Tuesday, 11 August 2020

A Song Of Isolation by Michael J Malone @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks #ASongOfIsolation #BookReview

Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?

Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press witch hunt quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.

While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is isolated – a child trying to make sense of an adult world.

Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives … in an instant.

A Song of Isolation by Michael J Malone is published by Orenda Books; ebook on 17 July 2020, followed by paperback publication on 17 September 2020. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I have read all of Michael J Malone's books published by Orenda, and a couple of his previous publications too. This is an author who is very difficult to put into a box; his books are thrilling, they are psychologically challenging, they always deal with the darker side of humanity and they are always beautifully written, with a tenderness and insight that is often breathtaking.

A Song Of Isolation's central theme is that of child sexual abuse, it is done with compassion and sensitivity, there's no gratuitous detail, in fact there's no detail of any abuse at all. This is about the effects of accusations; on the accused, their family, and on the child. A totally absorbing and compelling study in how many lives can be shattered, never to be repaired, by the actions of one other person. It's haunting in its realism, it's frightening in its motive and the effects are devastating.

Malone tells his story in three voices. Dave; the accused. Amelie; his girlfriend, and Damaris; the young girl at the centre of the accusations. His ability to create three contrasting voices, each telling their own version of the same story is stunning and as the reader uncovers the multi layered stories, the questions are constantly buzzing around their head.

This author invest so much into his characters that the reader cannot help but do that too. My heart ached for each of them, there's such a sense of soul woven into the narrative, along with a feeling of unbearable annoyance and anger as the realisation of what may have happened hits the reader.

A Song Of Isolation is a complex, riveting novel of dying hope, desperation and utter sadness. It is both tragic and profound and, for me, a complete page-turner. Highly recommended.

Michael J. Malone was born and brought up in the heart of Burns' country, just a stone's throw from the great man's cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult, maybe.

He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Don't ask.

BLOOD TEARS, his debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge:Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers and when it was published he added a "J" to his name to differentiate it from the work of his talented U.S. namesake.

He can be found on twitter - @michaelJmalone1

Friday, 7 August 2020

The Wife's Choice by Emma Davies @EmDaviesAuthor #TheWifesChoice @bookouture #BooksOnTour BLOG TOUR #BookReview

Twenty years ago, Alys’ husband, Sam, was in a terrible car accident that left him fighting for his life. His recovery was slow and painful and, just at the point when Alys began to hope, he sent her away, refusing to see her ever again for reasons she could never understand.
Now: Married again and living in a new town with a new family, Alys feels like she’s sleepwalking through life. She’s just lost her job, her grown-up daughter is flying the nest, and her new husband doesn’t see – or even seem to care about – the downward spiral she is in.
But a chance encounter changes everything. As the life she could have had crashes into the one she settled for, Alys must decide whether or not to reveal the lie she’s been telling everyone all these years. Will it tear apart the ones she loves, or could it set them free?
An emotional, page-turning family drama about the difficult choices and sacrifices we make to protect the ones we love. Perfect for fans of Amanda Prowse, Kerry Fisher and Jodi Picoult.

The Wife's Choice by Emma Davies was published on 30 July 2020 by Bookouture. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

'There's a very fine line between secrets and lies.'

The opening sentence to the prologue of The Wife's Choice by Emma Davies, and a line that made me think hard, even before I'd begun to read the book. 

Alys and her husband Hugh have a great life. He's the manager of a local department store and Alys herself also works there. She's been there for years; measuring and cutting fabric in the haberdashery department. Their twenty-year old daughter Esme has just completed a diploma in catering and is taking her first steps on the career ladder. She's landed her dream job, working for The Green Room, a well know restaurant that's about to branch out and open in their own little town in Norfolk.

On the surface, things look great. However, Alys is feeling unsettled. She often thinks back to her first marriage. She and Sam were madly in love when their life was turned upside down by a dreadful road accident. Sam was left with life-changing injuries, he was almost killed. Their marriage ended when Sam sent Alys away. He told her to go, that she should find someone else, and be happy.

The 'someone else' was Hugh. He's been a good husband and father, but just lately Alys has noticed that his controlling behaviour is getting worse. When he engineers a redundancy for her, complete with hefty payout, Alys is devastated. She has no idea what she will do with her days, and begins to regret wasting her qualifications in fabric restoration.

Esme's new job at The Green Room comes with shocks and surprises. Alys' life starts to slowly unravel when she realises just who is the mysterious person behind the facade of The Green Room. Nothing is going to be the same for this family ever again.

The Wife's Choice is a compelling and well written cross-genre novel. It's firmly a story of family relationships, but has a hint of mystery and intrigue running throughout. Not an easy mix, but this author pulls it off very well.

The characters are finely drawn and I don't think there will be many female readers who don't get annoyed with Hugh, and who don't secretly admire Nancy; Esme's new boss at the Green Room. This is a varied and mixed bunch of characters, each with their own secrets .... or are they lies?

I enjoyed The Wife's Choice very much. It's an intriguing read that kept me turning the pages in order to discover just how the unravelled secrets would affect the characters in the end. 

After a varied career, Emma Davies once worked for a design studio where she was asked to provide a fun and humorous (and not necessarily true) anecdote for their website. She wrote the following: 'I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty something mother of three.' Well the job in the design studio didn't work out but she's now a forty something mother of three and is happy to report the rest of her dream came true.

After many years as a finance manager she now writes full time, and is far happier playing with words than numbers. She lives with her husband, three children, and two guinea pigs in rural Shropshire where she writes in all the gaps in between real life. It's a county she adores, her love of its beautiful people and landscapes providing endless inspiration for her books, and in fact the only thing that would make Shropshire more idyllic is if it were by the sea.

Pop over to her website www.emmadaviesauthor.com where, amongst other things, you can read about her passion for Pringles and singing loudly in the car. You can also wave to her on twitter @EmDaviesAuthor or find her on Facebook (a little too often than is good for her).

Note To Boy by Sue Clark @SueClarkAuthor BLOG TOUR @RandomTTours #BookExtract #RandomThingsTours #NoteToBoy

Eloise is an erratic, faded fashionista. Bradley is a glum but wily teenager. In need of help to write her racy 1960s memoirs, the former 'shock frock' fashion guru tolerates his common ways. Unable to remember his name, she calls him Boy. Desperate to escape a brutal home life, he puts up with her bossiness and confusing notes. Both guard secrets. How did she lose her fame and fortune? What is he scheming - beyond getting his hands on her bank card? And just what's hidden in that mysterious locked room?

Note To Boy by Sue Clark was published on 23 July 2020 by Unbound Digital.

As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I'm delighted to share an extract from the book with you today.

Extract from Note to Boy by Sue Clark

She weren’t a bit like I expected.
            ‘Kindly remove your headgear,’ she goes, ‘in the presence of a lady.’
            Well, that’s me done for, I think to meself, pulling off the beanie. Just when everything was going smooth as.
            It’s a miracle I get there at all. Never go in that newsagents no more. On the Parade. On account of the creep behind the counter. He’s a gawper. One of the worst. That’s why I always wear a beanie or a hoodie when I’m out. Both sometimes. On account of the gawpers.
ET I call him, inside my head. His fingers is black, you see, from the papers. All except one. That’s pink, glowing pink, like ET off of that old film. Why? ‘Cause it’s always up his nostril, that’s why, digging for buried treasure. One minute he’s snot mining, the next he’s serving sweets to little kiddies. Makes me want to vom.
Like I say, it was stroke of luck I saw it. Sellotaped in the corner of the window.
            ‘’Wanted!! Urgent!! Refined, respectable lady authoress seeks domestic assistant of same ilk. A degree of reflexology. Usual rates.’ 
            And a mobile number.
            Well, I get the ‘domestic assistant’ bit. That’s a cleaner, right? But I don’t know nothing about ilks nor degrees. Still, what have I got to lose? I break my rule, nip into the newsagents and pretend to be browsing in the gardening section. I glance over. ET’s got his elbows on the counter, head deep in a mucky mag. As I’m leaving, I feel his dead, gawping eyes follow me to the door. Don’t matter ‘cause I got the card in my pocket. Well, don’t want no-one else going for it, do I?

I go home. Just my luck, Dom’s up. He’s in the kitchen, ramming a sarny in his gob like he ain’t ate for a week. Raspberry jam dripping everywhere. Right off, he eyeballs the card. Next thing, he’s snatched it.
            ‘Watch it,’ I go. ‘You’ll get jam over that.’
            ‘You’ll get jam over that,’ he goes, in a stupid whiny voice what’s supposed to be me.        ‘What’s this then, Bradley? Postcard from your boyfriend?’
            He’s always saying stuff like that.
            ‘It’s a job,’ I tell him. ‘Leastways, could be.’
            ‘You stupid or something?’ he snorts. ‘You know Ma’ll go mad if you get a job. What about her bennies?’
            ‘No, it’s sound,’ I go. ‘Cash in hand.’ Leastways, that’s what I’m hoping.
‘What kinda job?’ He squints at the writing. Never were much cop at reading, our Dom.
            ‘Dunno ‘til I call, do I?’ 
‘Cheeky,’ he goes, cuffing me one round the ear. I take my chance and reach for the card. He grabs my wrist, twists my arm up my back and shoves his pie-hole up against my ear. ‘You come across anything interesting, you be sure and let your big brother know,’ he hisses, spraying jammy paste over my cheek. ‘No sneaking behind my back, you little freak.’
He loosens his grip and for a sec I think that’s it. Then he comes back at me, jabbing a nasty little Bruce Lee punch above my elbow. He strolls off, still chewing. I hear the flatscreen fire up and stand there, wiping jam and tears off of my face.

If you’ve got a long memory and good eyesight, you may recall Sue Clark’s name from the credits of various radio and TV comedy shows. Alas Smith and Jones? Weekending? News Huddlines? Jason Explanation? Giggly Bitz? Fast Forward? Ring any bells?
She’s also written for magazines and newspapers, as well as contributing to the online satirical website Newsbiscuit. She’s worked for the BBC, ITV, newspapers and PR agencies.
She’s grilled John Humphreys, exchanged quips with Ronnie Corbett and penned funny lines for the likes of Lenny Henry, June Whitfield, Tracy Ullman, Roy Hudd and David Jason. But she’s never done what she’s always wanted to do: write a novel. Until now.
The background to her comic novel Note to Boy was inspired by a time when she worked in London for a film company, lived in a flat opposite Liberty’s, bought her miniskirts in Carnaby Street, and bumped into James Bond actors at parties. It was almost as glamorous as it sounds.
She now lives in the sort of Oxfordshire market town that spawned Midsomer Murders with her husband and a fluctuating number of adult children.
Note to Boy is her first novel.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Where We Belong by Anstey Harris @Anstey_Harris @simonschusterUK #WhereWeBelong #BookReview

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.

But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?

Where We Belong by Anstey Harris was published by Simon and Schuster UK on 14 May 2020. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This review was previously published in the Daily Express.

Cate Morris has been made redundant, she and her son Leo have to leave their home. There’s no more money, it’s been a struggle for the past four years, since her beloved husband Richard died.


Against her better judgement, and because she has no choice, Cate and Leo pack up their home and move to Hatters Museum of the Wide World, intending to stay for the summer only.


Although Hatters was Richard’s family home, Cate and Leo have never visited before. Cate knows that Richard and his grandfather were close once, but that there was a huge family fall-out and the two men didn’t speak again. Now both of them are gone, and Hatters is looked after by Araminta, a woman of indefinite age who has devoted her life to the place, and doesn’t seem very welcoming.


Hatters was the life work of Richard’s grandfather and is packed with interesting and unusual artefacts. However, money is tight and it’s clear that the Board of Trustees would like to sell everything and take the money.


Cate and Leo become heavily involved in trying to save Hatters, and as they become more invested, Araminta begins to show her kinder side, especially towards young Leo.


Long-kept family secrets are gradually uncovered and Cate begins to learn more about the man that she loved for so long and how and why the awful tragedy that befell her small family came about.


This original and atmospheric novel is perfectly crafted. The characters are tenderly created and the setting of Hatters is wonderfully described.


An enchanting story of families, secrets and lies with a exquisite love story running throughout.

Praise for Where We Belong

‘Last but no means least is the beautiful second book from Anstey Harris . . . a perfectly crafted novel: beautifully written, insightful and tender – it’s simply stunning’ -- Fionnuala Kearney

‘Such a beautifully written and engrossing novel. I felt I knew Cate and Leo as friends at the end of it. I will miss them’  -- Jacqueline Ward

'Magical. Moving. Mesmerising. Anstey Harris has done it again. A book as rare and exquisite as the objects in Hatters museum. Complex and compelling. Riddled with secrets and lies, the love story shines like a beacon in the darkness and gripped me utterly. I could not look away for a moment. Superb!' -- Kate Furnivall

‘This beautifully written novel is not only absorbing and original, it will challenge preconceptions in the very best way' -- Katie Fforde

'Utterly enchanting' -- Heidi Swain

'An incredibly moving and atmospheric novel, as beautiful and complex and curious as the museum in which it is set' -- Beth O'Leary

'Having adored Anstey Harris’s first novel, I started this one with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. It couldn’t possibly be as good as The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, but I hoped I would like it anyway. I was soon drawn in, as I knew I would be, by Anstey’s assured and elegant writing. Gradually, the little hooks drew me in further, and before I knew it, I was thoroughly immersed in this mesmerising story of love, loss and friendship, set against a fascinating and unusual backdrop which is very much part of the clever plot. I loved these characters, especially Leo and Araminta, and I was completely swept along by the wonderful storytelling. This is an emotional story, heartbreaking in places, but joyful and uplifting in others. And what a great ending!' -- Susan Elliot Wright

'Absorbing, powerful and lovely. This book swept me away and then brought me home' -- Milly Johnson

Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker

husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.

Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well...

Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers' home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.


Twitter @Anstey_Harris

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

The Switch by Beth O'Leary @OLearyBeth #TheSwitch @QuercusBooks #BookReview

Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen's house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn't offer many eligible gentlemen... So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and L Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.

But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect - and distractingly handsome - local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn't straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

The Switch by Beth O'Leary was published in hardback on 16 April 2020 by Quercus. The paperback will be published in January next year.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This review was previously published in the Daily Express

Leena Cotton has a very successful career, she’s the youngest senior consultant at Selmount Consulting. She lives in a trendy Shoreditch apartment and has an equally successful boyfriend.
Leena has just had a panic attack in the middle of an important presentation and has been ordered to take two-months paid leave, immediately.

Eileen Cotton is Leena’s 79 year old grandmother, and lives in a small Yorkshire village. Her husband of many years has left and she’d really like to find love, but there are few eligible men around.

Leena seeks refuge with Eileen, and they realise that they could swap lives for a while. Eileen will move into Leena’s flat and try her hand at online dating, whilst Leena can spend some peaceful time in the country.

The Switch is funny, uplifting and beautifully written. O’Leary explores the real meaning of community spirit; having both Leena and Eileen thrust into their new neighbourhoods, and both of them discovering the joys of neighbourly support.

Packed with a cast of well rounded and cleverly crafted characters, this is a story of rediscovery. Leena and Eileen come to terms with a recent family tragedy that neither of them have dealt with very well. They learn more about themselves than either of them could have anticipated.

The Switch is feel-good fiction that will delight readers, especially during these times of disconnection from our friends and family. It is emotionally absorbing, witty and bursting with warmth. A treat for fans of Marian Keyes and Jill Mansell.

Praise for The Switch 

Beth has done it again! Warmwitty, and a cast of characters I wish I was friends with - I truly loved it!Laura Jane Williams, author of Our Stop

Eileen Cotton proves you don't have to be in your thirties to be Bridget Jones. A triumph of a second novel, Anstey Harris, author of Richard & Judy Book Club pick THE TRUTHS AND TRIUMPHS OF GRACE ATHERTON

I am blown away. I didn't think Beth could top The Flatshare but she has. It sparkles with wit, warmth and compassion. It deserves to be huge!Gillian McAllister, bestselling author of The Evidence Against You

Beth O'Leary has absolutely smashed it out of the park with The SwitchBrilliantwarmfunny, full of heartCompletely loved it!Richard Roper, author of Something to Live For

Heartwarming and uplifting. Everyone should have an Eileen in their life!Heidi Swain, SUNDAY TIMES bestselling author of THE CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

O'Leary does it again! The Switch is a warm, funny and feisty tale of generational location swapping that will have you laughing and tearing up in equal measure. Populated by a cast of characters you'll wish you knew in real life. It's an absolute joy from beginning to endMIKE GAYLE, author of Half a World Away

Utterly charming and upliftingThe Switch is bursting with love and warmth and humour. Another wonderful book from Beth O'Leary, LOUISE O'NEILL, author of AFTER THE SILENCE

This delicious slice of feelgood fiction is a real tonic, Sunday Mirror

This sparky, upbeat romcom balances riffs on the generation gap with heavier topics including grief and infidelity, Mail on Sunday

You'll find yourself rooting for the main characters, especially Eileen, the real star of this cheerful novel. A perfect tonic for anxious timesThe People

Beth studied English at university before going into children's publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being in reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.

She is now writing novels full time, and if she's not at her desk, you'll usually find her curled up somewhere with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Twitter @OLearyBeth

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Just Like The Other Girls by Claire Douglas @Dougieclaire @PenguinUKBooks #JustLikeTheOtherGirls @MichaelJBooks

Una Richardson is devastated after the death of her mother. Hoping for a fresh start, she responds to an advertisement and steps into the rich, comforting world of elderly Mrs Elspeth McKenzie.

But Elspeth's home is not as safe as it seems.

Kathryn, her cold and bitter daughter, resents Una's presence. More disturbing is the evidence suggesting two girls lived here before.

What happened to the girls?

Why will the McKenzies not talk about them?

As the walls close in around her, Una fears she'll end up just like the other girls . . .

Just Like The Other Girls by Claire Douglas is published in paperback on 6 August 2020 by Penguin. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I am a huge fan of a prologue / teaser and Claire Douglas teases her readers extremely well in the first few pages of Just Like The Other Girls. The opening couple of paragraphs scream tension as we are left teetering on the edge, wondering just what is about to happen. We are then thrust back to October 2018 where an unknown girl is beginning her first day in new job. It's all very mysterious.

The main part of the story begins three months later, in January 2019. Lead character Una makes her way towards a grand house in Brighton where she's applied for a job as a live-in carer. Una gets the job and the reminder of the novel details just how that change works out for her.

Una has had it tough lately. Her beloved mother died recently, far too young, taken by cancer. She's recently split from her boyfriend Vince and her dead-end job in a Care Home pays peanuts. Certainly not enough for her to save up to go travelling, something that she promised her Mum that she would do.
This job as a live-in carer for Elspeth McKenzie sounds like the answer to her prayers. She's even prepared to put up with Elspeth's frosty daughter Kathryn, especially as she has her own suite of rooms, far bigger and better than the poky room she previously had in the flat that she shared with her best friend Courtney.

As Una settles into the job, and the house, it becomes clear that Elspeth really doesn't need a carer and that she's lonely and just wants someone to be there. Elspeth can be cruel at one moment, and then happy and affectionate the next. Una is unsettled by the whole set up and confides in Courtney, but is determined to stick it out.

However, when she discovers that both her predecessor and the girl before her are both dead, she becomes concerned, especially when she discovers how alike in looks all three of them are.

Claire Douglas excels in throwing red herrings into her plot. There were many times when I was sure that I'd figured out exactly what was happening, only to be thrown a curveball and put completely off track; exactly what I love in a book!

Around half way through the story, then tension really ratchets up. The author delivers a huge shock to the reader, and the psychological impact is great.

There are some great characters in this story who are developed well with their various layers being unpeeled slowly and surely over the course of the story. Elspeth's house itself is almost a character in itself, with secrets and mysteries bound up in its walls, and the overall beauty of the house hiding years of pain and sadness.

Not just an everyday psychological thriller by any means, this author delves into the heart of the family and looks at how past mistakes can have far reaching consequences for generations to come.

Extremely clever and wickedly twisty, I enjoyed every single page of this one. It is finely plotted with a cast of characters who hide so much and are really well developed.

Claire Douglas always wanted to write novels and, after many years of trying to get published, her dream came true when she won the Marie Claire Debut Novel Award in 2013 with THE SISTERS.

Her subsequent novels LOCAL GIRL MISSING, LAST SEEN ALIVE and DO NOT DISTURB all reached the Sunday Times top ten bestsellers list and are published in over fifteen countries. LOCAL GIRL MISSING was the bestselling crime debut of 2018 in Germany. Her fifth thriller, THEN SHE VANISHES is due for release in Ebook end of June 2019 and in paperback August 2019.

You can find Claire on Twitter at @DougieClaire, instagram as clairedouglasauthor or visit her Facebook page clairedouglasauthor.