#NetGalley #BookReview for #DarkestNight by Jenny O’Brien

My review for Darkest Night by Jenny O’Brien, 4/5 stars.

I haven’t read the first book in the series, but found that didn’t cause any problems reading this book. Some events are alluded to, but with enough information that you can understand what happened.

I like the feisty protagonist, DC Gaby Darin. She’s flawed, she drinks and suffers from a hangover the next day, and she has barriers that very few people can break through. But she’s a dedicated detective who gets involved in her cases, determined to look beyond the obvious and discover what really happened.

There’s great camaraderie between the characters, all of whom are well developed and relatable, and I loved the friction between Gaby and Rusty, the pathologist. It will be interesting to see how the series develops.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC. A great read.

#NetGalley #BookReview for #TheSkylarksSecret by Fiona Valpy

My review for The Skylark’s Secret by Fiona Valpy, 5/5 stars.

Set in Scotland, with a dual timeline, the story follows the lives of Flora during World War II and her daughter, Lexie, in the late 70s. Lexie, disillusioned with life in London and no longer able to sing, returns to her late mother’s cottage in the Scottish village where she grew up. But she finds it hard to adjust to her new life.

I loved reading both the characters’ stories, and the background setting of the loch and the simple way of life added a touch of magic to the narrative. The two stories seamlessly interweave, and come together at the end with a lifelong secret being revealed.

I’ve already read a couple of books by this author and loved them, so I knew this would be a wonderful read. Her writing transports you to another time and place, with characters who will remain in your heart for a long time after you’ve finished reading.

A beautifully written story I highly recommend.

#NetGalley #BookReview for #BotanicalArtTechniques by American Society of Botanical Artists

My review for Botanical Art Techniques by the American Society of Botanical Artists, 5/5 stars.

This is a beautiful book, with techniques for different types of art suitable from beginner level to advanced. Everything is covered, including graphite, coloured pencil, watercolours, oils, and acryllics.

The artwork is stunning, and shows what can be achieved with each medium. Step-by-step instructions accompany each project, which range from simple drawings for beginners to complicated compositions for more advanced artists.

There are also sections with details on scientific illustrations and field studies, and a comprehensive guide to the materials needed for each medium.

I was given a digital copy to review and loved it, so I can imagine the physical copy will be truly a book to treasure! Highly recommend for anyone who wants to improve their skills.

#BookReview for Poetry of the Heart and Soul by Sarah Northwood

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My review for Poetry of the Heart and Soul by Sarah Northwood, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

I never used to read much poetry, it wasn’t really my cup of tea. Until I met Sarah Northwood and discovered that poetry can reach inside you, to those emotions you keep hidden away, and touch your soul.

Her poems are thoughtful musings on everyday life, things that affect you but you can’t find the words to describe. They’re about family, security, and love, but also about feeling anger, hurt, and frustration. Reading her poems is like having a friend nearby who understands, listens, and puts their arms around you to console you.

Many of the poems are accompanied by a short explanation from the author, giving you an insight into the meaning behind her words, which I love, and there are gorgeous illustrations by the author throughout the book. This book of poetry is something to treasure, and read on days you need a quiet five minutes to yourself away from chaos of the world around you.

Buy on Amazon


#bookpromo The Lost Girls by Helen Pryke

On the 17 June, my latest book, The Lost Girls, was published by Bloodhound Books, and I thought I’d tell you something about it. You can buy it now on Amazon for only 99c/99p or you can get the paperback if you prefer!

Here’s some background about the writing of the book:

It’s mainly set in the south of England (with a slight detour to the Peak District towards the end!) and I think it’s the only book I’ve ever read that’s set in the Portsmouth area, including Cosham, Hilsea and Bedhampton!

Why there? Well, I grew up on the south coast in a small town called Emsworth, and often took the bus or train to other towns in the area. When I needed somewhere for the book, I immediately thought of where I used to live.

map of south of england for fb page

What I didn’t plan on was getting so nostalgic as I used Google maps to refresh my memory. It was like travelling back to the past, and so many memories from my childhood came to mind. It made me quite emotional!

I’ve been living in Italy since 1990, and although I visited the UK quite frequently in the beginning, I haven’t been back since 2012. Partly from choice, as every time I go there it gets harder for me to leave, and partly because planning anything around my auto-immune illness is difficult as I never know when it will flare and leave me too exhausted to do anything. So, while I’m glad I chose those towns, it’s been a bitter-sweet experience!

The only place I haven’t been is Farlington Marshes, mentioned at the beginning of the story. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know they existed! I found this on Wikipedia:

“Farlington Marshes is an area of reclaimed land in Langstone harbour. It was reclaimed from the harbour in 1771 and includes a larger part of what was formerly Binner’s Island (the remainder of the island is now referred to as North Binness Island). Farlington Marshes is about 120 hectares in size and features both freshwater marsh and brackish marsh. It is a Local Nature Reserve and is a feeding ground for overwintering Brent geese. During World War 2 it was used as a starfish site acting as a decoy for Portsea Island. The control blockhouses remain on the marshes.”

If I should go back to the UK, I’ll make sure I go and take a walk around there!


The protagonist

The protagonist of The Lost Girls is ex-investigative journalist Maggie Turner. She wasn’t always the protagonist, though – originally, Michael and Chloe, the brother and sister of the lost girls, were meant to team up and search for their sisters. Then one day Maggie popped into my head and demanded to be the main character! There’s a lot of banter between Mike, Chloe and Maggie which I’m sure many parents of teenagers will recognise – much of it was taken from my own conversations with my sons!

I like Maggie – she’s fighting her own demons caused by a traumatic childhood, a chronic illness (as yet undiagnosed), and the death of her nephew, but she puts them aside to help Mike and Chloe find their sisters. This is how she describes herself:

“I’m a pathetic, forty-five-year-old woman who only thinks of herself, with greying hair, quite a few wrinkles, and bits of me sagging that were pert up until a few years ago. I feel old.”

But underneath the self-pity, she has a strong character and won’t take any nonsense from people. She’s had to fight all her life to get anywhere, and won’t give up while there’s hope. In the story, she arrives at a point where she doesn’t know where to go or what to do to find the girls, while her body shuts down due to stress and her illness. The only thing she can do is pray for a miracle…

The antagonist

The antagonist, who shall remain unnamed, turned out completely different from how I’d originally planned! When I jotted down some notes a few years ago, I didn’t have a motive for him abducting the girls – this all came about when I took out the story and started working on it again. I had fun figuring out the reasoning behind his madness!

As his past is gradually revealed, the reader comes to understand why he’s abducted the girls. We don’t find out everything about him, but more than enough to show that he’s always been crazy. I particularly enjoyed writing the chapters from his personal point of view – getting inside his head was scarily easy to do!

I can’t give away too much here, as it will ruin the story. Let’s just say our antagonist has ‘issues’ with his mother and sisters, which come to a terrifying head in the book. Oh, and he likes fire. A lot.

Beautiful stylish fire flames reflected in water


A minor character

I thought I’d mention a minor character in the book, who was taken from real life.

As any author knows, you’re always advised to observe the people around you in everyday situations, and make notes of anything you can use in your writing. I love people watching anyway, and there’s no better place (in my opinion) than a hospital waiting room. I’ve been in many over the last few years, and every time I come away thinking I could write a book about what I’ve just seen. (My oldest son says I should write a series – The Waiting Room Chronicles – as I’ve always got a story or two to tell after going to the hospital!)

This scene, set in a café where Mike, Chloe and Maggie were meeting, comes from one of those waiting room experiences:

The waitress jotted down their order and went over to the counter. A tall, thin woman in her sixties strode into the café. Dressed in brown, knee-length boots, a bright yellow anorak, and a detective-style felt hat with a brown speckled feather in it, she caught their attention right away.

“Young lady, a cappuccino with extra cocoa on top, as soon as you can,” she demanded in a supercilious voice. She stood glaring round at the few customers while the waitress rushed to make her coffee. “Come, come, I haven’t got all day.”

Mike leaned over and nudged Maggie. “Hey, that’ll be you in a few years’ time, old thing,” he said with a wink.

Chloe giggled.

Maggie snorted, trying to hold back a laugh in case the woman looked their way. “Less of the cheek,” she said, then glanced at the woman again. “Although, I do like that hat, I must admit.”

It may be short and sweet, but this scene makes me laugh every time as it features a woman I saw in a hospital waiting room, dressed exactly like that! I came home, wrote some notes, and knew I had to fit her into the book somehow. And yes, I was jealous of her hat, as well – I’d love to have the courage to wear something like that! (The photo below is a rough representation, just so you get the idea.)

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I hope this has whet your appetite, and I’d love to hear back from you if you read The Lost Girls!


#NetGalley #BookReview #ACourtofThornsandRoses by Sarah J. Maas

My review for A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, 5/5 stars.

I’ve heard so much about this series, I’ve been wanting to read it for ages! So I was really pleased to get a copy from NetGalley. Did it live up to the hype?

Yes! The writing is enchanting, from the moment we first meet Feyre out hunting in the woods, desperately trying to keep her poverty-stricken family alive. The first chapters ease you into the story, then the pace picks up about a third of the way through. But it is so well written that you find yourself hooked from the beginning.

I also loved the fact that the Fae are as flawed as humans, if not more so. Every character has parts you like, others that annoy, and some that you hate, and this add a deep richness to the overall story.

There is a blight over their realm that is threatening the existence of everyone, Fae and humans alike, and Feyre believes she can help. But nothing is as it seems, and there is a harsh price to pay for all involved.

This is a wonderful start to the series, and I can’t wait to read the next one! Highly recommend.


#NetGalley #BookReview for #AnatomyMadeSimpleforArtists by Jonathan Freemantle

My review for Anatomy Made Simple for Artists by Jonathan Freemantle, 4/5 stars.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Arcturus Publishing for providing me with an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is a great introduction to anatomy for beginners. It explains bone structure, muscles and how they work, and the shape of the body in a simple way that anyone can understand.

I feel it would be useful for anyone learning to draw people, as it gives some good advice on where to focus and how the posture affects your artwork.

The only thing I would have liked is to see more illustrations. There are some excellent drawings in the book, but I feel that some more would have balanced out the text and made some descriptions clearer.

All in all, a good book for beginners who are overwhelmed by the more advanced books on art.

#BookReview for Grubane by Karl Drinkwater

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My review for Grubane by Karl Drinkwater, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

This is another great addition to the Solace series. Each novella gives us more background to the universe Drinkwater has created, building up to the two main novels.

In Grubane, he has interwoven the story with tactics used in chess, in a clever, intriguing way. It gives us an insight into Grubane’s mind, and leads the story along to its gripping conclusion.

The interaction between the AI and Major Grubane is intelligent, witty, and at times almost childlike, as the AI questions its almost human-like feelings. I loved these two characters – neither is as sterile or emotionless as they seem at the beginning.

A great read, as ever, from Drinkwater. I highly recommend the whole series!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

#BookReview for The Last One to See Her by Mark Tilbury

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My review for The Last One to See Her by Mark Tilbury, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

I’ve read a couple of books by this author, so knew this one would be a rollercoaster of a read!

The book starts with one of the most shocking prologues I’ve read in a long time, then continues to mess with your head almost to the end! Just when you think you’ve worked it all out, something happens to make you doubt it again.

The story is intriguing – a young girl disappears, and two men were the last ones to see her. But neither remembers what happened. The characters are relatable, from the frantic mother desperate to get her child back, to likable Mathew, who has some problems after a childhood attack. As a reader, you are drawn in, experiencing each family’s anguish as the story unfolds and more secrets are revealed.

With well-written characters and plenty of twists, it keeps you gripped until the end. A great read!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

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