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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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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Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain / Blog Tour

Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain

 

42360579Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 30th May  2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Things haven’t always been straightforward in Poppy’s life but her dreams are finally within her reach.

She’s moving into a cottage in beautiful Nightingale Square, close to the local community garden, where she can indulge her passion for making preserves and pickles. She may not have the best relationship with her family but she is surrounded by loving friends, and feels sure that even her grumpy new neighbour, Jacob, has more to him than his steely exterior belies.

But the unexpected arrival of Poppy’s troubled younger brother soon threatens her new-found happiness and as the garden team works together to win community space of the year, Poppy must decide where her priorities lie and what she is prepared to fight for …

Rating: four-stars

 

Poppy is new to Nightingale Square, though I have a feeling that she’s not new to the residents of the Square, that all of them know and love her. Jacob is also new, but he’d rather keep himself to himself. Poppy works at the local greengrocers and creates all kinds of yummy sounding food. When her teenage brother Ryan suddenly appears in her life as a “full – time job”, Jacob offers to help Poppy to take a calm and measured approach in helping him coming out of his shell. Poppy takes this offer, as she was desperate to coax Jacob into joining in with the community garden.

“Poppy’s Recipe for Life” was not my first book by Heidi Swain but my first journey to Nightingale Square (yep. Apologies. From the bottom of my reading sofa. I have the other book but haven’t read it yet, must have been living under the rock) and as much as I had a feeling that the characters know each other really, really well, that they share a history and background, I didn’t feel left out, as if I was missing on something, so this is already a bonus point for the author and the book, to make it so inviting and drawing me straight into the heart of the story. Have I just written the longest sentence ever?

At the beginning the book reads just like your normal book, it was a nice story but on the average level, but then there came a moment, and I’m not even sure when it has happened, that the story started to feel totally different, more eventful and somehow I found myself not being able to put it down. Poppy was such a lovely character, caring and hard working and she always wanted all the kindness in the world for other people – but it didn’t make her feel too meh, no she was determined and passionate and she never gave up. Which could also be annoying but that was the way she was, so take it or leave it. The other characters, the inhabitants of Nightingale Square, were all so friendly and welcoming and no, it also didn’t make them feel too weak, they all had their own personality and distinctive voice. They supported each other and welcomed all new people with open hands, even the troubled Ryan, they understood the reason he was like this and it was so great to see them all help him to come out of his shell.

It was a lovely, heart – warming story about families, relationships, community spirit, friendship, trust and forgiveness. And gardening – don’t forget the gardening. But no worries guys if you, just like yours truly, don’t have green thumbs (I can kill every single plant in the world. Except for my orchids. No idea how I’m doing THIS), the gardening in this book is important but not too overpowering and overwhelming. And, to be honest, I’ve always admired those who can plant something and enjoy the results. Admired and envied. So altogether, “Poppy’s Recipe for Life” was a charming, lovely and cosy read with this so difficult to grasp feel – good factor. It was a tad predictable, yes, but it didn’t bother me too much, as it was full of other benefits and quirky characters, and the author has given a brilliant insight into their lives, really bringing them all to life, and the sense of community and the friendship were simply great. Recommended!

 

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The House on the Edge of the Cliff by Carol Drinkwater / Blog Tour

The House on the Edge of the Cliff by Carol Drinkwater

 

41trrnx2ctl._sx323_bo1204203200_Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 16th May  2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

From bestselling author Carol Drinkwater, comes an epic story of enduring love and betrayal, from Paris in the 1960s, to the present day.

No one else knows what happened that summer. Or so she believes . . .

Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young and full of dreams of adventure, she met two very different men.

She fell under the spell of one. The other fell under hers.

Until one summer night shattered everything . . .

Now, Grace is living an idyllic life with her husband, sheltered from the world in a magnificent Provençal villa, perched atop a windswept cliff.

Every day she looks out over the sea – the only witness to that fateful night years ago.

Until a stranger arrives at the house. A stranger who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants.

The past and present spectacularly collide in this gripping story of love and betrayal echoing across the decades.
_________

my-review

 

Grace fell in love with France almost a lifetime ago, when she was 16 year old girl and came there with her boyfriend Peter. Full of life and dreams then, now living a happy life in the idyllic home on the beautiful coast of Provence with – yes, Peter! However, this idyll is to be shattered with the appearance of a strange man. But is he really so strange? Did Grace used to know him and believed him to have drowned? As the past comes back to haunt Grace, she’s forced to re – examine what has happened all those years ago and at the same time to keep her family safe. Will she manage?

The characters are masterfully written and developed, and while I personally didn’t fell for them all, I nevertheless appreciated them. I must admit that I much more liked them as the adult versions from their younger ones. Grace is our main character and narrator of the story and her voice is distinctive, and there is something confessional in it, she’s not holding back, we get to know the whole truth.

The scenes set in the 1960’s in Paris were very detailed and felt as if they might have been autobiographical perhaps? So many details and so many insider knowledge were there. However, to be totally honest, these scenes were for me very slow going, I much preferred the storyline set in the present, the past simply focused too much and heavily on history and politics and it just didn’t grab me. In the end, I found myself skimming through those parts without a feeling that I’m missing on something. As the story progresses though, it gets darker and more serious, and I had a feeling that something really bad is going to happen.

Carol Drinkwater’s writing style is exquisite and her attention to the smallest details is incredible. The descriptions of nature, food, sea, weather but also feelings and emotions that were milling about on the pages of this book were mesmerizing. The setting of the story, especially the part set in France, is beautiful and I can’t imagine a better one for this book. I loved the idea of the lone house on a cliff, it was a brilliant setting for this story. The house was actually a character of its own, with its history and it changing hands in the family, being a place where everybody feels safe and loved.

There are for sure some twists throughout the story that, in the end, finishes with a satisfying conclusion. Sadly, though, this story didn’t appeal to me as much as I hoped it would – there is no particular reason for this, sometimes it works like this. It was full of dark secrets, misunderstandings and tension, riddled with tragedy. It was a multi – layered story, going back and forth in time. I really, really liked to see how the past has made the characters who they are in the present, to be a witness to all the changes, to watch them changing, making mistakes, growing and maturing. The writing style is descriptive and eloquent, and brings everything the author writes about to life. “The House on the Edge of the Cliff” was a very atmospheric novel about obsession, love, hate, betrayal, guilt and forgiveness.

 

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The Lost Letter of William Woolf by Helen Cullen / Blog Tour

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

 

42643850Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 2nd May  2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

SHORTLISTED FOR NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR, IRISH BOOK AWARDS

‘If you liked Harold Fry and Me Before You, you will love Cullen’s nostalgic debut. This life-affirming book will draw you in and keep you there’ Independent

‘Delightful’ Sunday Times

‘Deeply moving’ Irish Times

‘I found myself totally transported into William’s poignant and beguiling world of lost opportunities and love’ A. J. Pearce, author of Sunday Times bestseller Dear Mrs Bird

______________

Inside East London’s Dead Letters Depot, William Woolf unites lost mail with its intended recipient. White mice, a miniature grandfather clock and a full suit of armour are among the more unusual items lost then found thanks to William’s detective work.

But when he discovers a series of letters addressed only to ‘My Great Love’, everything changes. Written by Winter to a soulmate she hasn’t yet met, her heartfelt words stir William in ways he has long forgotten. Could they be destined for him? But what about his troubled marriage?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve the mystery of his own heart.

Rating: four-stars

 

Let’s start with telling you that I loved the idea of the book – there is hope for letters that went missing or with unclear destination if they find their way to East London’s Dead Letters Depot, where thirty letter detectives work hard, trying to put together whatever clues they can find to reunite the letters with their recipients. William Woolf is one of those detectives. Since 1979, after inheriting the position from his uncle, he’s been working in the depot and he is the right man at the right place. He has his own way of choosing the letters, and one day he finds a midnight blue envelope addressed to “My Great Love”. He’s intrigued. The letters are written by a woman to a man she has never met but feels he’s her soul mate and she hopes to meet him one day. William is fascinated and starts to think they are meant for him, and so he sets his mind on finding this woman. Only he doesn’t take into consideration that his marriage to Claire already is like walking on thin ice. After a great beginning, it looks like they are both living separate lives.

The characters were really well drawn and full of personality. They were full of flaws actually, and gradually and slowly we are made aware of the problems that lie between them. William and Claire simply stopped to communicate and the result is that their marriage became stale and unhappy. William actually felt better among his letters – this is my personal feeling, and while his compassion, dedication and interest were directed towards the letters, his own marriage, real life is suffering. He was more of a loner, and a dreamer in my opinion, feeling much more comfortable with his letters than in his real life.
William was really passionate about his job, and this passion has started already when he was a young boy, filling his notebook with stories from the letters, and some of those stories became a kind of obsession to him, I think we can say this. He doesn’t see them as normal letters but he sees the story behind them, he sees people that send them and who are waiting to receive them. His personal favourites were the one categorized as Supernatural Division, it means letters addressed to God, mythic and mystics.

There were some gorgeous stories contained in those lost letters. They were funny, they were personal, they were heart – breaking and heart – melting. Some were hilarious, some were poignant but they were for sure the strongest part of the book. The book also told us about William and Clare’s relationship, about their highs and lows but I must admit that I had a feeling that these are the letters that are the real main storyline. They were stories of love, grief, loss and hope, beautifully capturing human nature and relationships, feelings and emotions.

It was a story about love that went wrong, about hope, lost communication, disappointment, second chances and a great deal more. It was rather a sad read, realistic and poignant. I had a feeling that the ending is a bit too rushed, especially compared to the rest of the book that was rather moderate in pace, and to be totally honest, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. The author shows great insight into all areas that she writes about, let it be the letters, the stories, the relationships, exploring ups and downs, highs and lows of life and reality. The writing style is lyrical and eloquent but still easy to follow. Altogether, I enjoyed “The Lost Letters of William Woolf”, it was a read with a difference and I hope to read more from the author soon.

 

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