Thursday, 26 December 2019

Review: Monster She Wrote by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson

Monster, She Wrote is an informative guide to female horror writers, and perfect for someone like me, who loves gothic and ghostly fiction, and finding new authors to read. There are over 35 authors listed, starting with Margaret Cavendish (The Blazing World), known as 'Mad Madge' for her wild fashion and loud behaviour, and ending with modern authors such as Helen Oyeyemi, Susan Hill, Sarah Waters and Angela Carter.

Monster, She Wrote looks at how the original gothic fiction written by Ann Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho) evolved, via authors such as Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), through the Victorian trend for ghost stories and into the science fiction of the 20th century. I found it fascinating to read about my favourite authors (Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier and Anne Rice) as well as authors I had heard of but not read: V.C. Andrews (Flowers in the Attic).

In addition to a potted biography for each author, there is a suggested reading list and mention of their contemporaries - if you fancy trying something similar but different. The genres covered are gothic fiction, horror, ghost stories, science-fiction, domestic thrillers, psychological suspense, fantasy, paranormal and supernatural, and re-tellings of fairy stories. This book is perfect for either dipping into or reading from cover to cover. I really enjoyed it, I can definitely recommend it - and I've found lots of new authors to try too!

Thank you to Lisa Kroger, Melanie R. Anderson and Quirk Books for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Review: Brimstone by Justine Rosenberg (The Metals Trilogy #1)

I chose to read this book because of the beautiful cover and I always enjoy reading stories about gateways to other worlds.

Ava Sandrino is a knight fallen from grace, who now earns her living as a prostitute. When she shelters Sariel, an escaped vampire-like slave, he tells her of a gateway to another world - a place where anyone can make their fortune. In trouble for harbouring Sariel, and with an old enemy soon on her trail, Ava has no choice but to try to go on the run. But when she is parted from Sariel, how will she ever find her way back to him and this new world?

Brimstone is well-written and I particularly liked Ava as a character. However, there is very little world-building, meaning that either I couldn't work out what was going on or the story was slowed right down by having the characters explain who-was-who and what-was-what. The book is very short (166 pages, according to Amazon), making it novella-length, but as it finishes without resolving anything, it gives the unfortunate impression that it is a full-length book cut into three parts.

I should think fans of fantasy novels would enjoy Brimstone but be aware you would probably need to buy all three parts to fully appreciate the story. 

Thank you to Justine Rosenberg for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Review: Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

The original hardback cover for this book was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen (a wishing well in a wood) but it implied the story was a re-telling of a fairy tale - which it isn't - and that's why the reviews are mixed. Gingerbread is one of those novels where the author leaves you wondering if this a tale of magic, or a modern fable (referencing Brexit, people trafficking and immigration), or entirely in the heroine's mind. Even after finishing it, I'm still not certain!

Gingerbread is a story within a story. Harriet Lee lives at the top of a London tower block (the tallest tower of fairy tales) with her teenage daughter Perdita. Harriet is hard-working, practical and kind. She tries very hard to be accepted by the Parents' Association at Perdita's school, even baking them her 'famous' gingerbread. But all her attempts - and her gingerbread - are rejected. Then Perdita is rushed to hospital. While Harriet waits for her daughter to recover, Perdita insists that Harriet tells her the true story of where they came from and who her father is - because Harriet's homeland, Druh├ístrana, does not appear on any map...

The best part of Gingerbread is the very clever writing. Other books may contain ten brilliant lines in all; in Gingerbread there are ten brilliant lines on almost every page. The story is a very slow burn. Every character, even the minor ones, have lengthy backstories and the story meanders about, but there is humour and a tiny bit of romance, and some parts are truly magical. I loved the description of Harriet's flat and Perdita's dolls. Another favourite bit was where Harriet went to live with the Kerchevals and met Perdita's father. wasn't so keen on the gingerbread theme park!

You have to be the kind of reader who enjoys long books with lots of detail, a clever turn of phrase, and the ability to enjoy a good story without thinking about the logic of it too much. You can think about that after you've finished it! The only book I can think of that's vaguely similar is Life of Pi - a fantastical story-within-a-story of one person's life. If you're looking for a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, you will be disappointed - even though there actually is a character called Gretel!

Thank you to Helen Oyeyemi and Picador (Pan Macmillan) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

A Midwinter Promise by Lulu Taylor

Lulu Taylor is one of my absolute favourite authors so I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of this book. The story is about the Pengelly family and has a dual timeline: 1970s/1980s combined with the run-up to Christmas in the present day.

In the past we see Julia grow from a troubled child into an adult. She believes she's put the tragedies of her past behind her and can now concentrate on her children and restoring the  beautiful family home, Tawray. In the present day, Julia's grown-up children try to solve the mystery of what happened to their mother, along with their own personal problems, before Tawray is lost to them forever. 

The cover for this book is absolutely gorgeous and, as the title suggests, this is more a winter-themed book than a Christmas one. Christmas is briefly mentioned at the start and end. This was one of my favourite parts of the book because Julia's daughter Alex has taken over the tradition of decorating Tawray with dried flowers and I loved the descriptions of the process, which reminded me of Cotehele.

Alex and her brother Johnnie were my favourite characters. Alex is a people-pleaser, whereas it is only just beginning to dawn on the rebellious Johnnie that he might be taking his wife (and happy family life) for granted - and that if he doesn't buck his ideas up, he'll lose both. Their step-mother Sally makes a splendid Dolores Umbridge style villain. I'm old enough to remember the 80s, so it was fun spotting all those references too. One of the characters works for Princess Diana. The behind-the-scenes glimpses into her life are fascinating. There are also a couple of great twists at the end. In addition, the story does cover darker subjects (which I probably shouldn't mention specifically because of spoilers) but this is done in a very sensitive way.

A Midwinter Promise is a brilliant book and I found it utterly addictive. Recommended, especially if you like historical timelines, big old houses, something a little bit different to your usual Christmas read, and authors such as Eve Chase (Black Rabbit Hall), Harriet Evans (The Garden of Lost and Found) and Kate Morton (The Forgotten Garden).

Thank you to Lulu Taylor and Pan Macmillan for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Review: The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

I've not read anything by Karen Swan before but I was attracted by the lovely Christmasy cover and I'm addicted to Christmas books at the moment. However, I was so glad I downloaded The Christmas Party because it is a lovely romantic story, with brilliant characters that leap off the page. If you're looking for the perfect book to read in the run-up to Christmas, this is it.

When Declan Lorne (the last remaining knight in Ireland) dies unexpectedly, his ancient title dies with him. But his ramshackle estate, including a decrepit castle, is to be divided between his three daughters - and that doesn't go quite the way everyone expects either. The story is told from the point of view of the three sisters, Ottie, Pip and Willow, who now have to make some tough decisions. Will letting go of the past be the only way to secure their future?

What I loved most about this book was the characters. I found it refreshing that these women are not perfect and throughout the book they seemed to take it turns to behave badly (especially Pip!). I was left thinking 'Why did you DO that?!!' But it just made me love them more - especially Pip! I loved the big old castle that was falling down around their ears and the pressure on poor Willow to sell or not to sell. I especially loved the idea of throwing a fabulous Christmas party in a kind of 'out with the old, in with the new' kind of way. And there were a couple of terrific twists towards the end.

The Christmas Party is one of my favourite reads this year. I've just bought another Karen Swan book and I shall be starting it very soon!

Thank you to Karen Swan and Pan for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

I loved Frances Hardinge's historical fantasy, The Lie Tree, and couldn't wait to read her new book, Deeplight. It combines fantasy with a terrific adventure story, reminiscent of Greek and Roman myths. Only in this story, the gods are monstrous beasts.

For centuries these gods terrorised the Myriad until one day, without warning, they turned on each other. Within a week all the gods were dead and an industry had sprung up salvaging scraps of the corpses. Hark and Jelt make a dishonest living scavenging this 'god ware'. Jelt is the unprincipled leader but Hark is the one who ends up in trouble. Hark's skill is that he usually talks his way out of it - until the day he's caught and finds himself indentured to a scientist obsessed with harvesting the magical powers of this god ware.

Frances Hardinge has the most amazing imagination - I am in awe! - and the incredibly detailed world she has created is a masterclass in world-building. The characters are flawed but thoroughly engaging. It was wonderful seeing them grow and change, especially Hark's heart-breaking realisation that Jelt only cares about himself. Or, as Selphin says, "You're not allowed to choose your friends any more." My favourite character was the pragmatic Selphin and her love/hate relationship with the sea. I became so immersed in the Deeplight world, that even several days after I'd finished the book, the story still stayed in my head.

Deeplight is a clever cross between Mary Shelley and Jules Verne. I have no hesitation in recommending Deeplight to fans of YA fantasy and anyone who loves a thrilling adventure story. One of my favourite reads this year.

Thank you to Frances Hardinge and Macmillan Children's Books for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Monday, 7 October 2019

A Wedding In December by Sarah Morgan

I've not read anything by Sarah Morgan before but I adore Christmas romances and could not resist downloading this one. The cover is gorgeous too!

This story is about the women of the White family and all the secrets they are keeping from each other - secrets that are sure to come out when they meet up for a glamorous wedding in Aspen. Maggie is married to Nick, an Egyptologist. They've been living apart for six months but Maggie hasn't been able to bring herself to tell their two grown-up daughters, Katie and Rosie. Katie is working all hours as a doctor, and is on the brink of a breakdown after a traumatic event. When her younger sister Rosie announces that she's getting married to someone she's only just met, Katie's sole intention is to stop it taking place. Rosie, meanwhile, has spent her life trying to prove to her family that she's a grown woman, capable of making her own decisions - but is the decision to marry so quickly the right one?

I loved A Wedding in December. It's chock-full of brilliant characters that I couldn't help rooting for. I loved 'Cactus Katie', her determination to protect her sister at all costs, even if that means stopping the wedding, and her prickliness towards poor Jordan. The part when she's trying to cross an icy bridge, determined not to ask for help, is priceless. Maggie is funny, Rosie is sweet - and so is poor Nick, who is not quite sure how he ended up on the wrong side of a divorce. 

A Wedding in December is perfect for anyone wanting an escapist, heart-warming, romantic festive read in the run-up to Christmas. One of my favourites this year.

Thank you to Sarah Morgan and HQ for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Review: Now You See Them (The Brighton Mysteries #5) by Elly Griffiths

I've just read the first four books in this series, back-to-back, so to get my hands on this one was an absolute treat! I love Elly's books but I can't decide whether I love her Dr Ruth Galloway series best or this one. Do I have to choose?!!

The first four books in the Brighton Mysteries were set in the 1950s and many of the ongoing plot strands were resolved in the fourth book. Now You See Them is almost a reboot, in that we rejoin the characters nine years later. Some of them are no longer with us (I won't say who, but noooo!) but there are several new characters introduced. If you haven't read the others in the series, you could start with this one.

Now You See Them is set in Brighton in 1963. Edgar Stephens has been promoted to Superintendent and is married to Detective Sergeant Emma Holmes. They have three children and Emma has given up her career. Ed's wartime 'Magic Men' colleague Max Mephisto, a music hall magician, is a Hollywood film star but returns to Britain for the funeral of one of their old friends. Edgar, Emma and Max swiftly become involved in the case of a missing schoolgirl, which ends up being a little too close to home.

At first I was grumpy that the series had skipped nine years (and that my favourite character had been killed off!) but I was immediately caught up in the story about three young women who go missing, one after the other, with apparently nothing to connect them. I loved the new characters, WPC Meg Connolly, who is frustrated that she gets all the boring jobs because she's a woman, and female reporter Sam (who we originally met in The Vanishing Box; she has a bigger part to play here) who is similarly frustrated. Female empowerment is an ongoing theme, because Emma has realised that living happily ever after with the man she loves is starting to feel a bit...dull...and longs for the excitement that she once had working for the police.

As well as writing a entertaining mystery (I am never able to work out the villain!) Elly's particular skill is to create brilliant, totally believable characters. She writes with humour and her stories are well-researched with lots of amazing detail. The way Now You See Them ended makes me hope there might be another one coming along soon?

One of my favourite reads this year, Now You See Them is recommended for anyone who loves historical mysteries and the kind of murder mystery that has a puzzle to solve but isn't too violent.

Thank you to Elly Griffiths and Quercus for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Thursday, 12 September 2019

Review: The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen

I've been a fan of Tess Gerritsen for years and I love her Rizzoli & Isle crime series. Reading the blurb for The Shape of Night, I thought this book might be a return to the romantic suspense Tess used to write. I was partly right; the story is an interesting mix of domestic thriller and ghost story.

Something terrible has happened in Ava's past, something so bad she has cut herself off from her family and rented Brodie's Watch - a spooky old house, high on a cliff, once owned by a Victorian sea captain. But Ava begins to get the feeling the house really doesn't want her there. But does she have more to fear from the living than the dead? Or is the weight of her guilt causing her to slowly lose her mind?

The Shape of Night is basically The Ghost and Mrs Muir meets Fifty Shades of Grey. I did enjoy the story and I read it very quickly because I was so keen to find out what happened! But this is the kind of ghost story where the ghost is real enough to chat and romance the heroine. I much prefer jump shocks! I loved the 'small town murder mystery' vibe, the gothic house and Ava's cute cat, but I really didn't like the BDSM bits, which I felt came over as abusive rather than erotic (this might be what the author intended). And if you've read a lot of crime books, the villain is easy to spot.

Although I enjoyed the story and I'm happy to give it four stars, I'm not sure what kind of reader to recommend this book to. Perhaps fans of cosy mysteries who don't mind a ghost story and a bit of BDSM? The closest thing I've read that compares would be While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt, although The Shape of Night is not as dark.

I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of The Shape of Night, which will be published in the UK on 3rd October 2019.

Thank you to Tess Gerritsen and Bantam Books (Transworld/Random House UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Review: Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

I chose this book because I adore ghost stories, particularly Christmas ones, and I loved the sinister-looking cover.

After tragedy strikes, Leah buys the Maitland Farmhouse on a wild impulse. It had belonged to her family decades ago, although she hadn't appreciated how isolated and rundown it is until she moves in and spooky things begin to happen. She can hear voices and children's laughter, catches glimpses of shadowy figures in a mirror, and then finds a sinister old doll...

Alison Littlewood excels at creating a deliciously creepy atmosphere, with the hint of a supernatural presence around every corner. Even plain old mistletoe (which I'd quite liked before!) becomes something more sinister - an allusion of something reaching out from beyond the grave. I had expected more jump shocks but the ghosts, when they do appear, are very solid. Therefore Mistletoe is more time slip than ghost story, as Leah is given glimpses into the lives of those lived in the farmhouse during Victorian times. As a bonus, there is a murder mystery to solve - with a few unexpected last minute twists!

Mistletoe will appeal to anyone who loves Christmas murder-mysteries and ghost stories that take their time creating a truly chilling atmosphere - in more ways than one!

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book, which will be released on 10th October 2019.

Thank you to Alison Littlewood and Jo Fletcher Books (Quercus) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

I was attracted to this book because of the utterly gorgeous cover and I loved the sound of the 'doorways to other worlds' plot. 

The story starts in the early 20th century. January Scaller is the ward of the super-wealthy Mr Locke. Although his servants and friends sometimes sneer, Mr Locke is kind and courteous to her (provided she does as she is told!) and January lives a privileged life in his huge mansion filled with precious artefacts. As the years pass, January realises her life in a gilded cage, devoid of free will, isn't so great. And that Mr Locke views her in much the same way as the rest of his collection. She takes refuge in a strange old book, about a girl who discovers a doorway to another world, but what if that doorway was real? 

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a rollicking adventure story that I didn't want to put down. It's a story-within-a-story, a tale of magic realism set in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It reminded me of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, especially The Subtle Knife, with it's strong female characters and moving between worlds. Whereas His Dark Materials dealt with the use of religion to oppress, this story discusses racism and segregation.

I fell in love with this book and its brilliant characters, and I really didn't want it to end. Thoroughly recommended. My favourite read this year!

Thank you to Alix E. Harrow and Orbit (Little, Brown Book Group UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

I've been a fan of Linwood Barclay's right from his first book. He is the absolute master of the heart-stopping thriller and Elevator Pitch is one of his best.

The story starts when four people board an elevator in New York. One works for a movie studio and one is a wannabe screenwriter who has blagged his way into the building to hand deliver his latest script. She gives him the chance to pitch her the script before she reaches her floor - but the elevator keeps going, right to the very top - and then plummets. A random accident? Except the next day the same thing happens, and then repeats the day after that. Someone is deliberately sabotaging elevators - but why?

Linwood Barclay is an expert in creating tension and suspense. As much as I enjoyed seeing how the mystery played out, I LOVED how the tension built up each time someone got into an elevator. And Linwood plays with us too, so that every time something different happens. Brilliant!

The characters were great, thoroughly engaging - even the bad guys! And Linwood encourages us to keep changing our allegiances. There's Barbara, the news reporter who has her sights set on the Mayor - but is he as corrupt as he seems? There are also two detectives, trying to solve a murder that may or may not be linked, and a couple of would-be terrorists.

Jam-packed with thrills and literal spills, this was a fabulous five-star read for me and one of my favourite books this year. Recommended for fans of Harlan Coben and Lee Child, and for anyone who loves a cracking good thriller.

Thank you to Linwood Barclay and HQ for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of The Family Upstairs. I was utterly gripped right from the start - I read the second half in a day! It has everything I love in a book - an old family mystery, a big spooky house, and a thoroughly creepy atmosphere.

Libby Jones works hard selling designer kitchens to the rich and famous but still only scrapes a living. She has a long-term plan: a few more years in her job and, if she's not been promoted, she's off. Then she receives a letter. She's inherited a house in the famous Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, worth millions. The drawback? Once the home of a weird cult, it was supposedly the scene of a bizarre suicide pact twenty-five years ago -  the only survivor was baby Libby. But what really happened that night?

The story is told from three points of view. Libby, Henry (a young boy who lived in the house), and a middle-aged woman now living a hand-to-mouth existence in the South of France. How are these very different people connected?

It would be far more fun for you to read this story without knowing too much about it! So I'll just say I loved the old house, with it's 'hidden' (servants') staircase and sinister locked rooms. Henry was my favourite character, along with Miller - the slobby investigative journalist who helps Libby uncover the secrets in her past. There's a nod to a famous 90s movie about a real-life murderer, the story is jam-packed with twist after twist, the characters are thoroughly engaging, and the final line is an absolute classic. Brilliant stuff!

The Family Upstairs is my favourite read this year and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who loves a clever, twisty mystery with a dollop of chilling gothic suspense.  

Thank you to Lisa Jewell and Cornerstone (Random House) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Review: Dead Man's Lane (Wesley Peterson #23) by Kate Ellis

I love Kate Ellis's Wesley Peterson crime series and I've read all of them! It is the combination of a fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve running alongside a historical mystery that pulls me in every time.

No one knows how Dead Man's Lane got it's name but everyone's heard of the notorious Strangefields Farm. Twenty years ago, an artist by the name of Jackson Temples murdered four beautiful young girls before he was caught and sent to prison - protesting his innocence all the way. Now someone appears to be copying his murders - or was Jackson innocent all along?

It is hard to review this book without giving away any spoilers! Although I read it in sizeable chunks, I did find it hard to work out who-was-who at the start. There are a lot of characters, but there is a good reason for this, and murder mysteries do need a good choice of potential suspects and victims! Once I got into the book, I was completely gripped and read the last half in one go!

I particularly enjoyed the historical parts, explaining the origins of how that road got its name, and the gruesome deaths (and burials!) that happened at the farm over the centuries. And Kate's plots are always so clever I can never work out 'whodunnit'. I also enjoy catching up with the regular characters and getting a glimpse into how their lives are progressing. (Memo to Rachel: Don't do it!) 

It is not essential to have read the previous books in this series but I feel you would definitely get more out of this story if you have. It would appeal to anyone who loves the 'puzzle' kind of murder mystery or fans of authors who mix murder mysteries and archaeology, such as Elly Griffiths.

Thank you to Kate Ellis and Piatkus for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Thursday, 25 July 2019

Review: The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke #3) by Tessa Dare

I do love reading historical romances, especially the funny ones! Tessa Dare wrote one of my all-time favourites, When a Scot Ties the Knot, but this one comes a close second!

The Wallflower Wager is the third in the Girl Meets Duke series but it can also be read as a stand-alone. While the heroes of the first two books were a duke and a duke's heir, the hero of this one has Duke as his surname (a neat twist!). Being a self-made man also made a nice change!

Lady Penelope lives alone in a large house in London, apart from her servants, her elderly companion, and a positive menagerie of rescued animals. The house next door has been bought by Gabriel Duke, who intends to renovate it and sell it at a vast profit. While one huge selling point is the aristocratic neighbour (Lady Penelope) an equally huge minus is her mini-zoo. But the only way Penny will agree to part with her pets is if Gabe promises to find new owners for them. How hard can that be?

The thing I enjoy most about Tessa Dare's books are her lovable, engaging characters and their funny banter. I also loved Delilah the parrot - her language is a running joke throughout the book - and I thought the ending was a nice twist on what usually happens in romantic novels (no spoilers!).

Recommended if you love your historical romances modern, funny and sexy, and enjoy reading authors such as Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas. I thoroughly enjoyed The Wallflower Wager and have no hesitation in giving it five stars.

Thank you to Tessa Dare and Mills & Boon for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Friday, 19 July 2019

Review: A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

I adore Tracy Chevalier's books and couldn't wait to read this one, which jumped straight to the top of my TBR pile.

A Single Thread is set in the 1930s, when single women were considered 'surplus' because so many men of that generation had died during the First World War. Violet Speedwell lost both her fiance and her brother. After years being worn down by her mother's relentlessly negative comments and outlook, Violet realises she has to make some drastic changes to her life. She starts by moving from Southampton to Winchester and taking on a new job. At first she is lonely, as the women in her office are much younger and they don't seem to have anything in common. But she relishes her independence and soon makes friends with a group of women who embroider kneeling cushions at Winchester Cathedral. Yet soon the threat of another war looms.

While I love historical novels, I hate sewing and anything 'crafty', so in theory I'm not the target audience for this story! However, Tracy's skill at creating fascinating characters soon drew me in and I couldn't put the book down. I particularly loved Violet's fellow 'broderers'; Gilda and her sweet love affair with Dorothy, and also Louisa, who rebelled against the Nazis in her own unique way. I know Winchester and the cathedral very well, and enjoyed reading about all the familiar landmarks. The only thing I wasn't so keen on was the man Violet became obsessed with, as I didn't feel he deserved her. I did like the ending though!

I really enjoyed reading A Single Thread, which is almost a love letter to Winchester Cathedral and the unsung heroes who have worked there over the centuries. I can see it appealing to anyone who enjoys historical novels, particularly those set in the early 20th century.

Thank you to Tracy Chevalier and The Borough Press (Harper Collins UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Review: Three Days in Florence by Chrissie Manby

I've always loved Chrissie Manby's books, so I couldn't resist downloading Three Days in Florence - particularly as I'd just returned from spending three days in Florence! The book wasn't quite what I was expecting - it's more behind-the-scenes rather than touristy - but I enjoyed it very much!

Florence has always been a bit of a legend in the Courage family. Kathy's parents spent their honeymoon there and always promised to take her back, but it never happened and now her father has died. When Kathy and her boyfriend are invited to Florence to attend a family wedding, Kathy is thrilled - but it doesn't turn out the way she's expecting and it's a disappointing trip. Then a mix-up with the flight home means Kathy is unexpectedly stranded alone for three more days. Will she hole-up at an airport hotel? Or head out to discover if Florence really is the city of her dreams?

Although we don't see Kathy tick off visits to all the tourist hotspots in Florence, we get to see the 'real' city as she's adopted by an adorable Italian family (I LOVED Manu, Henry and Faustino!) and she ends up literally having to sing for her supper. There is a sweet romance and humour - little Manu's attempts to teach Kathy Italian don't go quite the way she is expecting, and Kathy rediscovers the person she was always meant to be. 

I loved Three Days in Florence. It's the perfect holiday romcom and one of my favourite reads this year. I wish the Innocenti family would adopt me! Oh, and I love that cover!

Thank you to Chrissie Manby and Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Review: The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman

I love Rowan Coleman's books, particularly The Summer of Impossible Things, which is one of my all-time favourites! I particularly enjoy that each of her stories are slightly different to each other, so I never know quite what to expect!

The Girl at the Window is one of those novels with several timelines cleverly woven together. In the present day, Trudy Heaton returns to her family home, Ponden Hall, after several years away. Running alongside this is a glimpse into Ponden Hall's past, plus the story of how Trudy met her husband - he's been missing a year, presumed dead. There are also mentions of Emily Bronte, who visited Ponden Hall, which is a real place in Yorkshire and allegedly the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.

I love history, so I particularly enjoyed the story of the Hall's past (I'd have liked to have known more about the lady balloonist!) and the ghosts that live there still. I loved the developing relationship between Trudy and her blunt, eccentric mother (they had not previously got on). There is also a mystery involving a lost library of valuable books and Emily Bronte's missing manuscript - one of my favourite bits is where Trudy decides to go 'digging for treasure' in the mud! Ironically, as much as I love old houses, another favourite scene was where Trudy visits an ultra-modern house and her son becomes lost - heart-stopping!

I really enjoyed The Girl at the Window and can't wait to read what Rowan writes next! I'd thoroughly recommend this to anyone who loves stories about spooky old houses where the former residents haven't quite moved out, and gothic mysteries.

Thank you to Rowan Coleman and Ebury for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Monday, 1 July 2019

Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

I loved Riley Sager's earlier novel, Final Girls, which was a take on those old 'cabin in the woods' stories (where a bunch of teenagers are killed off one by one, leaving a sole survivor), so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of Lock Every Door.

Jules Larson has recently split up from her boyfriend, effectively making herself homeless. She is down to her last $500 and is delighted to unexpectedly land a job as an apartment sitter in the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most exclusive apartment blocks and home to the rich and famous. However, there are a few drawbacks. She's not allowed to talk to any of the residents, or invite anyone to stay over, or leave the apartment empty... Oh, and the original inhabitant of her apartment was famously murdered seventy years ago...

Lock Every Door reminded me of one of those classy thrillers from the 1950s/60s. Is the heroine's apartment haunted, is her friend really missing, is everything all in her mind, etc, etc. And because I love spooky old buildings, I particularly loved the Bartholomew and its gargoyles - especially the one outside Jules's window, which she affectionately nicknames 'George'!

I love Riley's style of writing and the way he really gets inside the head of his female protagonists. I loved the creepy old apartment building, especially the history of the place, and the dash of romance, and that not all the characters are whom they appear to be! Jules's visit to a homeless shelter also provided a good contrast with the super-rich people she's now neighbours with. 

I really enjoyed Lock Every Door and I've already bought Riley's next book, which I am looking forward to reading. Lock Every Door would suit anyone who likes a slow-burning mystery set in a classy/glamorous location. Although mystery fans might not like the dashes of horror towards the end.

Thank you to Riley Sager and Ebury for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Sunday, 23 June 2019

Review: How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran

When this book originally came out I assumed it was non-fiction. Yes, I somehow missed the words 'a novel' in bright yellow font on the front. I also hadn't realised this book is the sequel to Caitlin Moran's earlier novel, How to Build a Girl, which I haven't read (something I'm about to remedy very soon!), but it does work as a standalone.

How to be Famous is about a girl called Jo who has reinvented herself as Dolly Wilde and now works as a journalist in London. This is the the 1990s and Britpop is at its height. She is in love with her childhood friend, but as he's now a huge star no one quite believes she knows him. She left home to get away from her family, but now her father's moved in - and expects her to take him to gigs. Her best friend is a singer/songwriter with writer's block, she's fallen into a nasty feud with a famous comedian, and has accidentally made a sex tape. What else could possibly go wrong?

I really enjoyed How to be Famous, which reminded me of Jilly Cooper's early blockbusters, Riders and Polo. I adore books about celebrities and I think it helped that I'm old enough to remember the 90s and got all the references - normally I have to check this stuff with my kids. The story is chock full of brilliant one-liners but also has pertinent things to say about fame and celebrities. It's a coming-of-age story, following Dolly's adventures, from where she feels she has landed in Wonderland to the painful lesson that the unwary can and will be exploited by those who have power. Does she have the strength to fight back? What do you think!

I loved the characters, particularly Dolly. Her breezy self-confidence reminded me of Margo from The Durrells. John, Dolly's rockstar boyfriend, is also very sweet. In short, How to be Famous is brilliantly written, screamingly funny and exuberantly filthy! A five-star read for me!

Thank you to Caitlin Moran and Ebury for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Review: Tell Me Your Secret by Dorothy Koomson

I chose this book because I love Dorothy Koomson. The way she blends family drama and crime thriller ('emotional thrillers', the publisher calls them) is utterly brilliant!

Ten years ago Pieta (pronounced 'Peter') was kidnapped by someone calling himself The Blindfolder. If Pieta didn't keep her eyes closed for 48 hours, despite what he did to her, she'd be killed. Pieta survived, although she never told anyone what happened to her. But now The Blindfolder is killing off his past victims she may not have a choice.

Tell Me Your Secret is told from both Pieta's point of view and that of the police detective inspector (Jody) in charge of investigating the murders. There are also flashbacks to Pieta's experiences at the hands of The Blindfolder. Jody's chapters are told in a 'Dear Reader' kind of way, which I really liked. It gave a poignant edge to what could have been another 'flawed detective' character.

I loved the relationship between Pieta and her son, and I thought Pieta's monster boss was hugely entertaining. There's a couple of potential love interests too. Tell Me Your Secret has some great twists - they come thick and fast at the end, so pay attention! The book also makes a good point about how victims of crime are perceived - as 'victims' or 'fighters'.

Great cover, clever title, twisty emotional plot, terrific characters, edge-of-your-seat thrills, brilliant writing - have I missed anything out? Tell Me Your Secret is one of my favourite reads this year!

Thank you to Dorothy Koomson and Headline Review for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Review: Say No to the Duke (The Wildes of Lindow Castle #4) by Eloisa James

I adore Eloisa James's historical romances, so I was thrilled to receive an early copy of Say No to the Duke.

Lady Betsy has always felt Society judges her for the scandal of her mother running away with a handsome Prussian, but she gets her revenge on the gossips by behaving like the perfect lady at all times. These bullies have also told Betsy that no respectable gentleman would ever want to marry her, so she is determined to receive more proposals than any of them - and does so, culminating in a proposal from the handsome duke considered the catch of the Season.

Lord Jeremy Roden, a friend of Betsy's elder brother, is currently living at Lindow Castle while Betsy and the Duke flirt with each other. Recently returned from the war in the Colonies, Jeremy is suffering from PTSD and trying to keep out of everyone's way by hiding in the billiards room. Unfortunately, this is where the Duke chooses to propose to Betsy.

As with all of Eloisa's books, the story is as much about the interaction between the characters as the plot. I loved the way Betsy and Jeremy bounced off each other, how the duke was sweet but completely bemused by the pair of them, and especially by the duke's mother, who is desperate to win Betsy for a daughter-in-law. Even Betsy's maid is conspiring against her, forcing Betsy into huge pink dresses to make a favourable impression on the duchess. Because Betsy has played the part of the perfect lady for so long, everyone believes this is what she's really like. The 'real' Betsy would love to be as wild as her brothers, play billiards, and stride around in breeches rather than big pink dresses. And the only person who realises she hides behind a mask is Jeremy - because he wears one too.

I won't tell you the outcome of their wager but the only bit involving breeches was right at the very end of the story. And while it was a clever twist, I was disappointed there was no scandalous road trip, as suggested by the blurb. Lord Jeremy Roden isn't rakish either; he's rather lovely and I adored him all the more for it.

Although this book is #4 in The Wildes of Lindow Castle series, you can easily read it as a standalone. It would suit readers who enjoy the 'fairy tale' kind of historical romance and authors such as Julia Quinn. I loved the characters, especially the banter between hero and heroine. Say No to the Duke is my favourite book of the series, and one of my favourite reads this year too.

Thank you to Eloisa James and Piatkus for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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