Monday, 24 April 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir - Jennifer Ryan



Kent, 1940.
In the idyllic village of Chilbury change is afoot. Hearts are breaking as sons and husbands leave to fight, and when the Vicar decides to close the choir until the men return, all seems lost.
But coming together in song is just what the women of Chilbury need in these dark hours, and they are ready to sing. With a little fighting spirit and the arrival of a new musical resident, the charismatic Miss Primrose Trent, the choir is reborn.
Some see the choir as a chance to forget their troubles, others the chance to shine. Though for one villager, the choir is the perfect cover to destroy Chilbury’s new-found harmony.
Uplifting and profoundly moving, THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR explores how a village can endure the onslaught of war, how monumental history affects small lives and how survival is as much about friendship as it is about courage.

What did I think?


I had my eye on The Chilbury Ladies' Choir when I saw it being published and I had barely added it to my wishlist before I was fortunate enough to win a beautiful hardback copy.  As a careful reader I always remove the dustjacket from a hardback whilst reading and I have to say that I got a really pleasant surprise to find a printed cover underneath of the village of Chilbury.  Full marks to The Borough Press and HarperCollins for making The Chilbury Ladies' Choir as beautiful outside as it is inside.

On turning the first page we are greeted with a notice that the village choir has closed as all the men have gone to war.  Throughout the forthcoming pages, comprising personal journal entries and letters, we meet the ladies of Chilbury who don't see why their choir has to close just because they are short of a few male voices.  So The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is born and through tears and laughter, personal challenges and German bombings, the ladies draw strength from each other.  You could certainly apply the phrase 'Keep Calm and Carry On' to Chilbury as they face each day with a song in their heart.

I loved the way this book was written with letters and journal entries of the main characters.  It surprised me how easily it flowed and I often forgot that I was reading what you would define as excerpts rather than chapters.  They are so very personal at times that we really get into the heart of the characters, warts and all.

We often hear stories of the Battle of Britain and the Normandy Landings but what about the Home Front?  The women who kept Britain running whilst the men went off to war.  I am proud to say that my maternal Grandad was part of the Normandy invasion, but what I often forget, yet remain equally proud of, is that my paternal Grandmother turned her hand to driving cranes in a munitions factory during the war.  It was said that Mary Ryles could pick up a threepenny bit with her crane.  Jennifer Ryan has subtly reminded us of the huge part played by the brave ladies of war-torn Britain and her book is dedicated, very fittingly, to her Grandmother and all the women of the Home Front.

So if you're looking to snuggle up with a good book, look no further than The Chilbury Ladies' Choir.  Read about the privileged lives and secrets of Venetia and Kitty Winthrop, the battle of the midwives: Mrs. Tilling and Miss. Paltry, but most of all the strength and camaraderie of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir.  A superb debut novel filled with tears and laughter, based on real life as told to Jennifer Ryan by her Grandmother.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Lighterman - Simon Michael



The Lighterman is the third book in the bestselling series of legal thrillers starring barrister Charles Holborne. Simon Michael's follow up to the bestselling The Brief and An Honest Man, continues the adventures of criminal barrister Charles Holborne.

When Charles Holborne's cousin, Izzy, is accused of murder, Charles must dig up the secrets of the past to defend him. But brutal gangland leader Ronnie Kray will stop at nothing to get his revenge on Charles for the events of An Honest Man. Can Charles save his cousin...and his own life?

Simon Michael brings the past vividly back to life across a beautifully rendered 60s landscape, and delivers a gripping piece of thriller fiction that will excite any fan of the Britcrime genre.

What did I think?

If there is one series that I find myself recommending over and over again, this is it!  The Charles Holborne series is like a vintage wine - it just keeps getting better and better and, if it is at all possible, I think I will enjoy it even more by reading it all over again.  I was on tenterhooks for this third book in the series after Simon Michael left us with one heck of a cliffhanger in An Honest Man, so you can imagine my excitement when the author himself allowed me the enviable opportunity to read an early pre-proof copy of The Lighterman.  I switched off the phone, closed the curtains and headed off to court, fending off one interruption with the retort: 'Not now, the jury is coming back with the verdict.'

One thing (among many) that I love about these books is the complete immersion into the 1960's era.  There is no mistake that you are reading about 1960's London with a surprise cameo appearance from a famous face and the bigger part that The Krays have to play in this novel.  Before we reach the 1960's, however, we are given a glimpse into war-torn London during The Blitz with the Horowitz family heading to shelter as a bomb rips their house apart.  Charles is a young teenager who rebels when his family are transported to safety in Wales and runs away back to London where he ends up staying with his uncle and his family.  He becomes close friends with his cousin, Izzy, who is known on the river as 'Merlin'.  Charles soon finds himself working on the river as a lighterman and a bit of an amateur boxer in his spare time, with the 60's not being the first time he has found himself up against Ronnie Kray...

The flashbacks to the war gave us a brilliant insight into the Charles Holborne character we have come to know and love.  It's quite unbelievable in this day and age to think that just over 70 years ago Jewish people had to change their names to avoid persecution, with Cohen becoming Conway and Horowitz becoming Holborne.  I also loved the surprising history of Charles as a lighterman on the Thames, a far cry from the amazing barrister that he is in the 1960's.  The Thames itself feels almost alive with the hustle and bustle of barges and boats and the brave men who continued working through The Blitz, along with the Waterguards of HM Customs and Excise patrolling the river.

As we have come to expect with Simon Michael's books there is a gripping court case to follow.  This time it's personal as Charles defends his cousin, Izzy, who is accused of murdering a Waterguard.  The truth behind this case is heartbreaking and Charles must defend Izzy without the truth coming out, whilst also keeping one step ahead of The Krays who have taken a keen interest in him.  He might be able to run, but he can't hide as The Krays' eyes and ears reach far and wide.  Leading nicely into book 4 and another chapter for Charles Holborne as he finds himself struggling to stay on the side of respectability.

Whilst reading, I considered whether this could be read as a standalone novel, although couldn't understand why anyone would want to just read one of these magnificent books.  I think the author gives just the right amount of back story from the previous books to not only enable any reader to enjoy this book on its own but to encourage them to pick up the first two books.

I really can't recommend these books highly enough.  If you think Grisham is the king of courtroom drama, think again as Simon Michael has definitely raised the bar (no pun intended).   It's so realistic that you forget you are reading fiction; it's a proper edge of your seat courtroom thriller and with Ronnie Kray involved, absolutely anything can happen.  Read it or regret it!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Saturday, 22 April 2017

A Life Between Us - Louise Walters


Tina Thornton's twin sister Meg died in a childhood accident, but for almost forty years Tina has secretly blamed herself for her sister's death. During a visit to her aging Uncle Edward and his sister Lucia, who both harbour dark secrets of their own, Tina makes a discovery that forces her to finally question her memories of the day her sister died. Who, if anyone, did kill Meg?

As Tina finds the courage to face the past, she unravels the tangled family mysteries of her estranged parents, her beautiful French Aunt Simone, the fading, compassionate Uncle Edward, and above all, the cold, bitter Aunt Lucia, whose spectral presence casts a long shadow over them all. 

A Life Between Us is a beautifully evocative story of a family torn apart at the seams, which will appeal to readers who enjoy family sagas and modern-day mysteries.

What did I think?

This was a very intriguing book that looked very innocent from the cover but contained a darkness inside that I could never have imagined.  It's a past and present story whereby we learn of Tina and her Aunt Lucia's stories.  Both as heartbreaking and painful as the other but for very different reasons.

Tina blames herself for the death of her twin sister, Meg.  She cannot let go of her sister and hears her voice clearly when she regularly visits her grave.  Tina is so engrossed at Meg's graveside that she doesn't notice the mysterious woman in the green coat who seems to be taking an interest in her.  Who is this woman and why is she interested in Tina?

Lucia is Tina's bitter old Aunt and it is no surprise to learn that she was horrid as a child.  She doesn't forgive her little brother William for being born on her darling brother Edward's birthday.  Poor little William suffers at the sneaky hands of Lucia and when big brother Edward finds out what is going on, he takes a softly softly approach with Lucia when she really could have done with a clip around the earhole.

The stories intertwine nicely as Tina talks about Meg in therapy and flashbacks show us Lucia's life as she grows up.  Lucia grows up a little too quickly and as she plays with fire she does indeed get burnt.  I found some of these scenes hard to read but that just shows the depth of emotion that was present in the writing.

A very well-written and addictive book, A Life Between Us surprised me at every turn.  I found myself engrossed equally in both stories, which is rather unusual for me as I usually prefer one timeline over another.  It is shocking at times but compassionately so, ensuring that the reader is made aware of the butterfly effect of one badly made decision.  

I chose to read to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:


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Friday, 21 April 2017

When Life Happens, Don't Blink - Sarah Buhrman



This is an anthology of tales both fiction and fantasy. Some are shorts, some are excerpts. All are about people living life as it is handed to them. Sometimes people make the best of an unusual situation. Sometimes people take the reins of their lives and things go horribly wrong. But strength is found in those who have the courage to look life in the eye... Don't Blink!

What did I think?

I won an e-book copy of When Life Happens, Don't Blink on Facebook and although short stories aren't really my cup of tea, I picked it up when I was looking for a quick read.  It was indeed quick, probably only around 30 minutes, and the stories are quite varied and very unusual.

There are 7 short stories, with 3 of them being excerpts.  I really liked the opening story, Sugar Daddy, and the penultimate story, Hell on Earth, which couldn't be more different.  In Sugar Daddy we take a sneak peak at the unconventional relationship between Janice and John.  Everyone will take something different from this story, but for me it was a case of 'you don't know what you've got til it's gone' and how sad it is when you don't express your true emotions.  Fast forward from Sugar Daddy to Hell on Earth and we meet an even more unconventional mixed-race family - mixed race being part demon, part human.  Although you could draw a deeper meaning from the mixed-race, I found it fun and lighthearted, showing that one person's 'hell' can be another person's 'heaven'.

A quirky collection, When Life Happens, Don't Blink, is worth picking up if you're looking for something a little bit different.  I think the author has some very diverse writing skills and I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another piece of her work.

My rating:




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Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Circus - Olivia Levez



Why would a girl who has everything want to run away and never be found?

Willow has staged runaways ever since she was a little girl. She has everything a young person should want: a rich daddy, clothes, money, a pony and a place at a prestigious boarding school. In reality, she has everything except the thing she really wants: a father who cares enough to find her.

Aged sixteen, on the eve of her father’s wedding, she ruins the bride’s dress and escapes through a window, determined never to return. Her missing mother was a circus performer, and Willow wants to follow in her footsteps. But the performers she meets don’t want her. When her last bit of money is stolen by Suze, another runaway girl she thought she could trust, Willow becomes really homeless. Then Suze comes tumbling back into her life and a desperate Willow has to decide whether to trust her all over again . . .

So begins their frightening, exhilarating odyssey though hunger, performance, desperation and dreams. Will they both survive and will Willow make it to the circus of her imagining?

Olivia Levez takes you into the very heart of a girl who wants so hard to be lost, but saves herself through a powerful friendship and the awakening of a need for home.

What did I think?

Although I don't read a lot of YA novels, I was introduced to Olivia Levez when I read her remarkable debut novel, The Island.  So when faced with the question: 'There's a new Olivia Levez book out - do you want to read it?'  The answer, without hesitation, was 'Yes please!'

The Circus introduces us to Willow Stephens as she snips the buttons off a wedding dress, on the day that 'The Handbag' is due to marry Willow's Dad.  Willow doesn't hang around for the fallout, she already has her bag packed and plans to follow in her mother's footsteps by running away to join the circus.  Willow can't remember her mum, all she has is a dog-eared photograph of her with a snake around her neck and part of a word '...stings'.  With fate lending a hand, Willow completes the word and heads to the place where she feels that she is finally getting closer to her mother, and to a place where she belongs.

Willow meets Suz, a street performer, when Suz steals all of Willow's money.  Willow walks the streets looking for Suz but when she finally finds her, her money is gone, leaving Willow penniless and homeless.  Despite this, the unlikely pair forge a strong friendship as they struggle to find food and shelter in order to stay alive.  Willow is fearful of being recognised as her face is all over the news, and her Dad is offering a hefty reward, so she alters her appearance as much as she can and calls herself 'Frog'.  Then one day Willow meets some real circus performers who ask her to join them, but they don't have any room for Suz.  Willow is faced with making a tough decision that ultimately has devastating consequences, but one which forces Willow to finally see how much she is loved.

Olivia Levez has not only raised the bar with The Circus, but has swung from it in a glittering gold costume; whereas The Island was unusual with some chapters containing only one powerful word, The Circus really stands out as the star attraction.  It was heartbreaking as Willow searched for somewhere to belong and we learned more of her past - she has run away several times before, trying to get her Dad to notice her.  She had everything she could ever want in her privileged life, everything except the only thing she wanted - her Dad's attention.

The Circus is a wonderful story of family, belonging and unlikely friendships that had me captivated from the tempestuous start to the emotive and uplifting finale.  I felt like I was on Willow's journey with her and I was surprised to find how emotionally invested in the story I was.  A powerful, uplifting story that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone who has ever felt lost and ached to be found.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Classic FM Musical Treasury: A Curious Collection of New Meanings for Old Words - Tim Lihoreau


There are all sorts of people, events and sounds that exist in the musical world for which there are no words. We have been sadly bereft of a satisfactory way to describe the contortion of a singer's mouth when reaching for the high notes; the audience member who leaves a concert halfway through the grand finale; or that person who places one finger in their ear and raises their eyes heavenwards when they sing.

Tim Lihoreau neatly solves this problem in The Classic FM Musical Treasury. Having scoured the UK for place names with a musical bent, he has created a charming collection of humorously inventive, musically themed meanings. From choral singing to rock concerts, opera and orchestras, this quirky book will delight music fans everywhere.

What did I think?

I listen to Tim Lihoreau on my short drive to work each morning and I love puzzling over his carpe diem clues, so I was delighted when I received a copy of his new book to review.  The Classic fM Musical Treasury looks like a book you could dip in and out of but as soon as I started to read, I knew I didn't want to miss a thing and ended up reading it cover to cover in a 24 hour period.

If somebody had told me I would read a dictionary, I would have laughed my socks off but this treasury is more like a dictionary than a book, albeit a very readable dictionary.  I continually laughed out loud, desperately holding onto my socks at times, and found myself sharing excerpts with my family.

There is something for every music lover in this book, from finding out a name for Freddie Mercury's famous second-skin jumpsuits to the hilariously named hole on the back of a recorder.  As a one-time violin student, I almost spat out my cup of tea when I read about the contents of the fidder's hamlet, although I have to say that I kept fruit polos in mine!  As a regular listener of Classic fM, I've also been known to play a solo game of kedlock feus and I bet many others do this too.

I have so many favourites from this book that I couldn't possibly list them all, but I remember fondly the carfury in my old Yaris who wasn't as much of a Bryan Adams fan as I was but probably jumped out of its skin like I did by the odd chidden on the CDs it chose to let me play.  Think I'm talking gobbledygook?  Take my word for it, you need this Classic fM Musical Treasury in your life!  Don't read it in public though, as you are liable to have involuntary outbursts of laughter.

Read it in one go, or dip in and out, this is a Musical Treasury to be treasured and referred to again and again.  Amaze your friends at the pub when you tell your friend to stop that annoying tapnage as you describe walking the cadger path on a visit to town, before your return to jingle street.  Great fun and a fabulous gift for the music lover in your life.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Abattoir of Dreams - Mark Tilbury



The past is never far away.
Michael Tate has not had an easy life. With his father in prison, and his mother dead, Michael was sent to Woodside Children’s Home.
Now an adult, Michael wakes up in hospital from a coma suffering from amnesia and paralysis. Confused and terrified, he is charged with the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Becky. He also learns he attempted to end his own life.
Detective Inspector John Carver is determined that Michael is sent to prison.
With no way of defending himself, Michael is left in his hospital bed awaiting transfer to remand.
But then strange things begin to happen and his childhood comes back to haunt him.
Can Michael ever escape the past?
Will he ever discover the truth about Becky’s murder?
And why is DI Carver so eager to make him suffer?
The Abattoir of Dreams is a bitter sweet story of murder, innocence and abuse.

What did I think?

A lot of readers were excited when Abattoir of Dreams came out and having read it, I can see why.  I chose this as my kindle loan book for the month but I wouldn't have hesitated to buy a copy just to get my hands on it to find out what everyone was raving about.

Michael Tate is in hospital with amnesia, accused of killing his girlfriend, Becky.  Although he has no memory of events, he must have done it as everyone tells him so.  In order to escape capture after killing Becky, he apparently jumped off the roof of his building and is left paralysed from the waist down.  Lying in his hospital bed, he thinks he must have overdone the painkillers when he sees an emergency door appear in his room.  A door that only he can see.  Where did it come from and where does it go to?

As an invisible force lifts him from his bed, puts him gently in the wheelchair and pushes the emergency door open, Michael is wheeled back to his past.  Think Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, except Michael doesn't know who has come back to visit him - who desperately wants him to remember what happened in the past?

WOW!  What an AMAZING book.  I knew it would be good, as all the book bloggers said it was, but I didn't expect it to be THIS good.  It went in directions I never expected, breaking my heart in two at times and had tears rolling down my face in laughter at others.  I can't look at a catflap without bursting into fits of laughter, imagining Michael and his friend, Liam, crawling through.

Michael had such a hard life and the friendship he forged with Liam saved his life on more than one occasion.  It just shows that no matter how bad your circumstances, something good can come out of adversity.  Not that I am condoning what happened to Michael and Liam, but the friendship that the boys had was second to none.  They helped each other more than they can ever imagine and my heart swelled with feeling for both of them.

I loved the tangible flashbacks in The Abattoir of Dreams.  It felt like two books in one, both equally as good as the other, so a bumper prize for anyone who reads it.  Who is the ghost of Michael's past?  I couldn't have told you straight away as I had to read the end twice with crying so much!  Michael's story really got under my skin and I admit to finding it difficult reading at times.  The world is indeed cruel.

Awesome, heartbreaking and amazing The Abattoir of Dreams is a spectacular book that should not be missed.  Completely unique and unusual; I was completely enthralled from start to finish.

My rating:




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Monday, 17 April 2017

A Twist of the Knife (Brigid Quinn #3) - Becky Masterman


It takes a strong woman to be able to watch someone die.

Brigid Quinn is tough, determined, steely and sharper than sharp. As an ex-agent of the FBI she has seen it all, and survived. But nothing can cut her closer to the bone than family...

When Brigid gets a call from her mother saying her father is in hospital with pneumonia, she decides to check on her former colleague Laura Coleman who is living nearby. Having saved Brigid's life, Laura is now working on an 'innocence project', investigating cold cases. And one in particular seems to have caught her attention. Fifteen years before, Marcus Creighton was accused of killing his wife and three children. Now the state governor has signed the warrant for his execution.

Worried that her friend is getting in too deep, Brigid promises to help. But what if her instincts are betraying her? If she can't even trust her memories of her own childhood, how can she make a call on some stranger's story that took place over fifteen years before?

What did I think?

Although A Twist of the Knife is the 3rd book in the Brigid Quinn series, I decided to jump straight in and I'm really pleased that I did. For me, you can tell that this is part of a series as the characters are already very well developed and I think I missed out a little bit by not reading the first 2 books (something I do intend to remedy very soon).  Putting that to one side, this is a great book and there is so much going on that your head will be in a spin until the cleverly drawn out conclusion.

A Twist of the Knife has one of the most chilling prologues I have ever read, as Brigid witnesses her first execution.  35 years later Brigid heads to Florida as her Dad is in hospital and whilst there meets up with Laura Coleman.  Laura is working on a death row case, that of Marcus Creighton who was convicted of killing his wife and children.  The bodies of the children were never found, which has caught the attention of Alison Samuels who works for an organisation specialising in locating missing children.  With four days left before Marcus Creighton is executed, can Laura, with help from Brigid, prove that he didn't kill his family and will Alison Samuels find the missing Creighton children?

Brigid Quinn is such a feisty character.  She keeps her emotions very close to her chest and I loved her interactions with her very dysfunctional family over her father's hospital bed.  The Quinns know just which buttons to press in each other and you can almost feel them fizzing with barely controlled emotions.  It was while enjoying such scenes that I realised how much of the building up of Brigid's character that I had missed by not reading the first 2 books.  Not that it spoiled my enjoyment of the story at all, I just think it would have been enhanced by knowing more about her in advance.

The story of Marcus Creighton was excellent.  Not that I could say whether it was accurate or not, but the police procedural element appeared to have been meticulously researched.  I felt like I was in a race against time as the countdown to Marcus's execution began and I truly believed that he was as innocent as Laura claimed him to be.  Will Brigid be able to uncover the truth before it is too late? You will just have to read it and see!

This definitely has the potential to be a 5 star book but, through no fault of the author, I have awarded 4 stars purely because I felt that I was missing something.  Totally my fault by not reading the books in order, but it is the mark of a good book when I am looking to add the earlier books to my TBR pile in order to catch up with Brigid's story.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Sunday, 16 April 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Happiness Millionaire - Janet Jones



Get ready to be a Happiness Millionaire and change your life forever.
Are you struggling to reach your potential, believing there is more to life but don’t know how to change it?
Perhaps you are feeling unconfident, unfulfilled or even a little vulnerable?
Chances are you’re suffering from a poverty mindset, born out of fear. You’re not alone. In fact, I used to feel the same way. Like you, I was stuck, struggling with life. And, through discovering 13 time-tested life principles and creating powerful visual imagery, I discovered how to turn my life around and achieve a R.I.C.H life—
Relationships, Income, Confidence, Health.
In short, I became a Happiness Millionaire, and now it’s your turn!
Through my workshops, I’ve helped people just like you break through to a R.I.C.H. mindset and a fulfilling life. And now, the transformative power of the 13-positive images from the workshops are available to you in this book, to work through at your own pace. Take the journey they offer and move towards that worthy goal for which we are all striving: happiness.

What did I think?

How very brave of Janet Jones to share her story with us and I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am that she did.  It sounds easy but I think it is a difficult question to ask yourself - are you happy?  If you have to think about the answer, then chances are you are not.  I admit to being happy in some areas of my life but not so happy in others.  I thought it was my lot in life and just took what I have been given but this wonderful book has taught me that I can take back control and change the direction of my life.

As a born worrier, I recognised straight away that I am P.O.O.R., with a Poverty mindset and often feeling Overwhelmed,  Off-balance and filled with Regret.  I didn't even see anything wrong with this, thinking that it's just the way I am, until Janet started talking about 'desire'.  It was like an epiphany for me as I realised that I'm floating along on the sea of life, letting the tidal currents take me where they will, and settling for 'good enough'.  So what am I doing wrong?  Listening to my pesky inner voice, that's what!  How many times do you call yourself names that you think are harmless?  You go shopping and forget your shopping list - what an idiot, or you drop your bookmark and lose your place in your book - you muppet!  I didn't realise how often I did this and what makes it worse is that your brain can't distinguish between fact and fiction so it actually believes what you're telling it.  This was another eureka moment for me and further confirmation that I was reading a truly inspirational book.

The book contains 13 positive images that you are encouraged to look at for a certain length of time.  Everyone will see something different in each image and afterwards we are given examples of other thoughts and interpretations.  There is no wrong answer!  For me, the images are there to inspire, provoke and enhance and I loved the 'in a nutshell' section at the end of each part so that we can be reminded of the images we have seen so far.  I do feel, however, that these images wouldn't transfer so well to kindle - seeing them in full colour and having the ability to flick back to them when required was an absolute necessity for me.

You're not going to be a Happiness Millionaire by the time you finish this book; like anything worthwhile, it's not going to happen overnight but you can start making deposits into the happiness bank today.  I hadn't even reached the start of the inspirational images before I had changed my outlook and started to see immediate results.  

Truly inspirational and thought-provoking, Happiness Millionaire is a book to live, not just to read.  Only by putting the ideas into practice will you start to see results and hopefully, like me, you will start to see results before you even finish the book.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Behind the Lie - Amanda James


Who can you trust, when you can’t trust yourself?

Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.

Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.

Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.

What did I think?

I first came across Amanda James when I read Summer in Tintagel so when I saw that she had a new book coming out I didn't hesitate to snap one up.  Behind the Lie is a gripping psychological thriller that you think you have worked out but will still manage to surprise you.

Holly seems grateful to be married to successful surgeon, Simon.  Holly was a successful model but found herself entangled in a life of drugs only to be rescued by Simon when he decided to marry her.  Now that Holly is pregnant with twins, they appear to have the perfect marriage, but appearances can be so VERY deceptive.  Simon has a gambling problem and sneaks out of the house when Holly is asleep.  As he gambles more he quickly becomes out of control and bets more than his house.

When Holly goes into labour she is eager to meet her children, only to be told that her son didn't make it.  Holly is sure that she heard a cry in the delivery room other than the one uttered by her daughter, Iona, but in the stress of the situation she must have been mistaken.  Or was she?  When she receives an anonymous letter that claims her son, Ruan, is alive she doesn't know who to turn to. Everyone will think she is mad and she might lose her daughter.  So she turns to her ex-boyfriend and former serviceman, Jowan, to help her uncover the truth.

I think we are programmed to look for the shock element in books these days, so some people might find Behind the Lie slightly predictable, but I loved the interaction between all of the characters and the depths that they will stoop to in order to save their own skin.  Amanda James always seems to create three-dimensional characters so that you can peel layer after layer away like an onion.  It was certainly a fast-paced read that had me on the edge of my seat, purely because I cared about the characters rather than expecting a big reveal at the end.  I sometimes found Holly a bit emotionless when she referred to her son as 'my boy' and her husband's mistress as 'his woman' but that was just my preference.

Another top-notch read by Amanda James, I'd certainly recommend Behind the Lie to anyone who likes a bit more meat on the bones of their psychological thriller.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Friday, 14 April 2017

With Deadly Intent - K. A. Richardson




EVIDENCE
When Crime Scene Manager, Cass Hunt, is called to a fatal road traffic collision in the dead of night, not all is as it seems and the last thing she expects is to end up working on a murder case with DCI Alex McKay.

INVESTIGATION
More gruesome murders, a dead dog, and a startling revelation has the whole of the North East Police force reeling.  Will they catch him before his latest prize becomes another victim and he fades into the shadows once more?

DARKNESS
From the tree-line, someone is watching, and he doesn't like where the investigation leads. Taking his time, he plans and executes each kill.  He will not rest until his job is complete.

One thing's for certain, his intent is deadly, he's dangerous and he's coming for her.


What did I think?

How have I gone through the last year without picking up a book by K.A. Richardson?  After seeing so many excellent reviews, it was something that I was quick to remedy and bought all 3 books after meeting the author herself.  I have to say that on picking up With Deadly Intent, I found it IMPOSSIBLE to put down and read it in one day.  So please clear your diary before picking up this book!

Cass Hunt is a Crime Scene Manager for Sunderland police force.  Cass suffers from nightmares about something that happened in her past, making her a fragile and interesting character.  Who better to break down her barriers than DCI Alex McKay?  Alex and Cass are very similar; they both keep their private lives and professional lives very separate.  As much as they try to fight the magnetic pull that draws them together, however, we know that is one battle they won't win.

Sunderland police force are in the midst of investigating a serial killer who always seems to be one step ahead of them.  Only one clue is left behind at each murder scene which has the police puzzled.  As they investigate each murder, the killer gets closer and closer to claiming one of their own.  Can they crack the clues before the time runs out?

On the anniversary of its publication, I picked up With Deadly Intent as my Easter weekend read, not thinking for a moment that I would finish it on the first day of the holiday.  So fast-paced, gripping and at times gruesome, this is a book and a half.  I am astonished that it is a debut and cannot wait to read the next books in the series.

My rating:




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The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir - Lesley Allen



Biddy Weir is a quirky girl.

Abandoned by her mother as a baby, and with a father who's not quite equipped for the challenges of modern parenting, Biddy lives in her own little world, happy to pass her time painting by the sea and watching the birds go by. That is, until she meets Alison Flemming.

Because there are a few things about Biddy that aren't normal, you see. And Alison isn't afraid to point them out to the world.

All of a sudden, Biddy's quiet life is thrown into turmoil. If only there was someone to convince her that, actually, everyone's a little bit weird . . .

A story of abuse and survival, of falling down and of starting again, and of one woman's battle to learn to love herself for who she is, The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is Lesley Allen's startlingly honest debut novel.

What did I think?

Firstly, I just have to say that this book has a simply stunning cover.  It reminds me of the forest that grew around Sleeping Beauty, shielding her from the outside world...which links very nicely to my feelings towards Biddy Weir.  I would have liked to have created a shield of thorns to protect her from spiteful girls with such hurtful words, but unfortunately the world is cruel and apparently what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

Biddy isn't like the other children at school, she's very comfortable with her own solitude and is happy to spend her time painting birds and examining their poo.  She lives with her father and without a female influence she has to find her own way in the world.  This is something that the other children exploit and Biddy finds herself the cruel butt of jokes at the hands of the ringleader, Alison Flemming. Alison is a spiteful girl who will do anything to be the most popular and pretty girl in the school.  She doesn't realise that when you peel away her outer layer, underneath it all she is an ugly, bitter girl.

All the cruel taunts and name calling have a heartbreaking effect on Biddy and many years later she finds herself living as a recluse. She has been told so often that she is weirdo that she believes it and acts like one.  Of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being weird, it's part of the beauty of the human race.  Who is to say what is weird and what is not?  Then one day Biddy is introduced to Terri, who is a little bit weird herself, and Biddy can finally talk about what happened to her as a child.  As she talks, she begins to heal and I hope perhaps finally realises just how special she is.

This was an emotional rollercoaster of a read.  I was furious with Alison Flemming and her team of mean girls, albeit fictional characters but we all know they exist.  Through their cruel jibes they have scarred Biddy for life and no matter how many times you tell yourself that 'sticks and stones may break your bones', unfortunately words do ultimately hurt you.  I wanted to tell young Biddy what my Nanna told me: 'You'll see your day, pet.' but you'll just have to read this fantastic book to find out whether Biddy sees her day.

You will go through a rainbow of emotions on this journey with Biddy Weir: anger, sadness, heartbreak and happiness as the beautiful Biddy-shaped butterfly emerges from her weird chrysalis.  An uplifting, brave and stunning debut from Lesley Allen worthy of every single one of the 5 stars I have awarded.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Don't Close Your Eyes - Holly Seddon



Robin and Sarah weren't the closest of twins. They weren't even that similar. But they loved each other dearly. Until, in the cruellest of domestic twists, they were taken from one another.

Now, in her early 30s, Robin lives alone. Agoraphobic and suffering from panic attacks, she spends her days pacing the rooms of her house. The rest of the time she watches - watches the street, the houses, the neighbours. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn't...

And Sarah? Sarah got what she wanted - the good-looking man, the beautiful baby, the perfect home. But she's just been accused of the most terrible thing of all. She can't be around her new family until she has come to terms with something that happened a long time ago. And to do that, she needs to track down her twin sister.

But Sarah isn't the only person looking for Robin. As their paths intersect, something dangerous is set in motion, leading Robin and Sarah to fight for much more than their relationship...

What did I think?

Having loved Holly Seddon's amazing debut, Try Not To Breathe, I could not contain my excitement when I picked up a copy of Don't Close Your Eyes.  You really can't put Holly's books down; they immediately draw you in to an intriguing storyline, making it quite possible to finish Don't Close Your Eyes in one sitting.  I didn't quite manage it as my brain ignored the instruction and my eyes unfortunately started to close as it was way past my bedtime.

Robin and Sarah are twins, although they are like chalk and cheese, and we meet them as they are growing up in the late 80's/early 90's.  There is no doubt as to the era with references to Jordan Knight from NKOTB (although I was a Donnie Wahlberg fan) and Opal Fruits (not the yellow ones).  Robin becomes close friends with her neighbour, Callum, as the two neighbouring families begin to socialise together, but she could never have expected her life to intertwine so intricately with Callum's.  In a cruel turn of fate, Robin and Sarah are separated by the Atlantic Ocean as Sarah goes to live in America.

Fast forward to present day and if you think the 'past' was full of drama, you ain't seen nothin' yet!  Robin is agoraphobic and spends her time looking out of her window at her neighbours' lives.  She is clearly very damaged and you wonder what on earth happened to her, this girl who was once confident enough to be in a band.  Sarah meanwhile, is equally lost after her husband, Jim, stages what appears to be an intervention which separates her from her beautiful daughter, Violet.  Jim has a list of misdemeanours, but surely Sarah can explain them?

I can't really say too much more without giving away some of the story, but what an amazing book this is.  Don't Close Your Eyes is filled with so much drama that it makes Eastenders look like an episode of Songs of Praise.  Holly Seddon really knows how to get under your skin, creating characters that are as multi-faceted as the rarest diamond.  It's not only a book that I will continually recommended, but a book that I will definitely read-again.

Seriously good, you won't want to blink, never mind close your eyes, until you have finished it.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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