The Dark by Emma Haughton – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

n the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose. 

A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.

The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all. 

And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I see a lot of fiction now that suggests a ‘locked room’ murder or a novel that is similar to those written by Agatha Christie. By this, I mean the murder could only have been committed by a member of a small group of people. In this novel that group consists of 12 people and it would have been impossible for that murder to have been committed by somebody else because of where it takes place. Antarctica.

I have to admit, Antarctica is a place I have never given much thought to. I wasn’t aware that it was dark most of the time and I had no idea there was a Southern Lights ( Aurora Australis). Whilst reading I quickly decided that it wasn’t  somewhere I would like to go and I was happy enough looking at the lights on google images. 

The novel is very much a slow burner. The first half of the book shows the mood and friendship in the group disintegrate as the darkness hours lengthen  and the realisation that they have no chance of leaving until the weather improves. Kate’s dependancy on drugs increased and she alienated many in the group  with her questions about her predecessor.

After the murder occurred I felt that the group dynamic improved slightly initially but it didn’t take long to deteriorate again when other events were revealed. I had some inkling who the murderer was before the end but what was more unique about this novel was trying to guess who the victim would be.

The Dark was an intense and claustrophobic read which I enjoyed immensely. 

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?

It’s the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV’s impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower – an event that only occurs once every few decades.

When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband’s aunt Clementina, she’s determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant’s impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.

Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don’t last long in this Enlightenment city . . . 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I enjoy historical fiction and with this book also being set In Edinburgh I was looking forward to reading it. It is a city I have visited a few times but know very little about and I found the story set around the building of the new town very interesting. 

I knew from reading the author notes that she liked to promote women’s role in history. I don’t think I’ve read a historical fiction book that had so many strong female characters in before. Some of male characters were important to the storyline too but they were in the background, this is predominantly about females who weren’t prepared to stay silent. In particular Belle and Mhairi. There are others, Elizabeth, Clementina and Mrs Dickson but it was Belle and Mhairi who captivated me. I liked their independence, and their determination to live their lives the way they wanted. Mhairi coped slightly better than Belle whose vulnerability became more evident as the novel progressed.

These must have been unusual and exciting times in Edinburgh. A city that once  had strong connections to the slave industry, trying to become the Athens of the North and also coping with the excitement of a possible Royal visit. Because King George had to go somewhere. And for some there was also the prospect of a very important plant flowering. I enjoyed the way that this part of the story created drama. How everybody wanted the seeds, and the trouble it caused. The furore created once it did flower and many plans became undone. 

I’ve never read a book like this before, I enjoy looking at flowers but can’t easily identify many. But that didn’t stop me enjoying and learning about the moving and planting of the new gardens in Edinburgh. It was a novel that sent me to the internet often, which for me means the book has made an impact. And I want to go and visit. 

But most of all I enjoyed meeting all of these characters, I hope to read more like this in the future. 

Last One At The Party by Bethany Clift – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

THE END OF EVERYTHING WAS HER BEGINNING

It’s December 2023 and the world as we know it has ended.

The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM (‘Six Days Maximum’ – the longest you’ve got before your body destroys itself). 

But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own.

Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.

And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she’s completely alone?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. A year ago I would never have expected to read a book about a pandemic during a pandemic. I am glad that I put  any concerns aside and read this novel, even though at times it did feel a little strange. 

It takes place during 2023 and 2024, when the world’s population is wiped out by a pandemic called 6DM. Named so because the maximum days you can expect to survive is six. As you would expect Covid-19 is mentioned but only with regards to social distancing and face masks etc. The unnamed narrator is the only survivor as far as she knows and she is aware that she needs to adapt as quickly as possible to try and find a way to survive.

I don’t really read dystopian fiction, nor do I read chick-lit. There were times I felt this book covered both genres. Especially when she was helping herself to all the designer gear, expensive body lotions and fine foods in Harrods. But this part of the novel didn’t last long, when she had to accept that everybody she cared about was no longer there. It briefly helped her cope with her heartbreaking scenes at having to  accept that she has lost everyone she cared about, but she soon realised it wasn’t practical. From then on she became a different person, more likeable and after she found Lucky the dog more focused on her own and his survival.

With flashbacks to her early life, the things that worried her then combined with the many things she had to cope with at the present time, you could really see her character development. I think she coped a lot better than I would do, I would have taken the pill! Everything she had to see, her parents ,her husband, neighbours and friends, the starving animals that were survivors by the only means possible, the thousands of bodies. There were a lot things that I am still thinking about a few days after finishing reading.

This is such a hard hitting but good book to read, and strangely it also made me smile. Especially at the beginning with the constant u- turns and antics concerning government. 

The Dressmaker Of Paris by Georgia Kaufmann – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

I need to tell you a story, ma chère. My story.

Rosa Kusstatscher has built a global fashion empire upon her ability to find the perfect outfit for any occasion. But tonight, as she prepares for the most important meeting of her life, her usual certainty eludes her.

What brought her to this moment? As she struggles to select her dress and choose the right shade of lipstick, Rosa begins to tell her incredible story. The story of a poor country girl from a village high in the mountains of Italy. Of Nazi occupation and fleeing in the night. Of hope and heartbreak in Switzerland; glamour and love in Paris. Of ambition and devastation in Rio de Janeiro; success and self-discovery in New York.

A life spent running, she sees now. But she will run no longer.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. My aim this year is to broaden my reading and this book is one of the first that I chose to read that is out of my comfort zone. And I am happy that I did. 

Rosa is am ambitious and  extremely successful businesswoman  but she also has a problematic personal life which started with devastating events that occurred when she was in her teens. She manages to escape with help  but a series of decisions affect her for many years. Regrets, guilt and loneliness are never far away, despite the very successful business, her first to marriage to Charles and her friendship with Graca giving her something else to live for. But what she really wants is unavailable and she finds it difficult to accept that somethings are beyond repair. 

It did take me a while to settle into this novel, I don’t follow fashion trends and designers, even though I did know the names mentioned. But Rosa’s character was one that captivated me and I really enjoyed the way the chapters started with the descriptions of everyday beauty regimes. 

Rosa has had a tough life despite her business success but her personal life changed in ways she didn’t expect when she moved to New York. As you would expect, with the type of life she had it wasn’t all easy but she somehow managed to analyse, accept and make the best out of a difficult situation. 

It is a wonderful account of a life that starts in a Italian village in WW2 and ends up in a penthouse in New York, many mistakes made but also dreams accomplished. My favourite part of it was the last quarter when Rosa was able to come to terms with the decisions she had made. 

As well as a great storyline with some fascinating characters I also felt it was a travelogue. I was able to see so many places through Rosa’s life story.

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis – Blog Tour Review

About The Book

It’s Christmas 1845 and Haworth is in the grip of a freezing winter. 

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are rather losing interest in detecting until they hear of a shocking discovery: the bones of a child have been found interred within the walls of a local house, Top Withens Hall, home to the scandalous and brutish Bradshaw family. 

When the sisters set off to find out more, they are confronted with an increasingly complex and sinister case, which leads them into the dark world of orphanages, and onto the trail of other lost, and likely murdered children. After another local boy goes missing, Charlotte, Emily and Anne vow to find him before it’s too late. 

But in order to do so, they must face their most despicable and wicked adversary yet – one that would not hesitate to cause them the gravest of harm . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. How did I not know there was a Brontë Mystery series? Before I got a few chapters in I was fascinated by the idea, the setting and all of the characters. Despite not reading the first book in the series I had no problem getting to appreciate any of them. It didn’t even matter that my knowledge of the Brontë family is slim. I am only aware of who wrote which book and how young they were when they died. 

It is one of those few novels that contain everything I enjoy in fiction. A mystery, a touch of the gothic, historical facts and likeable characters. I did feel a touch of sadness because I know how and when they died and the opening chapter is very poignant. I wanted to know how many similarities the Brontë family had in this novel had to the real life family, in particular the relationship that they had with Tabby, if she existed, and the self destructive attitude of Branwell. 

Whilst you have to suspend belief that the Brontë sisters were a team of detectives what this novel does show extremely well is portray the life at the time. The struggle to keep warm,the harsh life in the orphanages, the customs and superstitions, the feeling of horror at crossing the border into Lancashire and the attitudes towards the Irish. 

This book was just what I needed after a slight reading slump.