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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Events: Portsmouth BookFest 2021

Portsmouth BookFest is celebrating 10 years this year and, despite the current restrictions, is running online until 7th March.

Portsmouth has a strong literary heritage including Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle and the BookFest is continuing that tradition.

There are many online events happening over the next few weeks including author talks and writing workshops.

Events being held include ‘Stories from Lore’ with Dawn Nelson, an interview with Mark Billingham, ‘Helping you finish your book and know what to do with it,’ ‘Writing Crime Fiction’ with Carol Westron, ‘Poetry for Wellbeing,’ with Kathryn Bevis and ‘Writing for Competitions,’ with Jackie Green and Christine Lawrence.

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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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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Two Lives of Louis & Louise by Julie Cohen

Hello February.

I know I say this a lot but I can’t believe we are through January already.

This means that we’re reading a new book.

This month, I have chosen The Two Lives of Louis & Louise by Julie Cohen.

I am a huge fan of this author and I am looking forward to reading this novel.

If you are new to the book club, here’s how it works.

Anyone can join in, whether you’ve already read the book or if you read it through the month of February. I have posted a question below to start off the discussion. I am looking forward to discussing this novel with you.

A little about the book…

Two people.
Two lives.
One chance to see the same world differently.

Louis and Louise are the same person born in two different lives. One was born female, and one male.

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Cover Reveal: When’s The Wedding by Olivia Spring

I am very happy to be part of the cover reveal for When’s The Wedding by Olivia Spring. It’s the sequel to her novel, Only When It’s Love.

Before I reveal the cover, here’s a little about the book…

She’s found the perfect man. Will she get her perfect proposal?

Dog hotel marketing manager Alex has always dreamed of having a fairy-tale proposal: the glorious sunset, iconic backdrop and rose petals – the whole shebang. She’s found her Mr Right, and life with sexy paediatrician Miles is wonderful, except for one thing. Despite saying that he’s ready for marriage, Miles seems no closer to putting a ring on it.

After a romantic getaway to Paris ends in more disappointment and Alex receives news that sends her world into a spin, she decides that her dream proposal won’t just fall into her lap. So she hatches a plan.

Although she’s convinced her methods will lead to Miles popping the question faster than she can say ‘I do’, Alex’s friends warn her it will end in disaster. But a little bit of hint dropping can’t hurt, right?

Will Alex get her happily-ever-after, or is there a reason why Miles is dragging his feet?

Order this fun romantic comedy now and join Alex on her exciting adventures as she attempts to speed up the proposal process, with hilarious results!

When’s The Wedding? is the sequel to Only When It’s Love. It can also be read as a standalone novel.

 

OK, so, are you ready? Drumroll!

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Book Review: The Mystery of Montague House by Emma Davis

I saw something out of the corner of my eye as I was leaving, and you know what that means. It’s never good news when I see something out of the corner of my eye…

With enough rooms to fill a Cluedo board several times over, Montague House has often been the subject of rumour and gossip. Tales of strange goings on, an owner who disappeared one day and was never seen again, not to mention the treasure that rumour has it lies at its heart… But now the present owner has died and the house is to be sold. Has the opportunity come to finally settle the stories once and for all?

Clodagh Wynter doesn’t believe in ghostly goings on and tall tales of secrets. She has her feet very firmly on the ground and, tasked with the job of valuing and cataloguing the house and all its contents, she’s simply looking forward to working in such a glorious setting. And if she happens across a priceless painting, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

Andie Summer is a self-styled Finder of Things (dead bodies mostly), and looking for hidden treasure sounds right up her street, even if there was something very fishy about the mysterious Mr Mayfair who hired her. Because it’s just like she said to her faithful basset hound, Hamish; I saw something out of the corner of my eye as I was leaving, and you know what that means. It’s never good news when I see something out of the corner of my eye…

As the unlikely pair are thrown together, it soon becomes very clear that they are not the only ones searching for the treasure. And they’re going to need all their ingenuity and resourcefulness if they’re ever going to untangle the web of secrets that surrounds Montague House. One that reaches even further than they ever thought possible…

Andie has a gift for finding things. She’s also able to see things that other people don’t.

Clodagh on the other hand doesn’t believe in ghosts or stories or rumours. She prefers her feet on the ground and loves her job, valuing and cataloguing antiques. These two very different women are pulled together when the mysterious owner of Montague House passes away. Can they work together to find out what secrets this strange house holds?

The Mystery of Montague House is not only the first book in the Summer & Wynter Mystery series, it was my introduction to Emma Davis.

Right from the beginning, I knew I was not only going to love this book but I found both main characters incredibly relatable and likeable albeit in their different ways. I love the sound of Andie’s job – finding things that are lost. There is something magical about the thought of it. I also liked both these women together. I think they made an excellent team and Emma Davis does well to deal with themes including love, loss and betrayal in a sensitive but compelling way.

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Book Extract: Deadly Whispers in Lower Dimblebrook by Julie Butterfield

I’d like to give a lovely welcome to Julie Butterfield and the blog tour for her latest novel, Deadly Whispers in Lower Dimblebrook.

When Isabelle Darby moves to the delightfully cosy village of Lower Dimblebrook, she’s searching for peace and quiet as well as a chance to escape from heartbreak. After making friends with Fiona Lambourne, another newcomer to the village, Issie is left reeling when tragedy strikes and Fiona is murdered, the second wife Anthony Lambourne has lost in unfortunate circumstances.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the local gossips insist that Fiona had been embroiled in an affair before her death, something which Issie knows not to be the case.

Determined to clear her friend’s reputation and solve the mystery of the rumours, Issie takes on both the gossips and the handsome but stern DI Wainwright, making both friends and enemies along the way!

 

Julie has shared an extract with us today so grab that tea/coffee, comfortable chair and enjoy. 

 

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

 

Introduction

Living in a village on the edge of the Cotswolds, it was easy to imagine life in Lower Dimblebrook and the characters are all the sort of people I would like to meet myself – with the exclusion of the murderer of course! As a lifelong fan of Miss Marple and Poirot, I could imagine the keystones of the village being the vicar and those residents who were have lived in the same houses for generations and know every nook and cranny of their village. I decided to dispense with the vicar in Deadly Whispers but I definitely needed a vicar’s wife, one of those kind-hearted, totally dependable women who provide a rock of support for anyone who asks.

 

For a moment Issie thought she had found the house empty until she detected a snuffling noise approaching ever closer and the door flew open, two over-excited dachshunds tumbling out to sniff her feet and ankles with all the focus of bloodhounds. A pink-cheeked face appeared a few seconds behind them and Miriam Hollier wiped her hands on her flour-covered apron and tilted her head enquiringly in Issie’s direction.

‘Hello, Isabelle isn’t it? Do come in. Flounder … Scuttle come along now,’ and Issie found herself herded in the direction of a warm kitchen, rich with the scent of baking and with scones and cakes covering every surface.

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Book Review: The Island by C.L Taylor

Welcome to The Island.

Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re becoming a reality.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?

Jessie, Jefferson, Milo, Meg and Honor have been going on annual holidays together for as long as they can remember. This year, they have been treated to a survival weekend on a small private island in Thailand.

To begin with, their adventure is fun but when they find themselves suddenly alone with no way of getting back to the mainland, their time there soon turns into something more sinister.

I am such a big fan of C L Taylor and so I was excited to have a chance to read The Island. From the beginning, the tension and suspense builds and this compelling novel kept me reading well into the night. Time just seemed to disappear.

I liked the fact that it was told from both the point of view of Jessie and Danny. Everyone became less reliable as the story progressed. I continuously tried to figure out what was going on and who was responsible. I didn’t see the end coming.

Each of these characters are in some way relatable and C.L Taylor doesn’t shy away from dealing with some tough subjects including grief, loss, bullying and mental health. It wasn’t hard for me to empathise with these six teenagers.

It has also made me realise that I never want to go to a private Island or jungle. Ever! The setting is described so vividly, I did feel as though I was there with them. This book would transfer to being a movie very well. I could see each scene as it played out.

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Book Review: Let Me Love You by Lasairiona E. McMaster

Jilted by the only woman he’s ever loved, Jeremy Lewis is a man on a mission to be a renowned player – both on and off the ice. Who needs monogamy anyway?

But when he falls during a game, Jeremy finds himself laid-up with a potentially career-ending injury and his support network, suddenly gone. His best friend, AJ, is busy in a new relationship, his teammates are pursuing their own dreams of hockey stardom, and Jeremy is left frustrated, broken and alone.

Will their friendship survive AJ’s new relationship? Are Jeremy’s feelings for Chelsea truly a thing of the past? And can he persevere through his recovery to get back on the ice?

 

Jeremy has dreams of being in the NHL. However, a fall on the ice means that he now has to take a step back from the game he loves and allow himself to heal. His parents are gone, he’s estranged from his brother and the woman he loves doesn’t want to be with him. Jeremy finds that he has to heal in more ways than one.

This is the second novel in the Jeremy Lewis series. Having not read the first book, I did wonder if I was going to struggle to keep up with what was going on but this was not the case. I immediately fell into the story.

I have to admit, what first drew me to this novel was the fact that he was a Ice Hockey player. I do like my Ice Hockey but once I started to read, I got drawn into Jeremy’s story. He is a tragic, complicated character who is so much more than the ‘tough guy’ exterior he projects to the world. He’s a much deeper character than that and the further I got into the book, the more I wanted to give him a hug. In-fact, I didn’t want to put this book down as I wanted to know he was OK.

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NK Chats To… Kate Ryder

Hi Kate, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, Beneath Cornish Skies and what inspired it? 

Hello, Laura, and thank you for inviting me to be on your blog.

Cornwall has always inspired me.  As a teenager, I holidayed on the North Cornish coast in a thatched cottage with impressive, uninterrupted views over a wooded valley down to the cliffs and the sea beyond. It made a huge impression and it’s this cottage that features in my fourth novel with Aria.

I like to write books that have a message; hopefully, readers will think Beneath Cornish Skies delivers.  It’s not simply a contemporary romance, but also a story about a young woman’s journey in finding herself, with a little help from friends, nature, ancient magic and spirits in the landscape.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

I like to be at my desk by 9am, working through to lunch when I meet up with my husband (who also has a home office).  In the afternoon I catch up on any writerly loose ends, social media posts, etc., or if I have a WIP I concentrate on that.  Our kitten-cat regularly visits and, having been turfed off the keyboard on numerous occasions, she settles on the printer and watches out for any pieces of paper to attack!

 

How do you approach the process from first draft to final edit and how has this changed since writing your first novel?

I’d like to be a plotter, but as my characters develop I’m often put in the pantser camp!  I think I may be a plantser – a little of both.

Hopefully, the first draft is an unhindered stream of imagination.  I’ve worked as a proof-reader, copy-editor and writer, so, at the final edit I put on my objective ‘editorial’ hat and heavily prune, removing any superfluous words and anything that hinders the story’s momentum.

Since writing my first novel there have been no major changes to the process, apart from having a keener idea about deadlines and pacing myself.  I don’t panic so much and approach each ‘challenge’ a word at a time.

 

What, in your opinion, is the most common mistake made by aspiring authors?

Many people believe writing a novel is easy.  You put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and a publisher will soon snap you up and success will follow… but that couldn’t be further from the truth!  To write, you have to master self-discipline, even when the words refuse to flow.  It’s a hard way to make a living, but if you’re drawn to writing you cannot deny it.  At the start of my writing journey, a more experienced author gave me this advice: ‘Have patience.  Each novel is your apprenticeship.’

 

Do you feel character or plot is more important? Why?

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Book Review: When the Children Come by Barry Kirwan

Nathan, emotionally scarred after three tours in Afghanistan, lives alone in Manhattan until New Year’s Eve, when he meets Lara. The next morning, he notices something strange is going on – a terrified kid is being pursued by his father, and a girl, Sally, pleads with Nathan to hide her from her parents. There is no internet, no television, no phone coverage. 

Nathan, Lara and Sally flee along the East Coast, encountering madmen, terrorists, the armed forces, and other children frightened for their lives. The only thing Nathan knows for sure is that he must not fall asleep…

I will be the first to admit that I don’t read a lot of books in this genre so I wasn’t expecting to like it.

When The Children Come is also my first introduction to Barry Kirwan. My first thought when I finished this novel was WOW!

Right from page one, this had me drawn in, asking questions and wanting to turn the page to find out what was going on. Why can’t Nathan fall asleep? How has a man who doesn’t want children end up being responsible for over two hundred? I just had to find out.

Nathan is a broken character and so you wonder whether he is going to step up when it counts. However, saying that, he is someone you immediately root for.

The author is good at threading doubt and fear for both the situation and the people in it. Who can Nathan, Lara and Sally trust? Can we even rely on them?

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