Blog – First Steps

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Mystery, Romance

The Lost Letter from Morocco – 3*#Review Adrienne Chinn @AvonBooksUK @adriennechinn

A forbidden love affair. A long-buried secret. A journey that will change everything.

Morocco, 1984. High in the Atlas Mountains, Hanane’s love for Irishman Gus is forbidden. Forced to flee her home with the man she loves, Hanane is certain she’s running towards her destiny. But she has made a decision that will haunt her family for years to come.

London, 2009. When Addy discovers a mysterious letter in her late father’s belongings, she journeys to Morocco in search of answers. But instead, she finds secrets – and is quickly pulled into a world that she doesn’t understand.

And when history starts to repeat itself, it seems her journey might just change the person she is forever

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Addy has survived illness and when her estranged father dies, she finds old photographs, one of which contains a happy image of her father Gus, and a woman she doesn’t know, The back of the photo is dated 1984 Morocco.

She sets off on a journey of discovery, hoping to get to know her father better. She falls in love with Morocco but finds more questions than answers and risks repeating history.

The setting for this story is beautifully described. The vivid images immerse the reader, in the culture and ethos of Morocco. I like the timeslip story best, but unfortunately, the plot doesn’t allow this to be explored to its full potential. Whilst this faithfully represents what Addy discovers, from a reader’s point of view it would have been preferable to spend more time in 1984.

The characters whilst complex and interesting are hard to empathise in most cases. The pacing is a little slow and there is perhaps too much emphasis on the setting rather than the characterisation and plot.

An interesting read of forbidden love in a different culture.

Advertisements
Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

The Frank Business – Olivia Glazebrook – 4* #Review – @JMP_Publicity @johnmurrays

After Frank drops down dead in Heathrow Arrivals on Christmas Eve, his estranged daughter Jem is called in to identify the body. When Jem travels back to Frank’s house in France – a house she hasn’t been in since she was a child – she realises that Frank had a son too.

Frank has died of a congenital heart defect, a defect he may have passed on to his daughter – or on to his son. Jem must warn her brother, but in finding herself a family she risks ripping another apart.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This book has a great opening, it really catches your attention, and makes you feel sympathy for Frank who dies so painfully and abruptly. What follows reveals Frank as a destructive man who cared for no-one, and whose thoughtless actions had far-reaching effects on those he came into contact with.

The plot is not remarkable, although it is good, it’s the characters, the pertinent observations of what motivates people to react in certain ways, and most importantly how families work in a contemporary society that resonates with this story.

All the characters are authentically flawed and most are not particularly likeable, but they are understandable. Even though the family dynamics are magnified, the interactions between mother and son, father and daughter and husband and wife are recognisable.

The pacing suits this type of book and the characters and settings are full of vivid imagery, which makes this an easy but definitely intriguing read.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Thriller

A Beautiful Corpse – 5* #Review Christi Daugherty @HarperFiction- @CJ_Daugherty-@HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam

It’s a thin line between love and murder…

A murder that shocks a city… 
Shots ring out on one of Savannah’s most famous streets. A beautiful law student lies dead.
  
A case full of secrets and lies…
Three men close to the victim are questioned. All of them claim to love her. All of them say they are innocent of her murder.
 
An investigation that could prove deadly…
As crime reporter Harper McClain unravels a tangled story of obsession and jealousy, the killer focuses on her. He’s already killed, one woman. Will he kill another?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Authentic, fast-paced, with an absorbing plot and a likeable protagonist, A Beautiful Corpse’ is the second book in the Harper McClain series, the crime reporter investigates the murder of someone she knows and uncovers a web of fear, lies and privilege.

This story works as a standalone read and there is enough backstory on the main characters and previous events for this to be enjoyable. However, it’s so good, you’ll want to read the first book too.

The setting is atmospheric and bought to life by the details of the buildings, people and the social ethos. The characters are vividly portrayed and their motivations and interactions with each other believable. The life of a crime reporter is intrinsic to the story and is expertly written.

I like Harper she is driven and skilled at her job and hides her vulnerability well. Her relationship with the police officers, whose cooperation she needs to succeed, is explored and provides some important conflict in the story.

There is an overriding theme to this story, the search for Harper’s mother’s murderer, more clues are discovered in this book but it ends with new questions that may lead the crime reporter into personal danger if she pursues the truth.

The exciting ending is ultimately satisfying, tieing up the plot, but posing further questions for Harper, presumably to be resolved in the next book.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery, Mystery

The Castle Mystery – 4* #Review -Faith Martin @JoffeBooks @FaithMartin_Nov

Jenny Starling has her dream job cooking for Lord and Lady Avonsleigh in a genuine castle. Then one of the castle’s treasures, a fabulously jewelled dagger, is used to murder one of the staff members. The victim is found stabbed through the heart in the conservatory. Lady Avonsleigh insists that Jenny help the police find the murderer. But how can Jenny solve this case when the murder was committed in front of several reliable witnesses, none of whom saw a thing? This is the fourth in a series of enjoyable murder mysteries with a great cast of characters and baffling crimes which will keep you in suspense to the final page.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Jenny Starling, travelling cook and reluctant sleuth, has found a job where she might like to stay. Life as a cook in a castle full of historic artefacts, for people who appreciate her skilled cookery, seems like a dream come true. Unfortunately, Jenny’s penchant for attracting murder means that someone dies in mysterious circumstances and Jenny finds her detective skills are needed once again.

This is a murder mystery reliant on detective skills, which Jenny has in abundance and the police detectives, less so. Set apart from the world of forensics and psychological profiling, this story will appeal to those who like a cozy mystery, concentrating on knowledge of people and what motivates them and a dazzling array of suspects, clues, red herrings in an atmospheric, vivid setting.

This is an enjoyable read, with an enigmatic main character reminiscent of Miss Marple with Mary Berry’s cookery skills.

This is the fourth in the Jenny Starling series but reads well as a standalone. A perfect escapist read.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery

Murder at the Old House – 5* #Review-Betty Rowlands @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

The trees are green and hedgerows are bursting with new life as spring arrives in the Cotswolds, but inside a house that Melissa Craig used to know well, something terrible has happened…

Melissa has just finished writing her latest mystery novel and is enjoying the arrival of spring. She’s decided to let her fictional detective retire at last, and perhaps put her own days of investigating behind her too. But the ink has barely dried on the page when Melissa receives shocking news: her estranged father has been found dead in the family home and her mother, Sylvia, is under suspicion of murder.

Melissa hasn’t seen her parents for nearly thirty years, but on hearing the dreadful news she rushes to her mother’s side. Melissa is sure that Sylvia could never commit a murder, but Sylvia does seem to be keeping secrets…

With no-one else to turn to, Sylvia begs Melissa to investigate the case. Melissa knows her father was a difficult man, but now she needs to work out who wanted him dead… A disgruntled employee, the controlling family lawyer or perhaps the woman with whom he was having an affair?

When another body is found, Melissa realises she’s dealing with a ruthless killer. As the police close in, trying to pin both deaths on her mother, Melissa must act fast. Can she find a way to unmask the true killer before she loses her mother for a second time, and possibly forever?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts …

The latest Melissa Craig mystery focuses on her personal life, but there is still a murder to solve, with numerous suspects, an unhelpful police detective and danger for the intrepid, crime writer and unwilling detective.

Melissa has finally finished her long-running detective series and decides it’s time for some relaxation, vowing to stop investigating murders in real life too. It’s time for a change in her personal life too with the departure of Ken Harris her longtime love interest but unsurprisingly, fate catapults her back to a former life with the unexpected death of her estranged father.

When she travels to her childhood home, she finds her mother a shell of the woman she remembers and the prime suspect for her father’s murder. Despite the way, they treated her when she was at her most vulnerable, she has to help, find the real killer.

Melissa faces her most dangerous and difficult investigation, without Ken’s calming presence. However, she is not alone, as someone who she has kept out of her personal life, offers her much needed support.

The characters are as expected, complex and authentic, the police detective is not only dismissive of Melissa’s investigative talent but in danger of missing the obvious because of his lack of experience and skill in detecting crime.

The plot twists are well thought out, the pacing fast, and the characters and setting perfect for this type of cozy mystery. The ending is cleverly crafted and ties up all the clues perfectly.

‘Murder at the Old House’ can be read as a standalone mystery, but this series is addictive, and every murder mystery lover deserves to read the whole series.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Guest post, Suspense, Thriller

#BlogTour #Trapped-Nick Louth- 5*#Review #GuestPost @canelo_co @NickLouthAuthor

Two desperate criminals. Something she never saw coming.

In Manchester, two hardened gang members on the run take Catherine Blake and her one-year-old son hostage at gunpoint. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Held in a Transit van, Catherine needs a plan fast. But it means diving into her captors’ risk-drenched world, and playing them at their own game.

Catherine has been through cancer, miscarriages and five draining years of IVF in order to have her son Ethan. He is the most precious thing in the world. She may be terrified out of her wits, but she’d do anything to protect him. Anything, no matter the cost…

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

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

My Thoughts…

From the first page, this suspenseful thriller is intriguing.

Primarily told from Catherine’s husband’s point of view. He assumes the role of the story’s narrator, a unique and unusual role in this type of thriller. His insight is uncanny and the reader has to accept this until the pieces of the puzzle start to reveal themselves. When it becomes clear why he has this unusual insight into her thoughts, it’s probably not what you think, and so becomes a more compelling viewpoint.

Catherine is in a nightmare scenario and as the story unfolds you can understand what motivates her behaviour. Like me, you may wonder what you would do in the same situation. Catherine’s husband’s admiration of her is apparent throughout. She is a clever, driven character, who has fought to bring her child into the world and will never relinquish him. You empathise with her strongly but then, as you think it’s all over, it isn’t.

Gangland crime is at the heart of this plot but there are no stereotypes, the antagonists are believable and have no redeeming features, you are very much on the side of Catherine and Ethan her innocent child.

The twist is masterful and unexpected and makes the final chapters of the story enthralling.

Contemporary crime, authentic police procedures, and an intense, original plot, make ‘Trapped’ one of my favourite thrillers this year.

Guest Post – Nick Louth – Inspiration for Trapped

The original spark of inspiration for Trapped came after I read the brilliant novel Room by Emma Donoghue. I asked myself, could I write something that is even more claustrophobic than that? A story where the walls close in even tighter, where the threats are not mere confinement, but death. That’s when I came upon the idea of a woman and her child being imprisoned in the back of a squalid Transit van, inside a multi-storey car park surrounded by armed police. I wanted a dark, gritty setting, where the odds of survival were low. The next stage was to build a collision of temperament and outlook between prisoners and captors, to create a cauldron of conflict. Catherine Blake is the ultimate risk-averse mother, having finally given birth after years of trying, enduring miscarriages and IVF. Her protective nature involves shielding this precious child from even the most remote risks, by planning and foresight. Fretwell and Cousins, the gangsters who capture her and her child, are two men for whom long-term planning is a few minutes or at most a few hours. They get a kick from risk, a thrill from danger. Normally, these contrasting types of people do not run into each other. The power of the book comes from throwing them together in a believable way, under massive external pressure when the police arrive.

It’s not difficult to build scary gangsters, but what is hard is to steer away from the many cliches and stereotypes which infest the genre of crime fiction. In this case, I started with the names, courtesy of my own late father who used to tell me stories when I was a child of his national service in the 1950s. Amongst the many memorable characters, were the fearsome London hooligans Fretwell and Cousins, who intimidated even the sergeant major in my father’s regiment. The characters are completely different from those he described, but the names have a marvellous rhythm and are grafted onto two new characters. We spend very little time in the gangsters’ heads, but their actions reflect their impulsiveness. Our view into Catherine’s head is far more detailed and comes through her husband, who has a special all-seeing viewpoint that becomes ever clearer as the narrative progresses. His love for her and the ominous portents that he reveals are designed to create a shadow of foreboding right from the beginning. I’m very pleased with the reception that this unusual narrative voice has received from reviewers.

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992 while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled  ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017.  Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.

Posted in 7 Days of Books, Book Review

#7DaysofBooks #Read #Reviews #bookblogger #amreading @Jolliffe03 #JaneHuntWriter

What I’ve read and reviewed over the last seven days.

Click on the link on the image for the full review.

I received a copy of these books from the publishers via NetGalley in return for honest reviews.

Click for Review
Click for Review

 

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

A Summer of New Beginnings – Lisa Hobman #BlogTour – 5* #Review – #Author #Interview #Extract @Aria_Fiction @LisaJHobmanAuth

Meet Zara Bailey, a travel writer paid to cover some of the globe’s most luxurious locations. Jetting from wooden huts on stilts in turquoise seas to boutique hotels with roaring fires to 7* penthouse suites with panoramic views of the world’s most glamorous cities…

Zara knows hers is the definition of a dream job! So she is seriously shocked to receive her next assignment; Scotland’s Northcoast 500 route. By bicycle. Sleeping in a tent so basic it can’t remotely be dressed up glamping! But this could be just the distraction the recently heartbroken, Zara needs. No men, no romance, just the breathtakingly rugged Highland scenery.

Until she meets croft owner Lachlan Grant, and his black and white Border Collie Bess, that is….

Kobo

Amazon

Google Play

iBooks

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

My Thoughts…

Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, travel journalist Zara takes on an assignment that puts her firmly out of her comfort zone. Her cycle ride in the Highlands makes her realise that living life for the moment, and being brave enough to follow her dreams may be worth the risk.

The beautifully described setting makes it easy to imagine Zara’s journey. Her love-hate relationship with her mountain bike provides many humorous moments. Zara’s complex personality makes her both likeable and often frustrating. I found myself shouting at her to see the truth of the situations she’s in. So, she is realistic and easy to empathise. Lachlan is more of a mystery. He hides his kind nature under a brusque outward manner.

The plot is full of conflict and dilemma for Zara, it’s exhausting to read at times but worth the emotional angst. The well-written ending concludes all plot twists and gives Zara the life she deserves and needs.

Interview Questions: Lisa Hobman – A Summer of New Beginnings Blog Tour

What inspired you to write this story? The descriptions are realistic, have you cycled all or part of this journey?

I have actually driven the majority of the route. We visit the Highlands annually and last summer we had the pleasure of stopping off at some of the points I visit in the story. I’m not sure I’m fit enough to cycle it but I would love to camp it for sure!

The Scottish Highlands is a popular setting for novelists, what makes your stories different? Why do you think this is?

The Scottish Highlands evoke so many emotions and the dramatic scenery really does lend itself to romance, in my opinion. Many authors have this same attraction to the perfect setting. I tend to write stories about places I’ve visited and which have affected me in some way emotionally. I find this way I can give real credence to the descriptions of the breath-taking locations.

Do you draw your characters from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

My characters are fictional; however, there are certain traits observed in real people that find their way into the ones I invent. It may be a story that someone tells me that resonates or perhaps a general personality that sparks an idea. But overall I keep real people out of my stories. My dogs, on the other hand, do feature! Ruby from A Seaside Escape is based on my own little characterful Patterdale Terrier.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I tend to enjoy crime novels. Partly because I’m fascinated by how they’re constructed so cleverly—clues and situations all weaved together until a bewildering climax eventually occurs. I especially love Ann Cleeves Shetland books. The scenery she creates with her words really transports me and I can almost be present in the story myself. It’s a bit of a dream of mine to write something in this genre but I have yet to attempt it.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

Writing is something I’ve always loved since childhood. I used to love writing stories and even wrote a book when I was a teenager! Until recent years it’s always been a bit of a pipe dream but I’m so happy to be fulfilling it now. Romance is a genre that I absolutely love to write. I love to get lost in the passion of a relationship whether it’s friends to lovers or second chances. Romance is something I find flows from my fingertips and makes me happy.

What are you currently writing?

My current work in progress is a novel set at Christmas but that’s all I’m prepared to say just now! You’ll need to watch this space as they say!

Extract

Zara stared, open-mouthed, at Noah as if he had completely lost the plot. As if his marbles were literally falling out of his ears as he spoke. She tried to wrap her head around the words he had uttered but her mind was in some kind of baffled stupor. Did he really just say camping to the girl who was accustomed to reviewing five-star luxury resorts for a living?

She shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, Noah, but… is this a joke?’ she asked hesitantly, dreading his answer. ‘You seem to be getting me confused with someone who likes the outdoors. I mean… I like being outdoors on the beach or checking out historical places for my reports, obviously, but camping? And Scotland?’ Noah was known for being a prankster; she waited for him to burst into hysterical laughter and do the whole, ‘Ha ha! Your face when I said camping! Of course, it’s a joke!’ But she waited in vain.

He leaned forward and fixed her with a pitiful gaze. ‘Zara, I know this isn’t your usual bag. I get that. But the fact is that the whole thing is booked. Dillon knew this and he’s still betrayed me; well, all of us really.’ There was a sad yet bitter edge to his usually jovial voice. He huffed and ran his hands through his greying, floppy hair. ‘And I need you to help me out on this. Dillon’s intern simply isn’t ready – in fact I wouldn’t have employed him at all, truth be told, but that’s a story for another day. It’s not something I would normally ask of you, but I can’t let this slip just because Dillon thinks he has bigger fish to fry. We may be a relatively small publication in comparison to others, but we still need to be at the top of our game. I’m counting on you, Zara. You’re my best travel writer as it is. But now Dillon is going you’re my only travel writer.’

She sighed deeply and an image of her petite body being crushed by a giant rucksack manifested in her mind. ‘But, Noah…’

He held up his hands. ‘I know. I know. But here’s the thing. Travelarium have got wind of the fact that Dillon is leaving. I got a call from Joel at their head office today. He couldn’t wait to stick his knife in. Sarcastic bastard. Anyway, they’re going to try and get there first. You know they’re already trying to make a name for themselves, and taking a portion of our readership would be a big bloody boost for them. This article would be a perfect inroad, believe me. They’re doing the real nitty-gritty stuff; the Australian outback and the bloody camel rides in Egypt. They’re making us look like we only care about the fluffy, frilly shit. But that was never my intention with The Bohemian. Dillon’s trip was supposed to be a real nuts and bolts piece; a chance to show our readership that we take travel seriously. And that the UK is just as important to us as a publication as the luxury destinations are. We can’t let it go. I won’t, Zara.’ She had never seen him like this. Obviously, Dillon’s shock announcement had floored him. But she wondered if there was something behind it all. Was the magazine struggling? Why was he not telling her if that was the case?

And anyway, what was wrong with fluff and frills? Life was too short to be so bothered about real life and all the crap that came with it. What was wrong with a bit of escapism?

She realised Noah was still on his rant about Travelarium and snapped her attention back to him. ‘… and the North Coast 500 route is so hot right now, Zara. It’s big news and we need to get in there first. Think of the team, eh?’

Good grief, next he’ll be telling me to think of the children. Talk about playing for my sympathy. She wasn’t quite ready to acquiesce. Not yet. ‘But surely there must be someone else better equipped and suited to doing the report. Surely there’s someone in the team, maybe a different department, for example, who loves camping and… and all that stuff.’

Noah closed his eyes briefly and when he opened them, he shook his head. ‘Zara, I’ve been let down by my best friend of God knows how many years. You currently have nothing assigned that can’t be put off for a while. I’m sorry but I can’t send anyone else. I need this to be done just right. I need your help on this. Please, Zara? You’re my only hope here.’

Suddenly the image of Noah dressed all in white with donuts for hair sprang to mind and she had to bite her lip so she didn’t laugh inappropriately at Noah’s Princess Leia-esque plea for help. She twisted her hands in her lap. She loved her job. And if the mag was in trouble she wanted to do all she could to help, obviously. Noah was an awesome boss and she wanted to be the reporter he needed her to be. But this was something above and beyond. She wouldn’t just be stepping out of her comfort zone. She’d be climbing in a spaceship and travelling until her comfort zone was a tiny speck on a distant planet. But she knew how much Noah had done for her. He’d taken a chance on her as a newly qualified journalist and she owed him so much.

She lifted her chin. ‘I need more information.’

Noah sat up straight once more, his wide-eyed expression filled with hope. ‘Anything. What do you need to know? Fire away.’

She cleared her throat, forcing the real question – i.e. Are you insane? – back from her tongue. ‘H-how will I be getting there?’

He nodded and took a slow, deep breath, which didn’t bode well. ‘Okay, so you’d be going north by train to Inverness. Then you’d pick up your bicycle and—’

‘Whoa! Hang on a darn-tooting-minute, here. Bicycle? You never mentioned anything about a bloody bicycle!’

Zara stared, open-mouthed, at Noah as if he had completely lost the plot. As if his marbles were literally falling out of his ears as he spoke. She tried to wrap her head around the words he had uttered but her mind was in some kind of baffled stupor. Did he really just say camping to the girl who was accustomed to reviewing five-star luxury resorts for a living?

She shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, Noah, but… is this a joke?’ she asked hesitantly, dreading his answer. ‘You seem to be getting me confused with someone who likes the outdoors. I mean… I like being outdoors on the beach or checking out historical places for my reports, obviously, but camping? And Scotland?’ Noah was known for being a prankster; she waited for him to burst into hysterical laughter and do the whole, ‘Ha ha! Your face when I said camping! Of course, it’s a joke!’ But she waited in vain.

He leaned forward and fixed her with a pitiful gaze. ‘Zara, I know this isn’t your usual bag. I get that. But the fact is that the whole thing is booked. Dillon knew this and he’s still betrayed me; well, all of us really.’ There was a sad yet bitter edge to his usually jovial voice. He huffed and ran his hands through his greying, floppy hair. ‘And I need you to help me out on this. Dillon’s intern simply isn’t ready – in fact, I wouldn’t have employed him at all, truth be told, but that’s a story for another day. It’s not something I would normally ask of you, but I can’t let this slip just because Dillon thinks he has bigger fish to fry. We may be a relatively small publication in comparison to others, but we still need to be at the top of our game. I’m counting on you, Zara. You’re my best travel writer as it is. But now Dillon is going you’re my only travel writer.’

She sighed deeply and an image of her petite body being crushed by a giant rucksack manifested in her mind. ‘But, Noah…’

He held up his hands. ‘I know. I know. But here’s the thing. Travelarium have got wind of the fact that Dillon is leaving. I got a call from Joel at their head office today. He couldn’t wait to stick his knife in. Sarcastic bastard. Anyway, they’re going to try and get there first. You know they’re already trying to make a name for themselves, and taking a portion of our readership would be a big bloody boost for them. This article would be a perfect inroad, believe me. They’re doing the real nitty-gritty stuff; the Australian outback and the bloody camel rides in Egypt. They’re making us look like we only care about the fluffy, frilly shit. But that was never my intention with The Bohemian. Dillon’s trip was supposed to be a real nuts and bolts piece; a chance to show our readership that we take travel seriously. And that the UK is just as important to us as a publication as the luxury destinations are. We can’t let it go. I won’t, Zara.’ She had never seen him like this. Obviously, Dillon’s shock announcement had floored him. But she wondered if there was something behind it all. Was the magazine struggling? Why was he not telling her if that was the case?

And anyway, what was wrong with fluff and frills? Life was too short to be so bothered about real life and all the crap that came with it. What was wrong with a bit of escapism?

She realised Noah was still on his rant about Travelarium and snapped her attention back to him. ‘… and the North Coast 500 route is so hot right now, Zara. It’s big news and we need to get in there first. Think of the team, eh?’

Good grief, next he’ll be telling me to think of the children. Talk about playing for my sympathy. She wasn’t quite ready to acquiesce. Not yet. ‘But surely there must be someone else better equipped and suited to doing the report. Surely there’s someone in the team, maybe a different department, for example, who loves camping and… and all that stuff.’

Noah closed his eyes briefly and when he opened them, he shook his head. ‘Zara, I’ve been let down by my best friend of God knows how many years. You currently have nothing assigned that can’t be put off for a while. I’m sorry but I can’t send anyone else. I need this to be done just right. I need your help on this. Please, Zara? You’re my only hope here.’

Suddenly the image of Noah dressed all in white with donuts for hair sprang to mind and she had to bite her lip so she didn’t laugh inappropriately at Noah’s Princess Leia-esque plea for help. She twisted her hands in her lap. She loved her job. And if the mag was in trouble she wanted to do all she could to help, obviously. Noah was an awesome boss and she wanted to be the reporter he needed her to be. But this was something above and beyond. She wouldn’t just be stepping out of her comfort zone. She’d be climbing in a spaceship and travelling until her comfort zone was a tiny speck on a distant planet. But she knew how much Noah had done for her. He’d taken a chance on her as a newly qualified journalist and she owed him so much.

She lifted her chin. ‘I need more information.’

Noah sat up straight once more, his wide-eyed expression filled with hope. ‘Anything. What do you need to know? Fire away.’

She cleared her throat, forcing the real question – i.e. Are you insane? – back from her tongue. ‘H-how will I be getting there?’

He nodded and took a slow, deep breath, which didn’t bode well. ‘Okay, so you’d be going north by train to Inverness. Then you’d pick up your bicycle and—’

‘Whoa! Hang on a darn-tooting-minute, here. Bicycle? You never mentioned anything about a bloody bicycle!’

Lisa’s debut novel was shortlisted in the 2014 RNA. Her stories centre around believable, yet down to earth characters and the places in Scotland she has visited and fallen in love with. She is a happily married mum of one with two energetic dogs.

Twitter

Facebook

Posted in Book Review, Childrens Books, Cozy Mystery

4* #Review – Agatha Oddly Murder at the Museum – Lena Jones @HarperCollinsCh

A second mystery for thirteen-year-old Agatha Oddly – a bold, determined heroine, and the star of this stylish new detective series.

Agatha Oddlow’s set to become the youngest member of the Gatekeepers’ Guild, but before that, she’s got a mystery to solve!

There’s been a murder at the British Museum and, although the police are investigating, Agatha suspects that they’re missing a wider plot going on below London – a plot involving a disused Tube station, a huge fireworks display, and five thousand tonnes of gold bullion…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins Children’s Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Agatha Oddly – Murder at the Museum is the second in the Agatha Oddly series. I didn’t read the first book, but this has sufficient backstory for the main characters and setting to let you read it as a standalone.

This is intended for the 11-14 year age group of young people, but the great characters, fast pace and easy to follow, yet coherent mystery make it fun to read as an adult too.

Even though a murder features in the title, the story concentrates on Agatha and her two friends’ investigative skills as they try to work out why there was a murder at the museum.

Agatha’s grief about the loss of her mother, and how she is perceived in her school peer group are sensitively written,and highlight issues that often affect young people.

A fun read for everyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction

5*#Review – Dinah Jefferies The Missing Sister @PenguinUKBooks@VikingBooksUK @DinahJefferies

A stolen sister. A daughter determined to uncover the truth.

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25-year-old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Such an evocative read, this story of loss, political unrest and a quest for the truth takes place in Burma during the 1930s, with slips back in time to 1911 and the 1920s.

Belle has left England, for a life as a singer in exotic Rangoon. She’s not the usual type of singer they have, but her talent and independent spirit bring her both admirers and adversaries.

Her mother’s failing mental health blighted her childhood, but after her father’s death, she discovers her parents once lived in Rangoon and had and lost a child there. Can this terrible tragedy explain her mother’s illness and what happened to her missing sister?

Belle’s search for the fate of her missing sister reveals more questions and answers, Oliver an attractive journalist offers to help, but can she trust his motives, or should she rely on the establishment to help her?

The plot is engaging. The perfect pacing adds to the story’s sense of mystery and menace. The political climate is dangerous, and Belle shows her emotional strength as she witnesses unspeakable violence and prejudice.

Full of powerful imagery, both in terms of the geographical and historical setting and the vivid characterisation, this story enthrals the reader. There is a mystery to solve a family tragedy to witness and empathise, and a lovely romance.

A lovely escapist read, which will touch your emotions and inspire your imagination.