Blog – First Steps

Posted in Book Review

A Home at Honeysuckle Farm – Christie Barlow – 4*Review

 

A family secret

One shocking argument and ten-year-old Alice Parker’s world was turned upside down. Her peaceful life at Honeysuckle Farm in the quiet rural village of Brook Bridge swapped for the bustling metropolis of New York City. Alice’s life was changed forever…

A second chance

Now, thirteen years later, Alice’s American dream is over. With her life in tatters, there is only one place Alice wants to be… home at Honeysuckle Farm. So, when Alice learns her beloved Grandie is ill, she knows this is her last chance to heal the family rift.

A forever home?

But secrets still swirl in Brook Bridge, and Alice is no closer to discovering the truth. And for some reason her new friendship with local heartthrob Sam Reid seems to be making the locals tense.

Sick of the lies Alice knows it’s time to lay the past to rest once and for all. But could the truth ruin her hopes of ever calling Honeysuckle Farm home again?

Amazon UK

Amazon 

My Thoughts…

Who wouldn’t want to live at Honeysuckle Farm with its animals and land? The setting for this story is idyllic, and so when our young heroine is snatched away from its welcoming arms at ten-years-old, you feel for her.

Thirteen years later, living in New York, she still doesn’t understand the reasons for her sudden departure and parting from her beloved Grandie. The chance to return to her childhood home coincides with a difficult time in her life but will she find the answers to the secrets that trouble her? Alice is a lovely character, courageous and loyal but haunted by past secrets; she risks everything to reunite her family and build a future.

The plot reveals misunderstandings, tragedy and a terrible lie, which threatens to ruin Alice’s second chance. The village settings and its characters are believable without being stereotypical, and the ending is worthy of this touching, heartfelt story.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: 3*Review – Her Greatest Mistake – Sarah Simpson

 

Do we ever know what goes on behind closed doors?

Eve and Gregg were the perfect couple, with the perfect marriage…which has become the perfect lie. Gone is the charming, attentive Gregg – instead, Eve wakes up each morning beside a manipulative and sinister man who controls his wife’s every move.

So Eve flees her immaculate marital home to keep herself, and young son Jack safe. Yet no matter how careful she has been, she knows Gregg will be relentless in his pursuit of his missing family. And that one day, when she’s least expecting it, he will find them…

What was Eve’s greatest mistake?

Marrying Gregg? Leaving him? Or leaving him alive…?

 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2pGfaOu

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2DWDr7j

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2G7ZFtd

iBooks: https://apple.co/2Gsq2Jz

 

 

Extract

Chapter Six

Cornwall 2016

I creep nervously into my own home; listening. Silence. Keys clasped tightly in my hand. No obvious signs of an intruder, no kicked-down doors or shattered crockery strewn across the floor. My heart pounds in my ears like a damp drum as I slink through the kitchen towards the back door. Startled, as a dark shadow thuds at the window. I jump and drop my keys. The minute sound of my keys hitting hard floor fills the room. ‘Christ, Humphrey, why did you do that?’ He waits in total nonchalance at the foot of the door outside. I rattle the handle and breathe again. Thank God, I did lock the door.

But still, there is something alien dangling in the air. If I didn’t know better, if the door had been unlocked, I’d swear someone has been in my home.

I pull open the door to an appreciative ball of fluff; he wraps himself around my legs. Purring. I pick him up and snuggle my face into indulgent fur, allowing my heartbeat to return to baseline. ‘You’re coming upstairs with me, mister, keep me company whilst I get ready for work. Frightening me like that, how could you? Haven’t you realised you’re living with a neurotic woman?’

I survey the sitting room as I creep through, before gingerly taking the stairs, still half-expecting someone to jump out. ‘What’s wrong with me, Humph, eh? Why can’t you talk to me? Did you see anyone?’ I sneak along the landing towards my bedroom, stopping to check Jack’s room first, all the usual potential hiding places. The wardrobe, under the bed. Nothing but used crockery – Jack and his blinking late-night cereal cravings. Still, with Humphrey purring in my arms, I move on to my room.

I place him on my bed, where he immediately stretches out to fill the abstract shape of sun rays. ‘So tell me, Humph, to pull myself together. No one’s been in the house. The door was locked, and there’s no other way in.’ Big round eyes glare back at me before he begins his grooming process. ‘No useful words of wisdom, eh? Anything will do? Or have you been silenced? Coerced to the dark side?’ He gives me the look of disdain only cats can do. ‘I get it, you’re just refusing to humour me. Wise move.’

I convince myself it’s safe for the moment. I need to get a move on for work. An invigorating shower of soft florals, all the time with a watchful eye on the door. Only panicking when the shampoo temporarily obscures my vision, rinsing it through as quickly as if my life depends on it. Not long later, I leave the house, double-checking the locks. Not bad, a transformation from home-comfort clothes to a tailored azure dress. Softly applied make-up, coral lips. Elegant shoes with a sharp distinguishing echo. Finally, my files, mobile and diary. All in less than thirty minutes. Trepidation has its perverse benefits.

Ready for another borrowed day.

Choosing where to open my clinic was easy. I peered through sash windows before a toadying agent opened the door to the pretty, terraced, Cornish sandstone and slate building. Proudly nestled between its charming, unassuming neighbours. Two mottled slate steps lead the way to the solid wood door of 39b Lemon Street. Warm, humble and crammed with character. Inside, a large reception window films passing life, sweeping down to the heart of Truro. ‘Sometimes, things just feel right,’ I’d agreed with the toady agent.

Knowing Ruan, my fresh-faced, uncomplicated-by-life assistant, will always be there to open up first is a blessing. Despite his ungodly early morning jaunt to catch the sunrise waves. He’s then usually followed by Bea, the physiotherapist who sublets a room. Today, when I push through the door, characteristically late, the sunlight fills the reception area, elbowing through the leaded window. The cream slatted blinds are pulled back tight to allow shimmering beams to create a warming ambience. Thoughtful shadows grace the archetypal dense walls. Not all shadows are dark, I remind myself.

My Thoughts…

Thrillers based on domestic violence are a favourite psychological thriller theme, but this one makes an impact because of its professional language and authenticity. It’s not easy to read, the author jumps between timelines, the abuser and his victims but although it is sometimes difficult to follow, it makes it realistic and believable.

The premise drew me in, and in many ways, it does fulfil its promise. The descriptions of Eve’s life with Gregg are detailed and vivid. There’s no doubt about his systematic destruction of her. For me, there is too much detail and too many examples of abuse. I don’t need to drown in detail to understand.

His pursuit of her after ten years is carried out with similar ruthless intent. Again this is overlong for me; the medical detail sometimes detracts from the story’s compelling suspense element. The characters are not easy to empathise. Mainly due to the writing style relying more on narration than showing how the characters feel through their actions and emotions.

Overall it is a promising debut, with explicit professional knowledge and experience, a little more storytelling and a little less professional speke would make this a real page-turner.

I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has worked in a neuro-psychology department at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. When she first graduated she formed a mental health consultancy and worked as a psychologist within the family court system of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. Three years ago she moved to Cornwall with her husband and three children and runs her own practice in Truro. Her Greatest Mistake is her first novel, and she is currently working on the second.

 

Twitter: @sarahrsimpson

Facebook: @sarahsimpsoncornwall

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Kate Ryder – Summer in a Cornish Cove – 5*Review

Oliver Foxley is an acclaimed movie star and global heartthrob. But under the glare of the spotlight his ‘perfect’ life – and marriage -is slowly starting to crumble.

Cara Penhaligon is a struggling young Cornish artist and widowed mother of two children. Life has been unbearably harsh to Cara, but meeting Oliver might just give her a second chance at the happiness she deserves. As each begins to heal the other, the pieces of Oliver’s frustrating jigsaw puzzle effortlessly fall into place. But as the Cornish summer draws to a close, Oliver faces the toughest of choices, and no one emerges quite as they were at the start.

 Links to buy

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GdSsDC

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/summer-in-a-cornish-cove

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2I7acRB

iBooks: https://apple.co/2GbnobS

 

 

My Thoughts…

This story is so much more than the holiday romance the title suggests. The cove is a special place, aesthetically beautiful but with a tightly knit community looking out for one another. Not all of the inhabitants were born there, but they all recognise its importance.

Oliver is a famous actor, but like most people, he has both a public and private face. He battles endogenous depression, so at odds with his extrovert persona as an actor. His wife fiercely protects his image and their family but doesn’t understand this side of him. Cara is a working artist, whose talent knows no bounds but is restricted by her need to be there for her young family since the untimely death of her young husband.

The storytelling in this book is first class, instantly drawing you into the cove’s community, visualising the coastal setting and wanting to know more about the people who live there. The intricate plot reveals Cara and Oliver’s stories until serendipity draws them together. Internal conflict is paramount in this story but interspersed with mystery, suspense and romance. The characters are well written and believable, and more than one is a little sinister.

The final chapters are heartrending and poignant and maintain Cara and Oliver’s authenticity.

I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Kate Ryder has worked in a number of industries including publishing, mainly as a proof-reader/copy editor and writer for a national newspaper, magazines and publishing houses. A member of the New Writers Scheme with the Romantic Novelists Association, in 2013 she published her debut novel, ‘The Forgotten Promise’, a timeslip romance and mysterious ghost story, which was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2016 “Search for a Star” and also honoured with a Chill with a Book “Book of the Month” Award. Kate lives in a renovated 200-year-old sawmill in the beautiful Tamar Valley with her husband and a collection of animals.

 

Posted in Book Review

Guilt – Amanda Robson – 5*Review

There is no bond greater than blood . . .

When the body of a woman is found stabbed to death, the blame falls to her twin sister. But who killed who? And which one is now the woman behind bars?

Zara and Miranda have always supported each other. But then Zara meets Seb and everything changes. Handsome, charismatic and dangerous, Seb threatens to tear the sisters’ lives apart – but is he really the one to blame? Or are deeper resentments simmering beneath the surface that the sisters must face up to?

As the sisters’ relationship is stretched to the brink, a traumatic incident in Seb’s past begins to rear its head, and soon all three are locked in a psychological battle that will leave someone dead. The question is, who?

Amazon UK

Amazon 

My Thoughts…

‘Guilt’ is a dark, intense thriller.

Beginning with a tragedy, it continues moving between the present and the past as it reveals the traumatic aftermath and explores the events leading up to the devastation of the twins’ lives.

Written in short chapters from the three central characters’ point of view. It is fast-paced, character-driven and a well-blended mix of action and internal conflict. Focusing on the twins’ Miranda and Zara’s complicated relationship and how it changes when Sebastion invades their lives.

Seb is a dark, troubled man who hides his true nature behind a friendly, open facade. Zara is an artistic, carefree woman who self-harms to alleviate her profound feelings of inadequacy. Academic Miranda is outwardly successful, but she is socially inept and finds it difficult to invest in relationships. The twins love each other but recognise they are polar opposites in personalities. Seb uses this weakness to come between them with devastating results.

Don’t be put off by the melancholy ethos of this story, it is addictive reading, and both the plot, characters and their often toxic interactions make this book a riveting, page-turning read.

I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

5* Review – My First 123, My First Colours – (Twirlywoos)

It’s the Twirlywoos! Today they’re learning all about . . . Counting and colours!

Posted in Book Review

Body and Soul John Harvey – 5*Review

‘The heavy manacles around the girl’s wrists, perhaps not surprisingly, looked very much like the ones that had been found on the studio floor. For a moment, she had a vision of the chain to which they were attached being swung through the air, taking on force and speed before striking home.Then swung again.’

When his estranged daughter Katherine appears on his doorstep, ex-Detective Frank Elder knows that something is wrong.

Katherine has long been troubled, and Elder has always felt powerless to help her.

But now Katherine has begun to self-destruct.

The breakdown of her affair with a controversial artist has sent her into a tailspin which culminates in murder.

And as Elder struggles to protect his daughter and prove her innocence, the terrors of the past threaten them both once more … 

Amazon UK

Amazon 

My Thoughts…

Frank Elder is a realistic, haunted protagonist. A failed marriage, an estranged daughter and crippling guilt make him easy to empathise and vividly believable.

The plot is twisty and involved, there are several storylines, some past, some present which intertwine and inform. The pacing is perfect; slow and deliberate to begin with revealing the story’s themes, and disseminating the necessary backstory. Then, as storylines merge and character’s reach breaking point the pace quickens, and the action and clues are relentless. Despite being the final book in the series, it is a viable standalone read.

Although flawed Elder comes across as a well-motivated person, not perfect but always doing his best for those he loves and those he serves. His quick temper is almost his undoing, but it doesn’t detract from his likeability, just makes him human and realistic.

Being Nottingham born and bred, I enjoyed the action that took place there. The characters are well-developed and believable, and each of them enrichens and deepen the story. The ending is poignant, powerful and both hopeful and sad.

I received a copy of this book from Cornerstone, Penguin Random House William Heinemann via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Our Kind of Cruelty Araminta Hall – 4* Review

Most of us spend our whole lives searching for the person who’ll make us feel complete.

But Mike and Verity know they’re different. They’ve found their soulmate, and nothing can tear them apart.

Not even the man Verity is marrying.

Because they play a secret game, one they call ‘the Crave’, to demonstrate what they both know: that Verity needs Mike, and Mike alone. But Mike knows that Verity’s impending marriage will raise the stakes of their game higher than ever before.

Because this time, for Mike and Verity to stay together, someone has to die…

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

‘Our Kind of Cruelty’ is an unusual psychological thriller. The relentless plot isn’t full of the usual twists and misinformation.

Told from Mike’s point of view, the outcome is inevitable, but it’s the events that lead up to this that make this dark thriller absorbing and chilling. Drawn into the mind of a damaged man, whose obsession with Verity, his girlfriend since university colours every action, plan and thought. Mike is blinkered and driven; Verity is his only reference point. He lacks insight concerning everything outside the bubble that contains the two of them.

The first two-thirds of the story is overlong. While it is essential to relive Mike’s version of events, his lack of self-worth, his abusive childhood and his obsession with Verity make for exhausting reading and condensing this would make the story an easier read.

Mike’s character is undoubtedly well- written, but he lives in a warped reality, and it’s hard to empathise. Verity’s point of view is unknown, her action may be indicative of her differing perspective, but Mike’s perception of them always comes back to the two of them being inseparable.

It’s not until the book’s last third that the pacing picks up and the real point of the story becomes clear. The legal courtroom scenes are realistic and riveting, the lawyer’s cross-examination of their clients are fascinating. Mike’s barrister’s direction of his client illustrates that knowing how to play the legal game doesn’t necessarily equate to justice.The ending is suitably unsettling and highlights the inequities of the legal and other social systems, despite equality laws.

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK, Cornerstone via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

The Earth Bleeds Red – Jackson Paul Baer – 4* Review

Scott Miller has everything he’s ever hoped for. He has a successful marriage to Jessie, a stunningly beautiful, creative woman. His seventeen-year-old daughter, Ashley, is both gorgeous and intelligent and has just been accepted to the University of Notre Dame, where Scott received his PhD. He has a comforting home in the woods, and a fulfilling career as a college professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis. He’s blissful, and at peace, until it all comes shattering down. 

Ashley is kidnapped. The scene of the abduction is horrific and bloody, and the police are convinced she couldn’t have survived. They accuse her boyfriend, Brandon, of Ashley’s murder. He declares his innocence and claims that a masked man who entered his house and overwhelmed them both took Ashley. No one believes Brandon. 

Then the bodies of three other missing girls are discovered, all bearing the mark of a known serial killer the FBI has been hunting for years. Evidence mounts. As Special Agent James Duncan tracks the Hail Mary Killer, Scott and Jessie try to move on with their lives. But they can’t shake the feeling that Ashley may still be alive, and that the time for saving their only daughter is quickly running out. 

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

From reading the blurb, I expected a psychological thriller following the exploits of a serial killer. While true in part, the major themes of this story focus on the missing girl’s parents and how they deal with the abduction and possible murder of their only child. Faith, relationships and surviving such a catastrophic event are all explored in great detail. Although absorbing, it does detract from the pursuit of the serial killer and finding the missing girl.

Predominately, the father Scott tells the story. The early chapters set the scene, recalling family events with his wife and daughter. Slow-paced these chapters seem overly detailed. When the abduction happens, it is shocking amidst the everyday family events, but a shorter first section would give the same result. I did re-read the blurb halfway through this early section, to check I was reading a serial killer novel. The crime procedural part of this story is appropriately paced and informative, the law enforcement characters are realistic.

Mainly though, this is a story of family and faith, in the face of every parents’ nightmare of losing a child. Beautifully portrayed in this story are the sense of loss, the guilt and the fear of not knowing. You feel the Scott and Jessie’s pain and wonder if you would react similarly in the given circumstances. Through the father’s relationship with the family priest, they explore faith in detail, again this is sensitively written and adds depth to the story.

The latter part of the story reveals the serial killer’s life and thoughts and those of his victim. From a third person point of view, this is written as a narrative making it hard for the reader to engage with them. Showing rather than narrating what the characters are feeling would have made them easier to empathise. The plot has many twists, not all of which are realistic, however, they do keep you guessing for the most part and have a definite graphic horror factor.

This story is a dichotomy. The central theme of a family’s emotional journey in the face of a tragic loss against a fast-paced, graphic illustration of abduction and murder. It does work for the most part and keeps you turning the pages. This a good mystery crime story with well-written suspenseful scenes and a believable serial killer.

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Poppy’s Place in the Sun – Lorraine Wilson – 4* Review

Sometimes you need to lose yourself to find your way home…

With only her trusty dogs Peanut, Treacle and Pickwick by her side, Poppy Kirkbride could be forgiven for having doubts about her move to a quiet village in rural France. But as the sun shines down on her ramshackle new home, Poppy knows she’s made the right decision. A lick of paint, and some TLC and her rustic farmhouse will be the perfect holiday retreat – Poppy’s dream come true.

Poppy is welcomed by her fellow villagers, except for brooding local vet Leo Dubois, who makes it clear Poppy isn’t welcome in his village – or his life! Leo might be gorgeous, but Poppy won’t be told what to do by an arrogant Frenchman – no matter how kind and gentle he is to her dogs!

Determined to stay, Poppy tries to understand the enigmatic Frenchman better. But as the two get closer, Poppy sees another side to Leo – a man with heartbreak of his own. Falling in love with Leo is easy, but can he ever return Poppy’s love? And what would this mean for her dream life and place in the sun?

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Poppy is a likeable, independent character who makes her dreams reality when she moves to France. Things don’t go to plan, and she finds herself alone in a French village she knows little about, in a property that requires renovation and with a neighbour who makes no secret of the fact he wants her gone. Not the most auspicious of starts but Poppy is determined to succeed and sharing her journey with its ups and downs is a pleasurable read.

Well researched and with a precise local knowledge you learn about village life in France and its history in entertaining conversational bites, the detail is there but cleverly interwoven into the story without inhibiting the pace or the character development.

The book’s stars are the animals, the loveable dogs and quirky donkeys, they have individual personalities which bring them to life, and they provide many of the story’s comic and tender moments.

Another favourite character is Joanna who Poppy helps even though she is running from something. We learn Joanna’s secrets, but she is worthy of her own story and happy ever after too.

Romance is a major theme, and Leo and Poppy have a tempestuous relationship, which is often passionate with realistic, sensual love scenes that underpin the couples emotional development. The ending is believable and happy and makes a satisfying conclusion.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Together Forever – Sian O’Gorman 4* Review

Tabitha Thomas gave up on a happy family life with Michael her absent, high-flying husband long ago. Instead, she concentrated her energies on their daughter, Rosie, and her career as a head teacher at a local primary school. However, trouble looms on the horizon…

While Rosie struggles with the most important exams of her life, Tabitha’s eco-warrior mother is protesting outside the school gates to save some trees from the bulldozer. And best friend, Clodagh, a top TV news broadcaster, is self-soothing with Baileys, as she’s edged out of a job by an ambitious flame-haired weathergirl. Finally, with the return of an old flame and a political expose to deal with, Tabitha is forced to confront a decision she made a long time ago and face the life-changing consequences she has lived with ever since.

 Links to buy

 Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GqEWA2

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2I5YDuj

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2pLAKkb

iBooks: https://apple.co/2ITdFEP

My Thoughts…

A lovely story with warm, believable characters who demonstrate the true meaning of family, friendship and community. There is a reassuring continuity in this story which focuses on a mother and her daughter but encompasses both of their grandmothers too.

Tabitha is a pillar of the community, a primary school headmistress in the village she grew up. Her daughter Rosie is studying for a pinnacle exam and her mother Nora is still an activist despite her advancing years. Tabitha suffered a tragic loss in her early twenties which changed the course of her life when someone from her past returns is this a good thing or bad? Tabitha’s marriage is not happy but convenient she has Rosie her purpose for marriage, but everything else is missing.

Red’s return ruffles her calm life, but they only have past memories, not future ones. There is a liberal amount of serendipity in this story which gives it special magic and makes it enjoyable escapism reading. The plot is simple, and there is a sinister antagonist who threatens the community. There are lots of complex characters who bring the village to life and a touch of romance.

A story of everyday people touched with a little of life’s magic.

I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Sian was born in Ireland, is an RTÉ radio producer and lives in the seaside suburb of Dalkey, Dublin with her seven nearly-eight-year-old daughter, Ruby.

Website: http://sianogorman.com/

Twitter: @msogorman