Showing posts from 2019

The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox

Hester Fox's second novel is a triumphant follow up to last year's The Witch of Willow Hall. A new minister with a colourful past arrives in Pale Harbour and meeting the prominent families of the town he is told to avoid the Widow Carver, a woman rumoured to have killed her own husband and to practice witchcraft. Gabriel Stone of course is immediately curious, who is this strange woman? Expecting a cackling crone, he visits the widow and discovers a lively, intelligent and captivating woman. However someone in the town has gone beyond rumour and speculation and is determined to terrorise Sophy Carver; first with strange noises and animals carcasses before trying to frame her for murder and threatening her life. Gabriel sets out to clear her name as he finds himself falling under Sophy's spell. This is a thrilling gothic tale full of twists and turns, perfect for fans of Essie Fox, Laura Purcell, Stacey Halls or the mid Victorian gothic fiction of Wilkie Collins and others…

The Stone of Destiny by Caroline Logan

The Stone of Destiny is Caroline Logan's debut novel. It is a brilliant fantasy adventure for young adults; steeped in Scottish myth and folklore. The protagonist Ailsa is a young woman who is shunned by her community and labelled a changeling. The people from whom her mother had protected her, forced her to flee. With her mother now dead Ailsa is alone. That is until she finds a pair of selkies in need of help and soon she finds herself tangled up in an adventure and a mystery. Because the selkies are being hunted by none other than Nicnevan; the Dark Fairy Queen herself. The world building and the storytelling in this book are top notch, making for an all encompassing and page turning read. I thoroughly enjoyed Caroline Logan's first book and cannot wait to read the next in The Four Treasures Series. The Stone of Destiny is out now from Cranachan books, thanks so much to Kelly MacDonald for my copy.

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

It's publication day for the fantastic debut novel from Sonia Velton. Blackberry and Wild Rose is a story of two ambitious young women in 18th Century Spitalfields. Esther is a painter who longs to create her own silks but her silk weaver husband laughs off her attempts, it is one of his journeyman weavers, ambitious to become a master weaver, who helps her. Sara her maid has escaped the whorehouse and is also looking to improve her lot in life. Esther invited Sara into her life in order to rescue her but as their ambitions clash Esther begins to suspect that there is dark betrayal happening right under her nose. This is a fantastic work of historical fiction. Velton explores ambition and female desire in a time when women's choices were few. Perfect for fans of Stacey Halls, Laura Purcell and Tracey Chevalier.

Laura's Spooky Show by Natasha Mac a'Bháird

The latest instalment in Natasha Mac a'Bháird's Star Club series is a tale of friendship, fun and adventure revisiting best friends Laura, Meg, Ruby and Hannah. Laura writes a story of a spooky house and a young girl captured by witches; drawing inspiration from a near derelict local house; Ivy Lodge and the strange old lady who lives there. When her friends read her story they are desperate to turn it into a play but difficulty ensues when they struggle to find a place to rehearse and things don't quite go to plan when Laura's friends don't want to play the parts she had envisioned for them, but friendship wins through as the girls find a mystery to be solved at spooky Ivy Lodge and wonder what Laura's older sister's strange behaviour might have to do with it.This is a lovely companion to the existing books in the series but could easily be read as a stand alone story. A delightful read from a consummate storyteller, perfect for fans of Sarah Webb, Cathy …

The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

The Swallows by bestselling thriller wrier Lisa Lutz is set in a boarding school on America's wealthy east coast. It's isolated and surrounded by woods and for new teacher Alex Witt that's Stonebridge Academy's most attractive quality. Hired to teach English, Alex discovers she's been given the task of teaching creative writing to a group of seniors. Alex is frustrated at the bait and switch the principal pulled; she is the daughter and occasional ghostwriter/editor for her father a celebrated thriller writer but she had not wanted to teach writing. So without a lesson plan she sets her students a questionaire to stimulate writing ideas; asking what do you love? what do you hate? who are you really? etc. but as she looks through their answers Alex begins to suspect some disturbing behaviour among the students. She sets out to discover what the secrets of "The Darkroom" are and why so many of the girls seem to fear and loathe it and so many of the boys lo…

Lost Acre by Andrew Caldecott

I am delighted to be part of the blog blast for Lost Acre the final book in Andrew Caldecott's Rotherweird Trilogy. Rotherweird is a town apart, cut off from the rest of England in Elizabethan times it has it's own curious laws and rituals. Lost Acre opens with the announcement of the election of the new mayor however, the result is disrupted by the return of Geryon Wynter. While some of the townspeople are drawn to his charisma and aura of power not all are convinced. This trilogy is inventive, witty and whimsical. Perfect for fans of Terry Pratchett and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Caldecott blends a talent for description which brings the landscape and atmosphere vividly alive with a cast of characters to rival Dickens. The list of characters at the beginning is very handy as there are so many. I also wouldn't advise anyone to read Lost Acre as a standalone book, the story continues from one book into the next without any chance for new readers to catch up so if yo…

A Shroud of Leaves

Rebecca Alexander's latest novel A Shroud of Leaves continues where A Baby's Bones left off as heroine Sage Westfield is working alongside the police and forensic teams to investigate the murder of a young woman, buried in a shallow grave, close to the site of the disappearance of another young woman more than twenty years before and a young man over a hundred years earlier. Still having flashbacks to her own frightening ordeal a few months before and struggling with new motherhood, it's no wonder that Sage finds the work upsetting, but despite this she is determined to find answers and get justice for the young woman who was so callously discarded. The connections between the most recent murder, the twenty year old missing person case and the mysterious young archaeologist who vanished in 1913 are all slowly revealed in this fast paced crime thriller. Interweaving the stories and elements of folklore, myth and magic. A Shroud of Leaves will appeal to fans of Elly Griffit…

The Nanny at Number 43 by Nicola Cassidy

I am thrilled to be involved in the blog tour for Nicola Cassidy's second book The Nanny at Number 43. Inspired by an advertisement she found in the local newspaper archive which sought a nanny to care for a motherless child, Nicola's research led her to discovering the shockingly high number of cases of infanticide in Ireland throughout the 19th and early 20th century. The plot of the novel revolves around a young woman arriving in Drogheda to apply for the advertised position. While the widower who employs her is delighted to have found someone to care for his young daughter his housekeeper Mrs McHugh is unsettled and suspicious of the Nanny's offhand manner and the baby's seeming listlessness and drowsiness. Along with her friend Betty, now bedridden but always a keen observer of people and their habits, the two women begin to investigate the nanny, revealing that perhaps the young woman is not so respectable after all. In parallel with this unfolding story is the …

Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers Blog Tour

Ross Sayers brilliant new YA novel features Billy and Sonny two inseparable friends from Stirling navigating the horrors of high school; boredom, hormones, homework and bullying from both teachers and students. One teacher however, Miss Baird, the boys do like, she supports Billy's hopes to pursue higher maths and get to University so when the boys see other students attempting to steal Miss Baird's car, of course they intervene and wind up in a whole heap of trouble. However that incident sets off a chain of events that lead to Miss Baird leaving the school in tears. The boys are desperate to know what happened to their favourite teacher and so they start to investigate. Sonny and Me is a real triumph, funny, poignant and cleverly capturing the voices of it's young protagonists. I laughed, gasped and sped through this charming tale of teens investigating murder, mystery and cover up. A real joy, perfect for fans of smart contemporary YA fiction like Holly Bourne or Sara …

The Daughters of Ironbridge by Mollie Walton blog tour

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Mollie Walton's first book in the Ironbridge series; The Daughters of Ironbridge. Mollie is already an established author of historical fiction as Rebecca Mascull and has turned her talent to writing saga with great success. I grew up reading historical saga and The Daughters of Ironbridge is an outstanding book that will I hope gain many more readers for both the genre and for Mollie/Rebecca in either writing guise. The story focuses on two young women who come from different worlds; Margaret is the sheltered and shy daughter of the wealthy King family. The Kings own the Ironworks which employs the majority of local men including Anny's father. Anny and Margaret meet when Anny is given a job as a messenger for the works office. The girls become great friends though they must keep that friendship a secret as it wouldn't be approved of for a young upper class lady to associate with an Ironworker's daughter. While Ann…

The Killer in Me by Olivia Kiernan

The Killer in Me is the second book from Olivia Kiernan, once again featuring Dublin detective Frankie Sheehan. Frankie's sister in law has asked for help in reviewing the case of a young man who served a seventeen year sentence for murdering his parents. Looking over the case Frankie thinks that shortcuts were made to ensure a conviction, but her focus is on a current murder case when a man and woman are found dead at the church near her old family home. The case is a baffling one but soon the connections with the older case become apparent and Frankie is in a race against time to prevent the next killing. Olivia Kiernan's knowledge of Dublin's streets, habits and language shines through in her writing, bringing the darkness that lurks just under the surface out into the light. The Frankie Sheehan series is perfect for fans of Tana French, Liz Nugent, Dervla McTiernan and Jo Spain. The Killer in Me is published by Quercus in hardback and e book on April 4th.

Sunwise by Helen Steadman

Sunwise is the second novel from Helen Steadman and is a direct follow up to the story she began with Widdershins; her debut. Widdershins was one of my favourite novels of recent years. It's a beautifully well crafted story of ordinary women caught up in a desperate man's campaign to rid the Scottish and English border areas of witches. You can read my review of Widdershins HERE
When I was asked to review Sunwise of course I jumped at the chance. I was delighted to receive such a a gorgeous package; my review copy came with a lovely corn dolly and two postcards. It's often happened that I have approached a second novel in a series with a sense of trepidation; worried that it won't live up to my expectations. With Helen Steadman's book I had no such worries and all of my high expectations were met. In Sunwise we once again meet Jane; mourning her mother as the seasons turn and her second child grows in her womb. John Sharpe meanwhile has fled Newcastle and arrived …

Kin by Snorri Kristjansson

Kin is the first of the Helga Finnsdottir mysteries from Snorri Kristjansson set in Scandinavia in the 970s and featuring a tenacious detective in Helga, Kristjansson blends the best of Viking historical fiction with a well paced and well plotted murder mystery. If you love scandi crime and Vikings then this for you. The paperback of Kin will be published on Thursday 7th March. I asked the author a few questions about his writing.

Q1.  Helga is a wonderful character, smart, curious and capable, she makes a great detective. Who are your favourite detectives? Where did the inspiration for Helga come from?
Helga, bless her, is what in Icelandic theatre parlance is sometimes (and not always altogether kindly) called a 'Scene Thief'. She popped up in book 2 of the Valhalla Saga, and was immediately very fun to write. She knew her mind and had no trouble navigating in a very male-oriented world. One of the things she did was navigate herself into book 3, where she played a much bigger…

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber Blog Tour

Ann Weisgarber's new novel is set in the backwoods of Utah in the 1880s within a tiny community of Later Day Saints. Deborah Tyler is waiting for her husband; wheelwright Samuel to return, he should have been home in December but January has come and with it heavy snow and when she hears a knock on the door it is not her husband but a stranger seeking shelter. The Tylers had helped men who were being chased by the law in the past, men who were hounded by lawmen because of their beliefs. Deborah and many of the small community of Junction have loose ties to the Church; they don't practice polygamy and they don't answer to a bishop, but they are willing to help those of their church who seek them out. The narrative shifts between Deborah, her brother in law Nels and her husband Samuel. It is a rare thing for a man to be running from the law in the deep winter snow and rarer still that a marshal would be the one chasing him. Deborah and Nels wrestle with their consciences aw…

The Dressmaker of Draper's Lane by Liz Trenow

Liz Trenow's latest novel revisits a character from The Silk Weaver. Close friend of The Silk Weaver's heroine Anna; Miss Charlotte. Charlotte grew up in poverty; a child raised at the foundling hospital, she learned to sew and spent time in domestic service before becoming an accomplished seamstress and eventually running her own business; making dresses for the bon ton including the aristocracy and the stars of the stage. Despite her success Charlotte has always remained curious about the mother who left her at the Foundling hospital. What drove her to give up her child? What kind of woman was she? And who was her father? When she buys a bundle of scraps at auction she discovers amongst them a beautiful piece of silk which evokes a sense of uncanny familiarity. When she shows this scrap to her sister Louisa; her reaction is one of fear and a refusual to talk which only spurs Charlotte to make further enquiries. Charlotte's quest is interspersed with the narrative of her …

The God of All Small Boys

The God of all Small Boys is a the story of eleven year old James. It is 1917 and when his father goes away to war James is sent to live with his relatives in Dundee. At first it is a shock; the house is noisy and full, he  has to share a bed with his cousins and even use an outside loo. His cousin Billy is mean at first; calling him posh and ignoring him in the playground but when James stands up to the playground bully Billy and his friends accept him as one of their own. With good friends and a great den to play in, the summer seems to last forever; until the realities of war intrude into the young boys' lives. Joseph Lamb has written a wonderful book about the joy and wonder of childhood, the hardship of poverty and war and the pain of loss. I raced through this book and found it utterly enchanting. The God of all Small Boys is published by Pokey Hat, an imprint of Cranachan Publishing. Thanks so much to Kelly at Cranachan who sent me a copy to review.  I asked Joseph Lamb ab…

Monsters by Sharon Dogar

As 2018 marked the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein there were a number of books published about Mary Shelley's remarkable life and work. Sharon Dogar's book stands out not least because it is a detailed and closely researched novelisation of the short and frenetic years of Mary's life that led to the creation of Frankenstein but also because it is a tender and intimate portrait of the three sisters; Mary, Claire and Fanny who grew up together in the Godwin household. Sharon Dogar's book is aimed at the young adult audience; the two sisters Mary and Jane (later Claire) who elope with Shelley are after all only sixteen, Shelley himself is just twenty one, though I have no doubt that this novel will appeal far beyond it's target audience. The author brings alive the tangled relationships of the Shelley set, their loves, rivalries, heartbreaks and loss. Death is an ever present spectre at the feast in these shining, intelligent and talente…

The Revenant Express by George Mann

The Revenant Express is the fifth novel in the Newbury and Hobbes series. Sir Maurice Newbury must race across Europe as his assistant Veronica lies close to death, her heart severely wounded. He has commissioned a clockwork heart from Faberge and must travel to St Petersburg accompanied by Veronica's sister Amelia to collect it. However things do not run smoothly, the pair find a dead body in their compartment and it becomes clear that there is someone murderous aboard. I'm a big fan of George Mann and having read his contemporary supernatural mystery books Wychwood and Hallowdene I am now catching up on his backlist so I haven't read all of the previous instalments of Sir Maurice and Veronica's adventures, however although I didn't know all of the details leading up to the events of this book I had no trouble dropping into the story and appreciating the fast paced plot and the engaging characters. If you enjoy historical crime and mystery infused with steampunk …

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Stacey Halls debut novel is not only a visual feast, it is an utterly enveloping tale of two intriguing women from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Fleetwood Shuttleworth is just seventeen but she's already been married for four years. She's had three pregnancies end in stillbirth and is pregnant again, determined that this time she will deliver a healthy child, however she finds a letter from the doctor to her husband which states that she is unlikely to survive another pregnancy. She fears for her life and her child's and she begins to mistrust her husband. Fleetwood meets a young midwife called Alice Grey who promises to help her deliver a healthy child but when women begin to be accused of witchcraft in the local area and Alice is named by the accuser it seems both women's lives are at stake. The story takes place against the backdrop of the infamous Pendle witchtrials and both Alice and Fleetwood were real women who lived in the area. Stacey Halls has done s…

The Binding by Bridget Collins

The Binding is a spellbinding tale of love, loss, memory and betrayal. Emmett Farmer is summoned by the bookbinder to train as her apprentice. In Emmett's world books arouse fear and superstition. The bookbinders create beautiful bindings by hand but the books don't just contain stories, they capture people's memories. Emmett learns that binding is a mysterious art as he watches those who come to be bound; the grieving, the broken hearted, those who want to forget. He is desperate to do more than carve and glue and organise but the bookbinder tells him to wait, that his time will come.
Until one day another bookbinder comes and Emmett's world is turned upside down as he discovers a book with his own name on the cover. Why wonders Emmett, what did he want to forget?
Blending fable, fairy tale, fantasy and historical fiction The Binding will appeal across genres and age groups, it's a book about growing up, about loss and first love, about the pain of being human. A…

Criminally Good Reads

I was lucky enough to win a copy of Will Dean's debut novel Dark Pines; the first in a series featuring Tuva Moodyson and then I was offered a copy of the second in the series by the publisher Point Blank (Thank you Margot) so I read both books in quick succession and I loved them. Tuva works as a reporter on a small local paper in the far North of Sweden. She moved back from London as her mother is very ill and she's desperate for a big story she can really get her teeth into. When two bodies are discovered in the Elk forest outside of town with their eyes removed everyone in the quiet and peaceful community of Gavrik is frightened and as Tuva begins to investigate, the connection to a murder from twenty years ago become obvious. In Red Snow the apparent suicide of the owner of the Liquorice Factory; the towns major employer and a cold blooded murder on the factory grounds might seem unconnected but Tuva is determined to find out what the eccentric family who have run the fa…

Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd Robinson

Laura Shepherd Robinson's debut novel is one of the most brilliant, intricate and page turning books I have read in a long time. It's set in London in the 1780s and follows Captain Harry Corsham as he investigates the death of his close friend the anti-slavery agitator Tad Archer. As Harry tries to retrace his friend's steps he stumbles upon a secret that has been covered up at the highest levels of British Society. I found this book utterly enthralling. I read it in one sitting and felt completely transported to 18th Century London as the author built a wonderful atmosphere; the sights, sounds, smells and the casual violence and brutality. An absolute must read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Thanks so much to Rosie at Mantle boks who sent me a copy. Blood and Sugar is available now.

A Class Apart and A Class Entwined by Susie Murphy Blog Tour

Susie Murphy has written two books so far in her A Matter of Class series which features Cormac and Bridget who grew up as best friends on the Oakleigh estate. Bridget's father had a passion for Irish history, language and culture, a love he passed on to his daughter. However with the death of her father Bridget's life changes dramatically, her mother takes her to Dublin and it is several years before she returns to her beloved country home. While she wishes to rekindle old friendships, Cormac is now a servant while she is a lady and not only that, she is engaged. However when Cormac rescues Bridget after a life threatening accident they realise that they feel more than friendship for each other. Set against the backdrop of growing tension between landlords and tenants, A Class Apart is a wonderful sweeping historical romance perfect for fans of A O'Connor, Nicola Cassidy or Kathleen McGurl.

*****Spoiler Alert****

If you haven't read A Class Apart I would advise that …

The Escape by Clare Harvey Blog Tour and Q&A

The Escape is Clare Harvey's fourth book and features a dual timeline with a young German woman; Detta in 1945 as the Russian tanks and the red army begin to march from the east and a young English woman; Miranda in 1989 who is working as a photographer as the Berlin Wall comes down. I loved the parallels that the author drew between the two women both caught up in the huge events of history and both desperate to escape their own personal situations. Miranda is desperate to leave an abusive relationship while Detta helps a British prisoner of war and risks her own safety. This was an utterly riveting page turner, which I finished in just two or three sittings. The author brilliantly captures the atmosphere and intensity of both time periods. This was the first Clare Harvey novel I have read but it won't be the last as I'm eager to now read her previous books. Clare kindly answered a few questions I asked her about her research and writing methods.

Q1. Some of your previous…

The Lost Girls by Sarah Painter

If you have visited this blog before then you probably already know that I am a big fan of Sarah Painter. You can read my reviews of Sarah's previous books at this link Sarah Painter
Sarah has written some wonderful magical and romantic books in the past but more recently she has delved into the urban fantasy genre with a fantastic series called Crow Investigations which begins with The Night Raven; you can find my review at the link above and with the new book The Lost Girls which is a page turning supernatural thriller. Rose a student at Edinburgh University keeps losing chunks of time, blacking out only to resurface hours or even days later and if that wasn't bad enough she is experiencing strange visions of terrible violence. Meanwhile Mal Ferguson who used to hunt demons finds himself working for one. He is tasked with finding out about the strange disappearances of young girls and he's been told to track down one very special girl, who has abilities that even demons…

The Murder Pit by Mick Finlay

The Murder Pit is the second book in Mick Finlay's fantastic Arrowood series. The series is narrated by Barnett, assistant to Arrowood; a detective based in South London in the mid 1890s. Arrowood sees himself as a rival to Sherlock Holmes, so Holmes and Watson are referred to in passing in the stories. Holmes even sends a haughty letter to Arrowood in this novel but they move in very different worlds.While Holmes and Watson might solve mysteries for the wealthy and the titled Arrowood and Barnett are brought cases that will see them visit the backstreet pubs, the workhouses and the asylums. The author has a background in psychology and his insight and research into the history of the treatment of those suffering from mental illness and learning disabilities serves to create some fascinating and heartbreaking detail. Arrowood, despite his habits and temperament making him less than likable on occasion is at heart desperate to help those less fortunate then himself and Barnett'…

The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy

I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for B. M. Carroll's The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy. This is the author's first psychological thriller having previously written contemporary fiction as Ber Carroll. The story revolves around Sophie who following a horrific car crash which caused multiple injuries and left her in excruciating pain, is slowly trying to rebuild her life; at work for a major insurance firm and at home with her boyfriend. The story is told through multiple viewpoints, Sophie herself, her father Richard who will do anything to help his beloved daughter, her mother who fears that Sophie has an unhealthy hold over her father, her partner Aidan, his ex Chloe and daughter Jasmin and Hannah who works for Sophie and knows a secret about her past. The varying viewpoints help to build a picture of who Sophie really is and as various secrets, past actions, thoughts and behaviours are slowly revealed the reader will begin to question just how much of a victim…