Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts | @QuercusBooks @ellakroftpatel | #recommended

Today is paperback publication day for the wonderful Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts so I thought I’d re-share my review from April last year. This is one of those novels that just captured my heart from the first page and unsurprisingly, it made my list of “books of the year”.

Author : Elizabeth Letts
Title : Finding Dorothy
Pages : 368
Publisher : Quercus
Publication date : January 9, 2020 (paperback)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Maud Gage Baum, widow of the author of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, met Judy Garland, the young actress playing the role of Dorothy on the set of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. At the time, Maud was seventy-eight and Judy was sixteen. In spite of their age difference, Maud immediately connected to Judy–especially when Maud heard her sing “Over the Rainbow,” a song whose yearning brought to mind the tough years in South Dakota when Maud and her husband struggled to make a living–until Frank Baum’s book became a national sensation.

This wonderfully evocative two-stranded story recreates Maud’s youth as the rebellious daughter of a leading suffragette, and the prairie years of Maud and Frank’s early days when they lived among the people–especially young Dorothy–who would inspire Frank’s masterpiece. Woven into this past story is one set in 1939, describing the high-pressured days on The Wizard of Oz film set where Judy is being badgered by the director, producer, and her ambitious stage mother to lose weight, bind her breasts, and laugh, cry, and act terrified on command. As Maud had promised to protect the original Dorothy back in Aberdeen, she now takes on the job of protecting young Judy.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Sometimes you pick up a book and like magic, everything seems to fall into place. For me, Finding Dorothy is one of those books. It’s extremely hard for me to put into words exactly why that is but I completely fell in love with everything about it. The era, the characters, the writing itself … it all came together and created such a wonderful reading experience.

1939, Hollywood. Filming has started on The Wizard of Oz, based on the book by L. Frank Baum. His seventy-eight year old widow, Maud, feels fiercely protective of her husband’s story. After all, she knows all its secrets and she’s determined to make the sure the film will do her husband’s story justice. But she soon realises she may need to protect the film’s star Judy Garland as well.

Maud’s story is a fascinating one. Growing up as the daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage, it seemed her life had been entirely planned out. Matilda was a fierce and determined woman who battled for women’s right to vote and for girls to be allowed a higher education. Maud ends up being one of the first female coeds at Cornell University. But her mother’s shadow follows her everywhere and Maud never really quite finds her place there. Then she meets Frank. An actor, a weaver of stories and words, a dreamer and he completely sweeps her off her feet. And me right alongside with it.

Both Maud and Frank captured my heart from the moment I met them. From traveling throughout the country with theatre shows, to living in the harsh prairies of the Dakota Territory where they struggled to make a living, to that moment where the stars align and Frank creates his masterpiece, I became utterly invested and engrossed. 

Even though Frank, who’s incredibly fickle and apparently unable to settle down, got on my nerves sometimes; even though I sometimes felt Maud needed a bit more of a backbone; and even though at times I much more enjoyed the chapters about their lives than the ones set in 1939, I found this novel immensely immersive. At some points it even brought a lump to my throat and throughout it all there’s Maud, this energetic and passionate woman whom I absolutely adored.

“Magic isn’t things materializing out of nowhere. Magic is when a lot of people all believe in the same thing at the same time, and somehow we all escape ourselves a little bit and we meet up somewhere, and just for a moment, we taste the sublime.”

This quote sums up my reading experience entirely. I have tasted the sublime. This review doesn’t do this novel justice at all but I hope it does bring across how much I love it and that you decide to give it a go and hopefully have the same enchanting and magical experience I had.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

My Top 20 Favourite Books of 2019

What a year! This list has been nearly impossible to put together. I’ve read so many incredibly brilliant books in 2019 and it’s been a real battle trying to narrow it down to 20. I do so apologise to the authors whose books I had to drop from the list (not that you know who you are 😂) but lines must be drawn somewhere and I’ve had to be utterly ruthless.

Note : These were all published this year.

So, without further ado, in random order except for the top 4, here are my Top 20 Favourite Books of 2019.

John Marrs – The Passengers [my review]
Phoebe Locke – The July Girls [my review]
Jo Spain – Dirty Little Secrets [my review]
Taylor Jenkins-Reid – Daisy Jones and the Six [my review]

Kia Abdullah – Take It Back [no review]
James Delargy – 55 [my review]
Søren Sveistrup – The Chestnut Man [my review]

Anita Frank – The Lost Ones [no review]
Stacey Halls – The Familiars [no review]
Elizabeth Letts – Finding Dorothy [my review]

The Orenda Collection 😂

Sarah Stovell – The Home [my review]
Will Carver – Nothing Important Happened Today [my review]
Doug Johnstone – Breakers [my review]
Helen Fitzgerald – Worst Case Scenario [my review]
Louise Beech – Call Me Star Girl [my review]
Thomas Enger – Inborn [my review]

4. Ruth Ware – The Turn Of The Key [my review]
3. Rowan Coleman – The Girl at the Window [my review]
2. C.J. Tudor – The Taking of Annie Thorne [my review]

| And Novel Deelight’s Book of the Year award goes to ….. |

If you read my review back when I posted it, this will not really come as a surprise. I have to say The Taking of Annie Thorne (!!!!!! infinity) and The Girl at the Window came incredibly close and I almost had to resort to drawing straws to pick a winner. Such a hard choice to make but The Whisper Man just had that little bit of an edge. [my review]

So, there you have it. Thoughts? Suggestions? Criticism? 😂

As 2019 is coming to an end, I want to say a huge thank you to all the fabulous authors and publishers for an absolutely outstanding bookish year! Thank you to YOU, my lovely fellow bloggers and readers for your enthusiasm, your support, your comments and for sharing the book love. ❤️

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you on the other side when I’ll be taking a look at what 2020 has in store for the book world. Until then, stay safe, be merry and keep reading. xx

Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr. | @damppebbles

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr. I have an extract to share with you today but first, here is what the book is all about.

Author : N. Lombardi Jr
Title : Justice Gone
Pages : 336
Publisher : Roundfire Books
Publication date : February 22, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down. A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase. Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers get there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture. Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?

| EXTRACT |

Another session was called to collate, coordinate, and brainstorm, but this one was held in the mayor’s office, at his honor’s insistence that he not be kept out of the loop. To say that he was distressed was like calling Mount Everest a molehill. The citizens were in nothing less than an uproar, and he was supposed to be the man in charge. When he had campaigned for mayor he hadn’t foreseen a challenge like this. Never knew that his blood pressure could rise so high that he had to consult his cardiologist, or that his ulcer would act up after all these years. And the pain in his gut only increased when he realized he was helpless to rescue the situation. This thing has fucking gone global now, worldwide coverage for heaven’s sake, he had decried to the city attorney Burns just hours before.

The same law enforcement officials that attended the first meeting were there at this one, except for Agent Crawford of the FBI, who was more than spoken for by his bare-headed partner. Everyone around the conference table looked glum, and this alarmed the mayor.“I would like Chief Peterson to give me the introductory summary… you know…the quick and dirty, and then I would like to hear from all of you.” The mayor turned his head. “Len?” “First of all, I would like to thank the FBI and the New Jersey State Police Investigations Branch, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office, for their assistance in this investigation.” Peterson cleared his throat. “On September 23 we received a 911 request to proceed to the home of Victor Fratollini, possible homicide. That was about five-fifteen. Then, some forty minutes later, there was another 911 call directing us to the home of John Fox…”

“Is this the quick and dirty, Len?” the mayor asked.
Peterson looked up, embarrassed. “Within two, two-and-a-half hours, three of the officers involved in the Felson incident were shot dead. The autopsy report was consistent with the crime scene assessment that only one fatal bullet was fired in each case, all of them exiting the bodies and recovered at each of the scenes. Caliber .308, most probably used with a Remington 700 model, which is consistent with military rifles of at least two branches of the armed services, the Army and the Marines. Marshal Felson was picked up for questioning…”

“Hold it right there. I’ve heard about that, more than I care to, and his lawyer contacted our lawyer, Burns, and threatened yet another civil suit, malicious prosecution. What the hell was that all about?”
Gerhard intervened. “We had a no-knock warrant, sir.” “So you just busted in? Is he a principal suspect?”
Peterson interjected. “We consider him a person of interest at this time. But he has an alibi. His sister claims she slept over that night and attests that Felson was home from the afternoon until the time of the killings.”
“Well, can we rule him out then?’ “She could be lying,” Gerhard stated.
“What makes you say that?’
Peterson answered. “She refuses to come down and make a statement without her lawyer, and the same for her commitment to testify in case of a trial.”
“Actually,” Detective Cavaluzzi broke in, “her exact words were”—he read from his notepad—”I would be reluctant to give any formal statement regarding my brother, let alone testify, without consulting my lawyer.”
“We should be applying more pressure on that woman!” Gerhard said loudly. “Forensics showed his gun was recently discharged, and ballistics show a significant amount of consistency with the recovered bullets.”

The direction the conversation was going distressed Peterson, and he sought to divert it. “I think it’s time to give the results of the autopsy and ballistics reports, and our analysis based on these.” He shuffled some papers he had been keeping on the table before him, then read it verbatim using the coroner’s technical language, which more than annoyed the mayor.

“So what is all that anatomical jargon come to for Chrissake?”
“It means,” Gerhard announced from his end of the table, “that this killer is not only clever, calculating, and precise, but sadistic as well. With just one bullet, he inflicted the maximum amount of pain a single gunshot wound could inflict, aiming at the edges of bones to cause maximum deflection with minimum loss of kinetic energy. In other words he deliberately shot them in a way that would rip them apart. And he went so far as to modify the bullets to ensure this.”
“What do you mean, modify the bullets?” the mayor asked.

The bald FBI man, Agent Dirksen, explained. “There are indentations machined on the bullets. They didn’t come from the manufacturer that way. Increases the wobble to the spin.”
The mayor raised his eyebrows. “Wobble? Spin?”
“The reason rifles are called rifles,” Gerhard broke in, “is because there’s rifling inside the barrels, grooves that cause the bullet to spin for more accurate trajectories, like how a quarterback throws a football. In this case, with these custom- made bullets, the indentations we found on them are at right angles to the rifling, causing them to vibrate as well, and this vibration amplifies when they encounter soft tissue. Sick, yes, but that’s the kind of person we’re dealing with here.”

“But it’s not Felson!” Peterson insisted.
Agent Dirksen, spoke up again. “I don’t think so either. After a thorough search, a footprint has been found in the woods behind Puente’s house. It’s clear that the gunman started his killing binge at the most exposed place, Fratollini’s suburban neighborhood, then on to Fox’s dead end lane nearby, and finishing at a place that verges on forest. We think that was his escape route, and that’s why he wasn’t intercepted on any road. He might still be in the woods.”
“Don’t tell me…” the mayor protested.
But Agent Dirksen continued, “We recommend a full-scale manhunt in the wooded areas from the south of Asarn County up to the Delaware Water Gap to the north.”
The mayor threw up his hands. “Well, hell’s bells! What else is coming to put yet another nail on my goddamn cross! Hunting season has just opened!”
“Looks like it’ll have to be postponed for a while,” Gerhard said with a hint of gloating.

If this extract has left you wanting to find out more, then you can grab yourself a copy of Justice Gone now!

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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).

In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http://plainofjars.net

His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.

His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.

Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I Looked Away by Jane Corry | @JaneCorryAuthor @PenguinUKBooks @EllieeHud | #blogtour #ILookedAway

Absolutely delighted to join the blog tour for I Looked Away by Jane Corry today! My thanks to Ellie Hudson at Penguin for the invitation to join and for the wonderful review copy!

Author : Jane Corry
Title : I Looked Away
Pages : 490
Publisher : Penguin UK
Publication date : June 27, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anything else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband’s affair. But he swore it was over, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she’s got.

Then one day, while she’s looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And for just a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. The accident that happens will change her life forever.

Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.

And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder…

| MY THOUGHTS |

I do so thoroughly enjoy a Jane Corry book! They are always full of incredibly brilliantly fleshed-out characters that get under your skin and drag you through a wide range of emotions. Her latest offering, I Looked Away, is no different.

Any parent can surely relate to that horrifying moment where you take your eyes off your child for that tiny split second and suddenly they are not where you left them. This is what happens to Ellie. While looking after her grandson Josh, her husband gets a call from his mistress. Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson and the accident that happens will change her life forever.

Ellie hides a massive secret and it’s one that might make people look somewhat differently at this accident. Short flashback chapters give the reader an insight into Ellie’s life and her story wasn’t always easy to read about. I often felt extremely angry and incredibly saddened as the events of her life played out in front of me.

The story is mainly told through alternating chapters from characters Ellie and Jo. I couldn’t at all figure out how the two were connected and Jane Corry kept me guessing until the reveal. Watching the two threads come together was hugely satisfying. At the end of it all, I was even left with a bit of lump in my throat.

I Looked Away deals with some hard-hitting topics, from mental abuse to PTSD to homelessness. I particularly liked how the author tackled the plight of homeless people. There is no unnecessary over-dramatisation, because let’s face it, the circumstances tend to be dramatic enough all on their own. But it is all incredibly realistic and believable, full of both the bad and the good.

Full of suspense and fascinating characters, I Looked Away pulled me in from the very first page and did not let go. Quite emotional at times but always utterly compelling, I think this one might be my favourite by Jane Corry so far. Definitely not one to miss and I can’t wait to read more by her.

I Looked Away is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Jane Corry is a writer and journalist (Daily Telegraph and women’s magazines) who worked for three years as the writer in residence of a high security prison for men. This experience helped inspire her Sunday Times bestsellers ‘My Husband’s Wife’, ‘Blood Sisters’ and ‘The Dead Ex’. She also writes short stories as well as a weekly digital column about being a granny for My Weekly.

Jane speaks at literary festivals all over the world.

Many of her ideas strike during morning dog-jogs along the beach followed by a dip in the sea – no matter how cold it is!

After The End by Clare Mackintosh | @claremackint0sh @LittleBrownUK @millieseward | #bookreview #AfterTheEnd

Author : Clare Mackintosh
Title : After The End
Pages : 384
Publisher : Sphere / Little Brown UK
Publication date : June 25, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son. 

What if they could have both?

| MY THOUGHTS |

This is such a hard review to write but I imagine not nearly as hard as it must have been to write this novel.

Max and Pip face one of the toughest decisions any parent could possibly face. Their three year old son, Dylan, is brain damaged due to complications from a tumour. Max and Pip are one of the strongest couples you’re bound to meet but now, they find themselves on opposite sides as each tries to decide for themselves what’s best for Dylan.

After The End is a novel I had to read in bits and pieces, for fear of choking on the huge lump in my throat. The author deals with a highly emotional topic and it all feels incredibly realistic, moving and extremely heartbreaking. The story is split into two parts, the before and after. The reader is offered an insight into Dylan’s circumstances and the many long days Pip spends at his bedside. The tiny slivers of hope and the plummeting realisations when things go downhill felt like a rollercoaster. There are also the wonderful friendships parents form with each other on the ward, the support they give each other and yet it must be so incredibly hard to watch another child make a recovery and ultimately leave for home when your own child lies unmoving in their bed.

The “after” in the story is split in two. The reader follows both Pip and Max but in alternative storylines. Each has to deal with the decision they made regarding Dylan’s future. Was it the right one? How can you ever know? Will their marriage survive when so many do not?

I must admit that my feelings for this novel were also split in two. I thought the first part of the story was exceedingly compelling and I was right there with the characters on the ward, trying to figure out what I would do in that situation. But the second half of the story started to lose me somewhat. It seemed a bit repetitive at times and while I was still rooting for the characters to come through it all, I didn’t find this second half as gripping as the first half.

Nevertheless, After The End is a beautifully written story about a marriage put under strain in the most difficult of circumstances and facing an impossible choice. A remarkable departure for Clare Mackintosh, who you may know from some excellent psychological thrillers. This was quite obviously a story that she needed to tell and she did it in the most wonderful way possible. Not an easy story to read, yet one that will remain with me forever.

My thanks to the publisher for the review copy!

After The Lie is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

A Modern Family by Helga Flatland | @HelgaFlatland @OrendaBooks | #blogtour #AModernFamily #bookreview #RandomThingsTours

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A Modern Family by Helga Flatland. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my beautiful review copy!

Author : Helga Flatland (trs Rosie Hedger)
Title : A Modern Family
Pages : 250
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : June 13, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

When Liv, Ellen, and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships, and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change.

| MY THOUGHTS |

This novel is the perfect example of why I love doing blog tours as much as I do. It isn’t exactly the type of book I’d normally go for. In fact, I was rather worried it wouldn’t be my thing at all. But Orenda Books has never let me down before and as I have the utmost faith in their books, I decided to go for it. Didn’t regret it for a second!

On a trip to Italy to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday, Liv, Ellen and Håkon’s lives are thrown into turmoil when their parents reveal their decision to get divorced. Each must now come to terms with the changes that will bring.

I didn’t particularly like any of these characters. Yet the feelings they are struggling with were immensely relatable. It’s easy to forget sometimes that your parents are just people too, with their own thoughts, opinions and feelings. How well do we ever really know our parents and the life they lead when we aren’t around? Just because they don’t argue in front of us, doesn’t mean they don’t argue in private, for instance. Watching the siblings struggle with their parents’ divorce made sense. In effect, it is a safety net that has vanished and for Liv especially, who tried to model her own marriage after her parents, things fall apart rather quickly. If her parents can’t make their marriage last, how can she?

A Modern Family is a beautifully written story about relationships and the shifting of family dynamics. It delves deep into the psychology of these characters and shows remarkable insight as the characters start to analyse, not only themselves, but also those closest to them. I often found myself nodding at some of the things that were said and you just can’t help reading this and subsequently put your own family under a magnifying glass. With complex characters and issues, this beautifully written story soon became utterly immersive and that is no mean feat when you realise there are no bells and whistles, no twists and turns, but just everyday people dealing with everyday problems.

A Modern Family surprised me in the best way possible. Moving, powerful, thought-provoking and immensely absorbing, it paints a wonderful and realistic picture of a family going through the ups and downs of modern life.

A Modern Family is published tomorrow and available for preorder!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors.

Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize.

She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.

The House On The Edge Of The Cliff by Carol Drinkwater | @MichaelJBooks | #blogtour #extract #excerpt

It’s a real pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for The House On The Edge Of The Cliff by Carol Drinkwater today! My thanks to Sriya at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join. I have an extract to share with you all today but first, here is what this novel is all about.

Author : Carol Drinkwater
Title : The House on the Edge of the Cliff
Pages : 448
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : May 16, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young and full of dreams of adventure, she met two very different men.

She fell under the spell of one. The other fell under hers.

Until one summer night shattered everything . . .

Now, Grace is living an idyllic life with her husband, sheltered from the world in a magnificent Provencal villa, perched atop a windswept cliff.

Every day she looks out over the sea – the only witness to that fateful night years ago.

Until a stranger arrives at the house. A stranger who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants.

| EXTRACT |

Beyond gently billowing muslin curtains, the windows were open wide, exposing a waxing crescent moon hanging midway in the sky. It was a little after five in the morning, and I was awake. My head resting on Peter’s chest, I tuned in to his heartbeat. Its speed was alarming. In spite of his daily medication, it still beat disconcertingly fast. By com-parison, my ticker is an old plodder. I lifted myself to a sitting position. Peter was sleeping, sighing and moaning.

‘My darling, please get well.’

I have always been in the habit of rising early. When the house is silent, I slip out for a long walk and a swim, like a full-sail galleon scudding across a cloudless sky, leaving my cares behind me. But during these anxious days, these fretful days of waiting for Peter’s operation, once out of bed I dally, hang back before heading for the beach, watching over my husband until I feel secure about leaving him.

This early-May morning, my knees tight against his side of the bed frame, I gazed upon him. Peter, my beloved, swathed in a twisted, sweaty sheet. He was fight-ing for equilibrium. His heart had become his enemy, hammering furiously at him. It pained me to observe his suffering, his visible decline. I bent low to him, stroked his shoulders, reassuring him of my love, while taking care not to disturb him. I crouched, laid my cheek against the fleshy part of his upper arm, softly kissing it. I inhaled him, the night on him. The heat, the worry sweat. He claimed he was not apprehensive about what lay ahead, but I would have argued otherwise. I was witness to his unsettled dreams.

I am the spectator, tuning in to his restlessness.

Throughout his waking hours, I had begun to remark a new expression in Peter’s eyes. A fixed stare, glassy, as though his pupils had glazed over or been coated in a thin layer of varnish. This focus disguised his fear, blocked it out, blocked me out. Peter was pushing me away, which, according to his logic, was to protect me. He believed that he was sheltering me from his terror, or sheltering himself from my terror, my inability to confront the worst possible outcome: his death.

I dreaded losing my husband, his heart packing up without warning, ‘worn out by strain’, in the consultant’s ominous words. Snatched from me while he was sleeping or, when the appointed day arrived, while he was under sedation. A being submerged beneath the effects of medication who would never awaken.

I refused to compare it to the past, to the first time I had lost someone, a lover who never resurfaced, the years it had taken me to come to terms with it.

Had Peter made the connection, cast his mind back to 1968, ‘our first summer’ together at this house, our long, carefree days together on this beach? Until calamity had struck.

It had come as no surprise to me that Peter was diag-nosed with atrial or supraventricular tachycardia, SVT. He had lived his life at a supersonic pace, in the turbo lane. He had travelled ceaselessly, worked incessantly, handled and triumphed over high-profile legal cases, which had won him a coveted international reputation and the honour of a CBE. However, alongside the acknowledgements came high stress levels. His caring heart carried the burdens of those less fortunate, those whose liberties he fought for and won. In his juridical field, few reputations, if any, surpassed Peter Soames’s.

Long-haul flights were his norm, sometimes once or even twice a week. He was always out of bed by five thirty a.m. no matter when we had turned in the night before. Even after we had stayed up till two watching a movie, he had set his phone alarm for five. And then he’d switch it off and roll over for half an hour, indulging in his ‘lie-in’.

I longed for him to slow down. Some days I felt as though I’d never catch hold of him, never pull him by his shirt tails and draw him in slow motion back to me, begging, ‘Hey, what’s the rush? Bide time with me.’

I turned now from the bedside and pattered to the open window, leaning my elbows on the sill, mesmerized by the swallows dipping and circling above the pink-tinged beach. I loved this time of year, with the first stirrings of summer ahead. I loved this old cliff house built high into its scrubby hillside overlooking the Mediterranean. Heron Heights. Peter had inherited it, this rather splendidly eccentric sunlit villa, from his late aunt, an artist, Agnes Armstrong-Soames. Yes, the painter. The very same.

I loved the privacy, the isolation, the villa’s distance from the nearest town. Our lives here have become secluded, our world privileged. The environment has cocooned me, allowed me to feel safe, even from the past. My past. Our past. The tragedy that took place here too long ago to remember. Except that I do remember. I have never allowed myself to forget it, but I have forgiven myself. Forgiven myself for the foolish, brainless role I played in someone’s death.

Peter and I never talk about it, never allude to it. That long-ago midsummer night.

But what happened on that long-ago midsummer night? If you’re intrigued and you’d like to find out more, The House on the Edge of the Cliff is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Anglo-Irish actress Carol Drinkwater is perhaps still most familiar to audiences for her award-winning portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small. A popular and acclaimed author and film-maker as well, Carol has published nineteen books for both the adult and young adult markets. She is currently at work on her twentieth title.

Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin | @GarethRubin @MichaelJBooks @JennyPlatt90 | #blogtour #bookreview

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin! My thanks to Jenny Platt at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join and the wonderful review copy!

Author : Gareth Rubin
Title : Liberation Square
Pages : 340
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : April 18, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

After the disastrous failure of D-Day, Britain is occupied by Nazi Germany, and only rescued by Russian soldiers arriving from the east and Americans from the west. The two superpowers divide the nation between them, a wall running through London like a scar.

On the Soviet side of the wall, Jane Cawson calls into her husband’s medical practice, hoping to surprise him. But instead she detects the perfume worn by his former wife, Lorelei, star of propaganda films for the new Marxist regime.

Jane rushes to confront them, but soon finds herself caught up in the glamorous actress’s death.

Her husband Nick is arrested for murder. Desperate to clear his name, Jane must risk the attention of the brutal secret police as she follows a trail of corruption right to the highest levels of the state.

And she might find she never really knew her husband at all.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Well, here is a frightening scenario.

The year is 1952. The setting is London. But not the London we all know. D-Day was an enormous failure and the war was lost. The United Kingdom has been divided in two with a wall running through London. Jane and her husband Nick live in the Republic, under Russian control. Jane suspects her husband of having an affair with his first wife, Lorelei. When Jane decides to confront them, she finds Lorelei dead in the bathtub and soon, husband Nick is arrested by the National Secret Service. But all is not what it seems.

Jane is just your average woman who suddenly finds herself in the middle of extraordinary circumstances. Not only is goodness knows what happening to her husband while he’s being held but she also suddenly finds herself responsible for his daughter from his previous marriage. Desperate to find evidence that will help free her husband, she soon ends up in situations she is wholly unprepared for.

Life is not a bed of roses on this side of the wall. Corruption is rife and the things that have been promised do not come to fruition. Danger lurks around every corner. People are arrested and disappear. You can’t even trust your neighbours, who seem to be watching your every move, ready to inform the authorities. Some try to escape, making desperate attempts to reach the other side of the wall. Most fail.

The cover of this book is black and white with some red highlights standing out and that’s exactly how I saw things in my head while reading. At its heart, Liberation Square is a murder mystery and I felt it had a bit of a noir vibe to it. As Jane digs deeper, trying to figure out who was responsible for Lorelei’s death, she uncovers a multitude of secrets and is left to wonder if she knows her husband at all. With so much deceit going on everywhere, I ended up being suspicious of just about everyone and had a hard time imagining living my life like that. Scary.

With a fascinating and original premise, Liberation Square turned into quite the surprising read for me. I say that because dystopian stories don’t always hit the right spot with me but this one most definitely did. Having the added bonus of a murder mystery and a bit of a spy thriller touch to it, made this an enjoyable, atmospheric and gripping story. One that had me guessing until the end and in awe of the utterly believable alternative scenario.

Liberation Square is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Gareth Rubin is a British journalist and author. His journalism covers social affairs, travel, architecture, arts and health. His novel Liberation Square is a mystery thriller set in Soviet-occupied London.

In 2013 he directed a documentary, Images of Bedlam, about the connection between art and mental illness and how art can help people express that which they cannot put into words. It was filmed at the Bethlem Royal Hospital (‘Bedlam’) and interviews artists with a history of psychiatric illness.

He previously worked as an actor on stage and television.

The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans | @HarrietEvans @headlinepg @annecater | #blogtour #bookreview #publicationday

Delighted to host a stop on publication day for The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my beautiful review copy.

Author : Harriet Evans
Title : The Garden of Lost and Found
Pages : 480
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : April 18, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and Found days before his sudden death.

Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted ‘The Garden of Lost and Found’, capturing his children on a perfect day, playing in the rambling Eden he and Liddy made for them.

One magical moment. Before it all came tumbling down…

When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale House, she opens the door onto a forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers. For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or, in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness.

Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?

| MY THOUGHTS |

It’s been a while since I read a family saga but I was quickly reminded of why they make such engrossing stories. Especially when they are as brilliantly written as this one. It took just a few pages for me to be swept along and become absolutely captivated.

The Garden of Lost and Found is centred around the Horner family and a painting. Ned Horner used to be quite the well-known artist and “The Garden of Lost and Found” was his masterpiece. It captured his children on a beautiful day, playing in the garden of their beloved home, Nightingale House. But in 1919, a few days before his death, Ned destroys the painting.

Now, Ned’s great-granddaughter Juliet returns to Nightingale House for the first time since her grandmother died. True to form, there are a lot of family secrets to discover but most importantly, there is a mystery to be solved. Because what could possibly have driven Ned to destroy his most famous painting?

The Garden of Lost and Found is full of complex characters, some a bit more flawed and unlikeable than others, yet all incredibly realistic and believable. For most of the novel, I was mostly drawn to the chapters set in the past. I suspect that’s the crime fiction lover in me, who was desperately trying to figure out the answers before Juliet did in the modern day setting. And to be quite fair, her children drove me up the wall. Yet it also brought home how different things were generations back when the kind of behaviour they display wouldn’t have been tolerated for a second.

Despite having had The Wildflowers on my shelf for the longest time, this was my first introduction to Harriet Evans. I really enjoyed her writing style as it’s beautifully descriptive. At times it felt as if I was right there at Nightingale House, hearing the rain patter on the windows, smelling the glorious scents from the garden, maybe even hear a mouse skitter across the floorboards.

At almost 500 pages, this isn’t exactly a quick read but at no point did it drag or become boring. It never felt like a long book as I became completely immersed and invested in these characters’ lives, losing myself within the pages. The Garden of Lost and Found is an engrossing, enchanting and sometimes emotional story about family, love and secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these characters and I will definitely be reading more by Harriet Evans.

The Garden of Lost and Found is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Harriet Evans is the author, Going Home, A Hopeless Romantic, The Love of Her Life, I Remember You, Love Always, Happily Ever After and Not Without You. Before becoming a full time writer Harriet was a successful editor for a London publishing house. She lives in London with her family.

White Leaves of Peace by Tracey Iceton | @BultiauwBooks | #blogtour #guestpost

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for White Leaves of Peace by Tracey Iceton. My thanks to Karen Bultiauw for the invitation to join. White Leaves of Peace is the final instalment in the Celtic Colour Trilogy and today, Tracey visits my blog to talk about the research that went into this series.

Author : Tracey Iceton
Title : White Leaves of Peace
Series : Celtic Colours Trilogy #3
Pages : 200
Publisher : Cinnamon Press
Publication date : March 4, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

The final part of the explosive Celtic Colours Trilogy. When the big men get around the table on Good Friday of 1998 and sign up to peace in Northern Ireland nine year old Cian Duffy’s story should have ended. Instead it is the beginning of a decade of Troubles for him. Haunted by his mother’s IRA past and chased by present day violence sectarianism, Cian ends up being forced to flee peace-torn Belfast. Facing a life in exile, he reconciles himself the past and makes a new life for himself, somewhere he feels he belongs. 

Then Britain votes for Brexit; the old adage of England’s difficulty being Ireland’s opportunity is tabled yet again and Cian has to confront the past and the future. 

White Leaves of Peace is a stark reminder that ending a war takes more than the signing of a treaty. Peace is hard won. You have to fight for it.

Available to buy from Amazon UK

| GUEST POST |

Researching the Celtic Colours Trilogy

The Celtic Colours trilogy has been my most heavily researched fiction project, weaving real historical events into the plots and using real people as characters alongside invented characters and imagined storylines.  Doing so I discovered the advantages of research-based fiction writing.

Parts one and two, Green Dawn at St Enda’s and Herself Alone in Orange Rain required extensive research.  Green Dawn, set 1911-1916, tells the story of fictional schoolboy Finn Devoy who ends up fighting in the Dublin Easter Rising.  I knew little about the topic so read widely and visited relevant places, including the Pearse Museum in Dublin which is as it was when it was St Enda’s.  This all helped recreate period and place in the book and ensure accuracy.  Orange Rain is set during the 1980s, when I was a child.  The book centres on Caoilainn Devoy, Finn’s granddaughter, and her experiences as an IRA volunteer.  Again it needed much research, reading accounts by/about IRA women and uncovering pertinent facts.  I also talked to people who lived through this period and drew on that during the writing.  Though somewhat problematic, this firsthand research added an extra dynamic, bringing the story to life for me; I hope this comes over in the novel.

Set in my own lifetime, I thought White Leaves of Peace would require the least research.  I was wrong.  When did ipods come out?  What was the craze in kids’ toys in 1998?  Who was in the charts in the early 2000s?  I made work for myself by having the main character, Cian Duffy (Caoilainn’s son) be a computer nerd and I’m expecting letters from IT experts pointing out my ‘tech’ errors.  More significantly, reading around events in Northern Ireland during the period I realised how much I didn’t know, news that didn’t cross the Irish sea.  It was a lesson to never assume I know what I need to in order to write about something.  I also did more firsthand research, talking to people who knew what Cian’s life would have been like which was invaluable.  And I was able to draw on my own experiences, particularly for the Australia section of the novel – I lived there for a year.  If you can use what you know you should, although I wouldn’t let lack of knowledge restrict me.  If a topic interests me enough to write about it, it interests me enough to research it also.

So to anyone considering research-heavy novel projects I say don’t be deterred.  Researching can take fiction to exciting places, uncovering unexpected angles to stories and introducing writers to people who will make for engaging characters.  Researching, although time-consuming, can make writing easier, giving you a framework for the story.  And truth really can be wilder than fiction so why not use it to your advantage?

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Tracey Iceton is an author and creative writing tutor from Teesside who completed a PhD in creative writing at Northumbria University. An English teacher experienced in delivering creating writing courses and workshops, Tracey won the 2013 HISSAC short story prize for ‘Butterfly Wings’, was runner up in the 2013 and 2014 Cinnamon Press short story competitions with ‘Slag’ and ‘As the world (re)turns’, which appear in the anthologies Journey Planner and Patria. She also won the 2011 Writers Block NE Home Tomorrow Short Story Competition and has been shortlisted for the 2012 Bristol Short Story Competition with ‘Apple Shot’ and the 2015 Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition for ‘Ask Not’. 

Green Dawn at St Enda’s, her debut novel and part one of her Celtic Colours Trilogy, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2016 followed by Herself Alone in Orange Rain in 2017. White Leaves of Peace is the final part of the companion trilogy. 

Tracey regularly reads at literary events. Her stories have appeared in; Prole, Litro, Neon, Tears in the Fence, The Momaya Annual Review, The Yellow Room and Writer’s Muse. 

You can find her online on her website www.trywriting.co.uk.