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My 21 favourite books of 2021

This year was a great year for books and I read some absolute crackers and because of this I have not numbered as they are all extraordinary in their own way. Read right to the end to find which book stole my heart this year.

A mix of genres I do like to read widely, crime, romance, literary fiction, debuts and a lot of authors I was lucky enough to speak to on Exeter Library In Conversations.

I am looking forward to 2022 and even more exciting books !

The Appeal – Janice Hallett

The Smash Up – Ali Benjamin

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The Girl Who Died – Ragnar Jonasson

A Girl Made of Air – Nydia Hetherington

5 Stars *****

Lullaby Beach – Stella Duffy

Leonard and Hungry Paul Ronan Hession

The Summer Job – Lizzie Dent

A Taste of Home – Heidi Swain

On Hampstead Heath – Marika Cobbold

The Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot – Marianne Cronin

The Last Thing to Burn – Will Dean

A Single Rose – Muriel Barbery

Moonflower Murders – Anthony Horowitz

5 stars *****

The Essex Serpent- Sarah Perry

5 Stars *****

The Fair Botanists – Sara Sheridan

Common Ground – Naomi Ishiguro

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle – Matt Cain

Dear Reader – Cathy Retzenbrink

The Lip – Charlie Carroll

The Good Neighbours – Nina Allen

Shiver – Allie Reynolds

My Book of the Year

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Reid Jenkins

I had seen this book everywhere and I decided to listen to it on audiobook via BorrowBox . The book begins with a young journalist Monique being invited to interview the Hollywood Icon Evelyn Hugo. The book spans Evelyn’s life from humble beginnings to the heights of Hollywood royalty. I am not giving anymore away about this extraordinary book except that I absolutely loved it and the reason it was my book of the year is because it left me with the bookish hangover I have had in a long time. Evelyn and her story will stay with me for a long time . Exquisite !!

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We Are Animals by Tim Ewins @EwinsTim @squadpod3 @EyeAndLightning

Paperback

Published: Lightning Books (July 2021)

ISBN: 9781785632846

About the book

A cow looks out to sea, dreaming of a life that involves grass.

Jan is also looking out to sea. He’s in Goa, dreaming of the thief who stole his heart (and his passport) forty-six years ago. Back then, fate kept bringing them together, but lately it seems to have given up.

Jan has not. In his long search he has travelled the world, tangling with murderers and pick-pockets and accidentally holding a whole Russian town at imaginary gunpoint. Now he thinks if he just waits and does nothing, fate may find it easier to reunite them – if only he can shake off an annoying teenager who won’t go away. But then, perhaps an annoying teenager is exactly what Jan needs to help him find his old flame?

Featuring a menagerie of creatures, each with its own story to tell, We Are Animals is a comic Homeric odyssey with shades of Jonas Jonasson’s Hundred-Year-Old Man. A quirky, heart-warming tale of lost love, unlikely friendships and the mysteries of fate, it moves and delights in equal measure.

My thoughts

I am delighted to be on the Squadpod tour for this unique little book. Thank you to Tim for my copy of the e book in return for a fair and honest review. The lovely people at Eye and Lightning books are also offering 30% off using the code SQUADPOD.

ManJan is a ‘moustache’ and he is waiting for Jan on a beach in Goa in 2016 , on the beach. He met her many years ago and they had a ‘magical week’ together. Jan hopes that fate may bring them together again. Goa is very different now and he meets Shakey who is a ‘vest’ a young man who is also in Goa looking for something something too !

As Jan recounts his life, from a child to Shakey and how he knew that he wanted more than the life ahead of him in Fishton. How he decided to go on an adventure but it did not go quite to plan when he ended up in what he thought was Norway.

After this he makes his way home to Fishton but then attempts to go to Norway again when he is 18. I don’t want to give to much about this funny and unique book except for it really kept me on my toes, it made me laugh and the little animal stories within the stories were lovely and unexpected. Prisha the wandering cow was one of my favourites.

ManJan’s and Jan’s story is really heart wrenching in places and ManJan does always seem to end up in some real scrapes ! His journey of many years takes him across the world and he never gives up.

I have to be honest I was not sure when I started that I knew what was going on! However, do continue because it is a really joyful story about love, unlikely friendships, unexpected events and fate. I really enjoyed my adventure !

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

About the author

Tim Ewins had an eight-year stand-up career alongside his accidental career in finance, before turning to writing fiction.

He has previously written for DNA Mumbai, had two short stories highly commended and published in Michael Terence Short Story Anthologies, and had a very brief acting stint (he’s in the film Bronson, somewhere in the background).

He lives with his wife, son and dog in Bristol. We Are Animals is his first novel.

Author Website: https://timothyewins.wixsite.com/timewins

Author Twitter: @EwinsTim

Author Instagram: @timewins and @quickbooksummaries

Purchase Info:

From 23rd July to 8th August, you can get 30% off your copy of We Are Animals using the code SQUADPOD when you purchase directly from the publishers https://www.eye-books.com/books/we-are-animals – this offer applies to anywhere, with free p&p for UK only.

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February Round Up

February was another great month for books and I read a massive 18 books. This was for Blog Tours and In Conversations.  It was an extraordinary list of books and many I rated 4 and 5 stars. I also read some extraordinary debuts.pl

My BOTM was Lullaby Beach by Stella Duffy and this was one of the months in conversation for Exeter Library.

My review is here https://wordpress.com/post/karenreadsandrecommends.wordpress.com/4327

and you can also watch the interview here.

https://www.facebook.com/651401671585542/videos/2732582823737841

I also read :

The Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot – Marianne Cronin

Call me Mummy – Tina Baker

The Scarlet Dress – Louise Douglas

The Good Wife – Eleanor Porter 

Smoke Screen – Thomas Enger & Jorn Lier Horst translated by Megan Turney

Fatal Isles – Maria Adolfsson

Uncoupling- Lorraine Brown

Botanical Curses and Poisons- The Shadow Lives of Plants – Fez Inkwright

Ruthless Women – Melanie Blake

The Last Snow Blog Tour – Stina Jackson

The Night We Met – Zoe Folbigg

Just Friends – Holly McCulloch

Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace – Kate Forster

Lullaby Beach -Stella Duffy

The Dressmaker of Paris – Georgia Kaufmann

Married at First Sight Swipe – Claire Frost

News of the World -A Novel – Paulette Jiles

The Art of Death – David Fennell

March Reads

March is looking like a great month too these are the proof I have for blog tours for the next month.

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January Round Up

January was a great month for books and I read a massive 18 books. This was for Blog Tours and some were for In Conversations due to the lockdown restrictions I have had lots of time to read. It was an extraordinary list of books and many I rated 4 and 5 stars.

My BOTM was Shiver Allie Reynolds it was a really tough choice as there were so many great books but Shiver is a debut and I really loved the characters, the setting and the twists.

This is the full list :

Coming Home to Brightwater Bay – Holly Hepburn

Faking It – Portia MacIntosh

The Burning Girls – C J Tudor

The Shape of Darkness -Laura Purcell 

The Island -C L Taylor 

The Marlow Murder Club – Robert Thorogood

Shiver – Allie Reynolds

The Last Thing to Burn -Will Dean

The Appeal – Janice Hallett 

Summer Job – Lizzy Dent 

Poppy Flowers at the Front -Jon Wilkins

What I Did -Kate Bradley

The German Girl- Lily Graham

New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – Jessica Redland

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House -Cherie Jones

A Dark Room – Sam Blake 

I Give it a Year – Helen Whitaker

I also interviewed 4 authors as part of my day job you can view them again below.

These were:

Polly Clark- Tiger- Quercus

Sam Carrington – Open House and N V Peacock Little Bones – Avon Books

Allie Reynolds – Shiver

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

February Reads

February is slightly quieter but I still have some amazing books to read.

Have a great month

Karen xx

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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

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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

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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 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.

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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.

We All Have Our Secrets – Jane Corry #WeAllHaveOurSecrets @JaneCorryAuthor @penguinrandomhouse

About the book

 Two women are staying in Willowmead House. One of them is running. One of them is hiding. Both of them are lying. Emily made one bad decision, and now her career could be over. Her family home on the Cornish coast is the only place where she feels safe. But when she arrives, there’s a stranger living with her father. Emily doesn’t trust the beautiful young woman, convinced that she’s telling one lie after another. Soon, Emily becomes obsessed with finding out the truth… But should some secrets stay buried forever?  

About the author

Jane Corry is a novelist, creative-writing tutor and journalist. Her first psychological thriller, ‘My Husband’s Wife’ will be published by Penguin. As a journalist she trained with the Thomson graduate scheme before writing for numerous nationals, including Woman, the Daily Telegraph and the Times.

My thoughts

Thank you to Ellie Hudson for the invitation to the blog tour for Jane’s latest book and to Penguin UK Books for my proof copy of the book.

Emily is a midwife and an incident at work sends her back to Willowmead House, which is in a quiet coastal village by the sea and where her elderly father Harold Gentle lives. When she arrives, she is in for another surprise as there is Frenchwoman, Francoise living there with her father. Francoise has answered an advertisement from the retired lawyer for a carer/companion. Harold has really taken to her and Emily is horrified by the closeness of the pair. She does not trust Francoise at all and sees her as a golddigger. Work calls Emily back to London and we learn more abour Francoise and her background.

I always enjoy Jane’s books as they are so engrossing and twisty, this one is written from three perspectives Emily, Francoise and a young Harry Gentle. All three are hiding things from the past and the present, which adds to the suspense of this book. There are secrets and lies aplenty in this story and every page has more turns. I love a book with a unreliable narrator and in this book I had no idea who to trust and who not to. I didn’t really like any of the characters, which made it even easier to be suspicious of them all. When Francoise reveals who she really is then things take an even more dramatic turn.

It’s a gripping thriller which I galloped through, I enjoyed the family aspect of the book and I was not sure where it would end and it had Jane’s trademark twist to conclude.

A great read !

4.5 stars ****.5

The Other Guest – Helen Cooper @hodderbooks @helencooper85

About the book

After a shocking death at a luxurious Italian resort, two very different women must question everything—and everyone—they love in order to untangle truth from lies in this twisty, captivating read.

One year ago, Leah’s feisty 21-year-old niece, Amy, mysteriously drowned in the beautiful lake near her family-owned resort in Northern Italy. Now, Leah’s grief has caught up with her, and she decides to return to Lake Garda for the first time since Amy’s death. What she finds upon her arrival shocks her—her sister, brother-in-law, and surviving niece, Olivia, seem to have erased all memories of Amy, and fought to have her death declared an accidental drowning, despite murky circumstances. Leah knows she must look beyond the resort’s beautiful façade and uncover what truly happened to Amy, even if her digging places both her family ties and her very life in danger.

Meanwhile, in Central England, thirtysomething Joanna is recovering from a surprising break-up when she is swept off her feet by a handsome bartender. But when she learns that he is on the run from something in his past, and that their meeting may not have been a coincidence, Joanna realized that he may just a bit too good to be true.

What follows is a propulsive cat-and mouse game set against the Italian lakeside as the two seemingly-unconnected women are caught up in a dangerous conspiracy. 

About the author

Helen Cooper is from Derby, England, and now lives in Leicester. She has a MA in Creative Writing and a background in teaching English and Academic Writing. Her creative writing has been published in Mslexia and Writers’ Forum; she was shortlisted in the Bath Short Story Prize in 2014, and came third in the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize in 2018. The Downstairs Neighbour is her first novel.

My thoughts

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

The story introduces us to two women, firstly Leah who is the aunt of Amy, who died the previous year in a drowning accident in Italy. The second woman is Joanne, she is a counsellor at a university and we meet her after an incident with a student at work, sends her to the local pub, where she meets a barman called Nate.

Joanne and Leah have never met so what is the connection between their two worlds? Jo is called by the hospital to say Nate has been involved in a serious accident and has given her address. She is shocked as she has only met him on a couple of occasions, and he ends up moving in with her but who is he and who wants to hurt him?

This is a great fast paced thriller and I really enjoyed the two settings of the mysterious villa, Il Mandarino on the shores of Lake Garda and in contrast Derby which really makes you question how there can be a connection ?

Leah returns to Italy to visit her sister Charlotte and niece Olivia they all seem to be distant and hiding something, do they know anything about Amy’s death ? There are so many red herrings in the book that I thought I had guessed what happened to Amy so many times and I was still surprised by the outcome. I liked the character of Joanne she is conflicted with her feelings for Nate as she is recovering from a spilt in a long term relationship with Luke. By the end of the book I did not know who to trust which I really liked. I picked this book up in the morning and I devoured it in one sitting. It’s a fantastic thriller that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until the end.

5 stars *****

Wake #BlogTour – Shelly Burr @hodderbooks @stevie_coops

Nineteen years ago, Mina McCreery’s sister vanished. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family’s destocked sheep farm. When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them
closer to an answer. Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives. Because what did really happen to Evie McCreery?

 About the author

Shelley Burr is the winner of the CWA Debut Dagger award with Wake, an alumni of the ACT Writer’s Centre HardCopy program (2018) and a Varuna fellow. When not writing she works at the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment. She lives in Canberra, but grew up splitting her time between Newcastle and Glenrowan, where her father’s family are all sheep farmers. WAKE is Shelley’s first novel.

My thoughts

Thank you to Steven Cooper for my invitation to the blog tour and to Hodder and Stoughton for my proof copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

Mina’s sister Evie disappeared without a trace nineteen years ago and Mina has lived with the interest in not only her disappearance but the public obsession with her and her family. It is no surprise that she is now a recluse and when a stranger approaches her in the local town saying that he may be able to help her solve the mystery she is understandably unnerved.

Lane Holland is a private investigator who specialises in cold cases like Evies and he turns up at the farm where Mina now lives alone to try to convince her to let him investigate the disappearance when an accident occurs.

Australian crime is something that I have not read previously but the author really sets the scene with the atmosphere of Nannine, in the Australian outback. Evie is not the only missing person from this area, another girl who went missing was Christa Reynolds. Mina and Christa’s sister Alanna are friends after meeting at a support group for families off missing persons. Mina meets with Lane and asks for him to investigate Christas disappearance not Evie’s which he does.

Lane also has his own complicated back story and I found the characters in the book really fascinating, it is a book that really draws you in to keep on reading.

A really compelling story in which the theories of what happened to Evie range from abduction to someone close to her killing her, including Mina.

A great debut crime novel that I throughly enjoyed, particularly the setting which was very different from my usual crime reads.

4.5 stars ****.5

Blog Tour The Companion – Lesley Thomson @lesleyjmthomson @Hoz_books

In a grand old mansion in the middle of the Sussex countryside, seven people have seen more than they should… The new chilling thriller from Lesley Thomson.

James Ritchie was looking forward to a boys’ day out with his son, Wilbur – even if he was a little late picking him up from the home of his ex-wife, Anna. Annoyed by his late arrival, and competing for their son’s attention, Anna leaves the two of them to their day with the promise of a roast dinner when Wilbur returns.

But Anna will never see her family again. That afternoon, James and Wilbur are found dead, the victims of a double stabbing on the beach.

DI Toni Kemp, of Sussex police, must unravel a case which has shocked the county to its core. What she discovers will lead her to Blacklock House, a grand country mansion, long ago converted into flats. Here in the middle of nowhere, where a peacock struts the lawn, and a fountain plays intermittently, seven long-term residents have seen more than they should.

But this is a community who are good at keeping secrets…

‘Like the best of Barbara Vine and Agatha Christie crossed with the unique Lesley Thomson brilliance’ Elly Griffiths

About the author

Lesley Thomson grew up in London. She went to Holland Park School and the Universities of Brighton and Sussex. Her novel A Kind of Vanishing won The People’s Book Prize in 2010. The Detective’s Daughter is a number one bestseller and Sainsbury’s ebook for 2014. Ghost Girl, the second in the The Detective’s Daughter series came out in April 2014 and went to number one in Sainsbury’s e-chart and is another bestseller. The Detective’s Secret is out in April 2015. The Runaway, an ebook short about Stella Darnell (the detective’s daughter) is out in June 2015.

My review

Thank you to Sophie Ransom for my invitation to the blog tour and to the publishers for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

This is a story that begins with a terrible crime, a father and son are found dead after a day trip and DI Toni Kemp is called into investigate. This is the second book that has featured Toni but I had no problem reading as a standalone story.

Timothy Mew has a new job as the companion of Rex Lomax, a resident of Blacklock House, which was once a stateley home and now converted into apartments. Rex’s wife was killed in a car crash and Rex has Parkinson’s Disease. We are also introduced to Freddy who is delivering fish at Blacklock House and is a friend of Toni’s and of Rex.

This is well written and detailed crime story which is best enjoyed slowly where you can immerse yourself in the narrative. There are lots of characters, including a peacock called King Tut in this story and it did take me a little while to get to know them all.

The residents of the flats think that they know everything about everyone or do they ? It definitely kept me guessing and that is always a huge plus for me in a book. Entertaining and full of detail.

4 stars ****

Reasons To Go Outside -Esme King @esmekingauthor @hodderbooks

About the book

Pearl Winter hasn’t been outside in forty-three years.

Since she arrived on Dartmoor as a girl, an isolated family cottage has been her whole world. A place of safety. But now fifty-nine-year-old Pearl is utterly alone – except for the postman, the local crows, and memories of the summer of 1976.

Teenager Connor Matthews feels like a stranger in his own home.

Since his mother’s death he’s been adrift from his remaining family, troubled by the reality of moving on, and unable to see a future ahead. But when Connor begins a summer job as Pearl’s gardener, an unexpected friendship opens the door to a fresh start for them both. If only Pearl and Connor can take the first steps . . .

About the author

Esme King is a former news journalist and an award-winning short film writer and director. She was inspired to write Reasons To Go Outside after interviewing a woman with agoraphobia. Esme lives in Devon with her husband, two children and rescue dogs, Monty and Milo.

My review

Today I am sharing my review of the beautiful #reasonstogooutside@esmekingauthor
@hodderbooks@readeatretreat@kimbobalina

The story begins with Pearl who is on her way to Westdown in Devon with her mother Lana and Stepdad Ray, we know from the outset that something terrible has happened to Pearl but what that isn’t clear.
Whatever it is leads Pearl to stay inside for the next 43 years. Now, all alone she advertises for a gardener for her overgrown garden on the moor.

Connor, an 18 year old local boy who is just about to leave Westdown for University in York. He has recently also lost his mother and he is all at sea after his father has also withdrawn from him. Can a summer job help him to find himself again ?

This book is emotional and heartbreaking at times, how the past has halted the lives of Pearl and Nate and how Connor is unsure what his own future lies.

I absolutely loved the book, the characters were warm, loveable and true. The book is without a doubt one of the best uplifting novels that I have read this year, there were also moments that I held my breath and willed the lives of these extraordinary people to be better.

Thank you @esmekingauthor for the copy of the book and the invitation to your launch and for introducing me to some of my book favourite characters with so much heart. A total joy !

5 stars *****

#books#bookpost#bookbloggers#blogtour#books#bookcoverdesign#bookstoread#readersofig#readersofinstagram#reading#newbooks#readers#debut

Villager – Tom Cox #blogtour @unbounders @cox_tom @randomttours #villager

Tom Cox’s masterful debut novel synthesises his passion for music, nature and folklore into a psychedelic and enthralling exploration of village life and the countryside that sustains it.

 

There’s so much to know. It will never end, I suspect, even when it does. So much in all these lives, so many stories, even in this small place.

Villages are full of tales: some are forgotten while others become a part of local folklore. But the fortunes of one West Country village are watched over and irreversibly etched into its history as an omniscient, somewhat crabby, presence keeps track of village life.

In the late sixties a Californian musician blows through Underhill where he writes a set of haunting folk songs that will earn him a group of obsessive fans and a cult following. Two decades later, a couple of teenagers disturb a body on the local golf course. In 2019, a pair of lodgers discover a one-eyed rag doll hidden in the walls of their crumbling and neglected home. Connections are forged and broken across generations, but only the landscape itself can link them together. A landscape threatened by property development and superfast train corridors and speckled by the pylons whose feet have been buried across the moor.

 

About the author

My thoughts

Thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my copy of the book and invitation to the tour.

I have read Tom’s non fiction books before and loved his take on life so I was excited to see he had written a novel. I have lived in a small Devon village for most of my life and I was fascinated to read this story.

The book is set around the village and villagers of Underhill. This is a book to savour, the writing is so descriptive and full of imagery, I easily found myself transported to the moor amongst sheep and gorse and the authors nature writing is really evident.

The wit and humour made me laugh out loud, growing up in Devon the people really resonated with me. I loved the very rural villager quotes especially this one where the county rivalry is very apparent .

They asked where he was going and when he answered as honestly and specifically as he could, their only advice was to avoid Somerset because the people there weren’t right

Reminders of ghosts of the past like village payphones and outside toilets which again I remember and the characters also. I really enjoyed getting to know them.

Richard, Dick, Joy and how some of the villagers are very suspicious of outsiders as they feel that they may be a threat to their way of life. The author is such a great storyteller that you will be immersed in this book with it’s music, art, landscapes and beautiful and how the tales are cleverly entwined, a great read.

 

The Birdcage – Eve Chase #BlogTour @michaeljbooks @evepollychase

About the book

Lauren, Kat and Flora are half-sisters who share a famous artist father – and a terrible secret. Over the years they’ve lived wildly different lives, but their father has unexpectedly summoned them to Rock Point, the cliff house where they once sat for his most celebrated painting Girls and Birdcage . Rock Point is a beautiful, windswept place, thick with secrets and electrically charged with the catastrophic events of a summer twenty years before, the day of the total solar eclipse. It’s the first time they’ve dared return. When the sisters arrive, it is clear that someone is determined not to let the past lie. Someone who is watching their every move. Who remembers the girls in the painting, and what they did… Set on the rugged Cornish coast, The Birdcage is a twisty, spellbinding novel with unforgettable characters who must piece together their family’s darkest secrets.

About the author

Eve Chase was formerly a journalist before she began writing novels with great success. Black Rabbit Hall and The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde were bestsellers.

My thoughts

Thank you to Kallie at Michael Joseph for my copy of the book and invitation to the tour.

Three half sisters, Flora, Kat and Lauren all have different mothers but the same father, Charlie Finch.

Charlie is an artist and his mother owned a house in Cornwall called Rock Point. The sister’s used to visit their Granny and Father in the summer holidays and the last time they all stayed at the house was the summer of 1999.

Now in the present day, Charlie has called them all to the house as he has news to share with them all. From the outset of this book you know something big happened that year to the family. It was also the summer that Charlie painted his famous piece The Girls and The Birdcage.

I really enjoyed the dual timeline and it flowed really well and effortlessly switched between the two. Lauren was always the sister on the fringes as her mother Dixie was from a very different background than the other girls.

Fractured family relationships are prevalent in this novel. Rock Point is a formidable setting with its cliffs, a turbulent sea and secluded truths. I have read and enjoyed this authors books previously and this one was no exception. An atmospheric Cornish setting with secrets galore make this an engrossing and intriguing story.

5 stars *****

The Summer Fair – Heidi Swain @Heidi_swain @TeamBATC @simonschusteruk

About the book

Join Heidi Swain back in Nightingale Square for a sunshine and celebration filled summer…

Beth loves her job working in a care home, looking after its elderly residents, but she doesn’t love the cramped and dirty house-share she currently lives in. So, when she gets the opportunity to move to Nightingale Square, sharing a house with the lovely Eli, she jumps at the chance.

The community at Nightingale Square welcomes Beth with open arms, and when she needs help to organise a fundraiser for the care home they rally round. Then she discovers The Arches, a local creative arts centre, has closed and the venture to replace it needs their help too – but this opens old wounds and past secrets for Beth.

Music was always an important part of her life, but now she has closed the door on all that. Will her friends at the care home and the people of Nightingale Square help her find a way to learn to love it once more…?

About the author

Heidi Swain is a Sunday Times Bestselling Author who writes commercial fiction for Simon and Schuster.

She has three series set in fictitious Wynbridge, Nightingale Square and Wynmouth and writes two titles a year – a summer and a Christmas book.

She also writes short stories and non-fiction for magazines and is represented by Amanda Preston.

Heidi always wanted to be a published author and her big writing break came in 2014 when she submitted The Cherry Tree Café to Books and The City (the digital first imprint of Simon and Schuster). The book was published a year later and she hasn’t stopped writing since.

Her books are available in paperback, E-book and audio and have been published in Italy, France and Germany as well as the UK.

She lives in the east of England, is a member of the RNA and the Society of Authors and has a TBR pile which is always out of control.

My thoughts

Thank you to Harriet at Simon and Schuster for my invitation to the blogtour and for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

Beth works in a care home and lives in a shared house with people who live like slobs amd she is fed up.

She accompanies Harold to Nightingale Square and meets the residents and then gets an offer to move in to a shared house there however it is way out of her price range. Then something happens which changes everything and gives her the opportunity to change her life.

She moves into a house with Elijah her new housemate and he has a habit that brings back alot of memories she has kept hidden for many years. The characters are warm and realistic and as the book progresses we uncover these secrets and experience the joy that Heidi manages to share in all of her books. If you have never read a Heidi Swain book or like me wait for your twice yearly fix this book is a perfect summery escape read.

5 summery stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Witches Tree -Elena Collins @boldwoodbooks @judyleighwriter @rararesources #boldwoodbloggers @bookandtonic

About the book

The Witchs’ Tree

A tale as old as time. A spirit that has never rested.

Present day

As a love affair comes to an end, and with it her dreams for her future, artist Selena needs a retreat.  The picture-postcard Sloe Cottage in the Somerset village of Ashcombe promises to be the perfect place to forget her problems, and Selena settles into her new home as spring arrives.  But it isn’t long before Selena hears the past whispering to her. Sloe Cottage is keeping secrets which refuse to stay hidden.

1682

Grace Cotter longs for nothing more than a husband and family of her own. Content enough with her work on the farm, looking after her father, and learning the secrets of her grandmother Bett’s healing hands, nevertheless Grace still hopes for love. But these are dangerous times for dreamers, and rumours and gossip can be deadly. One mis-move and Grace’s fate looks set…

Separated by three hundred years, two women are drawn together by a home bathed in blood and magic. Grace Cotter’s spirit needs to rest, and only Selena can help her now.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3Cl2rVF

About the author

Elena Collins is the pen name of Judy Leigh. Judy Leigh is the bestselling author of Five French Hens, A Grand Old Time and The Age of Misadventure and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.

My thoughts

Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my invitation to the tour and to Boldwood Books fpr for my copy of the book via NetGalley in return for a fair and honest review.

Two women Grace and Selena live hundreds of years apart but both live in a Sloe Cottage in Ashcombe, Somerset.

In the past Grace is young and unmarried and her mother has died and her father unwell. She is enamored with a local man Nathaniel Harper but she is an innocent and this is taken advantage of and her use of herbs causes her to become a target for local people who see her as a threat.

In the present day, Selena an artist who is renting Sloe Cottage after a relationship ended with tragic events. Selena was treated badly by David, her married lover and his wife keeps calling her to find out why he cheated on her. She needs to recover and wants peace and tranquility.

This is an emotional read as both women go through such ordeals.

As I live in the neighbouring county of Devon, I enjoyed the familiar setting, the folklore and witchcraft history. The dual timeline was easy to follow and the pace kept me engrossed. The cottage holds many secrets and is at the centre of this intriguing story. Parts of the book gave me goosebumps as it is so atmospheric.

The characters are well written and I really liked Bett who is Grace’s Grandmother. This is a fascinating story with some really sad local history at it’s roots but which I throughly enjoyed.

4.5 stars ****.5

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The House with The Golden Door- Elodie Harper @HoZ_books @elodieitv



Today I am sharing my review of the second in The #WolfDen Trilogy @elodielharper @headofzeus

#TheHouseWithTheGoldenDoor

About the book


Freed from Pompeii’s brothel. Owned as a courtesan. Determined to have revenge. Her name is Amara. What will she risk for power?

Amara has escaped her life as a slave in Pompeii’s most notorious brothel. She now has a house, fine clothes, servants – but all of these are gifts from her patron, hers for as long as she keeps her place in his affections.

As she adjusts to this new life, Amara is still haunted by her past. At night she dreams of the wolf den, and the women she left behind. By day, she is pursued by her former slavemaster. In order to be truly free, she will need to be as ruthless as he is.

Amara knows she can draw strength from Venus, the goddess of love. Yet falling in love herself may prove to be her downfall.

The House with the Golden Door is the stunning second novel in Elodie Harper’s celebrated Wolf Den Trilogy, which reimagines the lives of women who have long been overlooked.

My thoughts


I loved The Wolf Den and I could not wait to return to Pompeii to see what happens next to Amara and the other women of The Wolf Den. Amara now a Freed Women, has a patron Rufus who can also be brutal and she knows that she has to work hard to stay in his good books and keep him enamoured with her. This takes tenacity, strength and ambition and Amara struggles with the transition from a slave to a courtesan and she puts herself in danger many times.
The author really drops the reader to the centre of Pompeii and the tension is real, and totally breath-taking at times.
Amara has to become and do many things that she does not expect to do in order to survive but this all adds to the incredible story telling of this book.


The characters in the book really evoked strong emotions in me, sadness, angry and for one in particular disgust and contempt. I will leave you to decide who that is !

I was totally engrossed by this book and I cannot wait for Book 3. However I need a little breather to get over the emotional ride of Amara’s latest tales.


Out 12.5.2022

5 *****
#books #Blogtour #adpr #readers

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