Book reviews, Domestic noir, Family drama

The Man Behind Closed Doors by Maria Frankland – Book Review



What could be so bad that a six-year-old stops talking?

Domestic violence isn’t only perpetrated by men. Ask Paul Jackson who is on remand, accused of stabbing his wife, Michelle. As he reveals his reality behind their troubled marriage, it seems that only his six-year-old knows what really happened. 

But she’s trapped in her own world of silence.



The Man Behind Closed Doors starts with Paul calling the emergency services as his wife, Michelle has been stabbed…..


He is arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.


While in jail, he thinks about his life and marriage to Michelle and the story is told through flashbacks to the past. We hear of her jealousy and paranoia, her mood swings and violence when she’s been drinking, which is often. Michelle has her own issues she is dealing with but takes it out on Paul……all the while their young daughter Emily is in the middle.

This is a tale of domestic abuse, of controlling behaviour and it’s original as here the woman is the perpetrator of the abuse. You really never know what goes on behind closed doors! It deals with violence, guilt, love and self harm and all the emotional baggage in between. It’s also about the stabbing, the investigation and the courtroom drama. I found this to be a very emotional read, at times I was not sure who deserved my sympathy…..a thoughtful and engrossing read.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and an eARC of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.


Purchase link:



Maria Frankland’s life began at 40 when she escaped an unhappy marriage and began making a living from her own writing and becoming a teacher of creative writing.

The rich tapestry of life with all its turbulent times has enabled her to pour experience, angst and lessons learned into the writing of her novels and poetry.

She recognises that the darkest places can exist within family relationships and this is reflected in the domestic thrillers she writes.

She is a ‘born ‘n’ bred’ Yorkshirewoman, a mother of two and has recently found her own ‘happy ever after’ after marrying again.

Still in her forties, she is now going to dedicate the rest of her working life to writing books and inspiring other writers to also achieve their dreams too!


Twitter @writermaria_f 

Book reviews, Crime thriller, Police procedural, post-apocalyptic

All Fall Down by M.J. Arlidge – Book Review


“You have one hour to live.”


Those are the only words on the phone call. Then they hang up. Surely, a prank? A mistake? A wrong number? Anything but the chilling truth… That someone is watching, waiting, working to take your life in one hour.


But why?


The job of finding out falls to DI Helen Grace: a woman with a track record in hunting killers. However, this is A case where the killer seems to always be one step ahead of the police and the victims.

With no motive, no leads, no clues – nothing but pure fear – an hour can last a lifetime…



All Fall Down starts with a phone call….

Justin takes the call, but the caller says “You Have One Hour To Live”….he’s rattled but heads home in a chauffeur driven car. As he starts to relax he notices his driver has missed the turn.

Justin’s body is later found….he’d been strangled.

When another call is received things begin to get dark.

Helen Grace and her team begin the investigation, there are links to a group of friends captured and tortured years before. They had managed to escape, but one of them had died at the hands of the man who held them captive. 

It becomes a race against time to find why these people are being targeted and to stop a killer before anyone else dies.

All the while, Helen is dealing with a messy personal life with a reckless colleague, and heavily pregnant Charlie is adamant she will stay and help with the investigation.

I love the relationships between the characters, good and bad, and the marvellously twisty plot keeps you guessing. Another brilliant, dark thriller from M.J. Arlidge and I’m already waiting for book 10…

Thank you to Tracy of Compulsive Readers for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of All Fall Down. This is my honest and unbiased review.

Purchase link 

Book reviews, Crime thriller, Police procedural, Psychlogical thriller

Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly – Book Review


What if you knew the truth but couldn’t remember?

Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead. But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain and guilt she’s long kept buried. But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

An addictive thriller about a case gone cold and the dangers lurking on our doorsteps, Monstrous Souls will have you gripped to the very end.



In 2001 Heidi and her friend Nina had been attacked, only Heidi survived and her younger sister, Anna went missing.

Heidi’s injuries were severe but she recovered except she had lost all memories of that time.

Detective Denise Gilzeen had kept in contact with Heidi and now 15 years later her memory is starting to return. As a result of information she had given to Denise, the case is reopened.

Will they find who killed Nina? And what happened to Anna and other missing girls?

Monstrous Souls is an utterly gripping read, it’s dark, gritty and full of emotion. There are great characters, some likeable and some truly reprehensible and evil. The subject matter is horrific but Rebecca Kelly tells you all you need to know without being graphic or gratuitous. It’s full of an incredible tension and is a tale of horrific events, tragedy, guilt and is anger inducing at times too. A dark thriller that you really cannot put down. 

Thank you to Peyton at Agora Books for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Monstrous Souls. This is my honest and unbiased review.


Preorder link :

Ebook from 25 June and paperback 23 July 




Rebecca Kelly was brought up with books but denied the pleasure of a television. Although she hated this at the time, she now considers it to have contributed to a life-long passion for reading and writing.

After a misspent education, Rebecca had a variety of jobs. She’s spent the last years raising her children but has lately returned to her first love – writing.

Rebecca lives in the UK with her husband and youngest son and an over-enthusiastic black Labrador, who gives her writing tips. 

Book reviews

Val McDermid’s highly anticipated 2020 ‘New Blood’ showcase is announced today

I’m delighted to share Val McDermid’s highly anticipated 2020 ‘New Blood’ showcase, which is announced today:

Jessica Moor (Keeper)

Deepa Anappara (Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line)

Elizabeth Kay (Seven Lies)

Trevor Wood (The Man on the Street).

T his year, Deepa Anappara has been selected for her part coming-of-age, part detective mystery Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, a heart-breaking and thought-provoking social commentary of modern India’s slums that has been recognised for the Women’s Prize. Elizabeth Kay is on the list for her explosive Seven Lies, taking domestic noir to a whole new level in a deliciously dark blurring of truth and lies, and Jessica Moore is recognised for her brutal and beautiful Keeper, the addictive literary thriller that has had everyone talking. Concluding this year’s New Blood contingent is Trevor Wood and his debut The Man on the Street, a gritty thriller set on the streets of Newcastle.

This annual curation from the ‘queen of crime’ of the hottest debut voices taking the crime and thriller by storm helps readers find new favourites, and gives a platform to new writers, with alumni including Clare Mackintosh, SJ Watson and Stuart MacBride. 

Val McDermid said: “I know exactly what I’m looking for on my quest: fresh and distinctive voices, a well-told, convincing story and the almost indefinable sense that these authors all have much more to say. Deepa, Elizabeth, Jessica and Trevor tick all of these boxes and more, and if this year’s debuts share a theme, it is the irresistible and devastating way in which crime fiction shines a light on our times: homelessness, domestic violence, child trafficking and mental health are all dissected with an unflinching gaze.”


Val’s event with these rising stars is traditionally the highlight of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, part of Harrogate International Festivals’ year round programme of events, and as this year’s festival was cancelled due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the showcase will be streamed on the festival’s HIF Player on what would have been the legendary weekender, Saturday 25 July 2020.


Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Novella

If Cats Could Talk Would They Cry? by Anatoli Scholz – Book Review


One morning Julie wakes up to find herself transformed into a cat. Around her nothing else seems to have changed, her little Parisian studio apartment still smelling of last night’s opened bottle of Bourgogne. The world is still turning. Julie stretches and yawns and decides to take a moment to relax in her new skin. That’s when the knocks on her door begin. They come one at a time, some from her present, some from her past. Friends, family, they all confront the new feline, who has to slowly understand that this new perspective may not allow her to deal with her past as she had done before. She has to decide whether to confront it or escape it all, the city, and any remaining part of her humanity. 

A modern “Metamorphosis” that speaks to the themes of our time: isolation, identity and desperation for connection.

An entertaining novella with a philosophical outlook, If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry introduces Julie Galles. An introvert in an extrovert’s world, Julia is stuck in a rut, until the day she wakes up as a cat. Can a feline perspective help her to reconnect with humanity?



One morning Julie wakes up and finds she is now a cat….a little ginger cat with white paws.

There’s no real sense of panic as she settles for a doze…..

Her friend arrives and after a brief faint, she calls Julie’s mother and they take a trip to the park. Here they meet Julie’s sister and park warden, Patrice, as they try to work out how and why Julie is now a cat.

This is a charming read, it’s a short novella but full of gentle philosophy. What it is to be human, what our lives mean to us and how we perceive those close to us.

Lovely illustrations throughout too. A gentle, thought provoking read.

Thank you to Ben at Cameron Publicity and Marketing for the opportunity to read this for free. This is my honest and unbiased review.


Purchase link : 




Anatoli Scholz was born in Moscow and raised in the US, Germany and Ireland. He has never lived in one place for more than two years and he speaks seven languages. He currently lives in Spain; before that he lived in Paris, in the very road where this book is set. This is his third book.


Book reviews, Psychlogical thriller

Perfect Lie by Claire Sheldon – Book Review


What is ‘perfect’ trying to hide?

Jen Garner tries her best to be ‘wife and mother of the year’. She helps organise school plays and accompanies her husband to company dinners, all with a big smile on her face.

But Jen has started to receive strange gifts in the post … first flowers, then a sympathy card.

It could just be a joke; that’s what she tells herself. But then the final ‘gift’ arrives, and Jen has to question why somebody is so intent on shattering her life into pieces …



Jen has a happy, settled life with her husband and two children, but when she starts to receive odd gifts, flowers and cards anonymously she is worried and scared, someone knows her secret. One day she just walks away and disappears.

Her husband is distraught and reports her missing and the investigation begins. DI Chris Jackson starts the enquiry and uncovers, murders, drugs and so much more…..

I really can’t say much more about the story for fear of spoiling the marvellously twisty and original plot. Perfect Lie is well written with a pace that slowly builds the tale and the tension. Great characters and in depth details of the police, their procedures and the areas of Nottingham and Long Eaton. It’s hard to believe this is Claire Sheldon’s debut novel. I was hooked right from the beginning and loved every minute. A thoroughly engrossing and entertaining read.

Thank you to Claire for an eARC of Perfect Lie. This is my honest and unbiased review.


Purchase Link : 




Claire lives in Nottingham with her family, a cat called Whiskers and a dog called Podrick.

She suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and as a result of the disease had to reduce her hours working in insurance for an Insolvency Insurer. This spare time enabled her to study a creative writing course which inspired her to write her debut, Perfect Lie.

When Claire isn’t working she enjoys reading crime novels and listening to music – the band Jimmy Eat World is her biggest muse! Claire is also an avid reader and book blogger. The inspiration for her novels comes from the hours spent watching The Bill with her grandparents and auntie; then later, Spooks and other detective programmes like Inspector Morse, A Touch of Frost and Midsomer Murders.

Book reviews, Murder mystery

River Rats by Andy Griffee – Book Review


Jack Johnson has a talent for trouble – wherever he goes on his narrowboat, it seems to follow him. Moored up on the River Avon in the beautiful Georgian surroundings of Bath, he’s working at the local paper when a prominent magistrate and heritage campaigner is attacked and drowned.

Could it be a serial killer copying the Canal Pusher? Or a biker gang who swore revenge on the magistrate? Against his wishes, Jack is pulled into the investigation by his ambitious editor who wants the scoop.

Jack and his friend, Nina Wilde, have also been drawn into another struggle. The moorings of a small settled boating community sit alongside a huge former industrial site that property developers want to fill with luxury housing. Nearby residents are enlisted to petition against the boat people, and as the campaign spirals out of control, lives are threatened. Who is helping their enemies?

Another gripping tale of corruption and intrigue from the riverbank, full of dark waters and deadly secrets.

Both Canal Pushers (Book 1 in the Johnson & Wilde series) and River Rats are based on real-life crimes across the canal network.

Andy Griffee is an experienced journalist, and available to write features and articles on request.


Book 2 of the Johnson and Wilde mystery series.

Jack Johnson has now bought Jumping Jack Flash and has settled into life on the canal. He has a new job at a local paper and Nina has settled in Salisbury but regularly returns to visit.

Jack’s neighbours are being offered large sums of money for their moorings by a property developer. When they refuse, a campaign against the river dwellers is raised and things start to get nasty.

When someone is found drowned in the canal, it’s believed to be a copycat of the Canal Pusher, but Jack feels something more sinister is going on and he and Nina are again drawn into a mystery.

Full of tension and action this is a tale of corruption and greed. There are great characters with their very different problems and I love the relationship between Jack and Nina….oh and Eddie obviously. Dark, twisty and utterly gripping from start to finish. Brilliant.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and an eARC of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.




Andy Griffee is a former BBC journalist and media consultant with a fascination for stories. He began his journalism career at the Bath Evening Chronicle, and then spent twenty-five years at the BBC, culminating in his role as Editorial Director of the redevelopment of Broadcasting House. Andy lives in Worcestershire and, when he isn’t writing, rears rare breed pigs, struggles to keep a 1964 Triumph Spitfire on the road and enjoys hiring narrowboats with his wife..


@andygriffee @andygriffee


Book reviews, Murder mystery

Canal Pushers by Andy Griffee – Book Review



A Johnson & Wilde Mystery #1

Introducing Jack Johnson and Nina Wilde. A chance meeting on the towpath, and trouble seems to follow …

Jack Johnson, ex-journalist, newly divorced and feeling unmoored, has bought a 64-foot narrowboat with absolutely no idea how to captain it. 

So when an attractive stranger takes pity on his dismal attempts and comes aboard to assist him manoeuvre, Jack is only too happy to make her welcome. But it’s soon apparent that Nina is keeping her own secrets and when they stumble into a murder investigation the past begins to intrude. What’s Nina afraid of? And who is stalking the towpaths?

  • Over 50 Amazon 5* reader reviews: “a real page-turner”, “ immersive setting”, “superbly structured”, “vividly described”, “gripped from the start”, “the dark underbelly of canal life” …
  • Perfect for fans of classic crime with a twist: “A welcome new voice in crime fiction imbued with a real sense of place.” Live And Deadly
  • Andy Griffee is an ex-BBC journalist and producer, and a natural and engaging public speaker with events based around ‘Canal Noir’.
  • Atmospheric setting on the British waterways, and thoroughly researched storylines based on real-life tensions facing the canal boat community.



Set on the Warwickshire canals, Jack Johnson is a journalist and recently divorced from Deb. He’s renting a narrowboat and if he enjoys life on the water he’ll then buy it. An amateur, he arranges for his friend Will to travel with him until he can handle the boat……but Will lets him down.

Frustrated, he’s having a pint and Nina has overheard his conversation and offers to help… he now has a travelling companion.

So the pair set off but when a young homeless man they met is found drowned in the canal the mystery begins. There maybe a serial killer pushing people into the canal and drowning them.

I love the writing style of Andy Griffee, the sense of place is stunning and the descriptions of Jumping Jack Flash and life on the water is just perfect. The relationship between Jack and the quiet but forthright Nina is just a pleasure to read.

With its dark and twisty plot, some seriously chilling chapters from the killers perspective makes this a thoroughly entertaining read from start to finish.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and an eARC of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.





Andy Griffee is a former BBC journalist and media consultant with a fascination for stories. He began his journalism career at the Bath Evening Chronicle, and then spent twenty-five years at the BBC, culminating in his role as Editorial Director of the redevelopment of Broadcasting House. Andy lives in Worcestershire and, when he isn’t writing, rears rare breed pigs, struggles to keep a 1964 Triumph Spitfire on the road and enjoys hiring narrowboats with his wife..

@andygriffee @andygriffee


Audiobook, Book reviews, Domestic noir

Little Whispers by K.L. Slater – Audiobook Review


You shared a secret with the wrong person.  

Janey Markham is thrilled to be moving with her family to Buckingham Crescent, the smartest address in a desirable suburban town. 

Worried she’ll be excluded by the glossy local mothers, Janey is thrilled when she meets Tanya, the kind of woman she has always looked up to. Tanya takes Janey under her wing and her teenage daughter, Angel, is amazing with Janey’s little boy. As Janey and Tanya grow closer, Janey feels she can finally leave her troubled past behind.  

But then everything changes…. 

In a weak moment over a bottle of wine, Janey finds herself telling Tanya her most shocking secret. Why wouldn’t she trust her new friend?  

The following day, Janey sees Angel, with a man old enough to be her father, pushing someone into a car. The next day a body is found, and police appeal for witnesses – and share a picture of the same car…. 

When Janey tells Tanya she is going to the police, Tanya turns threatening. She’ll stop at nothing to defend Angel, even if her daughter is guilty. If Janey says anything, Tanya will make sure that her dark secret gets out. Janey faces an impossible choice. Stay quiet about what she saw that terrible day or speak up and destroy the family she has worked so hard to protect…



The first half of Little Whispers is about Janey’s life. A new home, her husband has a new job which will ease their financial worries and their young son, Roman is starting a new school. But Janey has a secret….

She becomes friends with one of the other mums, Tanya and after a little wine tells her the secret.

But, Janey’s  husband seems to be changing, he’s a bit moody and his behaviour seems a bit odd too.

Then Janey sees someone being forced into a car by Tanya’s daughter and an older man. When a body is discovered she speaks to Tanya, but she threatens to tell Janey’s secret to everyone if she goes to the police.

Will Janey go to the police with what she’d seen and risk her family falling apart?

This has a slow pace as it builds the background to Janey’s life and family. She’s a bit insecure and has always tried to fit in, but there’s the secret and a few twists to make this an entertaining, engaging tale. Beautifully read by Lucy Price-Lewis who, for me, brought this to life.

Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, to listen to the audiobook and for the promotional material. This is my honest and unbiased review.


Available from




Kim is the million-copy bestselling author of twelve psychological crime thrillers. THE APARTMENT, will be published in -April 2020 by Thomas and Mercer and is now available for pre-order. 

Kim’s titles are also published by Bookouture, Audible and are available in paperback by Sphere in the UK and Grand Central in the USA.

For many years, Kim sent her work out to literary agents and collected an impressive stack of rejection slips. At the age of 40 she went back to Nottingham Trent University and now has an MA in Creative Writing.

Before graduating in 2012, she gained literary agent representation and a book deal. As Kim says, ‘it was a fairytale … at the end of a very long road!’

Kim is a full-time writer and lives in Nottinghamshire with her husband.(Courtesy of Goodreads). 


About Audible


Among the acclaimed performers who have narrated works of literature for Audible are Zachary Quinto, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins, Emma Thompson and Jesse Eisenberg. Audible Studios has won a Grammy Award, for its production of Janis Ian’s memoir Society’s Child, and has also been recognised with the Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year, for Colin Firth’s performance of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. Audible invented and commercialised the first digital audio player in 1997, and has since been at the forefront of the explosively growing audiobook download segment. On average, Audible members listen to Audible content for 2 hours a day. In 2018, Audible customers downloaded nearly 3 billion hours of content


Book reviews, Extract, Thriller

No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan – * EXCERPT*

Here’s an excerpt from the suspense thriller No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan ( my review will follow in a day or so)….


Excerpted from No One Will Hear Your Screams. Copyright © 2020 by Thomas


O’Callaghan. All rights reserved. Published by WildBlue Press.

Pearsol opened the mortuary cooler and pulled out the stainless steel tray supporting the victim. “Lieutenant, meet Jane Doe,” he said sliding the woman’s bloated body under Driscoll’s gaze. “Harbor Patrol fished her out of the muck.  I’d say she was a feast for the gulls for a day. Maybe two.”
“What’s that smell?  Paint thinner?”
“She was doused in phenol?”
Driscoll’s eyes narrowed.
“The complete autopsy will fill in the blanks, but I’d bet my pension I already know what killed her.  The who, and the why, I’ll leave to you.”  Pearsol handed the preliminary lab report to Driscoll.  It identifies a mixture of substances inside her vascular system.  
“Phenol, formaldehyde and Chloride of Zinc?”  Driscoll looked perplexed. 
“The same Chloride of Zinc they put in dry cell batteries?” 
Pearsol nodded. “There’s three more.”
“Myrrh, aloe and cassia,” Driscoll read aloud.  “That’s a strange mix.”  He glanced at Pearsol, who nodded.  “Says here you drained 851 milliliters from her circulatory system.  What’s that?  About two pints?”
“Just under.”
“A body contains five to six quarts of blood.  So the rest of this mixture?”
“Still in her.”     
Using his finger, Driscoll pushed back a lock of the victim’s hair. “What could you have done to warrant this?” he whispered, eyes on the corpse.
“Right now the unofficial cause of death is phenol poisoning by arterial injection.  Familiar with the German word, ‘abgespritzt’, Lieutenant?”
“Abgespritzt was a method of genocide favored by the Nazis in the early 1940s.  Hitler’s henchmen delivered instantaneous death by injecting 15 milliliters of phenol directly into the heart.”
“What kind of syringe injects six quarts?”  
“More than likely he used a centrifugal pump.  And he knew what he was doing.” Pearsol pointed to the side of the victim’s neck, where a semi- translucent latex adhesive covered a two inch stretch of rippled flesh between the carotid artery and the jugular vein.  “An extreme method of murder, Lieutenant.  He arterially embalmed her.”
Driscoll winced.               
“There’s more.”  The M.E. produced a transparent evidence bag containing a locket.  It was an inch in diameter and featured Saint Vitalis of Gaza; his name etched in a half circle below his likeness.  “I found it under her tongue.  Someone apparently placed it there before suturing the tongue to the floor of her mouth.”
“What’s that about?” Driscoll wondered aloud.
“Good question.  I’m not familiar with that saint.  You?”
“She‘s the patron saint of prostitutes.”
“Well, there’s a lead.  Oh, and there’s one other bit of information you’re sure to find intriguing.  The myrrh, aloe, and cassia injected with the embalming fluid were once embalming solutions on their own.  Sort of.”
“Sort of?”
“They were the purifying fragrances applied to the linens that wrapped the crucified Christ before he was laid in his tomb.”

About the Author:
Thomas O’Callaghan’s work has been translated for publication in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy. As an internationally acclaimed author, Mr. O’Callaghan is a member of both the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers associations. A native of New York City and a graduate of Richmond College, Mr. O’Callaghan resides with his lovely wife, Eileen, a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful Belle Harbor, New York. 
His debut novel BONE THIEF introduces NYPD Homicide Commander Lieutenant John W. Driscoll. THE SCREAMING ROOM is the second in the John Driscoll series. The third book in the series, NO ONE WILL HEAR YOUR SCREAMS, is now available from WildBlue Press. For more information, please visit

Book reviews, Contemporary fiction

The Truants by Kate Weinberg – Book Review


 People disappear when they most want to be seen.

Jess Walker, middle child of a middle-class family, has perfected the art of vanishing in plain sight. But when she arrives at a concrete university campus under flat, grey, East Anglian skies, her world flares with colour.

Drawn into a tightly-knit group of rule breakers – led by their maverick teacher, Lorna Clay – Jess begins to experiment with a new version of herself. But the dynamic between the friends begins to darken as they share secrets, lovers and finally a tragedy. Soon Jess is thrown up against the question she fears most: what is the true cost of an extraordinary life?


The Truants is told from Jess’s perspective, as the quiet, grey mouse arrives at university, meets her literary idol, Lorna Clay and she begins to reinvent herself. 

This is a coming of age drama as Jess finds her way and builds friendships, but it’s also a tale of obsession and it’s consequences. There’s sex, drugs, alcohol all part of  the life at university, but at what cost?

I love how the characters interacted and Jess’s inner thoughts brought an emotional edge to the story. Beautifully written with a slightly oppressive atmosphere, it reminded me of Fay Welton’s novels and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and an eARC of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.


You can buy a copy here:



Kate Weinberg was born and lives in London. She studied English at Oxford and creative writing in East Anglia. She has worked as a slush pile reader, a bookshop assistant, a journalist and a ghost writer. The Truants is her first novel.


Book reviews

Wolfson History Prize 2020 – Shortlisted book – Chaucer: A European Life. *EXTRACT*



I am so pleased to be able to share an extract from the Wolfson History Prize 2020 shortlisted book, Chaucer: A European Life by Marion Turner.


Chaucer: A European Life is a fascinating exploration of Chaucer’s life and travels in Europe and how it affected his writing. Written by the poet’s first ever female biographer, the book reveals how the “grandfather of English literature” was actually profoundly impacted by his experiences on the continent.


Here’s the extract: 


Chaucer travelled to Lombardy— perhaps the most transformative of all his journeys— in the wake of the Good Parliament of 1376. After the English Commons’ extraordinary assertion of the rights of insurgent voices, Chaucer experienced a regime of absolutism and extreme brutality, a regime in which only the Visconti voice mattered. And while visiting this centralizing and terrifying state, Chaucer came into contact with literature that was to change his poetic trajectory completely. He also lived, for a few weeks, under a regime that simultaneously exalted violence and revered, sponsored, and promulgated culture. What he experienced there can only have been an assault on the imagination on an enormous scale. The negotiations of 1378 were part of a complicated European picture, in which the empire and the split papacy were struggling for dominance. The space of empire stretched across much of Western Europe. It also dominated the political imaginations of some of the greatest poets of the fourteenth century, and was increasingly important to England’s foreign policy in the reign of Richard II. When Chaucer visited Lombardy in 1378, he was swimming in the slipstream of imperial power broking, as the powers of Europe positioned themselves between the Scylla and Charybdis of Rome and Avignon. He also visited a state that was itself an imperial fief, and that was ruled by tyrants with imperial ambitions in their own region.


The idea of empire continued to shape English politics in various ways for the rest of Richard’s reign: in 1382, he married the sister of the Holy Roman Emperor; by the later 1380s, he was increasingly styling himself in imperial terms; at the end of his reign, he aspired to become the emperor himself. Chaucer had first-hand experience of secular rulers who attempted to impose a singular, dominant perspective on their subjects; he responded with poems that repeatedly rejected hegemonic ideologies and the idea of the sovereign voice and instead privileged tidings— stories, ideas, points of view— in all their messy multiplicity.


Both in his discovery of the ideas of Petrarch and Dante, and in his engagement with Italian politics, Chaucer encountered an ideology of history- as- destiny, a belief that a plan was unfolding in time, in the space of empire. The Holy Roman Empire dominated the political understanding of Petrarch and Dante; it had a particularly acute significance in the century of the Avignon papacy and the Schism, when papal power was moving away from its Italian heartland. From 1378 until 1417, two rival popes ruled from two rival centres, Rome and Avignon. For centuries, Italian city- states had wrestled with imperial- papal conflicts, originally supported by the Ghibelline and Guelf factions, respectively. The Visconti were ‘imperial vicars,’ originally dependent on imperial patronage for their position, and they increasingly modelled their own claims to authority on the language of imperial power. 

Chaucer: A European Life by Marion Turner (Princeton University Press) is shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2020. The winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2020 will be announced in a virtual ceremony on Monday 15th June

Thank you to Ben at Midas PR for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour and for providing this marvellous extract.

Book reviews, Fantasy, YA fiction

Harbinger by Olga Gibbs – Book Review


“I am Uriel: The Harbinger of Chaos, The Keeper of the Gates, The Begetter of Life, The Dam of The Ends, and I’m coming to take what is mine!”

The clash with Baza and his angels had demonstrated to Ariel that Earth (Apkallu) is not the safe heaven she hoped it would be, and it is only a matter of time before she is hunted and dead.

The only way to survive is to accept her destiny and to fight back.

But upon her return to Uras, Ariel is rejected in her own domain and has to suppress the revolt against her reign. The angels refuse her and her lead, abandoning her and Uras in favour of another ruler.

She knows that without an army of followers she won’t stand a chance against Baza or Mik’hael, so now she needs to go into the most unexpected places to find it.



#3 in the Celestial Creatures series and yes it can be read as a stand-alone but you will miss out on a great YA fantasy series.

Ariel is back and looking after her sister, Jess. All the while she is getting ready for a battle with the evil angels.

Rafe is by her side as always, but they bicker and Ariel doesn’t always list to the advice she is given.

They end up in terrible trouble, but can the feisty, determined and stubborn Ariel be able to get everyone to safety or are they destined to remain in Hell?

Wow, the world building by Olga Gibbs is phenomenal, it feels so real. With some great characters, new and old to get acquainted with and a twisty plot really has you hooked from start to finish.

Thank you to Melanie at Fraser’s Fun House for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Harbinger. This is my honest and unbiased review.


Harbinger purchase link:




Olga Gibbs lives in a leafy-green town, nestled amongst the green fields of West Sussex, England. She lives with her husband and their two daughters.

She was writing from the age of fifteen, mainly short stories and novellas and was a guest columnist for a local newspaper. When she is not dreaming up new adventures for her imaginary friends, she does outreach work with teenagers.

The “Celestial creatures” series is now complete!

Please visit author website for more information on upcoming books.


Book reviews, War fiction

Warriors For The Working Day by Peter Elstob – Book Review


‘Few other novels of the war describe the grinding claustrophobia, violence and lethal danger of being in a tank crew with the stark vividness of Peter Elstob. It’s possible to almost smell the fumes and sweat, while the intimate detail of operating such a beast and the camaraderie of the crew are utterly compelling. This is a forgotten classic that deserves to be read and read.’
“If poetry was the supreme literary form of the First World War then, as if in riposte, in the Second World War, the English novel came of age. This wonderful series is an exemplary reminder of that fact. Great novels were written about the Second World War and we should not forget them.”
In April 2020 IWM will publish two more novels in their Wartime Classics Series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim. The novels were all written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Following the IWM’s commitment to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand, each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the battle.
Warriors for the Working Day follows one tank crew as they proceed from training in Aldershot to the beaches of Normandy, and on into the heart of a newly liberated Europe. Closely based on Peter Elstob’s own wartime experiences as a tank commander and radio operator, the novel brilliantly evokes the particular horror of tank warfare – the intense heat and the claustrophobia endured by so many, yet often overlooked.
Life within a British tank was very precarious as they were noticeably inferior to German armour, and were nicknamed Ronsons (cigarette lighters) by their crews as they lit ‘first time, every time.’ The novel also examines battle exhaustion in a way that a 21st century reader will recognise, with men and officers able to experience a certain amount, before fear becomes an overriding obsession.
Warriors for the Working Day is generally recognised as Peter Elstob’s greatest work. Originally published in 1960, it sold nearly a quarter of a million copies and remains one of the finest fictional depictions of life in a tank during the Second World War.
Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) has written an introduction to each book that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background. He says, ‘researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.



Based on Peter Elstob’s personal experience of tank warfare, Warriors For The Working Day is a tale of fear and the horrors of war.

It really captures the heat and aggression of a tank battle, mixed with the claustrophobia of being baked in a flammable tin can with a crew of men all battling their own demons, doubts and fear at the same time.

Incredibly compelling and a must read for any fan of classic war fiction.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

Peter Elstob (1915 – 2002) was born in London but educated in New York and New Jersey when his family moved to the USA as a result of his father’s work. He spent a brief period at the University of Michigan and a short stint in the RAF. In 1936 he volunteered as a pilot in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side and published his first novel in 1939, The Spanish Prisoner, based on his experiences in Spain. On the outbreak of the Second World War, he attempted to re-join the RAF but when he was turned down, volunteered for the 3rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, where he served across Europe and in the Middle East. After the war, Elstob pursued a variety of ventures – he co-ran the Arts Theatre Club in London, founded an artistic and writer’s community in Mexico and attempted a trans-Atlantic balloon flight in 1958. However, his main success was the beauty mask, Yeast Pac, which he and his partner developed and marketed successfully for many years. He wrote several novels and a number of well received military histories, including Hitler’s Last Offensive (1971) about the Battle of the Bulge.
– ENDS –

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.
Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.
IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.

Book reviews, Extract

Act Of Deception by John Bishop M.D -*EXTRACT*…

I’m pleased to share an extract of John Bishop MD’s latest Doc Brady Mystery series…Act Of Deception.



Act of Deception: A Doc Brady Mystery

by John Bishop, MD


Excerpted from Act of Deception: A Doc Brady Mystery. Copyright © 2020 by John Bishop. All rights reserved. Published by Mantid Press.

Chapter 1

Friday, August 25, 1995

I awoke that Friday morning in a serious sweat, the kind that is not immediately relieved by rising and washing one’s face with cold water. I noted that the clock in the bathroom read 4:38, twenty-two minutes before my designated alarm setting. After staring at the clock for a minute, maybe two, I felt my right radial pulse. The accelerated throbbing confirmed that tachycardia was still my predominant rhythm. I decided to attend to ritualistic morning bathroom chores, make coffee, read the paper, and at least try to pretend that it was a normal Friday morning.

Upon completion of the bathroom routine, as quietly as possible, I punched in the five-digit alarm code and started to leave the bedroom to go downstairs. Unfortunately, even the sound of punching in the numbers was unduly shrill, and it caused Mary Louise, my bride of twenty-four years, to stir.

“Jim Bob?”


“It’s not even five yet. Why are you up?”

“Couldn’t sleep. Woke up with the sweats again. Sorry to wake you. I thought I’d go downstairs, make some coffee, and sit outside and think for a while. Okay?”

“Want some company?”

Normally, I would never turn down such an offer. I loved my wife dearly. She was, in fact, my best friend. That particular morning, however, I responded in the negative.

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, sweetie, but this is just one of those times I need to collect my thoughts. Know what I mean?”

“I do. I’m sorry you’re having to go through all this. It isn’t fair. After all you’ve done for everybody else. I know in my heart it will be all right, just maybe not today. Try not to get too upset. Promise?”

“I’ll do my best.” I leaned down and kissed her warm cheek. She smelled so good, I considered taking off my robe and getting back into bed. I finally chose not to. “Go back to sleep. I’m not leaving until about eight o’clock.”


I left her reluctantly and plodded downstairs barefooted, in my cotton robe, with lights still off, toward coffee heaven. I selected Twin Peaks Blend coffee beans, which we kept in the freezer to avoid staleness, ground them, and began the ten-minute process to achieve as perfect a cup of coffee as I could make. I waited on the back porch in my “spot,” a large white cane rocker. The month of August was a stifling time of year in Houston, even at that hour of the morning. The heat and humidity were almost unbearable during July, August, and early September. I turned on the outdoor ceiling fan that hovered above my chair and hoped it would make the weather more pleasant. It didn’t.


I considered my life that morning. I, Dr. James Robert Brady, who had done my best to be a compassionate and dedicated orthopedic surgeon for the past seventeen years, was being sued for medical malpractice. I was not a neophyte when it came to lawsuits. I had been sued twice before, not an unusual occurrence in a city of four million people, with far too many law school graduates sitting in their quiet offices with nothing to do. The other two suits were quite minor and did not linger but were dismissed rather quickly, meaning over a year-or-two period. The current lawsuit, the cause of my awakening before five with the sweats and intense gastrointestinal distress, had not been dismissed.


I stepped back inside to the relatively cool air, although during August even the air-conditioning system labored heavily. I poured my coffee into a large black mug with a removable top that allowed intermittent filling of the cup but twisted on securely so as not to spill during the drive to work. While I wasn’t yet ready to leave, I used the “to go” cup anyway, being a creature of habit, a trait inherited from my dear departed father, and one which drove even me to distraction on occasion.


I returned to the French door to head back to the humidity and spotted Cat perched on the back doorstep, peering through the lowest windowpane, awaiting her breakfast. I sipped my coffee and prepared her Prime Feast in a disposable dish, probably not recyclable because I am sure it isn’t possible to remove the smell of mixed seafood, no matter what treatment is available at the nearest recycling plant.

Strolling to the door, feast in hand, I greeted the discriminating feline. “Morning, Cat. I have your breakfast.”


No response. Just a simple twitch of the sensitive nose. There was no tail- wagging or jumping on my bare leg to greet me, sure signs that man’s best friend loved you and missed you. Rather, Cat simply did what she did best. She remained aloof and distinctly noncommittal. I bent down, sat her dish on the patterned concrete deck, and stroked her damp fur as she sampled my selection. She did give me a brief look of gratitude, then resumed her nibbling. I returned to my chair and continued to assess my life and its worth.


I was most critical of self that morning, pondering the effects of aging on a once-athletic physique. While Mary Louise considered me to be a handsome specimen, I lamented my shrinkage from six feet plus one inch to slightly less than the “manly” six feet. I continued to disguise my shortening by wearing Western boots, and only on weekends did I allow myself the comfort of high-topped athletic shoes—not that I used them for athletics.


I remembered my previously full head of hair that had slowly thinned, especially at the front, to allow for enlargement of my forehead while a balding spot was created on the crown of my head. My sideburns were a little long and gray and transitioned to brown at an always-increasing distance from the top of my ears. I criticized the extra minute I spent every morning to carefully position my combed-straight-back locks over that bare spot I had grown to hate.


I had begun to study myself each morning before showering to confirm that I indeed resembled Alfalfa of Little Rascals fame, with thin wisps of hair sticking straight up toward the heavens. I then reminded myself of my need to wear bifocals and of my need to start a workout program to slim my waist from its size 38—although I had noticed lately that the cleaners had been shrinking my best jeans.

I tried to take comfort in Mary Louise’s love of what she called my “charming cleft chin” and “captivating smile” but was unsuccessful. I felt old that morning, which, along with words like useless, worthless, out-of-shape, and four-eyed, drove me to an even fouler mood than when I awoke to cold sweats and the dreaded digestive-tract blues.


By six o’clock I was sweating again, that time from drinking an entire pot of coffee and from the oppressive heat that had already risen to a sultry 80 degrees with the humidity at drip level. I threw off my robe and dove into the pool, taking care to avoid a cervical spine injury in the four-foot-deep water. It did cool me off temporarily, so after two laps I simply stood in the healing waters, naturally, in the buff. As I reminisced over the treatment of the patient that had decided to sue me, the back door of the house opened and the Tipster bounded outside. He saw me in the pool and almost dove in with me. Fortunately, I was able to hold him back while I ruffled his shaggy mane and scratched his ears. At least he was glad to see me and acted as though we had been apart for years, not just the six hours since we had bid him good night.


His official title was “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” a typical name given by a particular breeder who prized his full-blooded intelligent golden retrievers. But “Tip,” “Tipper,” or “the Tipster,” as Mary Louise intermittently called him, had failed the IQ test for well-bred dogs and was lovingly given to me by that grateful patient, who had many more golden retrievers than insurance dollars.


Tip had been presented to me in the office five months previously at the end of the day as a surprise. The man didn’t ask me if I wanted a dog, but simply showed up at my office with a large, overly friendly seven-month-old golden retriever puppy. I still suspected that Fran and Rae, my faithful office staff, had somehow conspired with my darling wife to bring some new joy into my life. At the time, I was highly skeptical and hoped to rid myself of the constantly-shedding beast who had disrupted our lives. Over the next few months, however, I had grown to love, without restraint, this large, adorable dog, whose only faults were that he was too much a friend to strangers and a poor fetcher of dead birds. Neither flaw bothered me. I didn’t hunt much anymore, and we rarely had anyone to the house that I despised. Besides, considering we had yet to be burglarized, the Tipster’s camaraderie with those stealers of one’s things was an untested character defect.


My mood improved significantly after seeing Tip, and I watched with interest as he bounded over to greet Cat with a friendly good morning. He had attempted to make Cat his new best friend every day since his arrival at our abode but had been miserably unsuccessful. Cat’s reaction to his energetic playfulness was to leap gracefully into the rocking chair next to mine, back herself up as far as possible to the rear of the chair, and wait. When Tip happily padded over to see her and put his whole head onto the seat of the chair, she would strike out at his sensitive nose with one of her front paws, prompting an episode of howling. For five months, this scenario had occurred each and every time the two animals had a backyard encounter. I believed that Cat had become bored with the whole routine and had actually become embarrassed at what seemed to be the retriever’s inability to learn. “Tip? Be careful over there. She scratches your nose every day! It’s so raw, you almost need stitches.”


I obviously had lost my mind. I was talking to the dog as though he understood my every word. Just before pushing his fat head into the seat of the chair to smell the gray bundle of fur, though, he turned his head toward me and perked up his ears. I didn’t know if he had actually understood what I had said or simply had forgotten that I was in the pool, since he had wandered into the bushes to relieve himself before approaching Cat. He stared at me for a moment, seemed to consider what I had said, then pushed his tender, scarred nose toward the she-beast, and . . . I couldn’t believe it! She didn’t hurt him! He licked her fur, and Cat just stood there. I guessed she finally decided that Tip was harmless and just wanted to play. She might have also figured out that a large dog like that could be an impressive ally when trying to ward off neighborhood cats who strayed into her domain looking for a free meal.

And so it was that on that hot, steamy morning in August, my cat and dog became friends. I thought that maybe Mary Louise was right, having told me repeatedly that everything would be okay. Alas, that small, backyard miracle was the only one I witnessed for a while.


About the Author:


John Bishop MD is the author of Act of Deception: A Doc Brady Mystery.

Dr. Bishop has practiced orthopedic surgery in Houston, Texas, for 30 years. His Doc Brady medical thriller series is set in the changing environment of medicine in the 1990s. Drawing on his years of experience as a practicing surgeon, Bishop entertains readers using his unique insights into the medical world with all its challenges, intricacies, and complexities, while at the same time revealing the compassion and dedication of health care professionals. Dr. Bishop and his wife, Joan, reside in the Texas Hill Country. For more information, please visit



Book reviews

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of The Year 2020 – SHORTLIST revealed…




Oyinkan Braithwaite | Helen Fitzgerald | Jane Harper

Mick Herron | Adrian McKinty | Abir Mukherjee | #TheakstonAward | @HarrogateFest


Wow, I’ve just seen the shortlist for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020…’s going to be a tough choice between these…


The full shortlist for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020 is:


–                 My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic Books)

–                 Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald (Orenda Books)

–                 The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Little, Brown Book Group, Little, Brown)

–                 Joe Country by Mick Herron (John Murray Press)

–                 The Chain by Adrian McKinty (Orion Publishing Group, Orion Fiction)

–                 Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee (VINTAGE, Harvill Secker)


You can cast your vote here: 



Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “Seeing the huge variety and originality within this shortlist, it comes as no surprise to hear that crime fiction is dominating our lockdown reading habits. Offering both escapism and resolution, these exceptional titles transport readers around the world and I can’t wait to see where we settle on 23 July when one of these extraordinary authors takes home the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier cask.”


About Harrogate International Festivals


‘Harrogate International Festivals’ is a charitable organisation with a mission to present a diverse year-long programme of live events that bring immersive and moving cultural experiences to as many people as possible. Delivering artistic work of national importance, the Festival curates and produces over 300 unique and surprising performances each year, celebrating world-renowned artists and championing new and up-coming talent across music, literature, science, philosophy and psychology. The HIF+ ongoing education outreach programme engages schools, young people and the local community with workshops, talks, projects and inspiring activities, ensuring everyone can experience the Festival’s world class programme and the transformative power of the arts.


Established in 1966, Harrogate International Festivals are an artistic force to be reckoned with and a key cultural provider for the North of England.


Find out more at:

–                 Website:

–                 Facebook: @HarrogateInternationalFestivals

–                 Twitter: @HarrogateFest

–                 Instagram: @harrogatefestivals


About Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year


Launched in 2005, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award is the most prestigious crime novel prize in the country and is a much-coveted accolade recognising the very best crime writing of the year.


Previous winners include Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Belinda Bauer, Denise Mina, Lee Child, Clare Mackintosh and last year’s champion Steve Cavanagh, who was awarded the trophy for the fifth book in his Eddie Flynn crime thriller series, Thirteen.


The 2020 award is run by Harrogate International Festivals in partnership with T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith and the Express. It is open to full length crime novels published in paperback from 1 May 2019 to 30 April 2020 by UK and Irish authors.


The longlist of 18 titles is selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee, and representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd, the Express, and WHSmith. The shortlist and winner are selected the academy, alongside a public vote, with the winner receiving £3,000, and a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakston Old Peculier.


The award forms part of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, staged by Harrogate International Festivals in the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, and is traditionally awarded on the opening evening of the festival.

Book reviews, Mental Health, Non fiction

What Doesn’t Kill You: 15 Stories Of Survival by Elitsa Dermendzhiyska – Book Review


Contributors include Cathy Rentzenbrink, Rory Bremner, Melanie McGrath (a Mail on Sunday best British writer under thirty-five), Irenosen Okojie (a Betty Trask Prize-winning novelist) David Owen (a Carnegie Medal nominee), Lily Bailey (author of Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought) and Kate Leaver (writer for Glamour UK, Vice and the Guardian)

– Their rich and varied stories show that our struggles need not define us, and can even become the grounds for future success.

– This is the latest groundbreaking anthology from the publishers of The Good Immigrant, Repeal the 8th and Common People.

– For fans of Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive, Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail, Cathy Rentzenbrink’s A Manual For Heartache.

‘A stellar cast of writers and thinkers’ Nathan Filer

An explorer spends a decade preparing for an expedition to the South Pole; what happens when you live for a goal, but once it’s been accomplished, you discover it’s not enough? A successful broadcast journalist ends up broke, drunk and sleeping rough; what makes alcohol so hard to resist despite its ruinous consequences? A teenage girl tries to disappear by starving herself; what is this force that compels so many women to reduce their size so drastically?

In this essay collection, writers share the struggles that have shaped their lives – loss, depression, addiction, anxiety, trauma, identity and others. But as they take you on a journey to the darkest recesses of their mind, the authors grapple with challenges that haunt us all.


What Doesn’t Kill You is a collection of 15 essays written by a wide range of people who share the struggles with mental health they have had, and still do have as part of their lives. Edited by Elitsa Dermendzhiyska.

There are stories of depression, anxiety and panic, of ADHD, anorexia, OCD, alcoholism and more. Tales of people at their lowest ebb, at times desperate and how the authors have accepted these conditions as part of their everyday lives. These are not light reads, but full of honesty and emotion and bring a realisation that we never know what is going on with people behind their smiles!!

I found each of these essays to be incredibly moving, to read people’s inner thoughts and how they find different ways of coping and accepting their condition, it made me think of my own health issues and how I deal with it internally….Truly inspiring and thought provoking. 

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and an eARC of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.


You can buy a copy here : 




Elitsa Dermendzhiyska went from stock investing in Washington DC to a technology incubator in south-east Asia, then joined the rat race in London and promptly burned out while building a tax software business. To avoid actually getting therapy, she spent the next two years interviewing therapists, 

Book reviews, Thriller

Everything To Lose by Gordon Bickerstaff – Book Review


Scientists claim their new sports drug will boost the performance of every athlete in the world. The Lambeth Group send scientist, Gavin Shawlens, to investigate the claim.

The product is stolen, top athletes disappear, and the research team are unaware that their product has a dangerous side effect. Gavin must stop the sports drug launch before more people die.

When Gavin disappears – Zoe Tampsin searches frantically to find him before he becomes the next victim.

As if Zoe hasn’t got enough on her plate. Past events in Gavin’s life catch up with him. A powerful US general decides that Gavin must die to prevent exposure of a 60-year old secret capable of world-changing and power-shifting events.

The chase is on…



Everything To Lose is #2 in the Gavin Shawlens series and is a Lambeth Group Thriller.

Gavin is recovering from events in Book#1 ‘Deadly Secrets’ and now a new issue is on the horizon. So, he joins with SAS Officer Zoe Tamsin to investigate a new sports performance enhancing drug that claims it will improve any athlete’s performance. but at what cost?

But then athletes begin disappearing and dying Gavin has an idea of what the problem is, but then he goes missing and Zoe and her expert team have to find him before he becomes another victim…..

Everything To Lose is a fast paced, action packed thriller with great characters and a science based, twisty plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat….heart pounding stuff.

Thank you to Damppebbles Tours for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ecopy of the book. This is my honest and unbiased review.




I was born and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland. I studied biochemistry, and I’ve worked in several Scottish universities where I did research on enzymes, and taught biochemistry. After thirty years of teaching and research I retired my academic pen, and took of a mightier fiction pen.

I live in central Scotland with my wife and we enjoy reading, writing, and walking in the hills.

The Lambeth Group books follow the secret government investigations of agent Zoe Tampsin. A strong female protagonist with courage, determination, and guile. She is assisted by specialist consultant, Gavin Shawlens.


Social Media:


Book reviews, Domestic noir, Psychlogical thriller

Under Your Skin by Rose McClelland – Book Review



When Kyle’s wife Hannah goes missing, the whole town is out in force to try to find her. One person knows where she is. One person is keeping a secret.

Detective Inspector Simon Peters and Detective Kerry Lawlor have been brought in to investigate the case but Hannah has left no traces and Kyle has no clues. 

Local Belfast resident Julia Matthews joins the #FindHannah campaign and becomes friendly with Kyle, sympathising with his tragedy. As Julia becomes more involved in the case than she bargained for, she begins to uncover more secrets than the Police ever could. Julia was only trying to help but has she become drawn into a web of mystery that she can’t escape?



Hannah met Kyle and was swept off her feet by this handsome, charming and thoughtful man………but the minute they are married the real Kyle shows his true self.

Hannah disappears and the police begin investigating her as a missing person as they find more details about Kyle, they wonder if he is responsible for Hannah’s disappearance and more… much more.

This is a tale of abuse and controlling, coercive behaviour. Rose McClelland has captured the fear and tension of being in such a relationship, the way Hannah wishes her husband would have an accident just so she could be free is heartbreaking and anger inducing at the same time. You really don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.   Just what can she do to escape?

I found this to be a compelling read, full of emotion and tension. I was gripped from the start to the satisfying finish. 

Thank you to Rose McClelland for a eARC of Under Your Skin. This is my honest and unbiased review.


Purchase Link :



Under your skin” is Rose’s fourth novel. Her previous three novels were romantic fiction published by Crooked Cat. She has made the genre jump from “chick lit” to psychological thriller and is enjoying delving into a darker corner of her mind! 

Rose has also written two short plays which were performed in the Black Box theatre in Belfast. 

She discusses book reviews on her You Tube channel and writes theatre reviews for her blog. 

She loves nothing more than curling up with her cats and a good book. She has two rescue cats – Toots, who is ginger with an inquisitive face and Soots, who is black and hops along on his 3 legs looking ever so cute.


Social media links : Rose McClelland


Book reviews

The Inconvenient Need To Belong by Paula Smedley – Book Review


In the summer of 1953, twenty-year-old Alfie steals away from his troubled childhood home in London to start a new life in Exeter. His own life. And at first it’s everything he ever dreamed it would be. For the first time in his life Alfie feels like he belongs.

Today, in a care home in the Midlands, eighty-six-year-old Alfie is struggling to come to terms with his dark past.

Alfie’s story is one of regret, the mistakes we make, and the secrets even the most unassuming of us can hold. But it is also a story about family, friendship, the things we should treasure and protect, and how the choices we make can shape our lives and the lives of others.



Alfie is a resident in a care home, he really doesn’t like other people and he’s a grumpy loner. But, every Saturday he sneaks out and visits a local park to feed the ducks. Here he meets Fred, a young man and Alfie starts to tell his story….

Alfie left his home, parents and sisters in London in the middle of the night, he needed to make a life of his own. At the toss of a coin he arrives in Exeter.

It’s here he meets Grace, but when things don’t go as he dreamed, he turns to drink…

He runs away and joins a travelling funfair and life is good…….but will he stay sober?

This is a tale of a lonely man….as an old man he’s looking back at his life and how his behaviour has left him alone. It is about love, loss, guilt and regrets.

I found the detail as of life in a care home heartbreaking, the monotony and loneliness just so realistic…( my mum is a resident of a lovely care home, but is bed ridden and days are spent alone in a room with only a tv for company….apart from her wild adventures in her mind due to dementia). 

Alfie is a complex, troubled man and I really felt for him…..

A beautifully written story that I couldn’t put down. I loved every emotion packed moment.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and an eARC of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.


Purchase Link:




Paula Smedley lives in London with her husband.

She began writing at a very young age, winning acclaim and awards for her poetry and short stories.

The Inconvenient Need To Belong is Paula’s debut novel.

 An extensive traveller, Paula has encountered vigilantes in Nigeria, escaped post-tsunami radiation in Japan, partied in a favela in Rio de Janeiro and left her debit card in a cashpoint in Sri Lanka.