Book Review

Ash Mountain – Helen Fitzgerald

Today I am joining the blog tour for the brilliant Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald. Many thanks to Helen, Orenda Books, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours, for inviting me to be a part of the tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.

She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.

As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…

Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that you will never forget…

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Ash Mountain Cover Image

REVIEW:

From reading the blurb, I had assumed that Ash Mountain would be a family saga type novel, with secrets being revealed, rifts being healed, and the bushfire providing a little bit of background drama to it all. I was right in part, but my goodness was I wrong about the fire. It is almost a character in its own right as it advances on the town, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

Ash Mountain flits back and forth between the day of the fire, the days leading to the fire, and events thirty years previously, as we get to know Fran and her dysfunctional family. Everything about their stories and experiences feels very raw as they come to terms with their new lives, and, for Fran at least, the memories that returning to Ash Mountain stirs up. This human story on its own would be enough to keep me gripped by this book, as Helen creates a community of strong, relatable characters.

Like many other people, I watched the news of the recent bushfires in Australia, and I thought I had an understanding of what it was like over there, but this book brings the reality to life in ways that no news story did. Helen Fitzgerald captures the raw terror caused by an unstoppable, deadly fire in a way that caused an almost visceral reaction in me. It was painful to read about the utter destruction of lives, homes, wildlife, as the fire rips through the area.

In Ash Mountain, Helen Fitzgerald captures something that would previously have been unimaginable for people who haven’t lived through it and makes it real. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Helen Fitzgerald Author PicHelen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.

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Book Review

Winter’s Gift – Florence Keeling

I am delighted to be welcoming Florence Keeling back to my blog today, as I join the blog tour with a review of Winter’s Gift. Many thanks to Florence, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for providing me with a copy of the book, and for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

Bea Winters is in desperate need of a fresh start. Being bullied at work is not her idea of fun and she longs to follow her dream of becoming a published author. When an advert appears in her local paper to work in a publishing house in the sleepy village of Bloomsdale, it sounds too good to be true.  

She strikes up an instant friendship with gorgeous aspiring author, Eddie Richards and her dashing millionaire boss Scott Summers 

But all isn’t as it seems in the sleepy village of Bloomsdale.

How does the local clairvoyant know her name? Who does the little black dog that keeps appearing belong to and why does she keep bumping into the mysterious Charlie?  

As she starts to unravel the truth, it seems that everyone in Bea’s life is keeping secrets.  

An uplifting romantic comedy that will warm your heart – perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Milly Johnson and Carole Matthews.  

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Winter's Gift Cover

REVIEW:

I am a fan of Florence Keeling in all her writing guises. There is something that I find deeply soothing about her writing, and her books put me in mind of Cecelia Ahern. Winter’s Gift was no exception to this, and I was quickly caught up in Bea’s life.

As Bea makes her escape from possibly the worst co-worker ever and relocates to idyllic Bloomsdale for the job of her dreams, we are treated not only to beautiful countryside but also a cast of characters that exude such warmth that it is impossible not to be swept away by their lives. Each character is relatable in their own way, although there were a couple of took me by surprise over the course over the book and made me change my opinion of them.

I am not a huge reader of romantic comedy (although strangely it is my “go to” genre in films), but Winter’s Gift is such a feel good book and was exactly the book I needed to read at the moment, and the sprinkling of magic just made it all the more perfect. It even had me wishing for a canal boat of my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Florence Keeling adopted for her pen-name her Great Grandmother’s name, chosen because of the shared birthday of April Fool’s Day.  She is married with two teenage chidren.  Born and raised in Coventry, England she now lives just outside in Nuneaton.  Reflected Destinies is her first novel.

Florence Keeling also writes for children under the name of Lily Mae Walters.

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Book Review

A Creak On The Stairs – Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

I have a fantastic Icelandic thriller for you all today as I join the blog tour for A Creak On The Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir. Many thanks to Eva, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours, for inviting me to be a part of the tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

The first in the electrifying new Forbidden Iceland series, The Creak on the Stairs is an exquisitely written, claustrophobic and chillingly atmospheric debut thriller by one of Iceland’s most exciting new talents.

When the body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day…

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.

Creak on the Stairs Cover

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

One of my biggest fears is hearing a noise from within the house when I know that I am the only one home. Because of this, A Creak on the Stairs felt incredibly sinister and chilling to me from the very first sentence. Eva Björg Ægisdóttir perfectly captures the claustrophobic feelings that sometimes come from life in a small town where everyone knows everyone. Add to this the long nights and freezing temperatures of an Icelandic winter and you have the perfect recipe for an incredibly atmospheric, gripping noir thriller.

There are a lot of characters to get to know in this book, and at first I must admit I struggled a little to keep them straight in my head. Unless your Icelandic is better than mine, I heartily recommend keeping a snap of the name pronunciation list at the beginning of the book close at hand. It didn’t take long though before I was drawn into each character’s individual story as they are all so beautifully developed, and there is not a single character who comes across as two dimensional or surplus to requirements. I found I had a very vivid image of each of them in my mind after a few chapters.

As secrets are uncovers and revelations made, A Creak on the Stairs moves from a crime thriller to a more emotional, and at times heartbreaking story where there are no winners. I very much look forward to reading more of Eva’s books.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir Author PicBorn in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.

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Book Review

Reckless – Gemma Rogers

Today I am joining the blog tour for the thriller novel, Reckless by Gemma Rogers. Many thanks to Gemma, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part in the tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

English teacher Izzy Cole wanted a fresh start.

A new town, a new home, a new school.

But when sixth former Nicky Stevens sets his sights on her, he begins to reel her in at a time when she’s most vulnerable. Soon Izzy is risking her family, her career and her life as she finds Nicky wants more than she ever planned to give.

PURCHASE LINKS:

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Reckless_ Gemma Rogers_ Final

REVIEW:

Reckless is a cleverly thought out thriller, and I certainly got a lot more than I bargained for when I sat down to read it. It is not filled with the multitude of twists and turns that a lot of thrillers seem to feel the need for these days, but this is not a bad thing. Knowing the “enemy” as it were means that you can become totally absorbed in the sinister, malevolent feel of the book without having half your attention on trying to figure out what is going on.

The two main characters posed something of an issue for me, as I found I quickly formed quite opposite opinions about them, and I am not entirely sure if these were the opinions that the author was aiming for.

On the one hand, we have Izzy, the main character, who, in all honesty, I struggled to like, never mind feel any sympathy for. For a large part of the book, I just wanted to shake her. Maybe it is because I am a similar age to her, and maybe it is because my oldest friend is an English teacher, but I struggled with the serious of insanely bad decisions she made, and the way in which she justified them to herself.

One the other hand, there is Nicky. Manipulative, narcissistic, and maybe even bordering on psychopathic, I found him to be a fascinating character and reading about him was utterly compelling. With Nicky, I found a character who I wanted to know more about, and although we discovered something of his past in Reckless, I would love to know the full story there, as well as what happens to him beyond the end of the book.

Despite my totally opposing feelings about the two main characters, or perhaps because of them, I found Reckless to be a gripping read, and I couldn’t wait to see how events unfolded.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gemma Rogers 2Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Stalker was her debut novel and marked the beginning of a new writing career. Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband, two daughters and bulldog Buster.

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Book Review

Josie James & The Velvet Knife – Lily Mae Walters

It’s time to return to Suncroft for my second review of the day, Josie James & The Velvet Knife by Lily May Walters. My thanks to Lily Mae and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of today’s blog blitz, and for providing me with a copy of both this book, and The Teardrops of Summer.

BLURB:

“For you to find the Velvet Knife, you must solve the riddles thrice.” A mysterious hooded figure, known only as the Velvet Knife has appeared in the cursed village of Suncroft. No one knows who he is or what he wants but when he starts leaving riddles around the village, it is time for Josie to return to Suncroft for a second time.

With Asher, her faithful husky Protector by her side, Filan, a half elf, and her great grandad, will they be able to solve the clues in time and discover his identity? The Velvet Knife is not the only one causing problems for Josie. Her rival for the position of the ‘Chosen One’ continues to grow stronger, and now he has a Protector of his own.

What does all this mean for Josie? Is she destined to lift the wintery curse of Suncroft or will another take her place as the ‘Chosen One’?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

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REVIEW:

The Velvet Knife sees the return of Josie to her great-grandmother’s beautiful cottage for a few weeks of the summer holidays. Although this is book two of the series, Lily Mae Walters has created a clever way of recapping enough of book one for this to work as a standalone, as Josie slowly recovers her hidden memories of the previous summer.

Whilst the mysterious Velvet Knife seems to present a new threat to the harmonious lives of the Suncroft villagers, the strange curse of eternal winter still engulfs the village, with the mystery of Josie’s true identity, and Asher’s purpose as her Protector, continuing throughout the book.

Conclusions I had reached during The Teardrops of Summer were turned on their heads in this book, as characters I thought could be trusted turned out to maybe have another side. Other characters , such as the Dream Maker, who I had distrusted at first sight, just became more sinister the more I read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel as we delved more deeply into the secrets of Suncroft, and started to see more ways that Josie’s life as The Chosen One was starting to leak into her other life as an ordinary teenager. I am very much looking forward to reading the next book and I am hoping I won’t have to wait too long!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lily Mae Walters chose her pen name in honour of her beloved grandparents who also stare in the Josie James series.

She is married with two teenage children, and two huskies that are the inspiration behind Murphy and Asher in the books.

Lily Mae lives in Nuneaton, England and finds herself using local  places and even her old school in her stories.

Family and friends mean the world to Lily Mae and many will find themselves popping up throughout the series.

Lily Mae also writes for adults under the name of Florence Keeling.

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Book Review

Josie James & The Teardrops of Summer – Lily Mae Walters

In the first of a double bill of reviews today, here are my thoughts on Josie James & The Teardrops of Summer, the first book in the Josie James series by Lily Mae Walters.

BLURB:

Josie James is an ordinary 13 year old until something extraordinary happens during her summer holidays.Whilst staying at her Great Grandmother’s cottage in the country she finds herself swept into the cursed world of Suncroft where it is perpetual winter.Her new friends believe she could be the Chosen One who it is foretold will lift the curse, but there are more pressing matters.The Teardrops of Summer – magical crystals that render the owner immortal – have been stolen. Along with her telepathic husky-dog Protector Asher and her new friends, Josie must race to find the Teardrops and prevent catastrophe for their world.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

As I read this book, with Josie’s idyllic life and her great-grandmother’s quintessential English country cottage with it’s hidden gate, I was swept away on a wave of nostalgia. This book evokes similar feelings that I remember from reading The Chronicles of Narnia and The Secret Garden as a child. There is just something so magical about it, even before Josie finds her way to Suncroft.

Despite their situation, living in a world of endless winter, and perpetual night, the people of Suncroft seem much more content with their lives than those of us in the real world. The simple lives they lead away from the stresses and strains of modern life and technology felt deeply appealing as I read this book during the current pandemic situation. Everything about Suncroft was the perfect escape that I needed.

Lily Mae Walters has created a fascinating world, so full of secrets and mystery just waiting to be uncovered, and much the same as Harry Potter, I can see the readers of this series growing up with Josie as they rejoin her adventures each summer.

Oh by the way, you are going to want to make sure you already have book two ready to read as soon as you finish this one, because the way it ends will leave you desperate to know more!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lily Mae Walters chose her pen name in honour of her beloved grandparents who also stare in the Josie James series.

She is married with two teenage children, and two huskies that are the inspiration behind Murphy and Asher in the books.

Lily Mae lives in Nuneaton, England and finds herself using local  places and even her old school in her stories.

Family and friends mean the world to Lily Mae and many will find themselves popping up throughout the series.

Lily Mae also writes for adults under the name of Florence Keeling.

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Pop back later today when I will be reviewing book two in this fab series, Josie James and The Velvet Knife.

Book Review

Magical Intelligence – M.K. Wiseman

Today I am joining the blog tour for Magical Intelligence by M.K. Wiseman. Many thanks to M.K. for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

When you are a member of Britain’s first team of wizard spies, every mission might be your last. But as the dawning of the 20th century draws ever nearer, magic grows weak. Violectric Dampening, the clash of man-made electricity with the Gifts of magekind, threatens M.I.’s existence. And if that isn’t enough, they’ve now been discharged from their own government. Obsolete. Distrusted.

And now hunted by one of their own.

Myra Wetherby has always feared her so-called fits, strange visions of people and places that she cannot explain. It is the emotional manipulation, however, a strange empathic connection to those around her, which threatens her very sanity. A danger to her family, Myra runs away, falling straight into the hands of the newly ousted Magical Intelligence team. Who just so happen to need an ability like hers.

Which makes Myra one of them . . . whether she likes it or not.

MagicalIntel_FrontCover copy

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Magical Intelligence

REVIEW:

Magical Intelligence is a bit of a tricky book for me to review. When I read the blurb I think I saw the words “wizards” and “magic” and completely bypassed the fact that this was largely a spy novel. Unfortunately, this is a genre that I struggle with, mainly because it completely baffles me and I spend big chunks of the book not having the faintest clue what is going on. That said, this book had the feel of the classic espionage tale, and reminded me of some of the recognised greats in the genre that I have tried to read in the past. If this is a genre that you enjoy I think you will love this book.

Setting my own genre issues aside, I loved the characters in this book, and found each of their personal stories utterly intriguing. I instantly fell for the charming Aidan, but felt equally drawn to mysterious Benjamin too. It was easy to understand Myra’s confusion over the pair.

The magic system that M.K. Wiseman has created is well thought out and original, and I particularly liked the concept that the onset of the modern world would have an adverse effect on the strength of magekind’s powers.

Even though I struggled with the spy side of things, the characters and the magic are more than enough to make me want to read any future books that should come from this universe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

M K Wiseman - promo photo 300 square copy

M. K. Wiseman has degrees in animation/video and library science – both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, her office is a clutter of storyboards and half-catalogued collections of too, too many books. (But, really, is there such a thing as too many books?) When she’s not mucking about with stories, she’s off playing brač or lying in a hammock in the backyard of her Cedarburg home that she shares with her endlessly patient husband.

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