The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman @CharityNorman1 @AllenAndUnwin #TheSecretsofStrangers #RandomThingsTours #Thriller #CrimeFiction #BlogTour #Review #MustRead

The Secrets of Strangers
by Charity Norman
Rated: 5 stars *****

Tense, compelling, touching, The Secret of Strangers is an excellent read. I can well see why the author has made it to the Radio 2 Bookclub and with a previous book – The Richard and Judy Bookclub. It is with thanks to the publisher Allen & Unwin that I have the great opportunity for reviewing The Secrets of Strangers – a stand-alone novel. It’s a Must Read thriller set in a cafe and one, I am ecstatic to share with you as a tale of one gunman and three hostages unfolds. I loved this book so, so much!!! Read on for more info and my full review, that I’ve approached from a slightly different angle this time of writing it.

About the Author

The Secret of Strangers Charity Norman Author PicCharity Norman was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years’ travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. THE SECRETS OF STRANGERS is her sixth novel.

 

Secrets of Strangers Cover

Blurb

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for five strangers whose paths cross in a London café – their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage.

But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?

Another tense, multi-dimensional drama from the writer of the Richard & Judy bestseller After the Fall.

Review

This book is absolutely terrific and so unputdownable. Sleep eluded me. I didn’t want to get to the end because I seriously didn’t want to have to leave this book and yet I really, really needed to see how it would all end. It was seriously that good and it’s a book I imagine I will read again someday. I was pulled into this book gripping book within the first few pages and time knew no bounds as it ticked on by as the pages turned ever so easily from one to the next, never stopping to look at a clock.

Told through 6 main characters – Abi, Eliza, Mutesi, Sam, Neil, Rosie as they more or less take on the chapters, this is a captivating book which is incredibly well-written and the more I read, the more I want to keep going through the intensity of what is ultimately an eloquently told story within the premise of a hostage situation in a cafe. This is a story of the time of being taken hostage and the very human story surrounding this and how people get to know each other a little more and about the secrets they have.

Meet the characters:

Neil is quickly established as being homeless, but used to work for a company making medical equipment. He used to be a teacher prior to being made homeless and has quite a story to tell.

Abi works as a barrister and has worked on many cases. She has also been struggling to conceive, even with IVF with Charlie. It’s emotive.

Mutesi cleans in the church – St. Judes and is a nurse in a carehome and you wonder what more there is to her, which is discovered in the book.

Eliza works for the MET in the serious crime unit and is also a hostage negotiator. She has a family – a teenage son and a husband – Richard who is self-employed. It was all love at first sight, whilst travelling on a train on the beautiful East Coast Railway. A line I have travelled often on, as has many people. She has quite a role to play as is involved in negotations.

Sam at 8 years old, helps around his parent’s farm and is keen to be a farmer and less keen on school, where he gets support for his dyslexia. I do love how his dad likes when the school is on summer holidays and comes across as having a terrific attitude to them. This is until tragedy strikes. Everything changed! Psychologically everything changed. There is a powerful theme within that, handled sensitively and so well as destruction ensues. More secrets come out and there’s some cause and effect that is presented in the story. There’s some sinister goings on with him being manipulated for years. It is interesting to see how and why he ends up where he is as an adult.

Rosie – despises her dad- until she really needs his help that is and is interesting how that unfolds

The rest of my thoughts on what is an exceptional book

There’s a lovely sounding cafe called Tuckbox, whose usual hustle and bustle is disturbed one day when a gun man walks in and the atmosphere rapidly changes and there’s a real sense of urgency in the writing as circumstances change.

 The tension that builds is just phenomenal, as is the clarity of writing and that with the music references that are scattered throughout works so well together.
What else that is is so great about reading this book, is it is so easy to follow because it flows so well from character to character. The book really is like looking into The Tuckshop Cafe and seeing exactly where each character is and what’s happening in each of their lives at every step of the hostage situation they find themselves in.

You feel the anguish of each person as the hostage situation builds and also at times, an almost claustrophobic atmosphere as they try and find hiding places to keep safe. Also as tension builds up, so do the characters as readers get a deeper insight into their lives.

There’s the sense of danger and delicacy of negotiating the hostage taker, that is written so naturally and well.

What else can be said, except, this is an exceptional book that I highly recommend as a Must Read.

Do follow the rest of the tour too.

The Secrets of Strangers BT Poster

 

Review of Bookends by Jane Green @JaneGreen @PenguinUKBooks #uplit #chiclit #review #UK #US #bookshops #books #friendship #kindness #food

Bookends
By Jane Green
Rated: 4 stars ****

About the Author

JANE GREEN IS THE AUTHOR OF TWENTY NOVELS, INCLUDING SEVENTEEN NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERS, ONE COOKBOOK, AND VARIOUS SHORT STORIES.

She is published in over 25 languages, and has over ten million books in print worldwide. She has been part of the ABC News team, has had her own radio show on BBC Radio London, and has made regular appearances on TV and radio.
She contributes to a number of newspapers and magazines, and has a weekly column in The Lady magazine, England’s longest running weekly magazine.
A graduate of the International Culinary Institute in New York, Green is an avid cook, amateur decorator, and passionate gardener. She is also a regular storyteller for The Moth.
A resident of Westport, Connecticut, she lives there with her husband, a small menagerie of animals, and (too) many children.

Blurb

On the shelf, but still best friends . . .

Bookends CoverCath is scatty, messy and guarded. While Si is impossibly tidy, bitchy and desperate for a man of his own. They are total opposites – but equally unlucky in love. And they’ve stuck together through thick and thin. Because that’s what best friends do.

So when their beautiful friend Portia – the undisputed queen of their group of friends at university – steps back into their lives, after a ten year gap, her reappearance tests both Cath and Si’s friendship to the limit.

What does Portia want? Will she be a force for good in their lives, or something darker? And will Cath and Si ever get lucky in love?

 

Review

This isn’t a brand new book, it is one I have read a few times and felt like reviewing as I raided my shelves in my book cupboard. Being published in 2000, it has topical themes and all the themes of life don’t really change and it still feels as fresh and relevant as it did then. It can still be bought and may be on some library shelves. It is interesting that the cover has changed a few times over the years. Below are some of the UK (top 3) and US (bottom 2) cover versions.

This story takes readers on life’s journey with main character Cath along with Si – her great friend, Josh – her transient friend and Portia – her soulmate. This at the beginning is how she saw these main people who are in her social circle at university.

Portia is the first character to be really introduced. She comes from a rich background and Cath had assumed all was perfect when they were students, except its readers will soon learn that was perhaps not quite so. Cath, Si and Josh drift away from her as she hurt other friends of theres.

Si is a film editor in Soho and wants to find his Mr Right. Whether there is the perfect romance for him or not, you’ll just have to find out by reading the book. He certainly looks for it and I always find myself rooting for him.

Josh works within mergers and acquisitions and within this circle of friends. He is also married to Lucy, but is suspected of having an affair.

Cath is single after a 2 year distasterous relationship where she decides not to open herself up to love ever again, although whether she sticks to that vow she makes to herself or not remains to be seen.

Si is like a great best friend, he is written a bit like on a wish list of friends. He is written as caring for Cath and a lover of fashion and tries to perk her up on Bond Street, London. He also has a wonderful sense of humour. He can be moody at times and that would be frustrating. The characterisation of Si is excellent.

Lucy and Cath set up a bookshop together that’s made of so many people’s dreams. Lots of lovely books and a cafe area with the most scrumptious sounding cakes and pastries. What’s not to like? A book about frienship and how everyone interacts with each other and their lives and this lovely bookshop. The book is simply so wonderful and that is why I wanted to re-read it.

There’s romance and twists and this book is compelling. It’s one to devour and is so hard to put down once started, everything about it is so divine. The more the book goes on the more the characters almost enthrall and then there’s Portia who is mysterious and the question of what she really wants builds. She has some sort of effect on everyone’s lives one way or another.

There’s really shockingly sad heartbreak that is handled so sensitively and so believable. I won’t say to whom or what it is as it would spoil the story.

This book has everything in it. I enjoy Jane Green’s books but thus far this is my favourite of hers and one I am certain to return to again.

Uplit is the latest buzz word in literature and this book has kindness, friendship and although there is heartbreak, there are enough elements that will lift people’s spirits too.

Jane’s latest book is called The Friends We Keep and was published on June 4th 2019.

A Book for Each Day of the Week #TheStrawberryThief @Joannechocolat #SummerattheKindnessCafe @Vicky_Walters #TheHangryHamster #SealedWithADeath @JamesSilvester1 #TheLongestFarewell @nulasuchet @johnsuchet1 #summer #bookish #crime #kidslit #romance #France #UK #Thriller #summerreads #review Resume of Reviews of 7 Great Books for Summer and Beyond

A resume of 7 great books I have read over the summer and beyond.

I have read and reviewed a number of books this summer. I thought I would give a quick resume of 7 of them. Full reviews are also in my blog. I have also provided individual links to the full reviews. Please do take a look, you may be inspired or reminded of a good book.

The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris – Fiction

Strawberry thief

The Strawberry Thief is the latest part of the Chocolat series, written by Joanne Harris

This book sees Vianne Rocher back in Lansquenette-Sous Tannes during Easter with strawberries and chocolate filling the senses. There’s also a change in the wind as there is excellent writing, truth and emotion in the writing as Anouk has grown up and flown the nest. This is in contrast to Rosette who cannot do this part of life.
Roux still lives on the boat, preferring his own company and there is a new character called Morgane Dubois.
The writing of the wind is beautifully descriptive and tells the reader there’s much more than just the wind to come and that it is meaningful. The growing up of children who fly the nest and set up their own lives is relatable. The book will arouse anyone’s senses and emotions. It is just as good as the previous 3 books within this series. The descriptive writing is atmospheric and adds to the intrigue as to how this book will end.

Note, there is also an added afterward about Joanne’s own experience of her daughter leaving home and there is a poignant, well-written short story in print copies only of this book that are well-worth reading.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/06/02/the-strawberry-thief-by-joanne-harris-an-exquisite-atmospheric-and-poignant-book-5-stars-joannechocolat-orionbooks-gigicroft-thestrawberrythief-review-newbook-waterstones

 

Summer at the Kindness Cafe by Victoria Walters – Fiction

Summer at Kindess Cover (1)

Enter Brew – Kindness Cafe this summer and you won’t be disappointed. Enter Brew and be inspired to do your own random acts of kindness this summer, like the three women within this story.

Abbie Morgan is the main protagonist and is forced to leave London after being made redundant, something so relatable to many people.
Within the book there are sections called “Notes from the Brew Kindness Board”. This may inspire some people to follow-suit and do random acts of kindness. Get to know the characters and their personalities and see if Acts of Kindness transforms their lives or not.
Once the story has ended, turn the page for a lovely note by the author.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/06/18/summer-at-the-kindness-cafe-by-victoria-walters-this-summer-be-encapsulated-in-warmth-kindness-and-life-vicky_walters-teambatc-summeratthekindnesscafe-randomthingstours-annecater-randomactof

The Hangry Hamster by Grace McCluskey – Fiction

hangry hamster

Have fun with this children’s book. Billy gets a hamster and takes him everywhere, until the hamster isn’t allowed on the plane when Billy is going abroad. The hamster gets left behind and becomes hangry and goes on an adventure through London. Take a read of this adventurous, exciting, humorous, well illustrated book, written by a child for children.

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/07/14/the-hangry-hamster-by-grace-mccluskey-a-short-action-packed-book-to-engage-and-excite

Sealed with a Death – Fiction

Sealed with a Death Book Cover

Would you like a great political thriller? Give Sealed with a Death by James Silvester a try.

This book has got to be placed up there in one of the most current book in fiction there currently is. James Silvester writes very well and at excellent pace, in conveying what is happening and mixing it with his fictional. Meet Lucie Musilova – an assassin working as part of the Overlappers Intelligence Team. Women across many countries in Europe start to disappear, Kasper Algers, an Independent MP disappears and there’s still the case as to what happened to Ines Aubel. Readers are also taken into the world of brothels and further into the world of espionage and fake passports.

The book takes us to the far right of British politics and also to France where there’s the Gilet Jaune movement and the author takes this element into Britain. There’s also a focus on the everyday prejudices, pay as well as the cuts to police resources.

I have to say, I was impressed by not just how current this book is, but also the calibre of writing, considering the time it takes to write a book, especially well and how politics moves along at the moment. The language and tone of all the characters is believable, there’s no holding back!

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/07/15/sealed-with-a-death-by-james-silvester-jamessilvester1-urbanebooks-lovebookstours-politicalthriller-thriller-espionage-newreview-newbook

A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft – Fiction

A Summer to Remember Cover

Clancy Moss is the main character, leaving her old life to start a new one. There’s romance, there’s social, tourism and education issues that are dealt with. From beginning to end this book has so much of human life and yet it feels as light as summer, and still it skillfully has meaningful substance. It is a most enjoyable and absorbing read of break-up, romance and life’s trials and tribulations and escapism. A Summer to Remember is a book to remember this summer and for more summers to come.

Please note, there is also an added short story in physical print copies of this book that is worth reading.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/07/24/a-summer-to-remember-by-sue-moorcroft-a-delightful-summer-read-suemoorcroft-avonbooksuk-summer-summerreads-heatwave-review-newbooks-ebookpromo-norfolk-romance

 

Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew – Non-Fiction

zippy cover

Ronnie Le Drew is best known as being the puppeteer for Zippy in children’s TV show – Rainbow. It is a well written autobiography about becoming a puppeteer, his starting out at the The Little Angel Theatre. Some of the hard time he had to go through (not a sob-story though, it is better than that). and the people he worked with such as Jim Henson and David Bowie. Ronnie comes across as being down-to-earth as he never forgets his roots. This book is also about a bit of Rainbow scandal and what happened to the people working in it afterwards. It is nostalgic to say the least. Readers will get a look of behind the scenes of Ronnie’s puppeteer work, which makes it a fascinating read.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/08/02/zippy-and-me-by-ronnie-le-drew-with-duncan-barrett-and-nuala-calvi-re-visit-your-childhood-with-this-enlightening-book-about-rainbow-zippyandme-punchand-unbounders-duncanbarrett-nualacalvi-rai

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet – Non-Fiction

The Longest Farewell book pic

 Condensing my review down, only goes a little into what is really within the pages of this book. I will say it is a very worthy book to read, so please do take a look at the full review of it. I will also say it is the most emotional book of the summer. Nula Suchet’s husband James who, at the age of 57 had Picks disease – a form of dementia and this is chronicled very well in this book, with every heart-felt sentence. John Suchet’s wife – Bonnie also had dementia. It is heartbreaking and there is also so much love as Nula cares for James, who does go into a care home, but that is also where she meets John, who is there visiting his Bonnie. It is also about the relationship that develops between John and Nula and their travels together, that at first don’t exactly go smoothly. The writing is so amazingly strong, every aspect of the book is absorbing and all-consuming in a good way because every emotion can practically be felt and empathised and sympathised with. It is telling that it is all written from the heart and this part of both John and Nula’s life was not easy. It does however have the most happy of endings or rather shows the happiness of a continuation of their lives. 

Please do look at my full review for this book, if you haven’t done so already because just a few words only really highlights the book’s existence and a little of what it is about.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/08/07/the-longest-farewell-james-dementia-and-me-by-nula-suchet-nulasuchet-johnsuchet1-serenbooks-david_suchet-vicky_mcclure-the_writereads-dementia-nonfiction-review-newbook

Summer at the Kindness Cafe by Victoria Walters – This Summer Be Encapsulated in Warmth, Kindness and Life. @Vicky_Walters @TeamBATC #SummerAtTheKindnessCafe #RandomActofKindness #bookreviews #SummerReads #Uplit

Summer at the Kindness Cafe
By Victoria Walters
Rating *****

Today I am pleased to have been invited on The Random Things Blog Tour for the book – Summer at the Kindness Cafe. A book which readers can be encapsulated in the warmth of kindness and friendship as well as cafe culture and life changing events.

 

Summer at the Kindness Cafe BT Poster

 

About the Author


Victoria Walters Author Pic

Victoria Walters was discovered in a short story competition run by Simon & Schuster’s The Hot Bed. Her first novel, The Second Love of my Life was published by Headline, and she returns to the fold with Summer at the Kindness Cafe, her second novel.

 

Blurb

Summer at Kindess Cover (1)Welcome to Brew, a cafe where kindness is almost as important as coffee… almost!

Abbie has fled London and the humiliation of not being able to make rent after being made redundant. Her sister, Louise, unlucky in love, has thrown herself into her career at the local hospital. And Eszter, who has travelled from Hungary with her daughter Zoe, is hoping to fulfil her husband’s dying wish: to reunite his family.


This summer, three very different women are inspired by the random acts of kindness written up on the Kindness Board at Brew, and decide to make a pact to be kinder to others and to themselves.

Can a little bit of kindness really change your life? Eszter, Abbie and Louise are about to find out!

Review

Enter Brew – Kindness Cafe this summer and you won’t be disappointed. Enter Brew and be inspired to do your own random acts of kindness this summer, like the three women within this story.
I love that there is a book like this, which actively becomes part of spreading the word about being kind to each other and yourself. It makes me think of a talk by another author/comedian/presenter (Susan Calman) at the Edinburgh Fringe who had an act with the by-line to join the “Kindness Revolution”. This is what this book does, it’s almost like it is part of it.

Abbie Morgan is the main protagonist and is forced to leave London after being made redundant. This reflects just how expensive London is. It’s a good way for the author to begin her story. It also means readers are already on the journey of Abbie as she seeks a new life and within a couple of pages, brings about feelings of care for this character.

Then there’s Louise, her very kind sister, who Abbie finally travels to be with in Littlewood. This is the situation of the cafe – Brew. The cafe has a board where people write-up random acts of kindnesses they’ve experienced from others. I love this idea. I’ve no idea if there are any boards like that, but perhaps there ought to be. There’s something heart-warming and quite beautiful about it. Within the book there are sections called “Notes from the Brew Kindness Board”. This may inspire some people to follow-suit and do random acts of kindness.

The contrast shows through well, between Abbie and Louise. Abbie has hardened a little and can’t really imagine being kind to a stranger and Louise who appears naturally kind, too kind, according to Abbie (not that there’s such a thing as too kind), but she sees Louise as slightly neglecting herself and she ought to be kinder to herself.

This is far from a cloyingly sickly sweet read however, so don’t be fooled. There’s heartbreak and bitter sweetness in this book. Louise, for all that she seems completely together and has life sorted, has had her heart-broken and the author ensures readers know it’s been badly broken.

Abbie, initially doesn’t know where to start on her first ever random act of kindness, it’s not really her thing, to be kind to a complete stranger. Eszter however gives some good advice and before long, Abbie has seen someone who she can be kind to. It’s all very down-to-earth and seems to unfold naturally. There’s nothing outlandish in this book.

I feel readers can really get into the characters lives and get to know their personalities and what’s happened to them as well as see their lives progress. Are their lives transformed through kindness? It is worth reading to find out.

This is a heart-warming book of kindness, friendship, finding new paths in life, which makes for a great summer read. It’s one I hope does make an impact and inspires more people to be kind to themselves, each other and to strangers.

Once the story has ended, turn the page for a lovely note by the author.

Praise for the author

Your favourite authors LOVE Summer at the Kindness Cafe:
‘A heart-warming read – cosy and comforting. I loved it!’ HEIDI
SWAIN
‘Utterly gorgeous, a totally heart-warming, beautiful story. I loved
every single page!’ HOLLY MARTIN
‘A really lovely story – heart-warming and life affirming’ JO THOMAS
‘Warmth and kindness on every page’ SHEILA O’FLANAGAN
‘I adored Summer at The Kindness Café – it’s such a cosy,
heart-warming read’ JENNIFER JOYCE