Sunday, 9 August 2020

#BlogTour The Secret Letters by Taryn Leigh


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour The Secret Letters by Taryn Leigh.

About the Author
Taryn Leigh is a South African Author, who spent her childhood with her nose buried in books. Her love for reading transpired into her ambition to become an Author.

Taryn Leigh’s first book, Perfect Imperfections, is available in Paperback, eBook and AudioBook. She lives in Pretoria with her husband and son.

Follow @tarynleighbook on Twitter, on Facebook@tarynleighbooks on Instagram, on Goodreadson Amazon,Visit tarynleighauthor.com, Buy The Secret Letters


About the book
Rachel, saved from an attack twelve years before by a faceless stranger, never got to thank him, never knew his name.Despite the devastation she chose to rise above it to help others from their pain by becoming a psychologist.... Her only issue now is that she's an expert at fixing everyone else's problems, and blind to her own.

After a long relationship with her boyfriend Will starts to go south, she turns to her best friend Amelia for guidance.Suddenly her world is turned upside down when tragedy strikes and she's left with no one to comfort her but Will's rude older brother Ruari.

Paralyzed by fear, she struggles to take grip of her life, until the day when anonymous letters begin to appear from the stranger who saved her twelve years before.

Review
Rachel is a difficult one to pin down. Giving her past experiences it's sort of a given that the reader feels empathy for her - is it though? I found her very up and down. At times she was very needy and unable to put herself in the place of other people, and at other times she closes herself off completely. Both of these types of reactions can be drawn directly from her past trauma.

She has trust issues, feels fearful and paranoid then suddenly overly elated and in control. This zig-zag of emotions might be the reason she doesn't really take note of the slow demise of her relationship.

Leigh has a great structure and premise in place, but it does need tightening up from a dialogue, language and editing perspective. Less time on detailed superfluous moments and when the various threads intersect perhaps a better build-up rather than scenes inserted to keep certain storylines on track.

Let's also just take a moment to ponder about the man who follows her and sends her letters. It's a very fine line between creepy and keeping someone safe. Carrying a torch or stalking - it really depends on how the person receiving the attention feels about their behaviour. One person's romantic is another person's predator.

I am glad the author takes a moment to not only thank the person who inspired the story or the idea of survival and overcoming horrendous trauma, but also the fact she did so with her blessing. Stories like Alshandra's belong to the victim. In the same breath Leigh gives readers a stark reminder how many of us have similar stories to tell or not.

Leigh has taken that trauma and created a domestic thriller with the vibe of a discovery of self story. A story of surviving and overcoming trauma that resonates throughout the rest of a victim and their life.

Buy The Secret Letters at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Kingsley Publishers; pub date 9 Aug. 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

#BlogTour Homecoming by Luan Goldie


It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Homecoming by Luan Goldie. Her first novel Nightingale Point was a success and I am convinced her second novel Homecoming will be too.

About the Author
Luan Goldie is a primary school teacher , and formerly a business journalist. She has written several short stories and is the winner of the Costa Short Story Award 2017 for her short story ‘Two Steak Bakes and Two Chelsea Buns’. She was also shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize in 2018 and the Grazia/Orange First Chapter competition in 2012, and was chosen to take part in the Almasi League, an Arts Council-funded mentorship programme for emerging writers of colour.

In 2019 she was shortlisted for the h100 awards in the Publishing and Writing category. Her debut novel, Nightingale Point, is longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 and it was also a Radio 2 Book Club pick. Homecoming is her second novel.

Follow @luangoldie on Twitter, on Goodreadson Instagramon AmazonBuy Homecoming


About the book
For Years Yvonne has tried to keep her demons buried and focus on moving forward. But her guilt is always with her and weighs heavily on her heart.

Kiama has had to grow up without a mother, and while there is so much he remembers about her, there is still plenty he doesn't know. And there's only one person who can fill in the gaps.

When Kiama seeks Yvonne out and asks her to come with him to Kenya, the place that holds the answers to his questions, she knows she can't refuse. And this one act sets in motion an unravelling of the past that no one is ready for.

Review
Kiama wants to connect with the mother he barely remembers. He thinks his mother's best friend Yvonne will be able to answer some questions but more importantly he needs someone who knows what he is going through to go back to Kenya with him to get some closure. To revisit her life, the things that made her happy and the memories of the two of them that he treasures. It also means going back to the story of her death.

Yvonne has her own secrets and guilt to both hide and deal with. She is torn between giving Kiama an attempt at some level of peace and not wanting to destroy the image he has of her and his loved ones. Their trip could change everything.

It's a story of love, betrayal and ultimately one of closure. An emotive piece of work that always manages to steer away from excessive dramatic scenes and yet simultaneously walks a very tight rope of emotions. Feelings that have been stored away and ignored for years until a young man who needs to understand his inner conflict and unresolved trauma reopens old wounds.

Whether intentionally or not Goldie gives an excellent image of what happens when people go back and revisit the past in person. The expectations are always built on memories and never take into consideration that the world and the people in it move on, which means there will always be a level of disappointment.

If you haven't read anything by Luan Goldie yet, I highly suggest you give her books a try. She has a fresh and creative voice and is absolutely a rising star and an author to watch. 

Buy Homecoming at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ; pub date 6 Aug. 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie.


#BlogTour The Silence by Susan Allott


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour The Silence by Susan Allott.
About the Author
Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick but trying to make Sydney her home. In 2016 she completed the Faber Academy course, during which she started writing this novel. She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband.


About the book
It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father, phoning from Sydney.

30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. At the time, it was thought she had gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father Joe was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and now he’s under suspicion of murder.

Reluctantly, Isla goes back to Australia for the first time in a decade. The return to Sydney will plunge her deep into the past, to a quiet street by the sea where two couples live side by side. Isla’s parents, Louisa and Joe, have recently emigrated from England — a move that has left Louisa miserably homesick while Joe embraces this new life. Next door, Steve and Mandy are equally troubled. Mandy doesn’t want a baby, even though Steve — a cop trying to hold it together under the pressures of the job — is desperate to become a father.

The more Isla asks about the past, the more she learns: about both young couples and the secrets each marriage bore. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

Review
The story moves between two timelines - 1990s and 1960s. Isla, who has her own burdens to carry including self emotional isolation, loneliness and alcoholism, is asked to come back home. Her father is under suspicion for the disappearance of one of their neighbours, a woman who vanished three decades ago. The case has been reopened and now the finger of guilt is pointing right in his direction.

There are hard lessons to be learnt, the most poignant one is that families always have their secrets. Nobody is perfect, and just because you know someone as your father it doesn't mean he didn't have a life before you and one just as a man. It's a slow burner of a mystery that combines the complexity of family dynamics and neighbourhood ones for that matter, whilst delving into the guilty burden of a past the Australians may have apologised for, but can never make right.

Kudos to the author for including an often forgotten part of Australia's history. The damage inflicted by white colonialism on the indigenous people of Australia. The hoards of children displaced, kidnapped (there is no other word for it) in the name of government agencies, church missions - all by rule of parliament. The Stolen Children, also known as the Stolen Generations, were children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. The policies on removal of children of indigenous Australian and mixed descent were still being carried out well into the 1970s. They were just as appalling as any eugenics theory, which were also being implemented in Australia in the 20th century.

Allott and her talent for atmospheric writing remind me of Jane Harper, and not just because of the Australian connection. It's this uncanny ability to recreate an emotional reaction to sound, sight and smell. Combined with a knack for storytelling it gives the read the kind of edge that makes you take note as a reader.

Buy The Silence at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press; pub date 6th August 2020|Hardback |£14.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

#BloggerDay The Wish List by Sophia Money-Coutts


Today it's a pleasure to take part in the Blogger Day and social media blast for The Wish List by Sophia Money-Coutts.

About the Author
Sophia Money-Coutts is a journalist and author who spent five years studying the British aristocracy while working as Features Director at Tatler. Prior to that she worked as a writer and an editor for the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail in London, and The National in Abu Dhabi.

She writes a column for the Sunday telegraph called Modern Manners and often appears on radio and television channels talking about important topics such as Prince Harry's wedding and the etiquette of the threesome.

The Wish List is her third novel following on from the success of her second novel What happens Now? is her second novel and her debut, The Plus One.

Follow @sophiamcoutts on Twitter, on Instagramon Goodreadson Amazon, Visit sophiamoneycoutts.com, Buy The Wish List


About the book
Be careful what you wish for……because you just might get it!

Florence Fairfax isn’t lonely. She loves her job at the little bookshop in Chelsea and her cat, Marmalade, keeps her company at night. But everything changes when her stepsister, Mia, announces that she’s engaged to her boring golf-playing boyfriend. That’s when Florence meets Irish love coach, Gwendolyn.

When Gwendolyn makes Florence write a wish list describing her perfect man, Florence refuses to take it seriously. Finding someone who likes cats, doesn’t wear pointy shoes and can overlook her ‘counting habit’? Impossible! Until, later that week, a handsome blond man asks for help in the bookshop…

But is Rory the one, or is he simply too good to be true? Florence is about to find out that her criteria for finding Mr Right aren’t as important as she thought – and that perhaps her perfect man has been right there all along…
Review
A wish list is one thing, but a wish list for the perfect man is quite another thing. It kind of sets the list creator up for failure when all of the boxes can't be ticked, and they usually can't.

Florence is kind of a modern day patchwork family Cinderella, but without the skivvy aspect and more banter than malice. Her step-mother and sisters are all really helpful when it comes to forcing their opinions, suggestions and lifestyle choices on her. Now they have decided it's time for her to find a man and to do so she needs to see an expensive life coach.

Can a wish list give the introverted bookworm with a life of decisions based on how many there are of certain things have a real chance at finding love?

I think the OCD aspect and counting rituals was an interesting idea for a character. The way Florence links everything to odd and even numbers. Life outcomes, situations and becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy predictor of sorts made her character fascinating. I did feel as if it was used for certain scenes and then disappeared completely in others, which could be perceived as an inconsistency, but equally also as a way of measuring her level of anxiety in certain scenarios.

The author gives readers an escapism read. Nothing too saturated with darkness, pain and dysfunction, but rather the lighter side of life even when it gets difficult. The perfect read for those who like to be entertained and experience something lighthearted.

Buy The Wish List at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ; pub date 6 Aug. 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of What Happens Now and The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts.


#BlogTour The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone


It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone. It's the second book in The Skelfs series.
About the Author
Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin.

He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Follow @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks on Twitter, Follow Doug on Goodreadson Amazon, Visit dougjohnstone.com,  Buy The Big Chill


About the book
Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver ’s shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears, and
suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves immersed in an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Review
Seems like an odd career combination, private investigators and funeral directors at the same time. The Skelfs however do it with a certain eccentricity, wit and pinch of darkness at times.

This is the second book in The Skelfs series, the first is A Dark Matter. Both can be read as standalone novels, although there is one storyline from the first that flows into this one. I would recommend reading it to get the gist of the series. Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah are three generations of women worth getting to know.

The book starts out with a car chase that ends where the Skelfs do the majority of their business. The incident sets Dorothy on the path to find the truth. Jenny finds that the tables can be turned quite quickly when you aren't paying attention and Hannah is dealing with the aftermath of a dark revelation in the first book.

It's a mystery and crime read that mixes aspects of contemporary women's fiction into it, because the women at the helm of this story aren't willing to be squeezed into one genre or category. They are strong and determined to overcome whatever comes their way or is an obstacle in their path.

Johnstone has a knack for infusing his work with a tinge of noir, the absurd and often teeters on the boundaries of uncomfortable topics. It's what I would call a melded reading experience. He draws from every avenue to create a mosaic like story, with all threads eventually leading back to the origin of the piece - the strength of women.

Buy The Big Chill at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Orenda Books: pub date 20 AUGUST 2020 | Paperback Original | £8.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Orenda Books.

Read my reviews of A Dark Matter, Breakers and Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

#BlogTour Note to Boy by Sue Clark


It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Note to Boy by Sue Clark.
About the Author
Sue Clark has grilled John Humphreys, quipped with Ronnie Corbett, danced with one James Bond and had a one-sided conversation with another, and penned funny lines for the likes of Lenny Henry, June Whitfield, Roy Hudd and David Jason.

She’s been a BBC radio and TV comedy scriptwriter on such shows such as Alas Smith and Jones, Weekending, The News Huddlines and The Jason Explanation, a copywriter, a PR, a journalist, a magazine editor, a writer of guidebooks, a secretary and was, briefly, paid to read books all day long for a film producer. And now she’s written a novel.

Follow @SueClarkAuthor on Twitteron Goodreads, on Amazon, Visit sueclarkauthor.com, Buy Note to Boy

About the book
Eloise is an erratic, faded fashionista. Bradley is a glum but wily teenager.

In need of help to write her racy 1960s memoirs, the former ‘shock frock’ fashion guru tolerates his common ways. Unable to remember his name, she calls him Boy. Desperate to escape a brutal home life, he puts up with her bossiness and confusing notes.

Both guard secrets. How did she lose her fame and fortune? What’s he scheming – beyond getting his hands on her bank card? And just what’s hidden in that mysterious locked room?

Review
What could a teenager with an attitude and an elderly woman who is incapable of looking after herself have in common? It doesn't seem like a lot. Bradley wants the job because he is on a long road to nowhere and helping Eloise could lead to an opportunity. Helping her to write an autobiography of sorts gives him a chance to get to know the woman behind the mood swings, the erratic behaviour and he then sees the eccentric fashion icon with entirely different eyes.

I have to say that I didn't experience this as a read full of comedic moments, but rather one full of poignant realistic moments. However I can absolutely picture this on the screen, and I hope someone sees the potential in this - The Lady in the Van kind of eccentricity coupled with a young man trying to grip the one possible straw that might take him out of his set-in-stone future of violence and deprivation.

Also the subtle note of white privilege and covert racism that is woven into the tale. It solidifies the the differences between the odd couple. The almost colonialist comments from Eloise and the teenager with a lack of education and nearly no chance of achieving anything other than a life in crime. Moments that can be overcome.

I really enjoyed this story, perhaps because it was easy to picture both main characters so well. Eloise is an excellent example of the loophole of invisibility the elderly vanish into, even when they have made their mark on the world. Even after spending their youth and primary years being successful or in the case of Eloise becoming a part of fashion history.

Clark hits exactly the right notes when it comes to the complex relationship between Bradley and Eloise. The trust issues, the need to protect and simultaneously the more selfish motivation Bradley is driven by. This is an excellent social commentary.

Buy Note to Boy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound Digital pub date 23 July 2020. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Unbound.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

#Blogtour The Borrowed Boy by Deborah Klée


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour The Borrowed Boy by Deborah Klée.
About the Author
Deborah has worked as an occupational therapist, a health service manager, a freelance journalist, and management consultant in health and social care.

Her protagonists are often people who exist on the edges of society. Despite the very real, but dark, subject matter her stories are uplifting, combining pathos with humour. They are about self-discovery and the power of friendships and community.

The Borrowed Boy, her debut, was shortlisted for the Deviant Minds Award 2019. Just Bea, her second novel will be published in 2021.

Deborah lives on the Essex coast. When she is not writing she combines her love of baking with trying to burn off the extra calories.



About the book
A borrowed boy, a borrowed name and living on borrowed time.

What do you put on a bucket list when you haven’t done anything with your life? No interesting job, no lovers, no family, no friends. Believing she has only weeks left to live, Angie Winkle vows to make the most of every minute.

Going back to Jaywick Sands, is top of her bucket list. Experiencing life as a grandmother is not, but the universe has other plans and when four-year-old Danny is separated from his mum on the tube, Angie goes to his rescue. She tries to return him to his mum but things do not go exactly as planned and the two of them embark on a life-changing journey.

Set in Jaywick Sands, once an idyllic Essex holiday village in the 70s, but now a shantytown of displaced Londoners, this is a story about hidden communities and our need to belong.

Review
It's a nightmare scenario - a small child being accidentally separated from a parent in the underground or tube. Child on the train, parent on the platform watching helplessly as said child disappears. If you're lucky your child will also stumble upon someone like Angie, who only has good intentions. At least she starts off with good ones. Bringing Danny back to his mother soon morphs into let's keep him for a while and replicate my great childhood memories with him.

Certain things made me wonder about Nikoleta's actions at the very beginning. No matter what she says or how the storyteller interprets her actions, there seems to be an element of subconscious warning going on under the surface. Does her physical reaction betray her subconscious thoughts? Does she know there is more to the story?

Angie takes the borrowed boy on a trip that changes both of their lives. She finds herself caring for the poor boy, whilst Danny is glad to be with someone who really cares about him.

Although it starts out with the vibe of a psychological thriller set in a modern urban crime scenario, it eventually takes on more of a Women's Fiction feel. Being faced with death makes Angie reflect on the past and how her past has determined much of her future. A life she feels hasn't been lived to the fullest. Missed experiences and deep regrets. Her time with Danny has opened her eyes to the most painful memories and why she feels so lonely.

I enjoyed the read, however at times I did feel as if it were two reads in one. The more brutal storyline that could have wandered into a vicious despicable crime scenario, and the story of Angie discovering a life worth living for. Klée is clearly capable of delivering both.

Buy The Borrowed Boy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Sherman House; pub date 1 Aug. 2020. Buy the eBook from Apple, Barnes & Noble, Angus & Robertson, 24 Symbols. Buy at Amazon com.