Welcome to my book-blog. 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!
Cassie Raven believes the dead can talk. We just need to listen . . .
People think being a mortuary technician is a seriously weird job. They can’t understand why I choose to cut up dead bodies for a living. But they don’t know what I know:
The dead want to tell us what happened to them.
I’ve eviscerated thousands of bodies, but never someone I know before – someone who meant a lot to me; someone I loved.
The pathologist says that her death was an accident.
Her body is telling me differently.
Do check out the book chat about Body Language until Dec 6th and do keep scrolling for my bookish chat 🙂
Our protagonist is a mortuary technician who is so attuned to the dead she encounters in her job, that she can sense and ‘hear’ them. This supernatural element provides a different tone to what is a new mystery crime thriller series featuring Cassie Raven. Cassie is unconventional in the sense that she’s young, and a goth adorned with tattoos and piercings; she adds originality and freshness to a new investigative crime character. Cassie’s certainly had some ups and downs in her life, and she appears to the reader early in the book as someone with tenacity, compassion and drive to both her job and for the end of life care her job can offer.
There are, of course, descriptions of the mortuary world of autopsies, so if you are squeamish or might find memories of lost ones upsetting, then do read with caution. For me, there’s a great deal of respect embedded behind the narrative, and Cassie herself is a comforting figure, as she talks to, cares and respects for the people she deals with.
I enjoyed the character of Cassie, and she’s the main drive for pushing the narrative forward for me, rather than the investigations. I liked the slow development of her relationship with the newly transferred DS Flyte, from distrust and unease to a respectful bond with an additional developing warm and twinkle.
Body Language is a great supernaturally enhanced new crime series with a great modern protagonist at the helm. I look forward to seeing how Turner develops the series.
With thanks to Zaffre Books for the review copy and to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the Blog Tour invite.
I was delighted to have been asked to join Marianne’s launch team for THE DOORS OF RIVERDELL, book one in the RIVERDELL SAGA. Marianne’s book and lots of bookish gifts arrived in the post; I met the other fabulous book launch team and began a journey of book chats, bookish activities and new bookish friendships.
I’m delighted to share my final review of THE DOORS OF RIVERDELL and also a couple of the lovely photographs I’ve designed along the journey, do keep an eye out for the lovely bookish candle from Wordsmith Candles.
And, of course, please keep scrolling for some bookish chat about THE DOORS OF RIVERDELL…
The book blurb
Isabelle Threlfall has always called Riverdell House, in the historic rural town of Ludlow, her home. But home has its complications. There’s her Aunt Elsa angling for commitment, cousin Hester to avoid and the failure of her long-term relationship to face. Working away seems the best solution but when Elsa’s eldest son dies and her two estranged grandchildren, Moth and Nat, arrive at Riverdell, Isabelle is called home to help.
Kit de Lavelle is hard on her heels. He’s waited fifteen years for Isabelle to ditch her childhood sweetheart and adore him instead but he’s about to discover that closing the doors to his own past is harder than expected.
As Moth and Isabelle form a close bond trading family secrets and avoiding their own, Elsa finds courage in her memories to face the truth she has hidden from them all. But as the future is decided will Moth and Isabelle still be able to call Riverdell their home?
Step behind the gleaming doors of Riverdell and into the troubled waters of the family.
My thoughts: The Doors of Riverdell by Marianne Rosen
The Doors of Riverdell is told via four narrative perspectives, one rooted in the past and three more individual voices of Kit, Isabelle and Moth, who are our guides to life at Riverdell and beyond in this first book of a four part saga. This is one of those books where concentration is required, as, like most first meetings, the reader needs to adjust to timeframes, characters, and connections as we ease into Rosen’s world. I love the concept of storytelling through the setting of a real character house; Riverdell is one of those buildings that is meticulously designed for the reader and the idea of home is an important aspect of the novel and for its characters.
What is clear from the onset is that the cast of characters are very human: flawed, contradictory, unsure, overconfident, sluggish, uncertain, and questionable. The focus of this first book is on three characters in particular, the adrift Isabelle, the brash Kit, and the conflicted Moth. I would also keep in mind that this book is a narrative that runs across four books, and therefore so do the character arcs; there’s a lot of development during this first book that may not be fulfilling for the reader by the closing lines of this part of the saga.
It is also worth noting there are sexual scenes interspersed throughout the novel, and at first, I admit I found these rather jarring and stylistically slightly disjointing. From the blurb and style of the book, I was not expecting the tone and nature of some of the sexual encounters, both described and implied. However, on reflection I began to see Rosen’s intentions behind them; she is trying to be true to her characters’ natures and their behaviours with one another: their sexualities are an inbuilt and intrinsically human part of that.
Nature and environment are strong factors in the narrative and I really enjoyed the sense of place and setting throughout. The organic qualities of the nature world served as an indelible link to those living at Riverdell and connected their pasts, present and futures in beautifully detailed descriptions. This ingrained sense of nature in the book is superb and the author’s love of Ludlow is rooted solidly throughout.
With themes of community, self, family, sexuality, identity, the past’s hold on our futures, home, and connections – The Doors of Riverdell is an exciting start to a new literary saga. If you enjoy family dramas, I can certainly recommend you walk through both the literal and metaphorical doors of Riverdell in this first book of Rosen’s four-part series.
Marianne Rosen was apprenticed to a master upholsterer for six years before setting up her own interior consultation business, specialising in grand houses and fabrics. Along the way, she gained a degree in Literature, became an English language teacher, a semi-professional dancer and taught cabaret. By the time she was 36, she had lived in 36 houses, carting her large collection of books around with her. That same year, she met her partner, a fourth-generation farmer who lives in the house he was born in. They live on an organic farm in a Grade 2 listed farmhouse on the Shropshire-Herefordshire border. Marianne is part of the Hay Writers’ Group and has performed her work at Hay Festival. She writes modern family sagas that explore the longing for home and the need to belong. When not writing she likes to take off in her old VW T4 to research what she might write next. Her debut novel, The Doors of Riverdell, is out on 25th November 2020.
Huge thanks to Anne for the tour invite and to the publisher for the review copy. Do keep scrolling for some bookish chat about THE CHALET…
French Alps, 1998 Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.
20 years later Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.
Someone knows what really happened that day.
And somebody will pay.
Don’t you just love a twisty, pacey, perfectly plotted chiller thriller? The Chalet certainly ramps up the tension as the reader is pulled into a 20-year old mystery; soon dark secrets begin to become exposed and, like snow thawing: it cannot stay hidden forever.
This story of revenge told via multiple perspectives, and a dual timeline, is a great narrative mystery thriller. The hooks, twists and turns work incredibly well as the reader works to discover how the various plot threads and timelines will come together.
I really enjoyed this character driven thriller; there’s a great setting for the backdrop. It’s about the complexities within relationships and old injustices needing reparation. I have never wanted to go skiing, and after reading this absolutely nothing has changed.
A recommended read if you’re looking for a tense thriller with depth, and it’s a great book for the escapism that’s definitely needed this year.
An atmospheric Alps setting for a story of mismatched couples, secrets, relationship dramas, murder, and revenge.
The Blog Tour
Catherine Cooper is a journalist specialising in travel, hotels, and skiing who writes regularly for the Telegraph and the Guardian among others. She lives near the Pyrenees in the South of France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier. The Chalet is her debut novel.
It’s lovely to be chatting about ‘Play the Red Queen’ by Juris Jurjevics, with thanks to Anne for the tour invite.
Vietnam, 1963. A female Viet Cong assassin is trawling the boulevards of Saigon, catching US Army officers off-guard with a single pistol shot, then riding off on the back of a scooter. Although the US military is not officially in combat, sixteen thousand American servicemen are stationed in Vietnam “advising” the military and government. Among them are Ellsworth Miser and Clovis Robeson, two army investigators who have been tasked with tracking down the daring killer.
Initially my interest was piqued for this book because I was about to teach a USA Vietnam unit at school and thought it would add nicely to the backdrop of my planning.
It’s Saigon during the 60s at a time of unrest and war; Jurjevics’ historical fiction novel is set in a backdrop of political unrest, brutality and social distraction and frames a story of an assassin, a lady of death: the Red Queen. The reader follows two military CID investigators tasked with the uncovering the Red Queen assassin before she strikes again. The task is far from simple and the challenges are seemingly unsurmountable at times creating narrative interest and drive for the reader.
I enjoyed the investigator aspect of the book, even if all the pieces didn’t fuse together completely for me; the backdrop is both a fascinating and terrible time of a country trapped through war and I found this quite fascinating. The writing was often immersive, and I enjoyed the atmosphere Jurjevics creates; there’s clearly a great deal of research behind the narrative of a torn and breaking land with it’s politically charged themes.
As I said at the start, I’m about to teach a USA Vietnam War unit at school, so I enjoyed the setting as a useful planning tool for my own study and understanding: with the added thriller read bonus of a hunt for an elusive assassin.
A carefully plotted thriller with injected realism; a deeply readable historical setting and a nail-biting plot to capture a shifty, highly trained assassin – this is a recommended read for those who enjoy historical settings and political thrillers.
The Blog Tour
Juris Jurjevics (1943-2018) was born in Latvia and grew up in Displaced Persons camps in Germany before emigrating to the United States. He served in Vietnam for fourteen months, nine days, and two hours, his original departure date delayed by the Tet Offensive. He wrote two other novels, Red Flags and The Trudeau Vector, which was published in ten other countries. Publisher and co-founder of the Soho Press, Jurjevics worked for decades in the book industry.
It’s lovely to be a part of the blog tour to celebrate Sarah Franklin’s How to Belong, please do keep scrolling for some bookish chat…
Jo grew up in the Forest of Dean, but she was always the one destined to leave for a bigger, brighter future. When her parents retire from their butcher’s shop, she returns to her beloved community to save the family legacy, hoping also to save herself. But things are more complex than the rose-tinted version of life which sustained Jo from afar.
Tessa is a farrier, shoeing horses two miles and half a generation away from Jo, further into the forest. Tessa’s experience of the community couldn’t be more different. Now she too has returned, in flight from a life she could have led, nursing a secret and a past filled with guilt and shame.
Compelled through circumstance to live together, these two women will be forced to confront their sense of identity, and reconsider the meaning of home.
Firstly, I love the natural simplicity of the cover design for How to Belong. I love nature and the idea of a forest setting really appealed to me. I was not let down by Franklin; her writing is so vivid, the senses leap from the pages and the richness of the descriptive detail creates the perfect setting backdrop for a book of insightful observations of human behaviour, of challenges, disillusionment, trauma, hardships, defiance and illness.
I enjoyed the relationship between the two central, contrasting women (Jo and Tessa) and the sense of realism to the writing of their characters. Their friendship becomes a narrative drive for the reader and a revelation for the characters when building their futures. All this is explored in a slow paced, explorative way with a strong personal spirit behind the writing.
A story of community, of human nature and the depth of our interactions: of difference and connections. I thought this was a beautifully written book; a story of women, of place and the communities that frame them.
A sensitively and beautifully written story that I’d very happily recommend for readers looking for a reflective novel with both strength and hope at its heart.
Last year, I read Kenneth Bromberg’s debut novel American Dreams, so was really pleased to join the blog tour to celebrate his latest release The City of Angels. Please do keep scrolling to find out more about this murder mystery thriller, set in 1920s America.
FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.
The year is 1924.
Sam Lacy, tough as nails robbery/homicide detective follows his own unique code of conduct within the racist and corrupt Los Angeles Police Department. Edward Bixby, a brilliant man fascinated by anything scientific, assists with the forensic aspects of Sam’s investigations but his work must stay on the down low since the LAPD would never hire a black man for anything as important as detective work.
Sam’s sister, Susan, widowed mother and sharpshooter, is the most important person in his life. And Lonny, Sam’s handsome, cynical partner, sports a caviler attitude that hides a troubled past. Together they must solve the murder of Sam’s old flame and deal with a ruthless and powerful predator who victimizes vulnerable young Chinese immigrants. Their story takes place in the movie capital of the world, a city that attracts hustlers, wide-eyed innocents and cold-hearted killers; a City of Angels.
Bromberg’s City of Angels opens like a movie, I was cast back into films such as LA Confidential, The Big Sleep and The Untouchables as our protagonist is introduced to the reader via a hotbed of corruption and bribery. Sam Lacey is a homicide detective and he’s a tough one; he’s certainly not afraid to come down heavy, we see this from the onset, but he’s soon caught up with a formidable adversary and a crime scene that’s personal.
This is a multi-perspective read; the events of the prologue soon lead to murder and Lacey is hurtled into a homicide that is more connected to him than he would like. He’s a determined character and uses his strength of opinion to want a controversial person investigating the case: Edward Bixby, an intelligent and thorough forensic expert, who cannot live to his potential due to the controlling racism of the time. Bromberg layers the narrative voices, and Bixby story draws in the horrific racism of the Southern states and adds depth to both the character and time-period.
The female is represented by Susan, Sam’s sister; she is very important to Sam and this relationship also shows exploitation and abuse of the system. Of Velma, a black America whose skin colour is perceived as a ‘free-ride’ for the unscrupulous. It is also introduced via woman who are trying to cut a break in Hollywood but find the reality is actually brutal and degrading.
This is a deep, layered novel with themes of abuse, racism, drugs, corruption and the fight for justice, no matter if you need to severely blur the lines: our Angels are not afraid to put away their wings for a while to get the job done.
With thanks to Flame Tree Press and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to read City of Angels.
The Blog Tour
Please do check out these other bloggers and their thoughts on City of Angels
Kenneth Bromberg grew up in the beach cities of Southern California with a passion for tennis, American history, and literature. His first novel, American Dreams, is based upon stories told by his grandmother, who emigrated from a small Jewish village near Kiev in the first years of the 20th century.
Struggling with the effects of early-onset dementia, Dennie Keeling now leads a quiet life. Her husband is dead, her children are grown, and her best friend, Sarah, was convicted of murdering her abusive husband. After Sarah’s tragic death in prison, Dennie has found solace in her allotment, and all she wants is to be left to tend it in peace.
Life remains quiet for twelve years, until three strangers take on a nearby plot and Dennie starts to notice unnatural things. Shadowy figures prowl at night; plants flower well before their time. And then Sarah appears, bringing dire warnings and vanishing after daubing symbols on the walls in Dennie’s own blood. Dennie soon realises that she is face to face with an ancient evil – but with her dementia steadily growing worse, who is going to believe her?
Bone Harvest is an original and creative take on the horror novel structure. It’s a layered and reveal style narrative that opens up to the reader early on (keep reading as the book changes direction and pace; this is a book of two interconnecting halves). I really enjoyed the style of writing and began to read this book differently to others of the same genre. It’s really interesting knowing many of the answers and watching our protagonist come closer to the web.
I really enjoyed the setting; I love rural England and used to have an allotment (which I miss), so the backdrop worked really well for me, it’s great how it’s rooted in the ordinary rather than building grandeur or being overly gothic: this also builds great tension in the second, more driven part of the narrative.
Also, worthy of note is the disabilities of the principle character – she’s not a typical player in a horror novel, her limitations and onset of dementia draw in some wider themes of vulnerability, loss and the challenges of difference. I thought this layer was really interesting, and made the supernatural element deeper. This works really well after the opening stages of the novel coming from the antagonist’s perspectives, and increases her vulnerability.
An excellent modern horror book layered with themes of vulnerability, loss, mythology, evil and murder.
This is my first Mills & Boon book and blog tour, really pleased to be trying something new. Keep scrolling for some bookish chat…
A Secret. A Lie. A Revolution.
Hollis Honeycutt has written her London gazette since the death of her husband—featuring fashion plates, marriage advice, and the latest gossip in and around Mayfair. But now she feels her gazette should have more meaning, cover topics of more consequence than the latest curl cream. The opportunity presents itself when Hollis overhears rumours of a potential coup in the Kingdom of Wesloria, a coup linked to the highest level of government in London. During her investigation Hollis spies a man with no business lurking around peace talks, and determines to expose him for the traitor he most certainly must be.
When Weslorian Marek Brendan was fifteen he was shocked to discover his heritage was not what he believed—he was whisked away from the Weslorian palace when he was born because there was fear that corrupt forces would try and kidnap him. Now he is determined to stop these corrupt forces staging a coup in his home country. Except for the beautiful woman whose questions are putting his own investigation at risk. Yet soon Marek realises that pretty Hollis can help him. But when he confides his suspicions, Hollis’s loyalties are tested and she must choose between her loyalties to her family, or her heart . . .
I don’t think this was the best choice for my first Mills & Boon, that’s not to criticise the book – it’s mainly because it is actually a part of the series and there are lots of back stories to catch up on. The author is very dedicated in filling in the reader with the relationships that have formed in the previous books, ‘The Princess Plan’ and ‘A Royal Kiss and Tell’, but I found this detracted from the new plot and ‘couple in the making’: Hollis Honeycutt and Marek Brendan. So, I’d highly recommend reading the series in order.
That said, this book offers the romance reader a politically charged book where two fictitious warring nations are under threat – again if you’ve read the first two books, you’ll be much better placed to work out what’s happening. With threats of a coup and corruption lurking, we meet Hollis and Marek who are our to-be-matched couple.
Hollis is energetic, intelligent and passionate about what she does and gets involved in; she also writes a ‘Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies’ and extracts from this head each chapter. Marek on the other hand, is reserved, quiet and contemplative. So, the two form an ‘opposites’ attract relationship. There’re several ups and downs, which are expected of this genre, and lots of antics, but they are all grounded by the political revolution storyline.
Overall, this is a fun ups and downs romance with the guaranteed HAPPY EVER AFTER!
Many thanks to the publisher for inviting me on the blog tour!
Blog tour – do check out these other fabulous bloggers chatting about ‘A Princess by Christmas’
THE CORAL BRIDE is the sequel to the critically acclaimed WE WERE THE SALT OF THE SEA featuring Detective Morales; in this book it seems that a seemingly straightforward search for a missing fisherwoman is anything but. I’m really happy to be a part of this Blog Tour, with thanks to Orenda Books and Anne for the tour invite. Please keep scrolling for some bookish chat about THE CORAL BRIDE.
When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat ’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a woman in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.
When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep…
‘The Coral Bride’ is the sequel to ‘We Were the Salt of the Sea’, (which I hadn’t realised) and like with many series books it certainly works well as a standalone. I’m definitely buying the first book to see what I missed and to find out more about the backstory of our central character: DS Joaquin Moralès. This book has all the elements of a good crime novel, and a carefully planned plot with a skillful drip feed of clues. However, it soon became clear that this was not only a crime read, but a glimpse into communities that live by and on the sea; it’s also a book about a woman who faces huge challenges working and living in a male dominated community of people who lives are wrapped up in the sea trade.
The constant presence of the sea as an integral part of, not only the investigation, but the lives of the key players and their communities and is beautifully written. It’s also a central and unforgettable character for the reader, and there’s some touching moments linking the ocean to our own lives and feelings. It also impacts the damaged and rebuilding relationship between a father and son. This is what I mean about the surprising layers in this book, and I absolutely loved the depth of the relationship we track with Joaquin and his son, Sebastien. The book takes its time to track their barriers, frustrations and longing, whilst the main mystery unfolds of a missing female boat owner and captain, Angel Roberts.
As the pace, mystery, and darkness develops the reader begins to understand the mind-set and communities that make their living on the sea. There’s a great cast of intriguing characters who are potential villains of the piece, and it’s great ‘watching’ DS Moralès work his way through the lies, grudges and suspicions as the darkness lurking under this community is slowly exposed.
A novel of the sea, of seafarers, grudges, feuds and manipulation told via a superb cast of characters, portrayed with grim detail, psychological damage, wit, humour, family loyalty and love: the shades in this novel are brilliant and it comes HIGHLY recommended from me!
Over ten years ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. Her fifth novel (first translated into English) We Were the Salt of the Sea was published in 2018 to resounding critical acclaim, sure to be followed by its sequel, The Coral Bride. She lives in Quebec.
The Blog Tour
Please do check out more bookish chat about THE CORAL BRIDE from these super book bloggers…
A perfect book for October; it’s half-term and I’ve been lucky to have read ‘The Once and Future Witches’ by a warm fire with my ‘familiar’ on my lap (AKA Mr. Willoughby, my cat, he’s nearly all black apart from his white ‘socks’ and face markings). This is certainly a perfect autumnal/Halloween read, do keep scrolling for more bookish chat…
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the three Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote – and perhaps not even to live – the sisters must delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.
Firstly, this book is creative; the lyrical and creative writing lifts from the pages and you can take time and savour the words. Harrow is also just as creative with her punctuation, and you get a real sense of crafting throughout. The structure and plot are meticulously planned and literary history, actual history and the female is reworked and re-represented in a mix of childhood rhymes, fairy tales and lore.
An evenly paced story, that allows the reader to indulge in good storytelling against a backdrop of more pertinent and relevant themes. Gender, race, and identity are woven into the threads of this story. On its surface is a story of three sisters, of how they became separated and how their witchcraft begins to define them. There is a great bond, although severely fractured, between these three women. I love their flawed but powerful characters, and how over time we begin to view each one differently. Harrow connects the female, and her repression over centuries into the current lives of the three Eastwood sisters. History is re-worked as a plot device to relay themes of repression, feminism, racism, women’s suffrage, patriarchy, and persecution.
The Eastwood Sisters are great characters; they are not perfect; they have let each other down and are rather downtrodden and lost at the start. They soon change their current situations and begin a battle to promote witchcraft in a town that would have them burned. Their power and determination become a strong reading hook, as they unite to battle inequality and subjection from a shadowy, evil nemesis.
A book of witchy spells, creative fairy tales and the power of words with powerful overriding themes. It is also a great adventure: a book of love and resilience in the face of powerful adversaries.
Full blog tour belong – do check out all the bookish chat about The Once and Future Witches: