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  • Title: In The Absence of Miracles
  • Author: Michael J Malone
  • Publisher: Orenda Books
  • Publication Date: 19th September 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about.  A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover. For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

My Thoughts:

Michael J. Malone has the unique ability to take a dark and often less spoken about social issue and bring it right into the spotlight, and he does just this in his latest book.

Expertly taking the reader on an emotional and turbulent journey through the pages, Malone unravels a multilayered plot at the perfect pace, shocking and surprising the reader in equal measure.
With a plot so complex, it would be wrong of me to attempt to break it down or say much about it, and in all honestly, I’m not sure I could. Not without giving something away!
However, I will say that the plotting is fiendishly clever, and I had no idea it was heading down this particular route until I got to a certain passage … I then had to re-read it again, shocked at what I’d read, such is Malone’s way of ensuring difficult topics are laid out, bringing them to mainstream attention without sugar-coating or sensationalising them. And for this, I applaud Malone. His writing highlights topics that are not discussed enough or even at all. There is a powerful poignancy in his writing that never fails to move me.

The characters that Malone has created in this book are ones that I found I needed to get to know, I wanted to know about their pasts, find out more about what drove them to make the decisions they made and why they acted as they did. The clever use of multiple timelines explains many actions of the characters and gives readers an insight into a world they might never experience otherwise.

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  • Title: Blood Song
  • Author: Johana Gustawsson
  • Translator: David Warriner
  • Publisher: Orenda Books
  • Publication Date: 19th September 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

The action swings from London to Sweden, and then back into the past, to Franco’s Spain, as Roy & Castells hunt a monstrous killer … in the lastest instalment of Johana Gustawsson’s award-winning series

Spain, 1938:
The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

Terrifying, vivid and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain’s dictatorship, in the latest, stunning installment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.

My Thoughts:

There are a few authors that I always look forward to book news from, but Johana Gustawsson is a name that I will practically stalk on social media for updates. The simple reason is that her books are stunning.

For fans of Block 46 and Keeper, you are in for an amazing reading experience with Blood Song. With a dual timeline, readers are transported between 1938 Spain and 2016 Sweden, coupled a cast of characters who compel and captivate and a plot that completely blows you away.

Gustawsson has the ability to effortlessly beguile her readers, weaving a complex and compelling tale that draws on events from history. I must admit, my knowledge of Franco’s dictatorship was quite lacking, I had no comprehension of the atrocities committed under the guise of civil war, nor the conditions that met the imprisoned upon their arrival. The narrative surrounding this timeline is heartbreaking, and while there has been attempt to soften some of the more brutal aspects, there is no denying that it gives readers much to think about and I certainly cannot deny the impact it had upon me as I read. I felt that I was holding my breath, holding back tears, holding in screams.
The 2016 timeline contains its own atrocities, including the murder of Aliénor Lindbergh’s family. But this should not overshadow the investigation into the Swedish fertility clinics which made for frightening reading. The exploitation of people when they are so vulnerable and so desperate for a child is hard to read, but it is pitched perfectly to engage the reader.

And as the plot unfolded, I found myself wrapped up in the lives of the characters, feeling their pain, their frustrations and anguish. I always feel a sort of connection with Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, something in the way that these two characters have been crafted makes them so lifelike, the situations they are involved in become more than just words on a page, they play out like clips on a movie reel.

Up until now, Block 46 was a firm favourite for me, but I think that Blood Song has somehow managed to wedge itself a little more into my heart. Somehow this book has managed to fascinate and haunt my head in equal measure, it is a truly magnificent book.

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  • Title: Forest Adventures: More than 80 ideas to reconnect with nature all year round
  • Authors: Claire Gillman & Sam Martin
  • Publisher: Modern Books
  • Publication Date: 9th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Gadget-free games, activities and adventures for the entire family.

Forest Adventures is jam-packed with Forest School-inspired activities you can do any time of the year, whatever the weather. With this book in hand, an adventure is surprisingly easy to come by, whether it’s birdwatching or building a sundial, making a compass or tracking wildlife. Whatever the season, the activities within are fun for the whole family and are sure to get you excited about all that nature has to offer.

My Thoughts:

With six sections, there’s bound to be an activity for everyone in this book, and a simple key makes it easier for you to gauge the difficulty of each and the time involved.

Flicking through the book with my daughter, we spotted lots of fun activities to try out, the artwork in the book sparking her interest where words didn’t. We quickly made a list of the things we’d like to try, baking brownies, making gingerbread people, making a bird feeder, beach art, learning about clouds to name a few. Plenty of laughter and fun was had as we tried out the various games and activities, and often we’d use the book as a basis and go on to expand on the ideas and have our own adventures. What started as a simple idea of beach art soon had us walking along the beach looking for stones to spell out our names and practice counting.

The only downside is that with it being summer, there’s a lack of snow for us to try out some of the cold weather inspired fun! But we will definitely be making snow shoes and ice art when the mercury plummets later in the year.

Getting outdoors and playing in the garden is wonderful and this book gave us some great inspiration, and it was quite fun handing the book to my daughter and letting her pick an activity from a section that she wanted to try out. It’s great for the summer holidays, for those days where you’ve nothing planned and the kids utter the dreaded “I’m bored”, or even a good book to keep in the caravan for ways to entertain the entire family by collecting leaves on a nature walk to make leaf rubbings or a nature picture. And the gadget free games section is perfect if the summer weather decides to stick around, get everyone out in to the garden to play frisbee or make their own kites and fly them!

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  • Title: I Have Sinned
  • Authors: Caimh McDonnell
  • Publisher: McFori Ink
  • Publication Date: 23rd June 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Nothing is ever easy.

Bunny McGarry has finally got a lead in his mission to find the Sisters of the Saint but the lead, one Father Gabriel de Marcos, isn’t willing to play ball. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Bunny has to put the padre under surveillance with a little help from some old friends. Father Gabriel runs a boxing club at the bad end of the Bronx, battling to keep kids out of gangs – noble, thankless work. Thing is, saints don’t typically have assassins sent after them. What sins are hidden in the padre’s mysterious past?

The Sisters of the Saint are many things but pushovers they ain’t. To regain their trust, Bunny must save the priest from the demons that are on his tail. Keeping the cantankerous priest alive would be difficult for anyone, never mind that Bunny has to resist the urge to kill him, himself. He has to manage all this while living under the rules that chill him to the very bone. No drinking. No swearing. No violence.

I Have Sinned is book two in the McGarry Stateside series, a continuation of the smash hit Dublin Trilogy which also featured Bunny McGarry. It melds high-octane action with a distinctly Irish acerbic wit. 

My Thoughts:

I do love catching up with my favourite poteen swilling, expert swearer of an Irishman, and in Caimh McDonnell’s latest book to feature Bunny McGarry, fans of the character are in for a mega treat. Bunny is still n America, and still asking questions about where to find the Sisters of the Saint, and leaving chaos in his wake at times.

With McDonnell’s trademark dark humour and wit, the characters come alive to dramatically play out the story of Father Gabriel de Marcos and his boxing club run through his church in the Bronx. The children there don’t have the easiest of lives, and the danger posed by the various gangs vying for supremacy makes for a very tense community setting.
Father Gabriel is an odd character, and as the reader gets to know him better through his thoughts and interactions with others, it becomes clear there’s more to him that first meets the eye. The exchanges between him and Bunny are particularly brilliant, there is a natural humour that comes out with these two and I found that on several occasions I laughed out loud.

After their appearance in Angels in the Moonlight, I have been curious about the Sisters of the Saint and patiently awaiting their appearance in another book to find out more about them and their mission. McDonnell does not disappoint, the new faces that we meet in the convent are fantastically vibrant and buzzing with exciting energy. Getting to know these new characters and becoming reacquainted with older ones makes this such a thrilling read and the quick pace that the plot moves along with makes it almost impossible to put this down.

McDonnell seems to have found the right mix of humour and hard hitting themes that conveys the seriousness of each situation faced by his characters, whilst giving readers relief in the form of dark humour and wit. I don’t know how he does it, but he makes readers feel a deep sense of connection with characters they’ve only just met, you become invested in their fates and although some of the people around them may be a toxic influence, you still feel empathy for their heartaches, confusions etc.

A fantastic crime caper that ensures readers are kept on the edges of their seats, both with tension and by barely clinging to the cushions to save them falling onto the floor with laughter.

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I’m thrilled to welcome you to another Celebrating Indie Publishing and share a mini review of A Killing Sin which was published on 4th Jule 2019 by the fantastic Urbane Publications. This is a book that’s set to challenge readers and thrill them with some highly topical themes, and the publisher has informed me that it’s available on Amazon for a limited time at a bargain price!

  • Title: A Killing Sin
  • Author: K.H. Irvine
  • Publisher: Urbane Publications
  • Publication Date: 4th July 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Would you surrender your secrets to save a life?

London. It could be tomorrow. Amala Hackeem, lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, dons a burqa and heads to the women’s group at the Tower Hamlets sharia community. What is she doing there?

Ella Russell, a struggling journalist leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth, she is about to learn the true cost of the war on terror.

Millie Stephenson, a university professor and expert in radicalisation arrives at Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister and home secretary. Nervous and excited she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage. And then it gets personal.

Friends since university, by the end of the day the lives of all three women are changed forever. They will discover if friendship truly can survive secrets and fear.

My Thoughts:

Do you ever hear about a book and then instantly feel the urge to find out more, need to read the book and discover what it’s all about? This was one of those books for me. I heard murmurings about it on Twitter when the publisher gave a preview of what was to be published throughout the year, and I knew that it would making it’s way onto my ever growing list of books to buy.

With a post Brexit London setting, the plot is very current and the themes are ones which will spark plenty of debate among readers. The characters are profoundly interesting, the depth of their personalities means that you connect with them, become invested in their lives and care about what befalls them. The writing is compelling and at times uncomfortable, the range of emotions that the reader goes through is extensive and I was very aware of my frustrations and sadness. But it’s a breathtaking rollercoaster that engrosses the reader, thrills them and then leaves them utterly shocked at what they’ve read. The style of writing is punchy and makes for an tense and pacy read, the short chapters convey the perfect level of realism and intensity as we witness how vital each minute of the day is for the three women.
It’s quite hard to put into words how much this book got under my skin without giving anything away, the author has taken great care and time on this book and it really shows in her writing. It’s compelling reading, and as I mentioned above it can be uncomfortable at times, even distressing but it’s also very informative.


Author Feature:

KH Irvine grew up in Scotland and now lives near London. The book was her 50th birthday gift to herself, believing you are never too old to try something new. Her work has taken her to board rooms, universities and governments all over the world and has included up close and personal access to special forces. A Killing Sin is her first book. The second follows on a few years later as Britain moves to civil unrest with the rise of the far right as the personal and political become intertwined.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

The most favourite thing is where I write which is the very north coast of Northern Ireland. When I get stuck I walk on the beach in the (usually) howling gale until my mind clears and I find the answer. Helped by the fact that I have to walk past a little old fashioned bakery specialising in the wonderfully Irish ‘tray bakes’.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

The least favourite thing is passing it to someone else to read and the anticipation of their response. It is not just like handing over a baby but being stripped naked at the same time! In the early days I wrote like I dance – like no one was watching but then, thankfully, found most people were kinder about my writing than my dancing.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

That is very hard. I would opt for either a Thousand Splendid Suns or To Kill a Mocking Bird. Probably the same reason for both but if pushed to go for one I would have to go for Atticus Finch and Scout. They are probing, compassionate, complex characters with right on their side in a context that is just the opposite. We can’t be anything but empathetic as Scout tries to make sense of a world around her that often makes no sense. A bit like the world now.

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

I work full time. I have two daughters who are 20 and 23. I travel a lot both for work and pleasure and still have a fair few places on my bucket list. I read, watch films, visit the theatre and spend a lot of time eating and drinking. I try to swim and go to the gym and I love just kicking back with nothing to do but that doesn’t happen too often.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I go to our house in Ireland and spend the first day in total indulgence – a walk, a box set and a nap before getting up early the next morning. For a frenzied week or so at a time I write in 2-3 hour bursts, starting at 8 and then be completely done in by about 4 o’clock. When I decided to start the book, which was a 50th birthday present to myself, the song I loved at the time was Hozier, Take Me to Church and I like to play that through my headphones on the beach. Every day. It reminds me that the Irish (even though I am not) punch well above their weight in literature, spoken word and song and I hope to get some of that in the sea air.

What’s on the horizon? 

Book number 2 is a few years further on from a Killing Sin and is about the rise of the Alt Right. There is a tit for tat war on the streets of the UK and we have normalised some pretty appalling views. Two characters return Millie and Alex plus some new ones. Again, it meshes the personal and the political in a female led thriller. Number 3 I have in mind to call 11 Days – maybe apocryphal but that’s how long it can take any one of us to fall through the net and end up on the streets, I want to write it backwards from day 11 to day 1 so its hard to guess who it is that is begging for money in the prologue.

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be?

Fiction is one of the greatest ways of understanding others and I would like A Killing Sin to thrill, make your heart beat faster but also maybe make you think about what might drive you to commit an act of terror.

Can you tell me a little about your latest book?  How would you describe it and why should we go read it?

It is shocking, not because it’s unimaginable, but because it might just come true. State surveillance, home-grown terror, shady politics and a race against time. At face value, a breath-taking, pulse-racing thriller. Beneath, a thought-provoking novel that questions what lies ahead for a tolerant, democratic Britain. 

A quick summary:

Amala Hackeem, lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, dons a burqa and heads to the women’s group at the Tower Hamlets sharia community. What is she doing there?

Ella Russell, a struggling journalist leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth. She is about to learn truth is the first victim in the war on terror.

Millie Stephenson, a university professor and expert in radicalisation arrives at Downing Street to brief the prime minister and home secretary. Nervous and excited she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage. And then it gets personal.

Friends since university, by the end of the day and all three women’s lives are changed forever. They are about to find out if friendship is stronger than fear.

And who is Nusayabah? The damaged and strategically brilliant terrorist holding the nation hostage.

She strikes at the centre of power,  the establishment and the lives of the three friends.

For her it’s personal. But who is she?

How can she know so much?

How far will she go?

Can they find her before it’s too late?

A Killing Sin delivers the strong, believable female characters so often missing in top tier thriller writing. I hope it is an audacious first novel, gripping from start to finish, full of hairpin twists and turns and surprisingly thought-provoking insight.

My thanks to the author for joining me today and sharing a little about herself and her writing process. It’s hugely impressive that this book was a 50th birthday present to herself, and I’m so glad that she could share it with us! Looking forward to books two and three, and if they’re anything like this one, then I know that I will love them!

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  • Title: Our Little Secrets
  • Author: Peter Ritchie
  • Publisher: Black & White Pulishing
  • Publication Date: 27th June 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

At a dark place in Edinburgh’s heart, secrets refuses to lie dormant.

At Police Scotland HQ, Grace Macallan has pitched up in Counter Corruption. But the demons of her past are never far behind.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s gangland is in turmoil. As a new breed of upstarts challenges the old criminal order, their battle for territory causes serious havoc.

Into the war steps DI Janet Hadden. Ambitious, hardbitten and addicted to risk-taking, she knows how to throw opponents off balance. But when she’s thwarted, Hadden seeks help from a notorious underworld fixer, a man who keeps secrets but always extracts a price.

Beset by violence and double-crossing, Grace is soon embroiled in a savage game of cat and mouse with colleagues and criminals alike. With all sides driven by dark desires, theirs is an endgame that will take Grace down unless she holds her nerve.

My Thoughts:

The Grace Macallan series is fast earning Peter Ritchie the audience he thoroughly deserves. He has created a character that readers can connect to and become invested in, but she also approaches police investigations that pit her against some of the most dangerous figures in the criminal underworld, and she takes is in her stride.

In this instalment of the series, we see Grace Macallan take a back seat and the focus of Our Little Secrets is on DI Janet Hadden. Hadden is as corrupt as they come, but has managed to avoid appearing on the radar of Macallan in Counter Corruption. Operating well outside the rules, she takes risks and blurs the lines of acceptability but always gets results and keeps her bosses happy. That is until the reward is too tantalising to resist, and as the stakes are raised, it seems that she has met her match.
The glimpses into the mind of this utterly complex and often depraved character makes for entrancing reading and I applaud Peter Ritchie for creating such a fascinating character. But Hadden is not the only one that grabs the attention of the audience, the criminal figures are equally intriguing and the development of their personalities keeps readers racing through the pages. As the plot unfolds, the true colours of the characters involved begin to shine through and turn this into an exercise in speed reading as you frantically race through the pages to find out what will happen.

As with each of the books in this series, the raw grittiness of the plot is realistic and the level of detail that Peter Ritchie weaves throughout is exceptional. Writing from personal and professional experience, he is able to give the readers something that feels intensely authentic as well as utterly fascinating. I can only imagine the things that Ritchie saw over the course of his time in various policing roles, but he condenses it into some of the most atmospheric and powerful reading material that leaves the audience often lost for words.

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  • Title: Girl in a Cage
  • Author: Jane Yolen & Robert J Harris
  • Publisher: Gob Stopper (an imprint of Cranachan Publishing)
  • Publication Date: 20th June 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

DAUGHTER OF THE OUTLAW KING. PRISONER IN THE LAND OF THE ENEMY.

When her father, Robert the Bruce, is crowned King of Scotland, Marjorie Bruce becomes a princess. But Edward Longshanks, the ruthless King of England, captures Marjorie and keeps her prisoner in a wooden cage in the centre of a town square, exposed to wind, rain, and the bullying taunts of the townspeople.

Marjorie knows that despite her suffering and pain, she must stay strong: the future of Scotland depends on her…

Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris bring to life a breathless chapter from Scottish history in this thrilling novel with an unforgettable young heroine.

My Thoughts:

Robert the Bruce is a name I am very familiar with, his part in Scottish history was appeared in many tales as I grew up and so I was eager to read Girl in a Cage to find out more about this character and the struggles faced by one of the most important people in his life, his eldest daughter Marjorie.

Marjorie Bruce is exactly what you would expect from a young girl, headstrong and views the world as black and white, right and wrong. But she has the luxury of being the daughter of Lord, and therefore has received an education and sits in a place of privilege. When her father is crowned as King of Scots in 1306, she becomes a princess. It is around this time that things being to go wrong for the Bruce family. Without giving a history lesson, I will say that the Bruce’s end up running and fighting for their lives, their survival depending on their allies.

Through Marjorie, the reader experiences the exceptionally atmospheric settings of this book, the things she sees and feels, we experience them too. Her worries about her father and uncles, her unhappiness about being treated as a child and excluded from adult conversations but most of all her inability to make sense of the events around her. As events unfold and their positions becomes precarious, Marjorie and her family flee for various places of safety around Scotland, trying to stay one step ahead of their enemies and those who would do them harm. Along with her father’s second wife, two of her aunts and the Countess of Buchan, Marjorie was captured by the Earl of Ross. Her fate was a imprisonment at the hands of Edward Longshanks. For a young girl, this seems like an incredibly harsh punishment, and indeed Marjorie voices this thought throughout her confinement, but she never lets others see the torment that this causes her. She shows great strength and courage, all the time thinking about her father and his men, fighting for the good of their country, fighting for their beliefs.

Powerful writing makes this such a gripping read, and I found at times I was desperately reading on, hoping that things might improve in the short term for Marjorie. Her time in the cage was physically and mentally hard on her, the townspeople and monks in the priory were forbidden to speak to her and the rations she was given were barely enough to keep her going. But she found an inner strength despite this torment, she was defiant to the face of Edward Longshanks, she would not be beaten by him or his army, not whilst her father, uncles and countrymen were still out there fighting.

A thrilling and powerful read for any age reader, one steeped in history and woven together with charm and wonderful detail.

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  • Title: Death of an Angel
  • Author: Derek Farrell
  • Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
  • Publication Date: 27th February 2019

Copy received from publisher and tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

A woman is found dead in a London street – the evidence suggests she plummeted to her death from a nearby tower block – but did she fall or was she pushed? And why does she have Danny Bird’s name written on the back of her hand?

So begins this 4th magnificent outing for Danny and the gang from The Marq.

In the frame for a murder he didn’t commit, London’s self-proclaimed Sherlock Homo has no choice but to don his metaphorical deerstalker one more time to prove his innocence and uncover the truth about the tragic death of Cathy Byrne. 

With the indomitably louche Lady Caz by his side, Danny plunges headlong into a complex investigation while at the same time trying to be a dutiful son to his increasingly secretive parents, and still find the time to juggle his frustratingly moribund love-life.

My Thoughts:

I was only too happy to catch up with my favourite bar manager/amateur sleuth, Danny Bird in Death of an Angel. Having followed this series since the beginning, Death of a Diva, the Danny Bird books have gone from strength to strength. The characters have developed in ways that I would not have imagined and I’m thrilled to see how their stories have unfolded.

Death of an Angel is different from the previous books, there’s something about the plot that sets it apart from the others in the series, and it’s a fascinating and enjoyable read.
With a strong focus on families and relationships, Derek Farrell gives readers more than a story about crime. The link between family members is a driving force behind many events throughout the plot, the dynamic between characters shows the varied connections that exist and the lengths that people will go to to try and protect those they care about.

So, Danny and Caz are back, doing what they do best … getting caught up in situations that would have most “normal” people panicking, but somehow they always manage to keep things together and get out of awkward moments. Caz, a somewhat delightful yet dipsomaniacal member of the aristocracy, always has a bottle of something in that capacious bag of hers to help her in those situations. I say somewhat delightful because this character is one who causes much hilarity with her sarcasm and cynicism, and smock. But I have a feeling that behind her bluster is a genuinely soft heart, especially when it comes to certain people.
The case that the pair become involved with has some incredibly murky connections, and ones they have to be wary of. But nonetheless, they tackle each obstacle as it appears, uncovering dangerous corruption and ruthless killers. Clever plotting makes this quite a thrilling read, often I found myself trying to guess ahead at how things would all link together, or who was the killer and what their motive was but I was led astray by red herrings.

Characterisation is one of the key things in the books of this series, each of the main characters feels so real and easy to connect with. Readers cannot help but feel some pull towards the lives of these fictitious creations, such is the ability of Farrell to create a realistic cast. Danny’s family have become so real that I think of them with fondness.

A thrilling and clever read that gives the reader much to think about, whilst supplying many laughter inducing moments and plenty to keep them guessing!

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  • Title: Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay
  • Author: Ali McNamara
  • Publisher: Sphere
  • Publication Date: 27th June 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Amelia is a single mother, doing her very best to look after her young son, Charlie – but money is tight and times are tough. When she first hears that she is the last descendent of the Chesterford family and that she has inherited a Real-Life Castle by the sea, Amelia can’t quite believe her ears. But it’s true!

She soon finds that owning a castle isn’t quite the ticket to sorting out her money problems that she’d first hoped: she can’t sell, because the terms of the ancient bequest state that any Chesterford who inherits the castle, must live there and work towards the upkeep and maintenance of the family home. So ever-practical Amelia decides to uproot her little family and move to this magnificent castle by the sea.

Living in a castle on the beautiful Northumberland coast is fun at first, but organising the day-to-day running is a lot more complicated than Amelia first imagined. Luckily she has help from the small band of eccentric and unconventional staff that are already employed there – and a mysterious unseen hand that often gives her a push in the right direction just when she needs it most. It’s only when she meets Tom, a furniture restorer who comes to the castle to help repair some antique furniture, that Amelia realises she might get the fairy-tale ending that she and Charlie truly deserve…

My Thoughts:

Ali McNamara is one of those authors I turn to when I need a glimpse of sunshine on a gloomy day. Her books are like a tonic for the soul and I always relish reading them, so when I found out about Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay, I knew that I was in for a treat.

Amelia is a character that I think many readers will connect with, her tale is one that is heartbreakingly real and one that many will be able to synpathise with.
Changes in circumstances has meant that life has been tough for Amelia and her son Charlie, she tries her utmost to protect him from the realities of it all. Her constant struggles to make ends meet are wearing her down, worrying if she has money to pay bills, put food on the table, she always has tries her hardest to do what’s best. So when she hears of an inheritance that could change her and Charlie’s lives, she can’t believe it!

What then follows is a wonderful and heartwarming tale of Amelia getting to grips with life in a castle, learning how it’s not all glamour and glitz as Disney might have us believe. The castle staff are an eccentric and fun bunch, their personalities feel so authentic and genuine, and it’s hard not to feel a liking for them, although some more than others. As Amelia’s adventure in Northumberland unfolds, readers are rewarded with seeing a different side to her, her confidence grows and she becomes more self assured. But she also opens up about her past, we find out about what happened to cause her and Charlie to live in such tough circumstances. It all adds to the likeableness of this character and secures her place in your heart. She’s the sort of character that you root for, you wish there’s a happy ending for and you’re almost racing through the pages to find out if things work out ok for her.

I’m purposely avoiding saying anything much about the plot of this book, it’s one you will have to discover for yourself, and I hope you fall in love with it as much as I did. But I will say that there is something magical in these pages … Ali’s writing to be precise. She is a wonderful writer, and always manages to transport me to the settings of her books. I could feel the claustrophobia of the tower staircase, the awe of the portraits in the galleries, the ethereal feeling that comes with a castle setting … it was all so vivid.
A highly recommended summer read, and the perfect escape!

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  • Title: Distant Signs
  • Author: Anne Richter
  • Translator: Douglas Irving
  • Publisher: Neem Tree Press
  • Publication Date: 19th February 2019

Copy received from publisher & tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Historic fiction from East Germany post WWII to after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Distant Signs is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall.
In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in the Thuringian forest.
The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war.
As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed.

An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall.

My Thoughts:

Distant Signs is a hugely thought provoking read, one which I think will linger on in my head long after I’ve finished reading it. It’s hard to put into words precisely what it was about the writing that captured my attention the most, perhaps the gentle tone or maybe the seriousness of the topic being discussed, but it all culminates in the exploration of themes and characters that draws the reader in an holds them fast.

The far reaching after effects of WWII leech into the lives of Margret and Hans, the war was a fixture of their childhoods and shaped the way that Germany moved forwards, especially in terms of political, social and economic factors. The bonds between family members are an important aspect of Distant Signs and the portrayal of each is done perceptively, giving readers a glimpse into a very personal story.
By telling the story through the thoughts of her characters, Richter brings them alive, makes them so real for readers to connect with their emotions and situations.
This book gives you a feel for what life was like in the GDR and how it affected its citizens.

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