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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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Published: 29 June 2017

 

Description:

CALLING MAJOR TOM is a heart-warming and ultimately life-affirming story of a man who has given up on the world… but discovers in the most unlikely way that it might not have given up on him.

We all know someone like Thomas.

The grumpy next-door-neighbour who complains to the Residents’ Committee about the state of your front lawn. The man who tuts when you don’t have the correct change at the checkout. The colleague who sends an all-company email when you accidentally use the last drop of milk.

Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems.

But beneath his cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world.

My Thoughts & Review:

From the very beginning this was an easy and enjoyable book to read despite me singing Space Oddity constantly in my head (and sometimes aloud much to the dog’s confusion).

We follow the tales of Thomas Major, a scientist who accidentally becomes a spaceman and ends up on Mars.  But we also meet the Omerods – Gladys, Ellie and James.  Ellie and James are the grandchildren of Gladys, they are living with their grandmother whilst their father is in jail.  15 year old Ellie is stretching herself to the limit to make ends meet by working numerous jobs, caring for her brother and grandmother and praying that no one finds out that Gladys has Dementia.
It was at this point I began questioning how this would all come together, how on earth (or Mars!) these two strands of plot could weave together….but I should never have worried, David Barnett is a master in his craft.  Carefully, the plot pulls together to form a wonderfully uplifting and heart warming book.

The wonderful cast of characters are superbly drawn, Gladys despite her issues never fails to make a reader laugh.  Her situation is lightened sensitively through humour making it feel all the more realistic, so much so that I could see my own grandmother in her.  The personalities of all characters really shine through, and for the reader it’s a rare treat to “meet” people you become so invested in.

I feel that mention has to go to the descriptiveness of Barnett’s writing, the view from the spaceship was really something else.  It was so vivid, so wonderful, and I felt that I could see it.

This will definitely be book spoken about in 2017, it’s poignant yet funny and it has a wonderful cast of characters that will warm the heart readers.

You can buy a copy of Calling Major Tom via Amazon.

 

About the Author:

David Barnett is an award-winning journalist and author based in West Yorkshire. He was born in Wigan, Lancashire, in 1970 and has worked in regional newspapers since 1989. He is the author of the Gideon Smith alternate history series from Tor Books, beginning in 2013 with Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. David is also the author of Hinterland (2005, reprinted 2008), Angelglass (2007) and The Janus House and Other Two-Faced Tales (2009), all published by Immanion Press, as well as popCULT!, published in 2011 from Pendragon Press. His work has been translated into Czech, Russian and German. He is represented by the literary agent John Jarrold. David is married to Claire, also an award-winning journalist, and they have two children, Charlie and Alice.

See David’s website for mote information davidbarnett.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

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Welcome along to my Friday post to celebrate Indie Publishing!  Today I am delighted to bring you a wonderful book from Black & White Publishing and share my review The Ludlow Ladies’ Society by Ann O’Loughlin.


Book Feature:

Published: 4 July 2017

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Connie Carter has lost everybody and everything dear to her. To help nurse her grieving heart and to try and find answers, she moves from her home in America to Ludlow Hall, deep in the Irish countryside. All she knows about Ludlow is that her late husband spent all their money on the house – without ever mentioning it to her. Now Connie needs to know why.

At Ludlow Hall, Connie befriends Eve and Hetty and is introduced to the somewhat curious Ludlow Ladies’ Society. But can Connie ever reveal her hurt? And, more importantly, can she ever understand or forgive? As the Ludlow Ladies stitch patchwork memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface.

The Ludlow Ladies’ Society is a story of friendship, resilience and compassion, and how women support each other through the most difficult times.

My Thoughts & Review:

I was lucky enough to win an early copy of this book through a blog giveaway over on Bleach House Library , pop over and check out Margaret’s reviews sometime.

The Ludlow Ladies’ Society sounded like the perfect read to take on holiday with me, the sort of thing that I could pick up and put down (if I had to) and generally sounded like a nice change of pace from my usual crime reads.  But when I started reading this book I realised I had underestimated the pull it would have on me.  Soon I was caught up in the stories of these women, invested in each of their heartbreaking tales of hardship and struggles and feeling so connected with this book.  Various of the members of the Ludlow Ladies’ Society has a secret hidden in their past that they’ve tried to overcome, or have kept hidden for one reason or another.  Ann O’Loughlin carefully lays bare each of their pasts, shares their dark secrets and allows the reader to come to terms with the deep sadness that each of these women has endured.  Whilst I found some of the tales saddening, I also felt pride that the women reached forms of closure in order to move on.

The way the sewing group is woven through the book is wonderful, this community of women supporting each other and their friendships and loyalty keeping each other going at times of hardship.  The idea that they create memory quilts to commemorate events in their village or the people within it is a lovely one, but some of the memories unearthed are not the most pleasant.  The ladies decide to create quilts for the exhibition in the town hall with the first prize being the chance to meet Michelle Obama and show their exhibits at a special show.  The emails that are interspersed throughout the narrative with the progress of the group and their task make for some brilliantly funny reading, the chairwoman, Kathryn Rodgers comes across as trying to be professional but failing slightly in her attempts which just makes this even funnier.

On the whole, I found this to be a very enjoyable read and found I was reaching for the tissues occasionally (honest it was my hayfever!), it is a story rife with emotion and spirit.  It’s the sort of book you read and find you’ve become invested in the characters, you begin to care what happens to them and care about what has happened to them.  When an author can evoke this level of emotion and attachment from the reader then  you just know the book is a special one, I will be sure to look out for more books by this author as I enjoyed her style of writing.

You can buy a copy of The Ludlow Ladies’ Society  via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

My thanks to Margaret Madden at Bleach House Library and Lina Langlee at Black & White Publishing for the opportunity to read an early copy of this.


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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page.

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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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Published: 23 February 2017

 

Description:

Longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2017

When Maggie Laird’s disgraced ex-cop husband suddenly dies, her humdrum suburban life is turned upside down. With the bills mounting, she takes on his struggling detective agency, enlisting the help of neighbour ‘Big Wilma’. And so an unlikely partnership is born.

But the discovery of a crudely mutilated body soon raises the stakes… and Maggie and Wilma are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen’s sink estates, clandestine childminding and dodgy dealers.

Cross Purpose is surprising, gritty, sometimes darkly humorous – a tale combining police corruption, gangs and murder with a paean to friendship, loyalty and how ‘women of a certain age’ can beat the odds.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

When I saw that this crime thriller was set in my home town of Aberdeen I knew I had to read it, there’s something about books being set in a place that you know that immediately makes them jump out.  Equally, when a respected blogger recommends a book to you then you know you’re on to a winner, and I can honestly say that it was worth listening to Gordon on this one!

Maggie Laird’s life is thrown into turmoil when her husband suddenly dies, she seeks out the help of her nextdoor neighbour to get to the mortuary to identify the body of her husband not realising that this simple act of kindness would lead to a great friendship and business relationship between the two.
George Laird was a police officer, who was “forced” into early retirement because of disgrace, investigation was what he knew best so he set up his own detective agency, and following his death, Maggie decides to take a gamble on running the business with the help of Wilma to try and pay the bills that are mounting up.  But Maggie also has an ulterior motive for running the detective agency, she wants to exonerate George’s good name.

Maggie then walks a tightrope of increasing danger when she becomes entangled with some of the Granite City’s finest (or perhaps most dastardly) criminals.  Keen to show no weakness, Maggie puts up a strong facade and comes across perfectly businesslike when she needs to, but underneath it all she is fragile and trying to balance her grief whilst keeping things together for the sake of her grown children.
Her sidekick in all of this, “Big Wilma” on the other hand is as fearless as they come.  She definitely reminds me of many an Aberdonian woman in her ways.  She’s down to earth, no airs and graces but would loan you her last fiver if she thought it would help you out.  Both  Maggie and Wilma bring something different to the partnership, and it’s true about opposites attracting, where Maggie is reserved and quiet, Wilma is sharp tongued and spirited.  The dialogue between the two is fantastic, many of their exchanges felt absolutely authentic to the point I could hear the accents of the parts of town they were from (even with doric, we like to mix things up so folk fae Kincorth spik diff’rint frae ‘he folk fae Northfield).  And I have to say that the geography of the book felt pretty authentic to me, even down to the mentions of the layout at Castlegate with the Mercat Cross and the shops.

The development of the characters in this was well done, it was nice to see focus was shared between more than just the female sleuths, seeing the story from the perspective of the police detectives and being able to share their frustrations that they could not move their investigation added depth.  Some characters in this will definitely make you feel a bit uncomfortable and that is down to the skill of the author.  It takes great skill to create a character that makes the skin crawl and that’s exactly what Claire MacCleary does here.  For a debut novel I was very impressed, it felt that a lot of work had gone into laying the foundations for a solid plot that could be expanded upon throughout the book as well as leaving ample opportunity for future books.

Wee word of caution for those not familiar with doric, a handy link to help you translate any words you might get stuck with is The Doric Dictionary – it’ll save you getting crabbit fan yeh cannae understan’ fit ‘he quine is spikin aboot!

My thanks to Gordon McGhie and Sara Hunt at Saraband/Contraband for the opportunity to read and review Cross Purpose and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

You can buy a copy of Cross Purpose via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

 

Follow the blog tour:

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Published: 26 January 2017

Description:

She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start. Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.

Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her to death if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.

But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie. And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.

Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?

My Thoughts & Review:

Her Husband’s Lover is a psychological thriller that deserves to be read with your full attention – turn off your mobile, unhook the landline, send everyone out of the house for the day and get comfy because this is a book that once started will draw you in and keep you reading all day.

Without regurgitating the plot, I will say that Crouch sets up the intensely twisting tale with a wonderful opening gambit – a woman frantically fleeing a pursuer, she is desperate, she is scared and is running for the freedom of herself and her children.  An opening like that instantly grabs the attention of the reader and draws then in.
Louisa does escape, but the subsequent crash is devastating for her, it claims the life of her children and the husband she had been fleeing.  And her injuries were so severe that she was comatose and then had to undergo intensive physio and psychotherapies as part of her recovery.  However her recovery is hampered somewhat by the vendetta of Sophie, the girlfriend of her late husband.  Sophie refuses to believe any of the “lies” that Louisa tells at the inquest about Sam, and the ruling that his death was not her fault is the catalyst for a dark and twisted quest for vengeance against Louisa.

Julia Crouch writes with a wonderful ability to get under the skin of her readers, her characters are superb creations that evoke great emotion from the captive audience.  She writes scenes that cause a reader to squirm uncomfortably but all the while they are powerless to put the book down, driven on by the urge to know what happens next.
Cleverly weaving narration by Louisa and Sophie that encompasses the past and the present, Crouch builds tension and suspense effortlessly.  This slow build allows for an incredibly powerful climactic ending that will stay with the reader after finishing.

You can pre-order a copy of My Husband’s Lover here.

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BlackHornet FINAL

Published 12 June 2017

 

Description:

The Black Hornet: an action packed and utterly gripping thriller from the best-selling James Ryker series

What do you do when the love of your life vanishes without a trace? If you’re ex-intelligence agent James Ryker you search for the answers whatever the cost, however much blood and sacrifice it takes…

Six months ago Lisa was taken from Ryker, and he’ll stop at nothing to find out who is responsible and why. Following a trail to Mexico, the ex-Joint Intelligence Agency asset soon finds himself in the firing line of enemies he long thought he’d left behind. Set-up for the murder of a former informant, Ryker is thrown into a crumbling jail run by The Black Hornet, the notorious leader of a Mexican drug cartel. But what connects the cartel to the informant’s murder, and to Lisa’s disappearance? And just who is the mystery American claiming he can help Ryker in his hour of need?

The Black Hornet is the second book in the bestselling James Ryker series. Part Bourne, part Reacher, it’s an explosive and action-packed thriller to rival any other.

My Thoughts & Review:

When I heard that Rob Sinclair’s follow up to “The Red Cobra” was coming out I was ecstatic, I absolutely loved this book and was keen to find out what happened next with Ryker.  It’s only fair to mention now that if you’ve not read “The Red Cobra” I would recommend heading over to Amazon and buying a copy so that you can get background on Ryker but also for the fact that “The Black Hornet” picks up where the first book left off.

Ryker heads to Mexico in search of information that will lead him to his missing wife Lisa, but things don’t go to plan and soon ends up in jail with some colourful members of the local cartels, a very precarious position for our protagonist to be in.  Some of the prison scenes make for difficult reading, and there were moments I wanted to hide behind my hands but all credit to Rob Sinclair, he really knows how to write these scenes for maximum impact and make his readers wince.  I really don’t want to say too much about the plot through fear of letting anything slip.
And as with the first book in the series, this is an action packed read with fights, chases and all the necessary ingredients to make a spectacular thriller.  The plotting of this is excellent, so taut and peppered with clever subtleties that readers will curse themselves for missing when all is revealed – yes I admit I missed some of those as I was so caught up in the moment reading I almost forgot I was supposed to be reviewing the book!

This was the second book I’ve read from this author, and it’s safe to say that Rob Sinclair has secured his place on my bookshelf next to my Lee Child collection.  My fascination with James Ryker continues to develop and I find myself wondering if he will ever be free of the JIA and live the quiet life he covets.  This book also left me struggling to make my mind up about other characters, Sinclair managing to keep me questioning their trustworthiness and their motives throughout.

A fantastic instalment in a promising series, and I cannot wait for the next one!

You can buy a copy of “The Black Hornet” via Amazon here

 

My thanks to Rob Sinclair and Sarah Hardy at Bloodhound Books for the opportunity to read this and take part in the blog tour.

About the Author:

Rob is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Enemy series of espionage thrillers featuring embattled agent Carl Logan. Together the explosive series (comprising Dance with the Enemy, Rise of the Enemy and Hunt for the Enemy) has now sold more than 150,000 copies worldwide. His work has been praised for its relentless pace, multiple twists and breathtaking action.

Although Rob has more Logan books in the pipeline, his upcoming release with Bloodhound Books marks a slight change in direction, moving away from pure action thrills to psychological suspense (albeit still with a healthy dose of action!).

Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller. He worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. Rob now writes full time.

Rob’s website is www.robsinclairauthor.com and he can be followed on twitter at @RSinclairAuthor

Why not follow the blog tour and head over to Liz Loves Books

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