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Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims

It’s the start of the school holidays and Ellen is exhausted. Tired of being ‘just’ a mother, she longs to get back to work and feel useful once again. After managing to bag her dream job, she soon realises, though, that this brings with it a plethora of other problems which threaten to overwhelm her. With a dysfunctional family, a less-than-supportive husband, childcare problems and now a starring role on the PTA, we really do get to find out Why Mummy Swears!

Although I have not read the previous book Why Mummy Drinks, I have been privy to some of the very funny Facebook ‘Peter and Jane’ posts about Ellen’s children so had some idea of what to expect. What I got was a laugh-out-loud book which, at times, was also very poignant. Gill’s writing is spot on and you can almost hear Ellen’s voice as she talks you through each disastrous day.

I imagine that plenty of people, when reading this book, are nodding their head as they recall similar events that have happened to them although I am yet to hear of anyone who has had a Christmas quite like the one described here! I shall never look at a gravy boat in quite the same way again… I definitely had a knowing look on my face when reading about the attempt to split a restaurant bill, something I think many of us have experienced!

Although most of the book is written in a light-hearted way, the problems of modern parenthood are also dealt with – I’m sure many parents have had the social media argument with their children and are also trying to juggle their work and home life without feeling they are neglecting one of them. There is also a very topical nod to the mildly irritating Fortnite that all children seem to have become obsessed with.

As the title suggests, there is a lot of swearing but even this had me chuckling – some of Ellen’s phraseology was incredibly descriptive and I was surprised that Peter and Jane were not copying on a regular basis!

If you are looking for a book to make you laugh out loud, then Why Mummy Swears could just be the book for you. An excellent read and I will now be going back to read Why Mummy Drinks.

With thanks to Rosie Margesson and Harper Non Fiction for my copy of Why Mummy Swears, which is published on July 16th.

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The Tin God by Chris Nickson

51SXPfKJzFL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_It’s 1897 and the people of Leeds are about to go to the polls to vote for a new Poor Law Guardian. For the first time, women have decided to stand for election, leading to unrest amongst those who feel that a woman’s place should be in the home. When the women begin to be attacked, Superintendent Tom Harper has a particular reason for wanting this man off the streets – one of the candidates is his own wife, Annabelle. As the threats become worse, and deadly explosions begin to rip through the venues where the women are speaking, the detectives know they must find the culprit before more lives are lost.

The Tin God is the sixth in the Tom Harper series and is a very timely one with it being the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in the UK. One of the things I have always enjoyed about this series is the prominence the author gives to the female characters, so often overlooked in books set in this era. We have seen Annabelle Harper’s strength in previous books but, here, she really comes into her own when her own life is threatened. Chris Nickson really brings home how turbulent these times must have been with these forward-thinking women being met with resistance from those firmly stuck in the past.

It is always fascinating to read how the police force of that time solved cases without any of the modern techniques used today, relying instead on pounding the streets, looking for clues. Despite the slow search for a breakthrough, the plot moves on at a fast pace with bombs, murders, attempted abductions, attacks… late Victorian Leeds is not the safest place to live! There is also a sub-plot involving Billy Reed, an inspector now living and working in Whitby, who is investigating a smuggling ring. I do hope, at some point, we see Tom and Billy working together again back in Leeds.

The Tin God is a great read and I highly recommend this series to anyone with an interest in historical crime fiction. Although this is the sixth book, it could be read as a standalone.

With thanks to Severn House and Net Galley for my copy of The Tin God.

 

 

The Dancer by John Nixon

When a woman is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, the only clue to her identity is a note found on her person detailing an appointment with genealogist, Madeleine Porter. After it is determined that this is no accident, the investigation stalls, prompting Madeleine to do some investigating of her own. Just what was it that the dead woman wanted help with and did this lead to her untimely death?

The Dancer is the latest installment in the Madeleine Porter mystery series and, although I wouldn’t say it is one of my favourites, it is still a good book, especially for anyone wanting a quick, easy read.

As in previous books, Madeleine uses her genealogical knowledge to help solve a mystery, in this case the identity of a woman suspected of being pushed off a cliff. As someone who researches my own family, I always like to predict the methods about to be used by fictional genealogists and am pleased when our strategies match! From a genealogy point of view, the author clearly knows what he is talking about and the sources he uses are spot on.

I enjoyed the mystery in The Dancer, and although it is easy to predict what is going to happen in parts, I loved how the different strands tied together to create a well-balanced story. I would have liked to have found out more about the dead woman but I suppose that was even beyond the great Madeleine Porter!

I look forward to Madeleine sinking her teeth into another case soon!

An Unquiet Ghost by Linda Stratmann

Cousins George Fernwood and Mary Clifton are engaged to be married but feel that they cannot go through with the wedding until an event from their past has finally been resolved. Twenty years previously, their grandfather died in his bed and it is thought that someone in the family poisoned him. Desperate to find out what really happened, the couple are keen to talk to a medium in order to communicate with their dead grandfather. Knowing that Mina Scarletti has a reputation for unmasking fraudulent psychics, they engage her in assisting in their quest for the truth.

Although I had read some of Linda Stratmann’s Frances Doughty series, I had not yet come across the books featuring Mina Scarletti. This is the third book in the series but I found it could be read as a standalone. Mina is a fascinating character, her scoliosis preventing her from participating in Brighton’s society. Despite her disability, however, she is the epitome of a modern Victorian woman, accepting that she will never marry and writing books published by her family’s publishing house. I admired her tenacity and her ability to use her brainpower to aid her investigations.

The search for a legitimate medium is a fascinating one and I enjoyed reading about the different methods undertaken by these charlatans in order to defraud the bereaved. Like Mina, I found myself searching for ways the ‘readings’ could have been fabricated and was intrigued by how these people were happy to play the ‘long game’ in order to achieve their aim.

Although beyond what Mina has been tasked, she nevertheless becomes interested in solving the murder of Thomas Fernwood. As she is unable to travel a lot due to her scoliosis, some of the research is done via letter. I enjoyed reading the letters that appeared throughout the book and, as well as giving an insight into Mina’s thoughts, it also provides the reader with an understanding of what went on behind Victorian closed doors. I was surprised when the poisoner was revealed although could understand why when the circumstances were explained.

An Unquiet Ghost is perfect for any fans of Victoriana who enjoy a gentle mystery.

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien and Sapere Books for my copy of the book.

 

Return of the Magi by P J Tracy

Emil Rice is a habitual thief, promising, each time he is caught, that he will never steal again. When he is arrested for the twenty-third time, he is ordered to carry out community service at a secure mental health facility, where he will have to live-in for a whole year. While he is there, he is befriended by two elderly female patients  who have been waiting for the arrival of Emil for a long time having convinced themselves that he is the third wise man and that he will help them to find the Christ Child.

This is not the sort of book I would usually read but, as a fan of P J Tracy’s Monkeewrench series, and as the festive season is approaching, I thought I would venture into the unknown. What I found was an easy to read, humerous, short story that restores your faith in human nature.

Despite Emil being a career criminal, it is impossible not to like him and his carefree attitude. We are aware from the start that he has not had the happiest of childhoods and so, for much of his life, has been devoid of a conventional family. In some ways, he finally finds this at the facility, even if his new family consists of two elderly women who think he is one of the Magi! Underneath all of his bravado, Emil is an extremely caring man, a trait we see in his dealing with Ralph, another of the patients, and also when he embarks on his journey to ‘the City of David’.

Edith and Gloria, the two elderly women provide a comic touch to the book and although they are clearly deluded, their resourcefulness is a lesson in not to underestimate the aged. The way they take Emil under their wing is a joy to read, even if Emil does not always share their enthusiasm!

If you are looking for a short, heartwarming read, then Return of the Magi is the book for you!

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin UK Michael Joseph for the ARC.

 

Blood’s Game by Angus Donald

IMG_1162Close to poverty, young Holcroft Blood can’t believe his luck when he begins working for the Duke of Buckingham, one of the most powerful men in England. Noticed almost immediately for his ability to decode ciphers, Holcroft is soon promoted to a position that enables him to betray his master. Meanwhile, Holcroft’s father, Colonel Thomas Blood, has fallen on hard times and makes a living by any means necessary so when he is tasked to steal the Crown Jewels, he knows he is putting the lives of himself and his family in danger.

Charles II is my favourite king (yes, I have a mental list of favourite monarchs!) so when I saw the premise of this book, I knew that this would be right up my street. Although he does not appear much in the book, the first time we encounter the king is certainly a memorable experience with him attempting to evacuate his bowels! He certainly lives up to his ‘Merry Monarch’ nickname, and I was happy to find that although some of his antics are definitely questionable, Blood’s Game does not besmirch his memory in any way!

I initially thought that this would be mainly about Colonel Blood and his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels and, although this is one of the plots in the book, the main character is his son, Holcroft. I really enjoyed reading the rise of Holcroft from the boy who was bullied on the streets of London to the trusted helper of the Duke of Buckingham. Nowadays, he would definitely be classed as being on the autistic spectrum, but back in the Stuart times, his ability to remember card sequences and decode complicated ciphers would have made him an oddity. I was pleased to see that, rather than ridiculing him, Holcroft’s talents were recognised and used to advance his career.

Although this is a piece of historical fiction, the author has stayed close to the facts of the stealing of the Crown Jewels by Blood, embellishing where it is needed. As a direct contrast to his son, Colonel Blood is a thoroughly unlikeable character although, even though I already knew the outcome of his crime, by the end of the book, I was willing him to get away with it! The writing of the characters in Blood’s Game is one of its biggest strengths and Angus Donald has created realistic portrayals of some of the most interesting people in British history.

I am pleased to see that this book is now going to be part of a series – something I will definitely be awaiting with interest!

With thanks to Readers First for my copy of Blood’s Game.

 

The One that Got Away by Annabel Kantaria

 

A Facebook-organised school reunion after fifteen years is hardly top of Stella’s to-do list but she is intrigued as her ex, the renowned businessman George Wolsey will be there. Ever since they split up at the age of eighteen, in rather acrimonious circumstances, they have not been in contact, but that night changes everything. Embarking on an affair built on a web of lies, it soon becomes apparent that once someone gets you back, they may never let you go…

On paper, this is not the sort of book I would usually read, but after being enthralled by Annabel Kantaria’s last book, The Disappearance, I had to give this one a go. I am so glad I did even though I am now suffering from lack of sleep through not being able to put it down!

At the start of the book, my heart went out to Stella, a woman who, despite her highly successful catering company, has always been missing something from her life. George, on the other hand, came across as a bit of a playboy, a ‘jack the lad’ who is used to getting everything his own way. When they met at the reunion, I cringed as he tried it on with Stella despite his wife, Ness, being in the same room. Ness appeared to be the sort of woman content with turning a blind eye to her husband’s misdemeanours as long as she was able to wear the finest clothes and receive the latest cosmetic procedure.

What happened next completely shifted my opinion of all three characters as Annabel Kantaria gives a masterclass on how we can’t always know what goes on behind closed doors. Appearances can certainly be deceiving and this is definitely the case in The One That Got Away as George descends into a spiral of despair and Stella’s manipulations come to the fore. By the end of the book, my opinions of the characters had changed so much that I was willing George to return to the philandering ways we experience at the start.

My only concern was the ending. Don’t get me wrong – it was a very unexpected and worthy finale, but I really wanted a different form of closure for George. That is just my personal opinion though!

The One That Got Away is another fantastic read from Annabel Kantaria and I thank her, Net Galley and HQ for the ARC.

 

 

The Girl From Ballymor by Kathleen McGurl

510u-LpbteLIn Ballymor, Ireland in 1847, Kitty McCarthy is struggling to keep her family alive due to the potato famine that has already killed all but two of her children. In the present day, Maria has arrived in Ballymor to research the life of her ancestor, the Victorian artist Michael McCarthy. Will she be able to discover the circumstances surrounding his early life and also what became of his beloved mother, Kitty?

I have loved all of Kathleen McGurl’s previous books and The Daughters of Red Hill Hall was one of my favourites of last year.  I had, therefore, been eagerly anticipating The Girl From Ballymor, and am pleased to say that it is just as good as the rest!

One of the things I like most about Kathleen McGurl’s books is how she seamlessly merges past with present and this is evident here. Speaking as somebody who has ancestors who left Ireland during the potato famine, I found Kitty’s plight highly emotive and could understand her desire to ensure that her son escaped to a better life. Despite living in horrendous conditions, Kitty was an incredibly strong woman and, like Maria, I too became engrossed in the mystery surrounding what became of her. Inevitably, her story was never going to end well, and when her fate was finally revealed it was tinged with more than a touch of sadness.

Sometimes in a dual-timeline story, I find myself liking one of the timelines more than the other but this is not the case in The Girl From Ballymor. Both parts of the story were equally as engaging and were interlinked in a way that moved the plot on. I felt that Maria was a very real character and could sense her trepidation as major changes were about to affect her life in a huge way.

With its cross-genre approach, The Girl From Ballymor will appeal to fans of historical and genealogical fiction and also anyone who enjoys a gentle mystery. This is another great book from Kathleen McGurl and I hope there isn’t too much of a wait before the next one!

With thanks to HQ and Net Galley for the ARC.

 

Death of a Cuckoo by Wendy Percival

4631636995_252x379When Gina Vincent’s mother dies, she is shocked to find a photograph that challenges everything she thought she knew about her life. Calling upon the services of genealogist Esme Quentin to help her make sense of it all, their search takes them to an abandoned property formerly used as a home for young pregnant women. Secrets run deep in this building and Gina soon finds herself facing danger as she tries to uncover the truth about her past.

It has been some time since we last read about Esme Quentin (Blood-Tied and The Indelible Stain) so this book was long overdue! Death of a Cuckoo is not a full-length novel, but Wendy Percival has still managed to write a superb page turner, linking mystery and genealogy effortlessly. For anyone who hasn’t read the previous books in the series, this could be read as a standalone and would provide a good introduction to the character of Esme.

In Death of a Cuckoo, Esme takes a back seat in the investigation, providing the main character, Gina, with advice and recommendations of where to go next. As in most books of this genre, this turns out to be more than just a straightforward case of family research as secrets from the past start to impact on the present, putting the lives of all those involved in danger. The mystery was an interesting and plausible one and I felt for Gina as she tried to find out who she really was in the most awful of circumstances.

This is a well-written short read and I hope that the wait for the next Esme Quentin story isn’t as long!

 

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