Death of A Painter by Matthew Ross. #Review #RedDogPress #MatthewRoss #DeathOfAPainter

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IN THE BUILDING GAME TIME IS MONEY AND MONEY IS EVERYTHING. UNFORTUNATELY FOR MARK POYNTER, HE’S RUN OUT OF MONEY AND HE’S FAST RUNNING OUT OF TIME.

When Mark Poynter discovers a murder on his worksite all of his financial problems suddenly seem a lot closer to home: was this a warning his debts are overdue?

Suspected of being the killer and worried at being the intended victim, the murder only makes Mark’s money problems worse, leading him to turn to the local villain, Hamlet, who has his own unique repayment plan in mind for Mark.

When two more deaths plunge him even further into debt, Mark finds himself faced with a choice – help the police and clear his name or help the villain and clear his debt.

Set in the Medway Towns on the grey margins of criminality, where no job’s too big, no dodge’s too small …

Death Of A Painter is the first in a new series of darkly comic crime fiction novels featuring the beleaguered builder Mark Poynter, aided and hindered in equal measure by his trusted crew of slackers, idlers and gossips, and the lengths they go to just to earn a living.

Review

Not only do I have go to authors, I have go to publishers, whose books I know will always be superb reads. Orenda is one and Red Dog Press is another! I just know that they carefully select books so that only really great ones are released out in our wonderful reading world.

I knew that on picking up Death Of A Painter I would be guaranteed hours of great reading and I was proved right.

So what was so great about this new novel. I loved the hero Mark Poynter, who is not the predictable police officer, he is a builder, who gets caught up in the tribulations of a friend, who ends up dead in the middle of one of his building projects. Now that it feels different and makes for a more unusual caste of characters.  He is flawed, debt ridden, but generally a good man and I found myself liking him and wanting to spend lots of time with him.

We read loads of thrillers littered with heros, who are either gruff men, or superhuman police officers and I love them, but it’s refreshing to spend time with a everyday character faced with a nightmare scenario of people dying around him and still having time to do a few building jobs, despite rather a lot of bruises. I know this might sound farfetched, but crimes exist closer than we think and just because we are not part of that world, we don’t see it, but Matthew Ross brings it to us, through a character who could be any of us and that makes it very thrilling indeed.

The story is littered with moments of excitement, dark humour and ordinary days turned upside down by death, debt and desperation. It balances them all out, so that you have a story that feels compulsive and entertaining. Especially at the moment, I don’t won’t relentless gloom, I want something that makes me laugh sometimes, even if that is in unexpected places and Death Of A Painter gave me that. I giggled, especially at poor Mark having to work with his sometimes work shy uncle, who had me in stitches over a rather pink painting job.

It was nice that the author, created a storyline that felt uplifted between Mark’s efforts to clear his own name, solve his debt problems and literally stay out of prison and out of hospital. Even the love interest was a pleasant and fun element to add into the story. Nothing ever goes easy for poor old Mark, but you can’t help rooting for him. I spent hours hoping he would get to the end in one piece, avoiding the attentions of the police and local criminals, because though his past is littered with past mistakes, we all want the hero to save the day and his own life!

Death Of A Painter is a fun, often dark, but always an entertaining read. I look forward to Mark’s next adventure.

You can purchase this novel from directly from the Red Dog Press and Amazon.

You can also order this novel from your local independent bookshops.

About the author

Matthew Ross was born and raised in the Medway Towns, England. He still lives in Kent with his Kiwi wife, his children and a very old cat.

He was immersed in the building industry from a very early age helping out on his father’s sites during school holidays before launching into his own career at 17. He’s worked on projects ranging from the smallest domestic repair to £billion+ infrastructure, and probably everything in between.

A lifelong comedy nerd, he ticked off a bucket-list ambition and tried his hand at stand-up comedy. Whilst being an experience probably best forgotten (for both him and audiences alike) it ignited a love for writing, leading to various commissions including for material broadcast on BBC Radio 4 comedy shows.

Matthew moved into the longer format of novel writing after graduating from the Faber Academy in London in 2017.

Death Of A Painter’ is his first novel and the first in a planned series of stories featuring Mark Poynter and his associates.

Matthew enjoys reading all manner of books – especially crime and mystery; 80s music; and travelling and can’t wait for the next trip to New Zealand to spend time with family and friends.

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The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. Book Covers As Art #Bookcoversasworksofart.

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Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

This cover is for me a perfect example of book covers as works of art. It sums up the story of this couples journey from the depths to despair to the finding of a new life, by walking the coastal paths of this country. Along the way they become much closer to the wildlife that inhabits this temperamental environment and the cover brings that to life. The soaring birds, the waves against the cliff edge, they themselves on the path, is powerful and moving. It was the cover that attracted me to the book and the story within is incredibly moving and life affirming.

You can order this book from both Amazon and Waterstones or why not speak to your local indie, many of whom are still posting out books. They are the stalwarts of the book industry and they need our support more than ever!

About the author 

Since travelling the South West Coastal Path, Raynor Winn has become a regular long-distance walker and writes about nature, homelessness and wild camping. She lives in Cornwall. The Salt Path was her first book and became a Sunday Times bestseller in hardback and paperback. It was shortlisted for numerous prizes including the Costa, the Wainwright and the Stanfords Travel Writing awards.

My Top 50 Historical Books. Part 4 #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 4 of my favourite historical fiction novels.
As with previous posts in this series they are not listed in any particular order!

1 The Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles by Rosemary Sutcliff

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These books will always be very special to me. As a child they introduced me to the historical novel and started my fascination with Roman History. I loved them then and I still adore them.

2 Little by Edward Carey 

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I found this book to be utterly fascinating and very emotional as well. I have to thank the Cardiff Waterstones book club for introducing this novel to me.

3 The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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It has been a while since I read The Secret Life of Bees and yet I remember the profound effect it had on me to, which is a mark of a wonderful novel.

4 The Island by Victoria Hislop 

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This was the first book I read of this author and I have been a devoted fan since.

5 The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

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Tracy Chevalier is another author whose books I automatically buy, because I know they will always be wonderful reads. I love both her writing style and the gentle tone of her novels.

6 The Thread by Victoria Hislop

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There is something about this author’s books that make them compelling reading. The historical detail, the voice she gives to stories that might otherwise be buried. I recently found a copy of one of her books I hadn’t read and I was shocked, because I seriously thought I had read them all.

7 The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

 

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I loved that this was a story about those who collect and save stories, beside having a thrilling mystery at it’s heart.

8 Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier 

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I love all the authors books, but this is one of particular favourites. I had no real idea of the role of women in early scientific develops and this book taught me so much, wrapped up in wonderful story.

9 The Taming of The Queen by Philppa Gregory 

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For me no list of favourite historical novels is complete with a novel from this author.

10 The Devil In Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

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I loved the setting of this book and how life within the workhouse felt claustrophobic and so dangerous.

All these books can be purchased from Amazon and also Waterstones, but why not consider ordering from your locally Indie bookshop. Many are still selling books online and posting them out.

 

 

 

I Am Dust by Louise Beech. #IAmDust #OrendaBooks

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When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of eerie events haunts the new cast, in a bewitching, beguiling and terrifyingly dark psychological thriller…

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything. And Chloe has been watching…

Review

For anyone that has kindly taken the time to read my reviews, they will know that I am a massive fan of Louise Beech’s writing. She is an accomplished writer, with an innate sense of place, emotion, characterisation and story telling. Never resting on her laurels, with each book she pushes herself to write evermore accomplished novels and I Am Dust is her finest to date. You can’t pigeon hole her writing, she crosses genres with ease and has produced a book that is emotionally charged, thrilling, unsettling and utterly compelling.

From the moment I started I Am Dust I knew it was something special, deeply special.

The atmosphere seems to lift off the page and settle over the reader like a blanket, it wrapped me in the story and left me unable to settle until I had finished it. Those scenes set in Chloe Dee’s past are utterly mesmerising and eerily real, for this book is part thriller, but also part ghost story. Scenes in both her childhood and as an adult, tie the two half’s of the story together perfectly. The dual time narratives coexisting until they combine in an ending, that left me with a book hangover of almost unbearable proportions. Not for a moment does it falter, as Louise Beech creates timelines, teasing out the connections between them, until my nerves where frayed and it felt like my heart was skipping a beat, waiting for a conclusion I was not sure my heart was ready for. We all place our trust in a writer to play on our emotions, well, in I Am Dust, it’s like being on an emotional roller coaster! One moment your excited, exhilarated even, then your sad and emotionally drained, on the edge on what feels bearable. Creating a story that causes such an reaction is the mark of how special Louise Beech’s writing is.

Narrative and story fall flat though, if the characters that fill them are one dimensional! There are no worries about that. Chloe fills the story with a tangible presence. I could easily imagine that she could walk off the page and sit next to me, so real did she feel as I was reading.  Her motivations, shaped by her past, inform the decisions and actions of her present.  She is both light and dark, neither perfect or too imperfect. Her pain, her need to be loved and recognised for who she or could still become, made her feel all consuming. I felt both her pain, her anger, her vulnerability. I felt like Louise Beech had taken bits of all of us and written them into Chloe, so each could look into the characters eyes and understand all that she is. Her disappointments mirroring ours, her joy reflecting the best of times, her anger borne out of all the times we felt let down or hurt by the actions of others.

Few writers apart from Louise Beech can affect me in the way she does, for she writes from the heart, her passion cascading from each page, as she creates a story which compels you to read on.  Don’t expect from her the mundane, books that follow a set pattern, do expect to cry, to laugh, to feel emotions both raw and painful. Most of all expect the unexpected and you will then know you have a writer whose books will forever haunt you. I Am Dust is going into my top ten books of 2020 and though there is a strong field of contenders for this year already, I feel sure this novel will sit amongst them all with accomplished ease.

 

You can purchase this novel from AmazonWaterstones and directly from the publisher through it’s ebook store.

You can also support your local indie bookshop by ordering from them. Many are delivering by post and need our support at this difficult time. 

About the author

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Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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My Top 50 historical books. Part 3 #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 3 of my favourite historical fiction novels.
As with previous posts in this series they are not listed in any particular order!

1 The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber 

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For me this is one of the classics in this genre, beautifully written with a story so addictive, you become lost in a world so rich and complex that time outside the book, stops existing for those precious few hours of reading.

2 Dissolution by C J Sansom 

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This whole series of books set in Tudor England are stunning and rightly much loved by readers, including me. I adore the writing, the story and the way he brings a much featured period to life with searing clarity and intelligence.

3 The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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This was a deeply affecting and telling story around life in the American South under Jim crow laws. It is an emotional and honest read, that should be read by all that love historical literature.

4. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson 

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Oh how I loved this book. I adored it, the complex storyline, the power of the writing, the characters, so perfect in so many ways.

5 The House At Riverton by Kate Morton 

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Another one of my favourite writers in this genre. This was a splendid example of a highly enjoyable read, as all her books are. I had so many pleasurable hours reading it.

6 The Paying Guests by Sarah Walters

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This is the only Sarah Waters book that I have read, which feels shameful, because she is an incredible writer and I intend to put that right soon.

7 The Taxidermists Daughter by Kate Mosse

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I’m a big fan of this writer and would automatically buy any book she writes! The gothic feel of The Taxidermists Daughter gave it an added sense of tension and I felt swept away by the story.

8 All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer 

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This is an incredibly powerful read. I was captivated by the story about innocence caught up in the nightmare of WW2.

9 The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor. 

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A superb historical crime mystery that read like a dream.

10 The Lie by Helen Dunmore

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What to say about this book? Only that it is stunning! The language, the story, the characters are all utterly and beautifully perfect.

All these books can be purchased from Amazon and also Waterstones, but why not consider ordering from your locally Indie bookshop. Many are still selling books online and posting them out. 

 

 

 

The Bloodline Will by A B Morgan #Thriller #TheBloodlineWill #SecondChanceInvestigationsBook 2

The Bloodline Will by A B Morgan

He made a mistake, and for the sake of his future career, investigative reporter Konrad Neale must apologise in person to Ella Fitzwilliam.
Detained under section in a secure forensic unit, she doesn’t foresee a bright future. And she despises Konrad for exploiting her and exaggerating the truth about what she really did.
All in the name of journalism
However, when he spots famous recluse Abigail Nithercott in the same facility, he cannot resist the chance to scoop the next big story.
But must use Ella to uncover the dark Nithercott family secret.
Blood. Thicker than water, it spills…
Some family trees have to die.

Review

The Bloodline Will by AB Morgan is a super thriller, with top notch characters and a story that will have you turning the pages at a rapid rate of knots. The follow-up to Death by Indulgence, it features some of my favourite characters Ella Fitzwilliam and Konrad Neale, both of whom I could happily read about all the time.

So what makes this book so special and such a great read. It has the perfect combination of a thrilling storyline, likeable lead characters and a deeply disturbing foe.  When we first join Ella she is in a secure forensic unit, where she is visited by a shame faced Konrad Neale wanting to put right past mistakes. From there they join forces to unearth a dark and troubling secret that plagues one of Konrad’s nemesis.

The story slowly unwinds as they work together and I loved the way it grew organically and how the writer slowly dropped in clues to what was going on. This kept me hooked and I found myself so wound up in the story, I forgot to think about all the things currently worrying me. The story being so addictive I didn’t won’t to put it down, so I didn’t, I read and read and read, until I reached a climax, that left me feeling both shocked and exhilarated, because the writer allowed the characters to inhibit the story and peppered it with countless missteps that had me fooled on countless occasions.

Ella’s journey from the traumatised figure we left in Death by Indulgence is allowed to grow and develop. The writer’s background in mental health, enabled her to portray Ella as a very three demenional character, not the sterotypical personality seen in so many novels. Here she is full of light and self awareness and it made me love her so much.  I wanted to see her flourish, acknowledging her fragility, but also the strength she has. AB Morgan gave me this. What happens to Ella, I will leave you to find out, its a thrilling ride, I promise. But she will always find a way into your heart, there is no way of avoiding that.

You can purchase The Bloodline Will by AB Morgan from Amazon

About the author 

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Alison Morgan: A former mental health nurse, country bumpkin at heart, married to a hairy biker, fascinated by words, loves live music and she has an innate ability to make people smile and laugh.

Her crime thrillers have a strong cast of characters helping to define the style and pace of each story inspired by her life and career as a Psychiatric Nurse, and her fascination with the extremes of human behaviour.

AB Morgan is the critically acclaimed author of A Justifiable Madness, Divine Poison, The Camera Lies and Stench.

The author can be followed on Twitter : @AliMorgan2304 and her website http://www.abmorgan.co.uk

The Bloodline Will

You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr

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A beautiful and heart-breaking story set in South Africa where two mothers – a century apart – must fight for their sons, unaware their fates are inextricably linked.

Orange Free State, 1901. At the height of the Boer War, Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred can only watch as the British burn their farm. The polite invaders cart them off to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp promising you will be safe here.

Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider who just wants to be left alone with his Harry Potter books and Britney, his beloved pug. Worried he’s turning out soft, his Ma and her new boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they ‘make men out of boys.’ Guaranteed.

The red earth of the veldt keeps countless secrets whether beaten by the blistering sun or stretching out beneath starlit stillness. But no secret can stay buried forever.

Review

You Will Be Safe Here is an utter triumph!

I want to leave this review exactly at this point, because I’m scared that I can’t do it the justice it deserves.  To give it less, would be an injustice to Damian Barr’s stunning debut.

Reading has been a life long passion from the moment a dedicated teacher took aside a child who struggled to concentrate and created a devoted bibliophile. It has been books such as You Will Be Safe Here, which from that point have lit up my reading world. Stories, such as that of sixteen year old Willem, that have created within me a reminder, as if one was needed of why books and reading nourish my soul and keep lit the love for books that teacher instilled in me.

Damian Barr has written a moving story that tilts the world on its axis and reminds us all, to question the assumptions we have of our past and create a fairer truth from the forgotten struggle of others. With the story of Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred, it acknowledges the actions of the British and the horrifying reality of the concentration camps that were set up and in which thousands died.  Yet this is not a story that left me as a reader laden with heartbreak and guilt, because it also uplifts you and heals you. From the darkness the writer has created a story of hope, of the strength of two women joined across the centuries and a boy called Willem.  In You Will Be Safe Here, the writer evokes the horror of the concentration and modern training camps and yet also manages to celebrate the human capacity for kindness and difference.

For me the character of Willem is a shining light. He makes this story one about love, as much as it is about facing the realities of the darker side of human nature. His differences are his strength, for they are what makes him precious and why sending him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they promise is to ‘make men out of boys’ is such a tragedy. One that continues even today in South Africa and why Barr’s novel is of such importance, he gives these boys a voice and shatters the silence around the brutality of abuse. As a character, his essential humanity, caused me to fall head over heels in love with this honesty and vulnerability.  Just as in the narrative set in 1901, there is also a parallel between the story of the sons in You Will Be Safe Here, both seem to stand for the essential innocence of our children, if they are allowed to flourish and are not crushed by doctrine and cruelty.

There is a sinuous feel to the writing, characterised by a series of graceful curving motions, as he propels the reader along, that darkness can be pushed back, by the light of goodness and a determination not to accept cruelty and ignorance.

If you are looking for a book that creates a powerful narrative, written with a understanding of human nature, then You Will Be Safe Here needs to be the next book you buy and read. It is special in ways I don’t have the skill to adequately explain, but I promise you, it is a compelling and compassionate read.  It marks the beginning of a career in fiction writing that will see Damian Barr become of our nations most celebrated writers.

You can purchase this novel from AmazonWaterstones and your local independent book shops, many of whom are still taking delivery requests online and over the phone.

About the author

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Damian Barr is an award-winning writer and columnist. Maggie & Me, his memoir about coming of age and coming out in Thatcher’s Britain, was a BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’, Sunday Times ‘Memoir of the Year’ and won the Paddy Power Political Books ‘Satire’ Award and Stonewall Writer of the Year Award. Damian writes columns for the Big Issue and High Life and often appears on BBC Radio 4. He is creator and host of his own Literary Salon that premieres work from established and emerging writers. You Will Be Safe Here is his debut novel. Damian Barr lives in Brighton. You can follow him on Twitter @Damian_Barr

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All In Her Head by Nikki Smith #PsychologicalThriller #Review

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Her life is a pack of lies. But what if she is the liar?

Alison is more alone than she’s ever been. She is convinced that her ex-husband Jack is following her. She is certain she recognises the strange woman who keeps approaching her at work.
She knows she has a good reason to be afraid. But she can’t remember why.
Then the mention of one name brings a whole lifetime of memories rushing back in.
Alison feels like she’s losing her mind . . . but it could just lead her to the truth.

Firstly I have to say a massive thank you to the author Nikki Smith and Anne Cater for their patience. This review was supposed to go live on 9th April, but I had got behind in my reading. Thank you both for your support.

It is still unsual for me to find a thriller that feels different, that catches me unawares, that when I finish it, it leaves me feeling both surprised and unnerved. All In Her Head made me feel all of this and I sat back when I had finished and thought wow, now that is a thriller that left me feeling shacken and flustered.

It is a superb insight into a damaged mind, one that has turned in on itself, both to protect itself and hide from memories that could destroy a carefully construed life. The mind is a wonderful thing, capable pf protecting us from trauma and heartbreak, but in doing so it buries our real selves and Nikki Smith takes this and creates a story of incredible complexity. Multi layered and intricate she takes you the reader on a journey through a mind that is shattered and slowly, ever so deliberately, she deceives you, sending you down one way alleys, leaving you as confused as Alison. It feels good to be mislead and confused, because it means the writer has done her job, she has created moments of deception, that propel you forward through the story, until finally she decides it is time to reveal the truth. It slowly sank into my mind, that what I had been reading was a skilled take on a novel about lies, buried and forgotton, that once revealed, can either crush us or bring a sense of relief. I leave it to you, to decide which is the case in All In Her Head, but I promise it will be worth it.

Without great characterisation even a well conceived plot can fall flat, here in Alison and her husband Jack, we have a pair of perfectly damaged, fragile personalities that inhabit the story with a sense of unease. I found as a pair, they created the perfect balance. They are well rouneded and utterly believeable in the way they reacted to a life suddenly shattered. I believed in both their love for each other and their need discover the truth behind the events that envelope them. Alison is utterly perfect, I became lost in her story and the intricate layers of her search to reclaim the memories that seem just out of reach. As a character she wormed her way under my skin and I felt a need to see the journey with her, to the end, no matter what ending that was.

All In Her Head is a complex and exciting thriller and one that will envelope you in a story that tricks your heart and your mind.

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

About the author 

Nikki Smith Author

Nikki studied English Literature at Birmingham University before pursuing a career in finance, working in a variety of different companies including an investment bank and a trampoline park. She always had a passion for writing and in 2017 she had a ‘now or never’ moment and applied for a Curtis Brown Creative 3 month writing course which she absolutely loved. Later that year she had a short story published in the Writer’s Forum Magazine, and submitted the opening chapters of her novel to a competition where she won the opportunity to be mentored by the author Amanda Reynolds. She lives near Guildford with her husband, two daughters and a very friendly Burmese cat called Saffi.

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Rhubarb Rhubard – A Correspondence between a Hopeless Gardener and a Hopeful Cook by Mary Jane Patterson and Jo Thompson

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Rhubarb Rhubarb collects the witty, wide-ranging correspondence between Leiths-trained cook Mary Jane Paterson and award-winning gardener Jo Thompson. Two good friends who found themselves in a perfect world of cupcakes and centrepieces, they decided to demystify their own skills for one another: the results are sometimes self-deprecating, often funny, and always enlightening.
Jo would find herself one day panicking about what to cook for Easter lunch: a couple of emails with Mary Jane and the fear subsided, and sure enough, a delicious meal appeared on the table. Meanwhile, Jo helped Mary Jane combat her irrational fear of planting bulbs by showing how straightforward the process can be.
The book is full of sane, practical advice for the general reader: it provides uncomplicated, seasonal recipes that people can make in the midst of their busy lives, just as the gardening tips are interesting, quick and helpful for beginners. Mary Jane shares secrets and knowledge gathered over a lifetime of providing fabulous food for friends and family, while Jo’s expertise in beautiful planting enables the reader to have a go at simple schemes with delightful results.

Review

There is something deeply special about this book! I identify with both the hopeless gardener and the hopeful cook on the front cover, though I should first confess that I am somewhat hopeless at both. My garden survives despite of me and my cooking, well the less said about that the better. So reading this joyful book, gave me both heart and hope that I can one day achieve some level of competence in both.

Wise words were in the correspondence from gardener to cook, I particularly connected with “seems to me that what stops me baking is sheer terror, everything looks so daunting when presented in a book….” oh god this is so me! I have cookbooks, but they scare me rigid! Yet the patient advice within Rhubarb Rhubarb made me feel at ease and the delicious recipes within and the book with clear no nonsense instruction where simply brilliant.

It’s the warmth of the correspondence between both that gave me a sense of peace, the humour that shines from each page, gave me a much needed lift and left me feeling a sense of gratitude to them both.  I smiled at the advice about growing hydrangeas, which just as in the book are the mainstay of my garden, safe largely from my inexperienced hands. While I identified with the cooks statement that I am often too disorganised to do it as well as the gardener herself, I loved her honesty and it reminded me, that gardening might not be her forte, but cooking is and that is where her strengths lie.

Between the two, gardener and cook, this book reminded me that we all have our strengths in life and by sharing them with others, in correspondence as in Rhubarb Rhubarb, we are gifting others a precious gift. Both Mary Jane Paterson and Jo Thompson did this for each other and through this book, with us.

Everyone should buy it, not just for themselves but for those they love. It is not just a book about gardening and cooking, it’s an ode to friendship, kindness and the joy of sharing.

You can purchase this book from Amazon

Mary Jane Paterson trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine, then worked as a cook, including at the English Gardening School. Her first culinary adventure was documented in her mother Jill Lowe’s novel Yadav: A Roadside Love Story. Jo Thompson is one of the UK’s leading garden designers, renowned for her exquisite planting and innate sense of place. Jo’s Wedgwood Garden won a gold medal at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show, and she has won numerous other awards including several Chelsea golds. She also lectures and writes for the Sunday Times. @gardendesigner1/@jothompsongarden About the authors

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My top 50 historical books. Part 2 #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 2 of my favourite historical fiction novels.

As with part 1 they are not listed in any particular order!

1 Circe by Madeline Miller 

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I was very nervous about reading this the second novel by Madeline Miller, because I love The Song of Achilles so much. I need not have been, it was powerful and stunning.

2 Wake by Madeline Miller

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For me this is one of the most emotive books about the effects WW1 had on those on the home front.  

3 Washington Black by Esi Edugyan 

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This was another book club choice and a resounding success. It is at it’s heart a utterly fabulous historical adventure story, peppered with wonderful characters and just a tiny hint of fantasy. 

4 The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

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I am a sucker for a bit of gothic historical fiction and this is one of the best. Full of oodles of tension that flows off the page like fog rolling over the landscape.  

5 Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop

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I love all this authors books and so I was thrilled to be asked to review this one! I thought the story was powerful, emotional and full of stunning historical details. 

6 Goldon Hill by Francis Spufford 

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This book takes you back to colonial America and is full of wonderful characters and a compelling mystery. 

7 Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

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This book is simply stunning! The story winds gently just like the river in the book, but the mystery at it’s heart feels as dangerous as the undercurrents of the waterway around which the story is centred.

8 The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

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Just like Wake, The Photographer of the Lost looks at the effect of WW1 had on survivors and those on the home front. It is a masterful piece of story telling and deeply moving.  If you have any interest in novels set during this time, than this book should be on your list of must read books. 

9 The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby  

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There are many things to love about this novel, the main one being Cora herself, troubled, disturbed even, your not sure if you meant like her or not, but you will never forget her, for she is intriguing and utterly absorbing in every way. 

10 The Muse by Jessie Burton 

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I had that nervous feeling again on reading The Muse by Jessie Burton as with Circe, having loved the Miniaturist so much! Again there was no reason to worry, this was an exhilarating read and a superb second book by this incredibly talented writer.