Book Reviews

August’s Novel Kicks Book Club: The Other Side of You by Amanda Craig

Abacus, February 2017

Abacus, February 2017

It’s August (although the weather doesn’t always want to catch up,) and it’s time for a new book club title. 

I love books and I love chatting about them even more. For August, the book I have chosen for us is The Other Side of You by Amanda Craig. Who wants to join me? This book is based on Beauty and The Beast (an updated version.)

I have posted a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about this book club is that everyone is welcome to take part. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.

The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.

Will must run, or die. He’s seen a murder, and the gang on his estate are after him.

Hurt, hungry and afraid, he comes to an abandoned house in a different part of the city. Behind its high fences is a place of safety. Here, he can hide like a wounded beast. He can find food, and healing – and learn how to do more than survive.

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Blogival: Extract of The Expansion by Christoph Martin

The Expansion CoverIt’s August and the first day of Blogival; a month of bloggers and authors combining to offer reviews, guest posts and more. I am very happy to be part of this fantastic online event. 

Today, I welcome Christoph Martin, author of The Expansion to Novel Kicks.

In politics and big business, truth is a matter of opinion.

Straddling the storyworlds of Panama, Washington and London, The Expansion follows British-born geomatic engineer Max Burns, whose revolutionary water-saving system wins him the esteemed position of head engineer for one of the 21st century’s most politically contested megaprojects: the expansion of the Panama Canal.

For Max it is a dream come true: not only is he able to work closely with construction giant and old high-school friend Godfredo Roco in one of the most beautiful tropical environments, but it’s the kind of job Max has been working toward his entire career.

Yet in the arena of global trade and diplomacy, stakes are high, and when a senior official of the Panama Canal Administration is found dead, Max finds himself in the frame for sabotage and murder, and at the centre of a web of political intrigue and betrayal that reaches far beyond the idyllic shores of Central America. The only person Max can trust is his new-found love, Karis Deen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Except Karis herself holds a secret that could not only destroy Max, but could change the entire balance of world power.

 

Today, thanks to Clink Street Publishing and Christoph, I have an extract from The Expansion to share with you. Enjoy!

N.B: This is the scene that changes Max Burns life forever! Losing his parents and with them also the family fortune and a very comfortable and prosperous future.

They had reached a flying altitude of three thousand feet.

His fingers found what they were searching for: the smooth, plastic sheath that guarded the engine’s idle shut-off valve.

It would only take a moment.

Numb, he turned to his wife. She had covered her lips with her hand, and he heard a sob. In the darkness, the diamonds at her throat had lost their fire.

“It’s the best way. I can’t let them put you in jail,” he said. “Max will be able to make a clean start. One day, I hope he’ll forgive me—”

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Book Review: The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

SummerofSerendipityI want to give a big, lovely welcome to Ali McNamara and the blog tour for her new novel, The Summer of Serendipity which has recently been released by Sphere. 

One summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there’s a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.

‘The Welcome House’ is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there’s always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.

While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she’s remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.
But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious ‘Welcome House’? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?

Serendipity Parker is a property seeker. Finding the perfect home for her client is her priority. When she finds herself in the small Irish town of Ballykiltara, she thinks her search is going to be easy. The Welcome House seems perfect. The problem is, no one knows who owns it.
As Ren begins to research the house and the myths and stories surrounding it, she wonders if she will ever find out who owns this house that seems to always be open to all who need it.

From the title alone, I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Serendipity is one of my favourite words and the title just conjured up the feeling of sun, adventure and romance (the cover lends itself to the romantic feeling of the novel.)

I’ve been a big fan of Ali Mcnamara since her first novel, Notting Hill with Love Actually. I also loved Breakfast at Darcy’s (if you’ve read that, Dermot and Darcy make a small reappearance.)

It was lovely to go back to Tara and the area I loved from that novel and to be honest, it all sounds so charming and picturesque, I am about ready to pack my bags and move there. I can tell that Ali has a real love with Ireland by the way she describes it. The prose is so rich.

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Book Review: Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

Sphere, June 2017

Sphere, June 2017

When twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it’s in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls – impossibly and illicitly – in love with her husband’s boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it’s thieves after ransom money, but she’s convinced there’s more to it. As she sets out to discover what’s happened to the sister she’s only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she’s ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what’s become of her.

Beneath the Burning Sky focuses on twenty-one year old Olivia. She has been forced into marriage to Alistair Sheldon and is moved from England to Egypt where she grew up as a child.

Alistair is not the loving husband. The only thing keeping her going is the chance to see her sister whom she’s not seen for years and Edward, who is a Captain in the army and is living with Alistair and Olivia.

When her sister Clara goes missing, Olivia is frantic trying to find out what happened to her. The men are not forthcoming with any details only telling her it is someone after ransom money and Olivia finds herself shut out of the search for Clara.

When this book begins, you are immediately pulled into the plot. Olivia is in a place she has not seen since she was a child and you really do feel her trepidation as she arrives in Egypt. The description of her surroundings is rich and compelling.

I really wanted to keep reading to find out what happens to these women. It’s set in the 1800’s where women in this setting were pretty much treated like property and something that should be content with being controlled.

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Book Review: Confetti at the Cornish Café by Phillipa Ashley

Confetti at the cornish

Maze, May 2017

Cal and Demi are preparing to launch their beloved Kilhallon Resort in Cornwall as a wedding venue. With the cliff-top setting and coastal views, it’s the perfect place for a magical ceremony.

But their first clients are no ordinary couple. The bride and groom are internationally famous celebrities Lily Craig and Ben Trevone. As secrets surface and truths are told, can Demi and Cal ensure that Kilhallon’s first wedding is a success? One thing’s for sure, this will be a Cornish celebration to remember . . .

It’s always a sad moment when you come to the end of a beloved series. Harry Potter, the original Star Wars Trilogy, and my latest – ‘Confetti at the Cornish Café’ is the third and final book in the ‘Cornish Café’ trilogy; unless Phillipa can be persuaded to keep them going? But would that be a good thing? All good things come to an end, is a very true saying and some things go on way past their sell-by-dates. This is not the case here.

I have enjoyed, to say the least, Ms Ashley’s tales of Demi and Cal and the third, unusual but certainly important character, Kilhallon (the estate in Cornwall where the story is mainly set). There are many books where the location is important, but few that earn the right to be counted as a character in their own right (Mandalay in Rebecca comes to mind). I want to visit Cornwall again now to try and search it out, but know that despite the beauty of the county, I’d be disappointed.

Ms Ashley has been extremely clever with her pacing of these novels as hints have been dropped about the cause of Cal’s behaviour, which were revealed in ‘Christmas at the Cornish Café’, but here we finally get to meet the little girl from his past that has so affected him, and the way it was written brought tears to the eyes of this reviewer. But what about Cal and Demi you ask? Do they finally get together?

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NK Chats to… Penny Parkes

Penny Parkes has joined me today to talk about her new book, Practice Makes Perfect (released by Simon & Schuster on 29th June 2017.) Thank you for joining me today and congratulations for your new book. Can you tell me a little about Practice Makes Perfect?51b9ZXV0PiL

Well, Practice Makes Perfect takes us to the fictional Cotswold market town of Larkford, where we sneak behind the scenes of the medical centre there – The Larkford Practice. There’s a whole new management structure in place. In fact, the four senior doctors are not only entwined professionally, but also personally: 4 partners, 2 couples. So, I’m sure you can imagine how the boundaries between personal and professional become ever more blurry.

On the surface it might seem like the perfect situation and the powers-that-be certainly think so, because they’ve nominated Larkford as a Model Practice. But, as is often the case, if you shine a spotlight on things, it does rather tend to emphasise the flaws…

And, as always in Larkford, we get to see the doctors as a crucial part of their community – in good times and in bad. For Dr Holly Graham, in particular, that relationship works in both directions, as resident celebrity Elsie Townsend makes it her mission to help Holly find balance and fulfilment.

I’m hoping it will be like visiting old friends for those returning to the series after Out Of Practice and also stand alone as a wonderfully rural escapade for those new to the Larkford Valley.

 

What’s your writing day and routine like? Any rituals? 

I have to be fairly flexible, to be honest, to fit around family life, but that doesn’t stop me having an ‘ideal day’ that I try to work towards.  I normally see the kids off to school and then have my breakfast – an excellent excuse to muck about on social media while I top up my caffeine levels. Then, The Ginger Ninja and I like to have a little stroll, and this mainly serves not only to wear her out, but also to give me time to think about what I want to write that day. I have found (to my cost) that I am much more efficient if I sit down to type with an idea of where I want the story to go… Even if my characters don’t always behave themselves accordingly once I get started!

 

What type of writer are you in terms of planning and editing? 

I’d have to say that I’m a little of both – I like to sketch out a loose framework and then just let the plotlines develop on their own with a first draft. Only then will I start looking at the balance of points of view and more specific character arcs etc. and of course that’s where my incredibly insightful and lovely Editor, Jo, comes in with some much needed objectivity!

 

Do you have any advice for anyone experiencing writer’s block? 

I think the only thing to be aware of is that, creatively, you can’t drink from an empty cup – if you’re exhausted or ill or hammering out the words simply to up the word count, I think it shows in the quality of those words. Half the time, the days when I’ve pushed through writing with the flu, for example, all those pages have ended up on the cutting room floor anyway! Sometimes better to step away – rest, recover, see a friend – and then suddenly a chance comment in the queue at the supermarket will set my enquiring mind off on a roll… Inspiration is everywhere really, except possibly staring at a blank screen!

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Book Review: The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

Second Chance Cafe UK small

HarperImpulse, 23rd June 2017

A big massive welcome to Lilly Bartlett and the blog tour for her new novel, The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square.

Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realizes that getting back on track means traveling in a different direction.

She finds that new path in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm … and trouble. They’ll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.

This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who’s in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is canceling the cake orders, but it’s when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realizes things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbors and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?

 

My verdict on The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square…

The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square is the second novel from Lilly Bartlett (the alter ego of the fabulous Michele Gorman.)

It’s the sequel to The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square but you don’t have to have read the first one to read this book (in my opinion.)

Having recently read The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square, it was nice to be able to return so quickly to this world and these characters. It was like rejoining some friends and catching up with their lives.

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Book Review: The Brazilian by Rosie Millard

brazilian covershotA lovely big hello to Rosie Millard who is here with the blog tour for her new book, The Brazilian (released by Legend Press on 14th June.)

Following a sensational scandal at one of London’s most desired postcodes, Jane and Patrick decide to escape the gossip with a family holiday to Ibiza, their eight-year-old son George in tow.

Also on the island that week is a TV reality show involving an eccentric artist, a horny It Girl, a Brazilian footballer and a famous magician.

As hapless celebrities are picked off one by one, Jane is desperate to be on the programme, leaving childcare in the not so capable hands of a teenager.

One lesbian escapade and an explosive row over hair removal later, the contestants of Ibiza or Bust leave the island with more than sand in places they never knew existed… 

My verdict: 

The Brazilian is the follow-up to Rosie’s previous novel, The Square.

Jane and Patrick want to escape scandal which has made them a subject of gossip in the Square – an exclusive little bunch of houses. They decide to take their son, George to Ibiza for a family holiday but with teenager (and fellow Square resident,) Belle in tow. Patrick just wants a quiet, relaxing holiday for him and for Jane.

At the same time and unbeknown to Jane, Phillip, the Square’s artist has decided to go on a reality TV show called Ibiza or Bust leaving his wife Gilda at home.
When he gets to the house, he causes a stir. Not to mention the fact that TV personality Alan is there too. And they are not the best of friends.

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Book Review: Leopard At The Door by Jennifer McVeigh

May 2017

May 2017

Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

Rachel spent her childhood in Kenya and has returned for the first time in six years having been educated at a boarding school in the UK.

When she arrives there is much that has changed. Her father has a new partner, Sara and even Michael, someone she has known for years is looking at her slightly differently.

This book is set in one of the most turbulent times in African history. Mau Mau violence against Kenyans and British people and the retaliation for this is getting worse. Rachel longs for the happier memories of her childhood.

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Competition: Win a Copy of All The Good Things by Clare Fisher

Viking, June 2017

Viking, June 2017

Hello to Clare Fisher and the blog tour for her novel, All The Good Things which was released on 1st June by Viking.

What if you did a very bad thing… but that wasn’t the end of the story? 

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve ever to feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

This competition is now closed.

We have three copies of this fantastic novel to give away. 

To enter, comment on this post. Tell us who you are and roughly where you are. The closing date for comments is Sunday 11th June 2017 at 23.59. The three winners will be picked at random from the entries and announced on the Novel Kicks blog on Monday 12th June 2017.

I will also contact the three winners via e-mail so please do check your junk folders. Open to UK only. (Prize coming directly from publisher so allow a few days for delivery.)

Good luck everyone.

 

My verdict on All The Good Things…. 

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The Vets at Hope Green by Sheila Norton – Extract and Review

Ebury Press, June 2017

Ebury Press, June 2017

A huge, lovely welcome today to Sheila Norton, whose book, The Vets at Hope Green was released in paperback on 1st June 2017 by Ebury Press.

Sam has always dreamed of working with animals…

But her receptionist job in a London vets is not hitting the spot.

Unsure whether a busy city life is for her, she flees to her Nana Peggy’s idyllic country village.

But despite the rolling hills and its charming feel, life in Hope Green is far from peaceful.

On first meeting Joe, the abrupt and bad-tempered local vet, Sam knows she must get him on side, but that is easier said than done…

With her dream close enough to touch, will she get there, or will events conspire against her…?

 

I have reviewed the book below but first, thanks to Sheila and Ebury, I have an extract from The Vets at Hope Green for you. Enjoy.

It was a beautiful, warm day at the end of May and the countryside on either side of the road was full of the promise of summer ahead.

I wound down the driver’s window of my little car and turned up the radio so that I could hear the music above the noise of the breeze as I whizzed along in the fast lane of the motorway.

Mile by mile, I felt myself relaxing. I felt my worries and uncertainties begin to melt away and my heart lifted with the anticipation of my destination.

Hope Green. The very name made me feel more optimistic. I sang along to the radio, remembering happy family holi­days on the Dorset coast when I was a child. Hope Green had hardly changed since those days, its age-old charm untouched by the increased pace of life elsewhere. It was somewhere I could unwind and be at peace, take stock of things and perhaps really find myself at last.

As I steadily increased my distance from my home on the outskirts of London, I could almost feel my old life slipping off my shoulders like a heavy coat that had been weighing me down – the crowded streets, the rush-hour crush on the Tube, the traffic fumes, the stress on people’s faces – I was leaving all this behind me, leaving it for a place where life still depended on the seasons, where people still had time to chat on street corners, where people picked blackberries and elderberries from the hedgerows instead of buying them in tiny plastic packets from the supermarket at ridiculous expense.

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Book Review: Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

9780751566888 (1)A BLOODY MESSAGE
As DI Nicola Tanner investigates what appears to be a series of organised killings, her partner Susan is brutally murdered, leaving the detective bereft, and vengeful.

A POWERFUL ALLY
Taken off the case, Tanner enlists the help of DI Tom Thorne to pursue a pair of ruthless killers and the broker handing out the deadly contracts.

A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE
As the killers target their latest victim, Thorne takes the biggest risk of his career and is drawn into a horrifying and disturbing world in which families will do anything to protect their honour.

When I was asked to take part in this blog tour, I was very, very excited.

Love Like Blood is the latest outing for DI Tom Thorne and it is great to have him back. Thorne finds himself helping fellow officer Nicola Tanner who is investigating a series of organised crimes; ones that she feels could all be linked.

This book pushes you straight into the action. It doesn’t shy away from delicate subjects. For example, the overall theme of this book is one I found hard to read about. It focuses on honour killings.

There are some uncomfortable moments for sure. It confronts many current issues and there are some very intense moments (I gasped out loud in places.) There were also moments where I fought tears and of course, Thorne brings his own unique humour and insight.

 My sympathy was present for some characters and I immediately didn’t like others.

The plot itself has many twists and turns. I pretty much lost sleep because of this book. I couldn’t stop reading.

Mark Billingham is very good at planting many clues and questions throughout the novel and my suspicions fell on many of the characters throughout.

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Blog Tour: Spandex And The City by Jenny T. Colgan

LOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET

Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love.

She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?

When I first got asked to read this book as part of the blog tour, I found the premise utterly intriguing although at the same time, not quite knowing what to expect. I’m a great fan of Jenny Colgan’s previous novels. I think it’s no exaggeration to say that I love her and her books, (for this novel, she’s writing as Jenny T. Colgan.)

This book is something very different not only for Jenny but also in general.

Holly hasn’t always been lucky in love and is under pressure from her friend to find someone when we meet her at the beginning of the novel.

When something happens that she’s not expecting, she meets Ultimate Man, the resident superhero.

Also, in the ensuing chaos following their meeting, Holly ends up experiencing her fifteen minutes of fame.

Fame and a new relationship with Ultimate Man and his alter ego is full of the ups and downs you’d expect when dating a superhero.

This book pretty much had me laughing from the beginning and I got drawn into it immediately. I couldn’t put it down.

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Blog Tour: Just For The Holidays by Sue Moorcroft

rp_Sue-Moorcroft-199x3001.jpg SuemoorcroftjustfortheholidaysI am very pleased and super excited to be welcoming the fabulous Sue Moorcroft and the blog tour for her new novel, Just For The Holidays, released today by Avon Books.

In theory, nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. That is, until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple, and a very unexpected pregnancy.

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the relaxing holiday Leah Beaumont was hoping for – but it’s the one she’s got. With her sister Michele’s family falling apart at the seams, it’s up to Leah to pick up the pieces and try to hold them all together.

But with a handsome helicopter pilot staying next door, Leah can’t help but think she might have a few distractions of her own to deal with…

 

Mick has reviewed the book but first, Sue shares her top tips for surviving summer holidays. Over to you, Sue.

I love summer. I was brought up for several years in Malta and it’s there I think I must have developed my love of the sun. Here are my top tips for surviving summer holidays:
• Take plenty to read. Whether it’s your eReader, print books or magazines, just make sure everybody in your party has something. I know you’ve got your phones on which to browse the Internet or tablets to let you watch DVDs but airport delays or beaches lead to flat batteries, low signal or extortionate phone bills. I find a book a day a nice starting point. Loading my eReader for a trip is such a pleasure! And I generally take a magazine just in case something makes it impossible to read on my eReader and the app on my phone.

• Choose a holiday you actually want. This might sound like stating the flippin’ obvious but if you’ve browbeaten your holiday companions into going where you want, you may find that nobody has a good time – and that includes you if they remind you every five minutes and sulk. (Of course, if you’re the browbeaten one and you didn’t actually want to spend your holiday in a theme park, put your friends/family in a queue for a ride, find a sunny bench and take out your book …) Leah in Just for the Holidays allows her sister, Michele, to coax her into a holiday she doesn’t want and things go seriously wrong from the first. (It doesn’t help that Michele has a couple of secrets, including quite an important one that she hasn’t shared with Leah.)

Blog tour• If you can afford it, treat yourself to a pre-holiday pamper. Leg-waxing and gel nails can keep you feeling good all through your long-awaited holiday.

• Stay safe. It’s a shame we have to think this way but many a fabulous break has been ruined by theft of money and/or passports and returning to find the home ransacked. Be aware, use the hotel safe, visit one of the ‘information for travellers’ websites for advice pertinent to the place you’re visiting.

• Take at least one sweatshirt and a raincoat. Even hot countries have summer storms or freak weather.

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New Book Releases in April

lee childI wanted to share six of the new book releases I’m excited about for April.

It’s April. Already four months into the year. It’s also great to finally see some sun, even if it’s only a glimpse. We need to make the most of it whilst we can.

Another month means another set of new book releases and this month has a cracker of a list of new novels.

 

First up is Night School by Lee Child (released by Bantam Press on 6th April.)

This is the twenty-first outing for Jack Reacher and this title gets its paperback release this month. This novel sees Jack Reacher go back to his army days but now he is not in uniform.

With Sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must carry the fate of the world on his shoulders.

 

bernard cornwellAnother series to see a new release is The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell (due to be released by Harper on 20th April.)

This is the tenth book in the Last Kingdom series and is also being released in paperback.

Britain is in a state of unease. Northumbria’s Viking ruler and Mercia’s Saxon Queen have agreed to a truce.

England’s greatest warrior, Uhtred has at last got a chance to take back the home his Uncle stole from him many years ago and is where his scheming cousin still lives.

However, enemies distract him from his dream and new ones enter the fight for England’s kingdoms. Uhtred is determined to reclaim his birth right but he will need all the knowledge he has gained to try.

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