#BookReview by Lou – Christmas For Beginners by Carole Matthews Happy Publication Day @carolematthews @millieseaward @BooksSphere @LittleBrownUK

Christmas For Beginners
By Carole Matthews
Rated: 5 stars *****

Happy Publication Day to Carole Matthews for Christmas For Beginners.
Full of uplifting events humour and cosyness as well as observing mental health issues within characters and other topical issues all on a farm with the most humorous animals, in this treat of a book that will set readers up very nicely for Christmas.
Thank you to Carole Matthews for alerting Millie Seaward to my request to review and for her, subsequently accepting my request to review Christmas for Beginners.
Please follow down to find out more in the blurb and my review.

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Blurb

The BRAND NEW Christmas read from the bestselling author

The gloriously festive sequel to readers’ favourite and Sunday Times bestselling novel Happiness for Beginners.

SPEND THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR AT HOPE FARM . . .

Christmas is fast approaching at the new Hope Farm. Owner Molly Baker has been convinced to organise an open day to raise some much-needed funds ahead of the New Year, but the nativity tableau is proving challenging. With anti-social sheep, awkward alpacas and a seriously sequined Santa Claus to assemble, Molly is feeling overwhelmed, and in desperate need of some Christmas spirit . . .

Despite the chaos of the farm getting in the way of her event planning, Molly is looking forward to spending the holidays with Shelby and Lucas, hopeful that a happy family Christmas is exactly what they need to draw them all together. But while she is busy making plans on the farm, Shelby, it seems, has ideas of his own.

As the nativity draws near, the team are working hard to pull off a spectacular festive fete – and make sure the animals and humans remain on their best behaviour. Will this Christmas be merry and bright, or is there more than one surprise in store for Hope Farm?

A must-read festive tale from the queen of fun-filled and life-affirming fiction, Christmas for Beginners is the PERFECT winter treat!

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Review

Molly, Lucas and alpacas are on Hope Farm, which the author informs is fictional but based on a real place called Animal Antiks that works with children and young adults with learning difficulties, mental health issues and autism and has a lot of praise for them. It is a lovely insight into another aspect of what Carole Matthews holds dear and what inspired her for her fictional Hopefarm.

From the opening line, which is terrific and unexpected, there is humour, especially with the Alpacas – Johnny Rotten, Tina Turner or Rod Stewart and they seem to have the personalities to match their names. There are many animals on the farm, each with their unique personalities and needs to be looked after.

The book is warm, heartfelt and witty and cosy enough without it being trite. There is the warmth of and excitement of the run up to Christmas that is then interwoven with the goals of the characters and their relationships and their issues, this also includes the vast array of animals on the farm too.

This is far from your usual working farm. It takes in challenging animals and also takes in teenagers who have behavioural difficulties, mental health issues or are autistic. It is set up for an interesting premise straight away.The first people are Shelby Dacre and his wayward son – Lucas who have had a hard time and struggling through grief and it was actor Shelby who helped Molly Baker with this farm, after she lost her original one. The book shows how lives can change for the better, even in what seems like the bleakest of circumstances. It is heartwarming and uplifting and the characterisation of Lucas – teenage boy is spot on. It is interesting getting to know all the characters and the way they relate to each other. It all comes across as natural and rooted in reality.

What really comes across in the book is a lot of care and love. Shelby’s tv career and the challenges that come his way are also explored as are the issues with love and grief in Lucas, but nothing too heavy, it is essentially a cosy Christmas book. There is lots of humour throughout and some of it is particularly brave, but it all has a valid point and makes it such a fun book.

The Buckinghamshire scenery is depicted in an idyllic manner, which is simply divine of ancient woodland, but there is a small pocket that shows the concern of HS2 that reflects some opinions in England in present times. It’s a brave decision, but it does have a place within the book and drifts into the story, momentarily in a way that flows well and without becoming too political. It also very nicely doesn’t detract from the story of Christmas and the farm and the characters stories.

The book takes readers in to share the festive spirit and activities and right up to Christmas Day itself, which is lovely and also emotional. There are a few well-written emotive poems in the book, which is quite refreshing and adds a certain edge to it and a different way for the characters to express their thoughts and feelings about what goes on in the characters lives. The whole book leaves a lovely glow of warmth and Christmas spirit.

#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

#BookReview by Lou of Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten #CrimeFiction @nholten40 @0neMoreChapter_ @HarperCollinsUK @BOTBSPublicity

Dead Perfect
By Noelle Holten
Rated: 5 stars *****

Today I am delighted to be closing the blog tour for Noelle Holten and her book – Dead Perfect.

Fast-paced, gritty and chilling to the end – Dead Perfect is a book that packs a punch, with its twists and turns and sinister moves of a stalker.
Thanks One More Chapter/Harper Collins for providing me with the book and for Sarah Hardy for later, inviting me to join the blog tour. 

About The Author

Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at http://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering cases of domestic violence and abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Dead Inside is her debut novel and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

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Blurb

A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls? 

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?

Dead Pefect

Review

A tapping sound, a hammer and a video makes an intriguing prologue.
The Major and Organised Crime Department at Stafford Police Station is where DC Maggie Jamieson is in active service and in comes a sinister case that could be so close to home for her and the team, with a stalker on the loose. The writing is impactful and emotional, as well as compelling and believable as it twists from as early on from the first couple of chapters.

The team solving the case are likeable, especially Nathan and his protective nature.

When it comes to the culprit, there is edge of your seat, atmophere, as the tension builds, as does the case. It also has an air of creepiness about it. This is powerful writing of a stalker’s harrowing and spine-tingling activities.

There is also Lucy Sherwood, who has completed her probation at Markston and is an agency Probation Officer who is opening a refuge for men and women. She also feeds into the case as well, in a practical sense and both her story and the case all come together rather seemlessly and naturally. The author has evidently used some of her own background when writing about Lucy Sherwood, which enhances the character.

There’s the question of whether the stalker and murderer are one of the same person or if both cases are not linked at all. It’s a book that keeps you guessing!
There is also the question of the press being involved that adds to the intrigue.

It’s quite edgy and graphic in nature, but in a realistic sense of being tied-up, which then becomes absorbing, with a need to find out what happens next and who will be caught and who will survive and how people are connected as evidence is pieced together, but there are twists and turns within this as well.

It is captivating as the behaviours of the stalker are discussed and as the colleagues try to work it out and also recall a historic serial killer. There seems to be a lot for readers to get stuck into in this book and all is detailed with what needs to be done to protect the officers as much as possible about each part of the case to catch the criminal, but still, Noelle Holten manages to keep everything pointing in the same direction of attempting to solve the case and keep it all gripping and chilling to the very end.

#Bookreview by Lou of #WorldWar2 #Fiction – An Angel’s Work by Kate Eastham @eastham_kate @bookouture @sarahhardy681

An Angel’s Work
By Kate Eastham
Rated: 5 stars *****

Set in the midst of the Second World War, this book shows resilience, duty and friendship within a fast-paced story that has a slight grittyness.
I am pleased to be kicking off the blog tour for An Angel’s Work by Kate Eastham.
Thanks to Sarah Hardy for inviting me to this blog tour for Kate Eastham and the publishing company – Bookouture.
Please follow down to the blurb and full review.

About the Author

KATEA change in circumstance meant Kate Eastham made the shift from a career in nursing to being a carer for her partner. Determined to make the most of this new role ‘working from home’ and inspired by an in-depth study of the origins of nursing, she wrote her first novel at the kitchen table. Miss Nightingale’s Nurses was published by Penguin in 2018, closely followed by three more in the series. With her passion for history, Kate aims to make visible the lives of ordinary yet extraordinary women from the past. Her current historical fiction is set during the World Wars and will be published by Bookouture.   
 
 

An Angel's Work cover

Blurb

Jo forced herself to look into the cot, but at first all she could see was grey dust from the explosion. Then, a tiny hand poked out through a layer of grit. In seconds she had the child scooped up and she could feel its little body warm against her own. She felt an almost painful surge of emotion welling up from the pit of her stomach. With tears pouring down her cheeks, she stood rocking and soothing the baby, knowing there was very little chance the child’s mother had survived.

England, 1941. After three nights of relentless bombing from German aircraft, trained nurse Jo Brooks is told to report to the basement theatre of Mill Road Hospital. She goes with a heavy heart, not wanting to leave behind her best friend Moira, who is desperately soothing new mothers on the maternity ward. As Jo arrives safely underground, the ward takes a direct hit.

Pulling herself from the rubble, Jo’s first priority must be her patients… but she can’t stop herself frantically searching for Moira. When Jo eventually finds her, buried beneath a foot of bricks and stone, Moira is barely clinging to life. Jo makes a solemn vow: she will do whatever it takes to help the allies win the war, even if it means sacrificing her own safety.

The opportunity to make good on her promise comes sooner than she expects – nurses are badly needed to evacuate wounded allies across enemy lines. It will be dangerous, heartbreaking work and her life will be at risk every moment, but Jo knows that the moment has come to prove herself at last…

A powerfully emotional wartime novel about friendship and love in the most terrible of circumstances. Perfect for fans of Diney Costeloe, Jean Grainger and Soraya M. Lane.

An Angel's Work cover

Review

The opening propels readers right at the heart of World War 2 in amongst the explosive action with Jo, a medic who is on her way to Normandy to nurse the troops back to health. It makes you sit up and pay attention to what becomes a compelling story along the front lines as it moves at a fast-pace with a real mix of danger, hope and sadness.

The balance between the injured troops and action draws readers in, but with nothing too graphic and gory as times gone-by are built giving snapshots of scenes as the story goes along, but at the same time, steers away from being too cosy and comfortable, in a very good way. Focus also changes to the maternity wards where also nothing is “sugar-coated” and it just adds another interesting element to the story being told and the challenges of giving birth during the war times and the height of the blitz. There is all sorts of emotions and the feeling of sheer busyness and getting on with the job and doing what is needed, throughout the book and an element of resilience that comes across to deal with all the patience in troubled circumstances. For a historical novel, this is quite a surprising page-turner and shows friendship and love, compassion and resilience through the severest adversity, which are pretty big topics to use and yet tell a story very adeptly and with slight grit here and there.

Take time to read the extraordinary “Letter From Kate” at the end of the story for an enhanced insight.

An Angels Work - Blog Tour Poster

#Bookreview by Lou of A Deeper Song by Rebecca Bradley @RebeccaJBradley #CrimeFiction

A Deeper Song
By Rebecca Bradley
Rated: 4 stars ****

Mysterious characters and a very good paced plot makes for an intriguing plot for A Deeper Song by Rebecca Bradley, the latest DI Hannah Robbins Novel (6th in the series, but can be read as part of the series or as a standalone).
Thanks to Rebecca Bradley, for giving me a copy of A Deeper Song to review.
Follow onto the blurb and full review of this crime fiction procedural book.

Blurb

How do you fight someone you can’t see?

Detective Inspector Hannah Robbins finds herself on the most perilous case of her career when a young man darts in front of her car. He’s covered in someone else’s blood and has no memory of how he got there.

Digging up the man’s past puts Hannah on a collision course with a dangerous stranger who wants history to remain hidden and who will stop at nothing to keep his secret.

Hannah finds herself in the biggest fight of her life.

Is this finally a case too far?

Review

DI Hannah Robbins is the author Rebecca Bradley’s detective and there is added mystery for them to solve as there is a young man who was knocked over and has been left with no memory. He has been rendered with no real sense of place or sense of identity. Curiously, however, there are links that appear to his past and a historic missing person’s case as there is more to the case than meets the eye as things get deeper and more mysterious. DI Hannah Robbins finds herself right at the heart of trying to solve the case. There are intriguing characters and compelling plot that all builds with suspense and becomes increasingly gripping as the case moves along and builds into a deeper song of life.

The detail within the writing adds to the story and to the evidence and clues, without over-complicating things, making it easy to follow and absorbing. There is however more than just the case of the mysterious young man, there is DI Hannah Robbins estranged sister which all needs dealing with too. It’s often good to see family dynamics at play when there is a family, within crime fiction. What is also shown is the team dynamics and the pressures and strains they are under with the case that brings them so close to a breaking point. The thread between the different components runs smoothly at a very good pace.

Media Link

Website: http://www.Rebeccabradleycrime.com

#Bookreview by Lou of #ChildrensBook – The Day I Fell Into A Fairytale By Ben Miller @ActualBenMiller @simonschusterUK

The Day I Fell Into A Fairytale
By Ben Miller
Rated: 5 stars *****

Enchanting, mystical within a lot of fun mixed in with meaningful, relatable relationships between siblings that need a boost. There is also trepidation within several fairytales and the real world and all together it makes The Day I Fell Into A Fairytale so compelling for children.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for accepting my request to review.
Please read on to discover more about the author, the blurb and full review of The Day I Fell Into A Fairytale and a little about The Night I Met Father Christmas.

About the Author

Ben Miller is an actor, director, and comedian, best known for writing and starring in The Armstrong and Miller Show and his role as Rowan Atkinson’s sidekick, Bough, in Johnny English Strikes Back.  Other recent big screen roles include What We Did On Our Holiday with Billy Connolly, and the much-loved Paddington 2 with, well, Paddington. On television, he is best known for the crime comedy drama Death In Paradise which has been a big hit worldwide.

The Day I Fell Into A Fairytale

Blurb

Following the breakout successes of The Night I Met Father Christmas and The Boy Who Made the World Disappear, get ready for the brilliant NEW novel from actor, comedian and bestselling author Ben Miller. Featuring beautiful illustrations from Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini.

Lana loves stories. Especially the ones she and her brother, Harrison, share in their make-believe games. But when Harrison decides he’s too grown-up to play with Lana she finds herself feeling lonely. Until something magical happens…
 
Hidden in the strange new supermarket in town, Lana discovers a portal to a fairytale world! But these aren’t the happy-ever-after fairytales that Lana knows, they are darker and more dangerous, and the characters need Lana’s help to defeat an evil witch. But she can’t do it alone. Can she convince Harrison to believe in stories again and journey to the world with her. . .  before it’s too late?

This is a story about stories, but it’s also about a brother and a sister finding their way back to each other through the power of imagination. 

The Day I Fell Into A Fairytale

Review

The Day I Fell into a Fairytale plunges you right into that world. What an incredibly good start it has with a possible molehill. I say possible because it isn’t just an ordinary molehill. There’s an energy within the words chosen and how they are written that builds faster and faster as the molehill grows and grows until you fall into a fantastic, enchanting fairytale land with Lana.

Lana lives in Little Hilcot and has a brother – Harrison, whom she views as a bit too serious since being in senior school and hitting the books to study oxbow lakes, Archimedes and more, when all she wants to do is go on adventures. Later she needs to go to Grimms, a supermarket, with her family and buys a book of fairytales, which become a bedtime story. The fact that this becomes a peculiar version of fairytales where art is almost imitating life, like a character seeming to be a person she has seen before, makes this even more curious. It turns out that Lana hasn’t ever heard of the fairy tales, some of which you can read about within the book itself.

It is magical and mystical and a lot of fun as readers land into fairytales with banquets of the most delicious food and a tuneful robin, where the adventure really begins. It’s so easy to get lost in this book, as I put on my childhood brain. If you’ve been brought up on fairytales, they are all so recognisable within this story. It shows real thought and cleverness to bring them all together in a way that doesn’t rip them off or seem disingenuous. It’s impressive! You’ll meet the likes of Rumplestiltskin, Briar Rose, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel and more of the Grimm’s fairy tales all spun together in a compelling tale that sweeps between that land and also the reality of the real world.

Look out for all the lovely illustrations of climbing roses and all that you could ever want in a pick ‘n’ mix and more… It just all adds to the fun of this beautiful, curious book that is so well written and hits the spot! There are twists and danger and mild trepidation as some characters are put into danger as good and evil exists.
There are expressed emotions and brotherly and sisterly care that is shown with warmth that children will also be able to relate to. It also demonstrates through story-telling that books, especially fairytales can ignite imaginations and a lot of new fun and adventures can be explored, even from the most normal, everyday places as the story goes between home, supermarket and the realm of imagination, created from a book of Grimm fairytales.

The Night I Met Father Christmas

I had an extract of The Night I Met Father Christmas too. It takes place in the North Pole with entrepreneurial elf – Grimm Grimmsson in his shoe factory and goes onto tell the story of the main character – Torvil Christmas. He is not a kind elf, but something magical happens through various events, again drawing on timeless classics and fairytales, things change.

As well as written word books, they can be purchased as audiobooks too.