The Playground Murders by Lesley Thomson / Blog Tour + Guest Post

Good morning! Today I am a part of “The Playground Murders” (brilliant title, no?) by Lesley Thomson blog tour. I haven’t hosted a guest post for a long time and so, this time, the lovely author has written one for me, and it is about a day in author’s life – I was always intrigued how they look like. So put your feet high and enjoy!

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

40879173Forty years ago, in the dark of the playground, two children’s lives were changed for ever.

Stella Darnell is a cleaner. But when she isn’t tackling dust and dirt and restoring order to chaos, Stella solves murders. Her latest case concerns a man convicted of killing his mistress. His daughter thinks he’s innocent, and needs Stella to prove it.

As Stella sifts through piles of evidence and interview suspects, she discovers a link between the recent murder and a famous case from forty years ago: the shocking death of six-year-old Sarah Ferris, killed in the shadows of an empty playground.

Stella knows that dredging up the past can be dangerous. But as she pieces together the tragedy of what happened to Sarah, she is drawn into a story of jealousy, betrayal and the end of innocence. A story that has not yet reached its end…

 

GUEST POST:

    • A Day in the Life
      Readers ask me, what is a typical day?
      I’m lucky, unless I’m preparing for an event or teaching (I’m a visiting tutor on an creative writing MA) I write every day.
      7am. I walk our poodle Alfred through a ruined priory of crumbling flint walls. In winter I wear a high-vis jerkin and a headtorch.Alfred has a neon collar. In the dark it’spotentially scary and it inspired me to write The Dog Walker … in which the dog walker dies. Unlike a character in that novel I’m not alone. There’s a bunch of us solving world issues and keeping each other sane.
      After breakfast and a read of the newspaper, I start writing.
      8.30am. My target is1,000 words.Obviously not any old words, but this objective keeps up the pace of the drama and gets the first draft down. On a first draft with blank pages ahead, it’s easy to procrastinate, rework a sentence over and over or dip out and check email.
      11.15. I’m in the patisserie for a takeaway latte and a natter with the owner Libby and anyone in the queue. I leave invigorated for the next writing stint. If I’m stuck -Why would Stella be at the crime scene? When should Jack tell Stella the truth?-I’ll stop inthe gardens of anElizabethan house where colourful flowerbeds, newly-cut lawns within more flint walls soothe the brain.
      1pm. Lunch with The Archers on catch up. Another dog walk, just me and Alfred. Walking’s ideal for fleshing out characters and deciding their next move. I dictate ideas into my phone or I won’t remember. In the old days I’d ring home and leave a weird message on the answer machine.The blood was between the floorboards.
      I’ve had mishaps. I lost Alfred’s lead and had to lug him home (he chases lorries so can’t be off-lead). Seven kilos gets heavier after half a mile. Another time I fell on my face in mud. Heigh hoe, it feeds the fiction.
      Then one afternoon we were playing ball in the park.I stopped by the children’s playground, the primary coloured equipment cheery on a greyday. Kids charged about,swarming up ropes,swinging from bars. I recalled the playground of my own childhood. Playgrounds, I pondered, chucking Alfred his ball, are fun places where children play imaginative games. What if their games are not fun? The plot for The Playground Murders unfolded.
      4.30pm. Cuppa and reads omething, perhaps for research or another crime-writer’s novel if I’m moderating a panel. It’s called work, but I love it.
      6pm: The End.Relax. Take ages to do half the Guardian Quick Crossword.

 

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A Summer Reunion by Fanny Blake / Blog Tour

A Summer Reunion by Fanny Blake

 

45034784Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 13th June 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 320

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

One perfect villa, four old friends, and a holiday that will change everything…

Amy, Linda, Kate and Jane were best friends at school. Now, years later, they have grown apart. When Amy discovers her husband has been stealing from her successful interiors business, and with a milestone birthday looming, she decides it is the time to reach out to her old friends once again.

So, she decides to invite the other three to her beautiful villa in Mallorca for a reunion weekend. As the four friends gather, secrets are unearthed, old scores settled and new friendships forged. Will this holiday bring them together or tear them apart? And will each of them grasp their second chance for happiness…?

Rating: four-stars

 

The main characters in “A Summer Reunion” are Amy, Jane, Kate and Linda. They’re all in their sixties now, and used to be inseparable childhood friends, until the event that has changed Amy’s course of life. There are still things open and so Amy decides to invite all three to her house in Mallorca, in the hope to uncover what has really happened all those years ago and maybe to reconnect. However, as it turns out, they all have secrets and not all of them wants for those secrets to see the light of the day.

I loved the fact that the characters in “A Summer Reunion” are mature and already experienced, that they really have something to tell. There was wisdom in them, although it doesn’t mean that they weren’t still making mistakes, because they were, but it only made them feel more realistic in my opinion. I simply think that Fanny Blake has brilliantly captured the personalities of her characters, got under their skin and made them living, breathing women who tried their best but not always succeeded, with their lives full of trials and tribulations.

The story is told from different points of view, as we have four main characters here. Mostly it wasn’t confusing, except for the chapters that were told from the first person’s narration, I always had to wonder which one of the women it is. But other than that you really don’t have to worry, simply go with the flow. Though the characters weren’t totally likeable for me, I must admit, or at least not all of them, they were for sure relatable, and the one that I liked most must have been Kate, a total housewife, but also relaxed and – at least I had this feeling – taking things with a grain of salt. Well, she had to, with the big family, right?

What surprised me was the fact that this story is not, like I expected, sunshine, cocktails and funny childhood memories, as the cover may suggest. There is so much more to this book than meet the eye, guys, there is depth to it, there is mystery and drama and it went so well with this gorgeous setting and complex, well – drawn characters. You know from the very beginning that Amy, Jane, Linda and Kate were best friends but something bad has happened and they haven’t seen each other for years, and I liked that it didn’t take the whole book for the secret to be revealed, enlightening what has caused the mutual aversion and all the changes. And it was shocking, this revelation, trust me guys, and it was absolutely well handled by the author. Even though I guessed who it was right from the beginning, it didn’t spoil the joy of reading this interesting book, and I wanted – as much as Amy – get a full closure.

Altogether, “A Summer Reunion” was a gripping and thought – provoking story about the fact that grass is not always greener on the other side, about appearances and about appreciating what you have in life, but also not taking this life for granted and grabbing it by the horns. It was wise, it was light – hearted but also poignant and with some heavier issues touched upon. It was a deep, moving but also heart – warming story with a gorgeous setting in sunny Spain about friendship, also the toxic one, full of drama, lies and secrets but also more relaxing moments. It was raw and gritty and bitter – sweet and it pulled me into its midst. Recommended!

 

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I Know You’re There by Sarah Simpson / Blog Tour

I Know You’re There by Sarah Simpson

 

42868406Publisher: Aria

Publishing Date: 6th June 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 404

Genre: General Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Is your house as safe as you think?

Natalie spent most of her childhood feeling afraid. So when she moved into her cosy little flat in St Ives and met her three friendly neighbours, she knew at once it was somewhere she’d feel safe.

Before long, Natalie’s neighbours have become the family she never had. Kind, motherly Morwenna, serious, reliable Nigel, and sweet, anxious Daniel. They collect each other’s mail, water each other’s plants, and share each others lives.

But as Natalie knows all too well, the people who are closest to you can also be the most dangerous.

And this house is not as safe as she thinks…

Rating: four-stars

 

Natalie lives in an apartment in a house shared with three other people. After an abusive childhood she finds it hard to trust others but she finds she can trust her neighbours and has managed to built a friendship with some of them. The something happens that changes her world – her father is being released from prison and at the same time she and her friends start to receive mysterious postcards from someone who seems to know a lot personal information about them all. Are they all in danger?

The story introduces us to relatively many characters but the author takes her time to give us a chance to get to know them all, dedicating alternative chapters to each one. Because of this the pace was rather slow and it wasn’t easy to engage with all the subplots, to be honest, the not knowing what is significant and what is not has provided for a rather confused feelings. But – the characters were well developed, each of them had their own story and really, the author has managed to play with my mind, making me change my mind and my suspicions were jumping all over the place. Natalie comes across as paranoid and anxious but honestly, after her abusive childhood you can understand her. She’s dating her landlord and is full of secrets. Mowenna, Natalie’s friend, is the motherly one but also with past that she’s afraid to be exposed one day. Serious, quiet Nigel, and Daniel, young and naive and also with a past that’s haunting him, even though he tries to escape it. Each of them has their own issues and secrets but they are all believable and complex characters. They all have flaws, you might not agree with their decisions, you’re going to have doubts about them but they’re all going to get under your skin.

This story was full of tension and this creepy feeling that something bad is going to happen, and it was great. I could feel Natalie’s fear, anxiety and uncertainty, as the chilling sense of fear and insecurity was truly strong. Moreover, almost each chapter ends with a cliff-hanger, so in the end you’ll find telling yourself only one chapter more and than totally forgetting the time. There were twists and turns, and they for sure turned out well, as some of them managed to shock me and gasp in disbelief, and well, as usual, yours truly had no idea how it’s going to end, the book kept me guessing till the very end.

It was captivating, character driven thriller written in a great way, Sarah Simpson has for sure a way with words. It was complex, unpredictable and gripping, a slow – burner but I think this laying down the foundations at the beginning was really necessary. Full of secrets, lies and grim atmosphere it still makes for a brilliant, captivating and clever read. Recommended!

 

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Half a World Away by Mike Gayle

Half a World Away by Mike Gayle

 

cover155084-mediumPublisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publishing Date: 13th June 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 05.03.2020)

 

Synopsis:

The incredibly moving and uplifting new novel from the author of The Man I Think I Know.

Kerry Hayes knows exactly who she is: a single mum, a cleaner and Mariah Carey’s biggest fan.

Noah Martineau thinks he knows who he is: a successful barrister, with a wife, daughter and big house in Primrose Hill.

Strangers with nothing in common.
Strangers living worlds apart.

But it wasn’t always this way…and Noah and Kerry are about to discover just who they really are.

Rating: five-stars

 

Kerry is a hardworking single mother, raising her beloved son Kian. Life for her has never been easy. She was put into care as a child and changed foster families like you change your gloves, ending up in a home. Getting pregnant after few years of reckless and dangerous living made Kerry change her perspectives. She was determined to give her son the loving, stable home she has never had, even if his father is not interested in him. The only other person that Kerry has loved as much as her son was her little brother Jason, taken into care and then being adopted. Unable to find him, Kerry started to write letters to him via adoption agency. However, Jason is now Noah Martineau, adopted into a white middle class family, and he has been given any opportunity that he cleverly took the chance. He’s a barrister with his own perfect family, or at least it looks like this, and he actually never wanted to know about his previous life. So when a litter from Kerry arrives, he couldn’t be more than surprised. Will he get in touch with his sister? He has no idea that for Kerry it may be the matter of life and death.

In this character – driven novel the characterisation is absolutely perfect. It is told from Kerry and Noah’s perspectives, and they both have distinctive, strong voices. The way they tell their story makes you quickly immersed and engaged in their lives and I immediately found myself rooting for them both, sitting at the edge of my seat and biting my nails. Kerry was absolutely brilliant, down – to – earth, realistic characters, who, despite life not being a garden full of roses, didn’t lose her sparkle, her love to colours and Mariah Carey. Noah was great, clever and realistic, and there so much to him that you could think at first.
Watching their relationship develop was like an emotional rollercoaster ride, with all its ups and downs, so incredibly uplifting but also sad, as there were so many challenges thrown under their feet. It was moving, it was poignant and it simply felt SO. REAL.

It was absolutely Mike Gayle at his best – he’s back in the best form ever and “Half a World Away” only shows his real talent. It is a book that’s going to pull you in immediately from the start, a story that’s going to break your heart and give you tons of hope. It’s emotional, it’s full of feelings, heart and soul, it’s bitter – sweet, raw and honest, brilliantly written and touching family saga with a difference.
It was a beautiful, tugging at the heart – strings but also not too wishy – washy and overdone story about family dynamics, about choices, letting go and learning to hold on. The author touched upon many difficult issues but he does it with easy humour and gentleness, and this plus the great characterisation made me feel a part of this story. Mike Gayle is a great observer of a human nature and he can effortlessly and eloquently put his observations into words. Actually, guys, you should simply treat yourself and read it the book asap. Highly recommended!

 

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop

 

43884245Publisher: Headline

Publishing Date: 30th May 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via Pigeonhole in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 480

Genre: Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover (out on 05.09.2019)| Paperback (out on 20.02.2020)

 

Synopsis:

The gripping new novel by Sunday Times Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop is set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Greece, the subsequent civil war and a military dictatorship, all of which left deep scars.

Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade.
Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.

In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.

Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live.

As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.

Rating: four-stars

 

“Those Who Are Loved” follows the life of Themis, from childhood up to an old age. It was life full of events, love, loss and grief. Raised by her matriarch grandmother, Themis grows in a family that is full of disharmony, especially when it comes to politics. First living under Nazi occupation in Athens and then, when the war was over and everybody thought the worst is already behind them, the communist start to rule Greece, there are civil wars and there are many, many challenges to be faced by Themis and her family. You are going to learn that for sure she was not an ordinary woman.

I must admit, for a long time I had a feeling that it is simply a random read, that the author simply wanted to bring us closer to historical period that I, personally, didn’t know about. I didn’t feel engaged too much in the story, and I think that this time reading with Pigeonhole didn’t help – you need to get into the heart of the story in your own tempo, you need to have the possibility to read as much as you want to understand where the story is taking us. It took me a long time to finally start to appreciate the novel and to “get” it, and when I’ve eventually hit this point, there was nothing holding me back and there was probably nothing that could mend my broken heart. And in the end I can say that it was a powerful, incredibly important book.

The story was so immaculately researched and there was so much love to Greece and its history. The author has painted here a real, raw, genuine and fascinating picture, an motional journey full of pain and tears but also small acts of joy. There were many historical facts intertwined into the plot but it never felt like reading a history book – because the author has an incredible talent to mix them with so many personal touches and making the characters feel human and real.

Themis’s voice is distinctive and gentle, and even though she has experienced so much loss, pain and suffering she still finds it in her heart to be as objective as possible. The author was able to get into her character’s head so intensively that I had a feeling I was living and breathing with Themis. You don’t have to agree with her but you are still going to keep everything crossed for her. It was great to accompany her on her journey to adulthood, seeing how she grows up, how feisty and determined and full of passion she becomes in her life that was so full of turmoil and disharmony.
Actually, the author brings all the characters to life, and you could either agree with them or not, you could warm to them or not but they were very well drawn and significant and all them played a role in this story.

It was not only a historical fiction but an engrossing and rich family saga, a great picture of family dynamics, going deep into the feelings and emotions of all the characters, making you suffer and experience everything with them. I personally can’t imagine my family torn so heavily because of politics but the author has made it very believable in the story, showing how much and how badly it has affected the characters. It was also done so realistically, the real struggle of Themis to find her own way and her own beliefs. It was fascinating read with a difference about standing for yourself, fighting for your beliefs, not giving up but also knowing when it’s time to surrender, to realise your priorities, about bravery and determination, story about life versus death. A compelling novel about heartbreak, loss, regret and hope, full of significant moments that stay with you till the end. Victoria Hislop brings back the trauma of not only the repercussions of WWII in Greece, but she digs deeper and further, shedding light on the community divided by politics, on the cruelty and difficulties that Greek had to face after the war. Recommended!

 

Don’t Go Baking My Heart by Cressida McLaughlin

Don’t Go Baking My Heart by Cressida McLaughlin

 

42652169Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 13th June 2019

Series: The Cornish Cream Tea Bus

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 104

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle 

 

Synopsis:

Part One of the charming new series from the author of The Canal Boat Cafe. Perfect for cake lovers and old-fashioned romantics!

‘Captivating’ Heat Magazine

‘Beautiful… heartwarming’ Zara Stoneley

‘A wonderful ray of reading sunshine’ Heidi Swain

Baking fanatic, Charlie Quilter, is surprised when her late uncle bequeaths his vintage bus to her in his will. Charlie thinks it will be the perfect mobile café for afternoon tea, and when her friend, Juliette, suggests Charlie comes to stay with her in the picturesque Cornish village of Porthgolow, she’s thrilled at the chance of a new start.
Charlie and her cute dog, Marmite, make new friends wherever their bus stops – except for the attractive but reclusive owner of the posh spa up on the hill, Daniel Harper, who isn’t very pleased that her bus is parked outside his lovely hotel.
Has Charlie’s Cornish dream developed a soggy bottom? Or can she convince Daniel that her bus could be the start of something wonderful for the little village – and for them?

Rating: four-stars

 

“Don’t Go Baking My Heart” is a brilliant title, I love it, although I couldn’t spot its interrelatedness to the story – apologies if I missed something. It is also the first of a new 4 – part series and even though I usually don’t read books in series but I rather wait for them to be published as a gorgeous paperback, it’s from Cressida McLaughlin, and so I though, this time I can’t wait. I have to read it. So there.

The story follows a simple and already known formula but it works, guys, it works brilliantly! Charlie, our main character, is simply great, so determined and funny, and the author couldn’t take a better character to play a reading role in this book. After her beloved uncle’s death, Charlie has been left his vintage bus. To keep his memory alive, she decides to turn Gertie into a bus cafe, and I loved the final result. Soon Charlie takes her new bus on a test run, to see how things work, and after a very minor disaster Charlie finds herself taking a sabbatical (or rather, being forced to take sabbatical), travelling with Gertie to her best friend Juliette in Porthgolow and causing problems there.

I think I can predict the direction the story is going to turn, and there is romance in the air as well, but it absolutely doesn’t bother me. It was a feel – good, humorous novella, a great introduction to the series and I will be for sure reading the next instalments. And I know I don’t gush over covers enough lately, but this one so deserves a standing ovation – it’s simply beautiful and so eye – catching, it’s a shame that it’s an ebook cover.

The pace of the story was great, things were moving really quickly and there was not a single moment flat. The setting was gorgeous, and I love the sound of Porthgolow, with its streets and suspicious residents. Cressida’s descriptions are so, so vivid, she brings the colours, places and characters so easily to life. Can’t wait for the next part!

 

Her Husband’s Mistake by Sheila O’Flanagan / Blog Tour

Her Husband’s Mistake by Sheila O’Flanagan

 

43204746Publisher: Headline

Publishing Date: 30th May 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 05.03. 2020)

 

Synopsis:

Dave’s made a BIG mistake. What’s Roxy going to do about it? The riveting new novel from No. 1 bestselling author Sheila O’Flanagan. Perfect for readers of Marian Keyes and Amanda Prowse.

Roxy’s marriage has always been rock solid.

After twenty years, and with two carefree kids, she and Dave are still the perfect couple.

Until the day she comes home unexpectedly, and finds Dave in bed with their attractive, single neighbour.

Suddenly Roxy isn’t sure about anything – her past, the business she’s taken over from her dad, or what her family’s future might be. She’s spent so long caring about everyone else that she’s forgotten what she actually wants. But something has changed. And Roxy has a decision to make.

Whether it’s with Dave, or without him, it’s time for Roxy to start living for herself…

‘One of my favourite authors’ Marian Keyes

Rating: four-stars

 

Roxy has recently lost her father and has been spending more time at her mother’s house. The day after the funeral she comes home to surprise her husband, however what she sees when she walks in to their bedroom is going to change their lives. Roxy immediately moves out with the children and stays with her mother to work out what to do next. She has started to run her father’s chauffer business when he was taken ill, and now she feels it is only right to continue it, especially as he left her his Mercedes to do with it what she wants. She starts to feel confident again, loves meeting the clients and enjoys the driving, but also she needs to decide what to do with her marriage – forgive and forget? Come back to Dave? Trust him again?

Now, Roxy. Yes, there were moments that I felt desperate with her, or more likely I felt desperate with her husband, because I really rooted for her and kept everything crossed for her. I think the author has so brilliantly captured her indecisions, uncertainty, being torn between the feeling that she has to stay loyal and putting all others before herself – this is the way we work, we dream of things but we still don’t find the courage to reach for them, and in my opinion Sheila O’Flanagan has done a great job with picturing Roxy like this, making her a living and breathing character. I might have not always agreed with her decisions but I respected them because it’s so easy to say something but much more difficult to do it when you’re not sure what’s good – and Roxy felt so true that all she did or didn’t do simply felt realistic, and her problems and struggles will for sure resonate with many women.
Dave is another story. I wanted to bang his head on the wall every time he tried to get his own way and carry on making Roxy feel as though she’s the one in the wrong, as though everything was her fault, and as he was doing it instantly, this wall would get a nice hollow in it really quickly. It’s one thing when married people are not always able to settle their differences but Dave took it to another level and I hated how he made Roxy feel.

I had a feeling that the pace is rather on the slow side, and I could have lived without some of the passages, and I’ve missed some more action but altogether I enjoyed this novel and I find that it was incredibly easy to read – you know this kind of books when you start to read, five minutes later look at the clock and see that actually it is more than few hours but you simply didn’t notice it, so engrossed you are in the story. “Her Husband’s Mistake” was such a book, I really liked the writing style, it was so natural and easy to follow.

Altogether, it was a down – to – earth, realistic novel about family relationships and dynamics, about second chances and taking things in your hands. I really liked seeing the main character growing in confidence, becoming self – confident, knowing her value and strength. Story that is relatable on many levels, that I really enjoyed and highly recommend.

 

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