Yearly round up

My top 20 books from 2020.

This will be my third year of blogging and because of obvious Covid related reasons and losing two family members, 2020 will not be forgotten easily.

However, it has been a fantastic year for books and I know that the poor authors have not been able to do events and this was primarily the reason with my work head as Development Senior Supervisor at Exeter Library on we started to do ‘In Conversations’ this year. Starting in April with Clara Barley author of Moss House this was my first online interview and at the end of the year we have done a fantastic 12 events. I have loved doing them and it has definitely developed a new skill for me and enabled me to talk to some fantastic authors from all genres.

You can watch them here and we have a fab line up for 2021 follow @exeterlibrary on Twitter and ExeterLibrary on Facebook :

https://www.facebook.com/watch/651401671585542/2670167856584127

Anyway lets get going with my top 20 reads of 2020! I would say that this was really brutal having to chose as I have read so many amazing books and I have shared the links to my original reviews if you would like to read more.

Karen xx

1. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth- Matson TaylorScribner Books

The total joy of Evie came into my life this summer. This book is such a joy, a great story and the characters, whether you loved or hated them are fantastic. I loved the strong women in the book and having family in Yorkshire, this really resonated with me as I have been brought up with strong women who loved to bake. If you have not read this one you need to and I cannot wait to see what Evie does next.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/2005

2. Piranesi- Susanna ClarkeBloomsbury

I did not know what to expect but what I discovered was beyond any expectations that I could have had. The writing is beautiful and you will be transported to the house and become immersed in labyrinthine pages.

You really need to read this book to uncover the secrets about Piranesi and the other occupants of the House. So many times I thought I knew what was happening and so many times when I was wrong. This really is an outstanding read.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/2960

3. In the Sweep of the Bay -Cath Barton Louise Walters Books

This book looks deeply at relationships and has many what if’s. It is a really beautifully crafted book and I recommend that you read. I had so many questions at the end I think this would make an excellent book group read.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/3349

4.The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha PulleyBloomsbury

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street: The International Bestseller:  Amazon.co.uk: Pulley, Natasha: 9781408854310: Books

The three main characters are brought together through a set of strange circumstances and I loved the dynamics of this complicated relationship. I do not want to give any spoilers as I knew nothing about the book before I read it and I think this is the best way to enjoy it.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/2058

5.The Mist -Ragnar -Ragnar JonassonPenguin Michael Joseph

The Mist by Ragnar Jnasson, Victoria Cribb (translator) (9781405934886)

Dark, brutal and compelling I loved this book. It is so clever and the pace is relentless and I can’t remember a time when a book totally immersed me in the atmosphere and story. Exceptional ! This trilogy is going to make a fantastic tv series.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/3708

6. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside – Jessica RynHQStories

This is a joyful read, the author portrays the characters with warmth and tackles

a difficult subject sensitively and with humour at times. I loved Dawn nothing stops her from trying to help, she is desperate to be needed. A fabulous touching debut which shows kindness and friendship go a long way in the world. Beautiful!

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/3614

7.The Diabolical Bones -Bella EllisHodder Books

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis | Waterstones

I really enjoyed the atmosphere that the author portrays in this book, it is set near Christmas but don’t be fooled that its sparkly book. It is cold, snowy and bleak Yorkshire in winter. I loved the darkness, the danger and unexplained.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/3626

8. Strangers – C L Taylor Avon Books

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This is such a great book, I would have read in one sitting if I had the chance it is so suspenseful and shocking which I love in a thriller. All the characters are really down on their luck and lonely and without giving too much away they are all brought together in a shocking conclusion which will change their lives forever.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/1620

9.The Storm – Amanda JenningsHQ Stories

The Storm: The most gripping and chilling psychological suspense novel of  2020, exploring coercive control, lost love, and buried secrets:  Amazon.co.uk: Jennings, Amanda: 9780008287061: Books

A dark and claustrophobic read. I loved this book and I had not read anything by Amanda before but I will be reading her others. I loved her style of writing and how she draws you in and it was a real experience which I will not forget in a while. Fantastic !

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/2145

10. All the Lonely People- Mike GayleHodder Books

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle (author) (9781473687387)

This book is a joy, the writing is empathetic and gentle. I loved the dual storyline and learning about Hubert’s life with Joyce and how he came to be in England. Also the struggles that they have as a mixed race couple in the 1950’s, some of which are really hard to read but very important.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/2156

11. The Truants – Kate WeinburgBloomsbury

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I loved this book so much and I read it really slowly so that I could savour the writing. The characters and the story totally engrossed me and I found the love triangle element intriguing and knew that was never going to end well.

This is one of my favourite reads of the year and I was besotted by it and will be recommending this one far and wide. An amazing book!

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/1954

12. The Winter Garden -Heidi SwainSimon and Schuster

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This is a truly wonderful read, and it was a joy to step into the world of Freya as she makes a new life with the supportive members of Nightingale Square. Best enjoyed on the sofa with the rain on the windows and nowhere else to go. If you are a fan of Heidi or a newbie you will love being transported into the wintery gorgeousness at its best from the lovely Heidi !

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/3104

13. A Wedding at the Beach Hut- Veronica HenryOrion Books

The setting of Tawcombe seemed very familiar to me, being from Mid Devon and I loved the Devon idiosyncrasies. Mick reminded me of my Dad, who calls me and my sisters,’ his maids’ too ! The book has humour and warmth but also sadness and covers some really delicate subjects like adoption and miscarriage in a really sensitive way.

This book could not have come at a better time for me, in lock down when I was unable to visit my own favourite seaside haunts but I was able to be transported there with the assistance of this gorgeous book. Thank you Ronnie for another fabulous read.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/3833

14. Hamnet -Maggie O Farrell- Tinder Press

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I loved this book and I can see why it has been so well reviewed it totally transported me to time and place that I have never experienced previously. It was so visual you can not help but be totally engrossed in this fantastic storytelling. It seamlessly switches between Agnes’s past and present.

I feel very privileged to have been able to be part of the tour of this wonderful book.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/1529

15. Love Orange- Natasha Randall – QuercusRiver Run

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This is a really great book I loved it, the strong characters in the book makes the read all the more involved. This is a fantastic debut novel and I loved chatting to Natasha and the other members of the the buddy read about the book.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/3227

16. Three Hours -Rosamund Lupton- Penguin

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I loved how the story of Macbeth was also woven in to the events. There are heart-breaking and heart stopping moments which left me very emotional and at times shocked.

I think this book will stay with me for a long time and I feel very lucky to be able to review it. Although it is definitely a book that everyone should read as I feel my review will never convey all I want it too.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/926

17.Snow Song- Sally Gardner -HQ Stories

If you need to escape then this is perfect for transporting you away to this other land of myths and superstitions. A fantastic adult story which highlights some of the worse traits of humans, darkness but with beauty and an underlying feeling of hope. Excellent!

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/3490

18. The Killings at Kingfisher Hill – Sophie HannahHarper Collins

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This is such a great story, it is cleverly plotted and leaves clues along by the way, that make you think you know who the killer is but I was completely shocked when the twist in the tale comes at Poirot’s ever famous denouement. I think it is one of the cleverest plots I have read in a long time.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/2962

19. I Made a Mistake-Jane CorryPenguin

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This is a fantastic read, I started and I could not put it down, the characters are believable and very human and the author has a wonderful gift of hooking the reader in and building suspense throughout the story and this story is no exception.

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/1778

20. Starry Skies over the Chocolate Pot Cafe – Jessica Redland Boldwood Books

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe: A heartwarming festive read to  curl up with in 2021 eBook: Redland, Jessica: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

This is a really great book, it surprised me and I loved seeing Tara change into a beautiful butterfly. She really deserved to find some happiness and with the support of the lovely community in Castle Street she begins to find that she can.

This is a sit on the sofa with a hot chocolate sort of book, it has a bit of everything, sadness, hope, friendship, betrayal and overcoming the past. I loved it !

https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/3009

Fiction, Thriller/Crime

Her Name is Mercie -Chris Roy -@blackthornTours- @Chrisroycrime – Book Tour

Book information · Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/Her-Name-Mercie-Chris-Roy/dp/1980638136

· Genre: Crime, horror

· Print length: 162 pages

· Suitable for young adults? This is an adult book with dark themes and components of horror, suitable for mature teenagers age 17+

· Trigger warnings: graphic violence, police killing

· .

About Her Name is Mercie

Mercie Hillbrook lives a simple, quiet life working as a gas station attendant. Then her parents are killed. Her home is taken. The people responsible are excused for just doing their job. When an attempt to get justice her way lands her in trouble with the law, Mercie realizes she still has something to lose: her own life.

Then she finds reason to believe her parents were murdered… and she doesn’t care anymore.

Alongside this rollercoaster of a novella, this book includes 4 very dark short stories

Amazon rating: (14 reviews)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Praise for Her Name is Mercie

Roy delivers on the edge of your seat storytelling with rough edges, crooked cops and a tiny light at the end of the tunnel that is never quite extinguished.

— Tom Vater, co–founder of Crime Wave Press.

Her Name Is Mercie is a fast furious ride into an inferno of the highest tension you are likely to encounter this year. Where noir meets thriller, toss a coin. Dive in. And unplug your phones, pcs tablets and keep reading deeper and deeper, until the final pages.

— Richard Godwin, author of Apostle Rising.

My thoughts

Thank you to Lilyan at Blackthorn books for my invitation to the tour and for my copy of the e book in return for a fair and honest review.

In the first in this short story collection we met Mercie. Mercie works in a gas station and is contacted by the police as her parents have been killed in a police shooting. After having to identify them at the morgue, she takes drastic action and what happens next is a high octane, fast paced ride.

She has an unlikely companion who she meets during this spree and who rescues her when she most needs it. This is a great read, if you like your reading action packed then this is for you. Bank robbery, car theft, police corruption, kidnap is all in there. It is dark and violent and it has so many twists and turns you will be gripped. It does have very strong language within in which some may find offensive.

There are five stories in this collection, some I preferred to others but I think that is a personal choice. If you like your thrillers dark and fast you will enjoy this collection.

About the Author:

Chris Roy is the author of Shocking Circumstances, Sharp as a Razor, and Her Name Is Mercie. He is a published tattoo artist (Rise Tattoo Magazine, ATC Tattoo Books app) and the illustrator of two children’s books. Raised in South Mississippi, he lived comfortably with the criminal ventures of his youth until a fistfight in 1999 ended tragically. Since January, 2000, he’s been serving a life sentence in the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Nowadays he lives his life of crime vicariously, through the edgy, fast-paced stories he pens, hoping to entertain readers. When he isn’t writing, he’s reading, tattooing or looking for prospects to train in boxing.

You can find Chris on Twitter @ChrisRoyCrime and on his Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Roy/e/B00MF6LCHM Chris Roy on Off the Chain Radio: https://t.co/brwaz5KFPp?amp=1

Fiction

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth – Matson Taylor #blogtours @RandomTTours @simonbooks @scribnerbooks @matson_taylor_

About the book

Cold Comfort Farm meets Adrian Mole in the funniest debut novel of the year. Yorkshire, the summer of 1962. Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?

Up until now, Evie’s life has been nothing special: a patchwork of school, Girl Guides, cows, milk deliveries, lost mothers and village fetes. But, inspired by her idols (Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen), she dreams of a world far away from rural East Yorkshire, a world of glamour lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds).

Standing in the way of these dreams, though, is Christine, Evie’s soon to be stepmother, a manipulative and money grubbing schemer who is lining Evie up for a life of shampooand-set drudgery at the local salon.

Luckily, Evie is not alone. With the help of a few friends, and the wise counsel of the two Adam Faith posters on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’), Evie comes up with a plan to rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save their beloved farmhouse from being sold off.

She will need a little luck, a dash of charm and a big dollop of Yorkshire magic if she is to succeed, but in the process she may just discover who exactly she is meant to be.

My review

Thank you to Anne Cater Random Things Tours for my invitation to the tour and to Scribner for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

The story begins with us being introduced to Evie who decides to take her Dad Arthur’s car for a drive she comes across a very alarming sight and crashes the car and the book the reader then meets Arthur and his hideous girl-friend Christine and her family.

Evie can not remember her Mother as she died when she was a toddler, but Mrs Scott- Pym an elderly friend in the village is determined that Evie should and gives her a recipe book that had belonged to her mother. She is also fiercely protective of Evie and goes to extreme measures to try and rid of the awful Christine from her life. This takes an unexpected turn and a glamorous visitor comes to the village.

This book is such a joy, a great story and the characters, whether you loved or hated them are fantastic. I loved the strong women in the book and having family in Yorkshire this really resonated with me as I have been brought up with strong women who loved to bake.

The book had a Cinderella feel however, instead of the handsome prince rescuing Evie she is loved and supported by a band of female friends who want the best for her. The 60’s setting was delightful and I would love to see what Evie does next.

This is such a lovely book, it’s funny it made me laugh out loud with the descriptions of Christine’s wardrobe and Evie’s escapades with the glamorous and worldly Caroline were heartening. As with all good stories good overcomes bad and this is a fantastic debut and I look forward to reading more from this author.

About the author

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire but now lives in London. He is a design historian and academic writing tutor and has worked at various universities and museums around the world; he currently teaches at the V&A, Imperial College, and the RCA.

He has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial, and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers.

Fiction, Gothic/Spooky, Historical

#Blog Tour- The Shape of Darkness -Laura Purcell – @spookypurcell @bloomsburybooks @randomttours

About the book

As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to
keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Why is the killer seemingly targeting her business?


Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.


But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back.

My thoughts

Thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my invitation to the tour and to Bloomsbury Raven for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

Wow ! I was so excited to be on the tour for this gorgeous book and it was such a wonderful experience.

We meet Agnes Darken who is living in Bath, she has been unwell and her late sister’s husband Simon who is a Dr has been caring for her. She is advised by him to not exert herself due to her pneumonia which has left her weak. Her profession is as a silhouette artist, one day she is out drawing in Sydney Gardens and she sketches a sailor who she has been watching who reminds her of her own fiancé. She has clients that visit her to have their portraits made into silhouettes and she is visited by the police when the most recent of her customers is found murdered.

Then there is Pearl, she is an 11 year old girl who lives with her sister and very sick father. Pearl’s sister Myrtle exploits Pearl as a medium as she has powers to make contact with the dead. These sessions are gruelling for poor Pearl, who lost her own mother at birth. After more of Agnes’s clients die in suspicious circumstances, Agnes hears about Pearl and decides that she must visit to find out who the murderer is and why are they coming after her clients. The relationship of Agnes and Pearl is a tender one as Agnes is worried about Pearl and why she is so ill and wants to help her and her sick father.

This is one of the best gothic stories I have read in a very long time, it is sublime. The author sets the scene of a Bath no longer in its heyday but slightly shabby around the edges and this with the spooky atmosphere that Laura Purcell conjures up so well made me glued to my seat all day. I love Bath it is one of my favourite cities and walking around places that I know well like Sydney Gardens, The Pump Room, The Abbey, Walcot Street and Queens Square made the experience even more real for me. As a reader I was transfixed with Pearl and her séances and her powers and the writing is so visual I was in that room with her as she contacts the dead.

Agnes is living with her Mother and Nephew after her sister Constance died, you do not know the circumstances of her death but little by little you uncover the story behind Agnes, Simon, Cedric and their past. The author is so clever at hooking you and I really did not see what was happening until after it had happened and then you get a real ah-ah moment as the secrets are uncovered. There is everything in this story, lies, death, horror and sadness.

I loved this book and I will be definitely reading it again and recommending as it is really is the most glorious dark and creepy story and Laura Purcell is a genius of compelling storytelling. A MAZ ING !!

5 Stars *****

About the author

Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Her first novel for Raven Books, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 and Zoe Ball ITV Book Club pick and was the winner of the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award, while her subsequent books – The Corset and Bone China – established Laura as the queen of the sophisticated, and spooky, page-turner.

Fiction, Thriller/Crime, Young Adult

The Island -C L Taylor @hqstories @callytaylor

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 quickly turns into a nightmare.Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re coming true.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?

Lost meets The Hunger Games in the thrilling new young adult novel from C.L. Taylor, the Sunday Times and million-copy bestselling author.

My thoughts

Thank you to Sian at HQ for the invitation to the blog tour and for the digital arc of the book.

A group of teenagers who have been friends since their parents met at NCT classes and have been on holiday most years since. They don’t see each other often but have always go on after a day or two. Jeffer’s father has paid for the trip for him and his friends. Milo, Danny, Jessie, Megan and Honor.

However, this year they are teenagers and things have changed, hormones have taken over and bravado is at the maximum. They head off to a exclusive island in Thailand with a specialist guide, Anuman on a week’s survival trip.

On the first evening they all share their phobias and the next day tragedy strikes and the group have to fend for themselves. There are relationships and secrets all bubbling away under the surface. They try to leave the island but someone has made sure they can’t.

Things start to take an even darker turn and they start to turn against each other in their fear.

This is a addictive book and I loved the characters. Jessie, it is obvious she has been through a massive trauma. Danny is like the alpha of the group. Milo and Meg are siblings and Jessie has feelings for Milo and the others are worried that he is using her.Jeffers is ostracized by the group and ends up setting up his own camp. Honor and Danny are a couple but even that is not going well.

It’s a bubbling pot of emotions and they start to think they are not alone on the island. The setting is glorious and deadly the perfect combination for a inhabited island.

I love Cally’s writing it’s twisty and turny, and you never quite know where it is headed next and this story is no exception. When Jessie heads off for a swim after another falling out with Danny. She sees a boat heading towards the beach. What happens next splits the group and tension rises even higher.

This is a great story its compelling, entertaining and suspenseful and I was gripped. It is also emotional, all the group have stuff going on and they don’t really want to deal with it, like most teenagers. I just wanted to hug Jessie she has been through such a lot, it kept me guessing right until the end.A really excellent read !

5 *****

About the author

C.L. Taylor is the six times Sunday Times bestselling author of seven gripping stand-alone psychological thrillers: THE ACCIDENT, THE LIE, THE MISSING, THE ESCAPE, THE FEAR, SLEEP and STRANGERS.

Her books have sold in excess of a million copies and hit the number one spots on Amazon Kindle, Audible, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play. They have been translated into over 25 languages, selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, and optioned for television. 

THE ESCAPE won the Dead Good Books ‘Hidden Depths’ award for the Most Unreliable Narrator and SLEEP won a Capital Crime Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award. 

HER LAST HOLIDAY, C.L. Taylor’s eighth crime novel, will be published on 29th April 2021 by Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins UK.

She has also written a Young Adult thriller, THE TREATMENT, published by HarperCollins HQ. Her second young adult standalone THE ISLAND will be published on 21st January 2021.

Fiction, Thriller/Crime

The Marlow Murder Club – Robert Thorogood @Hqstories #blogtour @robthoro

From the creator of the BBC One hit TV series, Death in Paradise.

To solve an impossible murder, you need an impossible hero…

Judith Potts is seventy-seven years old and blissfully happy. She lives on her own in a faded mansion just outside Marlow, there’s no man in her life to tell her what to do or how much whisky to drink, and to keep herself busy she sets crosswords for The Times newspaper. 

One evening, while out swimming in the Thames, Judith witnesses a brutal murder. The local police don’t believe her story, so she decides to investigate for herself, and is soon joined in her quest by Suzie, a salt-of-the-earth dog-walker, and Becks, the prim and proper wife of the local Vicar.

Together, they are the Marlow Murder Club.

When another body turns up, they realise they have a real-life serial killer on their hands. And the puzzle they set out to solve has become a trap from which they might never escape…

My thoughts

Thank you to Sian at HQ stories for my invitation to the tour and for my digital copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

Judith is not your conventional seventy something lady, she likes to swim naked in the river outside her home at night. One night when she is swimming she hears a gunshot and reports it to the police who say they have checked it out and they have not found anything untoward. Judith is unperturbed and makes a grisly discovery herself.

Her neighbour Stefan is found dead and although the police are not convinced that there are suspicious circumstances Judith is.

Judith is a hilarious character she is like a dog with a bone and she will not let it go and starts to do her own investigation. She definitely reminded me of Miss Marple who I love so this was a real bonus for me. To begin with her relationship with DS Malik is strained and she is not convinced with Judith’s theories about the murder. However, when a second murder happens she has to think again.

The murders seem to be linked but are they, and is it professional killings? You will have to read to find out ! What do an antique dealer and a taxi driver have in common ? Judith enlists the help of Becks the vicar’s wife and Suzie a dog walker, to try to get bottom of the mystery.

This is a great easy read, it drew me in quickly and kept y attention as Judith puts herself in danger to discover the truth. It’s a warm, entertaining and funny story and I really enjoyed getting to know Judith and co.

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Robert Thorogood is the creator of the hit BBC One TV series Death in Paradise, and he has written a series of spin-off novels featuring detective DI Richard Poole.

He was born in Colchester, Essex. When he was ten years old, he read his first proper novel – Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House – and he’s been in love with the genre ever since.

He now lives in Marlow in Buckinghamshire with his wife, children and two whippets called Wally and Evie.

Link to buy :

https://www.creditoncommunitybookshop.co.uk/product/the-marlow-murder-club/

Thriller/Crime

Shiver – Allie Reynolds – Blogtour @authorallieR @headlinepg @lararosetamara

When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.

The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.

In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.

My thoughts

I am delighted to be sharing my review of this fabulous book as part of the Blog Tour on Publication day for Shiver!

I will be In Conversation with Allie on Monday 25th January at 9am from Exeter Library.

https://fb.me/e/5MSW4Xcy3

Thank you to Alara at Headline for my invitation to the tour and my proof copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. It is always difficult to write a review when you don’t want to give spoilers so here goes !

A group of friends are invited back to the Alps after 10 years after an incident where one of the friends Saskia goes missing.

Milla, the narrator of the story along with the others has received an invitation to return to the place that they all snowboarded professionally and they are massively competitive. However, this also translates into their relationships off piste.

Right from the outset there is a sense of peril. Phones disappear, doors are locked then opened and no ones story seems to quite add up. On the first evening, an icebreaker reveals allegations about who slept with who all those years previously.

The book switches between the present day and 10 years previously with Milla, Brent, Dale, Heather and Curtis being invited to the Alps. However, not everyone from the past has returned missing from the group are Saskia, Odette, Julian. Everyone has secrets about the past and someone wants them all revealed and wants revenge. I enjoyed reading about each of the characters and to be honest most of them are not hugely likeable but this adds to the experience.

This is a excellent winter read, deception, adrenaline and lots of snow. Milla is a complicated character she doesn’t believe in herself at all so is fiercely competitive. When she meets Saskia this is accentuated. Saskia likes to get what she wants and will not stop at anything to get it. This leads to everyone in the group being a suspect when she disappears, after yet another sexual liaison with one of the friends. However is this the last one?

I really enjoyed the book the twists and turns but also the atmosphere when the friends return. It is obvious from the outset that none of them trust each other and as the past is uncovered you see why. It is atmospheric and creepy and I could easily imagine myself in the deserted accommodation.

I knew nothing about snowboarding before I read this book and I was intrigued by the buzz that the characters got from the danger.

I really liked this quote which summed the buzz of snowboarding up perfectly.

I am tingling with fear- a good sort of fear. Some people choose drugs to get this feeling, and arguably that might be safer, but I have always preferred to get it from sports. Here goes……..

If you like a creepy mystery with lots of high adrenaline sports and bedhopping then you will love this. I am very pleased to give this my first 5 snowy stars of 2021.

5 ❄❄❄❄❄

🥶🥶 is a fantastic read!

About Allie

Biography: Allie Reynolds was once a freestyle snowboarder in the UK top ten at halfpipe. She spent five winters in the mountains of France, Switzerland, Austria and Canada.

She’s had many jobs including nanny, barmaid, London primary school teacher, bookshop assistant and French teacher/translator. In 2003, she swapped her snowboard for a surfboard and moved to Gold Coast Australia, where she taught English as a foreign language for fifteen years. 

Allie became a full-time writer in 2018. Her short fiction has been published in women’s magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden and South Africa. She has two young children and a cat who thinks he’s a dog.

Her debut novel, SHIVER, will be published in the UK and US in early 2021, and in twelve languages that same year.

Fiction, Thriller/Crime

The Last Thing to Burn -Will Dean @hodderbooks @willdean @jennyplatt90

About the book

The Last Thing to Burn is the highly anticipated first standalone thriller from bestselling author and rising star Will Dean.


Unrelentingly tense and heart-poundingly atmospheric, The Last Thing to Burn is a chilling and thought-provoking exploration of human survival and life on the fringes of society.
He is her husband. She is his captive. Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped.
No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen. Her husband records her every movement during the day.
If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.


For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting.

My thoughts

Thank you to Jenny Platt at Hodder and Stoughton for my invitation to the tour and for copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

Jane is a hostage, she lives on a farm with her hideous husband Lenn. Her name is not Jane it is Thanh Dao and she came to England in the back of a lorry with her sister Kim-Ly. They like many others are sold a lie of a great life and what she gets is imprisonment, brutality and abuse. This book is really difficult to read in places but oh my! I could not stop reading and I finished in one afternoon.

Lenn is really the vilest person I have ever read about and poor Thanh Dao he repeatedly punishes her as she tries again and again to escape. Something changes and Lenn has her even more under his control with his punishments and drugging her. She has a broken ankle that he caused after she tried to run away previously and she is in constant pain. He watches her every move and records her and watches it back so she has no way of escape and she has tried. He tries to break her bit by bit but she lives to find her sister and see her family in Vietnam again.

This really is a remarkable story about the human spirit and hope. Thanh uses one of my favourite books Of Mice and Men amongst other items as her comfort. Every page ramps up the tension and it will leave your nerves shattered as the book reaches its finale. A hard review to write as I would hate to spoil this book for anyone as I absolutely devoured it.

A fantastic book ! 5 Stars

About Will

WILL DEAN grew up in the East Midlands and had lived in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying Law at the LSE and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden where he built a house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. His debut novel, Dark Pines, was selected for Zoe Ball’s Book Club, shortlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker prize and named a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year. The second Tuva Moodyson mystery, Red Snow, was published in January 2019 and won Best Independent Voice at the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards, 2019. The Last Thing to Burn is his first standalone novel and his first book with Hodder.


‘I lived every second with the characters. A masterpiece’ JANE CASEY

‘Misery meets Room – a triumph’ MARIAN KEYES


‘Ratchets up the tension to the point where
I had to check my pulse’ LIZ NUGENT


‘An addictive and insightful thriller’
MAXINE MEI-FUNG CHUNG

Fiction, Thriller/Crime

The Appeal – Janice Hallett – @viperbooks @janicehallett #Theappealbuddyread.#BlogTour

Someone was murdered.
Someone went to prison.
And everyone’s a suspect.
Can you uncover the truth?


Dear Reader,


Enclosed are documents relating to the events surrounding the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons, and the tragic death of one of its members. Another member is currently in prison for the crime. We have reason to suspect that they are innocent, and that there were far darker secrets that have yet to be revealed.
We believe that the killer has given themselves away. It’s there in writing, hidden in the emails, texts and letters. In the events surrounding the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick, and the question of whether that money was truly being used to fund her life-saving cancer treatment. Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth? Do you dare?
The Appeal by Janice Hallett is the standout debut thriller of 2021 in which the reader is challenged to solve the crime… and predict the victim. With the small-town intrigue of The Casual Vacancy and the deft plotting of Agatha Christie, it will change the way you think about the modern crime novel.


‘An addictive read’ – Michelle Frances
‘Brilliantly original, inventive and clever’ – Phoebe Morgan
TV RIGHTS OPTIONED BY ABC STUDIOS

My thoughts

Thank you to Flora Willis for my invitation to the buddy read and blog tour and my copy of the proof in return for a fair and honest review.

I am really not sure how to write a review for this incredible book and not give anything away but also explain how clever it is. As you can see from the blurb its a puzzle and the reader is invited to solve it.

The book is written in the form of evidence that was used to convict a person in jail. However, it is thought that the wrong person could have been found guilty and the real perpetrator is still free.

The book tells the reader about The Fairway Players a theatre group with a strong family, The Haywards leading. When they get tragic news about a family member the whole town comes together to support them. This is an addictive book you have been warned !!

@bookshortie and I read this as a buddy read and we had to ration ourselves. The plot is so clever and you never know quite the full picture is. We found the round ups really helpful in gathering our thoughts. It is a story about hierarchy, deception, fraud, murder, obsession, revenge and so much more.

It has a typical small town atmosphere where everyone thinks that they know everyone’s business and if they don’t they just make it up ! We had our suspicions and we managed to be right for two of the three but the third one flummoxed us which I loved and as with all good who dun nits it all becomes clear !

An excellent read and one that will definitely be going on my books of the year list due to its uniqueness and compelling nature of the book.

5 🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♀️

About the author


Janice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist, and government speechwriter. She co-wrote the psychological thriller feature film The Retreat (starring Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton and Jamie Bell) with director Carl Tibbetts. She’s now a full-time writer of fiction in various forms, with several plays produced and scripts in development. The Appeal is her first novel.

Fiction, Romance

Summer Job – Lizzy Dent – @vikingbooks @dentlizzy

About the book

Well Birdy Finch didn’t just imagine it. She did it. Which might’ve been an error. And the life she’s run into? Her best friend, Heather’s.

The only problem is, she hasn’t told Heather. Actually there are a few other problems…

Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)?

And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she’s ever actually liked (but who thinks she’s someone else)

The Summer Job is a fresh, fun, feel-good romcom for fans of The Flatshare, Bridget Jones and Bridesmaids.

WANT TO ESCAPE REAL LIFE FOR A WHILE? RUN AWAY WITH BIRDY FINCH, A MESSY HEROINE WITH A HEART OF GOLD. THE SUMMER JOB IS THE HOTTEST DEBUT TO LOSE YOURSELF IN THIS YEAR.

My thoughts

Thank you to Ellie Hudson at Penguin Viking Books for my copy of the proof of this fantastic book.

Birdy ( Elizabeth ) has had a troubled upbringing, an alcoholic Father and a Mother who gaslights her regularly it is no wonder that she has had trouble finding her way in the world. When her life looks like her only option is to move back to Plymouth with her Mother she decides to take drastic action. Her boyfriend Tim is less than useless and her best friend Heather has gone away with her new boyfriend. Birdy has never found a career unlike Heather who is a highly trained sommelier who is very good at her job.

However, Heather was conflicted about going away as she had just been offered a job in a remote Scottish hotel, and she doesn’t want to tell them that she is not going to take the role. So Birdy says she will do it for her and that she can have her free tickets to The British Wine Awards.

Birdy decides that it cant be that hard to do Heather’s job and decides to pretend to be Heather and travel to Scotland. When she reaches Loch Dorn, near Skye in Scotland she realises that the she may have taken on a lot more than she had imagined. The Chef James and Russell don’t see eye to eye at all and Irene who is the manager all want the newly refurbished hotel to succeed as a high class boutique location.

With the help of Roxy and Bill, Birdy manages to scrape through her first covers but can she pull it off. James offers to help her learn to cook and she begins to feel like for the first time in her life she is part of something.

Birdy is hilarious and there are more than one time in this book that she made me cringe with her blunt manner. However, she has a warm heart and when she helps Bill with his problems she really showed another side to her harsh exterior. I really grew to love her and I was so desperate for her to succeed and find her place in the world. Unfortunately things take a downward spiral and Birdy looks like she will lose her friendship her job and worse of all her best friend. She tries so hard when she is so out of her depth you cannot help but to cheer her on.

This is a warm and uplifting book and I really loved reading it

5 stars 🦞🦞🦞🦞🦞

About the author

Lizzy Dent (mis)spent her early twenties working in Scotland in hospitality, in a hotel not unlike the one in this novel. She somehow ended up in a glamorous job travelling the world creating content for various TV companies, including MTV, Channel 4, Cartoon Network, the BBC and ITV. But she always knew that writing was the thing she wanted to do, if only she could find the confidence. After publishing three young adult novels, she decided to write a novel that reflected the real women she knew, who don’t always know where they’re going in life, but who always have fun doing it. The Summer Job is that novel.

Fiction, Historical

Poppy Flowers at the Front -Jon Wilkins @damppebbles @WriterJWilkins#PoppyFlowersAtTheFront #damppebblesblogtours

About the book

1917: with her father in the British secret service and her brother Alfie in the trenches, under-age Poppy Loveday volunteers against her parents’ wishes to drive ambulances in France. We follow her adventures, racing to save wounded men driven to the Casualty Clearing Station, and back to the Base Hospital. “Jon Wilkins gets to the very heart of the mud and the blood of the battlefields and then with the same ease the gaiety of the ballroom in a thriller that will keep you entertained for hours.” Stuart Hill, author of The Icemark Trilogy. During one battle she finds Élodie Proux, a French nurse, at a roadside clutching a dead soldier. Poppy rescues her. Élodie becomes her dearest girl as they fall in love. Poppy and Élodie encounter frightening adversaries at the Western Front as well as away from it during the closing weeks of World War One.

My thoughts

Thank you to Emma for my invitation to the tour and for my digital copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

The story begins with our introduction to Poppy in 1917 she has left home against her parents wishes and is working on the front line in France as a nurse. One day she meets Elodie who is a French nurse who is traumatised by the events that have happened and Poppy finds her with a dead soldier. She takes her back to their camp and cleans her and puts her to bed. The next day she awakes ready to help again. The girls are extraordinarily resilient to the death and destruction happening all around them and Poppy is so kind she even pretends to be the dying young men’s mothers so they have some comfort.

Poppy begins to realise that she has much deeper feelings for Elodie than friendship and the feelings are rescripcated by Elodie and the two find comfort in their love for each other. Things take a even darker turn when a soldier is murdered and Elodie suspects and she finds herself in danger.

This is a really touching book that really does not flinch away from the brutalities of WWI and the remarkable sacrifice young people made. The death and destruction of war are never far away but the relationship between Poppy and Elodie helps them both through these horrific times. They are both aware that their relationship is forbidden and Poppy really struggles with the fact she can tell no one that she is in love. There is plenty of drama with the story as the two get pulled into many scrapes and I loved when they travel to Paris. It was a really compelling read and I needed to keep reading to find out what happens to the pair.

4 stars ****

About the author

Jonathan loves to write. He is a retired teacher, lapsed Waterstones’ bookseller and former Basketball Coach. He taught PE and English for 20 years and coached women’s basketball for over 30 years.

He regularly teaches creative writing workshops in and around Leicester.

Social Media: Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterJWilkins

Website: www.jonathanwilkins.co.uk

Purchase Links: Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3owCjPw Brigand: https://bit.ly/34enzNZ

Publishing Information:

Published by Brigand London in paperback format on 21st February 2020

Fiction, Thriller/Crime, Uncategorized

What I Did -Kate Bradley @zaffrebooks @kate_bradley #WhatIDid #BlogTour

She has taken her child, Jack, and she has run from his father.

Lisa thinks she’s safe.
She’s found a remote house where no one will be able to find them.

Lisa is about to wake up in her worst nightmare.
And now she must face what she’s tried to escape.

Risking everything to protect her little boy, Lisa knows that in order to survive she will have to fight, but it’s hard to face someone you loved, especially someone you still love, who knows who you really are – and what you are really capable of.

Family is everything. What would you do to protect it?

My thoughts

Thank you to Jenna Petts for my invitation to the tour and for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

I would say from the outset this book has a trigger warning for Domestic Violence and addiction.

Oh this is a tense read ! The sense of peril from the first chapter is palpable. Lisa is running from someone with her little boy Jack. She finds a cottage in one the least inhabited parts of the UK and she hopes that she can make a fresh start and not be found.

The book alternates between now and before. Before is when she is married to Nick and he is abusing her and others have started to notice. She decides to go back to work and then her other issues which starting after giving birth to Jack start to reoccur. She feeds her addition to numb the physical pain and mental pain and finally decides after another night of shouting and violence she needs to escape.

This is a very twisty thriller which drew me in right away. It is a tough read in places and Lisa really does have tough time and all the time her son Jack is around this chaos and turmoil too. If you like your thrillers with plenty of suspense you will love this every page leaves you wondering what will happen next. I really did not see what was coming I am not spoiling it you will have to read it yourself !!

About the author

Kate Bradley worked for many years managing services for people who are marginalised by society. Her work has taken her into prisons, mental health hospitals and alongside the homeless. She holds a first-class degree in English Literature in addition to qualifications in creative writing and teaching. Her debut novel, To Keep You Safe, was recently published by Zaffre and is available to reserve from the library, or to buy for £8.99.

Fiction, Historical

The German Girl- Lily Graham -#BlogTour @bookouture @lilygrahambooks

Book Description:


‘Our parents were taken. And if we go home, the Nazis will take us too…’

Hamburg 1938. Fifteen-year-old Asta is hurrying home from school with her twin brother Jurgen. The mood in the city is tense – synagogues have been smashed with sledgehammers, and Asta is too frightened to laugh as she used to.

But when she and Jurgen are stopped in the street by a friend, her world implodes further. Her Jewish parents have been dragged into the streets by German soldiers and if she and Jurgen return to their house, they will be taken too.

Heartbroken at the loss of her parents, Asta knows they must flee. With her beloved brother, she must make the perilous journey across Germany and into Denmark to reach their only surviving relative, her aunt Trine, a woman they barely know.

Jammed into a truck with other refugees, Asta prays for a miracle to save herself and Jurgen. Crossing the border is a crime punishable by death, and what she and Jurgen must embark on a dangerous crossing on foot, through the snowy forest dividing Germany and Denmark. And when barking dogs and armed soldiers find Jurgen and Asta escapes, she must hold on to hope no matter what. One day she will find her twin, the other half of herself. Whatever the price she has to pay…

A gripping and poignant read that will break your heart and give you hope. Fans of Fiona Valpy, Kristin Hannah and Catherine Hokin will be gripped by the story of a brave brother and sister seeking safety during one of the darkest times in our history.  

My thoughts

Thank you to Sarah for my invitation to the tour and for my digital copy of the book.

Ingrid is visiting her Grandfather Morfar in Sweden where they all live. He has not been well and has mild dementia. He starts to talk to her in German shocked but she replies. She recalls a time as a child that he scolded her for speaking German and she speaks to her Mother about Morfar’s past she knows very little as her own mother died when she was a baby.

When she visits him again he again falls in the German conversation and this time calls her Asta, his twin sister. He has always said he was an only child, so is he confused, or hiding a dark secret. He gets very angry when she questions him and upset, however he calms down and decides to tell Ingrid his story.

What transpires is a heartbreaking story of a family torn apart by Nazi Germany in Hamburg in 1933. It tracks the life of Jurgen as Hilter comes to power and Germany becomes a deadly place for the Jewish people. It was heartbreaking, the closeness of Asta and Jurgen as twin siblings, they come from a comfortable background where their parents both work at the local Hospital. Their friends start to be told that they cannot be friends with the twins anymore as their parents said they have to choose a side. Things go from bad to worse and Mutti and Papa consider moving to Denmark to Papa’s sisters Trine to escape. However things take a dark turn and Jurgen and Asta find themselves alone and needing to escape.

This is a very engaging and beautifully written story and although completely devastating in places the thought of this young pair caught up in some of the most tragic occurrences seen in our history really touched me. It is dramatic and tense and kept me gripped.

The connection with the swallows was particularly poignant ‘Swallows seldom rest, they spend most of their lives in flight’ and the story of the Schwalbe family will stay with me for a very long time.

5 Stars

Author Bio:

Lily has been telling stories since she was a child, starting with her imaginary rabbit, Stephanus, and their adventures in the enchanted peach tree in her garden, which she envisioned as a magical portal to Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. She’s never really got out of the habit of making things up, and still thinks of Stephanus rather fondly.

She lives with her husband and her English bulldog, Fudge, and brings her love for the sea and country-living to her fiction.

https://www.facebook.com/LilyRoseGrahamAuthor/

https://twitter.com/lilygrahambooks

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://bit.ly/3b2aGdL