Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Secret by the Lake - Louise Douglas

Published by Black Swan

19 November 2015

Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.


But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen. 


Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves?

I'm delighted to be part of the blog tour for this lovely book. This is the fifth book I have read by Louise Douglas and all have been very enjoyable. This one is no exception.

Amy hasn’t really had a happy family life of her own, and regards the Laurents as her family. As general companion and nanny to their young daughter Viviane, she lives with them in Paris and life is good.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. Amy is recalled back home for family reasons and then tragedy strikes the Laurents and they return to Somerset, to an old dilapidated family cottage to live. Julia Laurent asks Amy to return to them and this is where the story really begins.

There is a really creepy, supernatural aspect to this story and although I’m not easily spooked, there were times when I didn’t want to turn the lights out at night!

Both the cottage and the lake have distinct personalities of their own and are integral to the story. The lake can change from being a calm, peaceful and beautiful vision to something dark and menacing, whilst unhappiness seems to seep from the walls of the cottage and affects everybody within it.

Julia had an older sister, Caroline who died aged 17. There is obviously some deep mystery surrounding Caroline as Julia, in her distressed state doesn’t want to talk about her however when a malevolent presence is felt in the cottage and affects Viviane, Amy feels compelled to find out more.

Running alongside the unexplained and disturbing happenings at the cottage is a love story involving Amy.  Life at the cottage was sometimes so depressing and dismal that I was so glad for Amy that she found someone to bring some much needed lightness in to her life. 
However, even this has its problems and there are times when it seems that everyone is destined for unhappiness.

All the characters are so wonderfully drawn; Julia can seem so selfish at times and is so wrapped up in her own misery that everyone else is forgotten. There were times when my heart broke for Viviane, so young but unhappy and relying on her imaginary friends. Amy was the glue that held them together but even she couldn’t perform miracles.

This is a beautifully written, atmospheric and haunting story of intrigue, family secrets and complicity in lies. With a timeline starting in 1931 and then moving forward to 1961, this was an excellent read and one that I can happily recommend. I loved it and can add this to my list of other 5* reads by Louise Douglas. 

My thanks to Kim Nash for including me on the blog tour and to the publisher and Netgalley for the digital copy to read. 

About the author

Louise Douglas was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Somerset for the past twenty years. She has three sons and a partner who works in construction. She is the author of four novels, including The Secrets Between Us and In Her Shadow. 

When she is not writing, Louise is usually reading, walking with the family's dogs, Lil and Lola, and spending time with her family and friends.

Talk to her on Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3 and visit her website at

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Last Kiss Goodbye - Tasmina Perry

Published by Headline Review

ebook and Hardback - 10 September 2015

paperback - 28 January 2016

A spellbinding tale of love, loss and long-buried secrets from the Sunday Times bestselling author. If you loved spending A Week in Paris with Rachel Hore or taking the Last Voyage of the Valentina with Santa Montefiore, you will adore this unforgettable novel.

Everyone remembers their first kiss. But what about the last?

1961. Journalist Rosamund Bailey is ready to change the world. When she meets explorer and man about town Dominic Blake, she realises she has found the love of her life. Just as happiness is in their grasp, the worst happens, and their future is snatched away.

2014. Deep in the vaults of a museum, archivist Abby Gordon stumbles upon a breathtaking find. A faded photograph of a man saying goodbye to the woman he loves. Looking for a way to escape her own heartache, Abby becomes obsessed with the story, little realising that behind the image frozen in time lies a secret altogether more extraordinary.

This is the second of Tasmina Perry’s novels that slips between two timelines.  The first was The Proposal (reviewed here) and which I loved.

The story begins in 1961 when Rosamund Bailey first meets Dominic Blake. They have completely different personalities with differing political views but after a shaky start, they start working together and fall in love.

In the present day, Abby Gordon has marital troubles of her own and during her work as an archivist, looking for photos for an exhibition, she stumbles across a photograph of a man and woman tenderly saying goodbye (The Last Goodbye of the title). Intrigued by the photo and the circumstances surrounding it, she sets out to find out more and uncovers a love story complicated by secrets, espionage and deception.

I enjoyed this book very much but I didn’t love it as much as The Proposal. The story itself was captivating and I was completely engrossed as gradually long held secrets were exposed when, Abbey, working together with a journalist, Elliott, sought the truth behind Dominic’s fated expedition. I think the main problem for me was that I didn’t particularly like Abby. I thought she was generally a bit wet and too quick to condemn, especially where her own marriage was concerned and for me, she was one of the weakest characters. Rosamund Bailey was complex and opinionated. A political activist who became a famous journalist, she certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly – both she and Dominic were strong characters and this was clearly reflected in their relationship. 

Dominic Blake was a charismatic character. He was an explorer and loved adventure but his exploits together with his wealthy background gained him a rather dubious reputation as a playboy. However scratch beneath the surface and there was a man with more substance than he was given credit for.

Both strands of the timeline were well structured and there was plenty of mystery and intrigue to make you want to read on but although I was as keen as anyone to know what happened all those years ago, my preference was for the part of the story set in the 60’s and I would happily have spent more time with Dominic and Rosamund.

I do really enjoy the new direction that Tasmina’s books are taking. This was a captivating read of love and loss.

Finally, a word about the cover. I love the cover, its gorgeous, but I do think its a little misleading as it could give the impression that the book is set in Paris. Although there is a fleeting visit to Paris, as there is to St Petersburg, the story is mainly set in London.

I received my copy from the Amazon Vine review programme. 

About the author:

TASMINA PERRY is a Sunday Times Top Ten bestselling author. She left a career in law to enter the world of women's magazine publishing, going on to become an award-winning writer and contributor to titles such as Elle, Glamour and Marie Claire. In 2004 she launched her own travel and fashion magazine, Jaunt, and was editing InStyle magazine when she left the industry to write books full time. Her novels have been published in seventeen countries. Tasmina lives with her husband and son in London, where she is at work on her next novel.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Merry Mistletoe - Emma Davies

Published 20 October 2015

by Amazon Media 

Sherbourne Mistletoe has been prized and sold at the annual Mistletoe Fair for over a hundred years; but could this year possibly be the last? With her father’s sudden death and debts mounting up it looks as though Freya’s only hope for the future is to sell her beloved family home. And to make matters worse, the only contenders to buy Appleyard Farm, are the people she’d least like to sell it to – the dreaded Henderson brothers who seem always to make life so difficult.

It’s magical stuff though, mistletoe, and the arrival of the mysterious Amos Fry brings a glimmer of hope that just maybe Freya can fall in love with Christmas all over again.

As the snow begins to fall, cosy up and find your sparkle this Christmas with another big-hearted, and wonderfully warm read from the author of Letting in Light.

This was the first of my festive reads this year and I couldn’t have picked a nicer one - both in terms of story and also the cover, which I think is gorgeous and so appropriate. 

This is sold as a ‘Kindle Single’. I’m not quite sure what the technical difference is between a single and a novella. According to my Kindle, this book would take about 1.5 hours to read. For a short(ish) story, it was perfectly paced and didn’t feel rushed at all. 

Freya has had a difficult year. This will be the first Christmas without her beloved father and money is tight, so tight in fact that she has to contemplate selling her much loved family home, Appleyard Farm. It’s just a shame that the only people interested are her neighbours, the Henderson brothers. From the animosity shown by Freya, it is clear that there is history between them and all becomes clear as the book continues. Her live in boyfriend, Gareth, is no help at all, he just wants to sell and get his hands on the money and has no thought for Freya’s feelings. 

There are some lovely characters here. Firstly, there is Freya. She can be stubborn and sometimes frustrating, but I was rooting for her all the way and hoping that everything would turn out right for her. The Henderson brothers were chalk and cheese. Then there is Amos; what to say about Amos. He seems almost a magical ‘fairy godfather’ character. He is of no fixed abode, he prefers to sleep on the floor, and arrives at Freya’s door to help with the many tasks that need to be done to keep the Farm going, especially at Mistletoe gathering time. I was never quite sure how old he was, but he was such a wonderful wise and kindly creation, gently manoeuvring people into situations for their own good – I think we all need an Amos in our lives from time to time!

The story begins 29 days before Christmas and we first meet Freya when she is taking her mistletoe to sell at a fair, continuing a long held family tradition, although this may be her last ever mistletoe sale. Freya knows that the money will run out soon and the sale of the farm has become a necessity – if only it wasn’t to the Hendersons.

Emma Davies’ writing has a natural and easy flow and the characters (and even the not so nice ones) will engage you straight away. If you want a heart-warming and festive read to curl up with on a cold afternoon then I can recommend this one. I bought Emma’s first novel, Letting in Light ages ago and its been languishing on my Kindle, all my good intentions of getting to it have been foiled but after enjoying this, I shall make a bigger effort to get to it sooner rather than later.

I purchased my copy from Amazon UK – at the time of writing of this review you can download for only 99p – well worth it!

About the author:

After a varied career Emma Davies once worked for a design studio where she was asked to provide a fun and humorous anecdote for their website. She wrote the following: 'I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty something mother of three.' Well the job in the design studio didn't work out but she's now a forty something mother of three, and is working on the rest.

Today she's a finance manager and looks at numbers a lot of the time, so at night she likes to throw them away and play with words, practising putting them together into sentences. Pop over to her website where, amongst other things, you can read about her passion for Pringles and singing loudly in the car.

You can also Wave to her on twitter @Emdavies68 or find her on Facebook (a little too often than is good for her).

Letting in Light is her debut novel, and she is currently working on her second. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Ridley Road - Jo Bloom

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Ebook & Hardback - 11 December 2014

Paperback - 24 September 2015

A beautifully written love story set in 1960s Soho amid the revival of fascism.

A dark love story set in the Swinging Sixties

SUMMER, 1962. Twenty-year-old Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, arrives in London following the death of her father. She has travelled to the city to make a new start, and quickly finds herself swept up in a city buzzing with life. Landing a job at Oscar's salon, she thrives amid the vibrant cafĂ© culture of Soho and the warm camaraderie of the other hairdressers. 

But beneath the surface, Vivien is desperate to find Jack Fox, a man she had a brief but intense romance with some months before. Her search leads to confront the dark resurgence of fascism, countered by the Jewish community in street battles around Ridley Road in the East End of London. Amid the growing tensions, can her love survive?

This debut novel by Jo Bloom is mainly set in 1960’s London with a bit of a nod to Manchester. Although I was born in the 1960's, I don’t remember much of that time but it is an era that interests me and this novel really appealed.  It was also an opportunity to learn more of a part of history that I really didn't know much about.

This is very much a story of Vivian’s coming of age and her innocence and early naivety is contrasted with the frightening and ugly behaviour she witnesses after coming to London to look for Jack, a young man she had a brief love affair with whilst living in Manchester with her father. The love story element plays a major part but perhaps more importantly, it is a story telling of the shocking and unpleasant rise of fascism against the Jewish and other minority communities. The story is based on true accounts which adds to the authenticity and makes for a compelling and often uncomfortable read.

Ridley Road educates as well as entertains. The love story between Jack, a journalist and Vivien, a hairdresser, takes place against the backdrop of anti-Semitism and the outpouring of hatred from its supporters was frightening to read about, heaven knows how it must have felt to be on the receiving end. The safe and cosy world of Oscar’s, the hair salon where Vivien works is a world away from Jack’s life of ugliness and danger.

There were many expertly drawn characters here; Vivien, now completely alone following the death of her beloved father. Jack - on a mission to prove himself. The motherly Babs, owner of Oscar’s who takes Vivien under her wing. The obsessive and slightly stalkerish behaviour of young Stevie was cleverly done - these were just a few of the many characters brought to life by the author. The freedom enjoyed by many during the 60’s was in stark contrast to the brutal mentality exercised by some. This was a beautifully written debut which kept me engrossed throughout. I certainly hope to read more from Jo Bloom in future.

My thanks to the author and W&N for the paperback copy to review. 

About the author:

Jo Bloom has worked as a freelancer in the communications field for the past fifteen years with a focus on arts publicity and e-learning. She also contributed to the book review section of Time Out, London for a few years. Prior to this she lived and worked in Prague and New York. She was inspired to write Ridley Road when she met a Jewish anti-fascist who'd lived in the East End all his life and participated in numerous street battles with the fascists alongside both the 43 Group and the 62 Group. She lives in Brighton with her husband and young son. 

Follow her on Facebook or visit her website 

Friday, 13 November 2015

The Rest of My Life - Giveaway - Sheryl Browne

I love Sheryl's books and am delighted to help out with this giveaway.   All the information is below along with the Rafflecopter entry box.  Good luck everyone.

The Rest of My life, recommended by the WHSmith Travel Fiction Buyer and recently at #2 on the Amazon Top 100 Paid Women’s Romance Fiction Best Sellers List, has been shortlisted for the Love Stories Awards 2015

To celebrate, Sheryl is sharing a little Christmas cheer early by giving away a beautiful love bird key pendant and a FREE e-copy of any one of her other books. To be in with a chance of grabbing your prize, check out the #restofmylife Rafflecopter comp below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As a special pre-Christmas treat, anyone leaving a review for the The Rest of My Life on Amazon is also welcome to choose an extra FREE e-copy of one of Sheryl’s other books. Simply message her on Twitter @sherylbrowne or Facebook with the Amazon link.

**Rafflecopter runs from November 11 to November 25. Please note: books to choose from are Somebody to Love, Warrant for Love, A Little Bit of Madness and Learning to Love. Sheryl’s Thrillers, The Edge of Sanity and Death Sentence, are available in exchange for an honest review**

The Rest of My Life

“You can’t run away from commitment forever … “

Adam Hamilton-Shaw has more reason than most to avoid commitment. Living on a houseboat in the Severn Valley, his dream is to sail into the sunset – preferably with a woman waiting in every port. But lately, his life looks more like a road to destruction than an idyllic boat ride…

Would-be screenplay writer Sienna Meadows realises that everything about Adam spells trouble – but she can’t ignore the feeling that there is more to him than just his bad reputation. Nor can she ignore the intense physical attraction that exists between them.

And it just so happens that Adam sees Sienna as the kind of woman he could commit to. But can he change his damaging behaviour – or is the road to destruction a one-way street?

Amazon UK link 

A little message from Sheryl:

As some of you may know, I’ve had a bit of stressful year this year with my partner’s health issues. I would just like to say a HUGE thank you all those lovely people who have supported me and made my writing journey so worthwhile.

I hope all is well in your world.

GOOD LUCK and keep safe everyone!

Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, poignant fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for the Best Romantic e-book Love Stories Award 2015, Sheryl has seven books published, two shorts in Birmingham City University anthologies, and a further short published in ‘Let’s Hear it For the Boys’ – all proceeds to Movember raising funds for men’s health awareness.

Sheryl’s new contemporary romance novel was recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer. THE REST OF MY LIFE comes to you from award winning Choc Lit.

Author Links

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Hunter of the Dark - Donato Carrisi

The Hunter of the Dark by Donato Carrisi

Published by Abacus

e-book and paperback, 5 November 2015

A brutal killer is on the streets of Rome.
He leaves no trace. And shows no mercy.

A series of gruesome murders leaves the police force in Rome reeling, with no real clues or hard evidence to follow. Assigned to the case is Sandra Vega, a brilliant forensic analyst, struggling to come to terms with the crimes and her own past. Sandra's shared history with Marcus, a member of the ancient Penitenzeri - a unique Italian team, linked to the Vatican, and trained in the detection of true evil, means that the two are brought together again in the pursuit of a malignant killer.

Soon Marcus and Sandra notice the emergence of a disturbing pattern running alongside the latest killings - and every time they think they have grasped a fragment of the truth, they are led down yet another terrifying path.

A sensational new literary thriller from the bestselling author of The Whisperer, this novel captures the beautiful atmosphere of Rome and explores its dark and hidden secrets.

When I was asked by Little Brown to review this book and take part in this blog tour, I didn't hesitate as it appealed to me immediately - firstly it was a crime thriller (which I love) and secondly it was set in Rome, a city that I have a great fondness for.

I have to admit that when I first started, it took me a while to get into as I found the beginning a little confusing. However once I got to grips with the characters and where in the story they belonged, I was totally engrossed and couldn't put it down. After the prologue, which is an introduction to Marcus and the Vatican connection, the main story begins properly with the dismembered torso of a woman being discovered in the grounds of the Vatican, and from then on the body count rises.

This is a sophisticated and complex crime thriller. It has layers and subplots and the content and tone are far deeper and more philosophical than the crime stories I would normally read, with references to religion, psychology, and the concepts of good and evil. A repeated sentence throughout the book is “Good is the exception, evil is the rule”. I have to admit that some of the psychology did go over my head at times but at the heart of the book is a cracking crime story.

The hunt is on for the ‘Monster of Rome’. A killer who targets couples. Marcus, a former priest and now involved with the penitenzieri (the hunters of the dark), whose task is to find evil on behalf of the Church, joins forces with Sandra Vega, a police forensic photographer, to try and stop the killer. As well as putting their own lives at risk, they encounter corruption and blackmail and it’s hard to know who to trust. Although Sandra is part of the police force tasked with finding the killer, for reasons which are clear in the story, she feels a particular connection to one of the victims and this becomes more than just another case for her. Both her and Marcus were well defined characters each with their own flaws and strengths. One character trait they had in common was their tenacity – even if it meant disobeying rules, they were not going to give up. They were by far my favourite characters, however even the minor ones were given enough of a personality to make them memorable.

There is a wonderful sense of place with this story. As I’ve already mentioned, it is set in Rome; a city that I’ve been to many times and several of the locations were familiar. Even if you have never been before, it doesn’t really matter as the narrative is so descriptive you could easily visualise it.

I don’t want to give away any of the plot as discovering this for yourself is part of the beauty of the story and there are enough twists and surprises to keep you hooked. At one stage I thought I knew who the killer was until the author threw another curve ball. It’s quite a large book, (my proof copy was over 400 pages) and whilst the pace of the story varies, it didn't become boring. What I didn’t appreciate until I had started reading, is that it has been translated from the original (by Howard Curtis). I don’t always enjoy translated books quite so much as sometimes meanings can be lost but in this case, the narrative flows so seamlessly that this didn’t bother me at all.

If you are looking for a crime thriller that is a little more challenging than the norm, then this one is well worth considering

My thanks to Poppy and Lucy at Little, Brown for the ARC to review and for inviting me on to the tour. 

About the author:

Donato Carrisi was born in 1973 and studied law and criminology. He won four Italian literature prizes for his bestselling debut The Whisperer. Since 1999 he has been working as a TV screenwriter, and he lives in Rome.

Website     *     Twitter

Monday, 9 November 2015

Guest Post by Katey Lovell, author of 'The Meet Cute' series

I've known Katey from various online book and social media sites for a while now and was so pleased for her that she is now being published by HarperImpulse.  Her first two short stories in the Meet Cute series are currently available in e-book format with the third, The Boy at the Bakery being published, again in e-book on 12 November.  I pre-ordered all three and have read and enjoyed the first two, and am looking forward to the third.  

I'm delighted to welcome Katey to the blog with this guest post, I hope you enjoy it.

People often assume writing is a lonely pursuit. They think of those of us who spend our time creatively being locked away in a writing shed or an office with an oversized desk, desperate for the peace and quiet needed to be productive.

The truth of the matter is quite different.

That’s not to say there aren’t writers quietly hiding, especially when deadlines are looming and the panic sets in. I know there are, plenty of them and I’ve taken that route myself when I’ve needed to focus.

But it’s not the only way.

I’m a member of a small writing group in Sheffield. We meet at the local library once a fortnight to share progress on our current projects and during the meetings we each produce a poem, short story or part of a longer piece of writing based around a given prompt. It’s so important to me to have a group of writing friends to share ideas with, rely on for honest feedback and celebrate each other’s successes. Groups like this are everywhere – look in your local press, ask at your library or search online to see if there are any nearby. And if the first one isn’t for you, try another! Every group has a different dynamic and works in a different way.

There are literally thousands of literature festivals, writing workshops, book signings and author events that you can support and these are another fantastic way to meet both readers and writers. I love spending time around people who share my passion for the written word, and invariably end up talking to people about books I’ve enjoyed or my current work in progress at these events. The bookish community as a whole is wonderfully welcoming and this is a great way to meet new people. And there are also events like this online – Facebook launch parties are all the rage for new releases!

Which of course brings me on to the internet. Twitter. Facebook. Forums. Blogs. Author websites. Publisher websites. Agent websites. Online writing groups. The list goes on and on! Even on a day when I’ve committed to writing a substantial amount of words I’ll always be found on the internet talking to others who are (or should be!) writing. Why? Because on the days when you feel like screaming because the words just won’t come there are writing friends online who’ll understand, and on the good days when the words readily flow they’ll be cheering you on and sharing in your success. And it’s a two way thing – I’m genuinely thrilled when one of my online author buddies starts a new novel or shares their latest cover. Wordraces are another fantastic way to make writing more sociable and to become accountable for how much you are actually getting down on paper. Search hashtags such as #1k1hr or #amwriting. Just knowing there are other people hammering away at a keyboard can make you feel part of something far bigger. I can honestly say the support from other writers online has been nothing short of incredible and I’ve made some very special friends through writing. Some I’ve met in person, others I probably never will, but we’re sharing the highs and lows of the writing process and that’s a wonderful feeling.

So if you’re a writer who’d like to find a community perhaps try one of these ways to connect with others who’ve committed to write. You’ll find there’s an army of cheerleaders all over the world waiting to will you on.

Katey Lovell is the author of The Meet Cute series.  The Boy in the Bookshop, the first short story in the series was released on October 29th followed by The Boy at the Beach on November 5th.  The Boy at the Bakery, the third book in the series is due for release on November 12th and available for pre-order now.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK  * Amazon US  *  Nook   *  Kobo 


About the Author:

Katey Lovell is fanatical about words. An avid reader, writer and poet, she once auditioned for Countdown and still tapes the show every night. Getting the conundrum before the contestants is her ultimate thrill.

She loves love and strives to write feel-good romance that'll make you laugh and cry in equal measure. 

Originally from South Wales, Katey now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and their seven year old son.

Find Katey on twitter, @katey5678
and her author blog


Saturday, 7 November 2015

In Bitter Chill - Sarah Ward

In Bitter Chill - Sarah Ward

Published by Faber & Faber

in ebook/Hardback and now paperback - 5 November 2015

Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins's mother commits suicide.

Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago.

This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that are closest to you.

Two young girls are abducted in 1978 – one returns, the other remains missing. Rachel Jones, the one who came back, still bears the psychological scars from her ordeal over 30 years before. She doesn’t trust people and doesn’t let anyone get too close. When a suicide and then a murder follow in quick succession, it doesn’t take long before there is speculation as to whether these events are connected to the abduction.

The present day story is set in a cold and wintry Derbyshire village, the snow and ice adding to the atmospheric feel. The suicide of Yvonne Jenkins, mother of the missing Sophie, prompts the police to not exactly re-open the case - budgets won’t allow that, but to loosely review it, without going through all the previous paperwork, to see if anything obvious had been missed. This is where we are introduced to the officers investigating. DI Francis Sadler is in charge of the investigation with colleagues DS Damian Palmer and DC Connie Childs doing the legwork. Although we get to know these characters, they don’t overwhelm the story and it doesn’t become all about them.

Rachel’s interest in genealogy and in her own family history are a big part of the story. When she feels particularly stressed, she re-draws her own family tree, however there is one glaring omission – the absence of any menfolk. She still can't remember hardly anything from that event and with very few members of her family left to answer her questions, she has to undertake her own investigations and long held secrets are gradually disclosed which could place her in danger.

There seem to be many crime thrillers lately with a theme of missing children, however this debut from Sarah Ward is a little different. It is a quietly understated crime story, but is no less compelling, relying on expertly drawn characterisation and an intricate plot rather than an action packed storyline. I really enjoyed In Bitter Chill; the pacing was just right, there were enough twists and turns in the plot to keep me wanting to come back to the book and whilst I didn’t always like the older Rachel, (I thought she could be too unnecessarily prickly with people),  I could understand that having suffered such a traumatic childhood ordeal would affect you and how you perceived others. Whilst DS Palmer was distracted by his forthcoming wedding and didn’t really feature too much, Sadler and Connie Childs seemed to understand each other and this pairing worked well. Connie may have been small in stature but she had a big attitude and didn't always follow the rules.

I'm very pleased to see that there will be a further book - 'A Fragile Spring' released next year with these characters - another to look forward to. In the meantime, In Bitter Chill is definitely one I would recommend.

My thanks to the author and Sophie from Faber & Faber for the paperback copy to review and for the opportunity to take part in the blog tour. 

Author bio:

Sarah Ward is an online book reviewer whose blog, Crimepieces (, reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She has also reviewed for Eurocrime and Crimesquad and is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. She lives in Derbyshire where her debut novel, In Bitter Chill, is set. 

Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahrward1

Friday, 6 November 2015

Savage Lane - Jason Starr

Published by No Exit Press

22 October 2015

Everyone has a secret. Is your neighbour everything they seem? Life is sublime in the idyllic suburb of New York City. Recent divorcee, Karen Daily and her two kids have for the first time in years found joy as they settle into the close-knit community of Savage Lane. Neighbours, Mark and Deb Berman, have been so supportive as she moves on in life: teaching at the local school and even dating again. But behind pristine houses and perfect smiles lie dark motives far more sinister than Karen could have ever imagined. Unknown to her, Mark, trapped in his own unhappy marriage, has developed a rich fantasy life for the two of them. And as rumours start to spread, it seems that he isn't the only one targeting Karen. . . 

If there was a prize for being the most deluded and obsessive male, then some of the characters in this book would surely win. I felt quite sorry for Karen Daily. Just by being an attractive divorcee she had become this object of obsession and fantasy by men in her neighbourhood and she unwittingly found that her life was subject to public discussion and comment.

Mark and Deb Berman have gone from a loving relationship to a toxic marriage. Deb is convinced that Mark is having an affair with Karen, after she saw Mark holding her hand during a dinner party. However, whilst berating Mark and publicly attacking Karen, Deb is hiding a secret of her own. In the meantime, Mark is planning his future life with Karen, even deciding where they would live once they were together.

This book is a jumble of genres, being a mixture of a domestic/psychological/crime thriller. Apart from Karen (who wasn’t perfect by any means), I didn’t find the characters particularly ‘likeable’ and I really struggled to find any sympathy for any of them but nevertheless they still evoked strong emotions in me – I’m not normally a violent person but there were one or two, (ok, maybe more than that) that I just wanted to slap however their awfulness adds to the creepy and compelling nature of the story.  

At one stage, the plot takes an even darker and more sinister turn but even then there is a comical slant to the story and, like me, you may well find some actions amusing and just downright inept.

There are enough surprises and twists in the story to keep you interested and the characters are frighteningly believable (they could easily live in your neighbourhood, god forbid!). The story is told from different views and Jason Starr has a natural and straightforward style of writing; there are no flowery descriptions to slow the story down and it’s a book that you can read quite quickly. I wasn’t familiar with any of his work before reading Savage Lane but this dark story of suburban obsession will certainly keep you entertained.

My thanks to the publisher for the digital copy to review and for the invitation to take part in the blog tour. 

About the author:

Jason Starr is the internationally bestselling author of many crime novels and thrillers and his books have been published in over a dozen languages. His work, which appears in comics for Marvel, DC, Vertigo, and Boom! Studios, has featured Wolverine, The Punisher and Batman, among others. Many of his books, including Lights Out, Cold Caller, Tough Luck, Twisted City and The Follower, are in development for film and TV; Jason’s original novel, Ant-Man: Natural Enemy, has been published by Marvel and the movie Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, is in cinemas July 2015. Starr’s crime novels include Cold Caller, Nothing Personal, Fake ID, Hard Feelings, Tough Luck and Twisted City. His more recent novels Lights Out, The Follower and Panic Attack will be published by No Exit Press in 2016. Jason Starr was born in Brooklyn and lives in Manhattan.

Website :

Twitter : JasonStarrBooks 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Living in the Shadows - Judith Barrow

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: 16 July 2015

Publisher:  Honno Welsh Women’s Press

It's 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria.

Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse - following in Mary's footsteps - and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire.

At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda's darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so? 

There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way Linda can escape their murderous consequences.

Living in the Shadows is the final part of a trilogy - the previous two being Pattern of Shadows and Changing Patterns.  I hadn't read the first two books before starting this and this really would be an advantage, as there are a lot of characters to get to grips with and I did struggle at first. Once I got my head around which character belonged to which family, it became a lot easier to follow.

This story is set in 1969, and features the rivalry between mods and rockers, the popularity of the hippie community and is a good commentary of attitudes prevalent at the time.  The story shifts between Wales and Manchester and one of the key characters is Victoria, the 18 year daughter of Mary and Peter Schormann.  Victoria was a selfish young girl who doesn't feel she is getting enough attention from her family and decides to run away from home with Seth - who it turns out is the manipulative leader of a hippie commune.  Despite some of the scenes at the commune being quite chilling, I found it really difficult to feel any sympathy for her as we see the anguish she causes to her parents as they search for her and the effect it has on her family.  

Mary Schormann's niece, Linda Booth is a nurse and whilst on duty in a maternity ward, she comes across someone who from her past who is still capable of causing trouble for her family.   As the backstory is revealed, they appear to have been a very troubled family and even now they all still face challenges and danger.  From the book description, I thought that this may be something of a thriller but actually it is a family drama with a sinister undertone and some very unpleasant characters.

Richard Schormann, brother to Victoria is deaf but this certainly hasn’t held him back, his father is the local GP but rather than stay in Wales, Richard leaves for Manchester to try and progress his medical career.  His thoughtfulness and common sense made him one of my favourite characters.  Whilst being chased by a vicious gang upon his arrival in Manchester, he is rescued by a young girl, Karen, and her role turns out to be an instrumental part of the story.  

The book is well written, authentic and with a good sense of place and if you enjoy family centred books then this may be for you.   I was a young child during the 1960s and so don’t really remember too much about those times although I enjoy reading books set in that period.  I enjoyed the book although from a purely personal point of view, I felt that there were too many characters which I found confusing, and whilst some stood out, for example, Mary Schormann together with her son Richard, and Linda, there were many others who I didn’t feel were fleshed out enough to make much of an impression.  It may well be that these characters had more of a presence in the previous books and to be fair to the author, she did make available the previous two books but lack of time prevented me from reading all 3.  Overall this was an enjoyable read and I suspect perfect for those who enjoy family sagas. 

Author bio

Judith Barrow has lived in Pembrokeshire for thirty years. She is the author of three novels, and has published poetry and short fiction, winning several poetry competitions, as well as writing three children's books and a play performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre. Judith grew up in the Pennines, has degrees in literature and creative writing and makes regular appearances at literary festivals.


3 copies of the book (open internationally)

a Rafflecopter giveaway