My Bookish April 2020

Oh dear, back to my wicked ways again I fear with the the number of books I’ve bought, however in my defence there were some cracking freebies (especially for World Book Day) and some great bargains in the Kindle sale this month. Despite what looks like profligate behaviour my expenditure on eBooks averaged out at a mere 61p per book!! I also had several lovely surprises this month with a fabulous prize win and a lovely book parcel. I took out a new book subscription this month as well (like I really needed more books!) and had my first books virtually be return of post which was wonderful.

 

Books Read this Month

 

Only two this month I’m afraid, so that’s not going to make much of a dint in the book mountain. However on the plus side they were paperbacks so it’s cleared a teeny, tiny space on the shelves.

 

Bay of SecretsBay of Secrets by Rosanna Ley

Spain, 1939

Following the wishes of her parents to keep her safe during the war, a young girl, Julia, enters a convent in Barcelona. Looking for a way to maintain her links to the outside world, she volunteers to help in a maternity clinic. But worrying adoption practices in the clinic force Sister Julia to decide how far she will go to help those placed in her care.

England, 2011

Six months after her parents’ shocking death, 34-year-old journalist and jazz enthusiast Ruby Rae has finally found the strength to pack away their possessions and sell the family home. But as she does so, she unearths a devastating secret that her parents, Vivien and Tom, had kept from her all her life.

 

As anybody who has read my posts before I have a ‘thing’ for Spain so not really sure why I took so long to get around to this (might be down to the aforementioned book mountain ahead of it). Anyway don’t let the cover fool you into thinking this is just another light, summery, romantic read. It has the essential, appealing location settings, and it has a will they, won’t they romantic storyline. But, underlying that, and linking into a theme of families and who we are, is a deeper thread exploring the subject of the niños robados. This was the state sanctioned abduction of children from Republican parents that took place during the Spanish Civil War and throughout Franco’s rule. As in many other countries the Catholic Church was complicit in this practice, which continued well into the 1980’s.

I was immediately lured in by Ruby’s faltering relationship with her boyfriend, one which was compounded by the death of her parents. Having made a decision that she thought would resolve her future, she finds herself delving into the past. It’s a story based on secrets on lies and not just for Ruby.  The story had me engrossed and I happily recommend it. For bargain lovers the eBook is currently 99p

 



 

Alice TealeAlice Teale is Missing by H A Linskey 

Alice Teale walked out of school at the end of a bright spring day.

She’s not been seen since.

Alice was popular and well-liked, and her boyfriend, friends and family are desperate to find her.

But soon it’s clear that everyone in her life has something to hide.

Then the police receive a disturbing package.

Pages from Alice’s precious diary.

Who could have sent them? And what have they done with Alice?

 

A new to me author and based on this one I’ll be looking out for.

This was the sort of police procedural that I really enjoy. A maverick lead in  DS Lucas Black presented with a fairly rookie DC Beth Winter. A mismatch made in reader heaven. As it turned out, the dynamic played out really well and I’d love to see these two make a return appearance.

Both are handed what had begun as a basic missing person enquiry, looking into the disappearance of schoolgirl Alice Teale. The investigation ramps up when someone starts sending pages from her missing diary to DS Black.

There’s a list of possible suspects from her dysfunctional family, secretive friends, a possible revengeful ex boyfriend and lecherous school teachers. Throw in the gossip, rumour and misdirection common of a small town mentality and the pair have their work cut out.

It’s a slow burn, that draws the reader into the investigation, following the same clues and blind alleys as they are revealed. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying read, made all the more so because I hadn’t guessed the dramatic end reveal.

 



eBooks bought this month 

 

ConvictionConviction

It’s just a normal morning when Anna’s husband announces that he’s leaving her for her best friend and taking their two daughters with him.

With her safe, comfortable world shattered, Anna distracts herself with someone else’s story: a true-crime podcast. That is until she recognises the name of one of the victims and becomes convinced that only she knows what really happened.

With nothing left to lose, she throws herself into investigating the case. But little does she know, Anna’s past and present lives are about to collide, sending everything she has worked so hard to achieve into freefall.


 

Return to MandalayReturn to Mandalay by Rosanna Ley

Eva Gatsby has often wondered about her grandfather Lawrence’s past, and exactly what happened to him in Burma during the Second World War. But it is only when Eva’s job as an antiques dealer suddenly requires a trip to Mandalay that Lawrence finally breaks his silence and asks her to return a mysterious artefact of his own – a chinthe – to its rightful owner.

As Eva arrives in Burma her mission soon proves dangerously complicated, and the treasure she is guarding becomes the centre of a scandal that will have far-reaching consequences. Caught between loyalty and integrity, Eva is determined to find the truth about her grandfather’s past, of her own family origins, and of the red-eyed chinthe itself – enigmatic symbol of the riches of Mandalay.


 

I'd Rather Be ReadingI’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel

For so many people, reading isn’t just a hobby or a way to pass the time–it’s a lifestyle. Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can’t imagine life without them.

I’d Rather Be Reading is the perfect literary companion for everyone who feels that way. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today. Known as a reading tastemaker through her popular podcast What Should I Read Next?, Bogel invites book lovers into a community of like-minded people to discover new ways to approach literature, learn fascinating new things about books and publishing, and reflect on the role reading plays in their lives.


 

The Seven SistersThe Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Maia D’Aplièse and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home – a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva – having been told that their beloved adoptive father, the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt, has died.

Each of them is handed a tantalising clue to their true heritage – a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil . . .

Eighty years earlier, in the Belle Époque of Rio, 1927, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into aristocracy. But Izabela longs for adventure, and convinces him to allow her to accompany the family of a renowned architect on a trip to Paris. In the heady, vibrant streets of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.


 

The Secret HoursThe Secret Hours by Santa Montefiore

‘Let the wind take me and the soft rain settle me into the Irish soil from where I came. And may my sins be forgiven.’

Arethusa Clayton has always been formidable, used to getting her own way.   On her death, she leaves unexpected instructions.   Instead of being buried in America, on the wealthy East Coast where she and her late husband raised their two children, Arethusa has decreed that her ashes be scattered in a remote corner of Ireland, on the hills overlooking the sea.

All  Arethusa ever told Faye was that she grew up in a poor farming family and left Ireland, alone, to start a new life in America as did so many in those times of hardship and famine. But who were her family in Ireland and where are they now?  What was the real reason that she turned away from them?  And who is the mysterious benefactor of a significant share of Arethusa’s estate?

Arethusa is gone. There is no one left to tell her story.  Faye feels bereft, as if her mother’s whole family has died with her.  Leaving her own husband and children behind, she travels to the picturesque village of Ballinakelly, determined to fulfil her mother’s last wish and to find out the reason for Arethusa’s insistence on being laid to rest in this faraway land.


 

Cliff DiverCliff Diver by Carmen Amato

CLIFF DIVER kicks off the heart-stopping Detective Emilia Cruz police series confronting drug cartels and official corruption. This is the Mexico of El Chapo, Narcos, and relationships with heat.

Emilia Cruz clawed her way up the ladder to become the first female police detective in Acapulco. She’ll fight to keep the job, too, even if her lieutenant is a dirty cop and the other detectives try to kick her out.

When the lieutenant is murdered, Emilia is assigned to lead the investigation. Soon the man’s sordid sex life, money laundering, and involvement in a kidnapping double-cross combine to create an ugly mess no one wants exposed.

The high profile murder case could wreck Emilia’s career, which is probably why she was handed the case. Under pressure from Acapulco’s ambitious mayor and the head of the police union, Emilia faces the ultimate choice. Truth or survival?

Either way, this diver won’t be ready for the shock of the water.

And neither will you.


 

The Price of ParadiseThe Price of Paradise by Susana Lopez Rubio

In a city as corrupt as it was luxurious, those who dared to dream were bound to pay the price.

Havana, Cuba, 1947. Young Patricio flees impoverished Spain and steps into the sultry island paradise of Havana with only the clothes on his back and half-baked dreams of a better life. Blessed with good looks and natural charm, he lands a job as a runner at El Encanto—one of the most luxurious department stores in the world.

Famous for its exquisite offerings from French haute couture to Arabian silks, El Encanto indulges the senses in opulent extravagance. It caters to visiting Hollywood stars, rising politicos, and prerevolutionary Cuba’s wealthiest power players, including the notorious mobster César Valdés.

Falling in love with the mobster’s young wife, Gloria, is suicide. But Patricio is irresistibly drawn to the beautiful girl with sad eyes, a razor-sharp intellect, and a penchant for both Christian Dior’s clothes and Einstein’s theories. Within the walls of El Encanto, anything seems possible, even a love that promises to heal them and a desire that thrums with the mambo beat of the city itself.

In a reckless love affair that spans half a century, Patricio’s and Gloria’s lives entwine time and again, challenged by every twist of fate—for in a world of murder, betrayal, and revolution, those who dare to reach for paradise seldom survive unscathed.


 

Six Wicked ReasonsSix Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain

It’s June 2008 and twenty-one-year-old Adam Lattimer vanishes, presumed dead. The strain of his disappearance breaks his already fragile family.

Ten years later, with his mother deceased and siblings scattered across the globe, Adam turns up unannounced at the family home. His siblings return reluctantly to Spanish Cove, but Adam’s reappearance poses more questions than answers. The past is a tangled web of deceit.

And, as tension builds, it’s apparent somebody has planned murderous revenge for the events of ten years ago.


 

Absolute beginnersAbsolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes

London, 1958. A new phenomenon is causing a stir: the teenager.

In the smoky jazz clubs of Soho and the coffee bars of Notting Hill the young and the restless – the absolute beginners – are revolutionising youth culture and forging a new carefree lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock‘n’roll. Moving in the midst of this world of mods and rockers, Teddy gangs and trads., and snapping every scene with his trusty Rolleiflex, is MacInnes’ young photographer, whose unique wit and honest views remain the definitive account of London life in the 1950s and what it means to be a teenager.

In this twentieth-century cult classic, MacInnes captures the spirit of a generation and creates the style bible for anyone interested in Mod culture, and the changing face of London in the era of the first race riots and the lead up to the swinging Sixties…


 

Your Perfect YearYour Perfect Year by Charlotte Lucas

A man consumed by a meaningless life is going to do something he’s never considered doing before. He’s going to enjoy the day…

For hyper-particular publishing heir Jonathan Grief, the day starts like any other—with a strict morning fitness regimen that’ll keep his divorced, easily irritated, cynical, forty-two-year-old self in absolutely flawless physical condition. But all it takes to put a crimp in his routine is one small annoyance. Someone has left a leather-bound day planner with the handwritten title Your Perfect Year in his spot on his mountain bike at his fitness course!

Determined to discover its owner, Jonathan opens the calendar to find that someone known only as “H.” has filled it in with suggestions, tasks, and affirmative actions for each day. The more he devotes himself to locating the elusive H., the deeper Jonathan is drawn into someone else’s rich and generous narrative—and into an attitude adjustment he desperately needs.

He may have ended up with a perfect year by accident, but it seems fate has set Jonathan on a path toward healing, feeling, and maybe even loving again…if only he can meet the stranger who’s changing his life one day at a time.


 

The First Mrs. RothschildThe First Mrs Rothschild by Sara Aharoni

In this award-winning historical saga, passionate young lovers in a Jewish ghetto rise to become the foremost financial dynasty in the world.

It is the turn of the eighteenth century in Frankfurt, Germany, and young Gutle and Meir Amschel Rothschild struggle to establish themselves in the cramped and restricted Judengasse. But when Meir’s talents as a novice banker catch the attention of a German prince, Meir is suddenly afforded entrée into the European world of finance and nobility, and the Rothschilds’ lives are changed forever. As proud as Gutle is of her husband’s success, she is also cautious—very much aware of the fact that her husband’s rise is tied to his patrons’ willingness to “see past” his Jewishness. As their family grows, and a dream of fortune comes true, so does their belief that money will ultimately bring the power needed to establish Jewish civil rights.

Told through Gutle’s intimate journals, revealed across decades—from the French Revolution through personal tragedies and triumphs—The First Mrs. Rothschild paints a rich and intimate tapestry of family drama, world-changing history, and one woman’s steadfast strength.


 

LifeLife by Lu Yao

Lu Yao published only two novels before his untimely death—but their extraordinary influence catapulted the author to the top tier of Chinese contemporary fiction, establishing him as one of the most widely read and respected figures in Chinese literature.

In this first-ever translation of Lu Yao’s Life, we meet Gao Jialin, a stubborn, idealistic, and ambitious young man from a small country village whose life is upended when corrupt local politics cost him his beloved job as a schoolteacher, prompting him to reject rural life and try to make it in the big city. Against the vivid, gritty backdrop of 1980s China, Lu Yao traces the proud and passionate Gao Jialin’s difficult path to professional, romantic, and personal fulfillment—or at least hard-won acceptance.

With the emotional acuity and narrative mastery that secured his reputation as one of China’s great novelists, Lu Yao paints a vivid, emotional, and unsparing portrait of contemporary Chinese life, seen through the eyes of a working-class man who refuses to be broken.


 

Muddy Boots and Silk StockingsMuddy Boots and Silk Stockings by Julia Stoneham

England, 1943. The country is at war

With so many men away fighting, it is the women left behind who must keep the country going, and when Alice Todd is abandoned by her husband, she must find a means to provide for herself and her young son. She is offered the job of looking after the group of land girls at Lower Post Stone Farm and soon discovers they each have a story – and some have secrets they’d rather not reveal. The harsh times of war are tempered by the Saturday evening dances in the local hall, but as the hostilities continue, it is clear to Alice that there is more tragedy to follow closer to home.


 

The StrangerThe Stranger by Harlan Coben

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a beautiful family, a big house, a good job – a perfect life.

But then he meets a stranger in a bar and learns a devastating secret about his wife.

With the mirage of perfection shattered, Adam finds himself caught up in something far darker than his wife’s deception.

And if he doesn’t make the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives – it will end them.


 

The Stationery Shop of TehranThe Stationery Shop Of Tehran by Marjan Kamali

1953, TehranIn a small shop in a country on the brink of unrest, two people meet for the very first time.

Roya loves nothing better than to while away the hours in the stationery shop run by Mr Fakhri. The store, stocked with fountain pens, shiny ink bottles, and thick wads of writing paper, also carries translations of literature from all over the world. Bahman, with his burning passion for justice, is like no one else she has ever met.

But all around them, as their relationship blossoms, life in Tehran is changing.

Suddenly, shockingly, violence erupts: a coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future, as well as their own.


 

Found HerFound Her by NJ Mackay

Belle Moriarty was there one moment and gone the next. Ten years ago, she disappeared walking home from school, under the supervision of her older sister Eve.

Eve has never recovered from the guilt of turning her back.

But then she receives a phone call that changes everything. Belle has been found – alive.

But who took her? Why did they keep her alive all these years? And now that Belle has escaped, will they try to silence her for good?

With Belle in a coma and Eve receiving increasingly terrifying threats, she must discover the kidnapper’s identity before they return to finish what they started…


 

Down And Out In South East AsiaDown and Out in South East Asia by Alex Watts

In the sequel to bestselling food book Down And Out In Padstow And London, failed chef and hack Lennie Nash sets off to eat his way through SE Asia, with a half-baked plan to buy a restaurant.

Along the way, he encounters a host of weird characters from frazzled bar owners to Walter Mitty CIA agents to seedy sexpats to ice zombies four years over on their visa. The book is an adventure story, spiked with a heavy dose of backpacker noir, through the eateries, street food stalls, and hazy bars of Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam…


 

The MothersThe Mothers by Sarah J Naughton

Five Women.

They meet at their NCT Group. The only thing they have in common is they’re all pregnant.

Five Secrets.

Three years later, they are all good friends. Aren’t they?

One Missing Husband.

Now the police have come knocking. Someone knows something.

And the trouble with secrets is that someone always tells.


 

Three Perfect LiarsThree Perfect Liars by Heidi Perks

GOSSIP SPREADS FAST.
LIES CAN BE TOXIC.
SECRETS CAN KILL.

When an office fire ends in murder, three women are first in line for questioning.

What is Laura trying to hide?
What is Mia trying to protect?
What would Janie risk for revenge?

They never thought it would come to this.
But nothing can be hidden forever…


 

All the Hidden TruthsAll the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

In the aftermath of a tragedy, the world needs an explanation.

In Edinburgh, after the Three Rivers College shooting, some things are clear.

They know who. They know when.

No one can say why.

For three women the lack of answers is unbearable: DI Helen Birch, the detective charged with solving the case. Ishbel, the mother of the first victim, struggling to cope with her grief. And Moira, mother of the killer, who needs to understand what happened to her son.

But as people search for someone to blame, the truth seems to vanish…


 

The Boy Who FellThe Boy Who Fell by Jo Spain

Kids can be so cruel.
They’ll call you names.
Hurt your feelings.
Push you to your death.

In the garden of an abandoned house, Luke Connolly lies broken, dead. The night before, he and his friends partied inside. Nobody fought, everybody else went home safely. And yet, Luke was raped and pushed to his death. His alleged attacker is now in custody.

DCI Tom Reynolds is receiving the biggest promotion of his career when a colleague asks him to look at the Connolly case, believing it’s not as cut and dried as local investigators have made out. And as Tom begins to examine the world Connolly and his upper class friends inhabited, the privilege and protection afforded to them, he too realises something.

In this place, people cover up for each other.
Even when it comes to murder.


 

Saving MissySaving Missy by Beth Morrey

Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.

Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.

Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?



Indie Publishers Purchases

 

 

The Good MayorThe Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll

Black and White Publishing

Every morning, Mayor Tibo Krovic stops off at the local café on his way to work. He drinks his Viennese coffee with extra figs, leaves a bag of sweets for the owner, and then continues on to his office. There he awaits the arrival of his secretary: the beautiful, married, but lonely, Agathe Stopak.

In the respectable town of Dot, there is nothing the good Mayor Tibo can do about his love for Mrs Stopak. Until one day Agathe accidentally drops her lunch into the fountain and a family tragedy is revealed. In that moment, everything changes.

The Good Mayor is a magical story of fate and chance, of loss and love.


 

The Lives Before UsThe Lives Before Us by Juliet Conlin

Black and White Publishing

It’s April 1939 and, with their lives in Berlin and Vienna under threat, Esther and Kitty – two very different women – are forced to make the same brutal choice. Flee Europe, or face the ghetto, incarceration, death.

Shanghai, they’ve heard, Shanghai is a haven – and so they secure passage to the other side of the world. What they find is a city of extremes – wealth, poverty, decadence and disease – and of deep political instability. Kitty has been lured there with promises of luxury, love, marriage – but when her Russian fiancé reveals his hand she’s left to scratch a vulnerable living in Shanghai’s nightclubs and dark corners. Meanwhile, Esther and her little girl take shelter in a house of widows until the protection of Aaron, Esther’s hot-headed former lover, offers new hope of survival.

Then the Japanese military enters the fray and violence mounts. As Kitty’s dreams of escape are dashed, and Esther’s relationship becomes tainted, the two women are thrown together in the city’s most desperate times. Together they must fight for a future for the lives that will follow theirs.


 

Summer at The Little French Guesthouse - HP(1)Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

Bookouture

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?


 

Recipe for a Perfect WifeRecipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

Legend Press

When Alice Hale leaves a career to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in the basement, she becomes captivated by its previous owner: 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the pages Nellie left clues about her life.

Soon Alice learns that while a Baked Alaska may seem harmless, Nellie’s secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister, even dangerous, side to Nellie’s marriage, and has become increasingly dissatisfied with her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own.


 

A Footman for the PeacockA Footman for the Peacock by Rachel Ferguson

Dean Street Press

Controversial when first published in the early days of World War II, due to its treatment of a loathsome upper-crust family dodging wartime responsibility, A Footman for the Peacock can now be enjoyed as a scathing satire of class abuses, a comic masterpiece falling somewhere between Barbara Pym and Monty Python.

Sir Edmund and Lady Evelyn Roundelay live surrounded by a menagerie of relations and retainers. The Roundelays’ history of callous cruelty is literally etched on a window of the servants’ quarters with the words “Heryn I dye, Thomas Picocke. 1792”. Sir Edmund reflects cheerfully on the running footmen who have ‘died off like flies’ in the family’s service.

But now—amidst digressions on everything from family history and servant woes to the villagers’ linguistic peculiarities and a song immortalizing the footman’s plight—war threatens the Roundelays’ smug superiority. What’s more, it appears that the estate’s peacock is a reincarnation of Thomas Picocke, and may be aiding the Nazi cause … By turns giddy and incisive, hilarious and heartbreaking, A Footman for the Peacock is Rachel Ferguson at her very best. This new edition features an introduction by Elizabeth Crawford.


 

A Murder of No ConsequenceA Murder of no Consequence by James Garcia Woods

Lume Books

What could be deadlier than war?

On the eve of the Spanish Civil War murder on the streets of Madrid has become so commonplace that it passes largely unnoticed.

For Inspector Paco Ruiz the death of a young woman in Retiro Park has a significance that even he does not fully understand. Battling against official hostility, and attempts on his own life, Ruiz finds himself being pulled deeper and deeper into a dark web of lies and treachery.

As well as providing a thrilling and intriguing mystery, A Murder of No Consequence paints a vivid picture of a society – and a way of life – on the verge of collapse.


 

Tom Wasp and the Murdered StunnerTom Wasp and the Murdered Stunner by Amy Myers

Lume Books

A chimney sweep in Victorian London’s poverty-stricken East End, Tom Wasp is highly flattered to be asked to model for Valentine Drake, a painter in fashionable Chelsea, especially since his co-model is the beautiful and warm-hearted Bessie Barton, a red-headed stunner who becomes his friend.

Grief-stricken when her body is found by mudlarks on the muddy banks of the river Thames, Tom vows to find her murderer. Tracking her pitiful past through London’s seamiest quarters, he discovers the monstrous shadow that hangs over her life, Moonman, from whose clutches Bessie had fled, only to fall into his murderous hands at last. But who is Moonman? Is he one of the Angels, the high-minded group of artists to which Valentine belongs? Or is the truth more terrifying still?

Step by step Tom hunts down his quarry through the darkness, guided by his faith that there is goodness in this world as well as evil, and assisted by his chummy, the eleven-year-old Ned.

Narrated by Tom himself, this unusual historical thriller whirls the reader from the squalor of London’s Victorian slums to the heady pleasures of its high-life, revealing both the evil and the goodness in both. Tom and Ned make a formidable team as they clean the filthy chimneys of life in this first book of the Tom Wasp series.


 

How We DisappearedHow we Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

Oneworld Publications

Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked. Only three survivors remain, one of them a tiny child.

In a neighbouring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is bundled into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military rape camp. In the year 2000, her mind is still haunted by her experiences there, but she has long been silent about her memories of that time. It takes twelve-year-old Kevin, and the mumbled confession he overhears from his ailing grandmother, to set in motion a journey into the unknown to discover the truth.

Weaving together two timelines and two life-changing secrets, How We Disappeared is an evocative, profoundly moving and utterly dazzling novel heralding the arrival of a new literary star.


 

The Chemical ReactionChemical Reaction by Fiona Erskine

Point Blank

As Jaq is pulled further into a murky underworld of deceit and corruption, things take an explosive turn…

After escaping almost certain death amidst the ruins of Chernobyl, Jaq finds herself in even hotter water. Deep in debt, she decides to take on a risky contract in China. But when her former student and the chemical factory she was meant to be investigating both mysteriously disappear, she realises nothing is as it seems.

From fraudulent art auctions in London to a troupe of male strippers in Shanghai, the mystery of the vanishing factory begins to look ever more complicated as the days pass. Can Jaq work out what happened – and whether it has anything to do with her nemesis Frank Good – before time runs out?


 

Black RiverBlack River by Will Dean

Point Blank

FEAR – Tuva’s been living clean in southern Sweden for four months when she receives horrifying news. Her best friend Tammy Yamnim is missing.

SECRETS – Racing back to Gavrik at the height of Midsommar, Tuva fears for Tammy’s life. Who has taken her, and why? And who is sabotaging the small-town search efforts?

LIES – Surrounded by dark pine forest, the sinister residents of Snake River are suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, they also hold all the answers. On the shortest night of the year, Tuva must fight to save her friend. The only question is who will be there to save Tuva?


 

No Simple DeathNo Simple Death by Valerie Keogh

Bloodhound Books

When Detective Garda Sergeant Mike West is called to investigate a murder in a Dublin graveyard, suspicion immediately falls on a local woman, Edel Johnson, whose husband disappeared some months before. But then she disappears.

Evidence leads West to a small village in Cornwall, but when he checks in to an Inn, he finds Edel has arrived before him. Her explanation seems to make sense but as West begins to think his suspicions of her are unfounded, she disappears again.

Is she guilty? West, fighting an unsuitable attraction, doesn’t want to believe it. But the case against her is growing. Back in Dublin, his team uncover evidence of blackmail and illegal drugs involving Edel’s missing husband. When another man is murdered, she, once again, comes under suspicion.

Finally, the case is untangled, but is it the outcome West really wants?


 

Drift Stumble FallDrift Stumble Fall by M Jonathan Lee

Hideaway Fall Ltd

Richard feels trapped in his hectic life of commitment and responsibility. From the daily mayhem of having young children, an exhausted wife and pushy in-laws who frequently outstay their welcome, Richard’s existence fills him with panic and resentment. The only place he can escape the dark cloud descending upon him is the bathroom, where he hides for hours on end, door locked, wondering how on earth he can escape.

Often staring out of his window, Richard enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, his neighbour living in the bungalow across the road. From the outside, Bills world appears filled with comfort and peace. Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss of both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined. Beneath the surface, a family tragedy has left Bill frozen in time and unable to move on. As he waits for a daughter who may never return, Bill watches Richards bustling family life and yearns for the joy it brings. As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other people’s lives are not always what they seem.


 

Where The Truth LiesWhere the Truth Lies by M J Lee 

Canelo 

The case was closed. Until people started dying…

DI Thomas Ridpath was on the up in the Manchester CID: a promising detective who captured a notorious serial killer. But ten years later he’s recovering from a serious illness and on the brink of being forced out of the police. Then the murders began, in an uncanny echo of his first case.

As the death count grows, old records, and bodies, go missing. Caught in a turf war between the police and the coroner’s office, Ridpath is in a race against time. A race to save his career, his marriage, and innocent lives.

When a detective disappears everything is on the line. Can Ridpath save his colleague?


 

The Tanglewood Tea ShopThe Tanglewood Tea Shop by Lilac Mills

Canelo

Patisserie-Chef Stevie is stuck in a rut. Her beloved Great Aunt Peggy has passed away and she’s lost both her job and the love of her life. Then she gets the call from the solicitor’s office about Peggy’s will, and everything changes.

When Stevie sees a quirky tea shop up for sale in the beautiful village of Tanglewood, she decides to take Peggy’s advice and turn her life around.

But the village isn’t as idyllic as it may at first have seemed, and when the gorgeous but grouchy local stable-owner, Nick, shows up he seems like just another fly in the pastry batter…


 

A Right Royal Face-OffA Right Royal Face-Off by Simon Edge

Lightning Books

It is 1777, and England’s second-greatest portrait artist, Thomas Gainsborough, has a thriving practice a stone’s throw from London’s royal palaces. Meanwhile, the press talks up his rivalry with Sir Joshua Reynolds, the pedantic theoretician who is the top dog of British portraiture.

Gainsborough loathes pandering to grand sitters, but he changes his tune when he is commissioned to paint King George III and his large family. In their final, most bitter competition, who will be chosen as court painter, Tom or Sir Joshua?

Two and a half centuries later, a badly damaged painting turns up on a downmarket TV antiques show being filmed in Suffolk. Could the monstrosity really be, as its eccentric owner claims, a Gainsborough? If so, who is the sitter? And why does he have donkey’s ears?


 

Confession with Blue HorsesConfession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach

Head of Zeus

Tobi and Ella’s childhood in East Berlin is shrouded in mystery. Now adults living in London, their past is full of unanswered questions. Both remember their family’s daring and terrifying attempt to escape. But what happened next? Where did their parents disappear to, and why? What happened to Heiko, their little brother? And was there ever a painting of three blue horses?

In contemporary Germany, Aaron works for a Stasi archive, making his way through old files, reconstructing the tragic history of thousands of families. But one file in particular catches his eye; and soon unravelling the secrets at its heart becomes an obsession.

When Ella finds a stash of her mother’s notebooks, she and Tobi embark on a search that will take them back to Berlin. Her fate clashes with Aaron’s, and they piece together the details of Ella’s past… and a family torn apart.


 

I am DustI Am Dust by Louise Beech

Orenda

A haunted theatre
A murdered actress
Three cursed teenagers
A secret that devastates them all…

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…



Book Subscriptions

 

NB Subscription

 

As it was my birthday this month I decided to treat myself. With money left over from Christmas (how I don’t know!) and with some I got for my birthday I took out a Premium Book subscription with NB Magazine.

For what seems a very reasonable £99 (includes a 15% for paying via Direct debit)

  • Four quarterly magazines
  • A handpicked, gift-wrapped book each month of the year. These will include at least 6 hardback books as part of every bundle.

As a very kind welcome gesture this month I was sent not one, but two books – and very good they look too!

 

Beautiful PlaceBeautiful Place by Amanthi Harris

Beautiful Place is a novel about leaving and losing home and making family. It is about being oppressed and angry and wanting a better life – but how is a better life to be defined?

The Villa Hibiscus is a house by the sea on the exquisite southern coast of Sri Lanka, home to Padma, a young Sri Lankan woman. The owner of the villa, Gerhardt, is an elderly Austrian architect to whom Padma was taken when young by her scheming father, Sunny, who had hoped to seduce the wealthy new foreigner in the area with his attractive child. Gerhardt adopts Padma and pays Sunny to stay away until she’s grown up – when Gerhardt expects to have sent Padma away to University, far away.

But Padma fails her exams and is lonely in the city, gladly returning to her beloved old home by the sea. With Gerhardt’s help she creates a guesthouse at the villa and soon guests start to arrive, opening new vistas for Padma through their friendship and love.

Then Sunny appears, ready to reclaim his daughter…


 

RememberedRemembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton

It is 1910 and Philadelphia is burning . . .

The last place Spring wants to be is in the rundown, coloured section of a hospital surrounded by the groans of sick people and the ghost of her dead sister. But as her son Edward lays dying, she has no other choice.

There’re whispers that Edward drove a streetcar into a shop window. Some people think it was an accident, others claim that it was his fault, the police are certain that he was part of a darker agenda. Is he guilty? Can they find the truth?

All Spring knows is that time is running out. She has to tell him the story of how he came to be. With the help of her dead sister, newspaper clippings and reconstructed memories, she must find a way to get through to him. To shatter the silences that governed her life, she will do everything she can to lead him home.



Unbound eBook Subscription

 

Horse destroys the UniverseHorse destroys the Universe by Cyriak Harris

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Black Beauty and gallops off into The Matrix in the debut novel from cult internet sensation Cyriak Harris

Life was simple for Buttercup the horse. Chewing grass in a field, gazing dreamily at passing clouds or standing at a hedge to watch the world go by. Perhaps a light nap followed by a gentle canter and more grazing, and then off to the stable for a programme of psychological tests designed to expand the boundaries of horse consciousness.

For Betty and Tim, life was also simple. Or at least as simple as life could be when you are scientists conducting neurological experiments on a horse. That is until the day they discovered their horse was conducting an experiment of its own.

Life became rather more complicated after that for Tim, Betty and Buttercup, and the ensuing struggle for control over one horse’s destiny results in an intellectual arms race that takes all three of them to the edge of reality and beyond. It is a struggle that threatens to shake the foundations of civilisation and unravel the fabric of time and space. Can anyone stop this horse from destroying the universe?



Prize Wins and Gifts

 

This month was an exceptionally lucky month and not the norm, so I really appreciated these in a month where thanks to the current crisis I enjoyed a lockdown birthday. This equated to getting my birthday cards much later than my birthday and even less of the already few presents I get anyway. So these more than made up for that.

 

Lucy 2

 

I was very kindly sent two books by Lucy Coleman (aka Linn B Halton). Both look right up my street, especially the Summer on the Italian Lakes as it is set on Lake Garda, an area I visited a couple of years ago. I always love a book set in a location I know and love.

 

Summer on the Italian Lakes

Summer on the Italian Lakes

Brianna Middleton has won the hearts of millions of readers with her sweeping love stories. But the girl behind the typewriter is struggling… Not only does she have writer’s block, but she’s a world-famous romance author with zero romance in her own life.

So the opportunity to spend the summer teaching at a writer’s retreat in an idyllic villa on the shores of Lake Garda – owned by the enigmatic bachelor Arran Jamieson – could this be just the thing to fire up Brie’s writing – and romantic – mojo?

Brie’s sun-drenched Italian summer could be the beginning of this writer’s very own happy-ever-after…


 

Snowflakes Over Holly Cove

Snowflakes over Holly Cove

As the snowflakes start to fall, Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…

For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around…’

So, Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air and rugged stranger, Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart.

Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…

Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly beautiful Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands, where the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.

 



 

My fabulous prize win for successfully completing the fiendishly difficult crossword set my Fiona Erskine to promote the hardback publication of Chemical Reaction which sees the welsome return of her fabulous female explosives expert Dr Jaq Silver. As the book takes as it’s inspiration the disaster of the Banqiao hydroelectric dam in China, all the gifts came from China. I will admit I always had my eye on the panda (yes I know I’m 62 and not 2, but I don’t care). Fiona told me he was bought in Chengdu, so that is now his name. The two books are now sitting in my prized signed book collection and luckily I’d already downloaded Chemical reaction so no danger of damaging my pristine copy. The little Chinese figures is the envelope on the bottom left are actually a set of fabulous bookmarks. A lovely journal and silk screen hanging completed what I think you’ll agree is a fabulous prize.

Fiona prize

 

Check out Fiona’s series by clicking on the image below

 

Fiona's

 

So that was my month, hope yours was as good. Happy Reading!!

24 comments

  1. I couldn’t resist buying another book for my Covid treat. Bay of Secrets sounds really involving; I think I only heard recently of the terrible baby scandals, which make your blood run cold. We can all imagine what it must be like to find you are not who you think you are and there must be many real life stories on this theme.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve recently read Red Gene which deals with the same subject. It was scandalous that the church colluded and actively participated in this – pretty much the same as in Ireland and Australia etc. Despicable behaviour and the fact this carried on until the 1980’s cannot hide behind distant history. Hope you enjoy it too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I keep buying kindle books too, even though I’ve barely been reading recently! I’ve just bought another one (I’d Rather Be Reading) after seeing your mention of it, it sounds like a lovely read. Hope you enjoy all of your new books, and that you and your loved ones are safe and well. x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Whew… that’s a long post! You have been busy!

    Say… did you ever consider putting that “read more” tool into your posts when you write these up? It makes it much lighter for people who subscribe to your blog, by giving them only a teaser so they’ll want to read more… Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always taken it that anybody hitting my home page isn’t getting the full post anyway, they’re getting an image and description which acts as the teaser. I’m not techy enough to know whether it makes a difference to data downloads/speeds etc, but I’ve been running this new format for nearly a year now, with longer posts than this and nobody has raised it. If my site was set up with the latest post on the home page then that would be a different matter and I’d certainly consider it. Personally if I click on a post link I’m happy to see the full post, if it’s too long and I lose interest, I just click out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, you’d see the whole post when you click on the link anyway. Its just that when email alerts come out, it takes a long time to scroll through to see if there’s more than one post in the alert. The “read more” would just shorten the emails, nothing else.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Now I’ve had a look at the email alerts I get I understand what you mean. Not sure I understand how to do it though so I’ll investigate. I think I’ve found it, I’ve added it and it doesn’t show on the preview so I’m assuming it will work on the email. Thank you

        Liked by 1 person

  4. happy belated birthday, Jill! that’s a whole heap of new books. something i gave up when we did the RVing thing, bookcases or any space for books. now that we are off wheels but are in a little home, also no space for books. another reason for the digitals. good luck with all those!

    Like

    • Thanks Virginia. I did get a bit carried away (again). One of the few things I can still buy easily due to lockdown are eBooks! The physical book count is creeping up though so it’s forcing me to read what I already have on the shelves to create some space. My shelves found themselves filling up when my local charity shop was selling books at 10p each (about 12 cents for you). Consequently I bought things that I might not have had they been more expensive – I think it’s time to have a good sort out. The only things that stops me at the minute is not having anywhere to keep them until the charity shops open again to donate them back.

      Like

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