Review – Resourceful Living by Lisa Dawson

It’s often thought that restyling your space comes with a hefty price tag and unavoidable waste. But in Resourceful Living, award-winning interiors blogger Lisa Dawson shows how, with a little creativity, you can revamp your home with existing pieces, vintage finds and key purchases.

The clever ideas in this beautiful book cover:

– The most important ways we use our homes, from eating to sleeping, living and working.

– The Basics of steering clear of interiors ‘fast fashion’, multi-purposing furniture and making the most of what you have.

– Styling Your Home with simple solutions for re-imagining each room, from gallery walls to home bars, repainted storage to retro accessories.

Including her top ten key vintage buys and tips for in-store and online thrifting, Lisa’s inspiring advice shares the fun of creative sourcing as a more sustainable way to keep your home feeling fresh.

Review

I am one of those people that loves the concept of revamping my home, especially using some vintage items! Sadly I am also one of those people who doesn’t plan, buys items without thinking about size and use. It is the reason my home is badly organised and lacks my personality, because I am also very indecisive. So a book like Resourceful Living by Lisa Dawson is a godsend!

Beautifully laid out in sections that helped me see how I can bring my ideas to life, without having to necessarily break the bank. I love how she advises you don’t become caught up in trends for a style that may not age well and doesn’t actually fit in with a person’s lifestyle. Your house she advises should reflect you as a person, your tastes and how you live and this well organised book helps with this. I’ve had a few ideas for my own home, that I felt too insecure to go ahead with, yet having seen them laid out in Resourceful Living, I now feel confident that not only will they work, that they will bring me a great deal of happiness.

Being inspired is one thing, the pictures in this book made me smile and helped me visualise the concepts and ideas Lisa Dawson was writing about. But I need guidance on how to bring my ideas to life and the sections in this book about Mood Boards and the use of checklists, will help to organise my naturally disorganised mind. They are clear and concise and structured in how they help bring a concept for the rooms in your home to life. From assessing the storage you need, how to update the cupboards in your kitchen without having to have a costly refit, focusing attention on key parts of a job that cost the most and advising you to take time to decide, because once a floor is laid for example, you could be stuck with a costly mistake.

All the advise provided is practical, but best of all is how she allowed me to think outside the box, to move items in my home around, repurpose them, rather than having to make costly purchases every time I want to change a room. On top of all this, what really impressed me was her commitment to the use of vintage items, saving them from landfill and helping the environment. This chimes with me and I will as I move forward, be using this book, the ideas it contains to inspire me to make my home, reflect the things I love.

You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones. Why not though consider ordering it from your favourite independent bookshop?

About the author

Lisa Dawson is a multi-award-winning interiors blogger, writer, workshop presenter and social media influencer. She writes a popular weekly blog, is a regular contributor to Frank magazine and creates professional social media content for brands such as John Lewis and Loaf Home. She is co-founder of the popular Instagram hashtag #myhomevibe which has almost two million posts and was the first UK-based interiors community hashtag when it was launched in 2016. She lives in York with her husband, three children and a badly behaved Lhasa Apso called Buddy. Lisa shares her home inspiration on her Instagram @_lisa_dawson_.

Review – Together by Luke Adam Hawker

“Dark clouds were looming in the distance.

We watched them gather, and we wondered…

When will it come? How long will it last?”

One year on from the anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, Together takes a gently philosophical, and very
relatable, look at how we have dealt with a difficult year and how we can cope with hard times in general.
Simple but striking text is paired with beautiful illustrations from hugely talented artist Luke Adam Hawker.

When a monumental storm arrives, day-to-day life changes overnight. We follow a man and his dog through
the uncertainty that it brings to their lives. Through their eyes, we see the difficulties of being apart, how the
world adapted to spending more time at home, the rollercoaster of emotions that we can all relate to, and
the realisation that by pulling together we can move through difficult times with new perspective, hope and
an appreciation of what matters most in life.

Review

We have and continue to live through extraordinary times, during which we have lost so much and yet perversely gained so much as well. The storm that has enveloped so much of the world, a virus that threatens all we hold dear, leaving so many grieving, remains an ever present reminder of the fragility of the connections which define humanity! Such events require a remarkable book to act as a testimony to the storm that is the Covid pandemic, for those that are living through it and I hope for those for whom it will be but a distant memory.

Together by Luke Adam Hawker is for me that book!

It is a work of beauty, the illustrations managing to voice that sense of gathering doom, clouds on the horizon, that left us separated and detached from the lives we have lived previously. Yet this is not a work without hope, quite the contrary, it is in fact full joy and the faith that by all pulling together, the world we emerge into will be a better legacy to leave to the next generation. 

The art work is breath-taking and matched up with the words provided by Marianne Laidlaw, they create the perfect combination, an ode to the things in life that really matter and a testimony to all be have been through together. Luke Hawker is an artist of immense talent and the ink and pen drawings feel crisp and intimate, portraying the busyness of our lives before the pandemic hit and yet also our individual isolation from our family and friends as the gathering storm engulfed all of us. It really is quite extraordinary how he manages to express so much emotion, the power of his drawings to illustrate the experiences of so many.  It felt such an emotional read, one I connected to on a personal level, that voiced how adrift I and so many others felt and continue to do so.. The drawings managing to convey a myriad of confused and fraught feelings that have occupied my mind for the last year.

This this is a book I will keep and turn many times over the next few months, as we face the future Together.

You can purchase this remarkable book from Amazon and Waterstones. Why not consider buying from your local indie, who are now open! If you don’t have one, then consider ordering online!

About the author

This is the debut from Luke Adam Hawker, who worked as an architectural designer before becoming a full-time artist in 2015. He lives just outside of London with his partner Lizzie and dog Robin. Luke ships his prints and originals to buyers all over the world and has been commissioned by brands such as Soho House Hotel Group, Annabel’s Club, and Eventbrite.

You can follow the author on Twitter @lukeadamhawker

Review- Vera Kelly is not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht

When ex-CIA agent Vera Kelly loses her job and her girlfriend in a single day, she reluctantly goes into business as a private detective. Heartbroken and cash-strapped, she takes a case that dredges up dark memories and attracts dangerous characters from across the Cold War landscape. Before it’s over, she’ll chase a lost child through foster care and follow a trail of Dominican exiles to the Caribbean. Forever looking over her shoulder, she nearly misses what’s right in front of her: her own desire for home, connection, and a new romance at the local bar.

In this exciting second installment of the Vera Kelly series, Rosalie Knecht challenges and deepens the Vera we love: a woman of sparkling wit, deep moral fiber, and martini-dry humor who knows how to follow a case even as she struggles to follow her heart.

Review

I loved Who Is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht so much when asked to review it as part of the blog tour, that I immediately placed Vera Kelly is not a Mystery, the sequel on pre-order and I am delighted to say that it is splendid in very single way imaginable!

I started my post of Who Is Vera Kelly? by suggesting my review should be entitled, ‘Vera Kelly I Love You’! Thinking on this, I’m wondering if an alternative tile for this review should be ‘the love affair continues’!!

Vera is no longer a spy, but having lost both her girlfriend and job in the sane day decides to use her talents to set up as a private investigator. From this we are taken through a story full of thrills, heartbreak, love, discovery and friendship, all wrapped up in the perfect characterisation that is Vera herself. Fractured and damaged still, she is though on a road towards a better understanding of herself.

Feeling self indulgent and not wanting to be separated from Vera I read this book, except for a hour the night before, in one day, Rosalie Knecht enveloping me in her perfect characterisation, making me fall helplessly in love with this character all over again. It would have been easy to just have Vera striding through through more intrigue, pitting herself against dark forces to find a missing child, without developing her in anyway, but that would have been doing Vera an injustice. So I was overjoyed to see how she took the character on a journey that was as much about her acceptance as person worthy of love, as it was about her ingrained desire to help a child as lost as she had been, find safety and family. Vera moves from a world where she wraps herself in the protection of detachment and remoteness and takes tentative steps towards connection and romance. She is still the reluctant, self reliant heroine we met in Who Is Vera Kelly?, but over the course of this, her second outing, she starts to open up to us and herself and it’s really quite wonderful. I immersed myself in her journey and found myself increasingly wishing that Vera would come to recognise how wonderful she is! You can’t though simply shrug off years of rejection, by her mother for being troubled and rebellious, by society because of her sexuality and that is where the emotional connection comes with the story comes from. The writer makes her feel richer, braver, but never loses sight of the troubled road she is on and how it shapes her reactions to events and the people she meets.

It is equal parts espionage thriller and love story, that feels larger than life as we move from America to the Caribbean and yet intimate as Vera seeks answers to the motivations of those seeking the boy and her own reasons for wanting to protect him. Her fledging career as an investigator brings a sense of suspense and excitement, with quiet moments as she struggles with her own demons allowing us to get closer to this on time spy.

This is an exceptional tale, with a unique heroine and I can’t wait to see where she goes next.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones, but why not consider purchasing it from your favourite Indie Bookshop?

About the author

Rosalie Knecht is the author of Who Is Vera Kelly? and Relief Map. She is the translator of César Aira’s The Seamstress and the Wind (New Directions) and a Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow. She resides in New York City.

My Wonderful Reading Year March 2021 – The Journey Continues!

I know we are not where we wanted to be at the beginning of 2021, but I believe my love of reading contributed to the little bit of sanity and hope I managed to hold onto in 2020.

So I have decided to be kind to myself this year and not place too much pressure on myself to meet set reading targets or publish a certain number of reviews.

As much as I can, I’m going to make 2021 about reading for the simple joy of it. I won’t stop doing blog tours, because I love how they challenge me and at least keep me focused reading when life is stressful and I am so distracted. But I will be doing less and reading more of the books on my to be read pile and gaining some more balance back in my reading world.

So here we are in 2021 and what follows are the books that I read in March 2021.

The first novel I finished in March was Simone Buchholz’s spiky and thrilling Hotel Cartegena.

While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart is a moving and thrilling read.

I have had The Dog Who Dared To Dream by Sun-Mi Hwang on by bookshelf for a few years and then when I was looking at my bookcase it suddenly called to me and what a delightful read it is. I loved the originality of the story, which is deeply moving.

Queer City by Peter Ackroyd is another book that has sat on my bookshelf for quite a while! Having made the decision to tackle my to be read pile of books, I picked as my next non fiction read. It is a fascinating history of gay culture of London from the Romans to the present day.

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams is a fascinating look at a group of women convicted of pretty crimes being transported to Australia. A murder on board leaves them wondering who amongst them is guilty!

I am a massive fan of The Repair Shop and so when I saw a book by Karen Farrington I snapped it up. I am so glad I did, because it tells the tales behind the objects restored in greater detail.

Bound by Vanda Symon’s is another fantastic read in the Sam Shepherd series!

After this came the very wonderful Olive, Mabel & Me by Andrew Cotter. Funny and moving, I loved it.

The next book read was Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale. I adore his writing style and loved this book as I expected to. Eustace is a character easy to love and his story is deeply moving.

I managed to sneak in another read before we left March behind, Seven Kinds of People You Find In Bookshops by Shaun Bythell. A little gem of a read and I loved it.

Well March 2021 was full of wonderful reads and I’m looking forward to what April will bring.

Review – Bound by Vanda Symon

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect

Review

You just know sometimes that when you pick up a book by a certain author, that it is going to be fabulous and Vanda Symons is one of those writers for me. Every novel she delivers to eager readers is pitch perfect and guaranteed to be full of wonderful character development and a story that will thrill as well as entertain.

In Bound book four in the Sam Shepherd Series she has delivered a story that I found thrilling and yet at the same time moving. Sometimes continuing drama can become bogged down, but this series remains a fresh and addictive read.

It’s best asset is Sam Shephard herself, determined, flawed and honest. She is a breath of fresh air, as far removed from the traditional lead in such books, grumpy, badly dressed. worn down male detectives as you can dream of. In each instalment we get to know her better and this is definitely the case in Bound, where she battles a bullying boss and a complicated love life. Like many women Sam wants a career and to do so she has to navigate complex emotions and personal relationships every single day, to remain a functioning adult and this is why she is so loved by me. She is a complex, emotional human being and we can all identify with the challenges she faces. In this latest instalment Vanda Symon really put her and us through the emotional ringer and I know this sounds wrong, but her pain, her confusion, her distress, made this book a richer, more involving read. Her beloved dad is ill, she’s not sure what she wants from her current relationship and then a new dilemma throws her into a whole new level of soul searching and we ride those ups and downs with her. Yet it never distracts Sam from her determination to deliver justice for those victims that cross her path, in fact her career if effectively keeping her sane.

The story is equally addictive and that is because the writer not only knows that to keep a character fresh, she needs to develop them, but to keep readers hooked the stories have to be theatrical, with moments of humour and electrifying points within the narrative that have you glued to the edge of your seat. Bound, abounds with them all. We are swept across New Zealand as Sam seeks to tie together the treads of a murder investigation, that seems to be spiralling out of control, moments of humour help to lessen the pressure in our chests as we worry Sam is pushing herself towards ever greater danger. One minute we are holding on the edge of our chair as she is hurtled throw traffic in pursuit of a suspect, the next moment we are cheering her on as she gives her boss some overdue attitude and then holding her hand as she faces her father’s terminal diagnosis. We embrace the quiet moments, the conversations with family and friends and then are swept like adrenalin junkies on a roller coaster ride as Vanda Symons delivers the killer, sweeter and more delicious because it is Sam’s keen intelligence and analytical mind that captures the criminal.

From the mind of a first rate writer, comes a character and story with a flourish of magnificence, a large portion of humanity and oodles of excitement.

You can buy this book directly from the publishers ebook store. Amazon or Waterstones!

About the author

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

You can follow the author on Twitter @vandasymon

Review – Nighthawking by Russ Thomas

Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. And then, one morning, a body is found in the Gardens. A young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up.
 
Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body?
 
In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable . . . and willing to kill to keep what they find.

Review

Nighthawking by Russ Thomas is the superb sequel to Firewatching, his nerve tingling debut novel.

There is always a sense of trepidation when you pick up an author’s new novel, will it live up to the promise he showed in his first book, building on both the characters and the story arc? Russ Thomas not only does both, he does so within a provocative tale of corruption and murder. Importantly he builds on the events of the first novel, but not to the extent that you can’t either read this as part of a series or as a standalone! There are enough subtle references to events in Firewatching to allow you read Nighthawking only if that is what you prefer. Personally I like to read books in series order, because I feel you get a richer experience, but it so nice to know you can do either.

As for Nighthawking it is a superb! You know you have a cracker in your hands, when you whizz through a book it at a rate of knots, putting life on hold until you’ve read the final page. This was me! Picking it up at any opportunity that came to me and feeling cheated when I had to focus on real life instead.

Characterisation is yet again superlative. From the main characters such as Adam Taylor and Rabbani, we have a new cohort personalities that fill Nighthawking. From the Nighthawkers of the title, seemingly harmless treasure hunters, to students and hardened criminals. Russ Thomas brings them all alive and makes them two dimensional, forcing me on more than one occasion to reassess my feelings towards them, because i never knew which of them I could really trust. I loved how he allowed us to get to know Adam in more detail and also, introduced more nuanced reflection on the actions and decisions he makes. Best of all is how Rabbani maybe his subordinate, but she is never a lesser character than Adam himself, the workhorse of the tale, her commitment and frustrations with those around her are something so many can relate to.

In my case having read Firewatching it has a group of protagonists that I already knew and cared about, meaning I was invested in the story straight away. Then there was the antagonist or in this case antagonists, because the writer cleverly presents us with multiple possible contenders and then leads us on a merry dance, before with a clever slight of hand, throws a curve ball into the mix and left me feeling bamboozled by the killers identity. It is such a clever story, that follows more than one storyline, which in the hands of a lesser writer, could have become bogged down in confusion, but it flows with ease between the tale of a killer and Adam Tyler’s continued search for answers to a tragedy that has plagued his life! The tension comes not just from the teams hunt for a killer, but the interplay between them all. There are scenes that show the pressure they are under from above, the politics at play, as well as the real threat to their careers if they fail to track the killer fast enough to keep both the public and their superiors happy. It creates between them a tension that feels real and tangible and adds to the story a feeling that they are walking on a tightrope, one wrong step, could see them freefalling into professional and personal failure. Placing their lives in danger and leaving me as a reader, thrilled and excited for what comes next!

You can buy this novel from Amazon and Waterstones! But why not buy it directly from your local Indie bookshop?

About the author

Russ Thomas was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. After a few ‘proper’ jobs (among them: pot-washer, optician’s receptionist, supermarket warehouse operative, call-centre telephonist, and storage salesman) he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. His highly-acclaimed debut novel, Firewatching, is the first in the DS Adam Tyler series and published in February 2020. Nighthawking, the second book in the series, will publish in February 2021.

Review – Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

London, 1841.

The Rajah sails for Australia.

On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world.

Daughters, sisters, mothers – they’ll never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other.

Until the murder.

As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect.

The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart . . .

But if the killer isn’t found, could it cost them their last chance of freedom?

Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.

Review

I admit I was drawn to Dangerous Women by Hope Adams by the stunning cover, as much a work of art as any painting hanging in an art gallery in my very humble opinion. Often what draws me to pick up a book while a wonder around a bookshop, is the cover, because they are, I believe a window by which we can glimpse the soul of the story! When I saw the cover of Hope Adams novel about a group of women being transported to Australia on the Rajah, it called to me. It whispered this novel is one you are going to love and it was right, I thought it was extraordinary.

The rough seas that the ship is sailing across suggest a dramatic murder mystery, which it is, but best of all it’s a character driven tale in which the lives of the women and the terrible things they were forced to do to survive are revealed to us slowly. Drama doesn’t always have to be shouty, sometimes it is quiet and clever, as Dangerous Women is! From the moment I walked onto the Rajah with women like Hattie, forced to steal to provide for herself and her son, or Kezia privileged and seeking to turn them towards a better life, I instantly felt drawn not just to the cover, but the women. To a story about the terrible decisions that led them to this fateful voyage and the possibilities it offers them for redemption, if only they can survive to reach Van Diemen’s Land.

For me the writer gets the balance between story and character right, because in order to become invested in the outcome of the novel, we have to care about the women themselves. They, as much as us, need to take the journey together! If they were simply portrayed as one dimensional, thief, prostitute, malefactor, or on the opposite spectrum altruistic, we would simply be skimming over the surface of their lives and as a result, the story itself. Once that connection is made, the drama flows from our relationship with them. Hope Adams has created a group of women who develop and reveal their deepest secrets, the tragedy of their pasts and as they bond, as we get to know them, the tension builds in increments, because we care, because the writer has crafted a sisterhood from a disparate group of women. The reality of their perilous situation is laid bare to us and I found myself helplessly and happily lost in this tale of murder, friendship and a desire to survive and flourish.

I can’t recommend this book enough, It is on the surface a murder mystery, the reason I loved it so much, is because it is so much more. It is captivating, yet dark, with a mystery at its core, that thrilled and left me waiting to see what this writer will produce next.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones. But why not order it from your favourite Indie Bookshop?

About the author

Hope Adams was born in Jerusalem and spent her early childhood in many different countries, including Nigeria and British Norht Borneo. She now lives near Cambridge. She has written books for children and adults as Adèle Geras.

Review – While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

Paris 1944
A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.

Santa Cruz 1953
Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi Occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.

On a darkened platform, two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined…

Review

As a reader, I have always loved historical fiction and so I picked up While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart with much excitement.

Here is a remarkable story about how the destinies of two people become entwined by one moment during WW2, that has consequences long after the horror of war has ended.

War is always a brutal act, yet often novels ignore this, they gloss over the cruelty and focus on the big events, consigning the voices of people like Jean-Luc and the young women of the story to obscurity. What I loved about While Paris Slept was this novel gives a voice to the personal tragedies of those caught up in war, with a story that left me emotionally drained and heartbroken, quite fitting when the story it tells, contains tragedy as well as selfless acts of bravery. All this occurs within a narrative that floats between Paris 1944 to Santa Cruz in 1953, allowing the author to show that the decisions made by ordinary people in an occupied country during wartime, are often driven by desperation, strategies to cope in a world of extremes. The narrative explores the issue of what people are prepared to do in times of great danger to protect those they love and how some choose to resist and others to simply be. Best of all there is no judgment, no attempt to shame, just a simple acceptance that war is madness written large and those caught up in it don’t always act how we expect them to. While Paris Slept asked me to think how I would act, to take a journey with characters, that though they are fictional, represent people that lived those lives and faced those terrible judgment calls day after day. It balances excitement and drama with a very real feeling story, that grabbed me and whirled me through historical drama at it’s very best.

The cast of characters is varied and I couldn’t help but love them all. Ruth Druart delivered people who felt real and tangible and I found myself acknowledging that it was fine to feel moments of frustration with their actions, given the context of their lives. Jean Luc is written as a man who knows working with the Germans is wrong, but worries about the consequences for those he loves, if he acts. His ability to free himself of the fetters of the society he has grown up in, makes him adaptable and the type of man you would want at your side in times of crisis. Charlotte, passionate, looking for purpose, feels constrained by her parents refusal to resist, making her sometimes blind to how her actions threaten the wellbeing of others. Spikey and quick to judge, she feels like a fine wine, needing maturity in order to see that sometimes quiet resistance during war, takes immense levels of bravery. Then there is Sarah, full of love, persecuted for being Jewish, a character whose quiet courage both inspired me as a reader and called out from the pages as a reminder of a people who lived through the darkest of times. Her enduring hope of finding her loved ones, created in me a deep felt love of a women, whose courage seems to escape the boundaries of the novel and call out to future generations to never ever forget! Quieter is David her husband whose role in the novel seems to be support her story and yet he comes into own in a way that felt particularly poignant and moving.

Here is an historical drama both nuanced and brave enough to tell a story that will play with the emotions of a reader, but never seeks to trivialise events with melodrama. Ruth Druart lays out a story full of quiet moments, that allow the reader to absorb the power of her story. Of course there is drama, but it is played out against the theatre of war and never loses sight of what matters, characters whose stories keep you turning those pages, because of the power of their story ignites a deep seated emotional reaction in the heart of the reader. People, place, plot, purpose, all combined to tell a story that feels epic and yet quietly intimate.

You can by this novel from Amazon and Waterstone. But why not consider ordering from your local independent bookshop?

About the author

Ruth Druart grew up on the Isle of Wight, moving away at the age of eighteen to study psychology at Leicester University. She has lived in Paris since 1993, where she has followed a career in teaching. She has recently taken a sabbatical, so that she can follow her dream of writing full-time.

Review Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz

Twenty floors above the shimmering lights of the Hamburg docks, Public Prosecutor Chastity Riley is celebrating a birthday with friends in a hotel bar when twelve heavily armed men pull out guns, and take everyone hostage. Among the hostages is Konrad Hoogsmart, the hotel owner, who is being targeted by a young man whose life – and family –have been destroyed by Hoogsmart’s actions. With the police looking on from outside – their colleagues’ lives at stake– and Chastity on the inside, increasingly ill from an unexpected case of sepsis, the stage is set for a dramatic confrontation … and a devastating outcome for the team … all live streamed in a terrifying bid for revenge. Crackling with energy and populated by a cast of unforgettable characters, Hotel Cartagena is a searing, stunning thriller that will leave you breathless.

Review

Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz is the latest in the Chasity Riley series, caught up in a hostage situation events take a perilous turn when she develops sepsis.

Each writer has a distinctive style of writing, around which they create stories with distinct vibes. Simone Buchholz peppers her story with bold strong sentences, that suite the story that is centred around the streetwise and  flawed Chastity Riley.  Very cleverly she creates layers of tension and mounting pressure within the reader by reducing the narrative to short snappy sentences, almost poetic looking text, that creates a breathless sense of urgency and the narrative fizzles as a result.

Chasity is the perfect heroine for this tale, not your typical heroine, hers a deeply troubled life, with a history of failed relationships, which makes her feel unconventional and rebellious.  You can believe that she would land herself in this situation because trouble seems to follow her around and she is able to watch events as they swirl around her, her illness makes her feel detached from the ebb and flow of events. This adds depth to the story, it becomes a more assemble piece, which her colleagues doing all they can to bring a dangerous situation to an end and bring her to safety.  As a reader I spent more time worrying about her than anyone else, because she is such a central character and anything happening to her would be a huge emotional blow and the writer plays on that, by ramping up the tension and teasing the reader, will she survive? Obviously you will have to read the book to find out? I felt on edge at all times, wondering, worrying and it felt that a real connection was made with the story, because of the writing made me believe that all the people in the room and those outside and everything to play for.

Many novelists would have chosen to concentrate on the claustrophobic atmosphere Chasity finds herself in, but this novel works so well because the writer gives us a background that leads to the terrifying events she finds herself in. The story gains depth and as we drift in and out of the present, our anxiety grows, as well realise all that we as readers stand to lose.  So many have so much to gain and so little to lose, that you can never turn away from the growing threat of violence. My chest tightened when I fully comprehended that Simone Buchholz was a writer that delighted in putting her character in this situation that toyed with the stress levels of her readers, because in doing that she delivers a novel that you feel and absorb the real peril a much loved character is in.

You can purchase this novel from the publisher’s ebookstore, Amazon and Waterstones.


About the author

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

About the translator

Rachel Ward translates from German and French to English. Having always been an avid reader and enjoyed word games and puzzles, she discovered a flair for languages at school and went on to study Modern Languages at the University of East Anglia. She spent the third year working as a language assistant at two grammar schools in Saarbrücken, Germany. During her final year, she realised that she wanted to put these skills and passions to use professionally and applied for UEA’s MA in Literary Translation, which she completed in 2002. Her published translations include the Nea Fox series of crime novels by Amelia Ellis, and books for young people such as Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang and Red Rage by Brigitte Blobel.


Review- Dog Days by Ericka Waller

‘DOG DAYS is a Russian doll of a book that twists and tugs each outer husk,
revealing delicate and poignant inner layers…a soulful, lyrical tale that brings them – and
their dogs – together in a satisfying whole. Such a treat.’
BETH MORREY, author of SAVING MISSY

George is very angry. His wife has upped and died on him, and all he wants to do is sit in his underpants and shout at the cricket. The last thing he needs is his cake-baking neighbour Betty trying to rescue him. And then there’s the dog, a dachshund puppy called Poppy. George doesn’t want a dog – he wants a fight.

Dan is a counsellor with OCD who is great at helping other people – if only he were better at helping himself. His most meaningful relationship so far is with his labrador Fitz. But then comes a therapy session that will change his life.

Lizzie is living in a women’s refuge with her son Lenny. Her body is covered in scars and she has shut herself off from everyone around her. But when she is forced to walk the refuge’s fat terrier, Maud, a new life beckons – if she can keep her secret just a while longer…

Dog Days is a novel about those small but life-changing moments that only come when we pause to let the light in. It is about three people learning to make connections and find joy in living life off the leash.

I always know I have found a special read when I find myself reading sentences and paragraphs over and over again! It feels like I need to inhale the characters and their lives. Dog Days by Erika Waller is one of those books and it joins a very exclusive club, well my little exclusive club, it made me cry, simply because the story and the characters touched me deeply.

The characterisation is perfect and I don’t have a favourite character, just because I loved them all. George, Dan and Lizzie are all beautifully drawn.  George is grumpy, depressed, alone. Lizzie is running from a past both painful and traumatic. Dan is hiding his sexuality from family and society out of fear of rejection. When you combine them together, you have a story about the truth we carry within us, that we have yet to accept. The writer brings together these three people together to illustrate it’s not a simple thing to understand ourselves, that it takes time and often the kindness and patience of others to do so . The result is deeply moving, heart breaking, but at the same time, you feel that the lives of all three have the power to sustain a better tomorrow.

I read in another review that stated that it takes a steady hand to weave a story with so many complex characters and their canine companions, but it also takes a writer who has an intrinsic understanding of the complexities of the human heart!   Erika Waller handles it like a seasoned pro, the depth and purity of her characterisation, would lead you to think she is an author of countless novels, but this is her debut and it is stunning.  She takes all three people and creates a triangle of fragile connections, where they touch on each other’s lives often only fleetingly, yet she never loses sight of the importance of their individual voices, giving the story depth and heart.

It is a tale of paths taken, regrets that can haunt a person forever, but it never leaves you feeling bereft of hope. You are taking a journey with three deeply complex people and it is worth it. I inhaled the story over two days, set aside tasks I had promised myself I would complete, because my heart was connected to the story and I was invested in their lives. Yet then I slowed, because I didn’t want it to end! It did, of course it did and it was worth it, oh how it was worth it.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones. But why not consider buying a copy from your local independent bookshop?

About the author

ERICKA WALLER lives in Brighton with her husband, three daughters and pets. Previously, she worked as a blogger and columnist. Dog Days is the sum of everything she has learned about love, loss and the healing power of dogs.

You can follow the author on twitter @erickawaller1, Instagram @erickamary and her webpage muminthesouth.co.uk