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  • Title: Ring of Spies
  • Author: Alex Gerlis
  • Publisher: Canelo
  • Publication Date: 15th October 2020

Copy received from publisher & blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

As the war approaches its end, Prince once more has to risk everything.

Berlin, 1939: A German intelligence officer learns a top agent is quickly moving up the British Army ranks. He bides his time.

Arnhem, 1944: British paratroopers have been slaughtered in one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War. A shell shocked officer is convinced: the Germans knew they were coming.

But who betrayed them?

Back in London, Richard Prince, detective and spy, is approached by MI5 about a counterintelligence operation. Information is leaking and British troops are dying. Prince has to stop it, and crack the suspected spy ring at all costs. But in the world of espionage nothing is as it seems…

The latest WWII espionage thriller from Alex Gerlis is perfect for readers of Robert Harris, John le Carré and Alan Furst.

My Thoughts:

I have loved WWII espionage thrillers for some time, and Alex Gerlis is one of my go-to authors for books in this genre, along with John le Carré and Phillip Kerr.

For readers perhaps not familiar with the Richard Prince series, it’s not mandatory to have read the previous books (Prince of Spies and Sea of Spies), there is enough detail woven into the narrative to clue you into events that have led to this point, but if you want to really experience the mastery of Gerlis’s writing and get the full picture of Richard Prince then I would highly recommend reading them! I’d also recommend delving into the Spy Masters series by this author, those books are fantastic too!

As always, readers are spoiled with detail, intricate plottings, and fantastic characterisation. One of the things you can always rely on in one of Gerlis’s books is high level of detail, the research that must be done for his books must be immense, but it’s got to be worth it when the reader is faced with such a brilliant book. Bringing the settings alive, readers can almost watch the scenes play out in their minds, watch the characters become embroiled in dangerous situations and hold your breath as they try to break themselves free.

I found that I was racing through the book, eagerly devouring chapter after chapter, and couldn’t wait to see if Prince would crack the spy ring. I loved the way that tension was built throughout and kept me hooked. There is a feeling of authenticity in this that really brings the story to life and reminds me of the other great writers of this genre, and I would highly recommend Ring of Spies (and all the other books by Alex Gerlis).

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  • Title: Hill Country Secret
  • Author: Kit Hawthorne
  • Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
  • Publication Date: 1st September 2020

Copy received from blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Just a detour…

Or the home she needs?

Lauren Longwood’s freewheeling existence has hit a bump—in more ways than one. Pregnant by her ex, she retreats to Texas and meets charismatic Alex Reyes, as tied to the land as Lauren is to the road. Once, all he wanted was to save his ancestral ranch. Now he wants to offer Lauren the steadfast love that’s eluded her, if she’ll trust him enough to stay.

My Thoughts:

Hill Country Secret is a lovely tale that brings together some really likeable characters, a great setting and some fantastic descriptive writing. You wouldn’t expect it, well I certainly didn’t, but I learned quite a lot about Texan historical reenactments through this book. So much so in fact that I ended up researching various aspects of costumes, crafts, as well as the general history that was mentioned in the plot. I love a book that can spark the curiosity in me.

But back to the story of Lauren and Alex …
In these characters we find people who have been hurt by trauma, we see through their eyes and are given a chance to understand some of their actions. By doing this, Kit Hawthorne makes her characters come alive for readers, she makes you want to know what will happen to them and how they will get past this moment in time that is a barrier to happiness.
The Texan backdrop is vivid and dare I say it, charming. I loved reading about the ranch, Lauren’s friends and the restoration of the bunkhouse. With such rich details about fixtures and fittings I could almost envision the various aspects that Hawthorne wrote about, granted some things I did Google, but I loved the detail and time that was taken to craft such a great narrative.

If you are looking for a heart-warming and enjoyable romance tale, then this is definitely recommended. There are highs, lows, good guys and bad buys. There is a gentle warmth that comes with this tale, and it makes it the perfect book to curl up with.

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  • Title: The Slaughter of Leith Hall
  • Author: Lexie Conyngham
  • Publisher: The Kellas Cat Press
  • Publication Date: 17th February 2020

Copy received from blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

‘See, Charlie, it might be near twenty year since Culloden, but there’s plenty hard feelings still amongst the Jacobites, and no so far under the skin, ken?’

Charlie Rob has never thought of politics, nor strayed far from his Aberdeenshire birthplace. But when John Leith of Leith Hall takes him under his wing, his life changes completely. Soon he is far from home, dealing with conspiracy and murder, and lost in a desperate hunt for justice.

My Thoughts:

This is the first of Lexie Conyngham’s books that I’ve read and it won’t be the last.
Rich in historic detail, Conyngham weaves a tale that captures the reader’s imagination and you cannot help but become invested in the lives of the characters. Taking time to create a solid foundation for the story, readers are gently eased into the tale and details are built up to give a clear picture of the characters and the background before turning into a page turner that has the reader gripped by the twists and turns, wanting to find out what happens next, the whys and the hows.

The character list at the beginning of the book is great, it helps readers keep track of who everyone is and can act as a quick memory aid if you get lost momentarily.
What really stood out for me was the level of detail that the author has included in her work, she takes great care to evoke vivid images of the settings and period, which I found made me want to research various things and find out more.

If you’re looking for a new historical fiction author, I would highly recommend checking out the other books by Lexie Conyngham, I certainly will be!

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  • Title: How The Wired Weep
  • Author: Ian Patrick
  • Publication Date: 30th June 2020

Copy received from blog tour organiser for review purposes, and electronic copy purchased via Amazon.co.uk

Description:
The Wire crosses the pond.

Ed is a detective who handles informants. He recruits Ben, a young man, who is treading a dangerous path into the criminal underworld.
Ben’s unsure of where his loyalties lie. They have to find a way to work together despite their differences.

Both men are drawn into the world of Troy, a ruthless and brutal leader of an Organised Criminal Network.

Ben is torn between two worlds as he tries to walk the impossible line between criminality and helping Ed combat crime.
He lives in fear of discovery.

When your life is thrown upside down who do you turn to in order to survive?

Set against the backdrop of the 2012 Olympic Games, How the Wired Weep is a fast paced urban thriller where time is against both men as they attempt to serve their own agendas.

My Thoughts:

There’s always something you associate with certain authors and their work, and when I think of Ian Patrick, I immediately think of an intense story, powerful writing and an authenticity that makes you feel like you’ve lived through an experience. How The Wired Weep has all of this and so much more, and I would urge readers to grab a copy!

Without rehashing the plot, I focus on the strong characterisation and intensity that are in this book. Ian Patrick gives the reader a character in Ed that is far from perfect, he walks a line between good and bad and often skirts the law but he has good intentions. He is close to his colleagues, something that is necessary in this line of work, but often that’s to the detriment of his home life and the fertility treatment he and his wife are undertaking.
Ben, recently released from prison, passes information to Ed to help take down one of the heads of the London criminal network. Ben’s life has been one filled with drugs, crime and abandonment. With no father figure to follow, Ben worries for his own child and the life it will have will it be taken into care like the other babies in his family. He looks to Ed as a role model at times, he seeks approval, but equally, he doesn’t always trust easily. The dynamic between these two characters makes for an intense and fascinating read.

Instead of presenting readers with a stereotypical police procedural, Ian Patrick offers readers a glimpse into the world of policing and criminals that is vivid and realistic. It is compelling reading and I thoroughly enjoyed this.

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  • Title: Oi Aardvark!
  • Author: Key Gray & Jim Field
  • Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
  • Publication Date: 3rd September 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Baboons sit on balloons, crocs sit on clocks and donkeys sit on long keys . . .

Let Frog, Dog and Cat guide you through the alphabet from Aardvark to Zebra in this hilarious new picture book from the creators of Oi Frog! With a special fold-out surprise!

The laughter never ends with Oi Frog and Friends!

Our Thoughts:

Today I am thrilled to welcome my little bookworm to join me in reviewing a book. Small and I have been huge fans of the Oi series since we discovered them a few years ago and have patiently awaited new tales of Frog, Cat and Dog as they rhyme their way through the seating arrangements of the animals. Each book has brought much laughter and delight and we regularly revisit them so when the call went out to join the alphabet blog tour for Oi Aardvark we just had to volunteer to be letter Q!

With beautiful illustrations throughout, the story comes to life perfectly and readers of all ages are drawn in to the story, the cunning ways of Frog play out well as he tries to think of how to solve the problems left over from the previous book, where there’s a will …. But I have to admit that Cat is probably my favourite, the dry delivery of the comments just makes me laugh even harder.

Although aimed at an audience of 3-5 year olds, we find this series perfect for bedtime reading, and Small who is starting on her reading journey loves being able to recognise the words in the book and tries to read several pages herself until she comes to a tricky word. The rhyming prose is perfect for helping younger ones learn and link words together, and we found that we were trying to find rhymes to go with our names or the things around us.

But the final word has to go to Small … “I liked the funny words, I liked that Frog kept trying to find everyone a place to sit. He’s silly. Are there animals left for a new book?”

Follow the blog tour and see what everyone else thinks!

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  • Title: Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers
  • Author: Robin A. Crawford
  • Publisher: Elliott and Thompson
  • Publication Date: 20th August 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

A celebration of the irreplaceable magic of language, and the wit and wisdom of 1,000 Scottish words.

The Scots language is an ancient and lyrical tongue, inherently linked to the country’s history and identity, its land and culture. In Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers, Robin Crawford has gathered 1,000 words from his native land – old and new, classical and colloquial, rural and urban – in a joyful and witty celebration of their continuing usage and unique character.

airt o’ the clicky – bawheid – carnaptious – dreich – eejit – forefochen – Glasgow kiss – haver – inkie-pinkie – jags – kelpie – loch-lubbertie – meevin’ – neuk – oxter – pawky – quaich – ramstam – simmer dim – tattie bogle – usquebaugh – vratch watergaw – yowe trummle

My Thoughts:

It should come as no surprise by now that I adore books like this, I enjoy flicking through the pages and stopping at random when something catches my eye, learning something new and finding a new word to try out. But this book is slightly different … instead of being packed with new words to learn and try to get my tongue around, this book contains many words and phrases I grew up hearing.

As the book cover suggests, this is book of Scottish words, so it’s no surprise that the Scottish lass will have heard many of these before, however, many of them are generational. I fondly remember being told by my grandma to “get that bahookie on a chair” when it was lunchtime and I was far more interested in creating perfume from rose petals and water in a bucket. Or being told to stop haivering … things I just don’t hear that often now. Granted, I have been known to repeat these phrases to my own child, and she just stares at me in confusion …

So for me, this book is a rediscovery of language from childhood, a moment of fond recollection of days long since past, as much as it is a celebration of the wonderfully colourful Scottish language. Where else will you find such fantastic words like “skite”, “coup”, “tackety” or “loupin'”? Throw them into a sentence … get yer tackety beets aff, an’ nae skitin’ on the clean fleer. Min’ and nae coup the bucket, the watter’s loupin’ … I can almost hear my grandma’s voice now. I would highly recommend this book, it makes a pleasant read and would be a great gift for any fans of linguistic collections.

Now, back to my fly cup and rowie while I see what other delights there are to be enjoyed in this book.

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  • Title: Ritual Demise
  • Author: Sally Rigby
  • Publication Date: 25th August 2020

Copy received from author and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Someone is watching…. No one is safe

The once tranquil woods in a picturesque part of Lenchester have become the bloody stage to a series of ritualistic murders. With no suspects, Detective Chief Inspector Whitney Walker is once again forced to call on the services of forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish.

But this murderer isn’t like any they’ve faced before. The murders are highly elaborate, but different in their own way, and with the clock ticking, they need to get inside the killer’s head before it’s too late.

For fans of Rachel Abbott, Angela Marsons and L J Ross, Ritual Demise is the seventh book in the Cavendish & Walker crime fiction series.

My Thoughts:

I am a huge fan of the Cavendish and Walker series that Sally Rigby writes, there’s something really clever about the plotting and the character development really hooks the reader’s attention, keeping them reading on to find out what is going to happen next.

This has to be one of my favourite books of the series, the case that DCI Walker gets involved with is complex, twisted and had me scratching my head about how it all linked up. What connected everything, would Whitney and her team solve it all before it was too late? Could Dr Cavendish provide the insight they needed to get inside the head of a incredibly twisted killer? The killer, well that was one seriously scary individual that had me feeling unsettled and a little spooked when out for a walk in the woods with the dog …
But aside from this intriguing case, Rigby allows readers to get to know more about her main characters by giving glimpses into the private lives of Walker and Cavendish. Expanding on fantastically detailed backstories, fans of the series get another instalment in the tales that make these women who they are, but readers new to the series will find that they can slip into the book with ease as the writing is such that you don’t feel lacking in detail about the relationships between the dynamic duo. I loved seeing more into the life of Dr Cavendish. George is such an interesting character and seeing more into her life gave a greater sense of understanding about her family and her sense of loyalty.

If you’re looking for character-driven action, strong plotting and an exciting read, then this is the series for you. And although it is book seven, you can easily pick it up and start reading now. I would strongly recommend going back to the start and discovering Cavendish and Walker as they started out, it makes the series so much more enjoyable.

And now, I cannot wait to find out what happens in book eight, I’ve got my pre-order in already!

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  • Title: Lucy’s Last Chance
  • Author: Elle Sweet
  • Publication Date: 12th August 2020

Copy received from author and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Lucy was a high-powered attorney who had a nervous breakdown after her husband left her.
Broken, she came to the town of Moonshire Bay to start over as a yoga instructor; determined to find inner peace in all things this time around.

Brant is running for Mayor and running after Lucy, but she is scared of his drive and need for success.

Can Lucy realize she’s stronger than she thinks and take a chance on love?

My Thoughts:

I was delighted to take another trip to Moonshire Bay and properly meet a character who had intrigued me from a previous book, the owner of the yoga studio, Lucy.

In Lucy, the reader finds someone with a past. Someone who has been hurt and has learned to move forward and do what’s best for them, but she also accepts that it’s been some time since she’d felt any desire towards love or companionship.
Enter Brandt, the town mayor. By all accounts, Brandt seems like a lovely guy, although at times a little foolish … his plans are well meant, but often lead to misunderstandings where matters of the heart are concerned.

For fans of the Small Town Romance series written by Elle Sweet, they will soon recognise the various locations mentioned throughout the book, and it almost feels like catching up with an episode of your favourite Netflix drama, there’s a lovely homey feel to it. The story itself has just the right amount of action and detail to hold your attention, making it the perfect read for an afternoon curled up on the sofa with a cuppa. And fear not, although it is book four of the series, you can jump straight in and start reading now.

Elle Sweet brings her character to life from the pages with detailed backstories and rounded personalities. And it’s fair to say that Moonshire Bay comes alive too, I could almost see the main street of the town, the properties mentioned … and if Lucy runs more yoga classes like the final one in the book, I’ll be booking a ticket to move to Moonshire Bay!

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  • Title: The Siege of Caerlaverock
  • Author: Barbara Henderson
  • Publisher: Pokey Hat (an imprint of Cranachan Publishing)
  • Publication Date: 6th August 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Enemies within.

Enemies without.

Nowhere to hide.

12-year-old Ada is a laundress of little consequence, but the new castle commander Brian de Berclay has his evil eye on her. Perhaps she shouldn’t have secretly fed the young prisoner in the tower.

But when the King of England crosses the border with an army over 3000 strong, Ada, her friend Godfrey and all at Caerlaverock suddenly find themselves under attack, with only 60 men for protection.

Soon, rocks and flaming arrows rain from the sky over Castle Caerlaverock—and Ada has a dangerous choice to make.

My Thoughts:

Before I say anything about the story that has been magically woven by one of my favourite authors, can I just direct you to the stunning artwork that adorns the covers of this book. Granted, the image here doesn’t do it justice. The gold foil is magnificent, there’s a grandness to this book that comes from the cover alone, and that’s before you open the pages and get swept away by the wonderful writing and beauty of the illustrations that head each new chapter.

I’ve been a fan of Barbara Henderson’s writing for some years now, after falling in love with her debut Fir For Luck that was published in 2016, her name has been on my list to watch out for on social media for updates about new books. Barbara is a very approachable and friendly author, with an enthusiasm for history that has readers keen to find out more.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to see a siege through the eyes of a 12-year-old? If so, this is the book for you! In The Siege of Caerlaverock readers meet Ada and Godfrey, who despite their status form a true and powerful friendship. A laundress with a kind heart, compassion and the strength to face those who scare her makes young Ada the sort of character that many readers will instantly connect with and take into their hearts. Godfrey, the new Page boy to Lord Maxwell, is young but brave. And while their time together is short, it is definitely packed with excitement, danger and bravery.
What stands out the most for me throughout this entire story is how real these characters felt. I cared what happened to them, I worried about them being injured or harmed by those who wished them ill, I wondered what happened to them after I finished reading the book. Not only does Barbara Henderson bring her characters to life, she brings the scenes alive too. Carefully weaving historical fact and detail together, this is a read that plays to the senses of the audience. You can almost smell “that “ smell (you’ll know it when you get to that part), you can feel the chill in the air, you can feel the ground underfoot as Ada crosses the courtyard into the castle and goes about her day … you are truly transported when you read on of Barbara’s books. Forget VR headsets and programmes, just read a book by Barbara for that total immersion!

With each new book that she writes, I think there’s no way she can better what she’s already penned, but somehow she does. And although her books may feature a main character that is a child, they can be read by any aged reader. Her books can be loved by any aged reader, and this reader certainly loves them!


And if my review wasn’t enough to get your attention, I have a wonderful post from Barbara about her love of castles to share with you, along with some fantastic pictures.
Grab a cuppa and a cheeky biscuit, and read on!

My Enduring Fascination with Castles – by Barbara Henderson

I love a good castle story – mainly because I can think of no better place to set a tale than a castle – be it the tall and imposing kind or the crumbling ruin. From my bedroom window in the house I grew up in, I could see a medieval lookout tower on the horizon. Peeking out among the tall pine trees which clad the hill, it was a constant signal from the past. Who stood there and looked out over the rolling hills at night? Who sent word that enemy armies were on the move? The building itself acted as a fertiliser for my already overactive imagination.

I also grew up near Schloss Homburg – an incredibly well-preserved medieval stronghold in the part of Germany where I grew up. If we had visitors, that’s where we’d take them. The castle also put on plenty of events and re-enactments – bringing the past to life in such an engaging way. I built castles from rocks and bricks on our living room floor, never far from the old spinning wheel my mother still has. It looked like it had come straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale! German folklore and fairy tales are largely rooted in the medieval period and their appeal continues. The very first play I saw performed live in a theatre, a few years later, was a medieval love story between a knight and a lady of the castle. I was hooked – on Drama and on history, and both of these have gone on to play major roles in my life. I now work as a Drama teacher and write historical stories for young people.

In 1991, I moved to Scotland to study – the CASTLES! I lived a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle, and everything about that city simply evokes the past, in so many ways which really fuelled my imagination. In all weathers, the old stonework took on a new hue and I felt small – in a good way. I wa simply part of the flow of history while the stones stayed still. A move to Aberdeenshire beckoned. Choosing a house for our young family was easy – the one at the beginning of the clifftop walk to Dunnottar Castle would do nicely, thank you very much. Our children wore the primary school uniform with pride: the badge was a picture of the castle ruin. We joined the national Trust for Scotland and Crathes, Drum and Fraser castles became our alternate weekend hangouts.

Now living in the Highlands with our teenagers, there were new crumbling stones to discover, new stories to unearth. The landscape and the built heritage here evokes the past like few other places. Inverness castle is now my most frequently visited dog-walk destination, sometimes twice a day. It may not be as old and as impressive as some of its predecessors, but for now it’s mine. This was especially true of lockdown. Normally, the esplanade is crowded with tourists, but for four whole months it felt like I had it to myself – me and the statue of Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald. 

Even on holiday, we tend to seek out a castle if we can. And so it happened that on a very rainy April day in 2018, I stumbled upon Caerlaverock Castle and its medieval history. Within seconds through the door of the exhibition I was hooked. The huge missiles which crashed at the castle walls in 1300 were displayed in real size. The accompanying displays told the tale of the siege, the David and Goliath story of 60 versus three thousand.  It had all the drama I could possibly ask for, and the highest of stakes. Above all, it had the very best setting for an adventurous and atmospheric tale: a medieval castle. I hope that many others will be inspired to visit Caerlaverock, and that they will be fascinated and enchanted with the place as I was.

I may never live in a castle of my own, but dotted around this fantastic country, these buildings are nothing less than windows into the past. They are ours to enjoy and ours to protect.

A gift, and a responsibility too. What is your favourite castle? 
Follow the blog tour!

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  • Title: Photographing Kate
  • Author: Elle Sweet
  • Publication Date: 15th July 2020

Copy received from author and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

After Kate’s husband of over twenty years is sentenced for embezzling and fraud, she loses everything and needs to start over. She decides to visit Moonshire Bay to regroup at the urging of her friend, Claire, who owns the diner there.

Knowing she needs a way to support herself, she rekindles her passion for photography and starts to think maybe staying in Moonshire Bay is her best chance at happiness.
Zach is the town attorney and a confirmed bachelor. After a scarring experience with love and almost marriage in his younger days, he vowed never to get any closer to a woman than a casual relationship.

When Zach meets Kate, the wounded look that lingers behind her smile grabs him and he wants to know her better, but Kate was burned by her lawyer ex-husband. Even if she wanted a relationship it wouldn’t be with a member of that profession.

Zach tricks Kate in order to get to know her better. When she finds out, will she understand and forgive him or will it push her further away?

My Thoughts:

I’ve found that my reading tastes have changed slightly during these past few months. Reading has become a much needed escape, but it also has to be something I can do either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I say first thing in the morning as there’s something so nice about curling up with a cuppa and a book, listening to the birds and enjoying a rare peaceful hour or so before everyone else gets up.

Photographing Kate was the perfect book for one of those mornings. Although it’s book three of the Moonshire Bay series, it can be read easily without the other books, indeed I read this book before any of the others of the series … breaking my own rule about reading a series in order.

Without rehashing the plot, this is a tale about a woman starting over. Kate’s life has been turned upside down, shaken and then flung about a bit more. Taking advice from her dear friend Claire and one of her daughters, Kate makes a trip to Moonshire Bay for a break and spend time with Claire. She didn’t expect to fall in love with the place, she didn’t expect to find a job or a man.
With a character that many readers will relate to, or feel a strong connection with, Kate is endearing but feisty. Her anxieties about starting over feel real and understandable, the panic and worry about what people will think of her because of her husband’s court case is well written.

Zack on the other hand, now there’s a character that is hard to work out. His backstory is one I found interesting, his relationships with his father and Rhoda show different sides to this character, and seeing how the various people in the town view him is intriguing. Whilst his actions may be questionable at times, his head and heart not always working in unison, I would happily go on a picnic with him.

I loved the setting of Moonshire Bay, it sounded like a lovely place, the descriptions brought it to life and had me wishing I could visit there. Looking forward to the next book of the series and getting to know more of the characters of Moonshire Bay.

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