#BlogTour The Secrets of Strangers – Charity Norman

“A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for five strangers whose paths cross in a London café – their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?”

The Secrets of Strangers was an emotional rollercoaster for me and I loved every single page! This is a gorgeously written story told through the eyes of Abi, Eliza, Mutesi, Neil and Sam. All end up involved in a hostage situation inside a cafe, on an otherwise normal day, and we see how the events unfold from each of their perspectives.

I noted how my impressions of particular characters subtly changed as I was reading and I learned more about their past and their currents issues. I think this is a real strength of the writing. I wouldn’t have thought I would feel empathy for some based on initial chapters but as I read I re-evaluated my opinions. It really made me consider how what we see portrayed on the outside can sometimes be completely off the mark and almost a polar opposite of one’s true character. By the end of the book I felt like I had made new friends and I was very sad when the book finished and that was the last I would hear of them. I must confess I did shed a tear! Mutesi was a stand out character for me and displayed a lots of traits that I admired.

I’m not sure that I have read anything else by Charity Norman but going by The Secrets of Strangers, I am certain I would enjoy reading her other books. This book will appeal to a wide range of readers and will be one you’ll struggle to set down and certainly one to think about long after it is finished.

#BlogTour A Testament of Character – Sulari Gentill

A Testament of Character Cover

“A suspicious death… A missing person…
A journey across America in search of answers

In fear for his life, American millionaire Daniel Cartwright changes his will, appointing his old friend Rowland Sinclair as his executor.

Soon murder proves that fear well founded.

When Rowland receives word of Cartwright’s death, he sets out immediately for Boston, Massachusetts, to bury his friend and honour his last wishes. He is met with the outrage and anguish of Cartwright’s family, who have been spurned in favour of a man they claim does not exist.

Artists and gangsters, movie stars and tycoons all gather to the fray as elite society closes in to protect its own, and family secrets haunt the living. Rowland Sinclair must confront a world in which insanity is relative, greed is understood, and love is dictated; where the only people he can truly trust are an artist, a poet and a passionate sculptress.”

I’m delighted to kick off the blog tour for this wonderful book! This is the first book in the Rowland Sinclair series that I have read and I absolutely loved it. We begin as Rowland hears of the death of an old friend, Daniel Cartwright. He and his friends Clyde, Milton and Edna make the long journey from Singapore to Boston in order for Rowland to execute Daniel’s will. As is often the way with wills, there is a lot of anger from Daniel’s immediate family when they realise they are not going to inherit their late brother’s vast estate and wealth. Whilst they seek to challenge the legality of the document, Rowland and his friends begin a seemingly impossibly task of finding the rightful heir and ensuring they receive what they are owed.

 

When I was initially asked if I would like to join this tour I noted that this was the tenth book in the Rowland Sinclair series. However, I didn’t really think about that at all whilst I was reading and certainly I didn’t feel like I was disadvantaged by not having read the previous books. That said, I found this so entertaining and engaging that I would like to begin with the first as I am certain I will also enjoy these. I thought the descriptions of people and location were excellent and I could really imagine being a fly on the wall watching proceedings. I loved the wit sprinkled across the pages and thought there was a lot of clever little quips which made me smile. In some ways it made me feel like I was reading a grown up version of the Secret Seven or Famous Five and as those were favourite childhood friends of mine this was an excellent discovery. Rowland (Rowly) is a very likeable central character. I love that he is principled, upholds his own values; behaving like a gentleman yet accepting no nonsense. I also adored Edna! It is so refreshing to read about a strong woman who does not feel the need to be attached to a man in order to be happy with her life. At the start of each chapter we have snippets of an article which link into the story whilst not directly being part of the tale and I thought this was a very clever way of giving the reader a little breath before the next chapter started in earnest.

 

I really loved this book and am delighted to have discovered a new author with a large back catalogue to peruse. A splendid mystery with some wonderful characters – get yourself a copy and enjoy!

 

#BlogTour The Creak on the Stairs – Björg Ægisdottir

“When the body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day…

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late”

The Creak on the Stairs is a wonderful mix of a sinister discoveries, small town life, murky characters and new beginnings. Elma is the central character, she’s recently moved back to Akranes, the town she grew up in, from Reykjavik having split up from her long term partner. Starting afresh, she joins the local police force expecting a much slower pace of life than her old job. However it isn’t long before her team are thrown into a challenging investigation. Elma is a likeable lead. I felt for her having to return to somewhere she had tried to leave, particularly when it wasn’t really by choice.

I have a real soft spot for Iceland. It is a fascinating country and i would dearly love to go back to visit again. It provides a perfect setting for this book. At the very beginning there are a few pages about how to pronounce the names of the characters which I found very interesting and appealed to my inner geek! The small town setting really worked for me and I enjoyed getting to find out how the community slotted together and how this can both help and hinder an investigation.

Most of my reading of the Creak on the Stairs was overnight and this really ramped up the atmosphere. I felt there was a really gradual but progressive sense of unease and tension building across the chapters and this was really helped by the location. It is a very atmospheric and moody read.

My only complaint about The Creak on the Stairs would be that I wish it was a little longer as I would quite like to find out more about Elma and some of her coworkers. I understand that this is the first in the Forbidden Iceland series so I shall just have to be a little more patient and wait until the next instalment. I highly recommend this for a reader who enjoys a good crime novel, wants to meet some new characters and get hooked on a new series. I think Eva is an incredibly talented writer and I am really looking forward to more from this series.

Thank you to Eva and Orenda for kindly allowing me to read and review and thank you to Anne for organising the tour.

Check out more from Orenda @OrendaBooks and Eva @evaaegisdottir

#BlogTour Ash Mountain – Helen Fitzgerald

Ash Mountain Cover Image

Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.

She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.

As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…”

 

Wow – Ash Mountain is such a powerful read! I must confess that it took me a few chapters to get a handle on who everyone was and get my teeth into but once I had, I couldn’t get enough. There is a beautiful mix of humour (Gramps on a stick in particular made me chuckle) combined with heartbreak and some rather chilling secrecy; the more I read the more emotionally invested I felt. Fran has a delightfully eccentric family and their relationships with each other and their friends and neighbours made me smile. I could really identify with the small town life having left one but returning to visit relatives.
With all the new mayhem happening now, it would be easy to forget just how recently the bushfires raged and how many lives were changed and torn apart. It is terrifying to read the acknowledgements and discover that the picture on the cover is a real photograph and not the work of a designer. I think Helen has done a really excellent job of making the terror and the horrors of the situation come alive to the reader. I liked how we went back and forward through time building up a picture and an understanding of the events in Fran’s past that have shaped the days leading up to the fire. I felt this back and forth made the emotion of the book more manageable and also allowed little details to be unwrapped slowly rather than a ‘big reveal’

 

Ash Mountain has so many layers and packs so many threads into a relatively short number of pages. There is a lot of beauty wrapped up within the disaster and tragedy. I had not expected it to take some of the turns it did and I had to reach for a tissue to dab my eyes more than once. I really urge people to give it a go as I don’t believe you will be disappointed.

 

Thank you to Helen and Orenda for allowing me to read and review and thank you to Anne for inviting me on this tour.

#BlogTour The Carer – Deborah Moggach

The Carer Cover

“James is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, who seems willing to take him off their hands. But as James regales his family with tales of Mandy’s virtues, their shopping trips and the shared pleasure of their journeys to garden centres, Phoebe and Robert sense something is amiss.

Then something extraordinary happens which throws everything into new relief, changing all the stories of their childhood – and the father – that they thought they knew so well.”

 

 

The Carer tells the stories of James and his children Phoebe and Robert. James is getting older and with neither of his children able, or perhaps willing, to become full time carers for him, they employ Mandy to move in and look after him. He has had carers before but none have worked out to date. My first impressions of Phoebe and Robert weren’t great. They appear to look down on Mandy with comments about her weight, appearance and dress sense and although they do acknowledge how much easier she makes their lives, they see her as more of a novelty than a person. Phoebe is an artist but struggling for a market. She has a very causal relationship of sorts with a drifter like local man but seems dissatisfied with her life. Robert is married with grown up children and a seemingly cold wife. He spends his days trying to write novel but has writers block. Mandy and James get on tremendously well from the word go and she seems to really enrich his life. They go on outings, try new foods and watch new shows together. Indeed it starts to seem that he enjoys his time with her more than with either of his children. Gradually this seems to stir up some feelings of insecurity and jealousy in Phoebe and Robert and they start to wonder whether everything is above board or if their father is being taken advantage of.

 

As I read, I grew to like Phoebe and Robert a lot more. I think it is quite easy to judge (even fictional characters) without really knowing a great deal about the person or situation. I could understand why they felt as they did about some of the changes they were observing in their father and their struggles to get their own lives in order. I found it really interesting to read about an ‘older’ set of characters. So many books feature young adults at the start of their relationships or family life whereas in The Carer we are meeting most characters in their fifties or older. So often we read about sibling rivalry in younger children or teens; seeing little glimpses rear its head through older eyes with many more years for it to have simmered is fascinating. Mandy is a really excellent character, vibrant and personable and a breath of fresh air for an elderly widowed man. I really enjoyed the writing style and as I read I have highlighted quite a few lines and paragraphs which struck a cord with me and I want to revisit later. Reading the first part of the story reminded me a little of an observation Daphne Moon makes about the Crane family in Fraiser: “I have never met a family that worked so hard at being uncomfortable with each other.”

 

The Carer is a really lovely book with plenty of little surprises. It is witty, absorbing and filled with beautiful observations. Thank you to Deborah and Tinder-Press (@TinderPress) for the review copy and thank you to Anne (@annecater) for organising the tour.

 

 

 

 

#BlogTour The Museum of Broken Promises – Elizabeth Buchan

“Welcome to The Museum of Broken Promises, a place of wonder and sadness. And hope.

Inside lies a treasure trove of objects – a baby’s shoe, a wedding veil, a railway ticket – all revealing real moments of loss and betrayal. It is a place where people come to speak to the ghosts of the past. The owner, Laure, is also one of those people.

As a young woman in the 1980s Laure fled to Prague, where her life changed forever. Now, years later, she must confront the origins of her heart-breaking exhibition: A love affair with a dissident musician, a secret life behind the iron curtain, and a broken promise that she will never forget.”

I was very lucky to win a copy of Elizabeth Buchan’s Museum of Broken Promises and what an absolute delight of a book it is! Laure is such a fascinating character and I really enjoyed reading about her experiences in Prague. I have visited several times so it felt familiar for me but I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been would be at all disadvantaged, indeed it may even bump it up your “must visit” list (albeit once the current crisis calms down). Prague is such a wonderful city and the during the 1980s had so much going on that was perhaps unseen to a lot of the world. Initially I felt she was frustratingly naive but I really warmed to her as the pages turned and I became more involved in her story. Having chapters set in either the present or the past really worked for me, I like the back and forth and feel it adds a lot of depth both to Laure is a character but more widely to the storyline.

The concept behind the museum design is so clever. I enjoy visiting museums as much as the next person, but have to say I can often get a bit tired and restless after an hour or two, even when looking at exhibits on people or places that really interest me. The idea of a really personal collection of items with stories which really meant something appeals to me greatly. I wish this was a real place that could be visited. It’s such a great scene to set the story around. I felt a lot of nostalgia and almost melancholy when reading

The Museum of Broken Promises is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

#BlogTour The Wrong Move – Jennifer Savin

IMG_2026 2

 

“You thought it was the perfect flat…

When Jessie moves into a flatshare at Maver Place, she’s finally found a decent place to live. And when she’s befriended by fellow tenants Lauren and Sofie, she’s got great flatmates to share it with.

You think she’s safe. You think she can trust these people.

You’re wrong.

When you flatshare, how well do you really know the people that you’re living with?”

 

The Wrong Move is Jennifer Savin’s debut novel and is a wonderfully gripping psychological thriller with Jessie as the main character. She is making a fresh start after leaving a bad relationship and the first step is finding a decent room to rent. After seeing a few dismal rooms, Jessie seems to fall on her feet when she sees Maver Place. The other tenants seem to be friendly enough even if a little odd. But over time, things just aren’t quite right. Trying to rebuild her life but seemingly unable to entirely break free of her past, Jessie begins to have serious concerns about those she lives with and those she has left behind.

 

Having flatshared for some of my time at university I could relate to the trials of having to find somewhere acceptable to live then somehow adjust your routines to suit those you are now living with. I liked this as a setting for the book because I felt the small shared living space added a little element of claustrophobia as the book progressed. I really felt the tension creeping in and building as I read. No one appears to be quite how they present themselves but to varying degrees. Although we see most of the book through Jessie’s eyes, every so often we get a little glimpse inside the thoughts of the other flatmates and other characters. For me, this really worked well. It gave little tidbits of information but not enough to spoil the direction of the story or give away too much at once. Although I couldn’t say I overly liked many of the characters, I found their relationships and interactions entertaining to read about and felt that we got a decent amount of backstory to each of them so by the end of the book I could understand their decisions and actions much more. It has most certainly made me glad that I do not currently need to find and live with flatmates!

 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Wrong Move and I think it will do very well for Jennifer Savin. There is plenty for the reader to get their teeth into with a plot that is well planned and nicely written with plenty of twists and side steps. It may make you a little more cautious about who you might chose to live with and think twice about who you let through your door!!

 

Thank you to Jennifer, Ebury Publishing and Anne for inviting me to join the Blog Tour.

Find out more from @JenniSavin and @EburyPublishing

#BlogTour I Am Dust – Louise Beech

When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of eerie events haunts the new cast…

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.
And Chloe has been watching…

I am ashamed to admit that I have several of Louises’ other novels in my TBR mountain and hadn’t gotten round to reading them before. Absolute clanger on my part – Louise Beech is a FANTASTIC writer and I shall be rectifying this ASAP!

I Am Dust had me captivated from the first pages. Having been part of a drama group for a good ten years during primary and secondary school and studied the Scottish play for GSCE, I could relate to the situation if perhaps not quite all the elements of it. The back and forth between the past and now worked beautifully to take the reader on a journey, gently exploring the past events during the Dust performance and keeping us on tenterhooks about how the new version will play out.

I liked Chloe as a character, she has plenty of flaws but a good heart and i could understand her frustrations with Jess and Ryan. I loved how supportive her mum was and how sensible her words of wisdom were. Chloe’s future perhaps hasn’t been as she planned as a teen, but honestly, who actually does have the life they imagined they would have? And besides, perhaps her role wasn’t exactly what she thought it would be but she still found a way to use her talents to carve another spot for herself – never give up, adapt and move forward.

I Read I Am Dust over a day and genuinely found myself having to hide in my bathroom to squeeze in an extra few chapters between the usual household tasks, then reading into the night because to go to bed without knowing how it would play out was frankly a ridiculous concept!

I highly recommend I Am Dust if you fancy a little teenage nostalgia mixed with tension, drama and some supernatural elements. I can’t imagine how you could be disappointed!

Thank you to Louise, Orenda and Anne for letting me take part on this tour.

#BlogTour The Girl in the White Dress – Paul Barrell

IMG_1899

 

“Every Family has secrets. Imagine discovering you were guilty of something you can’t remember.

1974
A young family from London take a trip of a lifetime to the Caribbean aboard the cruise liner Oriana.

2002 The Peak District.
Following the death of his wife, Paul finds a menu card from the Oriana covered in personal messages from the ghosts of his childhood.

One particular address catches his eye , and memories are stirred as he begins to dream about a girl in a white dress.  Gradually with his mothers help he starts to unravel the identity of a long forgotten childhood sweetheart, and the disturbing truth about an incident that took place on the ship. Something that would implicate his whole family, a Pandoras box of lies and deceit. Paul never saw the girl again after the cruise . Their shared guilt had remained hidden for 30 years. That was until today…”

 

This is one of those books where you just need to find yourself a comfy spot, a large beverage of your choosing and enjoy the story unfolding chapter by chapter. The first pages are a great hook. We can see events from the Oriana but only a short glimpse; little is given away but leaves the reader needing to know what happened that night and the significance of the object and the girl. The next chapter introduces us to Paul and his daughter Hope and their first night in their new home. As a child brought up by my father, I could really relate to the situation and felt very empathetic towards Paul. I found him to be a very refreshing character, acknowledging issues in his marriage and embracing solo parenthood. His relationship with his mother also makes for amusing reading; I rather enjoyed their exchanges. I felt for him with the trials of relocation, multiple house moves and learning to live rurally thrown into the mix. Throughout this, his memories and dreams lead him to try and track down someone from his past and make amends and we follow him along the way.

 

The Girl in the White Dress is a perfect length to enjoy in an afternoon or an evening and is a very pleasing read. I found myself easily caught up in the mystery. I understand that it is a story based on real events and this only adds to the intrigue. Thank you to Paul for allowing me to read this lovely book and to Anne for organising the tour.

 

 

#Blog Tour Sister – Kjell Ola Dahl (translated by Don Bartlett)

img_1880

 

The Oslo Detectives are back in another slice of gripping, dark Nordic Noir, and their new colleague has more at stake than she’s prepared to reveal…  

Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…

Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death. Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…”

 

Anyone who has been reading my blog or looked at my twitter will know that I am very partial to a bit of crime and thriller and Sister definitely did not disappoint! This is my first book by Kjell Ola Dahl and I am pleased to see he has written plenty of others (my poor “to be read” mountain and bank balance, haha). The first few chapters definitely caught my attention, the task Frølich is set – to find the missing girl with almost nothing to go on – made me curious and got my mind racing about how people can seem to just disappear. I was also interested to see how the refugee centre and asylum seekers were portrayed. Finding this missing girl could mean so much more than just a family reunion, it is the one slim hope Aisha has of remaining in Norway rather than being sent back to Iraq.

 

I really enjoyed how the story and all the strands were allowed to unfold at a leisurely pace – I never felt like I was being rushed along but the plot kept moving forwards. This was a more relaxed read and definitely suited my mood this week! There were a fair amount of characters and this gave me a lot to think about and try to unpick. Unsurprisingly I’m afraid my guesswork about motives and culprits were generally rather far off the mark!

 

Frølich is an interesting character – his new career as a private investigator hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts but he is determined and methodical and clearly has an excellent analytical mind. As he begins to accumulate new clients, alarm bells begin ringing as to their motives, both those vocalised to Frølich on engagement as well as concealed within. I don’t wish to say too much and spoil things for the next readers but I did find some aspects uncomfortably realistic – particularly in regard to report writing and reviews (those who have read Sister will know what I am referring to and hopefully this is sufficiently vague as to not give away too much). Matilde is another great character, definitely more to her than I had expected when we first met her in the opening chapters.

 

I very much enjoyed reading Sister and am looking forward to getting stuck into some more Nordic Noir. Thanks so much for allowing me to read and review.