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Published: 7 July 2017

 

Description:

With high tide comes murder…

When her beloved London theatre closes for renovations, costume maker Guinevere is excited to start a job at Cornisea castle, a centuries-old keep on a small tidal island off the coast of Cornwall. Imagine a whole summer full of stories of hidden treasures, fab food and long walks with her perky dachshund Dolly.

But when a re-enactment of a medieval trial in the castle dungeons ends in real-life murder, and accusations threaten the castle’s future, Guinevere and Dolly dig deep into the island community’s best-kept secrets to unmask the killer and save their Cornish summer.

The first book in the Cornish Castle Mystery series with the second instalment RUBIES IN THE ROSES coming August 2017!

My Thoughts & Review:

When I heard someone mention that “cosy crime” would be a big hit this year I wondered what new detectives we would meet and whether they would be a patch on the investigators of yesteryear when it came to detecting crime.  Here Vivian Conroy excels, and presents readers with a well written crime story that encapsulates the essence of cosy crime.

Guinevere and her delightful Dachshund Dolly are marvellous characters, Guinevere is a very likeable character that readers will take an instant liking towards.  The plot is interesting and well thought out, with plenty to keep the reader guessing as they try to piece together all the clues to solve the mystery.
Superb descriptions of the setting of Cornisea really make the place come alive from the pages, I felt like I was there and able to see the sights.  Likewise, the characters really come to life through the skilled writing making this a delightful and enticing read.

I’m trying desperately not to say too much about the plot, I think this is the sort of book that hints would give away too much and spoil it for others, but it’s well written and paced just right for an enjoyable and exciting read.
Fans of Conroy’s previous books which feature Lady Alkmene Callender should hopefully enjoy this book, and I would say that fans of cosy crime in general would enjoy this one!

Now to wait patiently to read Rubies in the Roses ……

You can buy a copy of Death Plays a Part via Amazon

 

My thanks to Vivian Conroy and HQ Digital for the opportunity to read this book and take part in the blog tour.

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Published 13 July 2017

 

Description:

The magical new summer novel by the author of Little Flower Shop by the Sea

One summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there’s a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.

‘The Welcome House’ is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there’s always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.

While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she’s remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.

But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious ‘Welcome House’? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?

My Thoughts & Review:

I must confess that this is the first book written by Ali McNamara that I’ve read, I do own a couple but they never seem to make it up to the top of the reading pile sadly.  But after reading “The Summer of Serendipity” I’ve rescued the other books, bought a few more and will be slowly losing myself in the wonderful world that McNamara creates for her readers.

The plot is full of mystery and intrigue, our leading lady Serendipity (Ren) is on a mission in Ballykiltara to find the perfect retirement home for a client with her assistant Kiki.  The dynamic duo eventually find the perfect house but cannot find out who owns the property to make an offer to purchase it.  The more they ask locals about The Welcome House, the more complex the mystery becomes.  No one knows for sure who owns the house, some saying that the house has always been there since the time of the monks and Viking invaders, some saying it’s a place of sanctuary for travellers, a shelter with food that asks nothing more of people to replace what they have used (if they can).  With so much folklore surrounding The Welcome House Ren and Kiki look to the local priest for help, but instead of shining light on their mystery, Father Duffy imparts wisdom onto Ren that makes things more complicated.  And if that wasn’t enough for Ren to struggle to get her head round, there’s also a wee romantic interest for her in the shape of the brooding and handsome hotel manager,  Finn.

The setting of Ballykiltara is so exquisitely described that you cannot help but imagine the hotel, the wonderful woodland walks, The Welcome House or even just the general tranquillity of it all.  Ali McNamara’s writing transports her readers to the settings she writes about, and has them invested in the characters being written about.  The way that relationships develop through the book is interesting, seeing the ups and downs of friendships makes this feel realistic as well as makes the characters stand out.  The way that they come to life from the pages is another reason to love this book, Kiki is a fantastic character, so lovely and endearing.  Her muddling of words just makes her even more appealing and she works well as a contrast to Ren.  Ren, whilst a friendly and cheery person has secrets she keeps locked away and sometimes forgets to take her business hat off.  Finn, well what can I say about the dishy hotel manager?  His charm and impish ways are so well written that I could almost see him as I read (swoon!).

This book has almost everything you need for a holiday read (whether it’s a staycation or far flung destination), it’s humorous, it’s magical and it’s so full of delightful charm that you can’t help but enjoy it!

You can buy a copy of The Summer of Serendipity via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

My thanks to Clara Diaz at Little, Brown Book Group for the opportunity to read this book and to take part in the blog tour.

 

Follow the blog tour:

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The Cardinal's Man

Published 11 July 2017

 

Description:

A SPELLBINDING TALE SET IN CARDINAL RICHELIEU’S FRANCE

With enemies advancing on all sides and Cardinal Richelieu’s health failing, France is at breaking point. Yet salvation may arrive in the most unlikely form…

Born into poverty and with terrible deformities, Sebastian Morra is a dwarf with the wit of Tyrion Lannister and three foot, four inches of brazen pluck. Through a mixture of brains and luck, he has travelled far from his village to become a jester at the royal court. And with a talent for making enemies, he is soon drawn into the twilight world of Cardinal Richelieu, where he discovers he might just be the only man with the talents to save France from her deadliest foes.

My Thoughts & Review:

Historical fiction is a genre that I slip in and out of easily, and sometimes depending on my mood, it can be the only thing I want to read.  From the moment I read the book description my interest was piqued, however with little knowledge of Game of Thrones, the Tyrion Lannister reference was a little lost on me.

Set during the times of The Thirty Years’ War in France, the author lays out the foundations of a very well written debut with great detail.  The wonderful use of atmospheric descriptions for the locations evoke a wonderful sense of the period.  And it is clear from the depth of the writing that the author has done his research, yet he still manages to keep the writing light and entertaining in places.  Sebastian Morra is an fascinating character, he oozes wit and charm but there is a considerable wealth of knowledge hidden behind this.  Being born with dwarfism, his career choices are limited.  From playing jester in Louis XIII court he becomes a spy for Cardinal Richelieu in order to gain the notorious Cardinal’s protection after making one too enemies at Court.

Despite being set in an era I’m not overly familiar with, I still managed to pick up on the tensions that would later escalate to the troubles of the French Revolution.  But unfortunately this book just didn’t grab me as I’d hoped it might.  An interesting read and for the most part enjoyable just perhaps not my era.

 

You can buy a copy of The Cardinal’s Man via:
Amazon

Wordery

My thanks to Lina Langlee at Black & White Publishing for the opportunity to read this and to take part in the blog tour.

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Published: 6 July 2017

My thanks to Canongate Books & Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book

Description:

I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret.

He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him.

The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.

My Thoughts & Review:

“How to Stop Time” has to be one of the most wonderful and beautiful reads of 2017 so far, from the moment I started reading I was fully invested in the tale of Tom Hazard and barely managed to stop reading before bedtime.

There is a magic in the way that Matt Haig writes, picking up any of his books allows the reader an escape into whatever world is being conjured – whether it’s modern time or Elizabethan England and there’s certainly ample atmospheric detail to make the reader feel that they are right there in the moment with Tom.

Tom is an interesting character, who by his own admission is cursed with an affliction that means he ages at a slower rate than the rest of humanity.  Whether it is a curse or a blessing, it has allowed him to live a life that means he has observed some of the turning points in history, and thus has a unique outlook when it comes to certain things.  Weaving through the fabric of Tom’s life, the reader is given glimpses at the threads that make up this character, his time in Elizabethan England, his voyages to the South Pacific and the people he meets along the way.  Each new acquaintance has their own tale to tell, and each leaves an impression on Tom.

This is very much a story that captures the imagination of the reader, and perhaps for some their heart too.  I found the historical aspects of the plot were fascinating, they were brought alive through Haig’s skilful writing, the mystery element was tantalisingly addictive, the story was poignant and utterly brilliant.

I cannot recommend this “How to Stop Time” highly enough, there is something very special about this book, the story and Tom Hazard stay with you long after reading this. Other readers may take something different from this book, and I think that reading groups may well enjoy this one for the questions that it throws up about the unpredictability of humans, the idea of living in a moment as opposed to living within the confines of an anxious mind worrying about the past or what might happen in the future etc.

And that cover….well it’s just beautiful.

You can buy a copy of “How to Stop Time” via:

Canongate
Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

About the Author:

Matt Haig was born in 1975. His debut novel, The Last Family in England, was a UK bestseller. The Dead Fathers Club, an update of Hamlet featuring an eleven-year-old boy, and The Possession of Mr Cave, a horror story about an overprotective father, are being made into films and have been translated into numerous languages. He is also the author of the award winning children’s novel Shadow Forest, and its sequel, The Runaway Troll. A film of The Radleys is in production with Alfonso Cuaron. Matt has lived in London and Spain, and now lives in York with the writer Andrea Semple and their two children.

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66 metres

 

Description:

The only thing worth killing for is family.
Everyone said she had her father’s eyes.  A killer’s eyes.  Nadia knew that on the bitterly cold streets of Moscow,  she could never escape her past – but in just a few days, she would finally be free.
Bound to work for Kadinsky for five years, she has one last mission to complete.  Yet when she is instructed to capture The Rose,  a military weapon shrouded in secrecy,  Nadia finds herself trapped in a deadly game of global espionage.
And the only man she can trust is the one sent to spy on her…

“A masterfully paced action thriller that takes readers to unexplored depths. The first novel in J. F. Kirwan’s Nadia Laksheva series introduces a heroine that readers are bound to fall hard for.” BestThrillers.com

My Thoughts & Review:

Being a fan of spy thrillers I was keen to read 66 Metres to see if it lived up to the immensely intriguing book description.  The cover states this is “A chilling thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat!” and they’re not wrong!
From the opening pages the reader is faced with an intense storyline and is first introduced to a young Nadia Laksheva who is yet to face up to the harsh realities of her dysfunctional family.  As she ages she learns that her father was not the man she thought he was, not a saint, but a killer.  Her sister is a drug addicted prostitute and her mother is a cold and distant figure who is quick to remind her that her father was a killer.  Combine these things with the harsh freezing temperatures of Russia and you begin to see the insufferably difficult life that Nadia is living.  Seeing a way out, a means of escaping this torturous existence for herself and her sister Katya, Nadia takes the “option” given to her by Russian mob boss Kadinsky.  I say option, because really the only other choice would be a concrete overcoat or perhaps ventilation holes in their heads.

After undergoing rigorous training at the hands of Russian experts, Nadia is ready to take on her 5 years of missions for Kadinsky in return for her and Katya’s freedom.  The final mission means the end is in sight, but Nadia needs to complete it successfully first.

Thankfully I read this book whilst on holiday so I could curl up on a deckchair in the sun and completely shut off from the world around me for a few hours.  This is definitely a book that you want to keep reading, you want to find out what is going to happen next, see what characters will do next and find out whether Nadia comes out of this all unscathed.

Characterisation is brilliant, Nadia develops well throughout the book and her motivations become clearer as the reader gets to know her.  The glimpses of the vulnerable side of her really bring her to life.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s all too easy for authors to keep their trained assassins as cold hearted and strictly functioning “machines”, but here the author has gone under the surface of this character to give readers a real insight to Nadia which I think does make her more likeable.
The switching perspective between characters adds to the intensity and intrigue of this book no end!  Being able to step into the mind of the “baddies” always makes the plot more exciting, but here some of the “baddies” showed remorse for some of their actions, or showed humility which I found caught me off guard and in turn had be liking this book even more.

The descriptive abilities that Kirwan possesses are incredible – I’ve never dived, don’t really think it’s something I would ever do but just reading the underwater scenes had me feeling like I was there, in the wrecks with Nadia and the dive crew, the way it played out on the page was almost hypnotic.  I will admit to initial worries that some of the information about the diving would be too technical for me to grasp but somehow Kirwan has managed to portray the dangers and the ecstasy of diving clearly and concisely so that even a heathen like me can understand it.

A breakneck paced spy thriller that will leave you holding your breath in anticipation of what might happen next!  Now I just need to wait patiently for the next book in the series………

You can buy a copy of 66 Metres via Amazon

My thanks to Noelle and Kate at Thick as Thieves Book Publicity and Promo for the opportunity to read and review this book, and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the blog tour:

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PP and The Hungry Sheep

 

Description:

This short story was based upon the winter of 1963 which saw the country in the grip of severe snowfalls and record breaking cold temperatures. January and February saw many of the Saddleworth villages cut off for days on end. Many of the homes had no electricity as the overhead cables had collapsed under the weight of freezing snow. More than ever the camaraderie and neighbourly support was felt and shared by all in looking after each other. The severe weather caused the sheep from the surrounding Moors to take refuge in the village where farmers and villagers came together to provide emergency shelter and food for them.

 
Our Thoughts & Review:

Yes, “our” thoughts, because today I am joined by my mini book addict to review this lovely book.  Being almost three, I thought this book would be perfect for my daughter as it combines some of her great loves; snow, sheep and lovely bright pictures.  She absolutely loved this book, and it’s now a regular feature in the bedtime book pile (which seems to be growing at an alarming rate!).

With delightful and bright illustrations this book quickly catches the eye of younger readers as well as older ones, and they remind me of the illustrations in books from when I was a child, so there was something comforting and homely about reading this story.  The bright images were crisp and clear so that my little one could point to various pictures and tell me what was happening etc on that page.

The book tells the story of a bad snowfall in the village of Diggle and how it has a great impact on the villagers, Policeman Pete ensuring that people are helped to safety when their homes are without electricity.  The children of the village seem to be having the most fun with the snow, building snowmen and having snowball fights.  Everyone seems to be pulling together to make the best of a tricky situation until Farmer Bill and Policeman Pete discover a flock of hungry and cold sheep who have come down off the Moors in search of shelter and food.  In a show of wonderful community spirit, the local villagers pull together to ensure there is shelter for the sheep and hay is brought for them.

The tale has great feel to it, showing the power of community spirit and the importance of helping each other when difficult situations arise, which is an important message to explain to children.  The way in which the author presents this will appeal to younger readers as the story is fun, they will be able to grasp the concept of the sheep needing help because they are cold and hungry and it helped to create the idea of a friendly police officer who helps people like our other favourite, Fireman Sam.

Living in a rural setting like Diggle, we found this story particularly fun and will be buying some more of the books to expand our collection.

You can buy a copy of Policeman Pete & The Hungry Sheep via Amazon

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Policeman Pete’s Home Safety Tips

Policeman Pete asks that all children should try to learn their full name and also their mummy and daddy’s name. As soon as they are able the child should know their full address.

For the last of Policeman’s Pete’s tips for safety around animals please visit Books From Dusk Till Dawn – https://booksfromdusktilldawn.wordpress.com/ and check out Whispering Stories http://whisperingstories.com/ for tomorrow’s tip.

 

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Published: 29 May 2017

 

Description:

Allie Jones loves her cosy cottage café in the picturesque village of Heatherlea. She has her independence, two grown-up children and two cute cats. Life is settled and she thinks she’s happy.

Author Chris Monroe has it all. Critical success, a luxurious London apartment, and the kind of jet-set lifestyle most people dream of. But something’s missing.

When a family bereavement throws these two old friends together, they begin to question the true meaning of happiness.

Love is in the air, but do Allie and Chris have room in their hands-on lives for more than a summer fling?

This is the first of four short stories in The Cosy Cottage Café series.

My Thoughts & Review:

Summer at the Cosy Cottage Cafe was a book I came across by chance and as soon as I started reading it I knew it was fate that had brought this book to me.  It’s utterly divine, from the beautiful cover, the superb writing and the incredibly mouthwatering delights mentioned this is a book that is perfect for the summer (or anytime you want to read it!).

Usually with novellas there is a danger that the story is over before it really has a chance to begin, or too much is squeezed in but here this is not the case.  The plot is well structured and thought out to ensure that enough happens to keep readers entertained but the pace is gentle enough to let readers feel that they can curl up with this story and become utterly lost in it.

Allie is a 40 something woman who has thrown herself into her business following the death of her husband Roger a few years ago, it has taken hard work and determination but she has built a successful business in the village that is now the go to place for events and the choice caterer for many people.  It’s through this connection that she is catering the funeral for the mother of an old friend.  The old friend in question is Chris, a famous author that Allie and her husband Roger were once friends with in their youth.

From the moment Chris is introduced the story becomes even lovelier, Allie determined not to start anything but realising she is attracted to Chris and it would seem he feels the same way about her.  Both characters work well together and are a delight to read about, the gentle humour, the familiar friendship they have all adds to the overall appeal of the story.

A word of caution perhaps, do not read this book when hungry.  There are cakes and pastries mentioned that will have you drooling and desperately ransacking the kitchen in search of cake, and if it’s anything like this house you’ll have to make do with some digestive biscuits instead and that just isn’t the same.

Rachel Griffiths has a wonderful way of bring her characters and story alive, with such rich details about settings and characters it’s not hard to imagine the cramped upstairs of Allie’s cottage, the hilarity of *that* moment in the pub, or indeed the loveliness of the cafe.  I cannot wait to read more of the Cosy Cottage Cafe series, and will be adding Rachel Griffiths to my list of favoured authors.

 

You can buy a copy of Summer at the Cosy Cottage Cafe via Amazon

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