‘Soon’ by Lois Murphy, with huge thanks to Titan Books for the review copy.

BLURB

On winter solstice, the birds disappeared, and the mist arrived.

The inhabitants of Nebulah quickly learn not to venture out after dark. But it is hard to stay indoors: cabin fever sets in, and the mist can be beguiling, too.

Eventually only six remain. Like the rest of the townspeople, Pete has nowhere else to go. After he rescues a stranded psychic from a terrible fate, he’s given a warning: he will be dead by solstice unless he leaves town – soon.

My thoughts…

Okay, I’m not a horror genre reader. In the past, I’ve read one Stephen King and a James Herbert, but I’ve such an over-active imagination that I crept around for weeks afterwards and jumped at every shadow at night. So, when I received ‘Soon’ by Lois Murphy I decided to be brave, although rather foolishly read it late at night! Don’t ask me why!

Nebulah, once a prosperous mining town, is now isolated due to a strange phenomenon of a ghostly mist arriving, no one can understand why and the town becomes more of a tourist attraction and a freak show; one by one the inhabitants leave. I spent a lot of time saying ‘WHY?’ as I read this book… these last inhabitants of the town are certainly stubborn and loyal, or completely crazy! I, quite frankly, would have been on the first bus out of there! If you live in Nebulah then you have to board yourself in at night, otherwise a maelstrom of horrors is upon you! Seriously creepy. The story follows the last six people who, for different reasons, decide to stay and live in this literal ghost town.

The story is steadily told through the eyes of Pete, a former policeman and a good man but he’s very isolated. The day time is slowly paced, and this increases our anticipation for what horrors will come at night. Once I started reading I wanted answers. When events turned intense, I wanted to throw the book with frustration at these last inhabitants. As usual, in these horror situations there are people who think they are impervious to harm – and Pete is suddenly faced with the task of risking himself to save those foolhardy ones that come to experience the famous ‘ghost town’.

Now as an animal lover, I hate it when animals are in books like this, as I just spend most of my time worrying about them, so that’s exactly what I did here – it was like watching Will Smith and his dog again in ‘I am Legend’. So, without giving away plot, animals lovers beware, it’s not a happy wagging tale ending for our furry friends – but not on the level of ‘Marley and Me’ so it’s manageable.

Overall, if you like odd creepy horror genre reads this is worth it; it’s a well written, nicely paced read with lots of thriller elements. It’s also inspired loosely from the actual Australian blue asbestos town of Wittenoom. The toxic town has only a handful of remaining residents and has become a fascination for tourists and thrill-seekers; people are strange! Look it up, it’s crazy! This also suggests there’s a real social commentary at the heart of this story from Lois Murphy.

This is definitely a recommended read from me – a weird, creepy and startling horror read; gripping and disturbing.

Mini review of ‘Vengeance of Hope’ by P.J Berman

Can freedom ever be for all?

Blurb

Can freedom ever be for all? How do you save a nation from tyranny?

When the King of Bennvika dies in suspicious circumstances and a foreign usurper named Jostan Kazabus seizes the throne, ruthlessly imposing his will on the population, a disunited triumvirate of leaders and their followers must attempt to resist him.

The first is Silrith, the ousted philanthropic princess who had been expected to succeed her father. The second is Ezrina, a vengeful rebel who is desperate to overturn the years of ethnic oppression of her people, the Hentani. The third is Zethun, a minor noble who believes the only way to fight for the common people is to abolish the monarchy altogether.

As the various factions fight the threat of tyranny and religious persecution, each must be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their cause.

My thoughts

This first novel in the ‘Silrith’ series ‘Vengeance of Hope’ is a epic medieval inspired fantasy novel and if you visit the author’s website there’s a host of environment background and character detail that build depth to this fictional world. The book has a series of maps, always much appreciated by the reader, a glossary and an extensive character list. I knew then, that this book would require some concentration! I enjoy fantasy books, but apart from the first book in ‘A Game of Thrones’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ my fantasy reading is more of a YA level.

This book was also an unusual read, as I read half and listened to the other half on audio book; I much preferred listening to the story – all the pronunciations were worked out for me for a start, and I could close my eyes and really imagine this extensive world. I did find it generally difficult to track the amount of characters, and some snappy location changes, but this is not dissimilar to other epic style fantasy series. More seasoned fantasy readers would probably glide through it.

The book begins with drama, and the web of truth and lies. Straight away we’re in the complex court life of politics, intrigue and betrayal. Silrith a princess whose life suddenly and dramatically changes after the death of her father has to overcome many challenges, both politically and as a battle commander and we are immediately taken into her world. There are several other players in this quest for power, who face oppression, who want revenge, politicians, dictators and rebels drive the tension and narrative forward; this is a well-constructed world where people are fighting for their causes. I really enjoyed and appreciated the strong female characters Berman writes.

The journey is vicious at times, Bergman writes really good battle scenes and I raced through these pages. Greed, power and back-stabbing drive the edgier moments in the plot and the narrative is better for it.

Overall, this ticks all the epic fantasy world boxes and if you enjoy fantasy novels then have a read of this. The second book in this series, ‘King of the Republic’ is out any time now, so you won’t have to wait to continue the adventure.

Click the link below to visit P.J. Berman’s website to find out more.

https://www.pjbermanbooks.com/

To purchase, or find out more click the link above.

Blog Tour for ‘The Birthday House’ by Jill Treseder #RandomThingsTour

A friendship. A Murder. A life that will never be the same.

I’m really happy to be a part of this blog tour for Jill Treseder’s book with thanks to Anne Cater at #RandomThingsTours and @SilverWoodBooks – do check out the chat about this book from other book bloggers on this tour.

BLURB

The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon.

In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party – a party that never takes place.

Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.

Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influenced the events that led up to the tragedy.

Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with the past?

MY THOUGHTS

‘The Birthday House’ is a novella, and it’s a well put together multi-perspective narrative leading up to tragic events of one day in 1955. Whilst some narratives are stronger than others it does make compelling reading. Our retrospective narrator Susan looks back from 2018 to these traumatic events from her childhood. What follows is a series of first-person voices leading up to terrible events surrounding the loss of her childhood friend and family; this is an attempt to explore how life and relationships can lead to awful circumstances that need to be explored, to be able to grieve and comprehend the shocking events.

I enjoyed the piecing together of events of 1954/5 from the voices of those involved; this is at its heart a very sad story, but it also serves as an attempt to put to rest the deep loss during this time for Susan, whose loss of her friend at such a young age has deeply affected her and the rest of her life.

You know the events right from the start, the brutal murder of a family by the father, and his suicide; they are made more thought-provoking when you find out the author is exploring these events from her own personal experience and loss of her childhood friend.

This is a decent novella that has many points for discussion, it also highlights the need for honesty and communication to minimise years of grief clouding your life. It explores a tragic event in an open way; the deaths are awful and hard to read, so be aware of this when reading. This also highlights mental illness and the importance of recognition and seeking help.

A novella of a shocking family murder-suicide, written with a sensitive touch, exploring why such terrible events occur and the effects on those left behind. A poignant and tragic tale.

Check out the bloggers above to find out more…

https://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781328798/the-birthday-house – to purchase from the publishers and support independents X

Mini review of ‘Broken Souls’ by Patricia Gibney published by Bookouture

Patricia Gibney’s Lottie Parker series never lets you down ~ this is another great read, well executed, plotted and paced.
Lottie, as usual, never has it easy, both in her private and working environment ~ but she’s a tough character, and despite falling by the wayside at times, she bounces back with strength and drive, making a great protagonist.
This case centres around initially suspected suicides, but soon it becomes clear that something more sinister is occurring. There’s also a missing child aspect to the case making life hard for Lottie Parker and her team.
This is a series read, and although it can be read as a stand-alone, I’d recommend following the series from the beginning to understand the characters and their relationships. This book is rather emotive for a particular character and relationship thread.
So, as always a top recommendation from me. The Lottie Parker books are intelligent, driven police investigation reads with the added bonus of strongly written and engaging characters.

Published 18th Oct 2019 – huge thanks to Bookouture for the advanced review copy.

Mystery Thriller read.

September Mini Reading Wrap-Up

I’ve no idea where September went… anyone? Well, hello to October and it’s the start of my favourite reading months snuggled by the open fire. My daughter has already got a rotten cold, poor thing, she looked like the undead after school today; I’m hoping it stays away from me.

This is my second attempt to write my September wrap-up, as something weird happened and all my drafts disappeared, including my prepared October reviews – painful! So, I’ve only just got the will to write it all again! So here goes some speedy typing…

Highlight of the month! So, I was deliriously happy to receive an advanced copy of Jane Casey’s ‘The Cutting Place’ – the next book in the Maeve Kerrigan series. I obviously read it immediately and it’s pretty much my favourite of the series… it’s out April 2020. As always I’d recommend reading this series from the start as it’s all about the character developments, particularly the Kerrigan and Derwent dynamic, and this book is a real treat! A 5 star read.

‘Bringing Down a Duke’ by Evie Dunmore – this is a new historical romance set in 1879 where a bluestocking teaches a duke a lesson – it’s what is says on the blurb, and fun for a couple of hours entertainment – some funny moments 3.5 stars, as it took me a while to get into.

‘Trade Winds’ by M.M.Kaye, the author of ”The Far Pavilions’; this one’s set in 1859 where a young girl arrives in Zanzibar and meets a ruthless trader – it’s all about piracy, slave trades, abduction and a cholera epidemic – overall I’m not a fan of this one. 3 stars, just.

‘The Birthday House’ by Jill Treseder – this is for a blog tour next week, so more then. But briefly, it’s a novella looking at different perspectives of a tragic event in 1955 – based on a true event. 3.8 stars.

‘Code 17’ by Francis Booth – this was also read for a blog tour – see my earlier post for more chat about this one. It’s a quirky light-hearted spy thriller set in the swinging sixties. 4 stars. Fun.

‘A Single Thread’ by Tracy Chevalier – 4.8 stars, I really enjoyed this – I’ve chatted about it already, so have a look if you’d like to know more. It’s set in 1932 where the losses of WW1 are still keenly felt. It focuses on one of the surplus women and her new life in Winchester, with churches, bell-ringing and embroidery filling her days. I really enjoyed this and read it with the Pigeonhole reading community.

‘The Devil Upstairs’ by Anthony O’Neill – 4 stars and read for another blog tour – so check out that post if this book interests you. Set in Edinburgh where a neighbour from hell is ruining our protagonist’s life – so she unwittingly calls up the devil. Enjoyable, dark tale.

‘Gods of Shade and Shadow’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was a 3.5 star read for me and a bit of a cover buy. Set in Mexico in 1927 where Casiopea Tun accidentally sets free an ancient Mayan god of death and they head off on a cross country odyssey – so it’s an historical fantasy based loosely on Hades and Persephone. Nice rich language and descriptions but the characters didn’t overly work for me. A strong ending that implies a sequel.

‘The Princess Plan’ by Julia London was a review book read and I didn’t overly enjoy it, the characters didn’t really interest me and it was really slow. Last 40% improved so 3 stars but an overall no for suiting me.

‘Promise of Darkness’ by Bec McMaster is the first book in the Dark Court Rising fantasy romance series. It’s about Fae Kingdoms, cursed princes, evil queens and hostages. Dark, smouldering scenes with lots of action. Entertaining. and well-written escapism! 4 stars…just.

‘The Animals of Lockwood Manor’ by Jane Healey – a well-written book with a dark, gothic edged setting. With themes from parental loss and parental control, to female plight in a dominant patriarchal world and the desire and secrecy of female relationships. There’s also a cast of stuffed animals moved to an isolated manor to protect them from bombings during the war – not as enjoyable as I’d hoped for me 3.8 stars.

‘Broken Souls’ by Patricia Gibney – another review read and this one I was really looking forward to. I’ve been reading the Lottie Parker detective series from the start. They are smart, well-written crime dramas which include some fully rounded characters and their relationships. Really enjoyed it 4.8 stars.

‘The Ten Thousand Doors of January’ by Alix E. Harrow. 4 stars, I really liked this, for me it was a slow start but then I was hooked. Creative, beautifully written and emotive. Based on the idea that every story opens a door and is a bit of a homage to fantasy stories like Narnia, where a doorway can lead to a new land and adventures.

October reads have started well, I’ve read 5 books so far which I’m looking forward to writing about in my Oct wrap-up…

I worked furiously in the office today to free up reading time, so I’m off to make my daughter a comforting sick-bed snack and continue reading Helen Fields’ new book ‘Perfect Kill’ for the rest of the day – with huge thanks to Avon Books for the advance review copy! Love this series! Happy Days all!

Blog Tour for ‘Code 17’ by Francis Booth for #RandomThingsTour with thanks to tour host @annecater

BANG.

BANG. BANG.

Jonty crumples to the ground. I jump out of the Bentley and run over to him as fast as I can manage in my wedding dress. Jonty is bleeding from the head, the chest and the tummy. The last words he says to me before he dies are: ‘Code 17’.

My thoughts – a wacky, pacy spy thriller with an original, quirky protagonist! I genuinely had a fun time reading this.

‘Code 17’ consists of many short chapters from the first person perspective of Lady Laurencia Artemisia Claudia Summers…phew! AKA Laura, or Lady Laura Summers, AKA slightly dodgy art dealer. We get thrust straight into the plot after the groom gets shot on his way to his wedding to Laura – and although the wedding is one of convenience, Lady Summers is determined to seek retribution and immediately discovers, and is pitted against a network of undercover agents, and in particular the unsavoury Persephone. Lady Laura now has a challenging nemesis.

The writing is sharp, direct and consistently to the point but we still get enough to develop the characters and build plot. Its mini-episode style is suited to reading on the go, and it’s easy to drop back into the story as the scenes are very pictorial. There’re quite a few spoofy antics featuring both Laura, her sidekick/friends Muffie and Ronni. At times it’s humorous as the women begin to investigate, from picking up some C&A catsuits for a break-in job to accidentally causing a few violent ends!

There’s also the backdrop of the swinging sixties London, so the vibe is full of expression, art, glamour, music, celebrity and a dash of romance. It’s a fun journey following the antics of the characters in this book, and I happily recommended it to fellow readers.

Words from the author:

Code 17 was originally a musical idea.

Ten years ago I made an album that paid homage to the theme music of 1960s British TV spy series like The Man from UNCLE, The Baron and Department S, and to films like Modesty Blaise and The Ipcress File. The music on the album was from an imaginary TV series called Code 17, featuring the glamorous art dealer/spy Lady Laura Summers. She was imagined as a cross between Sharron Macready of The Champions, Emma Peel of The Avengers and Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward of Thunderbirds, though none of these women was the lead character in their own show.

Ten years later I thought I could make a novel out of Code 17 and Lady Laura – a fast-paced, female-led thriller set in the art world of Swinging 1967 London. I kept to the format of a twelve-episode TV series and tried to imagine each chapter as a self-contained thirty minute episode, split into short, cinematic scenes; I imagined our heroine getting into deep water in every episode but always getting out of it before the credits rolled.

I hope you can imagine it that way too.

You can hear the music at https://www.mixcloud.com/planckmusic/code-17/

And watch the promotional video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfZsXqxch5I

Francis Booth Author Profile

Francis Booth’s novels are all available as eBooks and paperbacks on Amazon. They include:

· The Watchers series of Young Adult fantasy novels: The Charlotte Strain and The January Legacy;

· The Nevermore novel sequence Nevermore, Evermore, Gone Before and Nothing More, a series of dark revenge tragedies;

· Code 17, a fast-paced, female-led thriller set in the art world of Swinging Sixties London.

Francis is also the author of several academic books on modern literature and culture, also available on Amazon:

· Amongst Those Left: the British Experimental Novel 1940-1960 (to be published by Dalkey Archive Press);

· Everybody I Can Think of Ever: Meetings That Made the Avant-Garde;

· Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid Twentieth Century Woman’s Novel;

· Text Acts: Twentieth Century Literary Eroticism;

· Comrades in Art: Revolutionary Art in America 1926-1938.

As a translator, Francis Booth has published English versions of the Marionette Plays of Maurice Maeterlinck and produced libretti adapted from Akutagawa, Strindberg and early Sanskrit and Buddhist texts, several of which have been set to music and recorded.

Francis also produces music under the name Tektonix, all of which is on YouTube and at mixcloud.com/planckmusic. He is currently at work on Code 17.1, the sequel to Code 17.

Mini Review: ‘A Single Thread’ by Tracy Chevalier

I enjoy historical fiction but I’m not a huge fan of wartime dramas. It’s also relevant to add I’m not generally a visitor to churches and cathedrals; I’m also not interested in embroidery. ‘A Single Thread’ has all these elements, set between wars as the threat of Hitler stirs, so it shouldn’t have been a top read for me, but it was. Whilst the thread of war is an underscore, the book explores the lives that must go on after great loss during WW1 and focuses on one of the ‘surplus’ women, a Violet Speedwell. It was the creation and voice of Violet that hooked me into this heart-warming and bittersweet story. I also discovered that bellringing and church embroidery is quite a detailed and interesting subject, and also how such activities can be healing and good for the soul. How such pastimes can build relationships and communities, particularly dealing with hardships and losses.

This is a steadily paced book with generally well-rounded characters, yes there are a few stereotypes, but I think the cast of these characters was a fitting observation of the time and its attitudes.

The main reason I loved this novel was following the story of Violet, a character I was rooting for throughout. She represents the plight of so many women left without husbands, fiancés, fathers and brothers after the tragic and futile loss of so many men during WW1. These women were often considered ‘surplus’ and they struggled to achieve anything but aged spinster status and caregivers to elderly relatives. Violet, frustrated with giving up her needs and independence moves away from her dominant mother and family home to Winchester. It’s this journey we follow as she builds her independence, meets a new group of people who will impact her life is so many ways. Violet learns to release the past and fight for a future that gives her independence, freedom, respect and love.

There are some fabulous support characters, one of these is a Louisa Pesel who was a real person. She was an embroidery expert who was asked by the Bishop of Winchester Cathedral in 1931 to design and sew cushions and kneelers for the choir stalls and Presbytery seats. A great character in this book and an amazing woman in real life; she worked at the Albert and Victoria Museum, travelled to Egypt and India as a single woman (rare at this time) and helped traumatised WW1 soldiers to sew beautiful things to help their rehabilitation. This adds lovely historical depth.

So, if you like historical fiction and a character motivated plot, then do try ‘A Single Thread’.

BLOG TOUR for ‘The Devil Upstairs’ by Anthony O’Neill @bwpublishing

The Blurb

Cat Thomas relocates to Edinburgh, fleeing death threats related to her job as a fraud investigator in Florida. Her 18th-Century Dean Village flat is utterly idyllic except for one thing…the devil upstairs.

Cat lies awake, delirious from lack of sleep, dreaming of ways in which to get rid of the utterly inconsiderate neighbour who keeps her awake every night with loud music and wild parties. Desperate for a solution, she joins a work friend at a witches’ conclave, and is blissfully surprised when the neighbour’s noise suddenly stops.

But when the devil upstairs is found dead and Cat’s seemingly perfect man arrives in his place, the problems she thought were solved come back to haunt her in new and unexpected ways.

My thoughts

I was really pleased to receive a copy of ‘The Devil Upstairs’ to review, with thanks to Black & White Publishing and of course, the author Anthony O’Neill. Once I started reading, I was hooked straight away into our protagonist’s relocation from a lifetime in Florida, to a completely contrasting environment of Edinburgh city. Edinburgh is a perfect setting for this story, and a favourite place of mine too.

Cat Thomas, after facing death threats as part of her fraud investigation work, is now based in a two-bedroom flat in a converted 18th century building – everything begins perfectly until the tenant of the flat above comes back. She is faced with the neighbour from hell who is loud, inconsiderate and beyond rude.

We watch Cat slowly deteriorate from lack of sleep until she despairingly agrees to visit a local witches coven as a potential answer to her hellish neighbour above. The meeting is rather a bizarre sulphur-fuelled event! Now, this is where things become decidedly strange and the book takes a sharp tonal turn. I quite like the weird and wacky, so I happily read on into a darker territory of suspicions, secrets, odd behaviours, threats and death. It’s now a study of Cat’s conscience (or lack of), police investigations, a mysterious new attractive tenant and an acerbating fraud investigation that alienates her at work.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this, it’s a pacy coherently plotted nightmarish tale of threat and devilry. If you’ve ever had, or even currently have, a hellish neighbour then reading this may be rather cathartic…

I suspect the author once had a neighbour from hell himself and was perhaps purging emotions through this book, rather than indulging in the route you’d probably want to take at 3am in the morning!

The Author

Anthony O’Neill was born in Melbourne and lives in Edinburgh. He is the author of Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek, his sequal to Dr Jekyll & Hyde; Scheherazade, an Arabian Nights homage; The Lamplighter, a psychological horror; The Empire of Eternity, a history-mystery involving Napoleon and Egyptology; The Unscratchables, a satire featuring dog and cat detectives and The Dark Side, a crime novel set on the far side of the moon. Film rights to The Dark Side have been sold to 20th Century Fox.

http://blackandwhitepublishing.com/

August Reading Mini Wrap-Up

August is always a good reading month for me, as I take extra time off work to be with my daughter whilst she’s on her summer break. As usual the summer has passed by far too quickly and she’s already back at school beginning her A’Levels. At least there’s the autumn to look forward to, with warm jumpers, open fires, hot chocolate and of course more books to read. So, back to August and I read 23 books…

‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ by Kerri Maniscalco – the first in the quartet series featuring Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell. A YA book featuring murder mysteries and two pathology students that repeatedly get caught up in them. Fun, easy read and I can see the appeal. 3.5 YA stars.

‘The Sleepwalker’ by Joseph Knox. When I got this to review I hadn’t realised it was a series, so it took me a while to catch up and grasp some of the character nuances. The writing is really good and the tensions strummed beautifully – I really enjoyed this and have ordered the first two books. 4 stars.

‘The Museum of Broken Promises’ by Elizabeth Buchan. I was sent a copy of this to review and I absolutely loved it! A brilliant book set during a terrible time in European history; it really pulls at the heart-strings. I needed tissues at the end. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

‘Felicity Carol and the Perilous Pursuit’ by Patricia Marcantonio. I was sent the second book to review, so I ordered and read ‘Perilous Pursuit’ first. Set during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations – there’s murder, romance and a woman ahead of her time. Light, historical mystery fun but really easy to guess ‘whodunit’. 3 stars.

‘Felicity Carol and the Murderous Menace’ by Patricia Marcantonio. This was a review read and follows heiress and amateur sleuth, Felicity, as she explores forensic methods to chase a murderer, helped by Jackson Davies from Scotland Yard. 3 stars.

‘The Turn of the Key’ by Ruth Ware. I read this with the Pigeon Hole community to review and it was enjoyable. I wasn’t a huge fan of Ware’s descriptive style – it kept alienating me from the plot. Overall, fairly enjoyable 3.8 stars.

‘Shadow & Flame’ by Mindee Arnett. This is a YA fantasy novel and the second book in the Rime Chronicles. It was pacy, fun, dramatic and very enjoyable. 4 YA stars.

‘Deeplight’ by Frances Hardinge. This was sent to me to review and I enjoyed elements of it, but overall it didn’t hold my attention. The writing is really good, it’s quite long and sadly I drifted. Don’t let that put you off, I’ve seen others have loved this. 3 stars.

‘Lady in the Lake’ by Laura Lippman. I enjoy Lippman’s novels and was really pleased to receive this new book to review. An enjoyable read mixing a psychological focus with the classic noir. Set in 1966 Baltimore, it explores why a middle-aged housewife turned journalist becomes fixated on the murder of a forgotten black woman. 4 stars.

‘The Lost Ones’ by Anita Frank. This was another review read which I enjoyed, set in 1917 and follows the grieving Stella Marcham when she stays at the imposing Grayswick mansion. Soon, strange incidents start happening and Stella begins to uncover some dark and terrible secrets. 4 stars.

‘Spin the Dawn’ by Elizabeth Lim. This is the first book in the YA fantasy series called The Blood of the Stars. I had great fun reading this with its ‘Mulan’ and ‘Project Runway’ vibes. You get Chinese culture, a sizzling forbidden romance and a magical tailor set a seemingly impossible task. 4.5 YA stars.

”The Little Shop of Found Things’ by Paula Brackston. I was a bit disappointed with this, I found it slow and wasn’t held by the plot, set around a time-travelling chatelaine, taking our modern protagonist back to the early 17th century – it picked up in the last quarter, which pulled it into 3 stars.

‘Through the White Wood’ by Jessica Leake. This is a YA fanasy featuring some of the characters from Leake’s previous book ‘Beyond a Darkened Shore’. An enjoyable read about magical powers inspired by Russian Mythology, lots of drama, romance and personal sacrifice. 4 YA stars.

”The Wages of Sin’ by Kaite Welsh. I had a great time reading this, set in 1890s Edinburgh and features a female medical student-turned-detective. It’s also about the harsh challenges of a female trying to be respected and educated as well as a driven murder mystery. 4 stars.

‘House of Salt and Sorrows’ by Erin A. Craig. A YA fantasy novel loosely based on ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ this was okay, but it could’ve been so much better! 3 YA Stars.

‘The Unquiet Heart’ by Kaite Welsh. This is the second book in the Sarah Gilchrist series and another fun read, Set once again in Victorian Edinburgh and follows Sarah as she continues her medical training, she now has an unwanted fiance and is back working with the mercurial, professor Merchiston on a new murder case. 4 stars.

‘The Governess Game’ by Tessa Dare. I read my first review Dare book a few months ago and had a great time. This is the second in the ‘Girl Meets Duke’ series and it’s really funny! This one’s all about a governess and a bad bad rake! 3.5 stars as not as good as the other Dare I’d read. I’d happily read another, I mean the stories are ridiculous and the characters hugely romanticised but generally racy, entertaining fun.

‘The Winter Rose’ by Jennifer Donnelly. I love this book and this is my third read. It’s the second book in ‘The Tea Rose’ trilogy and set in 1900s London and pitches India Selwyn Jones, a recently qualified doctor against Sid Malone, London’s most notorious gangster. Donnelly’s writing is so rich and vivid you are completely drawn into this world. 5 stars.

‘Elevator Pitch’ by Linwood Barclay. Not my favourite Barclay read but a solid mystery thriller and no, I’m NEVER getting into an elevator again! 3.5 stars.

‘The Book Collector’ by Alice Thompson. I bought this when I heard that Salt Publishing was going through a difficult time, every purchase helps if you want to check out their book lists? This one is a gothic story about madness and murder. Strange, delusional and macabre. 4 stars.

‘The Wild Rose’ by Jennifer Donnelly. This is the final book in ‘The Tea Rose’ trilogy and it’s definitely advisable to read the first two books to get the most out of it. A good conclusion to this epic family drama. I’m a happy reader. 4 stars.

‘Platform Seven’ by Louise Doughty. Despite a slow start (which probably was the point) I loved this! I needed my tissue box at the end! Platform Seven is a notorious place for suicides and there have been two fatalities in the past 18 months, Lisa Evans is desperate to find out what connects them and why they happened… particularly as she was the first one to die. 5 stars.

‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ by Kerri Maniscalco. This is the second book in the Wadsworth and Cresswell YA murder mystery series it centres on a copycat killer and is set in Europe’s best forensic training school, which is more like Dracula’s castle! 4 YA stars for the gothic adventure!

And that’s the August reads done!

I’ve already read a couple of great books in September and look forward to sharing those with you next month.

Mini review: ‘The Art of Dying’ by Ambrose Parry

‘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