leg in front of the other like a pendulum, foot hitting ground, heel, toe. Some steps fall short, others long; some light, others heavy. Her feet are small, but they have a nose for their own balance.
The rest of her is large, but out here it doesn’t matter. Because everything around her is large too. Especially the mountains. They are grand and permanent. The wide-girthed eucalypts that travel up their flanks are slick-barked and gnarled. Their limbs reach up and stab silver lines into the blue sky.
When Samantha passed through here as a younger woman she’d wanted to know how it all worked, how the land and sky and flora and fauna were connected and dependent and in tune. She’d wanted to understand their symbiosis as if knowing meant she had something to contribute, something worthwhile to add to the landscape. Now, in her forties, she knows better: not everything can or need be understood, and there is no relevance to her being here. She has nothing to offer this place beyond her attention. And for once she’s content with her insignificance.
Last time Samantha was here she’d fluctuated between fear and inadequacy. This time it’s mostly inadequacy. She barely noticed any of the beauty around her previously. She’d felt too threatened, looking behind her as much as in front, always trying to see the hidden. She tripped and stumbled, in both character and feet. Beneath her backpack her skin had chafed and pilled with sweat and friction. She’d felt vulnerable every time she put that bloody thing on, knowing she couldn’t run with it, and again every time she took it off to make camp. Night brought another set of worries.
Now she feels no such threat or vulnerability, though the terrain remains brutish in parts and her backpack – modern and lightweight in comparison to the one she’d worn years earlier – is still heavy with gear. But it wasn’t the terrain she’d feared, or even the restrictions of her pack. She’d feared him.
Samantha looks up from her feet and takes in the surrounding forest once more. Eucalypts mostly. Little has changed about the nature of these trees in the last twenty or so years. They still shed dreadlocks of bark and their silvery-green leaves still talk in the breeze. Their branches tick and creak and birds still perch along them, observing more than chattering now that the day is long past dawn. Everything and nothing is as she remembers it.
What is the same, though, is that once again she’s following not leading.
Nicole walks in front, just as she had before. And Lisa is in the middle.
They haven’t seen each other for years, but here they are, falling into the same old pattern as though there’s no other worth considering. Maybe it’s more to do with the place they’re walking through. Maybe the land has designs on them – maybe it always had – robbing them of the power to choose alternatives.
But Samantha’s never been much good at free will. If she were, she wouldn’t even be here.
No introduction had been necessary when Lisa had called her, even though they hadn’t heard from one another for over twenty years. Samantha would recognise the authority in Lisa’s voice anywhere.
‘Samantha. I need to see you.’
The significance of the call had sat peculiarly with the banality of what Samantha was doing at the time – at the sink scrubbing the burnt bottom of a pot she’d used to cook bolognaise sauce. She’d
seen No Caller ID displayed on her phone’s screen but accepted the call with a sudsy finger anyway. She always does. She remembers the casual way she pressed the mobile against her ear with her shoulder so she could keep working at the pot as she talked, as though it might be her mother’s daily call. But on hearing Lisa’s voice, that complacency left her. Her hands stalled in the sudsy water and her neck, cricked to one side, tensed.

Friday, 15 February 2019

One Minute Later
by
Susan
Lewis
BLOG TOUR

Guest Review
by
Julie Williams

#oneminutelater
#onepagemore


It's my turn to host the Blog Tour for One Minute Later by Susan Lewis and my lovely friend and guest reviewer, Julie Williams has reviewed this one for you. She loves this author's books and I'm sure this one doesn't disappoint!

Review

One Minute Later is a great story telling the tale of two strong female character’s in different time lines who are brought together to share their own personal heartaches and loves.

Vivienne Shager lives a vibrant life to the full in fast paced London but then on her 27th birthday her life is turned upside down as tragedy strikes leaving her in need of a donor heart to give her any quality of life. We learn all the emotions that this entails while discovering how this affects Vivi.

No longer able to live independently, she retreats back to the family home to her Mum and we then discover what a turbulent relationship they have.

Fate however, brings love and friendship which gives her the courage to fight for her life.

Shelly’s story is so different as she lives surrounded by lots of loved family members who all seem to get on with each other while leading good lives. Shelly adores Deerwood Farm where they all live and I really got a good homely feel to this place even though I discovered the tragedy that took place here.

As the lives of Vivi and Shelley merge, secrets and lies are uncovered bringing peace and understanding to these well written characters. 

I particularly enjoyed reading about organ donation and thought it was well researched and written and hope this inspires people to go on the register as lives are precious with no better gift than extending a life.

My thanks to Net Galley and Harper Collins for the ARC digital copy and to Julie for the chance to guest review on her blog.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

The Escape
by
Clare Harvey
BLOG TOUR

I am absolutely delighted to be hosting a turn on the blog tour for Clare Harvey's new novel The Escape. Wow, what an absolute corker of a cover this is and I can't wait to get stuck in and read this one. Today, I have a guest post from the author for you and you can read it below on how she is going to channel her Jackie Collins. Enjoy...


With thanks to photographer Eric Boman, writer John Heilpern, and Vanity Fair for using.

“I am going to channel my inner Jackie Collins!” were my actual words, after hearing a publisher was interested in my debut novel. I imagined cultivating a leonine mane, glossy lips, perfect nails and a developing lifestyle that involved frequent jaunts to London to appear on chat shows to talk about my latest bestseller. I thought life would take on a Technicolor hue as I wafted into the glamorous life of a novelist. 
The glamorous life?
As if.
So, here’s the reality, four years and four books later: 
Today my alarm goes off at 6.30am and I finally push myself out of bed at 7am and scrabble to clean teeth, run a brush through my hair, slather on some make up, and slurp a cup of tea (My inner Jackie Collins asks why there is no stylist on hand to choose a suitable outfit, and no freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice to drink? But I don’t have time to answer her as I am rushing to get out of the front door in time.) 
My 13-year old twins always insist on walking to school at 7.30am, even though this means they are there ridiculously early – they like to have time to chat with their friends before the start of the day. I walk half way with them, partly because the younger twin has cerebral palsy and still needs support crossing roads, etc. and partly because the dog needs a walk in any case. On the way home the dog and I bump into my 16-year-old son, who leaves for school at a more reasonable time. Back home by 8.30am, I feed the dog, have a coffee and breakfast biscuit in front of Frasier on Channel 4 – easier to cope with than the news, in the mornings (Inner Jackie says shouldn’t I be having berry compote and a green tea? She also tells me that I did the school run with a smudge of mascara under my left eye. I choose to ignore her.). 
I am sort-of at my desk by 9am, although I can’t help checking social media feeds and procrastinating a bit. I run through a practice speech I’m giving at my local Toastmasters this evening. By 9.30am I have started to write this blog post to you, but the back of my mind is buzzing with scenes I need to write for my new work-in-progress, and some PR stuff I need to organise for the launch of The Escape. My desk faces the window. Outside, the frost is starting to melt off the camper van bonnet, and lorries chug past on the main road (where are the palm trees, the sunshine, and the swimming pool, my inner Jackie Collins asks? I tell her to shut up and put on another jumper). 
Today is the day the cleaner comes. Inner Jackie finally cracks a smile, but is less happy about having to tidy up the kids’ shizl before the cleaner arrives, and do the weekly supermarket shop whilst the cleaning’s going on (If you must vacate the premises for the domestic staff, surely you could spend the time having a facial or some Botox, she suggests? I remind her that the family has to eat, and someone has to buy the food and lug it home).
Inner Jackie admires my fingernails as I put away the shopping. She says that whilst I have failed her on so many levels, at least my acrylics give a good impression. I remind her that unless I get cracking with another book, then the cleaner and the shiny nails will have to go. Inner Jackie frowns and says she had no idea that being an author would be like this, and that I’d better hurry up with the shopping and get back to creating scenes for my work-in-progress. I tell her we have to walk the dog, pick up the twins, make supper, check up on Granddad, who lives in the annexe, shove some washing through the machine, and stack the
dishwasher first. Oh, and it’s my practice speech at Toastmasters tonight, I remind her, so I won’t be able to get back to my writing life until after 9pm.
Inner Jackie pouts. I say I’m sorry I couldn’t give her stylists, sunshine and chat shows, that ‘living the dream’ isn’t quite what she expected. We go through to the living room, which doubles up as my office. 
“You’re right, your author’s life isn’t at all glamorous,” Inner Jackie says, taking in the ordinary suburban home, with the cold winter sunshine slanting in through the bay window, sofa cushions that were nibbled by the dog as a puppy and still haven’t been fixed, the family photos and school trophies on the mantelpiece, the discarded PE bags and pencil cases spilling onto the floor. She looks round at the fireplace, the pot plants, my cluttered desk, and finally at my new book, just slotted into the bookshelf nearby. “But, after all, it’s not a bad life, is it?”
“No, it’s not a bad life at all,” I say, to my Inner Jackie. “In fact, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”


Clare’s fourth compelling wartime drama, The Escape (Simon & Schuster) is published on 24th January.
You can catch up with Clare, and find out more about her and her books here:  
Facebook: @clareharvey13
Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth
Instagram: @clareharvey13
Website: clareharvey.net


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Miss Marley
by
Vanessa Lafaye
With
Rebecca Mascull
REVIEW




Every Christmas, without fail, I have to either watch or read A Christmas Carol and when I saw this book was being published, I just had to buy a copy. I managed to read the book in one day which is amazing for me, but I just couldn't put it down! You can read my review below about Jacob Marley and the reasons why he was to carry the chains around his neck for eternity, as in the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and A Christmas Carol...

Review
Jacob and Clara Belle Marley were brought up in a huge house in London, but when their parents died, their Uncle sent them to the workhouse and sold the house to pay their father's debt and rather than stay, they ran away and took their chances on the streets of London.

They both struggle with finding food and warmth and Jacob never gives up hope of finding money to get themselves back on their feet.

Living on the streets takes it's toll on Clara and she gets a hacking cough that she never fully gets rid of and leaves a lasting effect on her lungs, which makes her weak throughout the rest of her life.

Clara finds work in the local toy shop and meets up with Tom who runs a tea stall. He has high ambitions of owning a chain of tea shops and asks the new company formed by Jacob and his friend  Ebenezer Scrooge for collateral to realise his dreams and then of marrying his beloved Clara.

This is a beautifully written tale and so believable as the beginning of the Scrooge & Marley story that I can really see it being a film as I could picture the scenes in my mind.

This story was written mostly by Vanessa Lafaye, but sadly passed away before she could complete her work and therefore the lovely Rebecca Mascull finished it and what a delight it is. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anybody who loves Christmas and the story of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.



Friday, 11 January 2019

Whistle in the Dark
by
Emma Healey
BLOG TOUR



I'm delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for Whistle in the Dark, which is the second book by Emma Healey. You will probably know the author's first book Elizabeth is Missing, which was a huge smash. Today I have an extract for you.


Extract

‘This has been the worst week of my life,’ Jen said. Not what she had planned to say to her fifteen-year-old daughter after an ordeal that had actually covered four days.
‘Hi, Mum.’  Lana’s voice emerged from blue-tinged lips.
Jen could only snatch a hug, a press of her cheek against Lana’s ‒ soft and pale as a mushroom ‒ while the paramedics slammed the ambulance doors and wheeled Lana into the hospital. There was a gash on the ashen head, a scrape on the tender jaw, she was thin and cold and wrapped in tin foil, she smelled soggy and earthy and unclean, but it was okay: she was here, she was safe, she was alive. Nothing else mattered.
Cigarette smoke drifted over from the collection of dressing-gowned, IV‑attached witnesses huddled under the covered entrance, and a man’s voice came with it.
‘What’s going off? Is that the lass from London?’
‘Turned up, then,’ another voice answered. ‘Heard it said on the news.’
So the press had been told already. Jen supposed that was a good thing: they could cancel the search, stop asking the public to keep their eyes open, to report possible sightings, to contact the police if they had information. It was a happy ending to the story. Not the ending anyone had been expecting.
The call had come less than an hour ago, Hugh, wrapped in a hotel towel, just out of the shower (because it was important to keep going), Jen not dressed and unshowered (because she wasn’t convinced by Hugh’s argument). They had never given up hope, that’s what she would say in the weeks to come, talking to friends and relatives, but really her hope, that flimsy Meccano construction, had shaken its bolts loose and collapsed within minutes of finding Lana missing.
Even driving to the hospital, Jen had been full of doubt, assuming there’d been a mistake, imagining a different girl would meet them there, or a lifeless body. The liaison officer had tried to calm her with details: a farmer had spotted a teenager on sheep-grazing land, he’d identified her from the news and called the police, she was wearing the clothes Jen had guessed she’d be wearing, she’d been well enough to drink a cup of hot, sweet tea, well enough to speak, and had definitely answered to the name Lana.
And then there she was, recognizable and yet unfamiliar, a sketch of herself, being coloured in by the hospital: the black wheelchair rolling to the reception desk, the edges of Lana’s red blanket billowing, a nurse in blue sweeping by with a white-coated doctor and the green-uniformed paramedics turning to go out again with a wave. Jen felt too round, the lines of her body too thick and slow for the pace, and she hung back a moment, feeling Hugh’s hands on her shoulders.
He nudged her forward. Lana’s wheelchair was on the move and Jen felt woozy, the scent of disinfectant whistling through her as they got deeper into the hospital. She hadn’t anticipated this, hadn’t been rehearsing for doctors and a recovery, had pictured only police press conferences and a funeral, or an endless, agonizing wait. The relief was wonderful, the relief was ecstasy, the relief made her ticklish, it throbbed in her veins. The relief was exhausting.
‘How are you feeling?’ she asked Hugh, hoping his answer would show her how to react, how to behave.
‘I don’t know,’ Hugh said. ‘I don’t know yet.’
They spent several hours in A&E while Lana had skeletal surveys and urine tests and her head was cleaned and stitched and some of her hair was cut. Her clothes were exchanged for a gown, and her feet, pale and chalky, stuck out naked from the hem. Jen wanted to hold those feet to her chest, to kiss them, as she had when Lana was a baby, but just above each ankle was a purplish line, like the indentations left by socks, only thinner, darker. The kind of mark a fine rope might leave. They made Jen pause, they were a hint, a threat, and they signalled a beginning ‒ the beginning of a new doubt, a new fear, a new gap opening up between her and her daughter.
The police noticed the marks, too, and photographed them when they came to take Lana’s white fleece jacket, now brown and stiff with blood. There was so much blood on it that Jen found herself wondering again if her daughter was really still alive.