Thursday 26 February 2015

Kathleen McGurl

Kathleen McGurl is a writer of short stories, novels and how-to-write books.

She lives by the sea in Bournemouth with her husband and teen son 2. Teen son 1 is away at university.

When not writing she is either working at the day-job (IT for a large retail organisation) or running along the Bournemouth prom, slowly.

She has sold dozens of stories to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Her how-to-write books and a romantic novella are available as ebooks from Amazon. Her first full-length novel, The Emerald Comb, was published by Carina UK on 22nd September 2014, and her second, The Pearl Locket, is available for pre-order, to be released on 27th February 2015.

Find her on Twitter as @KathMcGurl
Or take a look at her website
(bio supplied by author)
Read more about The Emerald Comb, The Pearl Locket and The Daughters of Red Hill Hall:

The Emerald Comb is a story of betrayal, murder and the hidden mysteries of genealogy. Read more here

In The Pearl Locket a family gets more than they bargained with when they inherit a house and a ghostly presence, who seems to want something from them. Read more here 

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall is about history repeating itself. The echoes of betrayal, jealousy and envy are transported through time. Imprinted on two duelling pistols. Will they cause another tragedy in the present? read more here.

The Pearl Locket by Kathleen McGurl

This story actually reminded me a lot of my own genealogy research. Similar to Ali and Kelly, I also found out that my grandmother had secrets she had kept from her children and grandchildren, during her entire lifetime as a mother and grandmother.

In Ali's case the secrets seem to be embedded in the house she has just inherited, almost as if something or someone there is still waiting to be acknowledged or to get some closure.

The presence is so strong that it starts to cause changes in the family. One specific person starts to melt back into the memories, behaviour and emotions of the mysterious presence.

The author takes us from the past to the present, from one chapter to another, letting the story of the past unfold into the lives of those in the house.

The reader gets a glimpse of the love and also despair that once vibrated through the walls.The young girl surrounded by family and yet completely alone, oppressed by the strict father and his rules, which ultimately leads to unexpected and tragic events.

Ali has very sexist views when it comes to Kelly. She has to keep herself from blaming her daughter for the fact Kelly's boyfriend broke up with her, because of her taste in clothes. Dressing like a girl from the 1940's, ergo too fuddy duddy and not fashionable enough for him to remain interested.

That isn't the kind of message you want to relay to a daughter, as a mother. Even the fact Ali thinks that way, even if she doesn't voice it, is quite strange. Perhaps Ali is more like her grandfather than she realises or is history repeating itself on a very subtle level? Is there more than one ghostly echo in the property?

McGurl really likes to weave her stories within the folds of family relationships, secrets and genealogy. Mixing heartbreak with romance to create a pleasant and inviting read,
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author and Carina UK.

Buy The Pearl Locket at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @KathMcGurl  @HQStories @HQDigitalUK


Read The Girl from Ballymor by Kathleen McGurl

Read The Emerald Comb or The Daughters of Red Hill Hall by Kathleen McGurl.
Read about Kathleen McGurl here.

Saturday 21 February 2015

First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan

I know I have probably said this before, but Sarah Morgan really has this knack of pulling on your heartstrings. She knows exactly how and when to pull them in her stories.

Emily is thrown for a loop by the events of the last few months. She has gone from being a single career woman to the guardian of a very young child.

She is trying to avoid the press at all costs, and to do so she has escaped to a place no person will look for them. Emily is also stricken with a phobia of water, which comes to a head on Puffin Island. Yes, that's right an island. The areas of land that tend to be surrounded by a large body of water.What on earth could go wrong?

Into this chaotic mess of emotions steps the very handsome and terribly supportive Ryan. Right place, right time and an electric attraction between the two of them makes for a lovely romantic read.

Ryan helps her to face her fears and stay safe. Unfortunately he also wants her, but doesn't want her baggage.

What Morgan does describe perfectly is the way islanders act and think. Once they accept someone into the inner fold, and as one of the islanders, then they are willing to help and protect them in any way possible.

Makes sense when you think about the fact that many islands are left to their own devices, and are often cut off from the rest of the world in extreme weather situations. They learn to depend on and watch out for each other.

I think Emily is actually looking for the sense of family and safety she has inadvertently found on Puffin Island. She can finally leave the dysfunctional darkness of her own family and her past behind her. Being a part of whole instead of just a single unit.

Once again Sarah Morgan has managed to create the perfect combination of romantic tension, heartbreak, longing and emotional turbulence, with strong memorable characters and a heart-warming plot.

Buy First Time in Forever at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

You can connect with Sarah online at her website: on Facebook at or on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

Read: The Christmas Sisters, Moonlight over Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #6)Holiday in the Hamptons (From Manhattan with Love #5)New York Actually (From Manhattan with Love #4)Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan with Love #3)Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love #2)Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #1)Christmas Ever AfterSuddenly Last Summer, Maybe This Christmas or The Notting Hill Diaries, all by Sarah Morgan.

Follow @SarahMorgan_@HQStories and @HarperCollinsUK

Sunday 15 February 2015

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Karou has literally been raised by monsters, she knows nothing about her heritage and is torn between two worlds and two warring groups. The seraphim and the chimaera, the angels and the monsters.

Her heritage is a mystery and yet already she knows that somehow she is caught in the middle. Her loyalty to Brimstone & Co. is set in stone, because they are her family, despite them being her natural enemy.

I loved the little magical eccentricities and the idea of the Wishmonger, although that disappeared a little in the second half of the book.

It is certainly firmly in the YA world, despite the fact I thought the character of Karou and the story would have done just as well being more NA or adult. The way Karou interacts with the monsters and angels is bold, creative and intriguing.

The interaction between Karou and her uni friends is teenagey, very YA and predictably cheesy. Quite a contradiction, despite the well-written story. On the one hand you have the fearless fighting ninja and on the other the giggly immature teen.

I thought the story got off to a great start and was hoping to learn more about the secrets of Brimstone, unfortunately the second half meandered into a forbidden romance instead of sticking with the already half-opened doors of the underworld.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan

This is a fascinating blend of steampunk, magic and illusion. It also features the complex world of carnies, gypsies and circus entertainers.

Duncan describes the tight-knit community feel to a tee. If you're not one of them then you're an outsider, regardless of your connection to them.

Elizabeth has a birth connection to that way of life, which helps her to navigate the dangerous and murky waters of the circus people, but the price on her head makes her a target.

Tasked with not only finding a fugitive of the Patent Office and some obscure machine, she also has to make sure she doesn't fall into the mucky hands of the lecherous aristocrat she is running from.

Elizabeth is so convincing I think now and again she even made me question the existence or non-existence of her brother Edwin Barnabus.

I was also convinced this was written by a woman. It had a certain flair and understanding to it, I just wouldn't have expected a male writer to be able to reproduce on paper. Not that it matters, other than the fact I was really surprised. My bad, awfully sexist I suppose.

Regardless of whom it was written by, this is a very well written book, with a great pace and an even better plot. I really do look forward to reading the next in the series.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Friday 13 February 2015

The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

Chrysler Szarlan has created a story, which crosses the line between magic and urban fantasy.

The magic and illusion of magic shows, and the magic of something akin to witchcraft, passed down from generation to generation of female family members.

The past becomes part of the present, as the tragedies that hit Revelation and her family become linked with unsolved mysteries that have left a small town isolated and deserted.

I think the first half of the book focused far too much on what happens to the husband, because the actual main attraction emerges in the second half.

It often felt like Szarlan  hopped from one sub-plot to another and didn't concentrate enough on the main plot. Despite that the story and idea has a lot of potential and certainly plenty of possibilities for further books.

I did leave me with a few unanswered questions though. The reader finds out why Hannah disappears, where the other girls ended up, but that didn't gel with what happened with the rest of the town.

Is the book driven by the keeper, is the keeper driven by the book or do the emotions of the keeper drive the book? That is the real question and perhaps Szarlan will answer in a sequel.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

The Cana Mystery by David Beckett

The Cana Mystery is an end of the world prophecy story, which must be stopped at all costs by the main characters scenario.

The premise itself is interesting, but a lot of the Jewel of the Nile type scenes range from unbelievable to impossible.

There are many historical references and stories during the telling of the tale. Sometimes they seem like fillers and at other times they fit snugly into the storyline.

Personally I think, although Beckett has written his main character as a know-it-all bottomless pit of factual historical knowledge, it is often to the detriment of the story. There are just so many off shoots in various directions that it detracts from the actual storyline.

The connections, abilities and resources of the helping hackers was often far-fetched. There was simply no difficult situation Ava and Paul couldn't escape from. That made it all a little predictable.

What I can't fault is Beckett's energetic pace and zest or his enthusiasm. It is certainly full from start to end of historical tidbits and facts.
I received a copy of this courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

Sunday 1 February 2015

The Girl from Cobb Street by Merryn Allingham

Allingham gives the reader and interesting insight into the strict and oppressive rules amongst the British military in India. The unwritten rules of society and class structure.

The wives must always bow down to the will of the wife, who is married to the higher ranking soldier. Any slight, insult or offence committed by any wife can have a knock-on effect on the husband and his career.

Then there are the rules about associating with the natives or the Indian officers, even the so-called Anglo-Indians are off-limits for the British officers and wives.

A very racist and biased environment, which probably also played a role in the revolt of the native population.

The women are expected to be waited on hand and foot by servants, regardless of whether they can do or are used to doing certain work themselves. Everything is about image and perception.

Daisy finds it hard to deal with doing nothing at all and refuses to tow the line like the other women. She starts finding herself in precarious situations and odd accidents start to happen. Until she suspects that the accidents aren't just coincidences. Daisy finds herself mixed up in an unexpected and dangerous situation with no salvation in sight.

At the end of this first book in the Daisy's War series I think it is fair to say that as a reader I would like to delve more deeply into the story of Daisy's parentage. Her story seems to infer a connection to India, one that would explain her less than English rose complexion perhaps.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Harlequin UK and Harlequin MIRA.

The Ghost House by Helen Phifer

Annie is inextricably linked to the manor house. It is as if Alice is reaching out from beyond the grave to connect with Annie.

Trying to warn her from the death threatening to surround her.

Warning her of the evil spirit that still wants to feel the joy of death by his hands or in this case death via surrogate.

Annie has to deal with the recent assault she had to endure at the hands of her own husband. This makes her vulnerable, frightened and perhaps more susceptible to believing in paranormal activities.

She quickly gets swept up in the horrors of the past and now the recent disappearances of young girls, who have fallen prey to a monster.

I  have to admit I wasn't enthralled by the writing style or the story. The male characters suffer from sexist attitudes and the women are portrayed as helpless individuals.

There are holes in the plot and the main character makes completely nonsensical decisions, which don't ring true when you consider the fact she is supposed to be an experienced police officer.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Harlequin UK and Harlequin CARINA.