Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

A Messy Affair Elizabeth Mundy 4* #Review @ElizabethEMundy @LittleBrownUK The Lena Szarka Mysteries #murdermystery #realitytv #contemporary #Islington #TheOnlyWayIsMurder @rararesources #BookReview #BlogTour

The only way is murder…

Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner working in London, is forced to brush up on her detective skills for a third time when her cousin Sarika is plunged into danger.

Sarika and her reality TV star boyfriend Terry both receive threatening notes.  When Terry stops calling, Lena assumes he’s lost interest. Until he turns up. Dead. Lena knows she must act fast to keep her cousin from the same fate.

Scrubbing her way through the grubby world of reality television, online dating and betrayed lovers, Lena finds it harder than she thought to discern what’s real – and what’s just for the cameras.

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

My Thoughts…

‘A Messy affair’, is the third book in ‘The Lena Szarka Mysteries’, but reads well as a standalone. It is an enjoyable read, and now, I want to read the first two in the series.

Lena, an enterprising Hungarian woman living in Islington, London, has a talent for business, unwavering loyalty to family and friends and undoubted skill as an amateur sleuth. She has a sharp wit, and an intelligent mind, and reading the story through her eyes is a joy. All of the characters are believable, and fulfil their roles in the story well.

The plot follows a murder mystery style and has elements of a cozy mystery. The urban setting and contemporary themes, give it an edginess, which is original and will appeal to a younger audience.

Lena is not a reality TV fan but finds herself embroiled within it. Her thinking is astute, and I like how she theorised, in her bid to find the antagonist. There are numerous suspects and many twists, I did work it out but coupled with the drama, humour and final suspense, this was a satisfying experience, and I look forward to Lena’s next adventure.

Elizabeth Mundy’s grandmother was a Hungarian immigrant to America who raised five children on a chicken farm in Indiana. Elizabeth is a marketing director for an investment firm and lives in London with her messy husband and two young children. She writes the Lena Szarka Mysteries, featuring a Hungarian cleaner as a detective. 

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Fantasy, Mystery, Noir, Political Thriller

Million Eyes C.R.Berry 4 * #Review @CRBerry1 @elsewhenpress #BlogTour #SFF @rararesources #SpeculativeFiction #Conspiracy #thriller #BookReview

How do you fight an enemy who has a million eyes?

What if we’re living in an alternate timeline? What if the car crash that killed Princess Diana, the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, and the shooting of King William II weren’t supposed to happen?

Ex-history teacher Gregory Ferro finds evidence that a cabal of time travellers is responsible for several key events in our history. These events all seem to hinge on a dry textbook published in 1995, referenced in a history book written in 1977 and mentioned in a letter to Edward III in 1348.

Ferro teams up with down-on-her-luck graduate Jennifer Larson to get to the truth and discover the relevance of a book that seems to defy the arrow of time. But the time travellers are watching closely. Soon the duo is targeted by assassins willing to rewrite history to bury them.

Million Eyes is a fast-paced conspiracy thriller about power, corruption and destiny.

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

My Thoughts…

A delicious fusion of conspiracy, crime, history and time-travel science fiction.

Science fiction is not a genre I read, but this story focuses on an intriguing conspiracy theory. It is easy to understand, and if you open your mind to the fantasy, plausible enough to hold your interest. A quirky duo of historical detectives takes on a menacing ominous power that is at war with human history.

The historical connections and flashbacks, give the story its depth and kept me reading. The dynamic between the history teacher and the history graduate is believable. They are complex and flawed, and very much the underdogs. You want them to find out the truth, and as the story progresses you want them to survive.

Engaging, intelligently written and page-turning.

C.R. Berry

C.R. Berry caught the writing bug at the tender age of four and has never recovered. His earliest stories were filled with witches, monsters, evil headteachers, Disney characters and the occasional Dalek. He realised pretty quickly that his favourite characters were usually the villains. He wonders if that’s what led him to become a criminal lawyer. It’s certainly why he’s taken to writing conspiracy thrillers, where the baddies are numerous and everywhere.

After a few years getting a more rounded view of human nature’s darker side, he quit lawyering and turned to writing full-time. He now works as a freelance copywriter and novelist and blogs about conspiracy theories, time travel and otherworldly weirdness.

He was shortlisted in the 2018 Grindstone Literary International Novel Competition and has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Storgy, Dark Tales, Theme of Absence and Suspense Magazine. He was also shortlisted in the Aeon Award Contest, highly commended by Writers’ Forum, and won second prize in the inaugural To Hull and Back Humorous Short Story Competition.

He grew up in Farnborough, Hampshire, a town he says has as much character as a broccoli. He’s since moved to the “much more interesting and charming” Haslemere in Surrey.

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Posted in Book Review, Fantasy, Literary Fiction, Travel

Before The Coffee Gets Cold 5* #Review Toshikazu Kawaguchi Translator Geoffrey Trousselot @picadorbooks #Toshikazu Kawaguchi #timetravel #timeslip #LiteraryFiction #Japan #CoffeeShop #Tokyo #BeforeTheCoffeeGetsCold #BookReview

#BeforeTheCoffeeGetsCold

What would you change if you could go back in time?

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early-onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story – translated from Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot – explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?

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I received a copy of this book from Pan MacMillan – Picador Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Where the ordinary meets the extraordinary, in a nondescript coffee shop in Tokyo. This story has only a few characters. Everyone in the coffee shop has a story, and this follows four individuals as they travel back in time, not to change the present, but to understand someone they care about better. Or, to make themselves understood. The time travel has many rules, but for those who follow them, there are surprisingly positive results.

This story is beautifully translated, and the ambience and culture come through the characters and the setting. This is an emotional, quirky tale of discord, misunderstanding, loss and love. The time travellers are ordinary people, they want the opportunity to do something different, in the past. This makes them authentic and relatable, and the story engaging.

The rules of the unexpected time travel are fixed, and give a sense of reality, in a fantasy situation. I understood this world, and therefore enjoyed the story.

Enchanting and original, but strangely believable, because of the authentic characters and the contemporary urban setting.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Fantasy, Friendship, Magic, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Travel

The Cake Fairies Isabella May 3*#Review @IsabellaMayBks @rararesources #timeslip #magic #timetravel #romcom #1960s #2019 #TheCakeFaires #BlogTour #BookReview

1960’s Somerset is no fun for cousins Polly and Annabelle Williams. Mourning their non-existent love lives, and the mundanity of village life, their only pleasure is baking – until a chance encounter has them magically transported to the bright lights of London… in 2019!

Promised a chance of love, first they must teach the people of the future about the simpler pleasures of life by becoming Cake Fairies. Over the course of a year they set off on a delectable tour of the UK, dropping off cakes in the most unexpected of places and replacing the lure of technology with much sweeter temptations.

But will their philanthropical endeavours lead them to everlasting love? Or will they discover you can’t have your cake and eat it?

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

My Thoughts…

The iconic late 1960s meets technology-obsessed 2019 with cake. Bizzare? Well, only if you try to rationalise it. If you accept the fantasy, filled with magical time travel and enjoy Polly and Annabelle’s quest to get people talking face to face again, and stopping to smell the flowers, this story is fun.

The opening section, which outlines the women’s lives in 1960s Somerset is detailed and slows the pace, but the younger age group, this book is targeted at, may need the detail, to see why life in 2019, is so amazing and terrifying for the intrepid time travellers.

The gem of this story is Polly and Annabelle’s adventure in 2019 and the good they achieve there. The humour is plentiful, there are romance, cake and food in abundance. It’s the perfect book for romantic foodies, who have unending imaginations.

#IsabellaMay

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic.

Cake, cocktail, churros, ice cream and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s rules.

The Cake Fairies is her fifth novel.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Fantasy, Magic

The Violinist's Apprentice Isabella Mancini 3 *#Review @darkstrokedark @crookedcatbooks @AuthorMancini @IsabellaManci10 #TimeSlip #historical #fantasy #Italy #17thCentury #BlogTour #BookReview #MondayBlogs @rararesources


#TheViolinistsApprentice

A dark journey through time.

It’s on a group trip to Rome that something terrifying and mysterious happens, whirling musical Clementina back in time to 17th century Italy. Amidst court intrigue and creaking carriages, Rome becomes a chiaroscuro backdrop to her growing feelings for young violin-maker Antonio Stradivari. But soon he discovers that Clementina is not all she appears. She must surely be a witch.  How can she return to the 21st century again? Meanwhile, in an icy corner of the Arctic, a professor plots.

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

#TheViolinistsApprentice Image Credit Isabella Mancini

My Thoughts…

An original plot that involves timeslip from the 21st-century present day to 17th century Italy. The story centres around Clementina, a young girl who is naive and impressionable. A fusion between timeslip and fantasy in a contemporary and historical setting, it does require you to open your mind, to magic, time travel.

It takes a while, to set the scene, as the book is mainly told from Clementina’s point of view. Some chapters introduce a strange mystical woman. In Clementina’s contemporary school there is a rather creepy man, who is instigating the quest for objects, from the seven wonders of the world. There is a tenuous connection with twenty-first-century environmental problems.

I like the story’s themes, and the timeslip into 17th century Italy, but the plot seems overly complex and it’s hard to follow all the elements, as written, even though you understand the reason for them. The writing is vivid and descriptive, but the author’s vision and fantasy world need to be clearer to the reader.

#IsabellaMancini

Isabella Mancini is the nom de plume of prolific author Olga Swan, published by Crooked Cat Books.  She has a BA Hons (Open) in English Language and Literature and a lifelong love for writing and language. For 12 years she lived in SW France but returned to the UK in 2017, where she now lives in the West Midlands with her husband and elderly French rescue dog Bruno.

Previous books by Olga Swan:

An Englishwoman in America, From Paradis to Perdition, Pensioners in Paradis, The Mazurek Express, Lamplight, Vichyssoise, 3rd Degree Murder.

Twitter Facebook Facebook Group: Books, Music and the Past Amazon page for Isabella Mancini Amazon page for Olga Swan

Giveaway to Win a signed paperback of An Englishwoman in America (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Giveaway Link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Book Review, Fantasy, Literary Fiction

The Beginning and End of Us Rose James 3*#Review @bookouture @RoseJamesAuthor #literaryfiction #supernatural #quest #love #Aphrodite #BookReview #SaturdayMotivation

Born in a honeysuckle-choked garden, a young woman discovers her true purpose in the world moments before she’s cast out of the only home she’s ever known.

Haunted by loneliness, she begins a journey to fulfil her destiny. It is a path that will lead her into the arms of four very different men – a dreamer, a fighter, an artist and a lost soul.

But could it be the secrets she left behind – and the one person she thought she had lost forever – that hold the answers to the questions she’s seeking? For while life may take you unexpected places, truth will bring you home…

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

My Thoughts…

I enjoy literary fiction for the beauty of the prose, and the off-kilter subjects it explores. This story qualifies on both of these. Despite its qualities, I find it difficult to connect with the characters and therefore my enjoyment is muted.

The story follows the destiny of Aphrodite, a supernatural being whose role is to keep love in the human world. If she deviates from her path, the human world loses love, so her mission is vital for humanity. Given her role, life is a rollercoaster of emotional encounters that touch her physically and spiritually. She experiences contentment and love, but a loss is always on the horizon and these makes her journey poignant and tragic.

The structure of the plot complements the story, a series of chapters mirroring her loves. The writing style focuses on the senses and is engaging.

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

Murder at the Dolphin Hotel Helena Dixon 5*#Review #AMissUnderhayMystery @NellDixon @bookouture #cozymystery #MurderMystery #Devon #Dartmouth #1930s #MurderattheDolphinHotel #MondayBlogs

A room with a view… to murder

June 1933. Independent young Kitty Underhay has been left in charge of her family’s hotel, The Dolphin, on the tranquil English coast. She’s expecting her days at the bustling resort to be filled with comfortable chatter with chambermaids as they polish the mahogany desks and glittering candelabras of the elegant foyer. Everything must be perfect for the arrival of a glamorous jazz singer from Chicago and a masked ball that will be the cultural highlight of the season.

But when several rooms are broken into and searched, including Kitty’s own, she quickly realises that something out of the ordinary is afoot at the hotel. Soon rumours are flying in the cozy town that someone is on the hunt for a stolen ruby. A ruby that Kitty’s mother may well have possessed when she herself went missing during the Great War. And when the break-ins are followed by a series of attacks and murders, including of the town’s former mayoress, it seems the perpetrator will stop at nothing to find it.

Aided by ex-army captain Matthew Bryant, the Dolphin’s new security officer, Kitty is determined to decipher this mystery and preserve not only the reputation of her hotel but also the lives of her guests. Is there a cold-blooded killer under her own roof? And what connects the missing jewel to the mystery from Kitty’s own past?

A classic page-turning murder mystery! 

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

My Thoughts…

This murder mystery has a lovely sense of place and time. Dartmouth, Devon is a picturesque setting, and particularly atmospheric during the post-war period. The hotel is well described and easy to visualise, as are the cast of characters. The connection with Kitty’s past that this first mystery, in the series has, gives the story added depth and draws the reader into Kitty’s world.

Kitty is a complex, courageous character, who is easy to like. Her intelligence tempered by an innate naivety makes her the perfect heroine for this type of historical cozy mystery. Matt her partner in amateur sleuthing, has a complex and poignant past, which makes him an enigmatic puzzle, Kitty is eager to solve.

The mystery unwinds with many twists, suspects and murders. The relationship between Kitty and Matt strengthens, in part due to proximity and mutual neediness. You want them to overcome their emotional barriers and let their relationship develop.

The suspense develops well as the story progresses reaching a crescendo when Kitty’s natural curiosity leads her into danger. The ending is exciting and in keeping with the historical period. Part of the mystery remains unsolved, presumably to be revealed as the series progresses.

An easy to read a historical murder mystery, written in a cozy mystery style, which immerses you in the 1930s Devon, with authentic, complex characters and an engaging plot.