Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald #AshMountain #HelenFitzgerald #Review #BlogTour #OrendaBooks

Ash Mountain Cover Image

Single-mother Fran returns to her sleepy hometown to care for her dying father when a devastating bush fire breaks out. A wry, bittersweet, heartbreaking disaster-noir thriller from the author of The Cry and Worst Case Scenario.

Fran hates Ash Mountain, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.
She returns to her hometown to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.
As old friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…


Some reviews are definitely harder to write than others and this one feels like a bit of a doozy. Why? Because Ash Mountain is so complex, full of so many different themes. It is both darkly funny and utterly heart breaking. The author doesn’t hold back. She writes a book full of adrenalin filled moments that raise you up so high you can barely breath. Then later crashes you down, as you struggle to come to terms with the heart-breaking reality of such a catastrophic event.

So doing it justice is quite a scary proposition.  But here goes!

When Fran returns to her childhood home to care for her frail father, she opens up memories that she would prefer to forget. As she comes to terms with past crimes and new friendships, a devastating fire threatens both her life and those of whom she cares about. Cleverly Helen Fitzgerald connects both the past and present through a dual time narrative that dovetails to a potentially devastating conclusion, as a bush fire rages through the small community of Ash Mountain.  It’s all the more affecting, because you don’t know who will survive. As the tension builds, she piles on the pressure, getting you to care more and more about characters other than Fran, so turning each page becomes like a game of chance. Will those you care about survive, can you bear to read on? Of course you read on, because doing so would feel like you were abandoning the citizens of Ash Mountain!  I couldn’t to that, I needed to know if Fran and the others survived the fire!

Character wise she gives us an ensemble of personalities all of whom contribute to this compelling story. Obviously Fran is the one the story revolves around, but when you take them as a group, you get an overwhelming picture of a town, riven with conflicts that boil just below the surface, but also friendships that are there to support Fran and help her come to terms with her past. Without them all, the story would have been less emotional, less poignant.

I admit I found it difficult to read in places, I stopped more than once, put it down and took a deep breath before I could carry on. Because Helen Fitzgerald asks you “What would you save…?” The answer may not be one that is easy to swallow and that’s what makes this book one of the most extraordinary that I have ever read.

I would like to thank the author and the publisher for the ARC of this novel in return for an honest review.

You can purchase this novel from WaterstonesAmazon or the publisher directly from their ebook store.

But why not consider ordering from your local indie bookshop.

About the author 

Helen Fitzgerald Author Pic

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cr y(2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Ash Mountain is the second title published with Orenda Books, after Worst Case Scenario. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia. She now lives in Glasgow with her husband.

You can follow the writer on twitter @

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Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten #Tsarina #EllenAlpsten #Review #BlogTour #Fiction #Review #BlogTour

Tsarina Cover

Spring 1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta has survived the brutal Russian winter in her remote Baltic village. Sold by her family into household labour at the age of fifteen, Marta survives by committing a crime that will force her to go on the run.

A world away, Russia’s young ruler, Tsar Peter I, passionate and iron-willed, has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire. Countless lives will be lost in the process.

Falling prey to the Great Northern War, Marta cheats death at every turn, finding work as a washerwoman at a battle camp. One night at a celebration, she encounters Peter the Great. Relying on her wits and her formidable courage, and fuelled by ambition, desire and the sheer will to live, Marta will become Catherine I of Russia. But her rise to the top is ridden with peril; how long will she survive the machinations of Peter’s court, and more importantly, Peter himself?



I love historical fiction because it’s not just entertaining, it can open up a world we often know little about, the past. It takes us into the lives of kings and queens, peasants and warriors! Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten takes us right through the lives of  very different people, embodying them in the story of one woman who rises from poverty and abuse to become one of the most powerful women in Russia.

You need a great story to make historical fiction grab you and take you on a rollicking great adventure into the past and this novel gives you this in spade loads. It provides us with a slice of history and a portal into the court of Peter The Great. Here we are embroiled in madness, depravity and the fear that gripped the court. Yet the writer also manages to bring to life those very powerful feelings that Russian’s had for their country and their Tsar, even when at a whim, he could destroy their worlds.

What makes this all the more addictive, is that it’s all seen through the eyes and mind, not of the Tsar, but the women who rose from the life of a peasant, to become Catherine I of Russia! The writer invokes the setting and the period, by not glossing over this often violent world Marta grows up in, the sexual violence, the exploitation of people, the cruelty, but partners it with a women, who is capable of creating from this world a life in which she too can exploit her power over those around her.

As a character the Tsarina is an accomplished piece of writing. She strides through the story in all her flawed magnificence.  She is caring and capable of passionate love, she laughs and despairs in equal fashion and it creates a character of such richness you find yourself obsessed with her every action. Ellen Alpsten has taken a figure from history and created an imposing women whose life always seemed to be lived balanced on a knife edge, like she was walking across a tightrope, always in danger from the whims of the Tsar and the wiles of other women determined to replace her.  She has a keen intelligence that will help you understand, why this women succeeded where so many failed, she outlined the passionate and often incredibly cruel Peter The Great.

Many thanks to the author and publisher for the ARC in return for an honest review. 

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones .

About the author

Ellen Alpsten Author Pic

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands. Upon graduating from the l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, she worked as a news-anchor for Bloomberg TV London. While working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work, a nap and a run. Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint, and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons, and a moody fox red Labrador. Tsarina is her debut novel.

You can follow the author on Twitter @EALpsten_Author

Tsarina BT Poster

Favourite Books Featuring LGBT characters. #LGBT+ #Fiction #Reading #Books

This list features some of my favourite books that have LGBT+ characters and also just happen  to be stunning reads.

Its great now that so many authors are not just integrating LGBT + characters into their stories, but making them the lead character. It is a positive start! Lets hope the momentum continues.

I think The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller will always be one of the greatest reading loves of my life. I simply adore it beyond measure.


Well this book absolutely has to be on this list, I love it and I always will. Tin Man is simply one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.


Next come two wonderful novels from Louise Beech. Both I Am Dust and The Lion Tamer Who Lost are superb reads.

This is the first Patrick Gale book I have read and it won’t be the last.


Yet again another author of whom I have only read the one novel and I need to rectify this, because The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, makes me want to read all her books.


The Color Purple is for me a great American classic, about hardship, suffering, survival and love.


What else needs to be said about The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain other than it is stunning.


Oh The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is still my favourite book of hers and the first one I read.


I love a good thriller and Firewatching by Russ Thomas is definately exciting.

Firewatching Cover

From the pen of T S Hunter we have the Soho Noir Series, perfectly formed novella’s full of a magnifient range of characters.

This Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone is a wonder combination, of family drama and thriller.

Dark Matter Cover

Another much loved read from Orenda publishing is Attend by West Camel. 


The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is deeply moving and heart-breaking on times, it is also a stunning depiction of love and family.



There are so many other books out there containing LGBT+ characters and if you have any favourites, please let me know and I will add them to my TBR pile.

All these books can of course be bought from Amazon and Waterstones, but why not order it from your local independent bookshop. They need our support more than ever now!





There’s No Taste Like Home ~ My Cookbook ~ by John Patridge. Guest review by Lorraine Gallagher. #TheresNoTasteLikeHome #Review #CookBook


There’s No Taste Like Home tells the remarkable story of John’s life in food and his emotional journey of grief and recovery through cooking, with every dish inspired by a personal memory, and each punctuated with stunning photography. It is cookbook with real difference and emotion – born out of his winning MasterChef menu that was inspired by his mother who he had recently lost to Alzheimer’s.

During the year leading up the MasterChef final John learnt to reconnect with his past, to grieve and to heal through cooking. There’s No Taste Like Home is a collection of heart-warming, fuss-free and budget-conscious recipes that each promise to deliver a simultaneous sense of nostalgia and comfort. From easy Breakfast Doughnuts to fun Fish & Chip Tacos to a showstopping Black Forest Gateaux there really is something to satisfy every palette and suit all occasions no matter your skillset or budget.

John has created this wonderful collection of recipes, drawing on all his favourite memories of food, menus and cooking, adding his own unique and creative twist to each dish.


Today I am incredibly lucky to welcome the wonderful Lorraine Gallagher, friend, incredibly gifted cook and baker to booksaremycwtches to review John Partridge’s cookbook There’s No Taste Like Home.  
There’s No Taste Like Home is the first cookbook by star of stage and screen, the West End legend and lovely man that is John Partridge, who was also the very worthy winner of Celebrity Masterchef 2018.   This is a gorgeous book, full of recipes that look so tempting and easy to follow that the only challenge is deciding which one to try next.
This is not just a cookbook though, before you even get to the recipes read Radcliffe Lad on the Foreward page and you will get  a taste of what’s to come.  John shares with us stories, sometimes sad and thought-provoking, but very often with a big dollop of humour, of his childhood growing up in Radcliffe near Manchester,  family mealtimes with his mum who really didn’t like cooking, his dad who introduced him to the old MGM movies and made him his first pair of tap shoes, and his big sister who is a whizz in the kitchen. He recalls moving away from home at a very young age to the Royal Ballet School, meeting his husband Jon and future in-laws, his mum’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, and his many successes, failures and struggles with addiction, all told with impressive honesty, and how cooking the food from his past helped him to handle grief, sobriety and accept that he is indeed good enough, just for being him.
There’s a vast range of recipes here that take you through Breakfast, Lunch, Tea or Dinner, Holiday Snaps, For Fancy, Afters and Pantry, there really is something for everyone to try whether you prefer sweet, savoury, snacks or full-blown banquets.  I’ve had massive success with the famous Cheese and Onion Pie, it is deliciously moreish and huge, large enough to feed an office full of people who all wanted seconds and request it for every office meeting because it’s that good!  The recipes for Carrot Cake and Spanakopita generously shared with John by his mother-in-law are a delight, thank you Mrs Tsouras. The Spanakopita in particular kept me going for lunch while being busy working from home, it’s equally delicious hot or cold.  The Tomato Porridge, yes that is tomato and porridge together in the same pan, is a revelation, especially with the Ricotta and Spinach Dumplings and is so quick and easy to make. I have never had much joy making scones, but following the Scone recipe here resulted in the most light and heavenly treats, success at last!  My next temptation is the Beetroot Salad, Halloumi Fries and Spicy Harissa Dressing and thanks to the wonder of nabbing an online shopping delivery slot, I’ll be making that in the next few days. I should also add that it’s really easy to downsize the ingredients on the recipes I’ve tried so far for smaller portions.
I really love the size of this book too, it is packed with recipes but it’s not too heavy to hold while sitting feet up on the sofa and flicking through the pages admiring the beautifully presented and ingeniously photographed food.  It feels very comfortable to hold and with the engaging layout, I’ve found myself thoroughly engrossed reading through the different sections. John explains the recipes in a very down to earth and easily understandable way, you don’t need lots of gadgets or to be an expert in the kitchen to recreate what he’s asking you to do, although I do need to find somewhere that sells a suitable silicone mould for the Tea & Biscuit Choc Ice, because I need that Afters in my life.
This is a book that shines with love, warmth, inspiration, humour  and incredible food from the first to the last page and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Go and buy it, you deserve a treat!
You can buy this superb cook book from AmazonWaterstones and also WHSmith.
Why not also consider ordering it from your favourite Indie bookshops, all of whom need our support, especially at the moment.
About the author
John Partridge is an actor, singer, and new author. He was born in Manchester in 1971, went on to train at the Royal Ballet School, Bush Davies, and Doreen Birds. He has appeared in over 18 major West End Musicals including Cats, Chicago, A Chorus Line, Starlight Express, and Tommy. While he played the role of Christian Clarke in BBBC1’s Eastenders for over 5 years.
There’s No Taste Like Home is his first cookbook following his fabulous win of Celebrity MasterChef in 2018. The recipes are inspired by his family and heritage. All the recipes in this book were cooked and photographed in the authors house, his kitchen by the author.
John also regularly shares new recipes and ideas on his twitter @mustbejp and Instagram @johnpartridgecooks if you fancy even more tempting dishes.
Published 2 April 2020

The Creak On The Stairs by Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir #TheCreakOnTheStairs #Thriller #Review #BlogTour

Creak on the Stairs Cover

An exquisitely written, disturbing, claustrophobic and chillingly atmospheric thriller, The Creak on the Stairs is the first in the electrifying FORBIDDEN ICELAND series, by one of Iceland’s most exciting new talents.


When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day …

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.



I think it is quite remarkable that an small indie publisher such as Orenda continues to publish top notch books without skipping a beat. I can always depend on them to give me a book, that catches the imagination, excites me, moves me and leaves me wanting more! The Creak On The Stairs definitely left me wanting more!

It is different from your average thriller, because not only does it value story, characterisation is paramount, allowing each characters emotions to shine off the page.  The characters in The Creak On The Stairs have foibles, make mistakes and because they are allowed to feel anger, confusion and longing, they feel real. Officer Elma is the perfect example of a character so finely drawn she inhabits the story in what feels like real time. I won’t reveal the reasons she moves back to Akranes, but it informs who she is and by the end, you understand her drive to succeed in this new role. As a character she goes on a journey and opens up to the reader, moving from this unknown entity you encounter at the beginning of the novel to the more rounded, utterly real figure, that by the end could be sitting in the room with you as you turn the pages.  Of course she is not the only character, but she draws the others around her, they drift in and out of her arc, informing her story and propelling her towards the recognition, that below the surface secrets are deadly.

The story is compelling and on times deeply emotional.  The writer deals with difficult and complex emotions and actions, weaving them into a story which seems low key, but in reality is like a volcano waiting to erupt. The layer of normality that exists in Akranes is deceptively thin and as cracks begin to appear, the secrets and lies erupt and lives will never be the same again.   The discovery of a women’s body takes us on a journey deep down below the layers of a community that appears on the surface sedate, normal, but is in fact anything but.  It makes you wonder as a reader if the perceptions you started with during the first chapters of The Creak On The Stairs are really just a delusion and for me they certainly were. The way the writer shines a light on small town life, where everyone knows each other, blows apart the notion that this would make deadly behaviour less likely, because where would the perpetrators hide? In fact she shines a light on a disturbing phenomena,  they hide in plain sight, because so many characters in this book. are either too intimidated to act, or too invested in keeping the secrets buried. For the reader the fascination comes from figuring out who falls into what group and how it affects Officer Elm’s chance of solving this case.

The Creak On The Stairs is superb. It really is a book that you should buy and read.

You can purchase this book directly from the publisher from their ebook store. Or why not consider contacting your local indie bookshop, all of whom are doing remarkable work and will post out books to you.

It can also be bought from the main online retailers Waterstones and also Amazon

I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC of this novel in return for an honest review.

About the author

Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir Author Pic

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25.  After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.

About the translator 

Victoria Cribb studied and worked in Iceland for many years. She has translated more than 25 novels from the Icelandic and, in 2017, she received the Orðstír honourary translation award for services to Icelandic literature.

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The Soul Killer by Ross Greenwood.


A murder made to look like suicide. Another that appears an accident. DI Barton investigates the tragedies that have shattered a family’s lives, but without obvious leads the case goes nowhere. Then, when the remains of a body are found, everything points to one suspect.

Barton and his team move quickly, and once the killer is behind bars, they can all breathe a sigh of relief. But death still lurks in the shadows, and no one’s soul is safe. Not even those of the detectives…

How do you stop a killer that believes life is a rehearsal for eternity, and their future is worth more than your own…?


I have been a fan of Ross Greenwood since he published his first novel and I am always excited when I hear a new one is about to be published. It’s like receiving an intriguing present through the post, that you can’t wait to open and read!

So is The Soul Killer a thrilling follow-up to The Snow Killer?

It is!

Besides being exciting to read, it is also brings back a host of characters from book one, all of whom it feels good to once again spend time with. Especially DI Barton, devoted dad, husband and police officer, because you always feel he is a match for any of the twisted killers Ross Greenwood pitches him against. I love that he is so astute and so determined to protect people, because it makes him the prefect foil to the deeply twisted, exceptionally brutal and dangerous Soul Killer.

The story is told from the point of view of both DI Barton and the killer, a dual narrative which is exceptionally well handled by Ross Greenwood. It bounces from the chaotic but loving world of DI Barton, to the cold and disturbing world of the killer. It messes with your mind, but in a way that makes for an exciting read. Thrilling in a delicious way, that leaves you feeling troubled, but quite unapologetically addicted to the story.  By weaving the narratives through two radically different mindsets, he has created in the imagination of the reader, this sense of conflict. Who do they find the most fascinating, the most  bewitching? I will admit that Ross Greenwood made me love DI Barton even more in this book, because of his humanity, but oh this killer, the twisted way his mind worked kept me turning the pages like a bat out of hell. Okay I admit I feel a little bit wrong admitting that, but it’s true, Ross Greenwood writes a perfectly crafted killer whose malevolent inclination to destroy the happiness of others made me shudder.

It is a universal truth we want our thrillers to be thrilling.  We want to feel that the killer  is a threat to our favourite characters, who are susceptible to a ticking time bomb they are not aware of and The Soul Killer plays on this. The hero’s within this novel are competent, but they are really pushed to the limit and risk losing momentum to the killer in the story and that is where the tension and angst comes from. You really don’t know the identity of the killer for a large part of the book and therefore, the police and public are not safe from opening page to the nail biting end.

The Soul Killer is another superb offering from Ross Greenwood and I am looking forward to book three and more terrifying cases featuring DI Barton.

You can purchase The Soul Killer from Amazon and Waterstones

Beside this you can also order a copy from your local indie bookshop.

About the author

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Ross Greenwood is the author of six crime thrillers. Before becoming a full-time writer he was most recently a prison officer and so worked everyday with murderers, rapists and thieves for four years. He lives in Peterborough.
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The Lonely Fajita by Abigail Mann #TheLonelyFajita #CWIPprize #BlogTour

The Lonely Fajita book cover

Breaking up is hard to do… Or the best thing that could happen to you!
It’s Elissa’s birthday, but her boyfriend hasn’t really noticed – and she’s accidentally scheduled herself a cervical smear instead of celebration drinks. Great.
Then there’s her borderline-psychotic boss, the fact she’s not making but losing money at work, and her sinking feeling she’s about to be dumped.
But Elissa will soon find out that being single doesn’t have to be lonely… And with a little help from her friends, even a girl with minus £1,000 in her account can have a lot of fun.
Hilarious and moving, this is a book you’ll want to share with all your friends. The perfect read for fans of Marian Keyes, Sophie Ranald and Holly Bourne.
Shortlisted for a 2019 Comedy Women in Print Prize

The Lonely Fajita by Abigail Mann was shortlisted for the 2019 Comedy Women in fiction price in 2019 and having read it I can see why.  Funny, tender and uplifting, it is a story about finding your place in the world, friendship and kindness. Witty throughout, littered with laugh out loud moments, it tells the story of Elissa whose life is about to enter freefall, but from this comes the hope of much better times ahead.


What I loved about Elissa and her story is that I could identify with it from chapter one. Seriously I laughed hard and forgot events around me. One of the best moments is how she talks about the jobs she had when at university, those at which she was decidedly average,  overstuffing baguettes, whereas I worked in a discount shop, where they never priced the stock and you had to memorise the prices. Eek, I just guessed and I swear the manager was very relieved when I left! It’s what makes her such a fabulous character, she is part me, part you, parts of all of us, at our most vulnerable. Elissa is funny, caring, insecure, full of self doubt and in The Lonely Fajita she is going on a journey of discover and some days that just goes better than others! It’s what gives the character such heart, such warmth and frankly makes her a joy to read about.  Because like me she doubts her contributions to most things, she felt all the more real to me and I ended up really wanting her to find a better life.

As for the story it’s all about finding her best life and how it’s not the life she had expected. Abigail Mann lit her narrative up with writing that radiated warmth and care and acknowledged that humour can come even from life’s mundane moments, from our lowest points. The humour comes from everyday occasions and we laugh with her, not at her and that makes it charming. I laughed at the mishaps she encounters, many of whom we have all lived through and that is refreshing when so much comedy is based around taking the micky out of others, making it feel cruel, whereas this feels congenial! I mean, booking her smear test on her birthday, that is so me and it made me giggle.

One of the best things about the story, is when she meets Annie and how it opens them both up to friendships and a life lived full of possibilities. They are to me each others lifelines and it makes The Lonely Fajita one of the best feel good books of 2020, just at a time when we all need that.

You can purchase this novel from Waterstones and Amazon or from your local indie bookshop.

I would like to thank the publisher and the author for the ARC in return for an honest review.

About the author

Abigail Mann web

Abigail Mann is a comedy writer living in London and surviving on a diet of three-shot coffee, bourbons, and vegetarian sausage rolls. She was born and brought up in Norfolk, which she says is to blame for the sardonic humour that runs through her novels. Abigail was the runner-up in 2019’s Comedy Women in Print award for The Lonely Fajita: her first novel.
You can find out lots more about her from her Author Website ( or her Facebook page (@abigailmannauthor), Instagram (@abigailemann) or on Twitter (@abigailemann).
About the Comedy Women in Print Prize

The Comedy Women In Print (CWIP) prize was set up by actress, writer and comedian Helen Lederer and is a new comedy literary award now into its 2nd year. Open to published authors and unpublished writers alike, with a new category for published, self-published or micro-published graphic novels this year, it looks for evidence of wit ranging from irony to absurdity offering laugh out loud moments and a sense of connection, truth and recognition to the reader. The 2020 shortlist will be announced on 8 June.

For more on CWIP, visit the CWIP website (, our Facebook Page (@CWIPprize), or find us on Instagram (@CWIPprize) or on Twitter (@CWIPprize).

About Helen Lederer
Helen Lederer is a much-loved actor, author and comedian who has appeared in the BBC comedy Naked Video, Saturday Night Live, The Young Ones, French and Saunders and Bottom with Rik Mayall. She’s perhaps best known as Catriona ‒ the dippy journo in the TV series of Absolutely Fabulous and more recently the movie, Rich Aunt Ruby in the Horrid Henry movie, midwife Mariam Andrews in Hollyoaks and Celebrity Big Brother where she almost appeared normal. Her comedy novel Losing it was nominated for the PG Wodehouse comedy literary award. Last year Helen set up the Comedy Women in Print prize in response to the lack of exposure for female comedy writing, and as a way of celebrating fresh and established talent.

For more, visit Helen’s Website or Facebook Page, or find her on Instagram or on Twitter.

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My Top 50 Historical Books. Part 5 #HistoricalFiction #Reading

In these difficult times we all need something to focus on, positives in our lives and for me one of those things is books and book blogging. So I’m going to press ahead and allow books to help me cope in the weeks ahead.
Today I’m looking at some of my all time favourite historical fiction novels, with a list of my top 50 favourite books in this genre. I’m going to break it down into five separate blog posts, so you don’t get bored before you reach the bottom.
So here we go with part 5 of my favourite historical fiction novels.
As with previous posts in this series they are not listed in any particular order!

1 The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier 


Though I love all of this authors books, this is without doubt one of my favourites. Powerful and an absolute joy to read.

2 The Invention Of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd


I studied American History at University and have a deep abiding fascination about it’s history and Ilove any novels relating to this.  Set in the Deep South this The Invention of Wings is a stunning story about a very dark period in this countries turbulent past.

3 Longbourn by Jo Baker 


Set below stairs in the house where Jane Austen set Pride and Prejudice, this for me was a powerful read about loyalty, love and social norms. Wonderful read.

4 Instruction for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell 


This is a powerful family drama from a writer of immense talent.

5 Winter In Madrid by C J Sansom 


When you think about the author C J Sansom most name his stunning Shardlake series! Here is an equally powerful and intriguing read about wartime Spain.

6 The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl

The Courier aw.indd

This is a stunning portrayal of loss and betrayal and the first book by this author that I had read. I have since gone on to read more and his ability to write intense, atmospheric thrillers makes him a must read author.

7 To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To kill a mockingbird

Surely this qualifies as one of the greatest novels ever written! For me, it is truly a classic that is not only of its period, but as relevant today as the day it was written.

8 Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline


I knew nothing about the orphan trains until I read this novel. It’s an emotional read and one that has stuck with me for a long time.

9 The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cromwell 


I enjoyed this when it was adapted for TV, but the books for me as so much better!

10 Shogun by James Clavell 


It has been a long time since I read this book, but I can still remember how addictive it was, how the writer evoked a land and history I knew nothing about.

Well that is the end of my series of posts about some of my favourite historical reads. You can buy these from the usual online sites such as Amazon and Waterstones, but why not give your local indie a ring and order from them?





My Wonderful Reading Year- April 2020.

Welcome to a series of posts that chart my wonderful reading year, 2020. I don’t have the time to review all the books I read and wanted I way to celebrate each one. So I’m going to do a monthly post of all the wonderful books I’ve reading that month. Short snappy reviews, simple comments about why I enjoyed them so much.

It is a scary world out there at the moment and my reading is suffering, but I keeping it up and hoping my reading mojo doesn’t disappear totally.

Sending Cwtches to all those that need one.

So welcome to my celebration of my reading in April 2020.

Well my first book finished this April was Doing Time by Jodi Taylor. I thought it was a very enjoyable read and I would certainly read more of her books.


Next came the stunning You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr. I already know this book will feature in my all time favourite reads this year.

You will be safe here cover

Following this was a very clever psychological thriller, All In Her Head by Nikki Smith.


The next read was the non-fiction Rhubarb Rhubarb by Mary Jane Paterson and Jo Thompson. The correspondence between the gardener and the cook, is heart-warming and uplifting. I adored it.


Then came The Binding by Bridget Collins. Absolutely stunning, it has jumped into my favourite top tens books for this year so far and I think it will be hard to knock it off that list.

The Binding cover

The Bloodline Will by AB Morgan was deliciously delightful read, full of wonderful characters and an exciting story line.

The Bloodline Will by A B Morgan

This months reading included the stunning I Am Dust by Louise Beech. Another incredible read from an author who has an innate sense of place, emotion, characterisation and story telling. This novel is something special.

I Am Dust Jacket

Next came a darkly comedic novel called Death of A painter by Matthew Ross. If your looking for a thriller that gives you something different from the usual gruff policeman led drama, I would highly recommend this new book from Red Dog Press.


Well that was my reading year for April 2020. I’m not going to lie, I had days when my reading mojo disappeared, but it has still got me through some difficult days! Here is to a great reading month in May and hopefully better days for us all.







When We Fall By Carolyn Kirby #WhenWeFall #CarolynKirby #NoExitPress


England, 1943. Lost in fog, pilot Vee Katchatourian is forced to make an emergency landing where she meets enigmatic RAF airman Stefan Bergel, and then can’t get him out of her mind.
In occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman hosts German officers in her father’s guest house, while secretly gathering intelligence for the Polish resistance. Mourning her lover, Stefan, who was captured by the Soviets at the start of the war, Ewa is shocked to him on the street one day.
Haunted by a terrible choice he made in captivity, Stefan asks Vee and Ewa to help him expose one of the darkest secrets of the war. But it is not clear where everyone’s loyalties lie until they are tested…
Published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day and based on WWII war atrocity the Katyn massacre, When We Fall is a moving story of three lives forever altered by one fatal choice.


When, When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby popped through my letterbox I admit I was both excited and thrilled to be trusted with a review copy of this novel. Having read the authors first book, which I absolutely loved, I couldn’t wait to read this story, about three lives forever changed by one pivotal moment in time.

When We Fall is an intensely moving and powerful read, one that refuses to be put aside for the everyday things in life, like the hovering, eating or drinking! These tasks might keep you functioning, but books like this not only feed your soul, they bring to light events history has tried to hide, buried in the mists of time.

Carolyn Kirby weaves her story in a respectful and moving way around events that took place in the Second World War, the Katyn Massacre. She gives us a story that though emotional,  draws back from being mawkish, for these moments deserve a story that is compelling, acting like clarion call to us all, to remember so many lives were lost. I felt drawn to the story, because her writing enticed me in, teased out each moment, until the puzzle around the terrible choice Stefan made, the dark secret that will come to define them all, is laid bare before us. My heart was broken into fragments, shattered I thought beyond repair.

It is a splendid feeling when a story causes such an emotional reaction in a reader and Carolyn Kirby gave me that, while delivering a narrative of such searing honesty that I feel honoured to be asked to review it. The tale it tells is powerful, because the events around it are so shocking and so it deserves the gravitas that Carolyn Kirby injects into the story. The tension never ebbs as the drama propels you forward to an end I wasn’t sure I was ready for, but I kept on reading, because not knowing felt worse, than the emotional heartache I felt certain I was headed for. I embraced it all because she made me want to.

The characters are exquisitely drawn, in particular Stefan with whom I was fascinated. I was never really sure of where his loyalties lay and if he could be trusted by either Vee or Ewa, let alone me as the reader. He was an enigma, so much so I felt on edge every time he appeared in the story. Stefan was the linchpin around whom the stories of the two women revolved  and though on times I mistrusted him, at each stage of the story I always wanted to know if he was good at his core.

Ewa and Vee are both strong female characters, the type who stride into their futures, not in Stefan’s shade, but his equal. I loved how they were given there own very defined role in the story, each connected to Stefan, but not shaped by their feelings for him. Women often struggled for recognition during the war and Carolyn Kirby, uses both of them to inform this part of her narrative. Both Vee the pilot and Ewa the resistance fighter perfectly illustrate that complex contradiction women lived with at this time! Expected to be feminine while being used to fill men’s roles, but always reminded that should never expect to maintain this perilous equality once the war ended. Ewa and Vee both want more, especially Vee, whose passion for flying is no less than the men around her, it marks her out as a individual of complex feelings that shape and explain the path she takes.

I love that Carolyn, gave me two female characters of such richness and depth!

When We Fall takes a true story and creates around it a tale of passion, love, loyalty and a quest for justice. Within its pages is a sparkling work of immense breath. Gripping and electrifying in equal measure, the research that obviously went into it, informs the reader of its darkest moments. It is a historical thriller and because at its heart is a shadowy truth, it is all the more powerful and effecting.

You can purchase When We Fall from Amazon and Waterstones. But why not give your local Indie bookshop a call and order it from them. These wonderful places have kept going throughout everything and they desperately need our support.

You can join the on-event for the launch of this novel on the 7th of May by following this LINK.

About the author

Carolyn Kirby Author Pic

Carolyn Kirby’s debut novel The Conviction of Cora Burns was published in March 2019 by No Exit Press the UK and Dzanc Books in North America. The book has received great praise from reviewers and journalists. The Sunday Mirror called it “a great historical novel with bite,” and it was chosen by The Times as an historical fiction book of the month. The novel went on to be long-listed for the Historical Writers Association debut crown award.

You can follow the author on Twitter @novelcarolyn

When We Fall BT Poster