Liar by Lesley Pearse

Liar cover

I have been a fan of Lesley Pearse’s writing for years but I can’t believe it’s almost two years since I last featured her on Linda’s Book Bag here when we were celebrating 25 of her books in 25 years! That’s too big a gap and I’m delighted to be part of this blog tour for Lesley’s latest book Liar by sharing my review today. My thanks to Megan at EDPR for inviting me to participate.

Published by Michael Joseph on 26th June 2020, Liar is available for purchase through the links here.

Liar

Liar cover

In a Shepherd’s Bush bedsit, Amelia White dreams of being a reporter. The closest she’s come is selling advertising in the local paper.

Until the fateful day she stumbles on a truly shocking scoop.

Round the corner from her home, she discovers the body of a murder victim, dumped among the rubbish. When the police and reporters descend, Amelia is horrified at the assumptions made and lies soon to be spread about this poor young woman.

Determined to protect the victim from these smears and help her grieving family, she convinces her paper’s editor to allow her to take up her pen and tell the true story.

But when another body is found and the police investigation stalls, Amelia – uncovering new witnesses and suspects in her search for clues – discovers that she may be the only one with any chance of learning the truth and stopping more killings.

If only she can work out who the liar is . . .

My Review of Liar

Amelia’s life is about to take an exciting turn!

Picking up a book by Lesley Pearse is always a pleasure because I know I’m going to have an entertaining story with interesting characters. Liar is another of those books and I enjoyed it.

There’s a good, twisting plot to Liar that begins in dramatic fashion to hook the reader straight away. I did have to suspend belief a little when following Amelia’s exploits as she investigates murders in her locality, but I think that probably says more about my own lack of bravery in comparison and it certainly didn’t spoil my engagement with the narrative. Indeed, I think Liar would make an excellent Sunday night television series because there are carefully placed dramatic points balanced well by the romantic element of the story, making something for any reader in Lesley Pearse’s customary accessible style.

One aspect that I found incredibly evocative was the sense of the era Lesley Pearse creates. Through reference to real events, the music, clothes and especially the social attitudes there is a definite sense of the time in Liar. I found this aspect surprisingly thought-provoking too as it made me wonder just how much attitudes and lives have really changed.

I thought Amelia was a super heroine. She’s feisty as well as vulnerable and can hold her own even when events conspire against her. She has a level of humanity that is a pleasure to read and yet she isn’t too good to be true. In fact I was occasionally surprised at some of her language! It’s tricky to say too much about the other characters because they are so tightly bound into the plot and I don’t want to spoil the story but let’s just say there is an engaging and compelling cast to get to know.

However, for me, although I was entertained by the narrative it was the themes of Liar that I enjoyed most. Love and relationships, social attitudes and upbringing, policing and wealth and so on, mingle through the prose so that Liar is almost a social study. Reading Liar made me think carefully about what home and safety really mean.

I thought Liar was a great beach style read. I was delighted to lose myself between its pages and very much enjoyed it.

About Lesley Pearse

lesley

Lesley Pearse was told as a child that she had too much imagination for her own good. When she grew up she worked her way through many jobs – from corsetry sales in Cooks of St. Pauls (featured in Dead to Me), to bunny girl to nanny; from gift shop owner to dressmaker – finally finding her true vocation when she became a published author age 49. Since then Lesley has become an internationally bestselling author, with over 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide.

A true storyteller and a master of gripping storylines, there is no set formula for a Lesley Pearse novel although strong heroines and difficult circumstances are pervasive. Whether historical adventures such as Gypsy or Never Look Back or the passionately emotive Trust Me, Lesley is inspired by stories of courage and adversity and often gives voice to women lost in history. She is passionate about her research and her stories have taken her far and wide; from Alaska to the Crimea. Lesley now lives just outside Torquay in Devon where she loves to spend time walking on the beach with her grandchildren and dogs.

A fantastic speaker and committed and passionate fundraiser for the NSPCC, Lesley is a much sought after guest at literary lunches, library events and festivals up and down the country. Lesley was also selected as the first Ambassador for National Libraries Day in 2014.

You can follow Lesley on Twitter @LesleyPearse, and find her on Facebook.

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Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly

Monstrous Souls eBook Cover

My enormous thanks to Peyton Stableford at Agora Books for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Monstrous Souls is was published by Agora on 25th June and is available for purchase here.

Monstrous Souls

Monstrous Souls eBook Cover

What if you knew the truth but couldn’t remember?

Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead. But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain and guilt she’s long kept buried. But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

An addictive thriller about a case gone cold and the dangers lurking on our doorsteps, Monstrous Souls will have you gripped to the very end.

My Review of Monstrous Souls

Heidi’s memory is beginning to return.

I can’t in all honesty say I enjoyed reading Monstrous Souls because it has such dark themes that are so authentically and convincingly conveyed by Rebecca Kelly that I feel highly disturbed and affected by my reading. Monstrous Souls is an important book that transcends entertainment into an incisive and uncomfortable commentary on life for so many children.

The plot of Monstrous Souls is an absolute cracker because the reader is able to uncover the truth at the same time as Heidi, making it a very personal narrative. There’s a brilliantly depicted sense of menace and threat so that I felt quite tense as I read. This darkness and atmosphere is enhanced further by the very vivid descriptions of setting, particularly the beautiful natural images that contrast so well with the more restrained descriptions of violence and abuse. What Rebecca Kelly does so well is to suggest rather than provide all the darker details so that the reader’s imagination runs riot. I thought this technique was excellent.

The cover image represents the themes of the book perfectly. People, places and events are altered by refracted memory and duplicity. Characters have their lives and their identities reassembled by others more powerful in the same way the photograph of the cover appears sliced and manipulated. The themes of Monstrous Souls are not easy ones. Emotional and sexual abuse, control, loyalty, friendship and corruption weave like poison ivy through the plot and they are particularly unsettling because Rebecca Kelly presents then so convincingly. I have finished Monstrous Souls feeling real grief for many of the characters because their stories felt so genuine to me.

I may have felt uncomfortable with the content and themes of Monstrous Souls but I am so glad I have read it. It is, one one level, a cracking crime thriller, but I feel Rebecca Kelly has provided such an understanding of the human psyche too that it is more important a book than an entertaining story. I will be thinking about it for a very long time. I thought it was brilliant.

About Rebecca Kelly

Rebecca Kelly Author Photo

Rebecca Kelly was brought up with books but denied the pleasure of a television. Although she hated this at the time, she now considers it to have contributed to a life-long passion for reading and writing.

After a misspent education, Rebecca had a variety of jobs. She’s spent the last years raising her children but has lately returned to her first love – writing.

Rebecca lives in the UK with her husband and youngest son and an over-enthusiastic black Labrador, who gives her writing tips.

You can follow Rebecca on Twitter @RKellyAuthor1.

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#ChristmasInJuly Cover Reveal: The Christmas Killer by Alex Pine

The Christmas Killer

It always frustrates me when people tell me they can’t contemplate a book with Christmas in the title before December. For me it’s a bit like saying I can’t read a book set in a country I don’t live in, or that I can’t read crime thrillers because I’m law abiding. Therefore I’m delighted to participate in sharing the details for Alex Pine’s The Christmas Killer as I think it looks a corker of a book.

You can follow all the Twitter excitement about The Christmas Killer with by using the hashtag #ChristmasInJuly!

Lets’s find out what’s in store for us:

The Christmas Killer

The Christmas Killer

The Christmas Killer by Alex Pine is the first in new crime series that is sinister, dark and addictive reading! If you love Val McDermid, Ross Greenwood or LJ Ross then you’ll LOVE this thriller!

 

DI James Walker is ready for a quiet family Christmas in the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey.

But when he opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises it is no gift. Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half frozen in the snow.

As the blizzards descend, panic spreads through the remote Cumbrian village – there’s a killer amongst them, and with eleven more victims to go, anyone could be next….

Can James stop the killer before they strike again?

Why not watch the promotional video for The Christmas Killer too:

Published by Harper Collins imprint Avon on 29th October 2020, The Christmas Killer is available for pre-order through the links here.

Into the Tangled Bank by Lev Parikian

into the tangled bank

I love the natural world and whilst my wildlife holidays to far flung places are on hold it has been a real pleasure to discover wildlife through my reading instead. My grateful thanks to Alison Menzies at Elliot and Thompson for sending me a copy of Into the Tangled Bank by Lev Parikian in return for an honest review.

Into the Tangled Bank will be published by Elliot and Thompson on 9th July 2020 and is available for pre-order through these links.

Into the Tangled Bank

into the tangled bank

Lev Parikian is on a journey to discover the quirks, habits and foibles of how the British experience nature. Open a window, hear the birds calling and join him.

It’s often said that the British are a nation of nature lovers; but what does that really mean? For some it’s watching racer snakes chase iguanas on TV as David Attenborough narrates, a visit to the zoo to convene with the chimps; for others it’s a far-too-ambitious clamber up a mountain, the thrilling spectacle of a rare bird in flight.

Lev Parikian sets out to explore the many, and particular, ways that he, and we, experience the natural world beginning face down on the pavement outside his home, then moving outwards to garden, local patch, wildlife reserve, craggy coastline and as far afield as the dark hills of Skye. He visits the haunts of famous nature lovers reaching back to the likes of Charles Darwin, Etta Lemon, Gavin Maxwell, John Clare and Emma Turner to examine their insatiable curiosity and follow in their footsteps.

And everywhere he meets not only nature, but nature lovers of all varieties: ramblers, dog-walkers, photographers; loving couples, striding singles, families; kite-flyers, den-builders, grass-loungers; young whippersnappers, old codgers, middle-aged ne’er-do-wells; beginners, specialists, all-rounders; or just people out for a stroll in the sun.

Warm, humorous and full of telling detail, Into the Tangled Bank puts the idiosyncrasies of how we are in nature under the microscope. And in doing so, it reveals how our collective relationship with nature has changed over the centuries, what our actions mean for nature and what being a nature lover in Britain might mean today.

My review of Into the Tangled Bank

One man’s foray into the world of British nature.

I genuinely think Into the Tangled Bank should be put on prescription for anyone suffering depression or loneliness because it is an absolute tonic of a book that creates happiness in the very soul of the reader. I adored it. My strength of emotional reaction comes partly because it made me feel closer to my much missed Dad. He would have loved every word of Into the Tangled Bank. Dad introduced me to the natural world and he’d have delighted in this book as much as I have. I especially enjoyed the When Nature Changes chapter because John Clare’s Helpston is the next village along from where I live in one direction and Northborough is the next along in another. Reading Into the Tangled Bank gave me a personal, human connection of the kind we all need in these uncertain times.

Into the Tangled Bank is enormously enlightening. I learnt all kinds of facts, not just about wildlife, but people from history, places and  so on – quite frequently through the hugely entertaining footnotes. I think my poor husband wished I’d shut up as I kept reading snippets of information out to him that I’d found unusual, that resonated with me or that I felt described him, never mind Lev Parikian, with absolute precision. I felt I got to know the author as an individual too – and I liked him very much. His frustrations with other humans like ‘Massive Lens Guy’, his conversational style, his self-awareness and his absolutely brilliant writing made me wish I could meet him in real life and chat with him about the book.

Lev Parikian’s writing style is, quite frankly, sublime. It’s beautiful and poetic. It’s realistic and dramatic. He has the ability to convey as much meaning in a two word paragraph as he does in longer sections. It’s engaging and I hadn’t been prepared for how funny it is too. Again the footnotes come into play here where his wry observations, direct appeals to the reader and asides are fabulous. I must confess that I know little about cricket, and the Interlude is less in keeping with the other chapters in Into the Tangled Bank, but I laughed until I wept reading its ending, despite the stark description of the state of the planet.

Into the Tangled Bank is the perfect antidote to the ills of the world because it’s funny, enlightening and very entertaining. It would make a glorious present for any nature lover because it brings alive the world in which we live. It would appeal to any observer of humanity as Lev Parikian’s observations are pithy and insightful and he manages to articulate exactly what so many of us think and feel. Into the Tangled Bank is a glorious book. Don’t miss it.

About Lev Parikian

lev

Lev Parikian is a writer, birdwatcher and conductor. His book Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? was published by Unbound in 2018. He lives in West London with his family, who are getting used to his increasing enthusiasm for nature. As a birdwatcher, his most prized sightings are a golden oriole in the Alpujarras and a black redstart at Dungeness Power Station.

For more information, follow Lev on Twitter @LevParikian or visit his website.

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Evie Epworth

Now, I wasn’t going to read The Miseducation of Evie Epworth yet because I am inundated with books for blog tours. I had invited Matson Taylor to stay in with me to chat about the book instead. However, I thought I’d have a quick look at the first page, got hooked and read the whole book before I knew where I was! Consequently, not only am I staying in with Matson today, but I have a review for you too.

Staying in with Matson Taylor

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Matson. Thanks so much for staying in with me. I rather think I know, but which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Evie Epworth

I’ve brought along my first novel: The Miseducation of Evie Epworth. It’s my only novel so far but I hope in a couple of years I’ll be bringing along a follow up!

I hope so too. Congratulations on this debut Matson. I’ve just read The Miseducation of Evie Epworth and loved it. I can’t wait to see what happens in her life next.

What can we expect from an evening in with The Miseducation of Evie Epworth?

People have been saying how much the book has made them laugh so I think you can expect to get through quite a few tissues! There’ll be lots of tears of laughter and some tears of sorrow too. I wanted the book to be fun but at the same deal with some quite emotional topics, to have a heart as well as raise a smile.

Evie certainly does all those things Matson. I loved it.

You can also expect to meet some very strong female characters – a product, I think, of my Yorkshire upbringing (we’re taught at a very early age who’s the boss!). And food. You should expect lots of food. It’s everywhere in the book – there are even some recipes…

Oh there are. And those women…

What else have you brought with you and why have you brought it?

fruit cake

Well, I’ve mentioned the food already (which, of course, I’ll bring along – I’m a dab hand at all the recipes now after lots of testing) so I’d like to bring another two things along.

setter

One is a dog… any dog! I love dogs. There are a couple of dogs in the book and I really enjoyed writing about them – one of them, Sadie, is based on a real dog and writing about her brought back some lovely memories. The other thing I’d like to bring along is a book about the sixties – the music, the fashion, the films, the tv shows… The book is set in 1962 in a little village in Yorkshire and you can feel what we understand as the 60s getting stronger as the story unfolds. This was one of the key things I wanted to explore in the book – how the sixties didn’t actually start on January 1st 1960 – there was a strange hinterland for a couple of years where the decade still clung on to the 1950s, at least culturally. I like the idea of exploring how a decade ‘grows up’ and finds its identity (just as when we’re growing up there’s a period between being a child and being an adult – and that’s why Evie is 16 1/2 – she’s bang smack in the middle of that age at which we’re trying to work out our own identity).

I couldn’t agree more, Matson. And being a child of the 60s myself I found the era very evocative. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about The Miseducation of Evie Epworth. Before I share my review, let me give blog readers all the details.

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth

Evie Epworth

July, 1962

Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?

The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.

If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.

Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth will be published by Simon and Schuster imprint Scribner on 23rd July 2020 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

My review of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth

Evie isn’t sure who or what she wants to become.

It was a real joy to meet Evie Epworth and to travel back in time to the 1960s. There’s a wonderful authentic feel of the era that not only creates an enjoyment in reading The Miseducation of Evie Epworth but rekindled so many of my own memories that it added an extra layer of magic – and there is even a touch of real magic in the story. Matson Taylor uses music and fashion, television and a vivid depiction of life in a small Yorkshire village so that it is like stepping aboard a time machine and being transported back in time. I loved the Yorkshireness of the narrative too which comes through brilliant dialogue and attitude, and brings everything from the prosaic to the magical in a blend of humour and emotion. I finished reading The Miseducation of Evie Epworth feeling I had had incredible fun. Very few books make me laugh aloud but this one did frequently and I loved it. I may even have shed a small tear too.

Evie herself is a glorious character. Her exploration of identity is what so many of us will have experienced and can relate to, because her narrative voice rings out from the page. As the book came to a close I was completely satisfied by its resolution for Evie, but simultaneously desperate to know what happens next in her life.

The other characters are an eclectic bunch of vivid and varied personalities. I thought the way Matson Taylor brought in Evie’s mother gave her a real presence and the scenes set in the past add a layer of mystery to the read. However, it is Christine who so ignited my reader response. She is utterly awful. I wanted to climb into the pages of the book and do her physical harm! I think it speaks for the quality of Matson Taylor’s writing that he was able to engender such a response.

Indeed, the writing is brilliant. The structure of the novel, the use of upper case letters in unusual places, the variety of sentence length and naturalistic dialogue, the realistic and often surprisingly poetic description all add up to a fabulous read. I even loved the tiny illustrations. There’s a smashing balance of humour and pathos in The Miseducation of Evie Epworth that makes it all the more effective. I thoroughly enjoyed considering the themes of friendship and enmity, love and dislike, education and practicality and so on that are woven through a thoroughly entertaining story. There’s also a strong moral sense behind the writing too that I felt added a layer of depth I wasn’t expecting. To say more would spoil the plot but this is a book to revel in on many levels!

I loved Matson Taylor’s The Miseducation of Evie Epworth because I believed completely in Evie and her life. I was diverted from the cares of the world and taken back to the era of my youth just brilliantly. It was a real joy to read The Miseducation of Evie Epworth and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Matson Taylor

Matson

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team.

Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. Previously, he talked his way into various jobs at universities and museums around the world; he has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers. He gets back to Yorkshire as much as possible, mainly to see family and friends but also to get a reasonably-priced haircut.

He has always loved telling stories and, after writing academically about beaded flapper dresses and World War 2 glow-in-the-dark fascinators, he decided to enrol on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is his first novel.

For more information, follow Matson on Twitter @matson_taylor_ or visit his website. You’ll also find him on Instagram.

If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? by Anatoli Scholz

if cats could talk

Anyone who knows me also knows I am a passionate cat lover so when Ben Cameron at Cameron Publicity asked if I’d like a copy of If Cats Could Talk … Would They Cry? in return for an honest review I couldn’t resist.

If Cats Could Talk … Would They Cry? is available for purchase here.

If Cats Could Talk … Would They Cry?

if cats could talk

On the morning of the 17th, after a particularly sleepful night, Julie Galles woke up to find herself transformed into a cat. Still half asleep, she watched a set of ginger and white paws stretch out on the beige duvet cover and felt every inch of her body yearning for a good scratch. She yawned and shook her head, a set of gray whiskers flickering in the corners of her eyes. Overcome by a sudden tedious thought, she took a gander around the room, followed by a relieved exhale on the note that nothing else had changed. Her little studio apartment was the same she had left it the night before…

If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? introduces Julie Galles. An introvert in an extrovert’s world, Julie is stuck in a rut – until the day she wakes up as a cat. Can a feline perspective help her to reconnect with humanity?

A modern ‘Metamorphosis’ that speaks to the themes of our time – isolation, identity, and desperation for connection. Magical realism with an off-beat charm.

Beautifully illustrated with playful vignettes by Spanish artist Félix Diaz de Escauriaza.

My Review of If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry?

I’m not entirely certain how to review If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? because I found it a really curious read. I’m not sure if I fully understood all its meanings it , but I found it curiously hypnotic so that I had to read it in one sitting.

On one level Anatoli Scholz has produced an entertaining, straightforward narrative (if that can be said of a story where an adult protagonist becomes a cat over night) set within quite traditional boundaries of time, one day, and place, Paris, that is resolved highly satisfactorily. But saying that is to do an injustice to a novella packed with symbolism, allegory and meaning. I found it fascinating. I also thought the illustrations were wonderful because they convey considerable meaning and emotion in their simplicity.

It is Julie’s transformation into a cat that helps the reader develop a clear picture of what she is like as a person. Her emotional distance from meaningful relationships, her attitude to her father, mother and sister, her habitual workaday life are all very prosaic and familiar and yet there is a poignancy that generates real empathy. She needs this curious metamorphosis to understand herself and those around her. I found this a moving aspect of If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry?.

I thoroughly enjoyed the feline elements of If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? too because, as a passionate cat lover, they felt highly authentic to me. Julie’s heightened senses illustrate just what we frequently miss in our daily lives so that not only is this Julie’s story, but it is one from which we can all learn.

If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? is an unusual novella. I suspect my reading has only scratched the surface of its possibilities. The symbolism is intelligent and engaging and I think each reader will bring their own interpretation and understanding. For example, I have no idea if the tunnels of the catacombs were intended to represent rebirth, but that’s what they signified to me. To say too much more about plot and action and my interpretations would spoil the read for others, but it is highly thought provoking.

I found If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? intriguing. It won’t suit all readers but I’d strongly recommend reading it for yourself to find the answer to the title!

About Anatoli Scholz

anatoli

Born in Moscow, Anatoli Scholz was raised and educated all over the western hemisphere, including the US, Germany, and France. When he was growing up his parents received donations from Doctors Without Borders. Now he writes stories about gaps in our societal membrane.

For more information, visit Anatoli’s website or find him on Facebook.

You Don’t Know Me by Sara Foster

You Don't Know me

I’m very fond of a psychological thriller so when Lucy at Legend Press asked me if I’d like to be part of the launch celebrations for You Don’t Know Me by Sara Foster I readily agreed. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Legend Press on 30th June 2020, You Don’t Know Me is available for pre-order here.

You Don’t Know Me

You Don't Know me

Lizzie Burdett was eighteen when she vanished. Noah Carruso has never forgotten her: she was his first crush; his unrequited love. She was also his brother’s girlfriend.

Tom Carruso hasn’t been home in over a decade. He left soon after Lizzie disappeared, under a darkening cloud of suspicion. Now he’s coming home for the inquest into Lizzie’s death, intent on telling his side of the story for the first time.

As the inquest looms, Noah meets Alice Pryce while on holiday in Thailand. They fall in love fast and hard, but Noah can t bear to tell Alice his deepest fears. And Alice is equally stricken, for she carries a terrible secret of her own.

He’s guarding a dark secret, but so is she.

My Review of You Don’t Know Me

Alice and Noah both have secrets.

There’s a really interesting structure to You Don’t Know Me that makes for an entertaining plot. Although there was a little too much about the relationship between Alice and Noah in the early part if the book for my taste, I thoroughly appreciated the way it reflected their need to escape their pasts, and avoid their futures, through a more hedonistic present. It makes the reader fully aware that there is much more to be revealed about both these young people. The use of podcasts to unfold the narrative is a clever device as it unlocks detail for the reader, as well as for the characters, whilst maintaining the suspense. The more I read, the more drawn in I became and I found You Don’t Know Me entertaining.

I thought the attention to detail in the settings was very vivid and found myself transported back to Thailand through Sara Foster’s meticulous appeal to the senses. Food in particular felt realistic and I liked the way it ‘fed’ Alice and Noah’s early relationship in both a literal and metaphorical way. The way the heat of Bangkok mirrors the heat of passion between Alice and Noah emphasises the depth of their feeling. I found the Thai setting very authentic.

The most appealing aspect of Don’t Know Me for me was the exploration of theme. Lizzie’s disappearance illustrates how someone can shape and influence us long after the event and the concept of shame, secrecy and guilt adds depth to the narrative. Don’t Know Me is an intriguing consideration of how we never really know others fully.

I thought Don’t Know Me was an unusual book. It doesn’t fall readily into a particular genre for me as there is romance, intrigue, crime, mystery and a psychological aspect so that it can be read on many levels. I think it’s all the better for being difficult to pigeonhole!

About Sara Foster

author-pic-sara-foster-mid

Sara Foster is the bestselling author of five psychological suspense novels. Born and raised in the UK, she worked for a time in the HarperCollins fiction department in London, before turning her hand to freelance editing, and writing in her spare time. Sara now lives in Western Australia with her husband and two young daughters, and is a doctoral candidate at Curtin University.

You can follow Sara on Twitter @sarajfoster or visit her website for further information.

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You Don't Know Me Blog Tour

Let’s Get Published by Val Penny

Cover Lets Get Published

As many of you know, I have finished a first draft of a novel that I have simply left languishing since. Recently I was part of the cover reveal for Let’s Get Published by Val Penny and so it gives me enormous pleasure to be reviewing a book that might just get me back into writing as well as blogging!

My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. I am delighted to share my review of Let’s Get Published today.

I also have a super guest post from Val celebrating her thriller Hunter’s Chase in a post you can read here.

Let’s Get Published is available for purchase here. Let’s find out more:

Let’s Get Published

Cover Lets Get Published

At last, a book that is easy to read and tells it how it is!

The book was written to assist authors to maximise their success when submitting work to agents or publishers, to help authors consider their priorities and preferences for getting work into print. To advise authors on how to identify the agents and/or publishers they want to approach.

It should also assist with editing their manuscript fully prior to submission. The book offers advice about how to prepare a submission package to give an author the best chance of success.

The road to becoming a successful author is not easy, but it is rewarding. Let this book take you on the journey.

My Review of Let’s Get Published

A practical guide to getting published.

Val Penny’s Let’s Get Published is a really helpful little book that asks essential questions of an aspiring writer and then steers them to the right answers for them. She considers all aspects of writing from identifying readership and defining genre to publicity and drafting, writing a synopsis and submitting. Val Penny does not shy away from difficulties authors may face, such as being too painfully shy to promote their own books by standing in front of a large audience and delivering a speech or reading, and by raising awareness of the reader as a writer she is assisting the road to publication. There’s a piece of advice about writing a synopsis that was a complete lightbulb moment for me, but I’m not going to share it – you’ll have to read Let’s Get Published to find out what it was!

What I enjoyed most about Let’s Get Published was the way Val Penny gives gravitas and status to all forms of writing and all approaches to getting published. Times have changed and self-publication or hybrid approaches are no longer the Cinderella ways to get your book to a reader. Similarly, her use of quotations by and references to, other authors gives excellent kudos to her advice, making for an entertaining as well as informative read.

Let’s Get Published is a little cracker of a book. Eminently readable and packed with hints and tips, Val Penny has a straight-forward, no-nonsense style that creates confidence in her reader. Coupled with the excellent advice given I would heartily recommend Let’s Get Published to any aspiring author because the book is relevant to writers of any genre. I’m just plucking up the courage to send Val’s suggested questions to a beta reader. See you in print!

About Val Penny

author pic 2

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.

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Her crime novels, Hunter’s ChaseHunter’s RevengeHunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fifth novel in the series, Hunter’s Secret, is published by darkstroke. Her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published is available now.

Val Penny has a smashing blog of her own here. You can find more information by following Val on Twitter @valeriepenny and finding her on Facebook.

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From Venice With Love by Rosanna Ley

From Venice with Love

I just adore Rosanna Ley’s writing so I’m thrilled to be part of this blog blast for her latest book, From Venice with Love.

If you’re a regular blog visitor, you’ll know Rosanna Ley features here almost as much as much as I do!

I wrote about having afternoon tea with Rosanna Ley at the Covent Garden Hotel  when Her Mother’s Secret was released in this blog post.

My review of Her Mother’s Secret is here.

I wrote about a fabulous Quercus fiction event here when I came away with an early copy of the The Lemon Tree Hotel. My review of The Lemon Tree Hotel is here.

Rosanna Ley’s Last Dance in Havana was one of my books of the year in 2016 and you can find out all about that here and read my review here.

It was also my huge pleasure to host Rosanna on Linda’s Book Bag when The Little Theatre By The Sea was released and she wrote a glorious guest piece about her travel and research in this post.

So you can see why I was so pleased to be invited to be part of today’s event for From Venice with Love!

From Venice with Love is out today in paperback and is available for purchase through the links here.

From Venice with Love

From Venice with Love

The bestselling author of The Lemon Tree Hotel returns with an enchanting new holiday read about family bonds and following your heart, wherever it might take you…

With her marriage in danger of falling apart, Joanna returns home to the beautiful but dilapidated Mulberry Farm Cottage in rural Dorset, where her sister Harriet is struggling to keep the Farm afloat and cope with their eccentric mother.

When Joanna discovers a bundle of love letters in the attic, written by a watercolourist named Emmy, she is intrigued and sets out to discover Emmy’s true story. Emmy’s letters take Joanna to the picturesque alleyways and bridges of Lisbon, Prague, and the most romantic place of all: Venice – where a whole new magical world seems to unfold in front of her.

Meanwhile, back at Mulberry Farm Cottage, a mysterious prowler adds to Harriet’s problems and interrupts her search for a perfect partner. Will she ever find true love? Where will Emmy’s mesmerising pathway lead? And more importantly, will Joanna and Harriet be able to rescue the cottage and finally be able to re-discover their sisterly bond?

My Review of From Venice with Love

Sisters Joanna and Harriet have some self discovery to make.

It’s an absolute joy to return to a Rosanna Ley novel. I enjoyed From Venice with Love because it took me out of the cares of today’s world into another time and place so completely.

As I have come to expect from Rosanna Ley’s writing, there is a smashing sense of place through her vivid and evocative descriptions so that I could recognise the places in Lisbon, Prague and Venice that I have been to. This added an extra layer of enjoyment as it transported me out of lockdown and enabled me to travel safely, evoking memories I had forgotten. That said, a reader doesn’t have to have any knowledge of the settings in From Venice with Love to be able to visualise them completely because of the quality of the writing.

I loved the plot. There’s a wistfulness and poignancy underpinning the storyline that I found very affecting. Rosanna Ley has blended familiar elements like divorce and financial worries with a more mystical aspect which suggests the power of imagination. The swirling effects of the past ripple into the present, making for a magical and enchanting read that is completely believable.

I found the characters very realistic. I was in love with Owen from the very beginning. Joanna and Harriet could represent sisters in any family and the blend of love and distance between the two of them made me wish I could step into the pages of the book and advise them personally. Harriet is less instantly likeable and that makes her personal development through the story all the more engaging and fulfilling. I  found Emmy, who belongs firmly in the past, a wonderful catalyst for present events. Indeed, reading From Venice with Love made me think more about those in my own past who have shaped who I am today.

The themes of From Venice with Love feel gloriously mature and sensitively presented so that I think there is something for any reader. Rosanna Ley illustrates how marriage, relationships and love are not straightforward and do not always match the public presentation we provide to others, or are given in return. Sibling rivalry, memory, identity, self-acceptance and belonging echo through the pages and for me, that journey of self discovery that Joanna, Harriet and Nicholas all need is beautifully defined, making for an enormously rewarding read.

I really enjoyed from Venice with Love. Rosanne Ley entertained and engaged me completely, distracting me from the cares of today’s world and affording an escapist respite with characters I cared about. What could be better than that?

About Rosanna Ley

author

Rosanna Ley is the bestselling author of novels including Return to Mandalay and The Villa, which sold over 310,000 copies. In February 2015 Return to Mandalay was shortlisted for the RNA Award for the Epic Romantic Novel. She has written numerous articles and short stories for magazines, and her novels have been published in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Lithuania, Turkey and the Czech Republic. The Villa is also published by Quercus in the US.

Rosanna has also worked as a creative writing tutor for over 20 years. She has led courses for colleges and universities in England, and runs her own writing retreats in the UK and abroad in Italy and Spain. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in Creative Writing for Personal Development in order to support this. She also runs a manuscript appraisal service to appraise and mentor the work of new writers.  She is married with children and lives in Dorset.

You’ll find out more about Rosanna Ley on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter @rosannaley. You can also visit her website.

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Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews

Sunny days

My enormous thanks to Millie Seaward at Little Brown for sending me a surprise copy of Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews. I cannot believe it has taken me so long to get round to reading one of Carole’s books, but I’m so glad I’ve now got going.

Published by Sphere on 25th June 2020, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes is available for purchase through these links.

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes

Sunny days

Jodie Jackson is all at sea, in every sense.

On a ferry bound for the Isle of Wight, she’s leaving her London life, her career, and her husband behind. She’d like a chance to turn back the clocks, but she’ll settle for some peace and quiet on her brother Bill’s beautifully renovated houseboat, Sunny Days.

But from the moment Jodie steps aboard her new home, it’s clear she’ll struggle to keep herself to herself. If it isn’t Marilyn, who cleans for Bill and is under strict instructions to look after Jodie, then it’s Ned, the noisy sculptor on the next-door houseboat. Ned’s wood carving is hard on the ears, but it’s made up for by the fact that he’s rather easy on the eyes.

Bustled out of the boat by Marilyn and encouraged to explore with Ned, Jodie soon delights in her newfound freedom. But out of mind isn’t out of sight, and when her old life comes knocking Jodie is forced to face reality. Will she answer the call or choose a life filled with Sunny Days and Sea Breezes?

My Review of Sunny Days and Sea Breezes

Jodie is running away from her problems.

A confession. Although I’ve heard excellent things about Carole Matthews’ writing I have always slightly shied away from her books thinking they might be a bit too lightweight and formulaic for my taste. I have to be completely honest and say I couldn’t have been more wrong. I absolutely adored Sunny Days and Sea Breezes and it is one of my favourite books this year because it is such a lovely book.

Carole Matthews has a wonderfully accessible style, coupled with a fast pace of storytelling that makes Sunny Days and Sea Breezes eminently readable because of her effortless ability to bring complete joy to her reader. Jodie’s problems are by no means trivial and the depth of emotion she is experiencing will resonate with even the hardest hearted reader. Sunny Days and Sea Breezes made me laugh, shed a cheer and actually cheer aloud and raise a triumphant fist into the air. I genuinely could not set this book aside. I ensnared me completely and transported me to the Isle of Wight and Bill’s boat so that I felt a loss when I had finished reading. I’ve always fancied a trip to the Isle of Wight and Carole Matthews has given me a lovely glimpse of what a visit might be like. I also think it’s a sign of a captivating book when I keep wondering what the characters are doing now I’m no longer reading about them.

And what characters they are. Even the most minor character was a real, rounded, individual. I loved the occasional direct approach to the reader by Jodie so that she quickly became a friend I cared about rather than a character in a book. Her first person story is very affecting and I desperately wanted her to have literal and metaphorical colour back in her life. Speaking of colour, in Marilyn Carole Matthews has created a totally relatable, vibrant individual whose vivid depiction leaps from the page. I adored Marilyn’s attitude, her dress sense and her quirky malapropisms because her very presence in Sunny Days and Sea Breezes lifts the heart and soul of the reader. She’s utterly glorious and I rather think I want to be her.

There is, as might be expected, a love story underpinning the narrative which I found maturely written and utterly believable. But Sunny Days and Sea Breezes has so much more to offer too. There are themes of love in many forms, loss and betrayal, friendship and identity that give a human, and indeed humane, depth to the story that I found captivating. Carole Matthews somehow made me feel she had written Sunny Days and Sea Breezes just for me personally.

I honestly cannot stress enough how wrong I was to think Carole Matthews’ writing would not be for me. I truly loved every minute of reading Sunny Days and Sea Breezes because both my heart and mind were fully invested in the story to the extent that I think I may have found a new to me favourite writer. Don’t miss this glorious book. It’s just wonderful.

About Carole Matthews

Carol MAtthews

Carole Matthews is the Sunday Times bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the top ten bestsellers The Cake Shop in the Garden, A Cottage by the Sea, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights, Million Love Songs and Happiness for Beginners. In 2015, Carole was awarded the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award. Her novels dazzle and delight readers all over the world and she is published in more than thirty countries.

For more information, visit  Carole’s excellent website, follow Carole on Twitter @carolematthews and Instagram or find her on Facebook.