In the Blink of an Eye by Jo Callaghan

It was back in July whilst in Harrogate at Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival that I collected a copy of Jo Callaghan’s debut In the Blink of an Eye which has been calling to me ever since.

In the Blink of an Eye was published by Simon and Schuster on 19th January 2023 and is available for purchase through the links here.

In the Blink of an Eye

In the UK, someone is reported missing every 90 seconds.
Just gone. Vanished. In the blink of an eye. 

DCS Kat Frank knows all about loss. A widowed single mother, Kat is a cop who trusts her instincts. Picked to lead a pilot programme that has her paired with AIDE (Artificially Intelligent Detective Entity) Lock, Kat’s instincts come up against Lock’s logic. But when the two missing person’s cold cases they are reviewing suddenly become active, Lock is the only one who can help Kat when the case gets personal.

AI versus human experience.
Logic versus instinct.
With lives on the line can the pair work together before someone else becomes another statistic?

In the Blink of an Eye is a dazzling debut from an exciting new voice and asks us what we think it means to be human.

My Review of In the Blink of an Eye

Can Artificial Intelligence help solve crimes? 

My goodness. In the Blink of an Eye is brilliant. From the dramatic opening the tension mounts inexorably so that it is impossible to stop reading. The pacy, timed and dated chapters add to the sense of speed and excitement and, especially when the italicised chapters are interspersed, there’s a feeling of dread and menace that is all consuming. If I say that I am not a huge fan of police procedural novels, but that I was so enthralled by In the Blink of an Eye that I was compelled to read on and I thought it was outstanding, then you’ll get a sense of the assured, intelligent, well-researched and skilled writing. Jo Callaghan is going to find herself amongst the most lauded crime writers we have.

I thought the AI premise was such a brilliant concept, feeling scarily plausible and highly effective. As Kat and Lock piece together what has happened to Tyrone and Will, the edginess increases so that the reader has a sickening sensation that they will not be the last two young men to vanish. There’s such a thought-provoking consideration of morality threaded through as the catalyst for the narrative so that even when In the Blink of an Eye is finished, it resonates and unsettles the reader. It’s so hard to articulate without spoiling the story for others but Jo Callaghan provides a mature insight into humanity even as she entertains so effectively.

The characters are multi-dimensional and captivating. There’s enough development of Kat and her team, including Lock, to enable the reader to understand them and why they behave as they do, but equally, there’s such scope for future development that Jo Callaghan leaves the reader utterly desperate for another book featuring them. 

Themes embodied in the story are complex, absorbing and challenging, but they are incorporated naturally so that they permeate the reader’s consciousness, making them question their own behavioural parameters. I thought this aspect of In the Blink of an Eye was quite perfect.

In the Blink of an Eye is outrageously good. It will definitely be one of my favourite books in 2023 and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Jo Callaghan

Jo works full-time as a senior strategist, where she has carried out research into the future impact of AI and genomics on the workforce. After losing her husband to cancer in 2019, she started writing In The Blink of An Eye. She lives with her two children in the Midlands, where she is currently writing the second novel in the series.

For further information, follow Jo on Twitter @JoCallaghanKat or Instagram.

You’ll Never Walk Alone by Rachel Kelly

My enormous thanks to Bei Guo at Midas for sending me a copy of You’ll Never Walk Alone by Rachel Kelly. I didn’t realise it was a signed and dedicated copy until I began reading so I was thrilled. Ironically, You’ll Never Walk Alone arrived just at a point when I really needed a boost and I’m delighted to share my review today.

You’ll Never Walk Alone was published by Yellow Kite on 3rd November 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Words can be a way to unlock our feelings. Poetry allows us to be in touch with our emotions and helps us unlock and explore our vulnerability.

You’ll Never Walk Alone
 is a collection of the kind of inspirational texts – mainly poems – that can accompany us, whatever we are feeling, from sorrow to delight. The texts are not just about words which can console us or comfort us – though they often do this too. Rather these are poems that allow us to enjoy a full range of emotions. The poems are organised according to the season in which they ‘belong’: we all have seasons of our minds, be they wintery and dark, or more spring-like and hopeful. Comprising 52 poems, with analysis by Rachel, You’ll Never Walk Alone introduces a poem for each week of the year plus tips on bringing poetry into your life.

This book will show you how to bring poetry into your everyday emotional reality, where it can be a new tool for wellbeing. And one that means you’ll never walk alone.

My Review of You’ll Never Walk Alone

A poetic companion for when times are hard.

From Rachel Kelly’s heartfelt introduction advocating the power of poetry You’ll Never Walk Alone is an inclusive, supportive and effective book that makes the reader feel as if they are understood and given succour. The use of the pronouns I and you has the effect of Rachel Kelly speaking directly to the reader and to them alone as a friend might. I loved this feeling of a friend in a time of need.

I found You’ll Never Walk Alone completely surprising. Whilst I always enjoy exploring poems and I love being out in the natural world, I’d never truly considered poetry as a seasonal entity – despite studying and teaching seasonal poems in my past! There are also short prose pieces too that balance the book and provide another perspective.

Rachel Kelly’s accessible analysis of the entries is completely engaging and another means by which the reader feels included. Someone familiar with poetry can decide if Rachel Kelly’s thoughts attune with their own and those amongst us who find poetry mysterious or challenging will feel guided in understanding the poets’ meanings. In amongst the eclectic entries from familiar writers like Gerard Manly Hopkins to those I hadn’t previously read, like Jane Hirschfield, I was also surprised to find some of the entries sparked memories for me too, enabling me to get back in touch with myself as a human being. Advice on Crossing a Street in Delhi by Grace Nichols made me remember the lunacy of trying to cross the road in Shanghai or Marrakesh and reignited the experiences I had had. Genuinely, You’ll Never Walk Alone made me feel more alive.

That’s not to say that You’ll Never Walk Alone is a glib panacea for depression or sadness. Some of the entries are despairing and negative, affording the reader the opportunity to realise all emotions are valid and acceptable – it’s what we do with those emotions that counts.

I hadn’t expected the natural artwork in the book that further enhances the power of both poetry and nature to heal and support. I thought this was a wonderful touch and would help make You’ll Never Walk Alone a caring gift for someone struggling with life. As well as the entries and commentaries, I loved the biographies in the back of the book and the four suggestions for including poetry more in the reader’s life because they give interest and engagement long after the book is read.

You’ll Never Walk Alone is a deceptive book. On the surface it appears relatively simple, with a selection of some 52 mostly poetic entries (one for each week of the year) alongside notes from Rachel Kelly, but it is so much more than the sum of its parts. There’s all of humanity laid bare here with something for every reader between the pages. I thought it was a wonderful book and it will be living on my bedside table so that I can turn to it when I need to. I really recommend You’ll Never Walk Alone.

About Rachel Kelly

Rachel Kelly is a keynote speaker, bestselling writer and mental health campaigner. She shares her experience of depression and evidence-based strategies that helped her recover. Rachel has spoken all over the world from Delhi to Sydney, America and across the UK. Her critically acclaimed books are published in over 10 countries.

Rachel is also a well-known media commentator and former Times journalist as well as an official ambassador for mental health charities Rethink Mental Illness, SANE, The Counselling Foundation and Head Talks.

Her long-standing passion for poetry led to her becoming the co-founder of the iF poetry app (2011) and co-editor of iF: A Treasury of Poetry for Almost Every Possibility (Canongate, 2012). She is the author of Black Rainbow, The Happy KitchenWalking on Sunshine and Singing in the Rain. Rachel lives in London with her husband, Sebastian, and their five children.

For further information, visit Rachel’s website, follow her on Twitter @rachelkellynet, and find her on Facebook or Instagram.

A Mother’s Heart by Carmel Harrington

I’ve long been a fan of Carmel Harrington’s writing and it’s a privilege to review her latest novel A Mother’s Heart for My Weekly online.

Last year I shared my review of Carmel’s The Moon Over Kilmore Quay here. I reviewed The Woman at 72 Derry Lane in a post you’ll find here. It was my also privilege to host a guest post from Carmel and to review The Things I Should Have Told you here.

Published by Harper Collins in paperback on 2nd February 2023, A Mother’s Heart is available for purchase through the links here.

Carmel has a story in this week’s edition of My Weekly too.

A Mother’s Heart

Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
While Rachel Butler likes her life in a pretty Dublin coastal village, her heart lies in Hawke’s Bay, where she grew up. Visiting for the first time since tragedy tore her family apart, she and her stepchildren fall for its beauty and outdoor lifestyle.

Malahide, Ireland
As Rachel picks up the threads of her life as a single parent, she can’t shake off the memories of her loving family in New Zealand – and her dream house, the villa on the bay. But it’s time to move forwards with their life in Ireland, close to the children’s grandparents, amid the familiar surroundings they all know well.

Until the children’s grandmother, still grieving, starts to interfere, questioning Rachel’s position as stepmother.

Until Rachel’s attempts to strengthen the family she loves so dearly backfires, pitting everyone against each other.

And until her late husband’s parents mend the rift that has existed as long as she’s been married – bringing with them an explosive secret . . .

My Review of A Mother’s Heart

My full review of A Mother’s Heart can be found online on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that A Mother’s Heart is typical Carmel Harrington and a story filled with family, conflict and love that any reader can relate to and enjoy completely.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Carmel Harrington

USA Today bestseller Carmel Harrington lives in Wexford with her family and rescue dog, George Bailey. Her ninth novel, The Moon Over Kilmore Quay became an instant bestseller in Ireland and USA. Other bestselling novels include My Pear-Shaped Life, A Thousand Roads Home, The Woman at 72 Derry Lane and the ITV commissioned novel, Cold Feet The Lost Years.

Carmel’s trademark is to write warm, uplifting stories with humour, heart and hope. She loves to write about family, friendships, love and life within complex, twisting plots. Carmel’s novels have been shortlisted twice for an Irish Book Award and her debut Beyond Grace’s Rainbow won Kindle Book of the Year and Romantic eBook of the Year in 2013. Carmel is also a regular on Irish TV screens, and is co founder of The Inspiration Project, a coaching and writing retreat.

For further information you can follow Carmel on Twitter @HappyMrsHFacebook or Instagram and visit her website.

London Underground Symmetry and Imperfections: The Tube Mapper Project by Luke Agbaimoni

I’ve been a bit quiet the last week or so on the blogging front as I’ve found settling to a book eluded me whilst my mind was elsewhere after some challenging news. However, London Underground Symmetry and Imperfections: The Tube Mapper Project was just what I needed to distract me and I would like to extend my enormous thanks to Luke Agbaimoni for ensuring a copy came my way.

Published by The History Press on 5th January 2023, London Underground Symmetry and Imperfections: The Tube Mapper Project is available for purchase through the links here.

London Underground Symmetry and Imperfections: The Tube Mapper Project

There are currently 272 London Underground, 113 Overground and 45 Docklands Light Railway stations. Luke Agbaimoni has been slowly attempting to capture visual moments at each one.

When we see a symmetrical image, it soothes us. It feels as if a puzzle has been completed in front of our eyes. In his first book, The Tube Mapper Project: Capturing Moments on the London Underground, Luke Agbaimoni captured themes such as light, reflections, tunnels and escalators, and documented how the London Underground is part of our identity, a network of shared experiences and visual memories. This follow-up project sees Luke delve into his obsession with symmetry, seeking out stunning and powerful examples across the network in his quest to find beauty in the seemingly mundane. London Underground Symmetry & Imperfections considers such questions as what symmetry means and how to find it in your daily commute, and also revels in the design of the newly opened Elizabeth line.

My Review of London Underground Symmetry and Imperfections: The Tube Mapper Project

A photographic journey into the London Underground. 

Whenever I visit London I view heading into the underground system as a kind of purgatory to be endured for as brief a time as is humanly possible. It’s a place of grime, ugliness, heat and chaos. 

How wrong could I be? Luke Agbaimoni looks at the world of the London Underground with a fresh eye that provides a completely different perspective and enthuses those looking at his photographs to be more aware and more perceptive themselves. What he does in London Underground Symmetry and Imperfections, the second book in the The Mapper Project, is to find beauty and interest and present it in a captivating book.

I must comment on the physical attributes of London Underground Symmetry and Imperfections, because it is a wonderful book. The hard cover is robust and weighty and the thick quality paper within gives a feeling of luxury that would make this a super present for a keen photographer or anyone interested in trains of the history of London’s Tube system. The images are so well composed and because they are frequently unexpected, they stand scrutiny many times over. This is a book that can be enjoyed on many levels.

I was expecting a visual treat, but hadn’t anticipated the commentary from Luke Agbaimoni or the frequent poetic contributions from a wide range of others. These aspects hugely increased my enjoyment as I gleaned an insight into how and why the photos were taken, into symmetry itself and into the ways such images can inspire other creative processes. London Underground Symmetry and Imperfections has certainly inspired me to look more attentively at the world around me and I can envisage the images sparking other projects and writing for those picking up the book.

If you’re interested in design, history, geography, London, engineering, photography, creativity, poetry – I could go on – then London Underground Symmetry and Imperfections is the book for you. I found it fascinating, inspiring and, actually, somewhat humbling as it made me aware of my own laziness in contemplating the world around me. Luke Agbaimoni’s sensitive and talented eye means the book would make a great gift. I really enjoyed this one.

About Luke Agbaimoni

Luke Agbaimoni has an arts background with a degree in Graphic Design. He started his career as a web designer in London’s Docklands, where he began taking photos. In 2010 he entered and won a photography competition run by TFL, the first prize being what would become his first serious camera, and soon embarked upon an ambitious project to map moments on the Underground, setting up the accompanying website He lives in London.

For more information, follow Luke on Twitter @tubemapper, find him on Instagram and Facebook or visit the Tube Mapper website.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

I very rarely ready anything in the fantasy genre, but simply couldn’t resist trying Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett and I’m so glad I did and can share my blog tour review on Linda’s Book Bag today. My thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to participate in the blog tour.

Published by Little Brown and Hachette imprint Orbit today, 19th January 2023, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is available for purchase through the links here.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party—or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones—the most elusive of all faeries—lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all—her own heart.

My Review of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Emily is researching the faerie world.

I do not usually enjoy reading fantasy style narratives so I think it says something about the success of Heather Fawcett’s writing that I absolutely loved Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries. However, this isn’t just fantasy, but there’s travel, mythology, romance, peril, self-knowledge and growth, community and danger too between the pages of a cracking read. 

The story is told through Emily’s conversational style that draws in the reader and makes them feel the narrative is being told just for them. In contrast to Wendell Bambleby’s more haphazard approach, Emily is assiduous in the mechanics of research, so that Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries has authenticity that I found brilliantly convincing. Footnotes add credence making the reader forgets it’s a narrative and not the real events that Emily is recording. These footnotes are often a wry or acerbic observation that helps develop Emily’s personality. I also thoroughly appreciated the narratives within the story, the folklore and stories about the fae because they added extra texture and interest. 

Emily is a fabulous character. She’s strong, somewhat blunt, not adverse to using expletives and absolutely determined to conduct her research with complete honesty. Her inability to form relationships, her lack of care about her personal appearance and her single-mindedness make her fully developed and endearing. I found her adversarial, and yet affectionate, relationship with Wendell thoroughly entertaining and I loved how their reactions to one another developed over the story. I’m delighted that there will be more about the two of them in future books.

The story itself is fast paced and exciting. It is beautifully written with Heather Fawcett blending poetic, almost ethereal landscapes with prosaic descriptions in a perfect balance. Reading Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a very visual experience because of the vivid language used. 

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a deliciously entertaining tale spiced by menace and humour, attraction and deviousness, that I found absorbing and entertaining. As someone not usually fond of the genre, I have a feeling Heather Fawcett has entranced my like the fae ensnare humans because I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed reading Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries and really recommend it.

About Heather Fawcett

Heather Fawcett is the author of the middle grade novels Ember and the Ice Dragons and The Language of Ghosts, as well as the young adult series Even the Darkest Stars. She has a master’s degree in English literature and has worked as an archaeologist, photographer, technical writer, and backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theatre festival. She lives on Vancouver Island, Canada.

For further information, visit Heather’s website or find her on Instagram and Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

When I First Held You by Anstey Harris

It seems like I’ve been waiting forever for a new Anstey Harris book. I adored both Anstey’s previous books The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton reviewed here and Where We Belong reviewed here. Consequently I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for her latest book, When I First Held You. My enormous thanks to Rhiannon at FMcM Associates for inviting me and for providing a copy of When I First Held You in return for an honest review.

When I First Held You will be published by Lake Union on 24th January 2023 and is available for purchase here.

When I First Held You

Silence tore them apart. Can the truth bring them back together?

In 1960s Glasgow, anti-nuclear activists Judith and Jimmy fall in love. But their future hopes are dashed when their protestors’ squat is raided and many, including Jimmy, are sent to prison. Pregnant and with no word from Jimmy, Judith is forced to enter an unmarried mothers’ home, give up their baby and learn to live with her grief.

More than half a century later, Judith’s Mending Shop restores broken treasures, just as Judith herself has been bound back together by her late, much-missed partner, Catherine. But her tranquillity is shattered when Jimmy―so different and yet somehow the same―reappears, yearning to unpick the painful past.

Realising they each know only half of the other’s story, Jimmy and Judith finally break the silence that tore apart what might have been their family. Amid heartbreak and hope, how much can now be mended?

My Review of When I First Held You

From the very first sentence of an Anstey Harris book the reader knows they are about to encounter something very special indeed and When I First Held You is no exception. It’s fabulous. It’s breath-taking. It’s exceptional. 

Anstey Harris’ writing is exquisite. Her attention to detail, balanced by a spare and intense prose, means that reading her words is akin to shining the most powerful laser onto the tiniest atoms and making them leap alive with vitality and meaning. I found this almost painful to experience. This is by no means a criticism, but rather an expression of the immense effect her words have on the reader. When I First Held You is utterly compelling and affecting because Judith’s experiences and emotions become the reader’s experiences and emotions. This is not a book you read. It’s one you feel with visceral certainty. 

What makes When I First Held You so strong is the balance of personal and political experience. Anstey Harris illustrates how everything we do in our personal lives is influenced by the political environment we exist in, even when we don’t realise it. The force of Judith’s feelings about James is rooted in their past, their shared experiences and the personal and political narrative Judith has created in her life. I thought this was a profound and truly wonderful aspect of the writing, especially when seemingly ‘outside’ events are weighed against personal narratives and the stories we make for ourselves. Through Judith the reader is given a privileged glimpse into the very soul of human nature. 

The plot is so skilfully crafted as Judith’s past is interwoven with her present. And Judith is such a complex and layered character. Driven by extremes of love, bitterness and rage, she embodies humanity in its raw state. I loved meeting her. I adored too, the maturity of her age. When I First Held You simply couldn’t have been about a younger woman. The narrative needs her complexities, her insecurities and her strengths. She is the full sum of her 75 year old self. 

The touchstone of Judith’s friend Barbara adds lightness and humour in an almost Shakespearean light relief that perfectly balances the sheer emotion of Judith’s feelings. And I loved the underpinning theme also shown through the cover illustration that broken things can become repaired and more beautiful. Judith’s past and long held beliefs become shattered and fractured and yet they simultaneously become more valuable and exquisite in a kind of literary Kintsugi.

It’s hard to express how much I adored When I First Held You. It’s powerful, raw, emotional and totally outstanding. You’ll find it hard to read a more impactful book this year. When I First Held You is a magnificent book written by the genius writer that is Anstey Harris. Do not miss it. 

About Anstey Harris

Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and occasionally as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury. If you’d like to have a go at some writing exercises with Anstey, head over to Instagram and look at her IGTV channel, where she also interviews authors about their journeys and tips for writing.

Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby and The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton (a Richard and Judy pick for July 2019) won the RNA Sapere Books Romantic Novel of the Year title in 2020.

In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). She enjoys writing issue-driven books where the issues take a back seat to the characters. Her short stories tend not to resolve quite so well and often feature sticky ends…

Things that interest Anstey include her children and grandchildren, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.

You can follow Anstey on Twitter @Anstey_Harris, find her on Instagram and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Becoming Ted by Matt Cain

I’m delighted to share details of another of my My Weekly online reviews and this time it’s of Becoming Ted by Matt Cain.

Published by Headline Review on 19th January 2023, Becoming Ted is available for purchase through the links here.

Becoming Ted

A charming, joyful and surprising story about love, friendship and learning to be true to yourself, Becoming Ted will steal your heart.

Ted Ainsworth has always worked at his family’s ice-cream business in the quiet Lancashire town of St Luke’s-on-Sea.

But the truth is, he’s never wanted to work for the family firm – he doesn’t even like ice-cream, though he’s never told his parents that. When Ted’s husband suddenly leaves him, the bottom falls out of his world.

But what if this could be an opportunity to put what he wants first? This could be the chance to finally follow his secret dream: something Ted has never told anyone …

My Review of Becoming Ted

My full review of Becoming Ted can be found online on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that Becoming Ted is a tenderly written insight into who we are and how we get to be the people we become.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Matt Cain

Matt Cain is an author, a leading commentator on LGBT+ issues, and a former journalist. He is currently a presenter for Virgin Radio Pride UK, was Channel 4’s first Culture Editor, Editor-In-Chief of Attitude magazine, and has judged the Costa Prize, the Polari Prize and the South Bank Sky Arts Awards. He won Diversity in Media’s Journalist Of the Year award in 2017 and is an ambassador for Manchester Pride and the Albert Kennedy Trust, plus a patron of LGBT+ History Month. Born in Bury and brought up in Bolton, he now lives in London.

For further information,  visit Matt’s website, follow him on Twitter @MattCainWriter and find him on Instagram.

Staying in with AJ Campbell

It’s a total frustration not to be able to read every book that I’m offered (or indeed that I buy) and life is so busy at the moment that blogging is going to have to take a back seat for a while. However, even when I can’t always read a book I sometimes can’t resist finding out more about it. Such is the case with AJ Campbell’s latest and I’m delighted she agreed to stay in with me to tell me more:

Staying in with AJ Campbell

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag AJ. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you for having me . It’s a pleasure to be here!

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

It’s a pleasure to be here! This evening, I’ve chosen my new release The Wrong Key, because once you’ve picked it up, you won’t want to put it down – so early reviews are telling me!

That sounds brilliant. What can we expect from an evening in with The Wrong Key?

True to my author tagline, I can sure promise you an evening of twists, turns & torment. The Wrong Key is a psychological suspense thriller about Steph Knight, a woman scorned, who goes to New York on a temporary work assignment with her teenage daughter, Ellie. Following her recent divorce, Steph needs a change of scene. Once in New York, she falls in love with Edward, a corporate lawyer… or so he says he is. Life is looking up. But then Ellie gets kidnapped… how far would you go to save your daughter?

Oo. I love the sound of The Wrong Key. How is it being received so far?

Here are a few one-liners from early reviews:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ‘Holy fudge, what a brilliant story this was!’

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ‘A brilliant thriller leaving you feeling a kaleidoscope of emotions!’

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ‘A twisted, suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat thriller!’

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ‘The cleverly intricate plot made me constantly second guess!’

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ‘The Wrong Key is a heart-pounding wild ride! You don’t know who to trust, where to turn or how it’s going to end.’

I bet you’re thrilled with those responses AJ!

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

A cool, crisp bottle of bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a large bag of ready salted crisps, and an even larger bar of Cadbury Dairy Fruit & Nut… what more could one need for a perfect night in?

I’ll skip the wine. It makes me ill. Of course, that means I’ll need more of the crisps and chocolate to make up for it!

I’ve also bought along my saxophone. Steph’s daughter, Ellie, is a gifted musician, and she too plays the saxophone. I will treat you some tunes from Ellie’s playlist, which features in the book. Click here to listen.

I love a bit of saxophone. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about The Wrong Key AJ. It sounds a cracking read and I wish you continued success with it. Let me give readers a few more details:

The Wrong Key

When her US counterpart is involved in a serious car accident, London-based Steph Knight is sent to New York to provide cover at the company she works for.

After her recent traumatic divorce, it’s the perfect opportunity for a fresh start and for Steph to spend some time with her teenage daughter, Ellie, a gifted musician, before she leaves for university.

In New York, Steph meets corporate lawyer Edward, and Ellie meets bartender Jack. Both women become embroiled in whirlwind romances that intensify over a hot and sultry New York summer. But as Steph begins to uncover a web of corruption within her company that seemingly reaches right to the top, she feels increasingly threatened, with no idea who she can trust. Not even the men they’ve fallen for are beyond suspicion.

And just when it appears things can’t get any worse, Ellie disappears.

When Steph receives an ominous text message and a video, she knows her daughter has been kidnapped. To secure her safe return, Steph must stop her investigation.

The clock is ticking. Ellie’s life is in danger.

Alone, terrified and far from home, Steph has to draw on all her inner strength and investigative skills to find Ellie before it’s too late.

Because a mother’s love knows no bounds, Steph is going to save her daughter, even if it kills her…

The Wrong Key is available for purchase here.

About AJ Campbell

The Last First Date by Hayley Quinn

It’s an absolute pleasure to continue reviewing for for My Weekly this year. Today I’m sharing my thoughts about The Last First Date by Hayley Quinn.

Published by Harper Collins imprint HQ, The Last First Date is available for purchase through the links here.

The Last First Date

At 31-years-old, Helen Pines is far from where she thought she would be. Whilst her ex-boyfriend is now engaged, Helen’s ordering Deliveroo for one, dreaming of her last first date.

Determined to give online dating a go, she matches with drop-dead gorgeous Brody… One date later, Helen’s heart is still singing. Brody’s sexy, charismatic, and the perfect gentleman. But then she receives an error message on the app… all her contacts have been deleted.

With nothing but Brody’s name and job title to go on, Helen is determined to track him down.

But despite the initial chemistry, Helen knows surprisingly little about her mystery man… Was it really love-at-first like, or will she find a new love along the way?

From international dating expert Hayley Quinn, comes an utterly hilarious, laugh-out-loud romance that will have you grinning from the first page to the last! Fans of Our Stop and Mhairi McFarlane will fall in love with this book.

My Review of The Last First Date

My full review of The Last First Date can be found online on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Last First Date is filled with fun and has an unexpected underlying depth that I thought was brilliant.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Hayley Quinn

Hayley Quinn is an internationally recognised dating coach and founder of the UK’s largest dating coaching company. She has over 2 Million views on her TED talk and over 100,000 YouTube subscribers.

She is the spokesperson for Match, the biggest online dating platform in the world. She has been featured on BBC1, Sky and Channel 4 and is a regular columnist for Cosmopolitan.

Her first fiction book “The Last First Date” is published by Harper Collins.

Her goal is to bridge the gap with modern dating and help inspire people to learn to love dating.

For further information visit Hayley’s website, follow her on Twitter @HayleyQuinn or find Hayley on Facebook and Instagram.

My (extra) Ordinary Life by Rebecca Ryan

When I met Rebecca Ryan at a recent Team BATC blogger and author evening and heard her read from My (extra) Ordinary Life I knew I’d love it so I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour by Sara-Jade and it’s a real pleasure to share my review today.

Published by Simon and Schuster on 5th January 2023 My (extra) Ordinary Life is available for purchase through the links here.

My (extra) Ordinary Life

Have you ever wondered how normal you are?
What if you were 
perfectly average?
More than anyone else. 

For Emily – it’s true. When she watches a documentary on the average human she sees her life. Her job, her hair, her favourite food. All of her – plainly, horrifically average. Even her blood group. Right there and then, she decides she wants more.

She’ll travel the world (i.e. venture out of her hometown)

She’ll become a vegan (it’s interesting to hate cheese, right?) 

She’ll do something daring (As long as it’s safety tested) 

Nothing will stand in the way of Emily living her best life. Not even Josh and his dimples. Because she absolutely can’t fall in love… that would be too ordinary.

And from now on, Emily is going to be extraordinary. 

My Review of My (extra) Ordinary Life

Emily is far too average! 

I absolutely loved My (extra) Ordinary Life. Reading about Emily felt as if Rebecca Ryan had climbed inside my head and voiced every doubt I’ve ever had about my own existence. Her perception of how we think and feel is exceptional. And the book is joyously funny. I laughed aloud so often I think my husband thought I was quite mad. I think My (extra) Ordinary Life would make the most fabulous film as Rebecca Ryan’s writing is so vivid, fast paced and engaging that it is as if you’re watching Emily’s life rather than merely reading about it. 

The plot revolves around Emily’s attempts to make herself less average, and simply romps along, but it is also far, far, more than a humorous and brilliantly entertaining read. It’s imbued with emotion too so that self-doubt, loss and grief form the catalyst for the action and Rebecca Ryan has the amazing skill of being able to make her readers laugh even as tears are streaming down their faces. My (extra) Ordinary Life feels like a book written by an author who truly understands human nature.

What I think works so fabulously is the concept of finding your own path in life. Emily learns that she isn’t just a teacher, a friend, a sister, a daughter. She’s the sum of her grief, her responses to life, and her own actions, making My (extra) Ordinary Life incredibly affecting and, indeed, life-affirming and helpful. I was desperate for Emily to be happy from the very first word.

I loved all the characters (save for Mr Hughes, but you’ll need to read the book to find out why) and whilst Emily is exceptionally well drawn, Kaz is also simply brilliant. There’s smashing love and romance in My (extra) Ordinary Life but even better is the portrayal of female friendship through Kaz and Emily’s relationship. Indeed, I didn’t want simply to read about them. I wanted to climb into the book and be friends with them too because they felt so authentic and real. 

My (extra) Ordinary Life is one of those books that remains with the reader long after the last page is read. It entertains, it teaches and it moves, but even as is does those things, it leaves the reader feeling uplifted, understood and completely satisfied. I just loved it and cannot recommend it highly enough. Emily might feel ordinary, but My (extra) Ordinary Life is extra-ordinarily fabulous! 

About Rebecca Ryan

Rebecca Ryan lives in Bradford with her husband and three young children. Although she always loved writing, it hadn’t really occurred to her that she could do it professionally. She recently left her job as a teacher to pursue writing full-time. She enjoys walking in the countryside and takeaways (if that counts as a hobby).

For further information, follow Rebecca on Twitter @WriteBecsWrite, find her on Instagram or visit her website.

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