Welcome to my book-blog. I've spent the last 22 years as a teacher of English Literature and running a Stage School and Theatre. Alongside that, I spend as much time as I can within the pages of a book and hope you'll get some reading inspiration from my library. Catch me on Instagram as well as books.tea.and.me – I'm always looking for recommendations!
‘The Art of Dying’ is the second book by Ambrose Parry (the pseudonym for a writing duo) that follows Will Raven, now a fully fledged doctor, and his rather intense, dramatic and volatile day to day life! It’s never dull and, as in the first book, Will is battling with the darkness that keeps invading his life.
I enjoyed the first book ‘The Way of All Flesh’ so was really looking forward to reading this one, and there’re no disappointments. This is another detailed historical novel, set in 1850s Edinburgh, that draws in real advances and thoughts in medical procedures of the day and the use of chloroform on patients. Since the events at the end of the first book, Will has been travelling, advancing his medical knowledge and training. Dramatic events lead to his return to Edinburgh and he’s back working with Dr Simpson, a character based on the real life Dr James Young Simpson; professor of Midwifery at Edinburgh University.
Will also yearns to see Sarah again, a woman he regrets leaving and he’s not at all content with his reasons for leaving her. However, their reunion is not the one he expected and there’re more ups and downs to come. At the heart of this book is a serial killer, and their voice becomes part of the narrative as well. I was really engrossed in the psychology of this aspect. I loved that the villain of the story is also based on an actual 19th century mass-murderer. I loved the merging parts of the story-telling and the build up to a dramatic climax. So, I devoured this book in one sitting; I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough!
Loved the setting, the characters, the historical detail, the plotting of the crimes and the excitement of the ending. Better than the first book! Can’t wait for the next! I’ll definitely be buying myself a copy on publication day! This also works really well as a stand-alone too.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Canongate for this advanced e-copy to review
A richly gothic narrative drives the plot of this creepy mystery novel by Laura Purcell, author of ‘The Silent Companions’ and ‘The Corset’.
The book’s narrative is split into two distinct time frames which centre around Morvoren House – an isolated and exposed property set close to the sea. Initially, the story begins with the plight of a woman, Miss Hester Why, who is hastily fleeing on a coach to Cornwall; the weather is extreme and the travel riddle with anxiety and discomfort. She’s instantly an intriguing character who has hidden secrets and who soon finds herself in another environment where all is not at ease; the wildness of the elements is a constant eerie threat and backdrop.
I love Purcell’s writing style and the language is rich, emotive and sensory. It’s also soon evident that Morvorven House is not the safe place she needs. There’s a group of contrasting characters from the kind to the bizarre. I love the underlying threat of insecurity and menace that quickly builds. I also loved how Hester was clearly a flawed character and enjoyed the slow reveal of her past and how she became the troubled young woman we meet.
The other main narrative comes from the past and it’s the story of a grieving medical doctor and his daughter, Louise Pinecroft. This was such a sorrowful story and I really enjoyed making connections to Hester’s situation in Morvoren House and the historical detail of the revolutionary medical trials with prisoners in the bleak Cornish caves.
With themes of alcoholism, isolation, the fairy-world, drug dependency and grief driving the storytelling, this is a rich and sensory historical read with its roots in sorrow, angst and torment. Just my cup of tea!
Huge thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury/Raven Books for the review copy.
I’ve read the first two books in the Ragdoll trilogy and enjoyed them both. It’s interesting how different all three books are in tone and direction; this final book is no exception. I would definitely advise not reading it as a stand-alone, the character arcs run the course of the books and lots of plot elements interconnect, despite the new central investigations in each book.
This book revolves around the apparent ‘suicide’ of a retired police officer. The narrative shifts between the past and the present leading up to the death and pulls in the central stain of corruption that soon becomes apparent. It’s then a race and a challenge to incriminate and bring the guilty to justice; this quest is headed by a determined ‘Wolf’.
I love the character of Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, he’s a monolithic wildcard of a detective and a brilliant creation by Cole. The great depth to Fawkes comes from his working and personal relationship with DCI Emily Baxter and in ‘Endgame’ it’s the heart of the story. I was really moved by their personal developments, and for one moment actually forgot this was a crime novel genre. Sigh. But no spoilers..:
We see the return of characters from the previous books, again no detail as I don’t want to spoil anything. But to say it’s a really satisfying read.
I thought the plotting was smart, and yes it’s far-fetched at times, but find me a thriller/crime read that’s not. As a reader I want drama and big thriller moments, so we have to push at reality to do this, but Cole never goes too far.
This book is also funny, Fawkes adds witty dialogue and there’s some nice comedy moments.
To use the common thriller descriptive, it’s twisty! Both nicely paced and plotted with style! I think it’s a great story concept and conclusion to the Ragdoll books, each one having its own personality and style ~ a highly recommended series!
July turned out to be an unusually quiet reading month, but for good reasons. I’ve been spending more time with my daughter and we’ve been on a few trips. We arrived back from Canterbury yesterday after a three day mini break, which included a day at the Whitstable Oyster Festival ~ although neither of us liked oysters, but lots to do there, a food festival, bands, activities on the beach and lots more. The sun also shone for us, I think the only part of the country that wasn’t suffering from a deluge of rain.
So, July’s books:
‘The Puppet Show’ by M. W. Craven ~ thoroughly enjoyed this crime thriller. The two central characters Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are fabulous! Can’t wait to read the next in the series. 4.5 stars.
‘Beasts of the Frozen Sun’ by Jill Crisswell is a richly written YA fantasy adventure 3.5 YA stars as it needed to develop, we went round in circles rather a lot but definitely worth a read if this genre is your thing.
‘American Dreams’ by Kenneth Bromberg is a debut novel and I loved it. ‘The Godfather’ in style and spans generations of immigrants entering New York. 4 stars. This one has its own blog post if you’d like to know more about it.
‘Bone China’ by Laura Purcell is another Victorian gothic descriptive delight, really enjoyed it! 4.5 stars. Read it!
‘The Boy’ by Tami Hoag is the long awaited follow up to ‘A Thin Dark Line’ featuring Cajun cop Nick Fourcade and Detective Annie Broussard. Not as good as book one, but nice to see Fourcade and Broussard again. 3.5 stars.
‘Endgame’ by Daniel Cole ~ the final book in the Ragdoll Trilogy. Loved it! 5 stars.
‘The Girl in the Grave’ by Helen Phifer ~ I struggled with this a bit, plot was good but the writing style jarred with me a bit, which stopped my reading flow. Hopefully this will be tided up in final editing. 3 stars.
Thanks for reading! Tell me if you have any book recommendations as always! 💕
With thanks for Anne Cater at #RandomThingsTour and @flametreepress for sending me a copy of this book to review and chat about.
In 1904 Czarist Russia, Max, a four-year-old Jewish boy, witnesses his mother’s rape and murder by Russian soldiers. After the boy’s father extracts terrible revenge, father and son escape to New York and settle on the Lower East Side, a teeming melting pot of recent immigrants. Max meets a young Polish girl, Sophie, and the two children become inseparable playmates. By the time they are teenagers, Max excels at both school and sports, Sophie has become a stunningly beautiful young woman, and friendship has grown into love. Their plans are shattered when Sophie is forced to marry a local crime boss and once again, Max must simply watch as the most important person in his life is taken from him. In response, he begins a ruthless and violent climb to the top of the New York underworld.
If you like Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, you will love this debut novel. Published July 2019 by Flame Tree.
I read this book over a weekend and found it completely addictive. Kenneth Bromberg has created an epic tale spanning generations, from 1912 to the late 1940s. At the heart of the novel is a story of immigration and war, albeit on a large scale or a personal one, its devastating consequences and the struggles of immigration on the families that must uproot themselves. It’s a story of survival, no matter what you must sacrifice.
The novel focuses on the lives of three immigrants, Max, Sophie and Jonathan who arrive at different times in America to begin new lives after tragic circumstances. These three lives interconnect in ways they would never have dreamed of over the next 40 years, from organised crime to the glitz and power of emerging Hollywood studios.
It’s clear the author has an interest in the Mafia and its organisation; there are strong Mario Puzo vibes of ‘The Godfather’ influencing the core of the narrative, but this is very much Bromberg’s imagining. The central thread all comes from organised crime in America at the time and its effects and consequences on those caught up in it. However, there’s a real human story driving the plot as well, and it’s full of abuse, love, lust, terrible consequences, power, violence, patriarchal dominance and family bonds.
Max Zalensky is a fascinating character and the author cleverly keeps a ‘liking’ and interest for him (for me) throughout the novel, despite the horrific lifestyle he chooses to lead. This is one of those clever books that shows you the misunderstandings and makes you scream at the page. Max and Sophie’s relationship is particularly frustrating, and I found it sad to see it lead to the inevitable conclusion; it is fascinating to see how these people become who they are at the end of the book. I love the study of human nature in this context, and exploring what different people will do, or not do to survive.
I enjoyed the writing style and narrative structure over a lengthy time for our three focus characters, each constantly rooted to each other, but seemingly living separate lives. Bromberg weaves these stories seamlessly and it all finally crashes together in the shocking conclusion.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this and I’m really happy to share the publication of it with other book fans. It would also adapt well as a screenplay, the narrative lends itself naturally to that form and it was a very cinematic read throughout for me. So all in all, this is an epic, violent study of survival in despairing circumstances. It’s a mafia novel and it’s a story of war and Hollywood behind the glamour.
An absorbing, addictive and bold story of early 20th century crime fuelled America.
Type: General adult fiction, thriller, mafia, graphic violence, sexual assaults, war, abuse.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Kenneth Bromberg grew up in the beach cities of Southern California with a passion for tennis, American history, and literature. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, after which he worked for several years as a bartender. He eventually returned to UCLA to pursue an MBA and become a certified public accountant. After retiring from accounting, Kenneth fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a novelist. His first work, American Dreams, is based upon stories told by his grandmother who immigrated to New York from a small Jewish village near Kiev in the first years of the 20th century.
With thanks to @cerisanne for the tour @Best_Defence @sandstonepress #BlogTour and to William McIntyre for the witty story.
George ‘Genghis’ McCann has stolen – and lost – a priceless masterpiece. Snooker champion Oscar ‘The Showman’ Bowman is charged with betting fraud.
With a second baby on the way, and promises of great rewards if he wins Bowman’s case and recovers the painting, defence lawyer Robbie Munro has never been so tempted to fix the odds in his favour.
William McIntyre is a partner in Scotland’s oldest law firm Russel + Aitken, specialising in criminal defence. William has been instructed in many interesting and high-profile cases over the years and now turns fact into fiction with his string of legal thrillers, The Best Defence Series, featuring defence lawyer, Robbie Munro.
Based in Scotland and drawing on his thirty years as a criminal defence lawyer, there is a rich vein of dry-humour running through the series, which William describes as an antidote to crime fiction featuring maverick cops chasing serial killers, emphasising that justice is not only about convicting the guilty, but also about acquitting the innocent.
This book is the fifth book in a series based around Robbie Munroe, a criminal defence lawyer and well… ‘it all starts with a dog’. Sounded good to me!
I’d not come across these books before, so it was read as a standalone for me, which works absolutely fine. You obviously lose the character developments, but you do, obviously, get a new plot. I was initially surprised when I started reading, as I didn’t expect the humour. It’s sarcastic, witty and enjoyable, which engaged and hooked me into the story right from the start. There’s a great, immersive and chatty style to the narrative which makes it easy and accessible to read. Not the typical court-room drama I’d been expecting; it’s an entertaining read, with steady pacing throughout… and it all starts with a bit of a ‘balls up’ of a burglary and leads into a story of fraud, theft, deceit, lies and a dash of bribery along the way.
So, Robbie Munroe is our MC, and he seems a genuinely decent chap in both his professional and personal life; he certainly has some ups and downs to deal with. He’s sometimes outwardly sloppy but underneath he’s smart and really good at his job – loved ‘watching’ him work, making a few ‘interesting’ decisions that raises eyebrows with the opposing team and chuckled many times along the way.
What I loved the most about this book was the characters and the family dynamics with Robbie, his home life (he’s in a relationship with a previous employee and there’s another baby on the way), his brother (a sport’s broadcaster) and father (who has retired from police service). There’s also a secretary, who I want to come and work for me – lol!
I’m really interested now in starting at the beginning of this series – a great portrayal of the justice system in Scotland by an intelligent, witty legal thriller writer. Bravo!
OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES
Many thanks again to Ceris Jones & Sandstone Press for the review copy: https://sandstonepress.com/ TO VIEW PREVIEW FURTHER, SEE AMAZON LINK BELOW
With thanks to Sarah – Book on the Bright Side @BOTBSPublicity and @olympiapub for the blog tour.
Some secrets are best kept hidden… and some are just too magical not to share. Teenagers, who unexpectedly acquire a vast collection of magical, mystical powers and abilities, find an ancient map. This map leads them on a quest for buried treasure to a mysterious island filled with hidden secrets, booby traps and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. What could possibly go wrong? A lot!
B.J. Rowling, a native of England, is an author, screenwriter, producer and cousin of Harry Potter author J.K.Rowling. D.G. Lloyd is an American-Australian author, screenwriter, producer, actor and script coverage analyst.
“We’re all misfits in one way or another. Our lives are an adventurous unfolding story, just like the lives of the main characters in ‘The Misfit Tribe’. Characters who D.G. Lloyd and I are hoping readers are able to relate to in some form or fashion, and with a bit of luck, are also inspired by. So, with that said, take a break, sit back, open the book and prepare youselves for a thrilling ride of mystical and magical misadventures.” – B.J. Rowling
‘The Misfit Tribe’ are a group of youngsters who are taken to Mackinac Island, where back in 1812 an attack of American soldiers happened by British and Indian forces. Their visit to the island, however, is not about visiting a memorial sight, but getting involved with a ‘Geocache Treasure Adventure’ for a large cash prize. Added to this outing is the previous discovery by J.J, (one of the younger Misfits) of some artefacts from their relative’s desk; these become vital and link to the supernatural elements that look set to become a part of this series.
So, we have mysterious objects, a group of engaging youngsters and an island setting. It’s not long until the children are joined together on a quest to solve the puzzles, defeat the chasing bad guys, find the treasure and find themselves along the way. J.J also needs to find the treasure to help his parents from losing their family home; he also needs to repair the relationship with his older brother. There’s a mix of personalities in the ‘tribe’, the aforementioned ‘at odds’ brothers, the tech savvy kid with the backpack of helpful items, the eating, annoying kid that gets caught up with the baddies and the love interest between the older brother with one of the misfit girls, amongst others.
It’s a puzzle adventure featuring a cast of teenage children with supporting adult roles around them. It has banter and bonding within the group as they are pulled together on a quest to find a hidden treasure. There’s a series of riddles to solve to get to the next step and these steps are fraught with challenge, threat and danger. There’s a nasty bad guy, who also has a nasty henchman sidekick – so the odds are even more stacked against them! There’s teen angst and romantic longings – and we watch the group form and bond then ultimately learn to understand and respect each other. The pacing is steady through with bursts of speed at moments of danger.
Okay, overall this book didn’t work for me personally, but hang on, let me explain… I always stress that reading is personal and subjective, that what I say may not matter at all to the next reader, and should not. I’m also, more importantly, not its target reader AND there’s also the fact I love ‘The Goonies’ and there were lots of similarities that I struggled to get past. The writing style is tell and not show, I could definitely feel the screenwriters’ vibe in the writing style, but personally I enjoy more descriptive narratives. So, these are very personal reasons why the book didn’t charm me. This does not mean it won’t be an enjoyable adventure for its target readership.
So, coming into this book with fresh, i.e. ‘non-Goonie eyes’ you’ll find the enjoyment of the puzzles, and the entertaining dialogue of the teenagers. I’m going to give it to my 12 year old niece to read to see what she thinks.
Overall, thanks so much for sending me a copy of this book and for the place on the blog tour. This is a puzzle, adventure story with mystical elements where a group of youngsters’ bond and become empowered with supernatural elements to create ‘The Misfit Tribe’.
With thanks to Rachel Kennedy for organising the tour; the publishers at Arrow Publishing/Penguin Random House and to Heidi Perks for the fabulous thriller read.
A shocking discovery. An island wrapped in secrets. You can bury the body, but the truth will always surface…
A tiny island community is stunned by the discovery of a long-buried body. For Stella Harvey, the news is doubly shocking, as the body is found in the garden of her childhood home. The home her family fled without explanation twenty-five years ago.
Now, questioning her past and desperate to unearth the truth, Stella returns to the Dorset island. But she quickly finds that the community she left isn’t as welcoming as she remembers – and that people in it will go to any length to protect their secrets. But one thing rings true…
You can’t bury the truth forever.
Heidi Perks’ debut novel ‘Now You See Her’ twice reached the Sunday Times bestseller list, first in hardback in July 2018 at no.9 and again at no.6 in paperback in March 2019 where it was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick for Spring 2019. ‘Now You See Her’ has sold over 120,000 copies across formats to date and has received a staggering 200 five star reviews on Amazon from readers. It has also been optioned for TV from the production company behind BBC One’s ‘The Miniaturist’ and Channel 4’s ‘National Treasure’.
Heidi Perks worked as a marketing director for a financial company before leaving to become a full-time mum and writer. She is a graduate of the inaugural Curtis Brown Creative Online Novel Writing Course (the only creative writing school run by a literary agency). Follow Heidi on Twitter @HeidiPerksBooks and join in the conversation with #COMEBACKFORME
MY REVIEW OF ‘COME BACK FOR ME’
My first book by Heidi Perks and I was hooked from the start. I love a good mystery and the gripping opening scene had so many questions popping into my head. Our MC is Stella, who grew up on the island of Evergreen, a tiny island and intricate community, but dramatically left during a ferocious and fearsome storm when she was eleven years old with her parents, elder brother and sister. What an opening hook!
Stella grew up to be a relationship/family councillor, but she always remembers the mysterious and dramatic departure from her home and has grown up with so many unanswered questions about why they had to leave. Shortly after the book begins, a news station reports a body has been found on Evergreen – it turns out it’s in the garden of Stella’s old family home. Stella begins a quest to find out the truth of what happened; she has to know why her family had to leave so suddenly and dramatically. The narrative switches back and forth from past to present as we try to work out what happened, and whose body has been discovered. I enjoyed the slow reveal of events on the island and what led to the ensuing tragedy and why. A great puzzle of a read!
I was hooked and loved joining Stella on her journey – there’s a great and varied selection of characters to meet and a suspenseful underscore pinning the narrative as Stella returns to the Island, albeit far from welcome. There’s an array of island folk, some more likeable than others. I loved the watchful menace of some and the controlled dialogues of others; all these aspects building the suspense and added to our challenges of finding the truth. There’s also some emotional character pulls that I enjoyed which added some lovely depth to the overall character arc for Stella.
The setting is fabulous – you can’t beat an isolated island location, particularly dramatic and atmospheric when the weather changes and the storm comes in. This is certainly a crucible of a place that has been slowly simmering for a long while. Superb thriller devices take you on a puzzle of a journey with Stella, as gradually the past unfolds and we watch its effect on the present.
I’m not that sure about the ending working completely for me; this is minor and I’ll say no more and let readers’ decide for themselves but it didn’t have quite enough developed character motivations in place for me – but all reading is subjective, so it’s just my personal opinion. I had a few chats in the past with authors about the challenge of writing the ending of their novels; such a difficult task to please everyone! This makes the book fabulous for a book group. Don’t let that stop you picking up this book; it’s a really minor personal opinion. Reading this book is 100% worth it and you’ll have a great time!
Definitely a strongly recommended read despite my slightly mixed feelings about the ending. An atmospheric, truth-seeking thriller read set within an isolated community of watchful eyes.
I’m off to read ‘Now You See Her’ and Heidi Perks is definitely on my must-read author list. Happy Days!
Seriously how did June disappear so quickly? Saying that, it could have been because I spent a lot of it stuck between the pages of my books.
I definitely need to get out and about in July… possibly.
Overall, 19 books read this month and as always here’s my speedy thoughts on this month’s bunch…
The ‘Air Awakens’ series – really enjoyed the first three books, and then it dragged for me. Overall though, a creative, fun fantasy YA series. 4 YA stars.
‘One Last Greek Summer’ – I read this with the Pigeonhole community and it was a light, summery group read. 3.5/4 stars.
‘Stoker’s Wilde’ – a review read via Netgalley and surprisingly fun. Mixing literary characters of Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker into a Gothic mystery. 4 stars
‘The Peculiar Charm of Miss Jane Austen’ – a Netgalley review read, and it didn’t overly work for me, some fun elements and ideas. I believe this is going to be a time-travelling series. 3 stars.
‘The Art of Dying’ – I enjoyed this murder mystery sequel novel set in 1850s Edinburgh, full review previously on the blog. 4.5 stars.
‘Death and the Harlot’ – loved this fun crime read set in 1759 London whose MC is a prostitute named Lizzie Hardwick (full review on this book and the art of a good-story on my blog feed) 5 stars for pure entertainment and historical detail.
‘The Corpse Played Dead’ – the second Lizzie Hardwick novel and another really fun read! Bring on some more! Rounding up to 5 stars for pure enjoyment grading.
‘The Misfit Tribe and the Secret of Mystery Island’ – read this for a blog tour and sadly it didn’t work as it was too similar to ‘The Goonies’. A sad 2 stars.
‘The Sorcery of Thorns’ – enjoyable, creative and magical YA read. Just tipping into 4 stars on my YA scale.
‘Truthwitch’ – another magical action fantasy read, and the first in a series; fun! 4 YA stars.
‘Blood Orange’ – I’m still thinking about what went wrong for me with this one. I think my expectation was high, from other reviews but it didn’t all come together for me. Weird ending and lots of unlikeable characters with little to balance them. 3 stars.
‘We Hunt the Flame’ – really enjoyed this, loved the evocative language and the central characters, great YA magical fantasy read. 4 YA stars.
‘The Missing Years – full review on blog as part of a June Blog tour celebrating the publication of this thriller, mystery. Really enjoyed it. Lacked pace of some novels, but I enjoyed taking my time reading it. 4.5 stars.
‘The French Girl’ – again not a pacey read from Lexie Elliott but entertaining, nicely plotted and created. Tipped into 4 stars.
‘Wicked Saints’ – despite it waning for me in the middle, I enjoyed this debut YA novel – bloody, gothic dark fairy-tale with themes of deception, desire, greed, lies, religion and the exploration of monstrosity. Some great character complexity and subversion, which redeemed it for me. Just tipping into 4 YA stars.
Jig loves football and his dog, hates school, misses his granda and knows to lie low when his ma’s blitzed on the vodka and tablets.
He’s just an ordinary boy on the mean streets alongside Dublin’s Grand Canal. Streets that are ruled by Ghost and his crew. And now Ghost- inked, vicious, unprincipled- has a job for Jig.
A job that no one can afford to go wrong- not the gangs, the police, the locals, and least of all not Jig.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cormac O’Keeffe is the Irish Examiner’s award-winning security correspondent; his work has given him unique access to contacts in the police and the community. He lives near Dublin’s Grand Canal, and his professional and personal lives imbue ‘Black Water’ with the authenticity, intensity and originality of personal experience. Cormac blogs about his writing, is a respected book reviewer and appears frequently on national radio and television.
This is a novel set in the reality of Dublin’s crime culture, it’s harsh, gritty and ultimately a despondent read; the harshness and reality continues to its closure. This is not a rosy read in any sense of the word, and it’s violent and dark at its core. Drugs, gangs and their culture of violence is at the heart of the story and the writer manages to make it convincingly real, because despite this being fiction, it’s clearly based on the real world and events. The story centres around a young boy named Jig, who dreams of football fame. His story develops into gang initiation, desires, manipulation and lies. It’s a dark tale; although there’s light in the brave desire to fight gang culture with the character of local police officer Tara Crowe. It’s not an easy read, from the gang culture, uncontrolled teenagers, drugs, manipulation, abuse, neglect, religious weakness and a young boy caught up in a hopeless situation. This is certainly not a light read, it’s hard going at times. I had to take a few deep breaths; but it’s an important read and one that opens awareness of the darker side of Dublin life. Phew, not optimistic and defies the answer to an embedded problem. Well researched and written. I won’t say enjoyable but it’s engaging and eye-opening piece of fiction.
Published by Black & White Publishing – @bwpublishing