All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

I’m excited today to review Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone for his blog tour. This was my first time reading about the Skelf women but I’d heard great things about the series so couldn’t wait to jump in.

Book Review: Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

Book cover for Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone
Celtic cross gravestone with a magpie perched on it. Has tagline Death is just the beginning
Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

Title: Black Hearts

Author: Doug Johnstone

Publisher: Orenda Books

Genre: Crime

Release Date:  29th September 2022

Blurb

The Skelf women live in the shadow of death every day, running the family funeral directors and private investigator business in Edinburgh. But now their own grief interwines with that of their clients, as they are left reeling by shocking past events.

A fist-fight by an open grave leads Dorothy to investigate the possibility of a faked death, while a young woman’s obsession with Hannah threatens her relationship with Indy and puts them both in mortal danger.

An elderly man claims he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, while ghosts of another kind come back to haunt Jenny from the grave … pushing her to breaking point.

As the Skelfs struggle with increasingly unnerving cases and chilling danger lurks close to home, it becomes clear that grief, in all its forms, can be deadly…

My Thoughts

Apart from the unusual set up where the novels and investigations are based in a funeral parlour, the thing that leapt from the page was the beauty and personality of the city, Edinburgh. I haven’t been since I was a child but has been on my wish list to return and this book intensified that longing. The descriptions brought it alive and if you do know the city, I imagine it would lead to a greater reading experience.

I loved the intriguing concept of a private investigating business entwined with a funeral parlour. Both the investigations the Skelfs take on and the multi-generational family interactions kept me turning the page. Despite reading this as a standalone with no previous knowledge of the characters, I became immersed in their lives and felt their heartache, grief and fear as the story progressed. The emotions displayed were authentic. Grief was not washed over and sanitised, nor was the post trauma experienced by Jenny after the death of her ex-husband. Reading about the aftermath of a horrific event made me want to forget all the other books on my TBR pile and read the back catalogue to catch up.

The investigations required no previous knowledge of the family affairs. The case which stood out was Udo who is convinced he is being attacked by his late wife and hearing her through the wind phone. These phones give the ability to people to talk to lost loved ones which I’d never heard of before. This thread added emotional depth and a spiritual element to the book and these phones would be useful everywhere.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes. With the authentic writing, strong women and an immersive location this is a book to read. It can be read as a standalone, but it won’t be enough. You’ll want to read the rest of the series so be prepared to increase your TBR pile.

Author Biography

Photo of Doug Johnstone. White male with blond short hair, smiling wearing a black tropical shirt.
Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve novels, most recently The Great Silence, described as ‘A novel [that] underlines just how accomplished Johnstone has become’ by the Daily Mail. He has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year three times, and the Capital Crime Best Independent Voice one; The Big Chill was longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions, and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

Signature of Kate in pink

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas

I’ve always loved ballet and as many of you who’ve been following me a while know, I’ve been immersed in researching the art for my own writing project so when the book cover of Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas popped in my email, with an intriguing tagline I couldn’t resist.

Book Review: Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas

Book cover for Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas.

Ballerina en pointe on a paved street wearing a military jacket with red arm band. Tagline reads: Anarchist, ballerina, revolutionary, muse
Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas

Title: Little Dancer

Author: Melanie Leschallas

Publisher: Unbound

Genre: Historical fiction

Release Date: 21st July 2022

Blurb

Paris, 1878. Ballet dancer Marie van Goethem is chosen by the unknown artist Edgar Degas to model for his new sculpture: Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen Years.

But Marie is much more than she seems. By day she’s a ‘little rat’ of the opera, contorting her starving body to entertain the bourgeoisie. By night she’s plotting to overthrow the government and reinstate the Paris Commune, to keep a promise she made to her father, a leading communard who died in the street massacres of 1871.

As Marie watches the troubling sculpture of herself come to life in Degas’ hands, she falls further into the intoxicating world of bohemian, Impressionist Paris, a world at odds with the socialist principles she has vowed to uphold.

With the fifth Impressionist Exhibition looming, a devastating family secret is uncovered which changes everything for both Marie and Degas.

As Degas struggles to finish his sculpture and the police close in on Marie, she must decide where her loyalties lie and act to save herself, her family and the Little Dancer.

My Thoughts

This is one of these books that would have slipped under my radar if it hadn’t appeared in my inbox and I’m extremely grateful I was invited to read. I loved it. Little Dancer isn’t a light easy read and it doesn’t show the romanticised version of ballet that I believed in when I studied Degas’ ballerinas in art at school. Life at the time was hard, the career in dance seedier than I imagined and this novel doesn’t shy away from the reality of the time including executions, prostitution, alcoholism and theft.

Beautifully written, this emotional and powerful story is immersive and drew me into Marie’s world to the extent that I could smell  and visualise the streets of Paris, Degas’ studio and Amelie’s boudoir. Marie has a strength of character, I couldn’t help to admire despite her young age and I had to keep reading to see how she’d cope with the unfolding dangers around her.

The cast of characters all have depth and stories of their own adding to the novel’s sense of realism. I could easily imagine it as a tv series or film.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes, Little Dancer will be a treasured addition to my forever bookshelf and Marie and Edgar have lodged themselves in my thoughts. Beautifully written, this novel is an immersive, emotional and powerful look at a turbulent time in France that I knew little about. It’s a story of women, family and survival but also the ability to change the world bit by bit. With the overlap with the suffragette movement it is more relevant to our lives than you think.

Photo for the sculpture Little Dancer aged fourteen by Edgar Degas reflected in a mirror
Little Dancer by Edgar Degas

Author Biography

Melanie Leschallas holds MAs in Creative Writing from Sussex and in Drama and Movement Therapy from Central School in London as well as a BA(Hons) in Modern and contemporary fiction French and Italian from Bristol University.

She was trained as a dancer and worked at the Moulin Rouge in Paris during her twenties. Mel is also a jazz singer and loves to sing Jacques Brel songs at the Savoy Hotel in London. She runs http://www.lunarlemonproductions.com with her husband, Craig, teaches yoga in Brighton and leads wellness and writing retreats at her home in the Malaga mountains.

Small image of the book cover as described above.

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas

Happy July! Summer is here in Yorkshire but like many summers the weather can be hit and miss so I’m excited to share my review for Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas. It promised to be the perfect escape novel. Scroll down to see if it met my high expectations.

Book Review: Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas

Cover for Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas. Orange cover with blue title. At the bottom is a Spanish villa and trees with a lady having a picnic with wine
Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas

Title: Retreat to the Spanish Sun

Author: Jo Thomas

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: Romance

Release Date: 23rd June 2022

Blurb

Will a summer escape be the answer she’s looking for?

Eliza has a full house! When her three children grew up and moved out, she downsized to a smaller property… but now they’re all back. Every room in the house is taken and Eliza finds herself sharing her bed with her eldest daughter and her daughter’s pug. Combined with the online course she’s trying to finish, plus her job to fit in, there just isn’t the peace and quiet that Eliza needs.

So when an ad pops up on her laptop saying ‘house-sitters wanted’, Eliza can’t resist the chance to escape. She ends up moving to a rural finca in southern Spain, looking after the owner’s Iberico pigs, learning about secret gastronomic societies… and finding a new zest for life and love along the way. From the bestselling author of Escape to the French Farmhouse comes a deliciously feel-good new story…

My Thoughts

Eliza’s life was very relatable and the chaos in her flat and the demands from her grown children leapt from the page. I needed a break with her. The retreat was a delight and immersive. The Spanish Conversation group were a fun and warm addition and made me feel connected to the place and story.

I’ve never considered pigs as something adorable once they have grown past the cute piglet stage but Banderas changed this. His personality shone and I fell in love with him as much as Eliza did. With the descriptions of food my taste buds tingled and I longed to drink wine and eat the tapas mentioned. This is always a good sign of a good book but usually only happens in Christmas novels so it was a pleasant surprise to fancy salad.

The plot requires you to suspend reality in places but like all good romcoms, it makes you feel that while you’re in their world, anything goes and everything makes sense.

It could easily be adapted to a summer feel good movie and hits all the points for a good, uplifting summer read.

Would I recommend?

Yes, it achieved everything I wanted. Whether you are lying on the beach abroad or in your garden at the weekend, this is an ideal escape to Spain with laughter, adventure and gastronomic delights.

It’s a while since I’ve read a Jo Thomas book but now need to backtrack and add her back catalogue to my TBR pile.

Author Biography

Author Jo Thomas. Woman smiling with dark hair in a orange shirt
Jo Thomas

Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. Jo’s debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller and won both the RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the Festival of Romance Best eBook Award. Her recent book Escape to the French Farmhouse was a #1 bestselling eBook and in every one of her novels Jo loves to explore new countries and discover the food produced there, both of which she thoroughly enjoys researching. Jo lives in Pembrokeshire with her husband and three children, where cooking and gathering around the kitchen table are a hugely important and fun part of their family life

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: The Forgotten House on the Moor by Jane Lovering

With the mention of the Yorkshire Moors, one of my favourite places, I was excited to receive an invitation for this tour by Rachel’s Random Resources. Though I’ve never read a Jane Lovering novel, I’ve heard wonderful things about them and I devoured the How to Write a Rom Com book she wrote with Rhoda Baxter. With her expertise, I was expecting a great read.

Book Review: The Forgotten House on the Moor by Jane Lovering

The book cover for The Forgotten House on the Moor by Jane Lovering. 
In bright summery colours is a old farmhouse with the Moors in the background. Flowers and a hare is in the foreground.
The Forgotten House on the Moor by Jane Lovering

Title: The Forgotten House on the Moor

Author: Jane Lovering

Publisher: Boldwood books

Genre: Psychological Romance with ghost hunting

Release Date: 22nd June 2022

Blurb

Mystery, mayhem, a manor house and a generous serving of romance…

When police knock on Alice Donaldson’s door at 4am, she knows the news won’t be good. There’s been an accident involving her ex-husband Grant, and as his existing next of kin, they need her help.

Grant is missing up on the North York moors, but the Grant Alice knew could barely be persuaded out on a walk around the block. What on earth possessed him to go on a hike in the middle of the night?

Alice soon finds herself working with Grant’s girlfriend Jenna and Jenna’s gorgeous ‘Lord of the family Manor’ brother Max, to find out what has happened, and what caused Grant’s accident at The Fortune House – the spooky house out on the moors.

The locals tell all manner of ghoulish stories about The Fortune House, which Alice is not minded to listen to. But before long, things take a turn for the strange and Max and Alice have a new mystery to solve. While all the while Alice can’t help hoping she might meet the requirements to be Max’s ‘Lady of the Manor’ at his country pile, Hatherleigh Hall.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3kJNJjd

 My Thoughts

I was not disappointed and can understand why so many readers love her books. While romance is a key element, this book is packed with mystery, ghost stories and personal growth making it an engaging read.

I was perplexed at the start with why Alice, when woken up by the police to be alerted to her husband’s disappearance, wasn’t overly upset but it soon became clear. As a character she has flaws I could relate to including crippling self-doubt and putting herself down and combined with her believable backstory this made her a rounded protagonist. It was a joy to see her discover the possibility of different future while she digs into the history of the creepy Fortune house, in an attempt to solve the mystery around Grant’s disappearance and get closer to Max.

The stunning beauty of the Moors leapt off the page with the descriptions and I could easily imagine being there, immersing me into the ghost story that Max is investigating. The novel is regularly interspersed with personal recollections from locals about their spooky experiences on the site. These kept the paranormal thread going and kept me hooked. I adore paranormal books.

Would I recommend?

Yes, with the brooding Yorkshire landscape, a ghostly mystery, and romance between two believable characters, this was a refreshing read. It is a fun, gripping read for a summer’s day but also perfect for those Autumn nights on the run up to Halloween.

With an eclectic back catalogue, I’m looking forward to reading more of Jane Loverings work.


Author Biography

Woman with short cropped hair smiling and leaning on a stash of books
Jane Lovering

Jane Lovering is the bestselling and award-winning romantic comedy writer who won the RNA Novel of the Year Award in 2012 with Please Don’t Stop the Music. She lives in Yorkshire and has a cat and a bonkers terrier, as well as five children who have now left home.

Social Media Links –  

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Jane-Lovering-Author-106404969412833

Twitter https://twitter.com/janelovering

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/JaneLoveringNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jane-lovering

Other blogs on this tour.
22nd June - Book Escapes with BabsW67, Jaffareadstoo, The Hannah Reads
23rd June - Tea Party Princess, Portobello Book blog, Bookish dreams,
24th June Tizi's Book Review, Bookish Jottings, Kate Kenzie Writes
25th June Ceri's Little Blog, Stacey Hammond, Sharon beyond the books
26th June
Being Anne, jen_loves_reading, Over the rainbow book blog
27th June
Captivated reading, 27 Book St, Jane Hunt Writer
28th June
htd2002.reads, Captured on film, Romance by the book
Other blogs on this tour

Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: The Secret Voices by M J White

I’m so excited to share my review for The Secret Voices by M J White. As soon as I heard an extract from this novel it went to the top of my must read list so imagine my excitement at being invited to this blog tour. Thanks Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources. Scroll down to see if it lived up to its promise and my high expectations.

Book Review: The Secret Voices by M J White

Book Cover for The Secret Voices by M J White.

Dark sky with woman wearing a yellow coat looking out to the sea.
The Secret Voices by M J White

Title: The Secret  Voices

Author: M J White

Publisher: Hera

Genre: Crime

Release Date: 28th April 2022

Purchase Links

AMZ: https://amzn.to/3IdYXpJ

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3fxbUia

Apple: https://apple.co/3IwAZGz

Blurb

They said they’d keep me safe.

They said, ‘It’s okay, Hannah. You know you can trust me.’

They lied.

When eight-year-old Hannah Perry goes missing in the small Suffolk village of St Just, the community is rocked. Heading up the investigation is Acting DS Rob Minshull, but he’s out of his depth in a case that seems to mirror the disappearance of a young boy, seven years ago. That search ended in unimaginable tragedy…and Minshull is praying that history won’t be repeated.

But with an investigation full of dead ends, and a kidnapper taunting the police with sinister deliveries of Hannah’s belongings and cryptic notes, the young girl’s life hangs perilously in danger.

Until Dr Cora Lael enters the picture. A psychologist with a unique ability, Cora’s rare gift allows her to sense emotions attached to discarded objects. When she is shown the first of Hannah’s belongings, she hears the child’s piercing scream.

With few leads on the case, could Cora prove Hannah’s only hope? And as time runs out, can they find Hannah before history repeats itself…?

A twisty, original and utterly gripping detective thriller that fans of James Oswald and LJ Ross will love. Don’t miss the crime thriller debut from the bestselling women’s fiction author, Miranda Dickinson.

My Thoughts

I’m so excited to share my review for The Secret Voices by M J White. As soon as I heard about this novel it went to the top of my must-read list so imagine my excitement at being invited to this blog tour. Thanks Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources. Scroll down to see if it lived up to its promise and my high expectations.

I was hooked on this story before I began reading it because of an extract read by M J White aka the best-selling romantic novelist Miranda Dickinson on her weekly chatty show where she introduced 8 year old Hannah. The innocence of her voice as she has been lured into hiding by them shone through and once the premise of the story was told I needed to know more.

I galloped through this book.  It was unputadownable. Forget sleep I needed to know the ending. I love dark crime series with strong and distinctive characters with depth and backstories that you know will be revealed in time. This hit the spot and I felt the same thrill reading this as I did when I discovered Sharon Bolton’s Lacey Flint books and Mo Hayder.

Told in many points of view, I not only wanted to know whodunnit and why, I was invested emotionally in the all the characters. I cared for them especially Hannah and Dr Cora Lael. Cora is a protagonist to remember, not just for her voice but her unique ability to hear emotional echoes from objects. While I love books with a paranormal twist, I loved the fact that this gift isn’t using this trope but her ability is an extension of synaesthesia. Synaesthesia is where people experience words or emotions as colours or taste. Using this condition grounds this novel into reality. Like many who are different, Cora has challenges to manage her condition and the backlash she receives.

Acting Detective Sergeant Rob Minshull has challenges of his own and the banter between his team made this side of the novel feel realistic. The pace of the case was gripping and the use of Hannah’s voice while in captivity added to the gravity of the situation and feeling her fear and hearing her child logic to explain what has happened were heart breaking to read.

Fast paced with many twists and a chemistry brewing between Cora and Minshull, this is one of the best books I’ve read for a long time and I’m excited for the future cases.

Would I recommend?

Yes, yes, yes.  This one of my favourite books of the year so far. The premise, characters and tone of this novel hooked me in. It’s more than a crime procedural novel with an intriguing twist, it has heart. With an atmospheric setting, it’s a series for my forever shelf and would be wonderful on screen too. I have reread it and even knowing the culprit, it didn’t lose its urgency or depth which makes it a triumph I can’t wait to discover what happens to Dr Cora Lael and Minshull do next.

Author Biography

Photo of M J White aka Miranda Dickinson
M J White

MJ White is the crime pen name of the internationally bestselling author Miranda Dickinson. To date she has sold over one million books worldwide and has been translated into sixteen languages. Miranda has always been a huge fan of crime fiction and The Secret Voices marks the start of a new and exciting departure for her writing.

https://twitter.com/MJWhite13

Other blogs on the tour*

Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to this fantastic tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

Other blogs on this tour

April 28th

Niki Preston, Jera’s Jamboree, Splashes into books

April 29th

Ramblingmads.com, Bookmadjo – Mad about books, Baker’s not so secret blog

Jessica Belmont, Bookish Jottings, Varietats

1st May

Confessions of a bookaholic, Monika Reads, Jenny Lou’s book reviews

2nd May

Quirkybookreads, Jane Hunt Writer, Kelly T’s Space

3rd May

Cal Turner’s reviews, Jaffareadstoo, Heidi Lynn’s book reviews

4th May

Nicki’s book blog, A Little Book Problem, @breathe.andread

5th May

Herding cats, Kate Kenzie Writes, Afternoonbookery

6th May

Iheartbooks.blog, Sharon beyond the books, The word is out – Alyson’s reviews

7th May

Chez Maxima, @more.books.yes.please, Sibzzreads