Five on Friday – Update

On the 25th August it will be a year since the first Five on Friday went live. I’m delighted to say that it’s been proving popular, with readers and participants alike (though the music question gets a lot of groans from the latter for being too difficult to narrow down).

Thanks to a very positive response to my email requests, not to mention numerous instances of request madness at Harrogate,  I’ve got a great list of authors lined up to take part. As a result, starting next month, I’m making Five on Friday a weekly feature. Not least because I’d be halfway through next year if I left it fortnightly, this seemed an unfair length of time to make authors wait, especially when they’ve been kind enough to take part.

So sit back and buckle up because I’ve got some corkers coming up.


Unbound Reading Club @unbounders @Unbound_Digital

Unbound help


As regular readers of this blog will know, I need more books like I need a hole in the head. But then when has that ever stopped me? So let me introduce you to my latest discovery. Some of you may already be acquainted with Unbound, if not, in brief, they are a crowdfunding publisher. Essentially they are a  team of publishers, writers, editors, designers – you name it – helping people bring their ideas to life. They take care of the whole process, from manuscript editing to shipping the first editions. As a reader I’ve previously looked at their website and considered helping an author achieve their dream of having a book published. What has normally stopped me, is the number of available projects and sheer indecision. Then along comes the Unbound Reading Club and problem solved. This is a feature that allows procrastinators like me, to help make books happen without having to make a direct choice.

So down to the finer detail, what does it include and more importantly what does it cost.

What’s included:-

Monthly must-read – a handpicked new title delivered to your inbox as an e-book.

Goodie bag – including one of their exclusive tote bags, and two limited edition Reading Club badges

Our membership-exclusive merchandise: Unbound-themed tote bags and enamel pins.

Free shipping – on all your pledges and book purchases (to a max of 20 for non UK/ROI members).

Unbound access – with members-only offers, special pledge levels and events.

Reading Club Letter – news from behind the scenes at Unbound HQ.

In addition to these member benefits, all the money raised by the Reading Club will go towards getting more books funded, so it’s win/win.

And the cost I hear you ask – currently £25 a year for UK and Ireland – or 10 cups of coffee!! (and £99 rest of the world)

I decided not to dither any longer and I’ve signed up to the Reading Club and am looking forward to my monthly downloads, knowing that’s it helping to fund an author achieve their dream.

Having signed up I immediately received my first download (with the proviso that if I already had it they were happy to send an alternative). As it happened I don’t and better still it suits my tastes. Incidentally this would cost £10 to buy direct from Unbound and £9.99 from Amazon, so that £25 a year is looking good.

I am making an assumption that anyone signing up now would receive the same title.

 Cover of The Freewheeling John DowieThe Freewheeling John Dowie By John Dowie

My comedy career began in 1971, which proves I have no comic timing. In 1971 there were no comedy clubs, no comedy agents and not much comedy future.

Inspired by Spike Milligan, John Dowie embarked on his comedy career in a time when such a thing was virtually unheard of, and then, just as alternative comedy began to be recognised by popular culture, he quit. And so began his next obsession – riding his bike.

Having been blessed (or cursed) with an addictive personality, Dowie quickly realises that what was once a simple hobby – cycling – will soon become something very different…

This book follows a similar route to his cycling habits: it meanders from place to place, occasionally gets lost but is unfailingly entertaining. Wending his way through France and Holland, round the lanes of Norfolk and over the hills of Devon, Dowie expertly leads his readers on a delightful journey through the trials, tribulations and triumphs of his life so far.


So if you’re tempted, or just want to investigate further – here’s the link








Five on Friday with Amanda Berriman @MandyBerriman

Today I’m delighted to welcome Amanda/Mandy Berriman to present her Five on Friday. I was lucky enough to meet Mandy when she visited Cheshire Book Connections, my local group for all things bookish. Not only was it a thoroughly informative and entertaining evening but I discovered Mandy shares my love for Four Letters of Love by Niall Williams. So that makes it six things most people don’t know about Mandy!

Mandy Berriman

Author  Bio:

Mandy Berriman was born in Germany and grew up in Edinburgh, reading books, playing music, writing stories and climbing hills. She works as a primary school teacher and lives on the edge of the Peak District with her husband, two children and dogs. Her debut novel Home was published in February 2018.

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?


Mother Goose Suite – Ravel.  My Mum made cassettes for us every Christmas and Birthday: stories interspersed with classical music, or stories told to a background of music. My favourite of these was Ann Rachlin’s Nurse Goose and the Magic Doors, a tale told to the music of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. My love of the late Romantic/early 20th Century French composers started here, and it was the first time I remember being aware that the music can tell the story. It’s now one of my boys’ favourite going-to-sleep CDs but these days I prefer listening to the un-narrated original and allowing the music to tell its own story.

Vocalise – Rachmaninov.  My brother, sister and myself were all lucky enough to benefit from Edinburgh Council’s free music tuition scheme and learned to play ‘cello at primary school – lessons my Mum could never have afforded. This led to all kinds of musical opportunities – quickly swapping from ‘cello to flute, playing in bands and orchestras, studying music at University and, ultimately, landing my current job as a music teacher in a primary school. Although I left the ‘cello behind along the way, I have always loved music written for solo ‘cello and piano, and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise is my favourite. It takes me back to Saturdays sitting up on a church balcony, thinking and dreaming, while below me members of my brother and sister’s String Orchestra rehearsed their solos for upcoming concerts – someone always played the Vocalise. Many years later, my brother played it at my wedding in an unplanned impromptu performance. It raises the hairs on my neck and tugs at my heart – both serenely calm and heartbreakingly sad. I love how music can do that.

Dignity – Deacon Blue.  I was introduced to this song by someone who treated me with anything but dignity – oh, the irony! – however the song has endured where that particular relationship did not. It’s got all the ingredients of a brilliant song: great beat, great instruments (that piano part!), brilliant voice and I love the poetry of the lyrics and the story they tell. Its message is one that I have always tried to live by: set a goal, ignore the doubters, dream big, work hard and Don’t Give Up!

“And I’ll sail her down the West Coast, through villages and towns, I’ll be on my holidays, They’ll be doing the rounds, They’ll ask me how I got her, I’ll say “I saved my money”, Say “Isn’t she pretty, that ship called Dignity.”

Perfect – Lightening Seeds.  I associate this song with freedom. I first heard it in 1995 on a cassette playing in my boyfriend’s car as we drove across the Peak District from Sheffield to Castleton. I was discovering the freedom of living away from home, in my own space, making my own decisions, and I’d just met a man who accepted me for exactly who I was. Fast forward many years, we’ve settled in a village just over the hill from Castleton and that song never fails to take me right back to the Sheffield years and all those Peak District road trips.

Lark Ascending – Vaughan Williams.  I can’t remember when I first heard this but I remember thinking I’d never heard such a divinely beautiful piece of music ever in my life, but even then I didn’t get it until years later when walking over the dunes at Red Point near Gairloch I heard a Skylark singing and I realised what a genius Vaughan Williams actually was. A few years after that, I lived next to a fell in County Durham for a short while and spent many hours walking the fell, listening to the Skylarks and trying to pinpoint them in the sky above. When my children were born and I was trying to write in amongst the chaos of toddler-dom and five years of sleep deprivation, my Vaughan Williams CD playing on my headphones proved to be the perfect soundtrack to switch my writing brain on. Within the first few bars of the Norfolk Rhapsody, I would sink into a blissfully peaceful zone where words made sense and I could string them together into sentences that weren’t half bad. The CD ended with the Lark Ascending and as the last strains of the Skylark faded away, the sounds of the house would creep back in, tugging me away from my imaginings and inviting me back to Real Life.

Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

Books to read

Notepads (with pens!) to write in

Music to listen to

Hills to climb

Headspace to think and dream

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Don’t allow anyone to trample on your dreams. You’ll figure out for yourself which ones to pursue and which ones to leave behind. It’s not up to anyone but you to make those decisions.

Ignore the haters; one day you’ll recognise that they hate themselves more than they hate you.

Your inner critic is not the boss of you so don’t give it too big a platform. Like all opinions given to you by others, take what it has to say with an open mind and give yourself time to think it over before you accept, adapt or reject.

Anytime your gut instinct has something to say, blooming well LISTEN.

And on that point, if you’re reading this before that time when you thought it would be a good idea to borrow your big brother’s bike, go no hands and then stick your feet up on the handlebars, you’re about the learn the painful way that it really wasn’t. Brace for impact.

Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

When I was a child, I was given two owl ornaments for Christmas and decided to start a collection. Thirty or so years on, the collection has got a bit out of hand and I now have over two hundred owls of various shapes, sizes and uses… but no real ones!

My teenage crush was Wesley Crusher (aka Will Wheaton) from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The first time I went in a plane, at the age of 18, I jumped out of it with a parachute strapped to my back…

…and the only time I’ve been in a helicopter was being evacuated from a town in Western Australia after sitting through a cyclone.

I dream several dreams every night and remember most of them when I wake. The memory of some dreams can stay with me all day, some linger for weeks, months, years, decades…

What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?


Walk the Pennine Way.  I’ve walked various sections over the years but never the whole route. I grew up not far from the northern end and now live over the hill from the southern end so in a way it feels like it’s the connection between my past and present.

Navigate Britain by narrow boat.  Peaceful, slow-paced, and you get to see parts of the country that can only be accessed by canal or river. What’s not to love? A plan for retirement if not before!

(Re)visit New Zealand.  Is it cheating to have something on my bucket list I’ve already done? I’m fortunate to have been to New Zealand twice before – the second time living there for eight months. But a little bit of my heart still lives there and it’s unreachable at the moment due to work and finances and family so it’s something I dream about for the future. It’s such a beautiful, interesting and all-round awesome country and I would be very sad if I never made it back there at least one more time.

See the Northern Lights.  Iceland, Norway, the north of Scotland – I don’t care where; it would be amazing wherever I saw them.

Travel into Space.  A slightly improbable one.  I’d love to go into space, see Earth from a distance and visit other planets, but only if I can do it Star Trek style on a Starship Enterprise type spaceship. So… yeah… Maybe when I’m ninety?!

Thanks so much for taking part Mandy, it was lovely to discover even more about you. It’s not cheating in my opinion to have a repeat on your bucket list so you’re safe on that score, certainly safer than you were on your brother’s bike. I’m with you on the Northern Lights but I’ll leave you to discover Space yourself – at least you’ve got many more years than me to make it happen! 

o-o 0-o-o

Mandy’s Book



Meet Jesika, aged four and a half. The most extraordinary narrator of 2018.

She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby.

She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.


You can keep up to date with Mandy via:-




Bookchoice Selection for August @BookchoiceEN

It’s the beginning of the month and time to look at this month’s offerings from Bookchoice. Described as “the digital book service in your pocket” Bookchoice select eight e-books and audiobooks  for £3.99 a month. Yes, you read that correctly £3.99 a month (payable annually in advance). Every month the Bookchoice team selects a range of titles  – from bestsellers and award-winners to the latest literary hits and sends them direct to your email inbox.  Where books are offered in e-book and audiobook format, the offer isn’t for one or the other – it’s for both!! I subscribed in January and here are the titles for this month.

E-book and Audio Titles

Hitman AndersHitman Anders and the Meaning of it All by Jonas Jonasson

Per Persson leads a quiet and stress-free existence – that is, until a professional hitman turns up to stay at his hotel with services for hire. Never one to miss an opportunity, Per teams up with a local vicar to concoct a lucrative business plan that will capitalise on the killer’s skill.

But when Hitman Anders finds religion, he begins to question the meaning of it all – and risks endangering the profitable plan and himself in the process.

Savage, silly and outrageously funny, Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All is another classic comedy from Sweden’s finest contemporary author.


Killing ItKilling It by Asia Mackay

Alexis Taylor is not just a fearless, no-nonsense assassin working for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She’s also the mother of a six-month-old girl.

On her return to work, however, alongside the stress-inducing high-stakes game of global espionage, she now also has to contend with patriarchal prejudice. But if anybody thinks she can’t dispatch a target and make it home for bathtime, they have another thing coming…

Fun, feminist and thought-provoking, Killing It is a highly entertaining debut about the travails of womanhood in the twenty-first century.


Shock of the FallThe Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

During a family camping holiday, Matthew Holmes and his brother Simon sneak out in the night. Only one of them returns to the campsite. Now, ten years later, Matthew thinks he has found a way to bring his brother back.

This is the story of a young man trying to make sense of – and come to terms with – a childhood tragedy, and of the elusiveness and unpredictability of memory.

Brave, sensitive and astonishingly accomplished, The Shock of the Fall is a ground-breaking exploration of mental health by an extraordinary new voice in fiction.


Prosecco & PromisesProsecco & Promises by A.L. Michael

From the outside, it seems like the perfect holiday.

When Mia arrives in Ischia, she’s greeted by her aunt holding two large bowls of homemade pasta. The weather is never anything less than stunning, and there’s even a handsome local to fall for – Salvatore.

But this holiday was never meant to be perfect. Her dad is terminally ill. With only weeks to live, Mia’s father asked for one last thing. And there was no way she could refuse him his dying wish:

Go to Ischia. Enjoy the summer. And don’t come back until he’s gone.

Bookchoice audio exclusive


AftershockAftershock by Jules Mountain

When the avalanche hit Everest, Jules Mountain wasn’t wearing boots.

He’d felt the earth move under his bare feet. Then the sky caved in; a landscape of white rumbled towards him, engulfing everything in its path. And soon it would be around him, on top of him, trying to pummel its way through his body. All he could do was lie face down in his tent and hope he was one of the lucky few.

But Jules Mountain was a survivor. He’d already battled cancer and won. There was no way he would let this beat him.

Bookchoice audio exclusive


E-book only titles


Call me by Your NameCall Me by Your Name by André Aciman

Lunches that stretch on, course after course, through to dinner. Villas surrounded by orchards of peach trees, their branches slumped with so much fruit. Cooling off in crisp, clear pools.
Elio and Oliver’s relationship blooms in the summer heat.

For Elio, only seventeen and just awakening to this new weight of feeling, it can be overwhelming. He normally hates his father’s summer guests; they take over his space and bore him at dinner. But Oliver is different. All at once Elio wants to disappear into him, and to push him away, and to feel the heat of their two bodies together. A story of summer love that’s both modern and classic.


What Will People SayWhat Will People Say? by Rehana Rossouw

Every Friday, Neville and Magda sit at the kitchen table and divide up their pay packets: a little for school fees, for bills, for the church.

Together, they are determined to raise their kids decent. But the Cape Flats have other ideas.

Their eldest two are desperate to escape, but the real worry is Anthony. He was only a boy when he first saw the inside of a gangster’s club house; how could he resist. There were girls, good laughs, and that buzz of impending violence in the air. His fate seemed inevitable, no matter how he was raised.

Against the backdrop of 1980s apartheid, which members of the family will thrive and which will survive?


MarieMarie by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

A telephone number can change the way you see the world. The cobbled boulevards of Paris can feel crushingly lonely, or delightfully freeing. You can be devoted to your husband, or forget him entirely. The blood in your veins can sound like the beating of insects’ wings.

When Marie first spotted that young man on the beach, he was only a daydream. But now she has his telephone number, and if she were to dial it, he would become frighteningly, exhilaratingly, sensually real.

Marie is an unearthed modernist treasure, deserving of a place among the great works of the 20th Century.


Audio Book only titles


WellmaniaWellmania by Brigid Delaney

In recent years, detox juices, raw food diets and transcendental meditation have gone from being obscure pursuits to cultural mainstays. But when – and how – did this happen? And what is it about life in the 21st century that makes us long to be lean, clean and serene?

In Wellmania, acclaimed journalist Brigid Delaney becomes a guinea pig for the trillion-dollar wellness industry in the hope of finding answers to these questions. Crossing continents, cultures, and even colons, the result is a candid and side-splitting exploration of the trend that lies at the heart of Western culture today.


Medea's CurseMedea’s Curse by Anne Buist

Natalie King is a forensic psychiatrist who deals with perpetrators and victims of violent crime, while struggling with her own off kilter moral compass.

Between her growing involvement with a married Crown Prosecutor, disgruntled former patients standing trial, and a tendency to neglect her own medication, the threatening note she receives one day seems easily dismissable as a typical hazard of her very complex life.

But when the second note arrives, it becomes clear that something more sinister is afoot. Will she figure out who is stalking her before it’s too late?


A Few Right Thinking MenA Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Rowland Sinclair, the privileged son of old-school wealth, leads the life of a not-so-starving artist.

A painter by practice, with no need for an actual income, he opens his family’s home to his bohemian friends in a time where jobs are hard to come by. With neither an interest nor need to pay attention to the increasingly volatile political climate, his bohemian bliss is shattered with the brutal murder of his Uncle Rowly.

Suddenly, Rowland must throw himself into the growing tensions between the rich and poor, uncovering a plot more sinister than just his uncle’s murder.

‘It takes a talented writer to imbue history with colour and vivacity… an insight into the Australia that was; its conflicting ideologies, aims and desires; the hallmarks of a country still maturing.’ – Australian Book Review


A pretty impressive selection for £3.99 I think. If you want to take a look at Bookchoice you can find them here.  I would like to make it clear that I have no affiliation with Bookchoice, I’m choosing to share this with you, purely because I think it’s a great subscription package.

July Book Haul

Kindle Purchases


Oh well, another month when good intentions fell by the wayside. In my defence I blame the Amazon Summer Sale for including lots of titles from my wishlist. Given that the sale is on until the end of August, maybe next month will be better, assuming I’ve scooped them all in this month. I have got some cracking titles though.


No Turning BackNo Turning Back by Sam Blake

Even perfect families have secrets . . .

Orla and Conor Quinn are the perfect power couple: smart, successful and glamorous. But then the unthinkable happens. Their only son, Tom, is the victim of a deliberate hit-and-run.

Detective Garda Cathy Connolly has just left Tom’s parents when she is called to the discovery of another body, this time in Dillon’s Park, not far from where Tom Quinn was found. What led shy student Lauren O’Reilly to apparently take her own life? She was a friend of Tom’s and they both died on the same night – are their deaths connected and if so, how?

As Cathy delves deeper, she uncovers links to the Dark Web and a catalogue of cold cases, realising that those involved each have their own reasons for hiding things from the police. But events are about to get a lot more frightening . . .


Her Mother's SecretHer Mother’s Secret by Rosanna Ley

For many years Colette has avoided returning to her homeland – the magical island of Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany – afraid to confront the painful memories she left behind. She is living on the Cornish coast when she hears about her mother Thea’s failing health and realises that the time has come for her to go home. But can Colette ever forgive Thea for what she has done?

Despite Colette’s wariness, romantic Belle-Île still fascinates her. She takes on the running of her mother’s flower shop and makes friends with Élodie from the Old Lighthouse where Thea once worked as a nanny and with the enigmatic Étienne who shares Colette’s mixed feelings about the island. As Thea opens up to her for the first time, Colette finds herself softening and being drawn back into the landscape of her past. But can Belle-Île also be a part of her future?

The ghosts of that past still linger. What happened all those years ago and how did it cause the rift between mother and daughter? It becomes clear that the beauty of Belle-Île hides a devastating family secret – one that Colette is determined to unravel at any cost.


The Anatomy of EscapeThe Anatomy of Escape by Michael Blue

Have you ever asked yourself if our ideas about success are all they’re made out to be? Do you ever wonder if work and pursuit of money and material possessions are ALL THERE IS to life? For twenty years, Michael Blue, an accountant trapped on the corporate treadmill, contemplated these questions.

Now he lives in a bus in the dense jungles of Northern Sumatra. This is his idea of freedom. He is a fugitive of an unusual kind, an escapee from the work-consume-die hamster wheel. He has a simple existence without much use for work or money.

This is the story of how he got there. Michael takes us along for the ride as he reflects on four previous failed escape attempts. It is amongst these stories, his meetings with Shamans in the Amazon, the lessons from a sex-crazed marsupial, and his revelations during lonely rides in frozen chicken trucks, that we discover the hard-learned secrets of a successful escape artist.

Amongst his adventures, he dismantles commonly held beliefs about success, work, money, and ownership. And then, from the remains, with an uncomplicated perspective on health, wealth, and happiness, he reconstructs what it means to live a good life.

The result is at once a travel story and a firsthand experiential blueprint, guide or perhaps anatomy of escape.


Women Behaving BadlyWomen Behaving Badly by Frances Garrood

Three women, three affairs, and a self-help group with a difference… 

Alice is a harried single mother dealing with a teenage son, an irresponsible ex, and a noncommittal lover.

Mavis is juggling caring for her elderly, confused mother alongside her long-standing affair with a hypochondriac father-of-two.

And Gabs is a high-class escort who’s fallen in love with someone completely unattainable.

All three women are behaving in ways very much frowned upon by the Catholic Church. But their priest, Father Cuthbert is determined to reform them.

As the three women strike up an unlikely friendship, each re-evaluates what is most important them. And it seems the not-so-holy trinity of Alice, Mavis, and Gabs can’t be ‘cured’ that easily…


The RiotThe Riot by Laura Wilson

1958: Notting Hill is sweltering in a heatwave. It’s DI Stratton’s new manor and a powder keg of racial tension. A rent collector is stabbed and a series of street fights between teddy boys and Caribbean immigrants sparks further unrest.

Young runaway Irene, on the verge of prostitution, finds her loyalties lie on both sides of the fight. A race riot breaks out – the worst Britain has ever seen.

Stratton must tread a path through the violence and prejudice to find the killer and save Irene before Notting Hill explodes.


The Island VillaThe Island Villa by Lily Graham

Marisal. A villa on a sleepy Spanish island. A place that time had forgotten. A place of long ago summers, sun-kissed memories and one terrible betrayal …

When Charlotte’s husband James tragically dies, he leaves her an unexpected gift – her grandmother’s beautiful villa, Marisal, on the Spanish island of Formentera.

As she begins to explore her new home, and heal her broken heart in the warm golden sunshine, Charlotte discovers that her grandmother Alba has been keeping secrets about her life on the island. Intrigued by her family’s hidden history, Charlotte uncovers a devastating love affair that put many lives at risk and two sisters torn apart by loss.

Can the heart-breaking truth of the island’s dark history finally be laid to rest? Or will the secrets of the past shake the new life and love that Charlotte is close to finding?


TheoTheo by Amanda Prowse

There are two sides to every love story. This is Theo’s.

Theo Montgomery grew up in a rich family where he had all the toys and trinkets money could buy. But his childhood was full of neglect and he was bullied at school. Now he is an adult, he longs to find a soulmate. Someone who understands him. Someone who will love him unconditionally.

Then, one day, Theo meets Anna Cole in a lift. Anna grew up in a care home, and has always wanted to create the noisy family life she never had. She brings love and laughter into Theo’s life. But she wants a baby, and Theo can’t imagine bringing a child into this cruel world…

Theo and Anna are two damaged souls, from two different worlds. Is their love for each other enough to let go of the pain of their pasts? Or will Anna and Theo break each others’ hearts?


A Family RecipeA Family recipe by Veronica Henry

What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . .


One Summer in ItalyOne Summer in Italy by Sue Moorcroft

When Sofia Bianchi’s father Aldo dies, it makes her stop and look at things afresh. Having been his carer for so many years, she knows it’s time for her to live her own life – and to fulfil some promises she made to Aldo in his final days.

So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.

Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off…


The Gallows PoleThe Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers

From his remote moorland home David Hartley assembles a gang of weavers and land workers to embark upon a criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history.They are the Cragg Vale Coiners and their business is clipping – the forging of coins, a treasonous offence punishable by death.



The Wisdom of Sally Red ShoesThe Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

Masha’s life has stopped. Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, her life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds solace in the silent company of the souls of her local Victorian cemetery and at the town’s lido, where she seeks refuge underwater – safe from the noise and the pain.

But a chance encounter with two extraordinary women – the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel, a convent girl-turned-magician’s wife-turned-seventy-something-roller-disco-fanatic, and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice – opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again. But just as Masha dares to imagine the future, the past comes roaring back …


The Things We Need to SayThe Things We Need to Say by Rachel Burton

Sometimes the things we never say are the most important.

Fran loves Will with all her heart. They had a whirlwind romance, a perfect marriage and a wonderful life. Until everything changed. Now Fran needs to find her way again and teaching a yoga retreat in Spain offers her just that. Leaving behind a broken marriage she has some very important decisions to make.

Will needs his wife, he needs her to open up to him if they’re to ever return to the way things once were. But he may have damaged any possibility he had of mending their relationship and now Fran is in Spain and Will is alone.

As both Fran and Will begin to let go of a life that could have been, fate may just find a way of bringing them back together.


Million Love SongsMillion Love Songs by Carole Matthews

Ruby Brown is ready for a change. 
She’s single for the first time in years and she’s going to dive into this brave new world with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. The last thing she’s looking for is a serious relationship.

Mason represents everything Ruby wants right now: he’s charming, smooth and perfect for some no-strings-attached fun. Joe on the other hand is kind and attractive, but comes with the sort of baggage Ruby wants to avoid: an annoyingly attractive ex-wife and two teenage children.

Ruby thinks she knows what she wants, but is it what she needs to be truly happy? It’s about to get emotional in Million Love Songs.


A Saint For The SummerA Saint for the Summer by Marjory McGinn

Journalist Bronte McKnight is summoned to a hillside village in the wild and beautiful Mani region of Greece by her estranged expat father Angus to help him with a medical problem. But she soon discovers that Angus, whom she has barely seen in 10 years, has lured her there with an even trickier challenge in mind … solving a mystery from the Second World War, when a family member disappeared in Greece during the disastrous Battle of Kalamata, known as ‘Greece’s Dunkirk’.

With the country gripped by economic crisis, and the clock ticking against them, their near-impossible quest takes them from Kalamata to a remote mountain village, where its few remaining inhabitants are bound by old traditions and secrecy. As the tensions of their own fractured relationship rise, the pair are helped in their search by a cast of intriguing Greek characters, especially charismatic doctor Leonidas Papachristou. He has a pivotal role, not least in challenging Bronte’s assumption that she hasn’t the time or the courage to fall in love in Greece.

The secrets unearthed by Angus and Bronte will be painful and astonishing. This is a compelling tale of heroism, faith and love … with a heart-warming conclusion you’ll never forget.


Never The BrideNever the Bride by Charlotte Fallowfield

Abbie Carter felt doomed as she clutched her bouquet and started walking up the aisle. Again. She felt like she was stuck in some kind of Groundhog Day wedding nightmare. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Eight dresses, most of them hideous, were already stuffed in her attic space. She had more bridesmaid dresses than relationships. Was she really that unlucky in love? She despaired of ever finding her soul mate and was convinced that if she packed away dress thirteen in her attic, she’d never get to wear the coveted white one and have her happy ever after.

That was until she locked eyes with one of the handsome ushers, whose wink turned her elegant and well-practiced glide up the aisle into a flailing Bambi-on-ice spectacle. Miller Davis was the first man in forever to make her heart skip a beat, as well as her legs turn to jelly. And, for once, her interest in a man didn’t seem to be one-sided. It was just a shame that the Atlantic Ocean separated them. Abbie couldn’t even make a relationship with her elderly fat pooch, Sumo, work, so what chance did she have with a permanent New Yorker? Her best friend, Georgie, told her to ignore the miles that separated her from Miller and to go for it, saying that true love knew no bounds.

Was Abbie fated to always be the bridesmaid, or would her wish for the perfect day with the man of her dreams ever come true?


The Harcombe YearThe Harcombe Year by Di Alexander

‘A new beginning and, whatever the weather, a time of hope …’ So begins Di Alexander’s cheerful account of the quirky characters who make Harcombe Farm so special. Good humour and misadventure run hand in hand with the people and animals, wild and tame, who call this little corner of the Cotswolds their home.

The Harcombe Year is a warm and life-affirming account of life with an eccentric octogenarian husband who can find calamity in the most ordinary of situations; a daughter with two young children who is preparing to move into the tiny house next door; and stray cats who pitch up at the door demanding shelter and care. Ready to discover real life in the Cotswolds? Join Di Alexander in a fresh new year at the farm.


My Name Is Lucy BartonMy Names is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Lucy is recovering from an operation in a New York hospital when she wakes to find her estranged mother sitting by her bed. They have not seen one another in years. As they talk Lucy finds herself recalling her troubled rural childhood and how it was she eventually arrived in the big city, got married and had children. But this unexpected visit leaves her doubting the life she’s made: wondering what is lost and what has yet to be found.



Dark FireDark Fire by C J Sansom

It is 1540 and the hottest summer of the sixteenth century. Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the king’s chief minister – and a new assignment . . .

The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother horribly murdered – the formula has disappeared.

Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client’s innocence. But very soon he discovers nothing is as it seems . . .


Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost…


The Memory ShopThe Memory Shop by Ella Griffin

Will every treasured possession find its perfect home?

Nora’s world has been turned upside-down. Escaping heart-break in London, she returns to her childhood home in Dublin where her grandmother’s beloved house is being sold. Nora has been left with an inheritance of treasured belongings, but no home of her own in which to keep them.

Unable to bear auctioning them off, Nora resolves to stay in Dublin and open The Memory Shop, a very special business which matches each gorgeous object with a perfect new owner. It’s not long before these objects begin to transform the lives of those they touch, creating new stories and new chances at happiness.

As Nora lets go of a lifetime of treasures, she unlocks tantalising clues to her grandmother’s mysterious past. But can she finally let go of her own…?


The Body in the BrackenThe Body in the Bracken by Marsali Taylor

Cass Lynch has been persuaded to spend Christmas in the Highlands with her friend DI Gavin Macrae, but their romantic walk by the loch is cut short when they find a skeleton among the bracken. Back home in Shetland, Cass hears about Ivor Hughson, who left his wife and failed business months ago, and hasn’t been heard of since. A near-disaster aboard Cass’s yacht suggests someone wants to stop her asking questions about his disappearance. Meanwhile, there are eerie reports of sightings of a njuggle, a Shetland water-horse which drowns curious passers-by. Soon it’s taking Cass all her wits to stay alive …


How Not to Fall in Love, ActuallyHow Not to Fall in Love Actually by Catherine Bennetto

Life is 10% planning, 10% design and 80% totally winging it…

Join Emma as she guides you through How Not to become accidentally knocked up at the age of 27, How Not to unceremoniously dump the father of your child, and then How Not to lose the job that (even though you hate it) is the only thing between you and being homeless…

Hilarious and heart-warming, How Not to Fall in Love, Actually will make you laugh, make you cry, and will reassure you that perhaps your life is not that bad, actually…


Harm NoneHarm None by Will North

Penwith, the southwest tip of Cornwall, is a land of mystery and magic, of prehistoric monuments, witchcraft…and murder. When an American archaeological team stumbles upon the skeletal remains of a missing child beneath a Stone Age burial quoit, irascible CID Detective Sergeant Morgan Davies and her Scene of Crimes partner, Calum West, unearth a growing list of suspects.

Within days, another body is discovered. Is the killer the mind-reading village witch—who has long been a suspect in the child’s disappearance? Is it the drug-dealing partner of the child’s heroin-addicted mother? Or is it someone even closer to the investigation? Just as Davies and West close in on their prime suspect, another child disappears.


What Happened That NightWhat Happened that Night by Sheila O’Flanagan


When Lola Fitzpatrick catches the eye of Philip Warren, she’s new to Dublin and loving it. He’s used to getting what he wants…and she can’t resist him. Until one night he forces her to make an impossible choice.

If she’d known then what she knows now, everything might have been different.


Lola’s daughter Bey has inherited her mother’s impulsive streak and it takes her down dangerous paths.

Then one night she too finds herself in front of a man she loves, with impossible choices of her own to make.

For both women, what happened that night changes everything. For better. For worse. For ever.


The Bicycle WaltzThe Bicycle Waltz by Paul and Jean Zimmer

Haunted by a traumatic incident in his past, Alan Christiansen desperately wants to learn how to dance. After several failed attempts, he stumbles onto Choreographed Ballroom Dance (Round Dance), and begins to make progress. His instructors, Ray and Shelly Tenrio, are famous in the Round Dance world, popular choreographers and featured teachers on the festival circuit. Once married, they are now divorced, but Ray seeks a reconciliation. Shelly’s world is turned upside down when one of her nephews is diagnosed with a rare case of thyroid cancer. As his parents fly around the country searching for answers, it falls to Shelly to care for his twin brother. Uncomfortable with children in general and boys in particular, she turns to Alan for help. Thrown together with the sort of man she used to disparage, she discovers hitherto unsuspected talents and depth in Alan, and unsuspected and somewhat unwelcome feelings in herself. In the end, Shelly must choose between the sort of life she’s always known with Ray and a life she’s only glimpsed with Alan. Along the way, we learn about round dance, romance, thyroid cancer, Silicon Valley startups, the wit and wisdom of Bill Watterson, and what sort of vegetable goes best with tuna-chip casserole.


The FaithfulThe Faithful by Juliet West

As Britain is pulled towards war, the secrets within two families threaten to tear them apart, in the outstanding novel from Juliet West, The Faithful . . .

July 1935. In the village of Aldwick on the Sussex coast, sixteen-year-old Hazel faces a long, dull summer with just her self-centred mother Francine for company. But then Francine decamps to London with her lover Charles, Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts arrive in Aldwick, and Hazel’s summer suddenly becomes more interesting. She finds herself befriended by two very different people: Lucia, an upper-class blackshirt, passionate about the cause; and Tom, a young working-class boy, increasingly scornful of Mosley’s rhetoric. In the end, though, it is Tom who wins Hazel’s heart – and Hazel who breaks his.

Autumn 1936. Now living in London, Hazel has grown up fast over the past year. But an encounter with Tom sends her into freefall. He must never know why she cut off all contact last summer, betraying the promises they’d made. Yet Hazel isn’t the only one with secrets. Nor is she the only one with reason to keep the two of them apart . . .


The Circle of Our LivesThe Circle of Our Lives by Di Alexander

The rolling seasons are the pulse of life at Harcombe Farm – seedtime and harvest, winter frost and summer sun, the greening of the land, the blooming of wild flowers, the golden crops followed by the browning of the autumn landscape, the amazing views seen through skeletal winter trees …

Wife, grandmother and journalist, Di Alexander reflects upon the goings on in the hectic merry-go-round of her farmhouse kitchen. Life has changed since she penned her first account of life on the farm, ‘The Harcombe Year’. Beloved friends and neighbours have had good news and bad, and her role has grown in the village church that happens to belong to the smallest parish in England.

Her home is still the same unassuming corner of England that has welcomed all comers for generations. Amongst the warmth and good humour of everyday life are the touching and meaningful encounters with a star cast of artists, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Fred Sanger and a half-wild pony in need of a good friend and a steady hand.

Now Di considers how much of life, with its joys and sorrows, has come a full circle and realises that whatever the changes, it is reassuring clear that the old rural traditions live on in this quirky little corner of England. Nineteen unusual and delicious family recipes are shared for the first time.


Never To Be ToldNever to be Told by Jennifer Lynch

Single parent Angela is finished with relationships and decides to spend time focusing on her family. She then bumps into the fascinating Gareth and feels an instant attraction. But is Gareth the romantic man she imagines, or is his behaviour a repeat of the Head at Cherryfields, who thrives on using divorcees? Angela tries to stay true to herself but soon discovers that Gareth’s complex family life is more than she bargained for. After a disturbing incident at the school, she decides to take a holiday to Turkey to visit her old University friend. Jean’s life is good and she’s able to manifest anything she wants, as well as looking twenty years younger. Angela looks on with envy but her faith is restored when she’s introduced to Jean’s ex boyfriend, Jack. She then starts to wonder if the Magpies are trying to show her something, as they lead her to what is sitting at the bottom of the nest.


A Long GoodbyeA Long Goodbye by Anthony Le Moignan

Simon, a successful accountant, has a big problem. The biggest of them all. He checks himself into Orchard Care Home whilst still relatively healthy, the youngest resident by decades. He’s confident he cut all ties with the outside world and is untraceable.

Emma, married with no kids, lives, breathes and manages Orchard Care Home; a position her husband, Michael, used to hold in the good old days. But now he’s soared up the company hierarchy she sees so much less of him.

The attraction between carer and resident is instant, but ultimately destined for catastrophe. Alzheimer’s takes no prisoners and Early Onset, it’s most tragic form, is the cruellest of all.

How can Michael feel threatened by Simon? And what future could Emma have with him?

Simon understands less and less, but knows he has to try and run away from time – to somehow beat the ceaseless clock.


Not Forgetting The WhaleNot Forgetting the Whale by John Ironmonger

When a young man, Joe, washes up on the sands of St Piran in Cornwall, he is quickly rescued by the villagers. From the retired village doctor and the beachcomber, to the priest’s wife and the flamboyant romantic novelist, they take this lost soul into their midst. And they, in turn, come to find that he gives fresh perspectives on their lives and loves. But what the villagers don’t know is why Joe fled the city for St Piran, and what he left behind.

Intimate, funny and heart-warming, Not Forgetting the Whale is a story about community, the best and worst in our nature, and the search for a place to call home.


The Song CollectorThe Song Collector by Natasha Solomons

Fox, as the celebrated composer Harry Fox-Talbot is known, wants to be left in peace. His beloved wife has died, he’s unable to write a note of music, and no, he does not want to take up some blasted hobby.

Then one day he discovers that his troublesome four-year-old grandson is a piano prodigy. The music returns and Fox is compelled to re-engage with life – and, ultimately, to confront an old family rift.

Decades earlier, Fox and his brothers return to Hartgrove Hall after the war, determined to save their once grand home from ruin. But on the last night of 1946, the arrival of beautiful wartime singer Edie Rose tangles the threads of love and duty, which leads to a shattering betrayal.

With poignancy, lyricism and humour, Natasha Solomons tells a captivating tale of passion and music, of roots, ancient songs and nostalgia for the old ways, of the ties that bind us to family and home and the ones we are prepared to sever. Here is the story of a man who discovers joy and creative renewal in the aftermath of grief and learns that it is never too late to seek forgiveness.


The Things We Thought We KnewThe Things we Thought we Knew by Mahsuda Snaith

The first memory I have of you is all knickers and legs. You had flipped yourself into a handstand and couldn’t get back down. We became best friends, racing slugs, pretending to be spies – all the things that children do.

Ten years later, eighteen-year-old Ravine Roy spends every day in her room. Completing crosswords and scribbling in her journal, she keeps the outside world exactly where she wants it; outside.

But as the real world begins to invade her carefully controlled space, she is forced to finally confront the questions she’s been avoiding. Who is her mother meeting in secret? Who has moved in next door?

And why, all those years ago, when two girls pulled on their raincoats and wellies and headed out into the woods did only one of them return?


Ruth Robinson's Year of MiraclesRuth Robinson’s Year of Miracles by Frances Garrood

All Ruth Robinson ever wanted was the man of her dreams. But she lost the man, and got a baby instead… 

Six months ago, Ruth Robinson had a regular job, a monthly salary and a comfortable flat to go home to.

After quitting her job ready to go travelling, a momentary lapse of judgement put a major spanner in the works…

Now Ruth has a baby on the way and no place to call home…

With the father of her child AWOL and her parents less than impressed, Ruth decides to move in with her eccentric uncles.

And when the Virgin Mary appears in their hen house, it is clear Ruth’s unplanned pregnancy isn’t the only ‘miracle’ she’ll be encountering this year…


The Road to NewgateThe Road to Newgate by Kate Braithwaite

What price justice?

London 1678.

Titus Oates, an unknown preacher, creates panic with wild stories of a Catholic uprising against Charles II. The murder of a prominent Protestant magistrate appears to confirm that the Popish Plot is real.

Only Nathaniel Thompson, writer and Licenser of the Presses, instinctively doubts Oates’s revelations. Even his young wife, Anne, is not so sure. And neither know that their friend William Smith has personal history with Titus Oates.

When Nathaniel takes a public stand, questioning the plot and Oates’s integrity, the consequences threaten them all.


Foxtrot in FreshbyFoxtrot in Freshby by Awen Thornber

When dance teacher Gina Pendleton throws her cheating boyfriend out of her house, she must find a way of earning extra money to pay the bills. The obvious answer is to offer dance classes at her home, even though she knows this will incur the wrath of the owner of the local well-established dance school.

Her life becomes even more fraught when she is targeted by vandals and intruders.

After she meets Chris Jackson, it doesn’t take her long to realise that he is the man of her dreams, especially as he’s also a wonderful dancing partner.

But can she really trust him when it appears that he is hiding something from her?


The Hopkins ConundrumThe Hopkins Conundrum by Simon Edge

Tim Cleverley inherits a failing pub in Wales, which he plans to rescue by enlisting an American pulp novelist to concoct an entirely fabricated ‘mystery’ about the mysterious poet, Gerald Manley Hopkins, who composed ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’ nearby. Blending the real stories of Hopkins and the shipwrecked nuns he wrote about with a contemporary love story, while casting a wry eye on the Dan Brown industry, The Hopkins Conundrum is a highly original blend of historical fiction and contemporary satire.


The Whitstable High Tide Swimming ClubThe Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club by Katie May

When Deb (ageing bikini, sunglasses) and Maisie (black wetsuit, swimming shoes, goggles) keep meeting on Reeves Beach, they strike up an unlikely friendship based on their love of swimming and their recent divorces. Soon, they are joined by other high tide swimmers, each with a crisis of their own to weather. Ann, a bossy organiser, is caring for her elderly mother at home; Julie has somehow (although she’s not quite sure how) managed to produce three children under school age; and Chloe, a bright, brittle girl of fifteen, finds calmness in the water, and Quiet, anxious Bill is soon welcomed into the heart of the club. When the swimmers discover plans for their beach to be paved over for a leisure complex, together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the beach is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.


The Single Girl's CalendarThe Single Girl’s Calendar by Erin Green

A task a day to cure a broken heart.

Esmé Peel is approaching thirty with some trepidation, but hope in her heart. If she can just get her long-term boyfriend Andrew to propose, she will have ticked everything off her ‘things to do by the time you’re 30’ list. She didn’t reckon on finding another woman’s earring in her bed however, and soon she finds herself single, homeless and in need of a new plan. Her best friend Carys gives her the perfect present – The Single Girl’s Calendar – which has a different cure for heartbreak every day:

Day 1: Look and feel fabulous with a new hair style.

Day 2: Step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

Day 3: Reconnect with friends and enjoy!

Despite thinking it’s a bit of a gimmick, Esmé hasn’t got any better ideas, so she puts the plan into action. By the end of week one she has four new male housemates, and despite a broken heart she is determined to show Andrew she can do more than survive, she can thrive.


Happy as a PartridgeHappy as a Partridge by Kate Boyle

Evie Fuller is quite simply fed up. Single, unemployed and rapidly approaching her thirtieth birthday, she finds London life is weighing heavy. When a month of free language lessons offers an escape route, she heads to Madrid for sun-soaked adventures and a crash course in Spanish culture. Will a change of scene restore her zest for life?

Follow Evie as she laughs, cries and adjusts to these foreign lands – a shy English girl blossoms under the Spanish sun and discovers the hardest thing about moving abroad is deciding when to come home.


Pieces of HappinessPieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby

I’ve planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset . Why don’t you join me? Leave behind everything that didn’t work out!

When recently-widowed Kat writes to her four old school friends, inviting them to live with her on a cocoa plantation in the South Pacific, they swap icy pavements and TV dinners for a tropical breeze and an azure-blue ocean. Leaving behind loneliness, dead-end jobs and marriages that have gone sour, they settle into the Women’s House, surrounded by palms and cocoa trees; and locals with the puzzling habit of exploding into laughter for no discernible reason.

Each of the women has her issues to resolve, and secrets to keep. But together the friends find a new purpose, starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness. As they embrace a new culture that views ageing so differently from their own, will they learn to accept and forgive: to discover the value of friendship, and a better way to live?


Summer House with Swimming PoolSummer House with Swimming Pool

A doctor to the rich and famous goes to extreme lengths to protect his daughter in this dark and addictive novel from the author of the million-copy bestseller The Dinner.

Marc Schlosser is a doctor to the rich and famous.

When his most famous patient, the actor Ralph Meier, invites him and his family on holiday, Marc finds that he can’t refuse. But by the time the suntans fade, Ralph Meier is dead.

The medical board accuses Marc of negligence.

Ralph’s wife, however, accuses him of murder…









The Rumour by Lesley Kara #Review @LesleyKara @alisonbarrow #TheRumour


A casual comment.

There’s a killer among us.

That’s all it takes.

She stabbed little Robbie Harris.

To change a life –

She’s living under a new name.

For ever.

She’s reformed. So they say . . .

Joanna is going to regret the day she ever said a word.


My Review

When I was offered the opportunity to get my hands on a pre-launch copy of this book I jumped at the chance. I knew what the basis of the story was, but wasn’t prepared for the engaging mix of paranoia, suspicion and danger that ensued.

Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates and casually repeats it, because after all it’s just a silly piece of gossip – isn’t it? The fact that it helps to ingratiate her into the ‘inner circle’ is also a plus. But gossip is rarely silly or innocent, it’s like opening Pandora’s box, once it’s out there, it’s hard to put a lid on it and it takes on a life of its own. The rumour is that Sally McGowan in living under an assumed identity in their little seaside town of Flinstead-on Sea. Sally was notorious for stabbing 5-year-old Robbie Harris to death, when she herself was just 10 years old in 1969. The most recent photograph shows her as a teenager, but most people remember the unnerving picture  published during her trial as she stares directly into the camera. So essentially she could be any one of many middle-aged ladies, who keep themselves to themselves – and therein lies the problem – if it’s true.

Despite Joanna’s best efforts to back track, it’s too late, the rumour is out there and a vigilante mentality takes over the town. The fact that Joanna’s on/off partner, and father to her 6-year-old son is a journalist also complicates matters. He sees the rumour to be a chance to track Sally down and get an exclusive story.  So all in all, Sally’s identity is unlikely to stay secret for long.

I loved the premise of the story, it’s quite a simple theme, but a very powerful one. As someone who is old enough to remember the Mary Bell case, this has strong echoes of her story, which makes it all the more realistic. The realism is added to by occasional flashbacks to newspaper reports and witness and family impact statements. As a balance ‘Sally’ herself comments on the way she is unable to settle, and is hunted and haunted as a consequence of her action. The reality is though, it’s never going to be easy to present a sympathetic portrayal of a child killer, no matter that they themselves have been abused and failed by those that should have loved and protected them. Add in the fact that she’s female and it makes her doubly monstrous, as society seems to have a tendency to see murders by children and/or women as worse than other murders.

There is an underlying feeling of tension and unease throughout the book and it surfaces when Joanna starts to fear for the safety of her own son Alfie. But is her fear real or imagined? To discover that, along with whether Sally is actually, living among them and  whether she was the monster she was portrayed as you’ll need to read for yourself. All I’m prepared to reveal is that in making those discoveries you’ll find blind alleys, red herrings, danger and drama. All in all a cracking read that doesn’t let up until the final page.


A Criminally Good (or should that be bad?) Harrogate Book Haul @TheakstonsCrime


After Harrogate last year, I returned home with more books than I anticipated and this year vowed not to do the same – ha! that went well. On Saturday I was shopping in Harrogate for a light weight re-usable bag I could take my clothes home in, as my wheel-able suitcase was full of books! As it transpired my suitcase got its own lift home, which was just as well as I’d never have juggled my case, bag, rucksack and walking stick on the train! So thanks to Robert/Bob Barker for playing chauffeur for me.

Where did my plans go so wrong? Well anyone who follows my Book Hauling posts will know it’s been getting seriously out of hand – wait until you’ve seen this month’s haul (aside from these). So it was never going to be easy. In addition I think I’ve let my dark side slip over the past year. As well as not reading at all for a good 6 months, when I did read, not surprisingly it was lighter, cheery optimistic stuff. When I got to Harrogate I realised I’d been out of the loop – was I the only person who hadn’t heard of  Will Dean? Well actually no, there was my non crime reading friend Sheila of course, but then I had to point out Lee Child to her. So while I’m not the speediest reader, I could usually be relied upon to have the book on my Kindle at least, even if I hadn’t read it. But I realised there were so many books that I’d missed, that as well as the many freebies, I also had a mini spending spree. While I did pick up some Kindle bargains, the rest were all in hard copy so no hiding those from the OH. It’s amazing how handing him a signed ‘Jack Reacher’ can smooth the way. That and the fact that my suitcase had already arrived before me so I’d been rumbled. So sit back, grab a cuppa and see if there’s anything you fancy or might have been missed. For those more hard-core readers, sorry you might be disappointed, I might be re-exploring my darker side, but I’m still a wimp at heart.


Pre-publication Goodies 


To Catch a KillerTo Catch a Killer by Emma Kavanagh (due 24th January 2019)

I’ve been watching you DS Alice Parr.

I saw you trying to save the poor young woman you found in the park.

The woman I tried to kill.

I’ve been waiting for you to find her family. To find someone who cares about her.

But you can’t can you?

You’ve never had a case like this.

I know everything about you. You know nothing about me.

Even though I’m the man you’re looking for.

And you will never catch me..


No Way OutNo Way Out by Cara Hunter (due 20th Dec 2018)


From the author of CLOSE TO HOME and IN THE DARK comes the third pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked.

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident.

It was murder.


The Trailing SpouseThe Trailing Spouse by Jo Furniss (due 14th August)

Do you really want to know the truth?

Amanda Bonham moved halfway around the world to be with the man she loves. Although expat life in Singapore can be difficult, Edward Bonham is a dream husband and a doting father to his teenage daughter, Josie.

But when their maid dies in an apparent suicide—and Amanda discovers the woman was pregnant and hiding a stash of drugs prescribed to Edward—she can’t help but wonder if her perfect husband has a fatal flaw. And if he can’t resist temptation under their own roof, what does he get up to when he travels?

Camille Kemble also has questions for Edward. Recently returned to Singapore, Camille is determined to resolve a family mystery. Amid a jumble of faded childhood memories, she keeps seeing Edward’s handsome face. And she wants to know why.

For one woman, the search for answers threatens everything she has. For another, it’s the key to all she lost. Both will follow his trail of secrets into the darkness to find the truth.


Freefall.jpgFreefall by Jessica Barry (due 31st January 2019)

Surviving the plane crash is only the beginning for Allison.

The life that she’s built for herself – her perfect fiancé, their world of luxury – has disappeared in the blink of an eye. Now she must run, not only to escape the dark secrets in her past, but to outwit the man who is stalking her every move.

On the other side of the country, Allison’s mother is desperate for news of her daughter, who is missing, presumed dead. Maggie refuses to accept that she could have lost her only child and sets out to discover the truth.

Mother and daughter must fight – for survival and to find their way through a dark web of lies and back to one another, before it’s too late…


The Whisper ManThe Whisper Man by Alex North (due 13 June 2019)

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys. Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home. Except that now another young boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window…


She Lies in WaitShe Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge (due 10 January 2019)

Six friends. One killer. Who do you trust?

“A dark, deep, terrific thriller and a scorching portrait of friendship and its betrayal” Nicci French

On a hot July night in 1983, six school friends go camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and young Aurora Jackson is dazzled to be allowed to tag along.

Thirty years later, a body is discovered. DCI Sheens is called to the scene, but he already knows what’s waiting for him: Aurora Jackson, found at long last.

But that’s not all. The friends have all maintained their innocence, but the body is found in a hideaway only the six of them knew about.

It seems the killer has always lurked very close to home…


Giveaways and Wins


The Old YouThe Old You by Louise Voss

Lynn Naismith gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it was worth it for the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and things start to happen; things more sinister than missing keys and lost words. As some memories are forgotten, others, long buried, begin to surface … and Lynn’s perfect world begins to crumble.
But is it Ed’s mind playing tricks, or hers…?



The Tattoo ThiefThe Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham

A policeman on his first murder case
A tattoo artist with a deadly secret
And a twisted serial killer sharpening his blades to kill again…

When Brighton tattoo artist Marni Mullins discovers a flayed body, newly-promoted DI Francis Sullivan needs her help. There’s a serial killer at large, slicing tattoos from his victims’ bodies while they’re still alive. Marni knows the tattooing world like the back of her hand, but has her own reasons to distrust the police. So when she identifies the killer’s next target, will she tell Sullivan or go after the Tattoo Thief alone?


The PartyThe Party by Lisa Hall

When Rachel wakes up in a strange room, the morning after a neighbour’s party, she has no memory of what happened the night before. Why did her husband leave her alone at the party? Did they row? Why are Rachel’s arms so bruised? And why are her neighbours and friends so vague about what really happened?

Little by little, Rachel pieces together the devastating events that took place in a friend’s house, at a party where she should have been safe. Everyone remembers what happened that night differently, and everyone has something to hide. But someone knows the truth about what happened to Rachel. And she’s determined to find them.


Presumed DeadPresumed Dead by Mason Cross

‘What do you know about the Devil Mountain Killer?’


Adeline Connor was the Devil Mountain Killer’s final victim. After she was gunned down, the murderer disappeared and the killing spree ended.


Carter Blake has been hired to do what he does best: to find someone. But this time he’s hunting a dead girl – Adeline Connor’s brother is convinced she’s still alive.

But this town doesn’t want an outsider digging up old business. And as Blake gets deeper into the case, it starts to become clear that the murders didn’t ju st stop fifteen years ago.

The killer is on the hunt again.


The Killing HabitThe Killing Habit by Mark Billingham

How do you catch a killer who is yet to kill?

We all know the signs. Cruelty, lack of empathy, the killing of animals. Now, pets on suburban London streets are being stalked by a shadow, and it could just be the start.

DI Tom Thorne knows the psychological profile of such offenders all too well, so when he is tasked with catching a notorious killer of domestic cats, he sees the chance to stop a series of homicides before they happen.

Others are less convinced, so once more, Thorne relies on DI Nicola Tanner to help him solve the case, before the culprit starts hunting people. It’s a journey that brings them face to face with a killer who will tear their lives apart.


Savages, The WeddingSavages:The Wedding by Sabri Louatah

A Saturday in May. Paris.

It’s the eve of the French presidential elections – ‘The Election of the Century’ say the newspaper headlines – and Chaouch, the nation’s first Arab candidate, has victory in his sights. It has been a long campaign, and with his wife Esther and daughter Jasmine by his side, he spends the remaining hours with close advisors in a hotel in Nimes. Much of the dinner table chatter revolves around Jasmine’s boyfriend; Fouad Nerrouche, a well-known actor with the same Algerian origins as her father, who has just publicly endorsed Chaouch’s candidacy. However shallow it may seem, it’s difficult to ignore the influence of celebrity support in this complex and unpredictable race . . .

The same day. Saint-Etienne.

The Nerrouche family is frantically preparing for a grand wedding, and Fouad himself is there to help out. But younger cousin Krim – who has recently lost his job – is becoming increasingly agitated, and no one knows why. As the day goes on, it becomes clear that the cousin’s problems go far deeper than unemployment. Krim has been stealing from a local gang leader and after being discovered, found himself indebted to his powerful cousin, Nazir – Fouad’s brother. Nazir is a very shady figure, and is heavily involved in a dark underworld of crime. Together, their plans will cause Fouad’s two very different worlds to meet in a way no one would have dared to imagine. Within a few hours, the threads start to unravel, and the collision between the destiny of a family and the hopes of a country becomes inevitable.


Or the Bull Kills YouOr the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster

Either you kill the bull, or the bull kills you – traditional proverb.

Chief Inspector Max Cámara hates bullfighting but one hot afternoon in Valencia he has to replace his boss, judging a festival corrida that stars Spain’s most famous young matador. That night, he is summoned back to the bullring where the young matador’s dead body now lies, naked and mutilated.

As the city prepares for Fallas, the five day festival of fireworks and celebrations, and the politicians work feverishly towards an election, Cámara hunts down his prey through the city’s streets and bars. But as he follows the trail of death, money, corruption and sex in search of the killer, he must also battle his own demons and desires…


Then She Was GoneThen She was Gone by Lisa Jewell

She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. 
She had her whole life ahead of her. 
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

Ten years on, Laurel has never given up hope of finding Ellie. And then she meets a charming and charismatic stranger who sweeps her off her feet.

But what really takes her breath away is when she meets his nine-year-old daughter.

Because his daughter is the image of Ellie.

Now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What really happened to Ellie? And who still has secrets to hide?


Insidious IntentInsidious Intent by Val McDermid

‘Murdered people don’t kill themselves . . .’

A quiet night on a country road. The stillness shattered by a car engulfed in flames, and a burned body discovered in the driver’s seat. As the investigation unfolds, DCI Carol Jordan and psychological profiler Tony Hill quickly realise that this is more than just a tragic accident. And so begins the hunt for a truly terrifying killer, someone who believes he is invisible, untraceable and untouchable.

As other victims are found to have met the same terrible fate, and with more women at risk, Tony and Carol are drawn into a dark and twisted web of fear and revenge that will force them to question their own ideas of justice . . .


Book purchases


The Twenty-ThreeThe Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay

The day begins like any other Saturday – a shower, coffee, breakfast. But suddenly, all hell breaks loose in the town of Promise Falls. People are dying in the street – the hospital and emergency services are overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Is it mass food poisoning, a virus, or something more sinister? Has someone, rather than something, caused this?

Detective Barry Duckworth is already investigating two murders and an explosion at the town’s drive-in. He starts to wonder if these crimes and the new attacks are connected to the mysterious incidents in Promise Falls involving the number twenty-three.

But who is sending these deadly messages, and how can they be stopped?


Those We Left BehindThose We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

DCI Serena Flanagan is forced to confront a disturbing case from her past: the murder conviction of a 12-year-old-boy who has just been released from prison

DCI Serena Flanagan hasn’t heard the boy’s name in years.

Not since the blood on the wall and the body in the bedroom.

Not since she listened as he confessed to brutally murdering his foster father.

But now Ciaran Devine is out of prison and back in her life. And so is his brother, Thomas – the brother that Flanagan always suspected of hiding something.

When Ciaran’s probation officer comes Flanagan with fresh fears about the Devines, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.


The LostThe Lost by Mari Hannah

‘He was her child. The only one she’d ever have. It would kill her to learn that he was missing.’

Alex arrives home from holiday to find that her ten-year-old son Daniel has disappeared.

It’s the first case together for Northumbria CID officers David Stone and Frankie Oliver.

Stone has returned to his roots with fifteen years’ experience in the Met, whereas Oliver is local, a third generation copper with a lot to prove, and a secret that’s holding her back.

But as the investigation unfolds, they realise the family’s betrayal goes deeper than anyone suspected. This isn’t just a missing persons case. Stone and Oliver are hunting a killer.


Game Point (DCI Bennett Book 4)Game Point by Malcom Hollingdrake

DCI Bennett faces the most harrowing case of his career. A psychopath, who escaped capture, is hell-bent on revenge and executes a series of events that will not only impact on Bennett physically but will have emotional and professional consequences.

A body is found with its fingers amputated, then an investigative journalist, embroiled in the pornography and drugs scene, is murdered.

Bennett’s team is faced with some baffling evidence. Hatpins and bicycle spokes become pivotal to the inquiry but the police struggle to connect the evidence.

It is only when a Detective Sergeant from the team is kidnapped that Bennett realises that he is the true target.

Can Bennett solve the case before it’s too late? How many people will he lose in the process?


Sleeping in the GroundSleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson

shocking mass murder occurs at a wedding in a small Dales church and a huge manhunt follows. Eventually, the shooter is run to ground and things take their inevitable course.

But Banks is plagued with doubts as to exactly what happened outside the church that day, and why. Struggling with the death of his first serious girlfriend and the return of profiler Jenny Fuller into his life, Banks feels the need to dig deeper into the murders, and as he does so, he uncovers forensic and psychological puzzles that lead him to the past secrets that might just provide the answers he is looking for.

When the surprising truth becomes clear, it is almost too late.


The Midnight LineThe Midnight Line by Lee Child

Jack Reacher is having a bad day.
It would be a dumb idea to make it worse. 
Reacher sees a West Point class ring in a pawn shop window. It’s tiny. It’s a woman cadet’s graduation present to herself. Why would she give it up? Reacher was a West Pointer too, and he knows what she went through to get it.
All he wants is to find the woman.
He’ll have to go through bikers, cops, crooks, and low-life muscle.
If she’s ok, he’ll walk away. If she’s not … he’ll stop at nothing.
Best advice: stay out of his way.


Kindle Purchases


The Perfect FriendThe Perfect Friend by Barbara Copperthwaite

She’ll do anything for you…

My name is Alex, and my world has been shattered.
My husband has left me.
My children won’t speak to me.
My friend Carrie is the only person I have.
She’s the only one I can trust to keep all my secrets.
She’d never do anything to let me down.
Would she?

This dark, gripping psychological thriller will have you holding your breath until the very last page. Fans of Behind Closed DoorsSometimes I Lie, and The Girl on the Train will be captivated.


Still LifeStill Life by Louise Penny

The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…


No Further QuestionsNo Further Questions by Gillian McAllister

The police say she’s guilty.

She insists she’s innocent.

She’s your sister.

You loved her.

You trusted her.

But they say she killed your child.

Who do you believe?


Her Name Was RoseHer Name was Rose by Claire Allan

Her name was Rose. You watched her die. And her death has created a vacancy.

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.

And then she makes a decision she can never take back.

Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?

But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.


I, WitnessI, Witness by Niki Mackay

They say I’m a murderer.

Six years ago, Kate Reynolds was found holding the body of her best friend; covered in blood, and clutching the knife that killed her.

I plead guilty.

Kate has been in prison ever since, but now her sentence is up. She is being released.

But the truth is, I didn’t do it.

There’s only one person who can help: Private Investigator Madison Attallee, the first officer on the scene all those years ago.

But uncovering the truth means catching a killer.


It Was HerIt Was Her by Mark Hill

Twenty years ago, Tatia was adopted into a well-off home where she seemed happy, settled. Then the youngest boy in the family dies in an accident, and she gets the blame.

Did she do it?

Tatia is cast out, away from her remaining adopted siblings Joel and Poppy. Now she yearns for a home to call her own. So when she see families going on holiday, leaving their beautiful homes empty, there seems no harm in living their lives while they are gone. But somehow, people keep ending up dead.

Did she kill them?

As bodies start to appear in supposedly safe neighbourhoods, DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley race to find the thinnest of links between the victims. But Drake’s secret past is threatening to destroy everything.


ThirteenThirteen by Steve Cavanagh

‘To your knowledge, is there anything that would preclude you from serving on this jury?’

Murder wasn’t the hard part. It was just the start of the game.

Joshua Kane has been preparing for this moment his whole life. He’s done it before. But this is the big one.

This is the murder trial of the century. And Kane has killed to get the best seat in the house.

But there’s someone on his tail. Someone who suspects that the killer isn’t the man on trial.

Kane knows time is running out – he just needs to get to the conviction without being discovered.


The Devil's ClawThe Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman

Following a traumatic incident in London, Jennifer Dorey has returned to her childhood home in Guernsey, taking a job as a reporter at the local newspaper.

After the discovery of a drowned woman on a beach, she uncovers a pattern of similar deaths that have taken place over the past fifty years.

Together with DCI Michael Gilbert, an officer on the verge of retirement, they follow a dark trail of island myths and folklore to ‘Fritz’, the illegitimate son of a Nazi soldier. His work, painstakingly executed, has so far gone undetected.

But with his identity about to be uncovered, the killer now has Jennifer in his sights.


Dark PinesDark Pines by Will Dean

An isolated Swedish town.

A deaf reporter terrified of nature.

A dense spruce forest overdue for harvest.

A pair of eyeless hunters found murdered in the woods.

It’s week one of the Swedish elk hunt and the sound of gunfire is everywhere. When Tuva Moodyson investigates the story that could make her career she stumbles on a web of secrets that knit Gavrik town together. Are the latest murders connected to the Medusa killings twenty years ago? Is someone following her? Why take the eyes? Tuva must face her demons and venture deep into the woods to stop the killer and write the story. And then get the hell out of Gavrik.


Behind Her EyesBehind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough


Since her husband walked out, Louise has made her son her world, supporting them both with her part-time job. But all that changes when she meets…


Young, successful and charming – Louise cannot believe a man like him would look at her twice let alone be attracted to her. But that all comes to a grinding halt when she meets his wife…


Beautiful, elegant and sweet – Louise’s new friend seems perfect in every way. As she becomes obsessed by this flawless couple, entangled in the intricate web of their marriage, they each, in turn, reach out to her.

But only when she gets to know them both does she begin to see the cracks… Is David really the man she thought she knew and is Adele as vulnerable as she appears?
Just what terrible secrets are they both hiding and how far will they go to keep them?


Death In The WoodsDeath in the Woods by Bernie Steadman

Soon after DI Hellier returns home to Exeter under a cloud, the body of a talented young singer is found in the woods.

When her death reveals links to the boss of a recording studio, a predatory gang and a school music teacher, Hellier knows he has his work cut out.

Before any more innocent people are put in danger, Hellier will need to untangle the web of lies and work out which of many suspects are guilty of murder.

But will he solve the case in time?


A Fatal ObsessionA Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin

Oxford, 1960. There’s a murderer on the loose and two unlikely heroes are poised to solve the case.

Meet Probationary WPC Trudy Loveday – smart, enthusiastic and always underestimated.

In the hope of getting her out of the way, Trudy’s senior officer assigns her to help coroner Clement Ryder as he re-opens the case of a young woman’s death. She can’t believe her luck – she is actually going to be working on a real murder case.

Meanwhile, the rest of the police force are busy investigating a series of threats and murders in the local community, and Clement can’t help but feel it’s all linked.

As Trudy and Clement form an unlikely partnership, are they going to be the ones to solve these crimes before the murderer strikes again?


The Scent of GuiltThe Scent of Guilt by Tony J Forder

Twelve years after he left Peterborough under a cloud, DI Bliss returns to the city and the major crimes team. Having spent years policing organised crime, Bliss is plunged straight into the heart of a serial murder investigation.

Meanwhile, Penny Chandler has been promoted to DS and has been working in

London on the Met’s sexual crimes team. But when two rapes are reported on her old patch in Peterborough, Chandler volunteers to interview the victims.

Chandler joins the hunt for the attacker and soon notices a possible link between the rapes and Bliss’s murder investigation. Could the same man be responsible?

Just as both cases seem to stall, a call comes in from an ex-policeman who knows of unsolved cases in the USA with a similar MO. Bliss finds himself travelling to California to hunt for a killer whose reach may have stretched further than anyone could possibly imagine.

But in order to catch the murderer, Bliss must discover the killer’s motive. A motive which should have remained buried in the past…


If you made it this far, thanks and well done – you’ll probably need another cuppa now.