Monday, 31 August 2015

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

The Other Side of the World
By Stephanie Bishop
Published by Tinder Press (13 August 2015)
ISBN: 978-1472230614

Publisher's description
Cambridge 1963. Charlotte struggles to reconnect with the woman she was before children, and to find the time and energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, cannot face the thought of another English winter. A brochure slipped through the letterbox gives him the answer: 'Australia brings out the best in you'.

Charlotte is too worn out to resist, and before she knows it is travelling to the other side of the world. But on their arrival in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light on both Henry and Charlotte and slowly reveals that their new life is not the answer either was hoping for. Charlotte is left wondering if there is anywhere she belongs, and how far she'll go to find her way home...

My verdict
The Other Side of the World is a story about finding your place in the world - what happens when you feel like you don't belong and what makes a place into a home.

This is a beautiful story, written with great tenderness. It takes you from England to Australia and India, showing the contrast between these locations in the 1960s. The vivid descriptions of each country tackle all of your senses - the sights, the aromas and the sounds all seeming very real.

Charlotte was an artist before she had children, but, exhausted and lonely, she is now struggling to cope with motherhood. Her academic husband Henry, who was born in India, doesn't feel comfortable in the cold damp English winters. So when an opportunity arises to move to Australia, he jumps at the chance. Although Charlotte is reluctant to give up her home, she gives in for an easy life, hoping that the move to Australia will lift her out of her current state of mind. But they both discover that the grass isn't always greener...

The Other Side of the World is a highly compelling story that makes you think. It's very sad and emotional. It moves along slowly but steadily, revealing each character's emotions and inner thoughts. Charlotte is on the edge of a breakdown, taking it out on her family, desperate to find something more in life. Henry is so self-absorbed at times, contemplating what it means to be British, that he doesn't see how much his marriage is in crisis. This isn't a book to race through - it's a book to be savoured and cherished.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 28 August 2015

To Catch A Rabbit by Helen Cadbury

To Catch A Rabbit
By Helen Cadbury
Published by Allison & Busby (22 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-0749017835

Publisher's description
Two young boys stumble on a dead prostitute. She’s on Sean Denton’s patch. As Doncaster’s youngest community support officer, he’s already way out of his death, but soon he’s uncovering more than he’s supposed to know. Meanwhile Karen Friedman, professional mother of two, learns her brother has disappeared. She desperately needs to know he’s safe, but once she starts looking, she discovers unexpected things about her own needs and desires. Played out against a gritty landscape on the edge of a Northern town, Karen and Sean risk losing all they hold precious.

My verdict
To Catch A Rabbit is an enjoyable crime debut with a complex plot and lots of well-developed characters.

Sean Denton is an interesting protagonist - he's a community support officer rather than a police officer.  He's good at watching people and certainly knows his patch, so notices when something isn't right. And he's not afraid to investigate, even though he isn't qualified to do so.

The story follows two seemingly unrelated subplots - the discovery of a dead prostitute and a man's disappearance. As the story progresses, it's clear that the crimes are linked, but Sean has to put the clues together to discover how. There's a great build up to the final showdown, as all the characters and subplots come together.

To Catch A Rabbit has some great twists and turns. I had no idea which direction the plot was going in until the end of the book. The author covers some very gritty topics, such as asylum seekers, human trafficking and the sex trade.

I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 27 August 2015


I am delighted that STEVE MCHUGH is joining me on my blog today. Steve's latest book in his Hellequin Chronicles series - Lies Ripped Open - was published on 25 August 2015. 

What inspired you to write a book in the first place?
My wife and three daughters mostly. They inspire me to write pretty much all the time. I’m constantly wanting to better myself, to be the best writer I can be because my wife reads my books and if it’s not good enough, she will tell me.
On a more specific thought, I wanted to write Lies Ripped Open since the first word of Crimes Against Magic. LRO has a lot of answers about Nate, his friends, his enemies, and the world he lives in. It has a lot of questions too, and I’m looking forward to building on what’s gone so far.

Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
That might be the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. I’ll give a go.
Fun, energetic, easy to read, non-flowery.
Yeah, that’ll do.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
I’ve been asked this before, and I don’t. Rather, I don’t think I do. I should get myself a strange habit. But if I do that, it’ll probably end up causing the OCD part of my brain to freak out.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
Bit of both. I wrote Crimes Against Magic as a complete pantser and I’ll never do that again as it was insane and took three to four years to write.
I tend to have the plot worked out. Beginning and end are all known. I know the main characters plots and where things should be going, but I leave the actual chapter contents up to whatever happens to come out when I actually start writing. It’s nice to be surprised.
When you wrote Crimes Against Magic (The Hellequin Chronicles 1), did you plan that it would be the start of a series?
Yes. It was always going to be the first book in a series. Originally it was going to be a dozen books, but it’s expanded somewhat.

Your books include a lot of world mythology – how much research do you do before you start writing?
There’s quite a bit of research into mythological beings, and then more to try and twist them into something usable, something people might not expect.
More research is done on the flashback parts. I don’t tend to write the dialog as they would have spoken back in the day (because the switch from past to present would be a massive shock), but I do like to have the technology, and the like, the descriptive parts of the flashbacks correct. I like research, so it’s all good.

What’s the best part of creating a completely fictional world with mythical and fantasy creatures?
I get to do crazy stuff with them. I want Nate to fight a Japanese spider-monster, I can do that. I want Hades to be a badass, I can do that too! Basically I created a world, which while based on our world, has all of this insanity in it. It’s fun to play with.

Who are your favourite authors?
This could turn into quite the list, so you might want to get comfortable:
Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, John Connolly, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Kurtis Wiebe, Ray Bradbury, Jen Williams, and far too many more to write without just making this a massive list.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Well That Was Unexpected.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Don’t try to write a bestseller, or try to write a book you think people want to read. Write a book you want to read. Everything else will fall into place, but if you’re not invested 1000% no one else will be.

And lastly, why should people read your Hellequin Chronicles series?
They should read it because I really enjoy writing them, because I think other people will like them too, and because they have a 1600 year old sorcerer who kicks ass and doesn’t exactly behave like a typical white hat wearing good-guy. But above all, because they’re fun and exciting, and we could all use a little fun and excitement in our reading.

About Steve McHugh

Steve McHugh is the author of the popular Hellequin Chronicles. The fifth book, Lies Ripped Open, is out on 25 August 2015. He lives in Southampton on the south coast of England with his wife and three young daughters. When not writing or spending time with his kids, he enjoys watching movies, reading books and comics, and playing video games.

Find Steve McHugh on his Facebook page, website and Twitter - @StevejMchugh

Lies Ripped Open
Available from 25 August 2015

Over a hundred years have passed since a group of violent killers went on the rampage, murdering innocent victims for fun. But even back then, sorcerer Nate Garrett, aka Hellequin, knew there was more to it than simple savage pleasure—souls were being stolen.
Nate’s discovery of the souls’ use, and of those supporting the group’s plan, made him question everything he believed.
Now the group Nate thought long dead is back. Violent, angry, and hell-bent on revenge, they have Hellequin firmly in their sights. And if he won’t come willingly, they’ll take those closest to him first.

The battle begins again.

Find Lies Ripped open on Amazon UK here.  

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly

The Mistake I Made
By Paula Daly
Published by Transworld (27 August 2015)
ISBN: 978-0593074497

Publisher's description
We all think we know who we are.
What we’re capable of.
Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate.
Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.
But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.
Roz has a choice to make.

My verdict
I literally couldn't put this book down. The Mistake I Made is written in such a clever way that I just had to read another page, then another and another and so on. The words seep under your skin, as the plot builds and builds. I was savouring every word.

Roz is desperate for money to keep a roof over her and her young son's head. Her ex-husband is useless, providing little in the way of childcare, let alone financial help. So when a stranger offers her a way out, it doesn't take much for her to agree to his suggestion. But not surprisingly, everything goes horribly wrong.

Not only was the plot a fascinating one, but I enjoyed reading the background too - the setting of the Lake District and also the physiotherapy details. Paula Daly had clearly done her research.

The Mistake I Made certainly had the 'wow factor' for me. I think this is Paula Daly's best book yet and I urge you to buy it.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell

Pretty Is
By Maggie Mitchell
Published by Orion (16 July 2015)
ISBN: 978-1409152675

Publisher's description
The summer precocious Lois and pretty Carly May were twelve years old, they were kidnapped, driven across the country, and held in a cabin in the woods for two months by a charismatic stranger. Nearly twenty years later, Lois has become a professor, teaching British literature at a small college in upstate New York, and Carly May is an actress in Los Angeles, drinking too much and struggling to revive her career. When a movie with a shockingly familiar plot draws the two women together once more, they must face the public exposure of their secret history and confront the dark longings and unspeakable truths that haunt them still.

My verdict
Pretty Is is a well written original debut, with beautiful flowing narrative.

Two women were kidnapped together when they were 12. One was a pageant queen, the other a spelling bee champion. Now adults, both remain brilliant and beautiful yet psychologically damaged from the abduction.

Rather than a thriller, as indicated by the blurb, this is more of a study into the psychology of abduction and how the two girls managed to move on with their lives. Most of the book is set decades after the abduction, looking at its emotional impact and the women's relationships with friends, family and colleagues. There's a stalking subplot going on too, which creates suspense and tension.

While I love the writing style and underlying story, I did feel somewhat dissatisfied, as if something was missing. The kidnapper never touched the two girls in an appropriate manner. But he didn't live to give his side of the story. You can only guess what his motives were. There were many key questions that remained unanswered, which could be a letdown for a lot of readers. Yet I loved the writing style and underlying story, which kept me reading until the end.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Stirred With Love by Marcie Steele

Stirred With Love
By Marcie Steele
Published by Bookouture (3 September 2015)
ISBN: 978-1910751381

Publisher's description
Sometimes the best friends can be found where you least expect them …
Still grieving after the loss of her beloved husband, Lily Mortimer is determined to do something with the time she has left.
After the end of her fairytale marriage, thirty-something Kate is trying hard to mend her broken heart.
Chloe, a young woman with the world at her feet, is struggling to know what to do with her life.
When Lily embarks on a new venture in the picturesque town of Somerley, the three women come together to open The Coffee Stop, the most charming café for miles around.
But opening a coffee shop is never as simple as it seems, especially when you add neighbouring competition, local heart throbs and heartbreak to the mix.
When tragedy strikes, can the three women pull together to make the new business fly, or will Lily’s last chance disappear down the drain along with yesterday’s coffee grinds?

My verdict
Marcie Steele is actually the lighter floaty romantic alter ego of author Mel Sherratt, who is well known for her gritty realistic crime novels. So I knew this book would be well written and well plotted before I started. I just wasn't sure how much I would like it, as I don't always enjoy chick lit these days. But I discovered that Stirred With Love provided a lovely relaxing break from all the crime/thrillers I usually read.

The story flows well, with snappy dialogue and a fast-paced plot. It focuses on three very different women, Lily, Kate and Chloe, all of whom have life-changing decisions to make. Kate and Chloe are brought together by Lily, who wants to reopen her café as a coffee shop.

As expected with chick lit novels, there are disasters, romances and adventures along the way. The book is warm and humorous and a lovely holiday read.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Liz Fenwick's Cornish Summer Blog Tour - BLOG TOUR FEATURE

I am delighted to be today's stop on Liz Fenwick's Cornish Summer BLOG TOURLiz's latest book, Under A Cornish Sky, was published on 7 May 2015 by Orion. Her other books set in Cornwall are The Cornish House, The Cornish Affair and A Cornish Stranger.

I would like to welcome Liz, who has written a feature for my blog about her ideal holiday in Cornwall. 

My ideal holiday in Cornwall

My ideal holiday in Cornwall would be in early October when the roads are empty and the days can be warm. When I was researching A Cornish Stranger I rented Powders, a National Trust cottage, set at the mouth of Frenchman’s Creek. The cottage faces west and was baked in the autumnal sun all day long.  The water’s of Frenchman’s Creek were warm and I regretted that I didn’t have our kayak to provide me the freedom to explore the creek and inlets all along the Helford with only the birds disturbing the stillness. I yearned to have my husband with me so that we could picnic on the hidden beaches and enjoy the beauty together.

I would also set off for the north coast and wander along the empty beaches and finish my day in St Ives at Portminster Beach Café with its wonderful calamari to start and maybe finish with its monkfish curry. Of course in October there is no problem getting a table at the busy restaurants – even the best tables with the views that are somehow better with the lower angle of the sunlight.

The many pubs feel cozier and wrap you in their warmth with the darkness complete outside and the fire roaring within. Somehow Cornwall uniqueness tucked on the end of Britain is easier to experience when the crowds have gone and the whistling wind is the most prevalent sound.

Under a Cornish Sky
By Liz Fenwick
Published by Orion (7 May 2015)

Publisher's description
Demi desperately needs her luck to change. On the sleeper train down to Cornwall, she can't help wondering why everything always goes wrong for her. Having missed out on her dream job, and left with nowhere to stay following her boyfriend's betrayal, pitching up at her grandfather's cottage is her only option. Victoria thinks she's finally got what she wanted: Boscawen, the gorgeous Cornish estate her family owned for generations should now rightfully be hers, following her husband's sudden death. After years of a loveless marriage and many secret affairs of her own, Victoria thinks new widowhood will suit her very well indeed ...But both women are in for a surprise. Surrounded by orchards, gardens and the sea, Boscawen is about to play an unexpected role in both their lives. Can two such different women find a way forward when luck changes both their lives so drastically?

Follow the Blog Tour