#NetGalley #BookReview for #TheStrangerinOurHouse by Sarah A. Denzil

My review for The Stranger In Our House by Sarah A. Denzil, 5/5 stars.

I loved this! It was an intriguing story, which pulled me in and wouldn’t let go until I finished! Each chapter comes from a different character’s point of view, gradually bringing the threads of the story together. It’s dark, creepy, and believable enough to keep you wondering all the way through.

I’ve read a few of this author’s books, and each one is a unique experience. This one is no different! Well written, with great characters and story line that keeps you gripped, I highly recommend The Stranger In Our House.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the author for the advance copy.

#NetGalley #BookReview for An Island In The Sun by Kate Frost

My review for An Island In The Sun by Kate Frost, 5/5 stars.

Kate Frost has an incredible talent for taking you on wonderful trips around the world, immersing you in the setting and culture until you believe that you’re actually there. Her descriptive narrative reveals hidden corners of the world, places off the tourist track with mouthwatering food and delicate, aromatic wines. Each book whisks you into the lives of memorable characters and situations, and for a little while you can leave everything else behind.

I have to say that this is my favourite book by Kate so far. Tabitha and Raff are great characters, holding on to hurt and secrets from the past, which they are both trying to run from. The other secondary characters add depth to the story, as do the gorgeous dogs.

Kate’s books are perfect for escaping life for a few hours and soaking up the heat, atmosphere and sights of faraway places. Highly recommend.

#BookReview for The Faery of Witchmas Past by Jeannie Wycherley

My review for The Faery of Witchmas Past by Jeannie Wycherley, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

I love the Wonky Inn series – each book gives you magic, fun, chaos, and a mystery to solve. This one even has a curse! With all our favourite characters, and a poorly Alf who has to find a cursed faery even though she’d rather be in bed with hot water bottle, this is a cosy mystery that’s perfect for Christmas!

Full of travelling back and forwards in time, hilarious moments, and lots of cake and tea, I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written, amusing story. Highly recommend!

New year, same pandemic

Back in February 2020, when the pandemic broke out, I remember how concerned everyone was. The lovely messages I received, friends asking for advice. I remember the horror when I shared a post about the army lorries taking away the dead from hospitals in Bergamo. I remember how our community on Facebook kept me going when the future was so uncertain.

And then in 2021, governments began declaring that the pandemic was over. For whatever reason, they were lying. They lied that kids couldn’t get COVID, that schools were safe, that Omicron was mild, that we could go back to living like it was 2019 again.

What hurts the most is that people believed it. After only a few weeks of lockdowns (that weren’t really lockdowns), and a few months of wearing masks, they couldn’t wait to get back on planes, go to concerts, or eat in restaurants. I watched, horrified, as everyone partied.

The problem, for me and many others like me, isn’t the return to normal – it’s the return to normal without any mitigations. I can’t eat in restaurants anyway, due to my autoimmune disease (which I got after catching EBV in 2014 – Epstein Barr Virus, or glandular fever as you’ll probably know it). I can’t plan holidays as I never know if I’ll be well enough to go, and crowds make me nervous. What I, and every clinically vulnerable person, do object to is being forced into a personal lockdown because everyone around us has decided that their needs are the only important thing. It’s ableist, and it means that many will go without the medical help they desperately need because health care is too dangerous right now.

I watched, horrified, because I know first-hand what a well-known virus can do to a person’s immune system. The medical and scientific people I follow on Twitter warned that dropping all protections would create more variants, that we didn’t know what could happen to people infected with COVID.

Well, now we do. COVID is a vascular disease that affects the heart, lungs, and other organs. It causes blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. There is scientific evidence of this, there are plenty of articles out there. Vaccines do not prevent you from catching COVID, they help alleviate the symptoms to some extent, and hopefully keep you out of hospital. They were never meant to be the only approach to learning to live with COVID. Masks, air purifiers with HEPA filters, smart working and online schooling would have put us in a much different position today.

But here we are. How can we sit here and hope for a better 2023, when this past year has been a complete disaster and everyone is getting more and more sick? I won’t be saying happy new year, or crossing my fingers that everything will miraculously reset at midnight on 1st January. It won’t. It can’t. Not unless enough people decide to do what is right for humanity. And I’m betting they won’t.

My heart aches for those who have lost loved ones this year, for those who broke down and cried on Christmas Day, piles of unopened presents the terrible reminder of children lost to all the viruses over the last few months.

As a clinically vulnerable person, I am full of fear for what 2023 will bring. There are no protections anywhere, many countries will stop reporting COVID cases, COVID deaths will no longer be counted. The situation in China is truly terrifying, and we will regret that they gave up their strict approach to COVID. And things aren’t much better in the UK and US. Everyone will continue to get sick, many will be left disabled, many will die, and for what? Ask yourself why governments want us to ‘live with the virus’, forcing kids into schools that could offer more protections with a minimal cost (air purifiers in every class, meals outside when possible, wearing masks are just a few ways), forcing adults into similar situations in offices, when they could easily work from home, removing protections from hospitals and care homes. I don’t have the answer as to why they’re doing this; I only watch in disbelief as more ‘infect everyone’ policies are laid out.

I don’t believe people would shop less, or that the economy would nosedive, if they have to wear masks. Quite the opposite – a healthy population works better and spends more. The virus is adapting to evade the latest vaccines; it can’t adapt to evade a mask or an air purifier.

There have been so many unnecessary deaths this year, which could have been avoided with more protections and care. Look at the amount of celebrity deaths (the Queen had COVID several months before her death, and was heard to say she hadn’t felt well since then), check your local newspapers for ‘sudden deaths’, take notice of how many people are mourning loved ones on Facebook. This is not normal, it has never been like this.

People’s immune systems have been weakened by repeated COVID infections. The virus destroys T-cells, which are essential for your body’s immune defences. This makes everyone, especially kids, more vulnerable to other viruses. Another hypothesis for the surge in people going to A&E is that there is a new variant of COVID, which tests are unable to pick up. Whatever it is, children are dying. Adults are dying. This is going on all over the world, including Sweden, which never had a lockdown, so no ‘immunity debt’ there.

I’ve shared so many posts on Facebook, articles and screenshots from Twitter, all of which have mostly been ignored. I hope that some people will read this, look around and see what is actually happening in the world, and modify their habits to help protect not only themselves, but others who are not as fortunate to have their health. How many people are you prepared to lose personally? How many people could you infect when you go out maskless with your ‘cold’? Do you care?

If you do, then please make those changes. Wear a mask – an N95 worn properly is best (surgical masks have too many gaps and don’t give enough protection). Insist your child’s school puts air purifiers in every classroom. Insist on being allowed to work from home if possible. Keep your child home if they’re sick, regardless of the school’s attendance policy. Use air purifiers in your own home, and wear a mask if sick. Stop attending ‘super spreader’ events such as concerts and conferences – or insist they have a masking policy or at the very least an online option, which would enable vulnerable people, or those who don’t wish to catch COVID, to attend. If enough people do this, the powers in charge will have to listen. This is your future, and your children’s future.

#BookReview for Slackers by Brian O’Gorman and Keira O’Gorman

My review for Slackers by Brian O’Gorman and Keira O’Gorman, 5/5 stars.

What can I say? I love Brian’s books, each one is an instant buy for me, and never disappoints. This one was written together with his daughter, who appears to have even more imagination than the master of horror himself!

The story starts slowly, joining Jeff Durram as he takes stock of his life and realises he wants so much more. When the chance of a dream job comes up, he grabs it with both hands. But is it as wonderful as he thinks it is?

The O’Gormans (both of them) have a talent for lulling you into a false sense of security, then BAM! A scene arrives that’s so shocking you have to stop reading for a while… There is a hint of Squid Game, taken to a next level of horror, and the odious K is a character out of your nightmares. There are some fantastic illustrations too, that add to the overall creepiness of the story!

I devoured this book in a couple of days, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I hope these two do more collaborations in the future! Creepy horror, a moderate amount of gore, and two dark imaginations – what more could you ask for?! Highly recommend.

https://www.amazon.co,uk/Slackers-English-Brian-OGorman-ebook/dp/B0BDVF1W4Y/

#BookReview for The Un-Family by Linda Huber

My review for The Un-Family by Linda Huber, 5/5 stars.

I have read most of this author’s books, and each one just gets better! She has a way of creating characters that get under your skin, whether they’re good or evil or a bit of both. This book is no different.

Holly and Dylan are happily married, or so Holly thinks. She loves her job as a vet, and she gets on well with Dylan’s family. Until disaster strikes, and then everything unravels very quickly.

Although not as fast-paced at the beginning as some of her other books, The Un-Family is nevertheless a tense, gripping read that keeps you turning the pages, eager to find out what happens next. By the end you can’t put it down, desperate to know how it’s all going to turn out!

Another great read from Linda Huber that I highly recommend!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Family-Linda-Huber/dp/1913793931/

#NetGalley #BookReview for The Ghost Woods by C.J. Cooke

My review for The Ghost Woods by C.J. Cooke, 5/5 stars.

I absolutely loved this! Haunting, dark, and magical, where imagination and reality clash, creating a fairy-tale nightmare.

Lichen House is a place where unwed mothers-to-be can stay during the pregnancy and birth, their children adopted by wealthy couples. Run by Mrs Whitlock and her husband, there is something sinister about the house right from the beginning.

The characters are wonderfully written, and you care what happens to them. The author also weaves in threads of social injustices of the time, in a way that enriches the narrative.

Perfect for this time of the year, it is a beautifully haunting read. Highly recommend!

#BookReview for The Potbaker’s Niece by Annette Spratte

My review for The Potbaker’s Niece by Annette Spratte, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

A hauntingly beautiful book set in Germany during the desperate times of the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. Villagers lived in fear of the plague, plundering soldiers, and famine, while continuing their pot-making tradition in their struggle to survive.

The author has thoroughly researched the times and the craft, bringing everything together in a wonderfully descriptive narrative that makes you feel as though you are there, side by side with the characters as their lives are torn apart.

And you do feel each character’s emotions as their lives change, through the turmoil and uncertainty of the times. The scenes where Johanna learns the trade of potbaking instantly transport you to her uncle’s workshop, where you can smell the scent of the clay and hear the whirr of the potbaker’s wheel.

The story pulls you in right from the beginning, when Johanna finds herself orphaned by the plague, and takes you on an emotional journey through a dark part of the history of the German Westerwald. Highly recommend.

https://www.amazon.com/Potbakers-Niece-English-Annette-Spratte-ebook/dp/B0BDDS3QCH
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Potbakers-Niece-English-Annette-Spratte-ebook/dp/B0BDDS3QCH

#BookReview for Chains by Jon Richter

My review for Chains by Jon Richter, 5/5 stars.

Yet another brilliant book by Jon Richter! I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to write – each chapter is from a different character’s point of view, each linked to the previous one in some way. Keeping track of everything must have been a nightmare, but he pulls it off seamlessly!

A local businessman has been murdered, and the police have no idea who did it or why. The story slowly unravels in each chapter, and each character adds another layer to the mystery. With political intrigue and current affairs issues such as climate change, the story keeps you hooked. And the ending is… surreal, but perfect.

Jon Richter writes various genres, but I highly recommend all of his books for a fast-paced, entertaining read.

#NetGalley #BookReview for #RuinationALeagueofLegendsNovel

My review for Ruination by Anthony Reynolds, 4/5 stars.

Even if you’ve never heard of League of Legends (like me!), this is a great fantasy novel. Well written, with great world building and interesting characters, it keeps you hooked all the way through.

The ending was incredible, and I’d have loved to see more of the after, rather than the brief epilogue. I’d invested so much in the characters and the story that I felt a little let down.

Despite that, it is a great read that I highly recommend.

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a chance to read this novel.

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