The Angel’s Mark by S. W Perry – Blog Tour Review.

 

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About the Book

LONDON, 1590. Queen Elizabeth I’s control over her kingdom is wavering. Amidst a tumultuous backdrop of Spanish plotters, Catholic heretics and foreign wars threatening the country’s fragile stability, the body of a small boy is found in the City of London, with strange marks that no one can explain.

When idealistic physician Nicholas Shelby finds another body displaying the same marks only days later, he becomes convinced that a killer is at work, preying on the weak and destitute of London.

Determined to find out who is behind these terrible murders, Nicholas is joined in his investigations by Bianca, a mysterious tavern keeper. As more bodies are discovered, the pair find themselves caught in the middle of a sinister plot. With the killer still at large, and Bianca in terrible danger, Nicholas’s choice seems impossible – to save Bianca, or save himself…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. My two favourite genres are crime and historical fiction, particularly from the Tudor period so this novel ticked all of the boxes. When I have read novels from this period  they have mostly been set in and around the courts and palaces. This novel is unique with it being set in the less affluent areas of London, in this case Bankside which is in Southwark. This is an area whose inhabitants live in poverty, some are diseased and their entertainment is the bear pits and the hostelries in the area. They live in fear of being charged with heresy or being branded for a crime. When people from their community are  found in the river, all with similar wounds they are regarded as unimportant and the ones who have the power are just happy that the victims are not from their own class.
It is fascinating to read. I felt like I was read a true reflection of what it was like to live at this time. The differences between Bankside and Nonsuch Palace were extreme. The attitudes to women and what their choices in life would be. There was no chance at all of women working in medicine, and the chances were that any woman who could help people who were suffering with illness would be regarded with scepticism. I found it very interesting reading the thoughts about how the human body worked. And how some wouldn’t accept any other explanation.
The small part of the novel that involved the torture chamber was just enough.I think if there had been more it would have less of an impact. The poignant touch made it more real, combined with the violence that preceded it. I liked Nicholas, Bianca and Ned a lot. If this is the first book in a new series I will be keen to get to know them all more. And understand more about what it was to live in these times.
It was one of those novels where I spent a lot of time looking on the internet for more information. Or in the kindle dictionary at the various foods, drink and herbal remedies. I also spent time looking at Bankside, an area I never knew existed.
A brilliant debut novel, I’m looking forward to more by this author.

The Angel's Mark Blog Tour poster

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard -Review.

 

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About the Book

Her first love confessed to five murders. But the truth was so much worse.

Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, Will Hurley, is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect they are dealing with a copycat, they turn to Will for help. He claims he has the information the police need, but will only give it to one person – the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes.

Alison Smith has spent the last decade abroad, putting her shattered life in Ireland far behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past – and the man – she’s worked so hard to forget.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy via Jellybooks.
The Liar’s Girl is the first book that I have read by Catherine Ryan Howard. It is a dual time frame novel with the same character. Set in modern-day where Alison has rebuilt her life in the Netherlands after the events that occurred when she was at university and also as they happened. You see her excitement at being away from home for the first time, socialising and meeting new friends and her first boyfriend Will. You also see how she has had to cope with loss and betrayal years later. Losing her best friend and her boyfriend and feeling guilty over both.
When a series of new murders occur the verdict against Will is in doubt and with pressure from the Gardaí she returns home to Ireland.
It is an excellent read. All of the characters and relationships felt real and unforced. I loved Alison’s relationship with Mam. Every scene she appeared in made me smile at some part it. Whilst this is a crime novel, the murders and the solving of them seem to take a back seat. The only one that is shown with any details is the murder of Liz. I thought this novel focused on the characters more and how they dealt with the situation. The most fascinating part for me was the friendship and death of Liz and how one-sided the friendship was. Liz was a manipulative person and not really a nice friend to have. But even though Alison knew all of her faults she had always accepted them and felt immense guilt and loss over her death.
I think this is a standalone novel but there is definitely potential for a series with the Gardaí, especially Malone, the guard who was happy to show his caring side.

My Mother’s Secret by Sanjida Kay – Guest Post.

 

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Sanjida Kay is one of my favourite authors and her new book My Mother’s Secret is due to be published on 3rd May. It is my pleasure today to host a guest post talking about cake, which there is a lot of in the book. I will tell you what the book is about first.

About the book

Lizzie Bradshaw. A student from the Lake District, forced to work away from home, who witnesses a terrible crime. But who will ultimately pay the price? Emma Taylor. A mother, a wife, and a woman with a dangerous secret. Can she keep her beloved family safely together? Stella Taylor. A disaffected teenager, determined to discover what her mother is hiding. But how far will she go to uncover the truth? And one man, powerful, manipulative and cunning, who controls all their destinies.

Cake! by Sanjida Kay

 

 

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There are 25 different kinds of cake name-checked in My Mother’s Secret, from Daim cake bought over the counter in Ikea, to scones with cream and jam, and lavender shortbread, served with Earl Grey from Tyntesfield’s National Trust tea shop, to chocolate-orange brownies and courgette cake decorated with a cream-cheese frosting and scattered with rose petals and rosemary flowers, made by my protagonist, Emma Taylor.

‘The chocolate cake doesn’t rise, so Harry and I rescue it by soaking it with an espresso-rum syrup and layering it in tiers with salted-caramel butter cream.’
Emma Taylor

It’s an odd juxtaposition: cake and crime. Emma is a baker, working in Kate’s. Although she spends her days in what seems the most secure and seductively comforting of occupations – baking cakes and sourdough bread – Emma is anxious and nervous, hiding a terrible secret from her family and her friends. Whilst she rises around 4 a.m. to feed the yeast, her teenage daughter, Stella, is spying on her, determined to find out what her mother’s secret is. Meanwhile, a young student, Lizzie Bradshaw, out of her comfort zone in Leeds city centre, witnesses a shocking crime that will have repercussions for the rest of her life.

‘She doesn’t like alcohol in cakes. That’s Katie’s thing. And she isn’t into gluten-free or, you know, polenta. She doesn’t think it’s right for cake. Anyway, it’s what poor people eat.’ My dad winces, in spite of his best Dr Seuss face. ‘In developing countries like Mexico, I mean. You have to be middle-class to afford it here.’
Stella Taylor

The cakes – from the blackberry muffins, to the Black-forest gateau – are, of course, symbols of security, but in a thriller, nowhere, least of all the places where we live and work, are safe.
‘It sounds like something a pirate would eat.’
Paul Bradshaw

Whilst I was researching this novel, I had to delve into organised crime on the one hand, and on the other, hang out in a bakery (Hart’s Bakery in Bristol, which is the one Kate’s is based on) learning how to make croissants and discovering what on earth a friand is. Fortunately, I love baking anyhow so I found it a wonderful indulgence and a relief to write about cake in between the rather more chilling happenings in My Mother’s Secret.

‘She’d like a Victoria sponge with lots of cream and some fruit. Raspberries and jam. Something simple.’
He looks disappointed. I can see he wanted a statement of a cake. Like his love.
Stella Taylor

Unlike Emma, though, I don’t eat gluten and try not to consume sugar, so cake, in my real life, is an infrequent treat, usually made with polenta or gluten-free flour and sweetened with dates. Emma would not approve.

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The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Having reached a dead-end in Boston, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs a change. When she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who is moving to rural Pennsylvania, Leah decides to join her. But their fresh start is quickly threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.
Determined to find Emmy, Leah helps Detective Kyle Donovan to investigate her friend’s life for clues. But with no friends, family or digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Forced to question her version of reality and to save herself, Leah must uncover the truth – no matter how dark or terrible it may be…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

I was looking forward to reading The Perfect Stranger having enjoying reading All The Missing Girls.
After Leah is forced to leave the career that she loves she is encouraged by an old university friend, Emmy, to accompany her to Pennsylvania. She becomes a teacher and is adapting to her new life when the attack on the woman who looks like her followed immediately by the disappearance of Emmy puts her on edge.
It is a novel that has you questioning everything. Does Emmy exist? How much do the students know? Can Kyle be trusted?  And most importantly, how reliable a narrator is Leah?
At first I struggled to answer any of these questions. It was only in the second half of the book when I started to have any faith in my judgement. As more is revealed you realise how desperate Leah must have been to live with a woman who she knew nothing about. She was putting her faith in somebody who was a salvation when life reached critical point when they were at university. But was she relying on the wrong person? Why is Emmy so insistent on nobody being able to find her?
It is a novel where no characters stood out as being ones to like or dislike, even though I did like Leah more as I got to know and understand her. There is one, however, who I had anticipated disliking from the moment I met them. That is, until I realised I had been wrong footed. I am sure I won’t be the only one who had this character as a troublemaker only to see their true personality later in the novel.
A good follow-up novel with a fantastic ending. I will definitely read more books by this author.

The Perfect Stranger can be purchased here

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Holly Seddon – My Publication Day.

 

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It is my pleasure to welcome Holly Seddon to my blog to talk about what publication day means to her. Holly has had two novels published and I have read and enjoyed both of them.

How did you spend the day?

When my first book, Try Not to Breathe, came out in the UK, I was in Amsterdam where I live. I felt very weird and disconnected, and a little jealous as I watched my friends and family sharing pictures of themselves in bookshops with it, while I sat at home. So, this time, I made sure I was in the UK.

The evening was spent at my launch party, where I failed to eat anything (rookie error) and then got completely trashed. The run up to the party (and the dreaded speech) was full of welcome distractions like having my hair done and finalising the party play list.

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

I do follow reviews. I probably shouldn’t, it’s not good for the ego either way! Good reviews can be a little paralysing when you’re also working on your next book, while bad reviews can be tough to move past. You want to reply to reviewers and explain, or defend your characters, and of course you can’t do that.

I’ve been very lucky with reviews, but I am getting to the point where I’m trying to wean myself off the daily checks!

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

Very. With Don’t Close Your Eyes, I feel especially emotional about the characters being in the public eye. One in particular (I can’t say who without giving things away) broke my heart to write and so I was very moved knowing they were out there, and a bit protective.

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

Yes and no. I knew what to expect, so it wasn’t so heightened, but I still felt nervous, emotional, proud… and then drunk.

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?

That’s a good question. It’s not less important as such, but it can be jarring leaving the world of your current work in progress to revisit a plot, setting and characters that you finished working on some time ago. Embarrassingly, I actually forgot a minor plot point during an interview… hopefully I styled it out but it does happen!

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

It’s a quirk of the job that’s unlike many other things. I guess people who work in films or television have a similar experience where they’ve ‘wrapped up’ months or years before and then have to talk about it like it’s as fresh for them as everyone watching for the first time.

I can’t think of many careers – certainly none I’ve had before – where that’s part of the job description. But it’s a privilege and I’m happy to do it.

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

Bit of a weird one, considering I don’t eat meat, but it’s going to the burger joint Shake Shack.

We don’t have them in Holland and when we flew over to London for my first launch party last January, we took our youngest kids to Shake Shack for dinner and decided that would be our ritual. So, at lunch time on the day Don’t Close Your Eyes came out, during a heat wave, we were clustered around a small table eating burgers (or, in my case, a Portobello mushroom in a bap), fries and milkshakes. I probably should have chosen champagne…

Thanks Holly

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