Book Reviews

Book Review: After The Storm by Isabella Muir

When a violent storm blasts England’s south coast, it’s up to retired Italian detective Giuseppe Bianchi to sift through the devastation and piece together the tragic events left behind in the storm’s wake.

Giuseppe Bianchi’s brief visit to Bexhill-on-Sea has become an extended stay. He is loath to return to his home in Rome because of the haunting images that made him leave in the first place.

During his morning walks along the seafront with Beagle, Max, he meets Edward Swain, who becomes Giuseppe’s walking companion. They form a friendship of sorts and find they have a similar outlook on life.

But the devastating events of a single night lead Giuseppe to question the truth about Edward Swain. Teaming up with young journalist, Christina Rossi – his cousin’s daughter – Giuseppe learns about the brutal reality lurking behind the day-to-day life of families in the local community. And as the story unravels Giuseppe is reminded how anger and revenge can lead to the most dreadful of crimes.

After the Storm is the second novel in the Giuseppe Bianchi mystery series – the much awaited sequel to Crossing the Line.

I was very excited to be included in the blog tour for After the Storm which is the second novel in the Giuseppe Bianchi mystery series.

Ex Italian Detective Giuseppe Bianchi is staying with his cousin’s family in Bexhill. When the town gets hit by a terrible storm, he soon finds himself investigating the death of a friend.

From page one this book had me intrigued. I was a little concerned about whether I would be able to keep up with the story as I have not read the first book in the series, Crossing the Line. I had nothing to worry about. After the Storm can easily be read as part of the series or as a standalone.

There is such a calm at the beginning of the book that I really did feel, like a storm, that the narrative was building up to something and this added tension and suspense. Add in the mystery that Giuseppe is trying to solve and this made this book hard to put down.

I also loved the fact that it was based in the 1960’s. I am a big Beatles fan so I have always wondered what it would be like to live in the 60s. It was the decade of change and you can really feel that in the plot; like everyone and everything is on the verge of something bigger. I could realty imagine myself there, at Mario and Anne’s café, sipping tea as I look out over the sea.

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Book Review: The Girls From Alexandria by Carol Cooper

‘Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.’

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s The Girls from Alexandria is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.

 

Nadia finds herself abandoned in a London hospital. She is having trouble remembering many things but the one thing she is sure about is that she needs to find her sister, Simone before it’s too late.

The problem is, she has not seen or heard from her sister in fifty years and the people around her are convinced that no such person exists.

As her current situation becomes more dire, Nadia becomes more determined. She begins to reflect on her past and the time she spent growing up with her family in Alexandria.

This book appealed to me. It’s historical fiction but has a mystery weaving through it which meant I kept wanting to turn the page, losing track of time in the process.

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Book Review: Let in the Light by Gerard Nugent

Songwriter, Richie Carlisle never wanted to be famous.

After stumbling into the limelight five years ago, he soon found himself crashing back out of it. Now, he spends his days working in a small music shop in Edinburgh, attempting to live a quiet life as a part-time dad.

But his 15 minutes of fame have taken its toll. His inspiration for songwriting, music and life in general seems to have all but disappeared.

When Richie is given a flyer advertising the first meeting of the Hope Street Songwriters’ Circle, it’s a chance to step back into the world. But after years of hiding away, letting in the light won’t be easy.

 

Richie finds himself recruited into a band with success that many only dream about. Then, as quickly as fame comes, it goes again, leaving him living in Edinburgh and working in a music shop.

Based on the synopsis alone, you would think that this novel is purely about a musician and his experience with the music industry. However, once I began to read, I discovered it was as much about mental health and how life can imitate art.

Told from the point of view of Richie, it follows his current situation with flashbacks into his past which gives the reader an understanding of him and why he finds himself on the verge of losing everything. As a character, he is not complicated. He is a man who will do anything for the person he loves most and for that, I empathised with him. He was an easy person to invest in.

With its themes of love, loss and regret, there is not much else I can say about the plot without revealing major spoilers but this was a book that very quickly had me engrossed.

One of the things I liked most about this novel is how it shines a light on the important subject of men’s mental health and how ‘not every day can be an anthem. Some days will be in a minor key, and that’s OK.’ I feel that this is such a key message to put across – that it’s OK to not feel OK all the time. Right now, I think this is something everyone needs to hear.

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Book Review: The Invitation by A.M. Castle

Thirteen guests. One killer. No escape.

On an island on the coast of Cornwall, cut off from the mainland by the tides for most of the day, thirteen old friends meet at Tregowan Castle for a weekend of revelry.

By the next evening only twelve are still alive.

Amongst them is a killer – but who? As a storm traps them on the island and past betrayals and grievances are revealed, nerves fray and friendships begin to fracture.

But with no escape and no way of calling for help it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again. And when everyone is keeping secrets, anybody could be the next victim…

Thirteen friends arrive at a remote castle in Cornwall to attend a special Halloween party. The next evening, only twelve are alive. The killer is one of the twelve but who is it?

From the first page, I knew this was going to be my kind of phycological thriller.

Immediately, I got pulled into the story as the tension and suspense continued to build.

This book is told from the point of view of various characters including Rachel, the rich hostess who has planned this special night down to the last detail. Vicky who is fighting a drinking problem and a breakdown in the relationship with her son. Gita and her husband Tom whose marriage isn’t as happy as she’d like it to appear.

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Book Review: Space Taxies by A & H Frosh

He’s abducted by aliens to the planet Vost.

He’s saving up for his fare home.

But he’s got the small matter of a planetary apocalypse to deal with first…

In 1977 a New York Cab driver Mike Redolfo is abducted by aliens after being mistaken for a renegade scientist. Meanwhile, back in 1944 a mysterious man and his Jewish fiancée are fleeing across Nazi-occupied Europe.

Redolfo tries to keep a low profile on his new world whilst earning his fare home, but unwittingly gets involved with a shady gang of alien criminals, inadvertently bringing the planet to the brink of catastrophe.

As the link between the timelines becomes clear, Redolfo must discover secrets from the past that may hold the key to saving the planet.

If you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, and Frank Herbert’s Dune, you’ll love this gripping and entertaining sci-fi mystery thriller.

“A perfect blend of science fiction and alternate history”

At first glance, I was intrigued by this novel and so was delighted to be part of the blog tour for Space Taxies.

The plot follows two threads in separate eras. The first setting is Czechoslovakia during the Second World War under Nazi occupation, with the second setting a short time later and hundreds of lightyears away on the planet Vost.

At first, it wasn’t obvious how these two stories connect, which only served to pull me into the book as I wanted to discover how everything fit together.

I was particularly impressed in how the authors interwove actual historical events into the earth bound storyline, at times providing an alternative explanation to things which remain unclear even to this day. The SciFi element is light enough to keep you reading, but involved enough that everything doesn’t just appear to be magic; a hard line to tread. It is easy for a SciFi story to get lost in the details of the technology and loose the readability but I am glad to report that this doesn’t happen here.

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Book Extract and Review: The Village of Lost and Found by Alison Sherlock

A big digital hug and welcome to Alison Sherlock. She’s here with the blog tour for her latest novel, The Village of Lost and Found which is the second book in the Riverside Lane series. 

Scandal hit party girl Lucy Conway needs to leave London fast, so she packs her bags and escapes to the sleepy village of Cranbridge to take care of her beloved Uncle Frank.

But the country village isn’t quite as idyllic as she remembers. To make matters worse, her Uncle’s pride and joy, The Cranbridge Times, is close to going out of business.

Editor-at-Large Tom Addison is having a crisis of confidence and needs help if the newspaper is going to survive. 

With time on her hands, can Lucy work some magic and together save the family newspaper?
Over a long, hot summer, friendships are made and hearts begin to heal. And, with the help of a stray dog, perhaps Lucy and Tom can find their very own new beginning…

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, Alison and Boldwood have shared an extract. Grab that hot drink, biscuit and comfy place and enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

As Lucy drove across the countryside in her Ford Fiesta, she found herself singing along to the radio.

She knew she should be feeling more miserable than she did at that moment. After all, she had no career to speak of. Her ex-lover had turned out to be married. Plus her parents were still upset about her so-called ‘affair’ ending up on the front pages of the newspapers and the paparazzi were still camped out on the street outside their home.

And yet, despite all of that, Lucy felt happier than she had done all week. Spending a night away from her home to stay in a hotel near to the hospital meant that she hadn’t had to endure her parents’ disapproving silence over an awkward dinner and could relax. Uncle Frank had been told that he was likely to be discharged from hospital in the next few days. She felt relieved that it had not been anything more serious although he would be heading home with a large boot to protect the small fracture in his foot and would need some help getting around. Lucy was thankful that she had the time to step in and assist him in his recovery.

As she drove further into the countryside, her mood lightened even more. It was the middle of June and the air coming through the gap in the car window that she had opened was both fresh and warm. When the song on the radio finished, the sound of birdsong filled the air instead.

This particular journey always brought a smile to her face. Each school holiday, her parents had carried on working and hadn’t wanted her under their feet so she had been packed off to stay with her aunt and uncle in Cranbridge. The summers had been particularly special. She remembered paddling in the shallow river that ran through the middle of the village. Ice cream melting down onto her sticky fingers. The smell of home cooking and freshly made cakes just out of the oven. Hugs from her Aunt Jane. Laughter with her uncle.

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Book Review: The Night We Met by Zoë Folbigg

As a man holds his wife’s frail hand, he recounts a journey like no other…

Daniel and Olivia are destined to be together. At least, Daniel thinks this the night he sees Olivia across a sea of people. As he backpacks through Australia, Daniel and Liv continue to cross paths, yet never speak. Until one night, Liv joins Daniel for a drink. And that night everything changes.

Back in London, stuck in a monotonous routine, Daniel finds himself daydreaming of the woman with green eyes and fiery hair. Armed with only a name he vows to find her, yet with every passing moment, Daniel’s hopes begin to disappear. What if it wasn’t meant to be?

But then fate steps in, and Daniel and Olivia’s story can truly begin…

This is a tale of serendipity, missed chances and the power of love.

I had really enjoyed Zoë’s previous novel, The Note so I was looking forward to reading her latest book, The Night We Met and being a part of the blog tour.

A special mention needs to be given to the cover. It’s so dreamy and pretty.

Daniel and Olivia are two people who are very easy to become invested in and attached to.

From the first page, I found their story compelling. It was an emotional rollercoaster. You will need tissues.

It is told from the point of view of both Daniel and Olivia as the former looks back on their lives and love story. It does time jump but it’s easy to keep up with.

Zoë has such a great talent for telling beautiful but realistic stories. This is the kind of novel I’d love to write. She is able to create relatable, likeable characters whilst still including conflict and the twists that life can throw at you.

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Book Review: Smoke by Joe Ide

Happy publication day to Joe Ide. His latest novel, Smoke, has been published by W&N. 

Isaiah is no longer IQ, the genius of East Long Beach. A man on the road and on the run, he is hiding in a small Northern California town when his room is broken into by a desperate young man on the trail of the state’s most prolific serial killer.

Isaiah’s former sidekick Dodson has also had to change life, in an attempt to keep his wife and child. His devil’s bargain is an internship at an LA advertising agency, where it turns out the rules of the street have simply been dressed in business casual. The ageing company’s fortunes may well rest on their ability to attract a younger demographic and Dodson – ‘the hustler’s hustler’ – just may be the right man for the job.

Both Isaiah and Dodson are at a crossroads, but can they leave their former lives behind for good?

Having not read anything by this author, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Smoke. I was a bit concerned, with it being book five in the IQ series, that I would struggle to keep up with the evolved backstory and established characters.

Previous events are touched upon lightly in this book but it can stand on its own. I felt it didn’t hold me back too much in terms of enjoyment.

The plot overall was classic crime thriller but what made this stand out was how it dealt with themes of racial tension, equality and stereotypes. I felt it opened my eyes to situations that I’ve not been exposed to and its handling of these subjects was done well.

It was well written and the story, pace and tension good. I didn’t at any point feel that it dragged its feet. It would be a perfect holiday read (if we were allowed to do that of course.)

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Book Review: The Good Wife by Eleanor Porter

I’m very pleased to be welcoming Eleanor Porter to the blog today and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Good Wife. 

Where will her loyalty lead her?

Once accused of witchcraft Martha Spicer is now free from the shadow of the gallows and lives a safe and happy life with her husband, Jacob. But when Jacob heads north to accompany his master, he warns Martha to keep her healing gifts a secret, to keep herself safe, to be a good wife.

Martha loves Jacob but without him there to protect her, she soon comes under the suspicious eye of the wicked Steward Boult, who’s heard of her talent and forces her to attend to him. If she refuses, he promises to destroy the good life she has built for herself with Jacob.

Desperate and alone, Martha faces a terrible decision: stay and be beholden to Boult or journey north to find Jacob who is reported to have been killed.. The road ahead is filled with danger, but also the promise of a brighter future. And where her gifts once threatened to be her downfall, might they now be the very thing that sets Martha free…?

The brilliant follow-up to Eleanor Porter’s first novel of love, betrayal, superstition and fear in Elizabethan England. A story of female courage, ingenuity and determination , this is perfect for fans of Tracy Chevalier.

 

Having not read The Wheelwright’s Daughter, the previous novel in this series, I was a little worried that I would struggle to keep up with the events of The Good Wife. As it was, I didn’t need to worry. There is a good balance of backstory without slowing down the current plot.

Elizabethan history has always fascinated me and it was great to see a different point of view away from the Royal Court. Eleanor Porter does a really great job of setting the scene and placing you at the centre of Martha’s world.

I found Martha an intriguing character. She’s much stronger and has more courage than she gives herself credit for – something we can all relate to in some way.

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Book Review: Who Took Eden Mulligan? by Sharon Dempsey

‘They’re dead. They’re all dead. It’s my fault. I killed them.’

Those are the words of Iona Gardener, who stands bloodied and staring as she confesses to the murder of four people in a run-down cottage outside of Belfast.

Outside the cottage, five old dolls are hanging from a tree. Inside the cottage, the words “WHO TOOK EDEN MULLIGAN?” are graffitied on the wall, connecting the murder scene with the famous cold case of Eden Mulligan, a mother-of-five who went missing during The Troubles.

But this case is different. Right from the start.

Because no one in the community is willing to tell the truth, and the only thing DI Danny Stowe and forensic psychologist Rose Lainey can be certain of is that Iona Gardener’s confession is false….

 

This was my introduction to Sharon Dempsey’s books and immediately, the novel drew me in.

Danny and Rose make a great duo; bouncing off each other well. I wanted to know more about them and right from the start, I rooted for them. I hope it’s not the last we see of these two characters.

I also liked that fact that the POV not only switches between Danny and Rose, but also the events of the past so you really get a comprehensive picture on what’s happening and how they are feeling.

The plot itself is very intriguing and you’re pulled directly into the action, from the moment Iona Gardener runs into the police station, saying she’s hurt her friends. It’s clear that there’s more to the story.

The novel overall deals with various themes in a sensitive but compelling way.

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Book Extract and Review: The Juggle by Emma Murray

Happy publication day to Emma Murray. She is here today with her novel, The Juggle. 

Here’s a little about the book…

‘You can have it all,’ they said. ‘Happy children, happy marriage, great career – no problem,’ they said…

Mother-of-one Saoirse is just about holding it all together – combining part time work with the school run, while her husband David gets to focus on his career. But when David loses his job, everything has to change.

With no hesitation, Saoirse suggests she takes on the role of main breadwinner. After all, how hard can it be? And when a new client offers her a life-changing sum of money, Saoirse can look the other over-achieving Woodvale school-run mums in the eye with pride.

But there’s a problem with keeping too many balls in the air – eventually one is bound to drop. And when that happens – well, who knows what the consequences could be…

Laugh-out-loud funny, achingly relatable, but with a heart of gold, and warmth running through every page. This is the perfect read for anyone who has way too many balls in the air! The novel may or may not have been inspired by real life…

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, to celebrate the publication of The Juggle and to help start the blog tour, Emma and Boldwood Books have shared an extract today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

My four-year-old daughter Anna has been at school for two weeks now, and frankly I’m already having second thoughts. For starters, I appear to always be late for pick-up and today is no exception. I grab my raincoat and keys and shut the door behind me. Two seconds later, I let myself back in again. I have forgotten to bring Anna’s snack. Last week I forgot her snack and she started screaming at me in the middle of the playground. The mortification was endless. I have lived in fear of a repeat of ‘snackgate’ ever since. So, I open the ‘cupboard of crap’, as my husband David likes to call it, and grab a packet of those flavoured cheesy cracker things that flight crew sometimes give you on the plane. I can’t even think of them now without feeling airsick.

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Book Review: Take A Chance On Me by Beth Moran

Meet Patrick Cooper – desperately down on his luck, and head-over-heels in unrequited love with his best friend Bridget.

Meet Bridget’s sister, Emma Donovan –  eternally single maker-of-cakes for many a happy couple, whilst never making it down the aisle herself.

Emma has four younger sisters, all of whom are married or getting married, and an Italian mother who can’t understand what is ‘wrong’ with her eldest daughter, who seems to be stranded on the shelf.  Despairing of her own ability to find a suitable husband, Emma agrees to be part of a compatibility project to get married at first sight. 

Meanwhile Cooper is struggling to get over his crush on Bridget and seems destined to stay firmly on the shelf too. Perhaps it’s time his fate was taken out of his hands…

Is happily-ever-after just about daring to take a chance, or do you need some extra magic to make love last?

Join Beth Moran, Cooper and the Donovan sisters on this life-affirming and uplifting tale of love, family, friendship, and risking it all for happiness. 

Cooper has been in love with Bridget Donovan since the met at College. He even moved so that he didn’t have to see her with someone else. Now he’s back and finds himself helping her with a marriage compatibility study. He’d do anything to help her succeed. He’d even volunteer.
Meet Bridget’s older sister, Emma. She’s had her share of disastrous first dates and decides to volunteer for her sister’s study. They both decide to get married at first sight. What could go wrong?

With the subject of blind date weddings being quite topical right now, I love that Beth Moran has found a unique way to approach it and I found myself quickly and completely engrossed in this book with no idea how it was going to end. In fact, it kept me guessing all the way through.

Emma is instantly likeable as is her entire family. I love the relationship and bond she has with her sisters. Family and its importance is one of the key themes running through the heart of this novel and the Donovans are all likeable, realistic and relatable in their different ways.

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New Releases: Preserved by Fiona Sherlock

Happy publication day to Fiona Sherlock. Her novel, Preserved, has been released today by Poolbeg Press. 

She’s stuck in the past, the killer wants to immortalise his future. When a local farmer announces on social media that he has discovered a bog body in Ardee, the world’s historians are keen to explore the secrets of the life and grisly death of the victim. Antique journalist January Quail is fighting to keep her newspaper job and uncovers far more than she bargained for.

The victim is actually a recent murder, and January uses her nose for the truth to investigate the County Louth town. From shopkeeper to the publican, everyone is a suspect, but when the Gardai can’t find the killer, can January?

Once she sets down the liqueur glass, January gains the confidence of the lead garda investigator. Within days, the case unravels into a much more dangerous situation with a killer on the loose.

Despite the risk, January is electrified that this newest discovery has come at the perfect time to inject some colour into her flailing career. January relinquishes her old ways to fight for survival, abandoning her antiques column and vintage corsets to solve a cryptic crime that has the experts puzzled. This woman who longs to lives in the past must now fight for her life in the present.

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Book Review: Stormy Days On Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke

London 1950

Peggy Ronoscki is happily settling into life running her guesthouse on Mulberry Lane, surrounded by close friends and family. Life just seems too good…

But then disaster strikes.

Pip, her beloved son is left in a coma following a devastating car crash and a young girl collapses in the market leaving Peggy no option but to nurse her back to health.

As things begin to go awry, Peggy worries she has brought trouble to her doorstep?
Can her life ever return to normal? Or has Peggy’s good nature led her astray?

 

Not only is this the first book I’ve read by Rosie Clarke, it is my first introduction to the Mulberry Lane series.

It did take me a couple of chapters to settle in as I was getting my head around who’s who but once that happened, I was so eager to find out what happened to these women.

Peggy is such a wonderful, strong character who wants to see the best in people – even a stranger she finds collapsed in the street. I didn’t know what to make of Gillian and I hoped that she wasn’t going to cause any harm as I had very quickly grown so fond of Peggy and Able.

Shirley was also a character I immediately clicked with and I almost became an overprotective parent, having to remind myself that she was fictional. That’s what’s fantastic about this book; the settling and the people within feel so vivid and real. It’s as though you’re stepping into a existing London street and watching it all unfold.

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Book Review: Just Bea by Deborah Klee

Sometimes you have to stop trying to be like everyone else and just be yourself.

Bea Stevens and Ryan O Marley are in danger of falling through the cracks of their own lives; the only difference between them is that Bea doesn’t know it yet.

When her world is shaken like a snow-globe, Bea has to do what she does best; adapt. Homeless man Ryan is the key to unlocking the mystery of her friend Declan’s disappearance but can she and Ryan trust one another enough to work together? 

As the pieces of her life settle in new and unexpected places, like the first fall of snow, Bea must make a choice: does she try to salvage who she was or embrace who she might become?

Just Bea takes the reader on a heart-warming journey from the glamour of a West End store to the harsh reality of life on the streets and reminds us all that home really is where the heart is.

 

Bea feels like her life is on track. She has a London flat and is on the verge of getting a promotion at one of the most prestigious department stores in the city. She is about to get everything she thinks she wants.

When things begin to unravel, Bea meets Ryan. As they get to know each other, she may come to realise that there is much more to life than what she had planned.

This book was my introduction to Deborah Klee. It did take me a couple of chapters to settle into the story but once this happened, I couldn’t put the book down.

At the beginning, I didn’t know what to make of Bea. She was someone who very much played by the rules and she didn’t seem to respond to much around her. She felt very closed off. However, the further into the novel I got, the more I started to like her and find her relatable. She began to open up and it’s interesting to see how she develops as the story went on.

Told from the point of view of both Bea and Ryan, I liked how you got to see the story from a duel point of view. I also found it interesting that these two people, seemingly in different circumstances, find that they are not that different and how one decision or event can change the course of your life. Plus, it can happen so quickly. However, you are in charge of your own destiny and it’s not about what happens to you but how you deal with it.

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