The Companion by Sarah Dunnakey – Blog Tour Review.

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About the book

How do you solve a mystery when the clues are hidden in the past?

The Companion is a beautiful and powerfully-told story of buried secrets, set between the 1930s and the present day, on the wild Yorkshire moors.
Billy Shaw lives in a palace. Potter’s Pleasure Palace, the best entertainment venue in Yorkshire, complete with dancing and swing-boats and picnickers and a roller-skating rink.
Jasper Harper lives in the big house above the valley, with his eccentric mother Edie and Uncle Charles, brother and sister authors who have come from London to write in the seclusion of the moors.
When it is arranged for Billy to become Jasper’s companion, Billy arrives to find a wild, peculiar boy in a curiously haphazard household where nothing that’s meant is said and the air is thick with secrets. Later, when Charles and Edie are found dead, it is ruled a double suicide, but fictions have become tangled up in facts and it’s left to Anna Sallis, almost a century later, to unravel the knots and piece together the truth

My Review

The Companion was slightly different to what I was expecting but I enjoyed it a lot. It is a dual narrative novel with Anna in modern day and Billy in the 1930s. Anna has moved into the area to start again after suffering an emotional loss. She becomes friendly with Frank, a local man who encourages her to convince the board who have control of the old palace to open the top floor to the public.
Billy who lived in the village in the 1930s and whose family worked at the palace is told he is to become a companion to Jasper, who lives with his mother and uncle at their home High Hob which is up on the moors. At first, he misses his family and friends but settles in to his new life.
I found all three members of the family spoilt, snobbish and very unpleasant. Jasper, especially made my skin crawl. A lot of children would play games, where they would convince each other that there were wild animals in the area but he had a healthy obsession with death, cruelty and power.
I couldn’t work out what had happened. Most of what Anna learned was from passed down memories and not all of them were accurate. What you think you learned about Billy in modern day was proved to be false a few chapters later. I liked the way this was done, having worked on family history for years you always hear stories that are later proven to be inaccurate.
I liked his character a lot. He understood immediately what Jasper was capable of, had hopes for a successful future and dreamt of a life with Lizzie. His friendship with Lizzie was lovely to read but also upsetting at times.
I’ve always enjoyed a novel that covers different generations and found this novel to be remarkable. There was the 1930s where life was changing dramatically. Between the wars, and a changing approach to the way the working class enjoyed their leisure time. And then modern day, where people realized they should know more about what their predecessors did in work and leisure.
The whole area felt real. I could see the transformation of the old palace and feel the isolation of the moors and the people who lived in both. The superstitious shepherd, the cook who couldn’t cook and the maid who witnessed more than she realised.
A fascinating book about a Yorkshire community and its history. Recommended.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received

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Shelter by Sarah Franklin – Review.

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About the Book

Led here by necessity, she knows she cannot stay. Brought against his will, he never wants to leave.

Early spring 1944.

Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out city home, finding refuge in the Women’s Timber Corps. For her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.

Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. In the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.

Their meeting signals new beginnings. But as they are drawn together, the world outside their forest haven is being torn apart. Old certainties are crumbling, and both must now make a life-defining choice.

What price will they pay for freedom? What will they fight to protect?

My Review

When I first saw the publicity for Shelter on social media I was instantly drawn to it. Not only because of its synopsis but also for more personal reasons which I will talk about at the end of the review.
The novel concerns a handful of people and their connection to each other because of the war and the forest. The main character is Connie. Grieving and suffering the consequences of an ill-fated night out in her home town of Coventry she accepts a position with the timber corps in Gloucestershire. There she meets Seppe, Amos, Joyce and Frank and starts to rebuild her life.
Shelter is an incredible book to read. I’m ashamed that I know nothing about Italy’s war but the author has peaked my interest and I am determined to find out more. I loved Seppe’s character alongside that of the three locals. Amos, the stubborn widower who misses his son fighting in the war, Joyce and Frank the childless couple who had so much love to give. And then there was Connie, who some could dislike. She could be selfish and appear unloving but I thought a lot of the way she behaved was due to guilt. I cringed at times with the way she treated Seppe. Even though he felt he was a coward, the way he was with her and Fredo, the camp bully was heroic.
I don’t want to say much about the storyline but the author does an incredible job of showing the way WW2 was fought in a different way. Yes, cities and soldiers do feature but only briefly. This is all about the foresters and how important and unnoticed their role was.
And now the personal reasons. My maternal Grandmother was a Lumber Jill. I struggle to put the image of the tiny, stubborn elderly lady doing a job like the one that Connie did. A reminder that she would have once been a young incredibly resilient woman and I will never forget how proud she was to receive her belated medal.

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My Publication Day – Amanda Reynolds.

Today, I would like to welcome you to my blog to read about Amanda Reynold’s publication day and what it means to her. Her book Close To Me will be published in paperback on the 27th July.

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How will you spend the day?

On publication day, I will be busy getting ready for an event that evening at my local Waterstones, in Cheltenham. I’m quite nervous about it, as it’s also a reading and book signing. Everyone has told me to relax and enjoy it, and I’m sure I will.

Will you be following reviews from early readers or do prefer not to know?

Fortunately, as Close To Me has been out as an eBook for three months prior to paperback publication, it already has lots of reviews and they have been overwhelmingly positive. I do check my reviews every now and then, although less frequently now as I’m settling in to the whole idea of being published.

Is it emotional, getting the novel you have worked on for months into the public eye?
It is emotional sharing my novel, particularly as it’s my debut, but it’s also such a privilege to be published that I’m determined to enjoy every bit of it as much as I
possibly can.

I often wonder and imagine that when your novel is published and you have been working on at least one novel since, is the book that is published less important? And is it a distraction, welcome or otherwise having to focus on what is for you old material?

That is one of the big differences when you’re working with a publisher, always having your head in more than book, but I like that diversity. It’s also great to get out and meet people and talk to other writers and readers. Close To Me will always be special to me, so I don’t mind at all going back to Jo and Rob’s world, although I do sometimes need to refresh my memory as I become so involved in my new characters whilst I’m writing.

Do blog tours make you more nervous or do you see them as beneficial?

There was a wonderful Blog Tour for the eBook publication of Close To Me, which was entirely beneficial as each day there was a new post: an extract, review, or Q&A. I missed it when the tour finished. The blogging community have been wonderfully supportive to me and Close To Me. I wrote about it on my author site as I’m constantly in awe of all the hard work that goes into book blogging. http://amandareynoldsauthor.com/blog.html

What is your publication day treat?

My publication day treat is to get my nails done. I go to a fantastic salon where I live in Cheltenham and they give you a glass of fizz whilst they pamper you.

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The Other Twin by Lucy V Hay – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well-heeled families, The Other Twin is startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth…

My Review

Poppy makes a devastating return home to Brighton when her sister India is thought to have committed suicide. Unconvinced, and feeling guilty after not being able to make amends after a fallout she decides to try and understand the reasons why India might have taken her own life. Or whether somebody else was responsible.
She was determined to get answers from India’s friends but after leaving Brighton a few years earlier under a cloud it was always going to be a struggle. The reasons why she left were a little unexpected and it was understandable why a few people were unfriendly.
All the family were coping or otherwise in different ways. The way that Poppy’s mother fell apart was more convincing than some that I have read. How she coped before the funeral to not coping at all afterwards. Also, accurately portrayed was Poppy and her stepfather trying to help her and dealing with their own emotions.
The Other Twin was a book that took my breath away. Divided into three parts, the final part had me holding my breath and I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough. I lost count of the times I thought I knew what happened only to be proven wrong a few pages later.
A fascinating read.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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Trust Me by Angela Clarke – Review.

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About the Book

What do you do if you witness a crime…but no-one believes you?
When Kate sees a horrific attack streamed live on her laptop, she calls the police in a state of shock. But when they arrive, the video has disappeared – and she can’t prove anything. Desperate to be believed, Kate tries to find out who the girl in the video could be – and who attacked her.
Freddie and Nas are working on a missing persons case, but the trail has gone cold. When Kate contacts them, they are the only ones to listen and they start to wonder – are the two cases connected?

My Review

Trust Me is the third book in the social media series by Angela Clarke.
Each of the novels have focused on the more worrying sides of social media. In this book, the site featured is Periscope. It is another that I have never used but one that I do understand. Sort of.
This is a series that I am up to date with, an unusual occurrence for me with all the books that are published. I have enjoyed getting to know the characters, seeing them settle into their roles and changing their views as they learn. I have seen all their strengths and many faults, these police officers are more human than some that are seen in fiction. They also have complicated relationships.
Out of the three books that have been published this is my favourite one so far. Partly because Periscope is less complicated than other social media sites but mainly because I now know these characters. My favourites, Saunders and Chips have more of a presence and there is less focus on Freddie and Nas’s past.
Freddie has grown on me over the three books. Her desire to do the right thing isn’t always the correct way from a policing point of view and she struggles at times with the choices that she makes and getting into trouble for them. The attitude of some of the police towards her role was convincing. I can believe that there are some officers who think that civilian officers are not important to an investigation. I read the novel quickly, the chapters were very short and there were multiple narrators. Some accounts were upsetting, especially the ones that were anonymous and some were intimidating.
I hope that this isn’t the final book in the series, part of me feels that it has been brought to a close. I hope I’m wrong. I don’t think of it as an intense crime series if it was televised it would be more like No Offence than Line of Duty. Its great fun, even though the subject matters are serious.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received via NetGalley.

Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon – Review.

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About the Book

Robin and Sarah weren’t the closest of twins. They weren’t even that similar. But they loved each other dearly. Until, in the cruellest of domestic twists, they were taken from one another.
Now, in her early 30s, Robin lives alone. Agoraphobic and suffering from panic attacks, she spends her days pacing the rooms of her house. The rest of the time she watches – watches the street, the houses, the neighbours. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn’t…
And Sarah? Sarah got what she wanted – the good-looking man, the beautiful baby, the perfect home. But she’s just been accused of the most terrible thing of all. She can’t be around her new family until she has come to terms with something that happened a long time ago. And to do that, she needs to track down her twin sister.
But Sarah isn’t the only person looking for Robin. As their paths intersect, something dangerous is set in motion, leading Robin and Sarah to fight for much more than their relationship…

My Review

Wow!
Whilst I enjoyed reading Holly Seddon’s debut novel last year, Try Not To Breathe, I found this book to be much more gripping. Robin and Sarah are twins who are unidentical in every way. They don’t even appear to have the bond that you always hear about with twins.
The novel switches narrative between the two of them throughout the entire novel. Both in modern day and when they were children, when their lives started to disintegrate. Much of novel concerns emotional trauma and how each of the children coped. Mainly without any assistance from their selfish parents who don’t even seem to notice what they might be going through.
In modern day, Robin was struggling to cope. She is agoraphobic and has become fascinated about what she sees out of her window. The way that she deals with what is happening around her is convincing and upsetting equally. She could come across in her childhood and as an adult as being aggressive and unreliable but I loved her.
Sarah was more of a good girl. The sister who was always clean and tidy and good at being noticed. But she also had issues, she just handled them differently. I ached to know what had gone so wrong with her marriage and what her plans were to resolve them.
In no way at all did I see the twist coming. I went back over parts of the book and reread, just so I could see how easily I had been duped. It was jaw dropping.
This was a fantastic follow up and I’m certain it will be one of the top books for the summer.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received

My Publication Day – Louise Beech.

Today, I  would like to welcome you to my blog to read a new feature. I plan on running a series featuring several different authors and how they feel on their publication day.  Today my guest is the lovely Louise Beech who has already had two books published with Orenda and her third Maria In the Moon will be published in September.

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How will you spend the day?

I spend the day often in disbelief. Excited disbelief! Like, wow, it’s here. My baby is really out there. People can actually read it. Often the day is weirdly normal other than that because the actual launches are on different days to when the book is released. So, it can be a quiet day, where I likely carry on writing whatever new thing I’m creating. But now and again I stop and think again, wow, it’s out!

Will you be following reviews from early readers or do prefer not to know? (Excluding blog tours.)

I like to know. But it’s terrifying. It really is, every time. You’ve spent so long writing and editing and reworking, and you really want your work to be enjoyed. So I do look at places like Amazon and Goodreads… nervously!

Is it emotional, getting the novel you have worked on for months into the public eye?

Very emotional. A lot of my novels come from personal experiences, so you can feel quite exposed. I have learned to remember that not everyone feels the same about something. You can never please everyone. So, write from the heart, from your own truth, and put everything you have into it, and then you know you did the best you could, no matter what.

If you have had books published before, does the feeling change?

I swear, I think I get MORE excited! For me, it hasn’t faded one bit. Perhaps if you ask me again in ten years, the answer might be different, but I hope not. And, to be honest, I think I’ll still be excited. I’m just that kind of girl. A clap my hands and jump about kind of girl!

I often wonder and imagine that when your novel is published and you have been working on at least one novel since, is the book that is published less important?

Not less important, but sometimes strange. As in, for example, right now I’ve just been editing book four (The Lion Tamer Who Lost, which will be out next year) and have started book five, while still promoting The Mountain in my Shoe, and now of course Maria in the Moon. So sometimes you forget which story you’re in, so to speak. Because, trust me, I’m deeply in them when I write/edit. I live them.

And is it a distraction, welcome or otherwise having to focus on what is for you old material?

Haha, I quite like it. Maria in the Moon was first written after the 2007 Hull Floods, so it really is ‘old’ material in many ways. It really was a revisit when I came to edit it. But it was like revisiting an old me. A younger me. A me going through a hard time. And it was wonderful to think how far I’ve come since.

Do blog tours make you more nervous or do you see them as beneficial?

I know they are beneficial, but of course you can be nervous. Luckily, it’s usually with bloggers/reviewers who like your work generally.

What is your publication day treat? Champagne, cream cake, 10km run?

A lovely bottle of Prosecco, chocolate, and a dance around the room!

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An Act of Silence by Collette McBeth – Review.

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About the Book

These are the facts I collect.
My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him. They next morning she was found in an allotment.
Mariela is dead.
Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning
Linda Moscow loves her son; it’s her biological instinct to keep him safe. But if she’s not sure of his innocence, how can she stand by him? Should she go against everything she believes in to protect him?
She’s done it before, and the guilt nearly killed her.

My Review

I didn’t really know what to expect when starting this book but I certainly didn’t expect it to be as fast paced as it was.
We have a disgraced politician, and her son who is a successful comedian. From the beginning, you are aware that their relationship is fractured. With the narrative switching between them, the reasons become clear. I found it quite difficult to like and understand either of them, its only much further into the novel that you become aware of everything has happened since Gabriel was a child.
Whilst I didn’t warm to either of these two immediately, there were three characters I liked instantly. These were Charlie, whose story was heartbreaking, Emily Lune and her husband Tom. Emily and Tom only appear towards the end but they were a welcome addition to a novel that contains some loathsome characters. The characters who appeared in the novel were fictionalized, but far too often you see the real version on our news.
As I said at the start of my review, the novel is fast paced. The narrative switches between most of the characters over many years. Some of the narration seems to be repeated but is from a different point of view. Especially when it involved Linda and Gabriel so the reader can see how their relationship suffered.
A great book, especially for a holiday. Just a little exhausting.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Kate and Harriet are best friends growing up together on an isolated Australian cape. As the daughters of the lighthouse keepers, the two girls share everything, until a fisherman, McPhail, arrives in their small community.
When Kate witnesses the desire that flares between him and Harriet, she is torn by her feelings of envy and longing. An innocent moment in McPhail’s hut then occurs that threatens to tear their peaceful community apart.
Inspired by a true story, Skylarking is a spellbinding tale of friendship and desire, memory and truth, which questions what it is to remember and how tempting it can be to forget.

My Review

Skylarking is a fictionalized account of a true event that occurred in the 1880s in Jervis Bay, a remote area in Australia. Kate and Harriet have been friends throughout childhood, their fathers both work at the lighthouse. There is two years between them and as they get older Kate feels like she is being left behind. Harriet is keen to find a husband and her mother wants her to go to Melbourne rather than stay on the cape. It is on her return that tragedy strikes.
The most powerful part of this novel was the description of the area. The isolation, the danger of the sea and what it must have been like for the people who lived there. The challenges faced by the men desperate to help stricken sailors and I could visualize the men who were desperate to get a beached whale back in the sea and the frustration felt by others who wanted to earn money from her.
Even though the tale of the friendship was fiction I still found it believable. Harriet was a little spoiled, the only child whose mother wanted better for her. Kate was aware of how much her family needed her but also wished for her own life. Their relationship showed devotion, jealousy, a need to protect and a need to be noticed. I would have liked to know and understand McPhail a bit more but his enigmatic demeanour and his brashness probably contributed to his appeal.
The attitude to the Aborigines left me feeling a little uncomfortable but I should imagine it was an accurate portrayal for the time in which it was set. And it did change slightly towards the end.
When I finished this novel, I was searching the internet for days trying to find out more information about the actual event. Apart from photos of the lighthouse and cottages in ruins I found nothing. Which for anybody who knows me will know how annoying I found this. I guess though that it would be a fascinating area to visit.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Since her daughter went missing four years earlier, celebrated photographer Kurtiz Ross has been a woman alone. Her only companion her camera. Since Lizzie disappeared, she has blamed and isolated herself, given up hope. Until, out of the blue, an unexpected sighting of Lizzie is made in Paris.
Could this lead to the reconciliation she has dreamed of?
Within hours of Kurtiz arriving in Paris, the City of Light is plunged into a night of hell when a series of terrorist attacks bring the city to a standstill. Amid the fear and chaos, a hand reaches out. A sympathetic stranger in a café offers to help Kurtiz find her daughter.
A stranger’s guiding light
Neither knows what this harrowing night will deliver, but the other woman’s kindness – and her stories of her own love and loss in post-war Provence – shine light into the shadows, restoring hope, bringing the unexpected. Out of darkness and despair, new life rises. New beginnings unfold.
Dare she believe in a miracle?
Set during a time of bloodshed and chaos in one of the most beautiful cities on earth and along the warm fragrant shores of the Mediterranean, Kurtiz discovers that miracles really can happen.

My Review

Kurtiz is in Paris on the night of the Bataclan attacks in November 2015. She is getting increasingly desperate, not knowing if her husband had found their daughter at the concert and whether they were both safe. The subject matter is a little upsetting at times, it’s a recent event and there have been numerous terrorist attacks since that dreadful night. But the flashbacks to Marguerite and Charlie’s life were welcome respite.
It was Marguerite’s story I preferred. I enjoyed reading about her desire to be an actress and the development of her relationship with Charlie. She was a character I wasn’t keen on at first. She seemed a little self- obsessed but by the end of the novel she was my favourite character. I would love to read more about her life in future novels.
The desperation felt by Kurtiz was convincing, not being able to get answers regarding her family’s safety. The things that she witnessed combined with the images I remember from the news at the time were all realistic. As convincing was how hard the emergency services found the situation in which they had been placed. Needing to treat the injured, yet keep worried family members away from the scene.
Some of the novel I felt a little unconvinced by, but this was a novel I enjoyed reading.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.

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