#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.

#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

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#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!

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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!

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#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.

 

#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

#BookReview for 2000 Tunes by Karl Drinkwater

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My review for 2000 Tunes by Karl Drinkwater, 5/5 stars (would be more if I could!). It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

Where do I start with this book? I’ve read most of Karl Drinkwater’s books and loved them all, but this one has to be my favourite so far.

It’s like taking a trip back in time, revisiting old friends and old haunts. I’ve never been to Manchester, but the way he pulls you into each setting, you feel like you’ve lived there yourself. The characters are so well written, so well developed, so realistic, that you feel as if you’re there with them, living their lives with them.

Sam and Mark are two completely different people, leading separate lives, the only thing in common is the place where they work. And the fact that they are two deeply vulnerable people, struggling to find their place in the world, despite everything that keeps knocking them down. We’re pulled into their lives right from the start, as Sam mourns the death of her grandmother, and Mark mourns the demise of The Hacienda, and walk beside them as their lives slowly entwine.

There are other characters, each adding extra depth and richness to the story: Emily, Sam’s vibrant, fun-loving friend with a heart of gold; Roger, the office creep (we’ve all known one of them!); Rene, the misunderstood boss who’s the butt of everyone’s jokes; and Ben and Dave, two colleagues who become Mark’s first real friends.

And there’s the music, which weaves itself around the threads of the story, evoking memories from those long-gone years. Even if you weren’t into the indie groups of the time, Mark’s passion (and the author’s) for his music gets into your soul.

The ending doesn’t disappoint either – not too long and dragged out, not so short it leaves you wanting more. It’s just perfect.

There are so many wonderful parts to this story, so many little scenes that keep popping into my head even after I’ve finished reading it, as if they’re my memories now, not something I read. It’s going to stay with me for a long time. Highly recommend!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

#BookReview for The Runaway by Linda Huber

Pink quill books pick_2020My review for The Runaway by Linda Huber, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

What can I say? I’ve read quite a few books by Linda Huber, starting with The Cold Cold Sea, which my husband bought me for my birthday a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve become quite a fan. She kindly gave me an ARC of The Runaway, and I loved it!

Nicola, Ed, and Kelly are such relatable characters, and you immediately feel like you’ve known them forever. Nicola is a stressed-out mum, trying to juggle work and family life in London, Kelly is a teenager, going through a turbulent time and opposed to any change, and Ed is the quiet one, keeping himself to himself. Everything ticks along nicely, until Ed’s mother dies and he inherits her house down in Cornwall.

For a while you don’t know where the story is going to take you, then all of a sudden you’re in the middle of every parent’s deepest fear. The tension pulls you along, keeping you enthralled as the story develops. The scenes where Nicola is trawling the streets of London are heartwrenching, and so well written!

I’m not going to give anything away, but I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished. There were so many missed chances, so many “Noooo!” moments, and a scene towards the end that will have your heart in your mouth as you beg her not to do it.

A great psychological thriller I highly recommend!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

#Unicorns, #mermaids, and so much more!

About six months ago, Sarah Northwood and I decided to write a children’s book together. You can see the cover reveal and read about it here.

The book, Unicorns, Mermaids, and Magical Tales, is now with our beta readers, and initial feedback is wonderful!

“There are so many beautiful passages throughout, life lessons for young children hidden within the stories, and some lovely advice (kindness, courage) as well.”

“I love the short stories, perfect for a bedtime story each night, with lots to spark the imagination of little ones (and grown ups too!)”

We now have a publishing date! The paperback will be available from the 15th March. The ebook will be available to pre-order the same day at the special low price of 99c/99p, and will be published on the 31st March.

We’ve also created a website where you can find lots of fun activities for children, with puzzles, word searches, and beautiful hand-drawn pictures to download and colour in. We’d love to see your children’s creations and show them off on the site!

Visit the site

Take a look and let me know what you think!

We’re very proud of this book, with its beautiful illustrations, poems, and short stories that we hope children will love and treasure for years to come. I hope we’ll write more books together in the future!

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