Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Mystery

4* #Review The First Time Lauren Pailing Died – Alyson Rudd @HQStories @allyrudd_times #LiteraryFiction #timeslip #love #grief #family #friends #mystery

Lauren Pailing is born in the sixties and a child of the seventies. She is thirteen years old the first time she dies.

Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too.

But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.

And so it is that every ending is also a beginning. And so it is that, with each new beginning, Peter Stanning inches closer to finally being found…

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

My Thoughts…

This story may not appeal to everyone. You have to be willing to accept the concept of parallel lives that exist but only come to your notice, if you act in a certain way. Lauren Paling as a young girl, sees snapshots of her other possible lives, she learns not to share these insights with others who don’t understand, but then she dies and the emotional rollercoaster journey begins.

In each life she is different, and although surrounded by those who love her, they may relate to her, in different ways. The stories explore, love friendship, relationships loss and grief in a poignant way.

Lauren is searching for a mystery man in each life, without knowing his significance to her, if any. This is a story that can be read more than once, and perhaps needs to be, to fully grasp everything it is about, but that might just be me?

The historical scene-setting is well done, I grew up in this time frame, and I enjoyed the mid to late 20th Century references. Each life has subtle differences to authenticate it to Lauren, as part of her struggles to accept her new present and forget what has gone before.

The plot is detailed and the characters are likeable and believable, despite the extraordinariness of the storyline. This has a uniqueness, because of its emotional content and characterisation, even though the parallel lives concept is often used in science- fiction literature.

If you enjoy variety in your reading and enjoy a lovely, out worldly story this is for you.

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Posted in Book Review, Crime, Noir, Suspense, Thriller

The Whisper Man -Alex North- 5* #Review @MichaelJBooks @writer_north #Thriller. #Crime #TheWhisperMan #Supernatural

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a much-needed fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago, a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys.

Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle into their new home.

Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window . . .

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I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Books – Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A curious medley of a creepy, suspenseful thriller and poignant sadness are my impressions of this complex, multi-layered story.

A little boy is missing, and the disapperance has echoes of serial killings years before, but ‘The Whisper Man was caught, so who has taken the little boy?

There are so many facets to this story, a crime to be investigated, a little boy who hears voices and talks to imaginary people. A troubled father and son relationship, in the wake of a family tragedy, and a policeman haunted by his past both personal and work.

The plot slips effortlessly between points of view and different genres. The police procedural is authentic and helps you keep past events and what is currently known in mind. The sadness experienced by Tom and Jake is profound and you empathise with their grief and loss. The killer is damaged and dangerous and the level of menace pervades the entire story. Finally, there is a supernatural element, hinted at, leaving the reader to decide if it is really there or not.

Everything is fused together cleverly, making this a suspenseful, shocking and often sad story. The ending is fast-paced and breathtaking and written packed with vivid imagery. You can see the events unfolding in your mind as you read.

A page-turning, absorbing read that makes this thriller stand out above the rest.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Noir

The Heart Keeper #BlogTour -Alex Dahl @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @alexdahlauthor #Extract #FamilyDrama -3*#Review

How do you mend a broken heart?

It’s been three months since Alison Miller-Juul’s world fell apart when her six-year-old daughter, Amalie, died in an accident. Three months of sympathy cards, grief counselling and gritting her teeth, but it’s still only the vodka and pills that seem to help.

Across town, Iselin Berg’s life is finally looking up. Her seven-year-old daughter, Kaia, has survived a life-changing operation. After years of doctors, medication and hope, they can now start thinking about the future.

When Alison uncovers a dangerous secret, she is left in turmoil. She can now see a way to heal her broken heart, but will she risk everything to do so?

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Extract from The heart Keeper -Alex Dahl

Chapter One

Alison

I wake all the time, that is if I sleep at all. The alarm clock projects the time onto the wall on Sindre’s side of the bed and I lie staring at the pulsating dots separating the numbers. It’s just after two o’clock in the morning and Sindre isn’t here. He was here when I fell asleep. At least I think he was. I pull my hand out from underneath the warm duvet and stroke the cool, empty space where my husband should be.

A few nights ago, the same thing happened. I woke, suddenly, bursting from a dream I couldn’t remember into this black, silent room. I blinked repeatedly, trying to make out the bulky shape of Sindre in the dark – I didn’t want to reach for him in case he’d think I wanted something; I wouldn’t have been able to bear his warm, careful hands on my skin. It took me several moments to realize he wasn’t there. I got out of bed and sat on the windowsill, looking out at the forest and beyond, to the lights of the city rising up the hillsides to meet the stars. It was a very cold night for early October, and an orange moon hung low over Tryvann. I felt glad Sindre wasn’t there – it was good to not have to pretend to sleep, even if only for a while.

I was about to return to bed when I spotted something moving in between the trees directly opposite the house, off the gravel path. I moved slightly back from the window as Sindre came out of the forest, dressed in a light-blue shirt, half tucked into his trousers and his expensive leather loafers. His shirt was smeared with a streak of dirt across his chest and he stood a while in the narrow stretch in between the house and the car, as though he couldn’t decide whether to come back inside or drive away. He turned toward where I stood on the first floor, and only then could I clearly see his face, which was twisted into an uncensored, almost unrecognizable grimace. If the man standing outside our house hadn’t been wearing my husband’s clothes, I’m not sure I’d have recognized him.

Has he gone back out there tonight? I get up and stand a while by the window. Tonight is stormy, with gray, dripping clouds and a brisk breeze hustling leaves in the garden. The forest stands solid at the far end of our lawn, mist seeping from it and joining the wind in translucent coils. It might feel good to walk into that forest, listening to the whip of the wind cracking branches, to let the cold night inside me, to breathe its moist air all the way into my stomach. It might lessen the burning, even if only for a moment. I sharpen my eyes and focus on the spot from where Sindre emerged the other night, but without the light of the moon, I can’t separate the shape of a man from that of a tree, even if he were standing right there. He could be standing directly in front of me, looking at me, and I wouldn’t see him.

I walk over to the door and stand listening before opening it a crack. This house is rarely silent – it’s as though a faint hum reverberates from within its walls, the bass to every other sound our family layers on top of it – but it’s quiet tonight. I stand on the landing, my eyes smarting in the bright light from the overhead spotlights, listening for that comforting murmur, or for the reassuring signs of some of its occupants, but I hear nothing. I glance over at the door to Amalie’s room and am struck by a wild terror at the thought of what lies behind it. The burning flares up in my gut, as though live flames were shooting around the myriad, dark corridors inside me. I clutch my stomach and force my eyes away from Amalie’s room. I try to think of something to count, anything, and can only think of the steps. Seventeen. Seventeen steps, I can do it. I can go downstairs and get some water and then I can go back upstairs, past Oliver’s room, past Amalie’s room, just like that; I can do it, I’ve done it before, it’s just a bad night, that’s all, and when I get back upstairs I can take a pill from the bedside table and even if it won’t give me real sleep, it will give me dense, dreamless rest.

In the kitchen, I stand by the sink in the dark. I hear it now, that humming sound. My hands are still holding my abdomen, as though only they stop my insides from spilling out. The burning sensation is fading, and now it feels more like corrosion – as if I’d chewed through a battery.

Severe anxiety, says the doctor.

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University. A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland, Bath and London. Her first thriller, The Boy at the Door, was a Sunday Times Crime Club star pick. Twitter Facebook


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

My Thoughts…

I like the originality of this story, it is realistic and makes you appreciate why organ donations should be anonymous, with neither the donor family nor the recipients having knowledge of the other.

This is an intense family drama, rather than a Nordic noir thriller. It is slow-paced, and deep, dealing with the darkest and rawest of human emotions. Parents will relate to the grief the donor’s family feels. Although the mother’s action is extreme, so is losing a child, and her actions are believable.

Told from two viewpoints both mothers, their stories start off separate then become dramatically connected. The characters are complex and strange but mostly authentic. Understandably this is an emotional story, and whilst I admire its characterisation, delivery and the simplicity of the plot that resonates, I found it exhausting to read.

One to read if you like intense drama.

Posted in Book Review, Romance -Dark and Steamy

4* Review – J C Harroway -Forbidden To Want @jcharroway @MillsandBoon

One delicious hook-up deal 
One rule—no falling in love

Mia Abbott never backs down from a challenge—especially one posed by sexy widowed billionaire Kit Faulkner. He’s dark, dangerous, damaged—and pure, raw sex appeal. And for the next three weeks, he’s also Mia’s boss. The rules of their wicked engagement? No romance. Only one night together isn’t enough. They’re about to discover that the most forbidden things are also the hardest to give up…

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My Thoughts…

Why is it, you always want most the thing you’re forbidden?

When independent, driven, emotionally scarred Mia meets damaged, grieving, hurting Kit, they discover a no-strings sexual encounter is not the simple solution. A high-charged emotional story, ‘Forbidden to Want’ is full of angst, heat and hope. Set against glamourous billionaire lifestyle background this story is a great escapist read if you enjoy your romance emotionally raw and sensually hot.

Something to keep you warm in the cold winter nights ahead, well- written sensual romance.

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

A Miracle on Hope Street – Emma Heatherington – 5*#Review – @HarperImpulse @emmalou13

A Happy Christmas to everyone who reads my blog. This story has the perfect sentiments for this time of year.

Can a single act of kindness change a life forever?

To many people, Ruth Ryans has everything: the perfect job, a home to die for and a loving family. But it’s all lies. As Christmas approaches, Ruth feels lonelier than ever.

Then Ruth meets Michael. A man who, on the night of her father’s death the year before, she showed kindness to during his darkest moment. That one single act, his miracle, helped change his life forever.

Can one act of kindness really change a person’s life? Ruth decides to find out and plans to make this Christmas the most perfect one ever, opening up her home to those who need her help – the lonely, the lost and the ignored.

This Christmas actions will speak louder than words and Ruth Ryans’ kindness will create little miracles for everyone … including her own battered heart.

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My Thoughts…

If you’re looking for a heartwarming, poignant festive story, ‘ A Miracle on Hope Street’ is the perfect book.

Ruth Ryans is a national treasure, an agony aunt who spends her life solving other people’s problems. She ignores her own issues, which eight days before Christmas take a tragic turn, sending her in a downward spiral. Her random act of kindness on that night is forgotten, in her sea of grief, but a year later it may be her only salvation.

This is a story of despair and hopelessness countered with courage and kindness. The characters are complex and believable, and you empathise with their situations. The story charts Ruth rebuilding her life by helping others and is a charming often tearful read, but the ending is positive and uplifting and underscores the true meaning of this time of year.

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Blog Tour: Lucy Coleman – Snowflakes Over Holly Cove – Guest Post – 5* Review

 

As the snowflakes start to fall, Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…

For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around…’

So, Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air and rugged stranger, Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart. Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…

Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly beautiful Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands, where the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.

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Guest Post – Lucy Coleman – The Birth of a New Story

Virtually every story I’ve written begins with a single line that pops into my head. It stays there for a while like an app (my Writer’s app), processing away in the background while I continue with my work in progress.

Usually, on one of my daily walks (unless it’s pouring down), my little Writer’s app will come to the fore and little pieces, like threads, of the story, will present themselves to me. That’s why I always carry a pen and a small notebook with me. I’ve almost walked into lamp posts on occasion, as I frantically scribble away. Probably looking very odd, as I do so!

Eventually, I end up with an A4 folder, often with a title (which tends to be quite important for me in the process) and a growing mountain of scribbled notes. But it’s usually one of a small stack of similar folders, and I rarely write a story out of sequence.

Why? Because each story is desperate to be written. Although I write full-time and I’m quite prolific, there never is enough time. I’ve just finished the last of three manuscripts now queuing to go through edits and be polished up ready to be published in 2019. But I have four folders all crying out to me.

Three of those have been in my head for well over a year and yet the fourth, and latest idea, is also vying for attention. Not least because it involved going to the Palace of Versailles in June of this year. A very lavish and magnificent setting for a contemporary love story … you can imagine how excited I am!

But it must wait its turn.

Snowflakes Over Holly Cove is my thirteenth published full-length novel. And in that time, I only broke my own rule ONCE. It was a story that wouldn’t disappear nicely into the background of my mind but kept fighting me to be written. I put down the work-in-progress, and I wrote the first draft from start to finish in twenty-four days – ninety-five thousand words.

I will admit that for probably half of those days I didn’t get out of my PJs – just showered and sat down to write. I will admit they were very long days!

And, yes, it was Snowflakes Over Holly Cove.

Why was it so insistent?

Unusually for me, it was the location that came first. Caswell Bay has memories for me going back to writing my very first book. The edits arrived on the day my husband, and I were heading off for a week’s holiday in a beautiful apartment looking out over the bay. I ended up working all week, interspersed with bracing walks along the coastal path between Caswell Bay and Langland Bay. And we had some wonderfully relaxing dinners at the local restaurants.

During the day my husband was content to sit out on the balcony reading while I beavered away making my writing dream come true.

We often drive over to spend the day walking that path again and enjoying the stunning views. I knew that one day the right story would pop into my head and I truly believe that Tia and Nic’s story could only have been set in Caswell Bay and the fictional Holly Cove.

There’s something about the dramatic beauty of the coastline, the often-bracing sea breeze and the views out across the bay that has a poignancy to it.

Once Tia and Nic were in my head they were both so unhappy I became caught up, wondering if there really could be a happy ending. And now it’s published. That other work-in-progress is long finished and several more since then.

Caswell Bay is a place that if you get a chance to visit it, you will never forget the memories you make while you are there. I can say that hand on heart.

My Thoughts…

If, like me, you’re a reader who likes to empathise with the story’s characters, feel every emotion, and experience something magical as you turn the pages this is the story for you.

Christmas has always been important to Tia, even when her life is hard, Christmas is time to celebrate and escape. After the death of her mother, Tia struggles to come to terms with her loss. Her job is busy, and she hopes this will get her through the grief that threatens to destroy her. Her latest assignment has her living in a picture perfect cottage by the sea, the setting is breathtaking, and straight away she feels its healing presence. Life gets complicated, and she still has Christmas to face, but will Tia emerge stronger at the end of this experience?

The vividly described coastal setting comes alive the first time Tia visits the beach you can feel the sea spray on your face and appreciate the power of the sea. The characters are varied and realistically portrayed, you can imagine having a conversation with them. The perfectly orchestrated romance is lovely and gentle and full of magic in this poignant, story of coming to terms with life’s setbacks and valuing family and friendships. There are many lighthearted moments to offset the heartaches, rather like life itself.

A festive read that you can enjoy all year long with characters to treasure in a perfect Christmas card setting.

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

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean with her husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction Award. When she’s not writing, Lucy can be found in the garden weeding or with a paintbrush in her hand.

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Posted in Book Review

A Year of Finding Happiness – Lisa Hobman – Q&A – 4* Review

 

Happiness doesn’t factor on the deliciously rugged but utterly heartbroken Greg’s radar much these days. Only his beloved Labrador Angus seems to understand his search for a way to make sense of tragedy until he meets new neighbour Mallory Westerman…

Instantly they know that the other understands how they feel, and over time, as romance blossoms, they dare to wonder if they might, one day, be truly happy again…

There are two sides to every story, and A Year of Finding Happiness is Greg’s journey back from the darkest depths to happiness…

A Year of Finding Happiness was previously published as Bridge of Hope.

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Lisa Hobman – Q&A

What inspired you to write this story?

This story was written as a result of reader requests. After the release of ‘A Seaside Escape’, Greg seemed to capture the hearts of people all over the world! I was asked for his story and I was only too happy to oblige!

I love stories that feature animal characters. Do animals play a big role in your life?

I love animals! I have two rescue dogs of my own—in fact, the dogs in A Year of Finding Happiness are based on my very own canine companions. They both have their individual personalities and were great fun to write about. I love that they are also represented on the book covers!

Where do you do most of your writing? Why do you like writing here? 

I have my very own office these days. It’s at the top of the house and it overlooks my garden. I can see the birds on the feeder from there and have been known to daydream and get distracted.

Are you an avid reader? What genres do you enjoy and why?

I don’t read as much as I used to because when I’m writing—which is most of the time—I like to keep my head clear for my own stories. But when I do read I love books by Heidi Swain, Ann Cleves and Lisa Jewell. I like to try new genres and crime fiction is the latest genre I’ve tried.

Are you a full-time writer? What do you enjoy about writing?

I’m no longer a full-time writer. I also work part-time at a museum, purely for my own sanity. Writing is fantastic but it’s quite an isolated role and I’m very much a people person. My favourite thing about writing is the fact that I get a chance to invent new people and I get to choose their life path. I guess it calls to the hidden control freak in me!

What’s next for Lisa Hobman?

I’ve just finished edits on my next book so that will be out later this year or early next year. And now I’m on to the next project! Of course, it will be based in Scotland because I love this place so much. I intend to keep writing until the ideas stop happening—which I hope is never!

My Thoughts…

Greg has not been lucky in love. Alice his first love broke his heart with her betrayal and deceit, and Mairi loved adventure more than him and left him too. With only, Angus his dog and an ever-present bottle of Malt Whisky he is lost in grief. After such a bleak start the reader longs for light relief and the support Greg receives from the community and his meeting with Mallory provides this. A romance set in the Scottish Highlands and Isles is a treat and gives this story a unique feel.

Mallory’s story features in the first book in the series ‘A Seaside Escape’. She meets Greg at a pivotal time in her life and after a shaky start values his friendship but does she want more, or is that enough? This story reads well as a standalone, but I would like to read Mallory’s story too.

Told from Greg’s point of view it gives a refreshing perspective to grief and falling in love from the male perspective. His character is realistic and strangely endearing. Full of guilt and raw edges Greg pushes away Mallory because he feels disloyal. Mallory’s hurting too, and you wonder if these two damaged souls can find solace with the other. Greg is so sad and broken you want him to find happiness and eventually, it seems he might but then the past rears its ugly head and happiness is just an illusion it seems.

I like the way music plays an important part in this story, Greg uses it to express his feelings and as a balm to his pain, this is believable and something we all do at various times in our lives.

A story of grief, friendship, forgiveness, healing and the power of love, realistic and romantic and lovely book to read.

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

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.
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