Sunday, 27 November 2016

Blog Tour: Second Helpings by Kristen Bailey

Today I'm welcoming the delightful Kirsten Bailey onto the blog, where she talks about friends. I had the pleasure of meeting Kirsten recently at Jackie Kabler's book launch, and felt an immediate kinship with her as she too was mad enough to have four children. Unlike me, Kirsten has actually finished and published two novels. Second Helpings is the sequel to Kirsten's first novel, Souper Mum.

The Blurb
Exactly eighteen months after her dramatic cook-off against nemesis Tommy McCoy, Jools Campbell's down-to-earth approach to cooking and family life has won her many fans. But when the roof of her house caves in she is desperate for cash and finds herself agreeing to be a judge on a kids' cooking show called Little Chefs.
She is soon horrified to find that her co-star and fellow judge is none other than Tommy McCoy, on a mission to save his reputation. The audience loves the abrasive chemistry between Jools and McCoy whose style involves making the child-contestants cry and soon the show is hugely popular.
Behind the scenes, Jools is juggling all the relationships in her life with being a working mum. Will she succeed? Will she ever work out what quinoa is? Can she deal with Second Helpings of McCoy and the all too familiar media intrusion into her life?
Author Guest Post: Kristen Bailey
My seven-year-old daughter is currently obsessed with the idea of best friends. Every day, she returns home from school relaying to me the intricacies of the playground hierarchy, how friends have been won and lost over games of ‘It’, who’s not inviting who to the next party. ‘Who is your best friend?’ she always asks me. I always reply with my stock answer. ‘You.’ She always gives me a look. ‘Well, that’s a bit sad, isn’t it?’ I should also mention she’s also a bit of a smart arse, my seven-year-old.

What do I know about friends? I know plenty about the TV show but I think modern life makes the definition of ‘friend’ all the more harder to understand. You can go on Facebook and have hundreds of the things...anyone from your neighbour five doors down to your aunt Betsy who ‘likes’ all your photos and only posts memes about cats.

It was a topic I, therefore, really wanted to examine in Second Helpings, the next instalment in the adventures of Jools Campbell, my Souper Mum. I wanted to get to know all the people in the periphery of Jools’ life, and chart how all these acquaintances whether old or new fit into her every day. Who are her friends? What is a friend? If Jools were to have a best friend, it would probably be Annie, the faithful university mate who steered her through difficult times and has stayed by the Campbells’ side ever since. But how else do friends come into your life? As Jools finds out, you meet people constantly; through the school gate, through work, and part of the adventure suddenly becomes working out how you define all these individuals, how you juggle all these relationships and realise their importance. In Second Helpings, Jools will get a second education about cliques, gossips, backstabbers and flakes but she will also find awesome people along the way: friends to keep, friends in the strangest of places...

She will also come to realise that friends come in many forms, shapes and guises. Siblings who’ve never let her down, spouses who know her inside out, parents who are just always there, sassy daughters (sound familiar?) – these relationships are built on love, blood, legal obligation but always a healthy sense of camaraderie too. They nourish, keep her afloat and make her the souper mum that she is...

Second Helpings is the sequel to Souper Mum and the concluding part of Jools’ adventures. It’s been a great joy to map her journey out, create all these characters, and pay tribute to the community of people who surround any one mother. As such, it feels I’m also bidding farewell to a good mate myself: Jools Campbell my fellow souper mum, writing companion, and the five years we’ve come to know each other, you’ve turned into a BFF of sorts. Just don’t tell my daughter I told you that...

Thank you Kristen for a fabulous guest post!

You can buy Kirsten's books here:

Souper Mum - Amazon, Waterstones

Second Helpings - Amazon, Waterstones

Publisher: Accent Press

About the author:

Mother-of-four, gin-drinker, binge-watcher, receipt hoarder, hapless dog owner, enthusiastic but terrible cook. Kristen lives in Fleet, Hampshire in a house overrun by Lego and odd socks. Her debut novel, Souper Mum was released by Accent Press in June and its sequel, Second Helpings was released on 17th November. 

Author links:

She writes a blog about being a modern mother. That and more can be found at:

You can also find her on Twitter/Instagram: @baileyforce6

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Blog Tour: Beneath the Ashes by Jane Isaac

The Blurb
The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.
When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.
Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.
Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?
A gripping thriller perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, S.J. Watson, B A Paris and Sophie Hannah.
My Review

Thank you to the author and Legend Press for the proof copy sent in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second in the DI Will Jackman Crime series. I haven't read the first, but this works well as a standalone novel as I think we're filled in with any details we need to know.

DI Jackman is called to deal with a double crime - a woman has been attacked and there is a corpse in a burnt-out barn. But nothing is what it seems.

Nancy, the victim of the attack, finds her world turned upside down. Her boyfriend turns out to be someone else, and she finds herself being followed and intimidated. But is her aggressor linked to the crime or is it something different?

Unfortunately I had to read this book over several days, and I found myself unable to follow the plot particularly easily, and I lost track of some of the numerous characters and the roles they played in the story.

However I very much liked the character of Will Jackman. For once, we have a detective who is not an alcoholic/screwed up/hasn't got a psychotic personality himself. Will is a very likeable character, well-adjusted despite his private life, which is difficult for reasons beyond his control. It is nice to see a policeman who has a great relationship with his daughter. All too often we see these characters as down-trodden, world-weary people who mess up in their personal lives in their bid to catch the bad guy.

It was also nice to learn more about the victim of the story, Nancy. It turns out she didn't know her boyfriend very well at all, and her relationship with her mother is strained to say the least. But she has good friends around her.

This book will appeal to many who enjoy crime novels, and in fact I should probably reread it so I get to know the other characters better.

Beneath the Ashes was published on 1st November by @LegendPress and is available from Amazon, Waterstones, and other retailers.

About the Author

Jane Isaac lives with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo, in rural Northamptonshire.
Her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was published in the US in 2012 and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013’. Jane is also the author of The Truth Will Out, Before It's Too Late and Beneath the Ashes, published in the UK by Legend Press. The Truth Will Out, was selected ‘Crime Thriller of the Month by and ‘Noveltunity Book Club Winning Selection’.

Jane’s next novel The Lies Within - the third in the DI Will Jackman series - will be published by Legend Press on 2nd May 2017.

Follow Jane on Twitter @JaneIsaacAuthor

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Book Review: A Year and a Day by Isabelle Broom

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced reading copy.

The Blurb:
Welcome to a city where wishes are everywhere.
For Megan, a winter escape to Prague with her friend Ollie is a chance to find some inspiration for her upcoming photography exhibition. But she's determined to keep their friendship from becoming anything more. Because if Megan lets Ollie find out about her past, she risks losing everything - and she won't let that happen again . . .
For Hope, the trip is a surprise treat from Charlie, her new partner. But she's struggling to enjoy the beauty of the city when she knows how angry her daughter is back home. And that it's all her fault . . .
For Sophie, the city has always been a magical place. This time she can't stop counting down the moments until her boyfriend Robin joins her. But in historic Prague you can never escape the past . . .
Three different women.
Three intertwining love stories.
One unforgettable, timeless city.

My Review:

After the beautiful debut, My Map of You, Isabelle's second novel, A Year and a Day, is another delight to read.

It is a story full of vivid descriptions of the surrounding area, proof that the author has well-researched her destination, and her love of the city of Prague is evident on the pages. Often I find that too much descriptive language in a story can slow the pace right down, but Isabelle has it perfect here. It doesn't affect the pace at all, and is vital to the gentle narrative of our three heroines and their partners.

The three main relationships in the story are under the spotlight; vulnerable Sophie, waiting for her fiance Robin to join her in the city which means so much to them; Hope, whose new relationship with Charlie is threatened by Hope's feelings of guilt; and Megan and Ollie, who could be so much more than best friends if Megan would get over her own issues.

Despite the snow lying on the streets, there is lots of warmth and comfort in this book, and I found myself immersed in the story, smelling and almost tasting the goulash and strudel and hot mulled wine. Isabelle has not only written a lovely tale of romance, but she has sold Prague as a weekend break way better than any travel agent!

I'm off to book my ticket right now!

A Year and a Day is available from November 17th and can be pre-ordered here (other retailers are available!) 

About the Author:

Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts at the University of West London before starting a career first in local newspapers and then as a sub editor at heat magazine. Nowadays, when she’s not writing novels set in far-flung locations, Isabelle spends her time being the Book Reviews Editor at heat and walking her beloved dog Max round the parks of north London. Oh, and she does a lot of laughing, too. Her debut novel My Map Of You, published by Penguin Michael Joseph, is out now, and her second book, A Year And A Day, will follow in November.

If you like pictures of dogs, chatter about books and very bad jokes, you can follow her on Twitter @Isabelle_Broom or find her on Facebook under Isabelle Broom Author.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Blog Tour: It's Not You, It's Them by Portia MacIntosh

An irresistible, feel-good romance, perfect for fans of Rosie Blake, Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk.
First comes love. Then comes family…
After a lifetime of kissing frogs, Roxie Pratt has given up on finding her own fairytale romance. That is, until she meets her very own Prince Charming, Mark Wright, and he sweeps Roxie off her feet!
So when Mark finally gets down on one knee and pops the question, there’s only one thing left to do: meet the family! And when everything has been picture-perfect so far, what could possibly go wrong…?

It's Not You, It's Me starts off with a road trip. Here's Portia's advice for a successful journey!

Things you need consider before a road trip.
I have been on a lot of road trips this year, so when I was writing It’s Not You, It’s Them – a story which starts with a long car journey – I knew exactly what my characters were going through.

First up, you’ll need supplies. Not just food and water, but things like tissues too. I recently read a list of foods that you shouldn’t eat on car journeys, and it excluded everything awesome. I like to take sweets, water and make stops for warm drinks when I can… the only problem there is that with more drinks comes more bathroom breaks. If you think you need to pee when you see a sign for services in 2 miles, go, because I guarantee as soon as you pass it and see that the next services are 12 miles away; that is much longer to hold it.

You need to make sure you’re a good navigator, if that’s your job. Satnavs are great, but they can be just as stressful as maps. Whether you’re the driver or the passenger, make sure you know which way you’re supposed to be going.

Another thing to consider is that things are going to get pretty boring, pretty quickly. If you’re in charge of the music, play something that everyone likes – and make sure it suits the mood. If your driver is stressed, put soothing music on, but if your driver is feeling a little tired, lively music is best – although remember to take regular breaks.

One of the best ways to cure boredom is to play games. If I Spy is a little too childhood for you, then maybe you could play one of the games in It’s Not You, It’s Them. Would You Rather is a game where you give a player two choices, and they have to pick which one they would prefer, for example: would you rather live in a house decorated by a Star Wars fanatic for the rest of your life, or give your baby the middle name Yoda? Kiss, Marry, Kill and Truth or Dare are other great car games – although that latter can cause trouble, so play wisely.

Wherever you’re going, make sure you’re wrapped up warm if it’s cold, and dress in cool clothing if it’s warm. And wherever you end up, have an awesome time!

It's Not You, It's Them was published on 4th November by Harper Collins

Author Info:
Portia MacIntosh has been 'making stuff up' for as long as she can remember - or so she says. Whether it was blaming her siblings for that broken vase when she was growing up, blagging her way backstage during her rock chick phase or, most recently, whatever justification she can fabricate to explain away those lunchtime cocktails, Portia just loves telling tales. After years working as a music journalist, Portia decided it was time to use her powers for good and started writing novels. Taking inspiration from her experiences on tour with bands, the real struggle of dating in your twenties and just trying to survive as an adult human female generally, Portia writes about what it's really like for women who don't find this life stuff as easy as it seems.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Google Play | Goodreads

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Book Review: Searching for a Silver Lining by Miranda Dickinson

Thank you to the author and publisher for a beautiful sparkly proof copy. This review is my honest opinion.

The Blurb

It began with a promise . . .
Matilda Bell is left heartbroken when she falls out with her beloved grandfather just before he dies. Haunted by regret, she makes a promise that will soon change everything . . .
When spirited former singing star Reenie Silver enters her life, Mattie seizes the opportunity to make amends. Together, Mattie and Reenie embark on an incredible journey that will find lost friends, uncover secrets from the glamorous 1950s and put right a sixty-year wrong.
Touchingly funny, warm and life-affirming, this is a sparkling story of second chances. Perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern, Searching for a Silver Lining will take you on a trip you'll never forget.
My Review

I have loved reading all of Miranda Dickinson's books. This new book is very different to her previous novels, but I still loved it.

It's a gently-paced story of a road trip with a difference. For a start, it leaves behind the glamorous locations of earlier novels and is firmly rooted right back here in England. But what it lacks in exotic location, it more than makes up for in vintage glamour, from the shop Matty runs full of 50's memorabilia to the indomitable ageing glamour-puss Reenie.

A tale of regret and sorrow, and the search for forgiveness, Miranda brings the 1950's alive through Reenie's memories and the pages of Matty's late Grandad's diary. 

Nostalgia aside, the theme of friendship is explored as Matty befriends the lonely Reenie and gets a bee in her bonnet about helping the older lady right her wrongs from years ago, along with the not-so-welcome help in the form of nightclub owner Gil, who, Matty presumes, is only along for the ride in order to protect his investment. 

There are some great characters in here, not least of all Matty's beloved campervan. Will Rusty survive the journey?

Searching for A Silver Lining is full of warmth, laughter and many touching moments that make this book sparkle.

The book is available now either as an ebook or paperback from Amazon or other retailers. If you haven't read any of Miranda's books yet - I highly recommend that you start now!

The Author

Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. Coming from a creative family where stories and songs were always present, it was perhaps inevitable that she would end up adoring words. A songwriter for over 15 years, Miranda has successfully penned over thirty songs, delivering both live and recorded performances in a range of venues across the UK and Europe. Her first solo project album, About Time is due for release this year. To hear her music, visit - and be sure to leave a message if you like it!

Miranda began writing in earnest four years ago with her first novel, Coffee at Kowalski's - a romantic comedy set in New York's Upper West Side. This was spotted on HarperCollins' site for unpublished authors, at the end of 2008 and was released by Avon (part of HC) as Fairytale of New York on 12th November 2009. She has also written several short stories, scripts and novel excerpts, many of which are published on Miranda is also a regular contributor for writing a range of local interest articles for the Birmingham area and national film and festival reviews.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Book Review: All That is Left of Us by Catherine Miller

Thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for the Advanced Reading Copy.

The Blurb:
Dawn loves being a mother. No matter how Archie came into her life, or the fact he's a little different from other children, he is precious and loved. He is hers, after all. Especially because she’s never told anyone who the father of her son is.
So when Dawn’s twin brother David and his wife Rebekah are struggling to have their own child, Dawn agrees to become their surrogate, as it is the one thing she can do to help.
However, creating the perfect family doesn’t always go to plan and when Dawn realises just how much her nephew needs his mother, she begins to wonder if the time has finally come to confront the past she has kept secret for so long.
From the author of Waiting for You comes a story of friendship, motherhood and hope.

My Review:

A very well deserved 5 out of 5 stars for this stunning second novel from Catherine Miller.

I loved her first book, Waiting for You, and Catherine has smashed aside that 'difficult second book' syndrome.

The author's love of being a mother shines through in her writing. Actually that sounds a bit lame - absolute love, devotion and selflessness is more like it.

Surrogacy is probably one of the most amazing things a woman can do for someone else; to carry a baby to full term and then hand that baby over must be heartbreaking. Catherine writes with raw emotion, without falling into the trap of being of being twee or overly dramatic, creating a strong main character in Dawn.

The character of Archie is wonderfully written with sensitivity and empathy, giving us a great insight to someone who is slightly 'different'. His relationship with Joel is beautiful; everything about this book is beautiful!

Even Rebekah's behaviour in the story is wholly believable; even if I did want to shake her. But the emotions felt by everyone involved in the story are true and captured here with great skill, drawing the reader into the lives of Dawn and her family.

Thank you Catherine, for a truly mesmerising read.

You can buy All That is Left of Us here and at other retailers

About the Author:

When Catherine Miller became a mum to twins, she decided her hands weren't full enough so wrote a novel with every spare moment she managed to find. By the time the twins were two, Catherine had a two-book deal with Carina UK. There is a possibility she has aged remarkably in that time. 

Catherine was a NHS physiotherapist, but for health reasons (Uveitis and Sarcoidosis) she retired early from this career. As she loved her physiotherapy job, she decided if she couldn't do that she would pursue her writing dream. It took a few years and a couple of babies, but in 2015 she won the Katie Fforde bursary, was a finalist in the London Book Fair Write Stuff Competition and highly commended in Woman magazine's writing competition. Soon afterwards she signed with Carina. Soon after that, she collapsed in a heap and was eventually revived by chocolate.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Book Review: The Deadline by Jackie Kabler

This weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of The Deadline, the second novel by TV presenter and author Jackie Kabler, and I also received an advanced copy to review. 

The Blurb
Cora Baxter is back - and this time, she's facing the most important deadline of her career...
When TV reporter Cora Baxter attends the scene of a murder in a London park, she's horrified to discover the victim is someone she knows and devastated when one of her best friends is charged with the crime. Suddenly the fun-filled life of Cora and her eccentric camera crew takes a darker turn.
Cora is convinced that her friend is innocent, but with seemingly solid evidence, the police investigation team reluctantly led by Cora's boyfriend DCI Adam Bradberry believe the case is closed.
With a trail of clues that leads all the way to New York, can Cora find out the truth before the trial begins or is it already too late?
The Deadline is the second in the hugely popular Cora Baxter Mysteries series by acclaimed broadcaster Jackie Kabler.
My Review

My review is a little late, the book being published on 20th October, so I missed my deadline (see what I did there?). But I have finished it now, and I can honestly say it is brilliant!

I haven't read the first in this crime series, but this second book reads well as a stand-alone story, with the author filling in necessary points from Cora's first adventure without giving it away. Hence I will be reading The Dead Dog Day shortly.

I remember Jackie's humour from her days as roving reporter on GMTV, and I was pleased to see it shining through this did-she-or-didn't-she-and-if-not-then-who-did tale. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, which, I am told, are based on true events which have happened either to Jackie herself or her colleagues. These funny moments keep the pace up, balancing out the more serious aspects of the story.

It's a crime thriller, but the overriding theme for me was that of friendship. Cora has strong friendships here; between her and her studio team, Sam, Alice & Wendy; her friends from back home, Rosie and Nicole; and the brilliant camardarie within her reporting team, Nathan, Rodney and Scott. I particularly love the way Sam's work colleagues all join forces to help Cora in her quest to prove Sam's innocence.

It's well-plotted and the dialogue flows naturally between the well-rounded characters. The climax of the story is jaw-dropping, and perhaps a little stretch of the imagination, but what the hell, this is fiction! It is fun, set in the world of live TV where anything can happen (and frequently does) and is a tightly written, fast pace story. I look forward to reading more of intrepid reporter/investigator Cora's adventures.

The Deadline is published by Accent Press and is available from AmazonWaterstones and other retailers.

The Author

Jackie Kabler spent 20 years as a journalist, starting in newspapers and then moving into TV as a reporter and newsreader. She is most famous for her time on GMTV, where she covered major stories such as the Soham murders and the 2004 tsunami, and also worked for ITV news and BBC Midlands. Jackie now works for QVC and lives between London and Gloucestershire.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Blog Tour & Book Review: Medea's Curse by Anne Buist

The Blurb:
Forensic psychiatrist Natalie King works with victims and perpetrators of violent crime. She rides a Ducati a size too big and wears a tank top a size too small. Likes men but doesn’t want to keep one. And really needs to stay on her medication.
Now she’s being stalked. Could it be a hostile former patient? Or someone connected with a current case?
Natalie doesn’t know. And with another missing child case on her desk, the time for answers is running out.
My Review:

Thank you to the publisher and author for the ARC.

This is a fast paced novel which kept me turning the pages. There were a lot of terms relating to the Mental Health profession which I am not familiar with, and I have to admit I found myself skipping over these parts, but the story is excellent. I did wonder how I was going to cope with reading about women who kill their children, but it was dealt with in a very sympathetic way and shows that no one's story is black and white. The tension builds throughout as we try to work out who is stalking Natalie.

Natalie is a fantastic character, with many flaws. She is a unreliable 'witness', dealing with her own demons, and seeing how her moods affect her and those around her is interesting. She doesn't always make the best decisions, and watching her deal with the fall-out is fascinating.

The other characters in the book are equally as well-rounded, from the love interest to the women prisoners. Seeing how some of these women could be seen as victims themselves is heartbreaking.
I look forward to reading more stories about Natalie King.

About the Author:
Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and has over 25 years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry working on cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder.

She has published ten erotic romance- suspense novels under the pseudonym Simone Sinna. She is married to novelist Graeme Simsion and has two children.

Twitter: @anneebuist

You can buy Medea's Curse here (other retailers are available!).

Friday, 30 September 2016

Blog Tour: The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne

Today I'm excited to be part of the Blog Tour for this menacing thriller, The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne. First of all, Abigail answers some questions on her main character, then you can read my review.

The Blurb: 
Manipulated by fear and love…could you cut the strings and take back control?
Billie’s hiding from the world, believing it to be the only way to take control of her life as she lives in fear of the man who nearly destroyed her. But what she doesn’t realise that she’s exactly where he wants her; isolated and afraid. A chance meeting with budding journalist Adam sparks a relationship that could free her from the terror that controls her. But will Adam be able to see the real Billie buried under her terror and pain?
Adam knows exactly who Billie is and is determined to expose her and get justice for the lives she ruined. But first, he needs to convince her to open up to him but as unwanted attraction and feelings blossom between them, Adam is forced to realise that all is not as it seems. Most of their lives have been unknowingly governed by the desires and needs of someone who considers himself their master. He has influenced and shaped them for years, meticulously weaving a web of lies and control around them. Can Billie and Adam survive the betrayals in store and cut the strings that bind them?
One thing is for sure. The master wants his puppets back – and he’ll do anything to keep them
Welcome to my blog, Abigail. Can you tell us five favourite things about your protagonist, Billie?

Hello, thanks for having me today! I really enjoyed answering this and exploring my protagonist with you.

1. Hidden Strength

Although Billie thinks she is weak and afraid, she also has a hidden strength. She could quite easily have given up and headed down a dark path, but instead, she has a job and is trying her best to live. She has been betrayed in the worst possible way, but it hasn’t made her a bad person. Some people when they have been bullied, they become bullies themselves, but she still retains her morals and her spirit, even if it is buried away for safe keeping.

2. Her sensitivity

I love that Billie is so sensitive, she feels things so deeply, and it makes her a really enjoyable character to write. I didn’t have to hide who she is because really, she is an open book once you get to know her. She cares so much about the people that she chooses to love.

3. Her bravery

Billie is a very brave girl. She suffers at the hands of someone so evil, but she still fights and refuses to let him ruin her life. Yes she cuts herself off from the world, but she is still living, still not giving him the satisfaction of destroying her completely.

4. Her taste in pets

Billie is a cat lover just like me (I wonder how that happened). Bobby is her world and best friend in some respects. He fulfils the deep-seated need she has to love someone and take care of them.

4. Her intellect

Billie is vulnerable and fearful but by no means is she stupid. She has a massive knowledge base from all the time she has spent reading. She is a wonderful conversationalist when she gets to know you, especially if you mention books.

Thank you for a 

My Review

What a powerful debut, tackling some serious themes with sensitivity and care. Abigail has managed to get right into the core of her characters. Billie is damaged; through no fault of her own, and Adam, on the surface wants to help her - or does he have an ulterior motive?

The book deals with difficult themes of which no one likes to think about, but Abigail has bravely created a believable story which, although hard to read at times due to the emotions involved, draws you into the characters' minds.

The reactions of Billie's family is heartbreaking, but true to life, but Billie shows herself to have more strength and resilience than she could believe in being able to make a fresh start. Then she meets Adam, and slowly she finds herself falling in love with him.

Against his better judgement, Adam finds himself falling for Billie too, and he has to come to terms with the lies he has been told. 

Both have been manipulated by someone so sinister and twisted; again as in real life, we are shown how duplicitous and controlling one person can be.

Abigail has done a great job of telling a difficult story.  

About the author

Abbie was born in the Lake District and has moved all around the UK since then until she met her husband at University. She lives with him and their two crazy cats in the West Midlands. She is a Needs Assessor for students with disabilities and has her own book reviewing blog called Many Books, Many Lives. Even though she did English Literature at University it wasn't until she started reviewing books that she realised how much she loved to write. The Puppet Master is her first novel but it certainly won't be her last. 

You can follow her on @Abigail_Author or @MBequalsML.

Information about the Book 

Title: The Puppet Master 
Author: Abigail Osborne 
Genre: Adult Romance 
Publisher: Self-Published 
Format: Ebook and Paperback 
Published: 30th August 2016 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Blog Tour: Lost in Static by Christina Phillipou

Sometimes growing up is seeing someone else's side of the story.

Four stories. One truth. Whom do you believe?

Callum has a family secret. Yasmine wants to know it. Juliette thinks nobody knows hers. All Ruby wants is to reinvent herself.

They are brought together by circumstance, torn apart by misunderstanding. As new relationships are forged and confidences are broken, each person's version of events is coloured by their background, beliefs and prejudices. And so the ingredients are in place for a year shaped by lust, betrayal, and violence...

Lost in Static is the gripping debut from author Christina Philippou. Whom will you trust?
Thank you to the author and publisher for the ARC and the opportunity to participate on the Blog Tour.

University life. A chance, to make a fresh start, to make new friends - and new enemies. 

The story is told in first person point of view; with each of the major characters getting to put forward their version of events. It's cleverly done; once I realised that each scene was being described by each character in turn, so there was a little bit of a sense of travelling back in time to the beginning of each scene/incidence. It was interesting to see each person's perspective, making it easy to see how misunderstanding can happen so easily, and proving that we cannot know what is going on in someone else's mind. Never assume you know what someone is thinking!

It's interesting to see how different people react to others when placed in a rarefied situation like university. It was an uncomfortable read at times, with characters not reacting as I presumed, but this is in no way a criticism; it makes for a great read with it's twists and turns.

A great debut novel, and I look forward to reading more by Christina.

Lost in Static is available from, amongst others, Amazon UK, Amazon US, and direct from the publisher, Urbane Publications.

Author Bio

Christina Philippou’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static is her first novel.

Christina is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative, Britfic.

You can connect with Christina on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Book Review: Strictly My Husband by Tracy Bloom

Today I'm excited to be joining the Strictly My Husband Promo Party in association with Brook Cottage Books! And you know how I like to party.

So get your sequins on and shimmy and salsa your way through my review...

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.
The Blurb:
Laura loves it when Tom takes her for a late night tango around the kitchen after their friends have gone home and they’re avoiding the washing up. She can’t dance but who cares when no one is watching?
All that changes when Tom arrives on the doorstep with Carly, a professional dancer, and announces he’s offered her the spare room to rent while she performs in a show that Tom is directing.
An outraged Laura doesn’t feel like dancing with Tom anymore but Carly does. It only takes two to tango, and given Tom’s history who knows where it could end? Will Laura be the one left watching from the sidelines whilst Carly waltzes off with her husband’s heart?
Couples who dance together stay together – or do they?

My Review:

Strictly My Husband is a glitter ball of a read which doesn't miss a step, with loads of chuckles which keep you laughing. 

I found the main character rather annoying, although we all know the jealous type! To be fair, I think I'd be pretty pissed off if my husband invited someone to stay without consulting with me. But Laura's jealousy seems to take her over. After all, it takes two to Tango...

Carly is talented and beautiful, everything Laura feels she's not, but I didn't find much depth to the character; she was just a bit too sickly sweet. She did seem to fawn over Laura's husband Tom, but I think I expected a bit more to happen with this character.

There was also a couple in an unhappy marriage, with neither partner appearing to admit to their problems. Hannah is tired of Jerry's constant ogling and spending; he thinks she is a killjoy.  I found their issues were resolved in quite a sweet way, if a little too nice for real life

My favourite character is Amy, Tom's acerbic assistant. She has the courage to say what everyone else is thinking - she's great.

The story has a good pace to it, and is full of natural flowing dialogue. It's told from several of the characters POV, which gives some insight into their thoughts and feelings. This shows how differently people can perceive a situation to great effect - seeing Tom's version of events vs Laura's is often hilarious.

This book is pure light-hearted escapism.

You can buy Strictly My Husband here (other retailers are available...)

Tracy Bloom – The Low Down

Tracy Bloom was born quite a while ago, is average to short in height, buys clothes based on their ability to hide stuff rather than show stuff, has chemically enhanced hair and wishes she had kept her braces in longer as a teenager. But apart from that she is really happy to try and describe herself! 

Tracy has always liked to say it how it is in her writing, right from when she began her first novel NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY nearly ten years ago. Her insight and wit has led her to be a number one bestseller, published in over a dozen countries and twice winner of the Love Stories Awards for Best Author Published Romance.

Twitter: @TracyBBloom

Goodreads Author Page:

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Book Review: The Art Teacher by Paul Read

The Blurb: 
Patrick Owen managed seven years at Highfields Secondary School without punching a pupil in the face.
Unknowingly drawn into a war against his own pupils, Patrick's patience finally snaps as he finds himself the number one target with the boy the school just can't seem to expel.
When one of his Art students needs his help, she unwittingly pulls Patrick further into the line of fire, altering their lives forever.
With the media circling and rumours of his involvement reaching new highs, Patrick must escape the world he lives in, or face the consequences.
My Review:

Thank you to Legend Press for the advanced copy of this unbelievably good book.

Poor Patrick. Things are pretty crappy for him - and they are about to get a whole lot worse.

Once a semi-successful rock-star, Patrick is now an Art teacher at rough inner city school and lives on his own in a flat nearby. The kids are fearsome, the teachers weak, and Patrick feels helpless as he gets no support from his peers. It's a place full of people who lack respect for anyone.

It's a frightening but highly compelling read - I read it in two sessions, terrified at what was surely going to happen. The fear of walking alone in the dark in a dodgy area is brought to life on the pages, causing your heartbeat to increase and sweat to appear on your brow as if you were there under threat yourself.

The menace of the gang culture, of the lack of authority - it's all there in bucket-loads of visceral prose, so well written it's hard to believe this is Paul Read's debut. It's an intelligent thriller, a work of literary fiction but not to the exclusion of people like me!

Marks out of 5: 5. Well done, Paul. Keep up the good work!

You can buy The Art Teacher here (other retailers are available).

The Author:

After gaining a first in Fine Art at the Kent Institute of Art and Design at Canterbury, Paul Read moved to London, finding employment at Foyles bookshop before becoming a teacher. He has worked in several inner-city schools as an Art, English and supply teacher, both in England and Italy. He received a distinction from City University London for his creative writing MA.

A few years ago, Paul was involved in a hit-and-run incident which put him in a wheelchair for several months and was where he wrote the first draft of The Art Teacher. He lives with Patricia and their two children.

Follow him on Twitter: @paulreadauthor

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Book Review: Second Time Around by Colette Caddle

After a freak accident and eight weeks in a coma, Suzie Connors’ family are elated when their adored mother finally wakes up absolutely fine. Except she’s not.
Blissfully unaware of her children’s shock at having to deal with the changes in their mum, Suzie has had a wake-up call and intends to live life to the full, with or without their approval. Then her youngest daughter, Sharon, is faced with some major issues of her own and the one person she would have turned to – her mother – is no longer there for her.
An emotional story about family, second chances and what happens when, in the blink of an eye, life changes forever …

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for my copy of this book.

It's quite a well-known fact that head injury can result in personality changes, and this affects not only the injured person but also those closest to them. The effect of the change in Suzie's behaviour causes shock and upset to her family and friends in different ways. 

Colette describes the horror and torment suffered by a family when a loved one is in hospital very well. That feeling of being in limbo, of not knowing if your loved one will die, or to what extent they will be affected. It is exhausting, both physically and mentally. Then when Suzie does wake up, the torment isn't over by any means as they all have to learn to adjust to the 'new' Suzie.

The story is told from multiple points of view, which shows how each person is affected by Suzie's injury to great effect. 

Suzie has lost her ability to filter her thoughts and what comes out of her mouth, often to quite humorous effect. She is struggling with her memory - who should she trust to tell her the truth about her past? 

Jess feels she has to carry the responsibility of looking after her mother; but she has problems of her own when her love life and work life collide. 

Jess's sister, Sharon, has it tough - her husband cannot connect with their son, Bobby, and now Suzie, who always adored her grandson, makes her thoughts on Sharon's mollycoddling perfectly clear. So clear that Bobby thinks his granny doesn't like him - a heartbreaking thing for any child. But deep down Sharon knows there's more to Bobby's behaviour than naughtiness - she just needs to admit it. Caddle's writing deals with this with a great deal of empathy.

Suzie's son, Noel, has the struggle of uni exams to cope with as well as his mother's erratic behaviour. He can't even confide in his best friend Cal, who is bewildered by Noel's distance.

Cal is my favourite character - he brings a lot of sense to everyone around him, not least Jess and Bobby.

As for the worst character - it has to be a toss-up between Suzie's sister Mandy, a conniving, jealous woman - no one else can believe it when she claims to be a loving sister, helping Suzie; and Jess's lover/boss Louis, who just makes my skin crawl!

Second Time Around is a heart-warming read about second chances, family and friendship. I loved it.

You can buy Second Time Around here (other retailers are available...).

Book Review: Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriaty

Despite their differences, Erika and Clementine have been best friends since they were children. So when Erika needs help, Clementine should be the obvious person to turn to. Or so you'd think.
For Clementine, as a mother of a two desperately trying to practise for the audition of a lifetime, the last thing she needs is Erika asking for something, again.
But the barbecue should be the perfect way to forget their problems for a while. Especially when their hosts, Vid and Tiffany, are only too happy to distract them.
Which is how it all spirals out of control...

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Michael Joseph, for the ARC.

I was looking forward to reading this after The Husband's Secret, but I have to say I didn't enjoy it as much. I don't like leaving negative reviews, but I found the characters self-absorbed and, frankly, annoying. However, the relationships between the characters - marriage, friendships old and new, and mere acquaintances are interesting if a little over-thought.

The hook of the story - what actually did happen at the BBQ - is drawn out for far too long. In it's favour, the reveal was not what I expected, and it was heartbreaking and edge of the seat stuff. It's just a shame that the effect of this was diluted by taking so long to get there. The story was very slow in parts - I think it's the pace that lets it down.

That all said, I would still read another of this author's books.

You can buy Truly Madly Guilty (and Liane's better books) here (other retailers are available) 

Book Review: Untouchable Things by Tara Guha

For the third time this week he is watching her scream. Watching, not listening.
Rebecca Laurence is centre stage and shining in her role as Ophelia. She pivots, rotating like a ballerina impaled in a musical box, red hair cascading down her back.
Consumed by loss and surrounded by secrets, Rebecca must escape the grip of the Folly to have any chance of saving herself. Meanwhile, one man continues to watch.
Amidst the thundering applause, one man is watching. Rebecca meets the charismatic Seth Gardner, and as attraction grows between them, he invites her to join his Friday Folly, a group of artistic friends. But as Rebecca is drawn into the web of tangled relationships all is not as it appears. The scene is set for the night that will rip the group apart.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC - I'm only a year out *ahem*.

What a strange, captivating book. At first I found it hard to follow, but I persevered and found myself utterly compelled. The story is set in scenes and acts and told in multiple points of view, interspersed with brief questions from police interviews. 

The mysterious Seth is at the centre of the story; an enigmatic, charming man who seemingly collects creative misfits and brings them together in an uneasy mishmash of friendship. Tension pulls throughout the book. I read this with a sense of disquiet. The characters are very well drawn and each one is integral to the plot, having multiple sides that aren't quite so pleasant once we get to know them.

As the story goes on, it becomes more and more sinister, but it is impossible to stop reading. Like some of the group of friends, I was suspicious of Seth, but was still drawn to him, despite not knowing anything about him. It's an intriguing, absorbing read of manipulation and human weakness.

You can buy Untouchable Things here (other retailers are available - I should get paid for advertising Amazon!)

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Book Review: The Blackbird Singularity by Matt Wilven

Vince stops taking his lithium when he finds out about his partner's pregnancy. As withdrawal kicks in, he can barely hold his life together.
Somewhere between making friends with a blackbird in the back garden and hearing his dead son's footsteps in the attic, he finds himself lost and alone, journeying through a world of chaos and darkness, completely unaware of the miracle that lies ahead.
Thank you to Lucy at Legend Press for the ARC of this fabulous, thought provoking novel.

The story is divided into the three trimesters of Lyd's new pregnancy. Vince had been diagnosed with Bipolar after the devastating loss of his and partner Lyd's first child. Vince had suffered an intense breakdown, and is held together by both Lyd and lithium.

The Blackbird Singularity is an intense but very readable story. I was drawn into Vince's mind from the very beginning, and his determination to escape the numbing of his drugs, Unmonitored withdrawal from medication is not advised as the effects can be traumatic in themselves. Vince is terrified Lyd will find out - her condition for staying in the relationship was that Vince continues with his medication.

Vince builds a 'relationship' with a visiting blackbird, and becomes obsessed with it. His mind 'clears' as the comfort of the lithium wears off, though to others around him his behaviour is more erratic. We get a colourful insight into the mind of an ordinary man trying to make some sense of the insanity he is going through.

There's some rather mind-blowing scientific paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter; some are beautiful descriptions of nature but some lost me, with my non-scientific brain. I'm still no wiser as to what an event horizon is, or even what singularity means. But Vince's story is compelling as we watch him deal with Lyd's new pregnancy. It's heartbreaking in parts; the scratching in the attic had me holding my breath.

The Blackbird Singularity was published on 1st August - this review is a little late due to my own foray into a depressive episode, which has perhaps made this book resonate with me. I think anyone who has suffered loss or depression or has known someone who has - and lets face it, most of us have experienced both in some form - will find this book utterly compelling.

You can buy the book here (other retailers are available!), and you can find out more about the author here