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A Sliver of Darkness by C J Tudor

A Sliver of Darkness is the debut short story collection from the author of best-selling books such as The Chalk Man and The Burning Girls. With elements of horror, dystopia and science fiction, C J Tudor takes us into her twisty world where everything is not how it seems to appear.

I have loved all of C J Tudor’s books and could not wait to get started on this one. I knew it would be worth the wait! Starting with an introduction to explain how this book came into being, I was immediately invested in it, knowing how difficult it had been for the author to write. The introduction to each story was an excellent addition to the book as it really helped to explain the author’s thought processes and the inspiration behind each plot.

Each short story is very different and readers will definitely have their own favourite depending on their preferred fiction genre. What links them all, however, is the unexpected and the way in which the author hits you with a twist you were not expecting. As someone who would not class horror as their favourite fiction genre, my favourite stories were End of the Liner, a dystopian mystery with a superb ending, and The Copy Shop, a plot that had me laughing out loud and wondering how I would utilise it!

This has really whet my appetite for C J Tudor’s next novel, The Drift. Fans of the author are going to love this collection and if you have never read any of her books, this is a perfect introduction to her work.

With thanks to Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House and Net Galley for my ARC.

The Jane Seymour Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

London 1527

A young Jane Seymour arrives to take her place in the court of Katherine of Aragon. With Henry VIII desperate for a son to continue his dynasty, he already has his eye on another woman, namely Jane’s cousin, Anne Boleyn. Jane soon realises that those at court are beginning to side with each of the women and when both fall out of favour with Henry, she fears he may begin to look in her direction.

Pembrokeshire 2020

When a document, The Pentagram Manuscript, is discovered, Perdita and Piper are once again thrown back into the world of Tudor England uncovering evidence that could completely change public perception of Jane Seymour. Trouble is also close at hand when their cousin, Xavier, once again is determined to ensure that Marquess House and everything else the sisters inherited from their grandmother, is passed down to his daughters. Knowing he will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, they find themselves in grave danger, fearing for their lives and the lives of those they love.

When I found out that what was originally The Marquess House trilogy was being extended, I was ecstatic and have waited patiently for this fourth instalment. Alexandra Walsh again takes us back to Tudor England, painting a vivid picture of life at the court of Henry VIII, introducing us to the many fascinating characters of the period. I love how fact and fiction are merged seamlessly, leaving us trying to work out what is historically accepted and what is straight out of the imagination of the author.

The modern sections of the book are equally readable and kept me on the edge of my seat as I waited to discover what secrets they would discover at Marquess House this time. I love the ‘race against time’ aspect of these books and am quite jealous of the archives the sisters have access to in order to carry out their research! In Xavier, we have an antagonist of the highest order and with his world crumbling around him, it was terrifying to see how he would do anything to remove Perdita and Piper from what is rightfully theirs.

The Jane Seymour Conspiracy is another excellent addition to the series and I hope that this isn’t the end for Perdita and Piper and their adventures at Marquess House,

With thanks to Sapere Books and Net Galley for my copy.

Why Mummy’s Sloshed by Gill Sims

Ellen’s children are growing up and bringing a new range of problems. Peter is a typical teenage boy, spending most of his time in his bedroom, eating and playing computer games. Jane, however, is 17 and about to take her driving test and flee the nest and head off to university. With her own personal life bringing her added stress, just how will Ellen cope?

This is the fourth and final instalment of the ‘Why Mummy’s…’ series and we see Ellen contemplating her future life as a single woman with children who no longer need her attention. While this seems quite scary for her, looking after her friend’s toddler for a day soon makes her realise that maybe life isn’t so bad after all! This part of the book had numerous laugh out loud moments and the audiobook (read brilliantly by Gabrielle Glaister) had me visualising the utter chaos the whirlwind of a child managed to cause!

While this could be read as a standalone, I would advise reading the previous books in the series in order to develop an understanding of the family and what has happened in their lives up until this point in time. As someone who mainly reads crime books, this is one of my go-to series for when I need something a bit more lighthearted and Gill Sims has never let me down.

**BLOG TOUR** The Storm Girl by Kathleen McGurl

Present Day: After her divorce, Millie Galton has moved into an old house in Mudeford, determined to start afresh. Once work starts on the house, the fireplace reveals a secret that takes Millie back to the house’s original use and introduces her to the world of smuggling.

1784: When her father becomes unable to work, Esther Harris takes over his role of hiding smugglers’ contraband in the cellar of their pub. Knowing that she could be caught at any moment, secrecy is a must. When a battle occurs between the revenue men and the smugglers, people’s loyalties are tested to the limit and Esther has a decision to make: does she follow her heart or protect those she loves?

Kathleen McGurl’s dual timeline books are always a good read and this is no exception. I really got a feel for the geography and history of the locations used in The Storm Girl and could see the research that had been undertaken to make the plot as accurate as possible. The area was really brought to life in both time frames and I could easily visualise the pub and the activities that went on there.

I loved the character of Esther, a woman ahead of her time whose strength showed throughout the whole book. I admired her tenacity and loyalty and willed her to have a happy ending. Millie showed a different sort of strength in her willingness to leave everything behind and start a new life in a place she had no connection to.

The plot has a bit of everything: history, romance, murder… It moves on at a good pace and by switching the timeframes as you are reading, Kathleen McGurl leaves you wanting to know what is going to happen next all the time. The two stories, although set in different times, link together nicely and a mysterious event that happened in the past is solved in the present, providing yet another connection.

I always look forward to reading Kathleen McGurl’s latest book and she has certainly not disappointed with The Storm Girl.

With thanks to HQ Digital and Rachel’s Random Resources.

Take a look at my reviews of more of Kathleen McGurls books:

The Emerald Comb 

The Pearl Locket

The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall

The Girl from Ballymor 

The Drowned Village

The Forgotten Secret

The Stationmaster’s Daughter

The Secret of the Chateau

The Forgotten Gift

The Lost Sister

The Girl From Bletchley Park

The Music Makers by Alexandra Walsh

Pembrokeshire, 2020

Eleanor Wilder has been forced to return to her parents’ home in Wales after a devastating illness has made it difficult for her to carry on with the life she was used to. A set of old family photos has given her a new lease of life, however, especially a photo of someone called Esme Blood, a name Eleanor is already familiar with. She soon embarks on a research project to find out all she can about this intriguing woman.

London, 1875

Esme Blood lives with her adoptive parents, Cornelius and Rosie Hardy, spending her time performing as part of a theatrical troupe. When her close friend Aaron leaves, Esme feels that one day they will reunite and will be able to live as man and wife. Fate has the habit of dealing a cruel hand, however, and soon Esmefinds herself in a loveless marriage, one that threatens the safety of those around her.

I have really enjoyed Alexandra Walsh’s previous books and this one, The Music Makers, is the second in her Victorian timeshift series. Although it is the second book, it is very much a standalone as it features a brand new story and different characters from the previous book, The Wind Chime. I do like how the author weaves in characters from previous books in little cameo appearances however, a sort of Easter Egg for those of us who have read the previous book and also the Marquess House series.

Both time frames are very readable and, although I had great sympathy for Eleanor and willed her to get what she wanted by the end of the book, it was the story of Esme Blood that was the standout plot for me. Esme was a wonderful character and I loved how her strength carried her through some quite dangerous situations. Alexandra Walsh’s superb writing meant that I could visualise the various aspects of Esme’s life from her life on stage to her marriage and beyond. I enjoyed the connections made between the two time frames and could totally understand Eleanor’s need to find out more about this mysterious woman from her past.

Alexandra Walsh has become one of the authors whose books I look forward to reading and I am eagerly anticipating the next in the Marquess House series, The Jane Seymour Conspiracy.

With thanks to Sapere Books and Net Galley.

The Girl From Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl

The Present

The Past

In 1942, Pam decides to defer her place at Oxford University to help with the war effort, joining a team of codebreakers in Bletchley Park. Finding herself the subject of the affection of two young men, she makes her choice, setting in motion a series of events that could change her life forever.

The Girl From Bletchley Park is another superb dual timeframe book from Kathleen McGurl. Kathleen seems to have the knack of choosing the perfect eras for these books and she has done it again here, the Buckinghamshire estate being the perfect setting for a book about mystery and betrayal. I visited Bletchley Park several years ago and would thoroughly recommend it as it really brings home how brave and intelligent women like Pam were.

The theme of betrayal runs through both timeframes, albeit betrayal in very different ways. I admired the strength of both women, Pam and Julia, and enjoyed reading a book with such strong female characters who were not afraid to take matters into their own hands when faced with an earth-shattering situation.

I always look forward to Kathleen McGurl’s books and am eagerly waiting to see which historical era she takes us to next.

With thanks to Net Galley and HQ Digital for my copy.

Take a look at my reviews of other books by Kathleen McGurl.

The Emerald Comb 

The Pearl Locket

The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall

The Girl from Ballymor 

The Drowned Village

The Forgotten Secret

The Stationmaster’s Daughter

The Secret of the Chateau

The Forgotten Gift

The Lost Sister

The Wind Chime by Alexandra Walsh

After the death of her mother, Amelia Prentice is clearing out her attic when she finds a box of Victorian photographs. Depicting the Attwater family who resided at a Pembrokeshire estate called Cliffside, Amelia sets out to discover who they were. When she finds the diaries of Osyth Attwater, she finds her interest piqued even more.

Back in 1883, young Osyth overhears a conversation which shatters her world and leaves her wondering what other secrets her family has kept from her. What exactly did happen to Osyth’s mother and is there any link in the present day to Amelia?

I am a huge fan of the Marquess House series by Alexandra Walsh and was pleased to see that she had written another timeshift book, this time set in my favoured period of historical fiction, the Victorian age. The author captures the era perfectly and I particularly liked how it deals with some of the subjects that would have been taboo in that age such as mental illness and relationships outside of marriage.

Initially, I found myself favouring the sections written in the present day due to my love of all things genealogical but as the book progressed and I found myself understanding the complex family relationships of the family in 1883, I began to enjoy both eras equally. Osyth soon became a firm favourite and I admired her tenacity despite her reputation for being a bit of a dreamer.

The Wind Chime is a beautiful, poignant book written with sensitivity. I have already downloaded the next in the series, The Music Makers.

Take a look at my reviews of the Marquess House series by the same author:

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy

The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy

The Weeping Lady Conspiracy

**BLOG TOUR** The Lost Sister by Kathleen McGurl

In 1911, Emma leaves the family home to become a stewardess onboard the ocean liner Olympic. Leaving her two sisters, Lily and Ruby, behind, she promises to be back soon. Nothing ever goes according to plan, however, and soon the sisters’ lives are changed for ever. In the present day, Harriet finds her late grandmother’s travelling trunk in the attic. Finding a photo of her grandmother with her sisters, she is confused. She knew that her grandmother had a sister who died young but who is the other girl? She soon finds herself learning about the three sister ships Olympic, Britannic and Titanic and discovering what tore the sisters apart.

It is always a pleasure to feature on a blog tour for a Kathleen McGurl book and more so when the subject is something that I have a great interest in – RMS Titanic. The story of the Titanic has been well documented but the fate of her sister ships is less known and it was clear to see the research that has been undertaken by the author in order to tell their stories. Most fiction about the Titanic tends to focus on the passengers, so it was pleasing to read about a member of staff, giving a different perspective of life at sea.

The two time frames each have their own plot, linked neatly together by a family connection. We also see the common theme of complicated sibling relationships running throughout both eras. There were many parallels between the two sets of characters, Ruby and Davina being headstrong with no concerns about how they are perceived by the outside world and the more staid personalities of Emma and Sally.

I am a fan of genealogical fiction and so I particularly enjoyed reading about Harriet’s desire to find out about her family and her use of DNA testing. This gave the story another superb layer, helping to contribute to the several twists and turns that the author has included, one of which, in particular, knocked me sideways!

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Kathleen McGurl’s dual timeline novels and this one is another wonderful read. An accurate portrayal of family relationships with a plot that is both heartwarming and heart wrenching, I thoroughly recommend reading The Lost Sister.

With thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources, Net Galley, H Q Digital and Kathleen McGurl for my copy and for organising the blog tour.

Take a look at my reviews of some of Kathleen McGurl’s other books:

The Emerald Comb 
The Pearl Locket
The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall
The Girl from Ballymor 
The Drowned Village
The Forgotten Secret
The Stationmaster’s Daughter
The Secret of the Chateau

The Forgotten Gift

**BLOG TOUR** How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) by Gary Raymond

I’m not a huge fan of rom-coms but I’ve always had a soft spot for the film Love Actually. With its stellar cast and feel-good story lines, I went to see it at the cinema, own the DVD and if I see it’s on TV, I find myself settling down to watch it once again. The title of this book, therefore, intrigued me – just how could this film possibly be accused of ruining Christmas?

If you have never seen the film, then this book will not make much sense to you! It is, essentially, a retelling of the plot, taking each aspect and dissecting it with a very critical eye. While my opinion of Love Actually has not been swayed after reading this, I do concede that the author has made some very valid points and I will definitely see parts of the film in a different light.

Gary Raymond definitely hits the nail on the head with regards to Daniel and Karen. This is a man who has recently lost his wife and yet his friend is pushing him towards starting a new relationship, seemingly even before the funeral! Until reading this, I had never given this insensitive behaviour a second thought! Likewise, the author’s comments on the Mark/Juliet/Peter relationship are spot on, although I am still a sucker for Andrew Lincoln’s (Mark) scene with the flashcards. The mention of Boris Johnson in this section may have put me off slightly, though!

If you have ever seen Love Actually, whatever your opinion of it, then I can definitely recommend this book. Well-written, witty and with some astute observations, there will be new thoughts running through my mind the next time I watch it. With Christmas coming up, that’s bound to be soon…

With thanks to Parthian, Gary Raymond and Emma from Damppebbles blog tours for my copy.

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