The Midas Cat 3 – A Midas Cat in New York by Tommy Ellis @TommyEllis14 #BookreviewbyLou #Fiction #CrimeFiction #Cats

The Midas Cat 3
A Midas Cat in New York
By Tommy Ellis
Rated: 4 stars ****

A Midas Cat in a very human world, snow and a touch of Christmas in New York is the treat in store, there is also some heavy crime with the mafia, which also awaits, through the dark with rays of brightness within it.

Thanks to Tommy Ellis for being in contact to review and for sending me over a PDF copy.

The Midas Cat In New York Cover

Blurb

It’s December, and Ralph Williams is in New York for some retail therapy having been deeclared both sane and innocent of murder. A case of mistaken identity, however soon ruins his festive mood and puts him on the mafia’s hit list… and the triads’. Just when he thought things were as bad as they could get. the midas cat shows up and messes not only with his sadity but organised crime… with unexpected results.

Review

Christmas in New York sounds wonderful and that’s where Ralph is spending it, whilst his cousin is locked away in a cell and his wife, Lauren is elsewhere. So, it’s The Big Apple all alone for Ralph, but he has won an amazing prize, but something unexpected, even for the U.S. happens.

Cat (The Midas Cat) is also in NYC and adores the city. The book continues from the previous books and still has that quality of creating a cat to be one of the main characters and almost human-like and still likes Adam Ant and still has a bit of a humanistic quality, which makes it quirky but fun. It is also fast paced and captures imagination well.

There is a mix of the brightness of Christmas cheer, (there could have been a bit more) and the darker culture that is within the U.S, but there are glimpses of some humour within it, which mostly comes from the cat and reactions towards it. The book, however, feels a bit darker than the books previous to this one, with a bit more of the Mafia and characters such as Don Vincenzo.

The book takes readers right up to and includes Christmas Eve with a surprising ending, that is worth waiting for.

The Unravelling of Maria @fjcurlew #blogtour #saga

The Unravelling of Maria
By
Rated: 4 Stars ****

About the Author

Fiona Author profile picFiona worked as an international school teacher for fifteen years, predominantly in Eastern Europe. Seven of those years were spent in Estonia – a little country she fell in love with. She now lives in East Lothian, Scotland, where her days are spent walking her dog, Brockie the Springer, and writing.

The Unravelling Of Maria is her fourth novel.

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Blurb

Lovers separated by the Iron Curtain.

Two women whose paths should never have crossed.

A remarkable journey that changes all of their lives.

Maria’s history is a lie. Washed up on the shores of Sweden in 1944, with no memory, she was forced to create her own. Nearly half a century later she still has no idea of her true identity.

Jaak fights for Estonia’s independence, refusing to accept the death of his fiancée Maarja, whose ship was sunk as she fled across the Baltic Sea to escape the Soviet invasion.

Angie knows exactly who she is. A drug addict. A waste of space. Life is just about getting by.

A chance meeting in Edinburgh’s Cancer Centre is the catalyst for something very different.

Sometimes all you need is someone who listens.

Review

The Unravelling of Maria is like a love letter in some ways to Estonia, but is more complex than this. It is set over different time periods and with multiple perspectives, so some concentration is a must. In saying that, it is elegantly written and holds interest. It is immersive as she touches on conflict and also some of the more salubrious sides of Edinburgh, away from the glam of the city within this saga of almost epic proportions.

The book delves in to the history of Estonia, which is fascinating and makes this book feel rather original in many ways. It isn’t overly heavy as there are so many universal themes throughout as well of humanity and identiy. Maria, Angie and Jaak are terrific characters who show bravery and show that sometimes people just need to be given a chance in life. The tension throughout is however immense at times with a huge intensity, but in someways this keeps that feeling of it having a hold on you, going. The descriptions are quite panoramic in quality, which really suits this style of book.

There is a humanity that appears through the book and it feels like it has been researched well and a great deal of care over it has been taken to take people through quite a journey through time and countries in a way that isn’t sensationalised, in the way that some pretty hard times and challenges that have to be faced are revealed.

Social Media/Website Links

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#BookReview by Lou – Pianos and Flowers By Alexander McCall Smith @McCallSmith #KnopfDoubleday #PenguinRandom

Pianos and Flowers
By Alexander McCall Smith
Rated: 5 stars *****

Pianos and Flowers is a book of short stories by the man who has brought so many excellent series, such as The No1 Ladies Detective Agency and many more.
Pianos and Flowers is an exquisitely written short story within itself that also has other short stories within. Each location is primarily in Scotland. Some settings are Glasgow, Dundee with other places mentioned such as Stirling, Broughty Ferry, Dunfermline, Perth, Aberdeen and more… There are also other locations too, such as Cambridge and more…
There are interesting photos throughout, which go well with each story. It’s most definitely worth a read. I’ve written some short reviews of some of the stories.
Please do check out the blurb and the reviews below. I also have another book by Alexander McCall Smith I am reviewing soon for you. All with many thanks to Knopf Double Day Publishing Group.

Piano and Flowers cover

Blurb

From the beloved and best-selling author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, a charming collection of stories about life and romance

In these fourteen delightful tales, Alexander McCall Smith imagines the lives and loves behind some of the everyday people featured in pictures from the London Sunday Times photographic archive. A young woman finds unexpected love while perusing Egyptian antiquities. A family is forever fractured when war comes to Penang, in colonial Malaysia. Iron Jelloid tablets help to reveal a young man’s inner strength. And twin sisters discover that romance can blossom anywhere—even at the altar.

Throughout Pianos and Flowers, McCall Smith employs his indomitable charm to explore the possibilities of love, friendship, and happiness.

Piano and Flowers cover

The book starts with Piano and Flowers and an exquisite photograph of the characters that draws the eye in and along to some unusual topiary. The photograph becomes essential to the story. It’s like when you’re in an art gallery, looking at the beautiful paintings and photographs and working out what the artist is telling you or making up a story to fit what you observe.
I love the way Pianos and Flowers all unfolds. It’s observant and thoughtful and takes readers from the garden in the photo to life further afield, the image in the photograph is central to the writing. At the end you are asked to actually look at the photo again. By this time you have names to the people within it and know about their lives. Readers will also learn about the piano and flowers and their significance.

I’d Cry Buckets has another photo of rolling Scottish hills and people with a pony. This time, it’s written differently, more how people are used to reading a shory, perhaps, in its style, and yet the photograpgh depicts the landscape Bruce and David are in. What to do with life though? Go travelling or university? These are the decisions that have to be made and if it is uni, then which one? Oxford or St. Andrews? The story is thought-provoking with pangs of sadness and so desperately I find myself wanting it to work out for the pair. The writing is so evocative and is more than some coming-of-age stories. It goes further in telling more of their lives, beyond their youth.

Sphynx – At 26 years old, the daughter of a greengrocer at the Firth of Clyde. It’s about from being around the Clyde shipyards and the Gorbals to moving around a bit to London to finding a chance of frendship. I like that she’s a strong woman who tries to avoid self-pity as much as she can. It’s a fascinating story of different lives and bits of society, as well as an interest in all things Egyptian.

Maternal Designs – Richard’s father was a successful builder in Stirling and his mother, a daughter of a Dundee Jute Merchant were ambitious for him and wanted him to go to University – not just any one, but Cambridge. He himself isn’t quite so ambitious. He becomes an architect and highlights the differences in how men and women view a home. It’s also interesting how Stirling is viewed in this particular story and the ambition that ensues.

Anthropology is the main theme of The Dwarf Tale-Teller of the Romanian Rom and Dr. anthropologist, Edwina McLeod, wants to study headhunting and it isn’t the sort of headhunting western countries would think. There are songs and rituals and rating history in villages within this, where she meets the Rom people, who are very particular, and a story-telling dwarf who readers can find out if actually is willing to impart in a traditional tale or not.

In Dotty, there are twins in Glasgow and that question if dressing them the same is what is wanted or stifling individuality and whether there really is “equal-ranking” among them.

Zeugma is interesting and says some truth about changing trends. There’s an older librarian who complains about the clothing of one of the library patrons and a younger librarian who thinks he’s rather stuffy. There is a day when the young librarian is offered a shared bike ride on the way to work by a distinguished professor, when most don’t learn any junior’s name. This one seems different. This is when readers can learn what Zeugma is, on this unexpected, interesting, scenic ride.

From Urchans in Scotland, with connections to many Scottish places, they became successful in various ways and there was one who chanced his luck and later became an actor.  It becomes an intriguing story as there’s one who carries a box and it’s written in a way that really, you do want to find out its contents. It has twists and turns that are unexpected as some are dark and yet full of intrigue from beginning to end.

St.John’s Wort shows there is so much a person can worry about, even in the 60’s from the paths countries have taken that lead to Communism. After all, Communism doesn’t just happen. There’s always a road as it were, that leads a country there, step by step, whether the people in that country realise its gradual process to it is happening or not. Finally, people were getting worried and Brian is perhaps more so than most, but also perhaps a bit more cautious than most and being a bit more depressed than most. It shows the “power” of St. John’s Wort.

Blackmail is about having a job that is right at the bottom of the jobs pile, the bottom rung. It’s also about a professional blackmailer lurking around.

La Plage is the final story takes place at the beach, complete with bathing machines. It has some humour, and apparently one of the character’s mother’s is actually right about something! It’s a fascinating story with the perfect ending line to finish off this book of short stories.

#Bookreview by Lou of Love In Lockdown by Chloe James – Happy Publication Day @FionaWoodifield @ElliePilcher95 @AvonBooksUK #WomensFiction #Romance

Love In Lockdown
By Chloe James
Rated: 5 stars *****

Love In Lockdown shows so many displays of love through kindness, empathy, romance and much more. It is emotional but it is also uplifting about all of life, from human to nature during lockdown and how people connected and what occurred and how nature became the most vibrant it has ever been in decades. It has glimmers of humour, warmth and hope in what is a unique and surprisingly delightful read that everyone will be able to find something to connect and relate to in this book, which is the first of its kind to focus on relationships and community during the stress of the backdrop of Covid 19. It is far from depressing and instead leaves an unexpected warmth.

Thank you so much to Ellie Pilcher from Avon Books who sent me an invite to review.
Please do discover the blurb and full review below.

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Blurb

What if you met the right person at the wrong time?

Lockdown is putting Sophia’s life on pause – just as she planned to put herself out there and meet someone. When the first clap for the keyworkers rings out around her courtyard, she’s moved to tears for all kinds of reasons.

Jack is used to living life to the fullest. He’s going stir-crazy after just days isolating. Until the night he hears a woman crying from the balcony under his. He strikes up a conversation with the stranger and puts a smile on her face.

Soon their balcony meetings are the highlight of Jack and Sophia’s days. But even as they grow closer together, they’re always kept apart.

Can they fall in love during a lockdown?

Perfect for fans of The Flatshare.
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Review

This unique book reflects the times that we live in, but that doesn’t mean it is all doom and gloom; far from it! It is a book that is not now just universal because love is, but also because we are all in some form or another experiencing living with Covid 19. It is all relatable and yet, as much as Covid 19 is challenging and can be harrowing, this book is surprisingly uplifting as well, within a wonderfully written realism of a community coming together through the stressful times, and yet relationships are formed despite this. It is written well with so much acknowledged throughout, whilst telling a great story.

There is Erica who works as a midwife and Jenny who is having to self-isolate due to having underlying issues. Everything from the weather being gorgeously sunny to what was on TV to Zoom  to what happened in education to clapping for the NHS is included and more… In some ways this is a novel that may help people never to forget these moments and also will show generations to come what we are currently living through and have lived through, all in a fictionalised book that has so much reality. It is all moving and endearing. There is also the worry and emotion that runs through these moments and also a baby being born. It, quite originally, shows  the father and his emotions throughout the pregnancy and when the baby is born. He is a complex character with some secrets to behold and has some twists and turns in his life.

The loss of freedoms is pronounced and how humans had to adapt to living socially distanced and also virtually, but so is the vibrancy of nature that emerged in all its splendour, taking back its space.

It’s also a love story about meeting someone online during times of lockdown as the App, Hinge is discovered. There is some humour attached to this. There are also cakes and cocktails and all the social distancing on the balcony and courtyard as life changes and yet still goes on.

The book shows how connected people can be and it is interesting getting to know all the characters personalities and seeing some as “drama queens” and others showing kindness and empathy. It is in some ways thought-provoking without being heavy, as characters realise that priorities change a bit within their lives during the pandemic and for what to focus on afterwards and how relationships can change.

It is ultimately and meaningful, delightful book to read.

#Bookreview by Lou of My Only Child by Sam Vickery #SamVickery @bookouture @sarahardy681

My Only Child
By Sam Vickery
Rated: 4 stars ****

Raw, Emotional and Realistic! This book will take you to the heart of grief and all that surrounds it and yet compel to read on right to the end. I am delighted to be bringing the blog tour to a close.
Thanks to Sarah Hardy and Bookouture for inviting me to review.
Follow down for more about the author, the blurb and my review.

About the Author

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Sam Vickery is an English author who loves gritty, emotional stories that can        make  you sob. As a child, she was forever getting in trouble for being caught with   her nose in a book, and these days are no different. She lives on the south coast of   England with her husband, two children and a cat that thinks it’s a dog.

Blurb

There he is, my baby boy. His eyes are closed, his tiny rosebud mouth is pursed in sleep. My eyes well up as I catch a whiff of his newborn skin and I swallow back a wave of emotion. I should feel happy, I should feel grateful, but all I can think about is everything I just lost…

It’s a miracle when Katherine’s baby boy is born healthy. But his twin sister doesn’t survive, and when Katherine is told she can’t have any more children the loss is almost too much for her to bear.

Katherine always saw herself having a big family: she remembers how the loneliness of being an only child used to overwhelm her, and she is desperate to adopt a sibling for her son.

But her husband Davis won’t agree. He worries that Katherine will struggle when the new baby arrives. What if growing their family only adds to the grief she feels over losing her little girl? What if this breaks their marriage apart?

And Katherine is forced to make a choice. Give up the second child she has always dreamed of or risk losing the family she already has?

An unforgettable and heart-wrenching page-turner about fighting for those we love. Readers of Jodi Picoult, Diane Chamberlain and Kate Hewitt will remember this story forever.

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Review

From the outset, this is dramatic with a hysterectomy being required and the utter sadness and devastation that Katherine has to live with. It’s high on very intense emotion. It’s a book that will resonate with so many people who have experienced loss and especially loss of a child.

The book goes between Katherine and Hazel. It isn’t all about the sadness though. There’s some more positive emotions too, through some heartwarming romance and care shown as the book flips a bit between “Then” and “Now”. This is a real family story of strength, growing up, romance, love in all different forms, sadness. It has it all. It isn’t a relaxing read, but then loss is anything but a chilled out experience and it is raw and then when opportunities are taken from you, they heighten even more and it is captured well in this book. The grief is written so believably. I’m sure many readers will have experienced grief before, even if not with the loss of a child, but with a loved one and will be able to easily empathise and sympathise with the characters and recognise the signs, including the physical ones. It’s pretty detailed. It is a book that you can, even though the subject matter is deep, get caught up in and be whisked all the way to the end in a couple of sittings.

There is hope for a future after experiencing so much devastating heartbreak and anguish, but there is also the sense of things tearing apart at the seams. It’s pretty realistic because after such grief, people do all react differently and it isn’t all plain-sailing, as is depicted throughout. The ending is so tender, it’s worth reaching there too.

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#BookReview by Lou of Contacts by Mark Watson @watsoncomedian @HarperCollinsUK #NewBook #Fiction

Contacts
By Mark Watson
Rated: 5 stars ***** 

Contacts has so much poignancy and a great message within it for society. It is so well-written that those pages just have to keep turning to see how it ends. Thank you to Harper Collins UK for the e-book.
Please follow down to the blurb and full review.

Contacts by Mark Watson

Blurb

One man’s last journey. One hundred and fifty-eight chances to save his life.The unforgettable new book from award-winning writer and comedian Mark Watson – available to pre-order now!’Mark Watson is one of my favourite writers and Contacts is by far his best book yet’ Adam Kay‘Witty, emotional and beautifully written’ Jill Mansell‘It made me laugh, cry, reflect and want to check in on all my friends’ Emma Gannon ‘This is such a great book, funny and serious and daring and humane’ Richard CurtisOne man’s last journey. One hundred and fifty-eight chances to save his life.James Chiltern boards the 23:50 sleeper train from London to Edinburgh with two pork pies, six beers and a packet of chocolate digestives. At 23:55 he sends a message to all 158 people in his contacts, telling them that he plans to end his life in the morning. He then switches his phone to flight mode. He’s said goodbye. To him, it’s the end of his story – and time to crack open the biscuits.But across the world, 158 phones are lighting up with a notification. Phones belonging to his mum. His sister. His ex-best friend. The woman who broke his heart. People he’s lost touch with. People he barely knows. And for them, the message is only the beginning of the journey.Funny and wise, tender and deeply moving, Contacts is a beautiful story about the weight of loneliness, the importance of kindness – and how it’s never too late to reach out.

Contacts by Mark Watson

Review

The first sentence is a real attention grabber as eyes widen because it is is the most unexpected opening line that may make readers gasp or take a sharp-intake of breath. 158 people receive a text that will shock to the core, from James who is at that time on the London to Edinburgh train.

This is a book that displays the human condition and some of societies ills incredibly well. It’s hard-hitting and essential reading, but not just a book to read and forget, it’s one of those books that are thought-provoking and will make you think about society and people more and better. It’s about lonliness, but refreshingly, not in the older generation, but the young generation. It shows an underrated topic in such a true light. The emotions are raw and authentic.

James recalls meeting Karl in 2007 and deciding he didn’t need many contacts and now he was withdrawing somewhat on a train up to Edinburgh. It’s a deep, dark book that contains the much taboo subject of suicide in some of the narrative, which makes it essential reading, along with the lonliness, because James is essentially a lonely, intelligent young man.

The book moves onto Sally Chiltern, James sister in Melbourne and Michaela Adler, an ex, in Berlin who both receive the text message and their reactions to the unexpected message and an insight into their lives. There is also an insight to Jean Chiltern, his mum in Bristol, who is informed of the text by Sally. There is then the reactions of the other people who have also looked at their phones.

The book is so current that it even goes into characters doing the Couch to 5K and having a language app. There is some humour amongst the book. It isn’t all dark and bleak.

It is heartwarming to see the kindness of people who are trying to find James and save him from certain death and each other from such lonliness and the impact that has on people. It really raises the issue that it isn’t just the elderly, so compassionately and well and within some terrific and responsible story-telling. It reminds people that there is always someone to talk to, such as the Samaritans too.

Mark Watson, having been in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival and indeed a book launch does take James into Waverley Station and into the city, which is accurately depicted. I know this as I go into Edinburgh a fair bit. It leads to the end of what is an incredibly poignant story that shows an enormous amount of humanity and hope, even when things seem to be at their bleakest. It honestly is such a strong and courageous book that I feel could, if enough people read and really think about it, could feed a lot of good into society and help people talk about their issues and to think of others differently. It’s such an amazing book and one of those rare books that I don’t think will leave me any time soon.

On another note – please don’t suffer in silence. As the book alludes to, it is never too late to reach out. Here is a link to Samaritans. It is free and confidential http://www.samaritans.org