#BookReview The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne #marshking @littlebrownuk

The suspense thriller of the year - The Marsh King's Daughter will captivate you from the start and chill you to the bone.

'I was born two years into my mother's captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn't have adored my father.'

When notorious child abductor - known as the Marsh King - escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena's past: they don't know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve - or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don't know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone... except, perhaps his own daughter. 

Packed with gripping suspense and powerful storytelling, The Marsh King's Daughter is a one-more-page, read-in-one-sitting thriller that you'll remember for ever.  

Published 29th June 2017 by Little Brown UK  

The Marsh King's Daughter is a book that's currently getting a lot of rave reviews, and so I was filled with the usual mix of excitement and apprehension as I started it. Yet within one paragraph I knew it thoroughly deserved all the high praise, and that I too was going to love it. It's one of those books that literally grabs you - right around the middle, leaving you breathless and tense while frantically turning pages and holding your breath.

It begins when an adult Helena returns home with her two young children to find that her convict father has escaped from prison.  Fearing for her family's lives, Helena knows only she can put an end to whatever her father has planned. Because it was she who put him in prison in the first place and it will be she he targets in his hunt for revenge.

The narrative alternates between the present day game of cat and mouse between Helena and her father and Helena's past, where the trauma and horror of her birth and upbringing as the daughter of a captor and his captive is slowly revealed. The book is paced so breathtaking well, that I was speeding through the pages, desperately squeezing in just one more chapter and ended up reading it in less than a day.

What made the book so compelling I think, was the contrast between the action thriller present, where the daughter and father chase each other down in a dangerous battle of wit and physical strength, and the harrowing tale of Helena's childhood. Born to a kidnapped teenager held in captivity, she has no idea there's anything wrong with her feral life in the wild marsh, idolises her father and knows next to nothing of the modern world she's secluded and isolated from. Yet the reader can feel and see the sinister reality of her cruel father's games and control. I thought that the slow dawning of realisation Helena goes through was beautifully written and felt my heart breaking for both her and her mother.

There's some shocking and violent scenes in The Marsh King's Daughter, which had me reeling with disgust that anyone can be quite so cruel. Karen Dionne has created in The Marsh King a complex, truly evil villain yet manages to offset this with Helena's strength, determination and hope. This is a story of survival against all odds, and sheer will and determination to overcome abuse and oppression and protect the ones you love. It's a conflict of the fine line between love and hate, nature and nurture, and good versus evil. An absolutely gripping read, you won't be able to put it down until you've turned the very last page.

(I read an advance proof copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program)

Cover Reveal: White Silence by Jodi Taylor @AccentPress #WhiteSilence

I'm THRILLED to have been invited by Accent Press to take part in the cover reveal for Jodi Taylor's White Silence! So without further ado, here it is...


*The first instalment in the new, gripping supernatural thriller series from international
bestselling author, Jodi Taylor*

"I don't know who I am. I don't know what I am."

Elizabeth Cage is a child when she discovers that there are things in this world that only she can see.
But she doesn’t want to see them and she definitely doesn’t want them to see her.

What is a curse to Elizabeth is a gift to others – a very valuable gift they want to control.
When her husband dies, Elizabeth’s world descends into a nightmare. But as she tries to piece her
life back together, she discovers that not everything is as it seems.

Alone in a strange and frightening world, she’s a vulnerable target to forces beyond her control.
And she knows that she can’t trust anyone… 

White Silence is a twisty supernatural thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. 

The ebook is publishing 21/09/2017 with the paperback to follow in Spring 2018 

Doesn't it sound FAB?! I love a bit of supernatural now and then, this sounds right up my street and I LOVE the cover! What do you think? 

You can pre-order White Silence HERE

Blog Tour Book Review: The Second Chance Cafe In Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

One chance isn't always Enough 
Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realizes that getting back on track means traveling in a different direction. 

She finds it in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm ... and trouble. They'll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving. 

This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who's in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is canceling the cake orders, but it's when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realizes things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbors and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving? 

Published June 23rd 2017 by Harper Impulse (UK)  

Back in 2010 I read and enjoyed Michele Gorman's debut novel, Single In The City (Review here) but this was my first time reading one of her books under pen name Lilly Bartlett. The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square is the second book in the Carlton Square series (the first being The Big Little Wedding In Carlton Square) though I don't feel that joining the series here affected my enjoyment of this one. In fact, it stands up very well in its own right - although it has made me want to read TBLWACS just to see how Emma and Daniel come be together!

I thought this book was absolutely charming! It's filled with warmth and heart and I loved the messages behind it. Emma's decided to open a cafe which will train and provide opportunities to disadvantaged teens - what was unexpected was the genuinely lovely community feel as diverse groups and characters come together. Mums with babies, hipsters wanting a place to work on their laptops, elderly customers with memories and stories to share and a group of streetwise youth all find a common place to rub along together.

Opening the cafe isn't without it's problems. Emma's new trainee seems troubled and is hiding something, yet Emma is unwavering in her belief that she has potential. I loved this relationship, and how with Emma's support and trust in her, Lou was able to blossom. There's also the little problem of sabotage, thwarting Emma at every turn as she gets the cafe up and running. But just who has it in for her and what do they have against the cafe? There's also trouble at home, when Emma begins to feel like she is literally being left to hold the babies and resentments begin to bubble.

The theme trickling throughout this book is one of solidarity, working together and standing up for each other. It's also of second chances, and let's face it - we all need one of those at times. This book is generous, heartwarming, community spirited and restores your faith in humans. We all need a little help now and then, and when it's offered and accepted things can turn out all right in the end. With that trademark wit I remember so well from Single In The City, Lilly Bartlett's writing is fun, engaging and a delight to read.  

(I read an ebook courtesy of the author)

Blog Tour Book Review: Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

Three little girls set off to school one sunny May morning. 
Within an hour, one of them is dead.

Fifteen years later, Alison and Kitty are living separate lives. Kitty lives in a care home. She can't speak, and she has no memory of the accident that put her here, or her life before it.

Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. When a job in a prison comes up she decides to take it - this is her chance to finally make things right.

But someone is watching Kitty and Alison.
Someone who wants revenge for what happened that day. 
And only another life will do... 

Published June 29th 2017 by Penguin Viking (UK) 

Having only a brother, I always wished for a sister. I imagined close friendship, a constant companion ...someone who will always be there for you no matter what. Yet I remember my best friend's relationship with her sister was awful! They lived in the same house, were only a year apart in age and managed to not even speak to one another for years throughout their teens. That definitely put me off! If it hadn't, then Blood Sisters by Jane Corry might well have done the trick.

Alison Baker is a withdrawn, introverted thirty something, working as an art teacher for adults. When she see's a job advertised for an open prison art teacher, she takes on the challenge - determined to do some good. Meanwhile, Kitty lives in a care home - she can't walk, talk or do anything for herself. Yet inside, she has a lot she still wants to say and she becomes increasingly frustrated at being unable to express herself.

Well, I absolutely tore through this book. Jane Corry is masterful at weaving a story where the words are less read, more gulped up by the reader, meaning that it felt I was covering tens of pages in less than a blink of the eye. From the very beginning, the atmosphere of 'all not being quite as it seems' is very clear, yet there's character twists aplenty to keep the reader constantly surprised and intrigued.

The book is told in alternating chapters from Alison and Kitty, with flashbacks here and there detailing the lead up to terrible accident fifteen years ago, which has lead to the sister's current situation. Alison is interesting, she's a bit of enigma and seems, at first glance, pretty grounded. But then there's hints to her fragility and a feeling that she isn't quite as true as she may seem. At times, she's almost a contradiction - is she the victim or the perpetrator? How reliable is she and what exactly are her reasons for doing what she does? For example, everything about her screamed that this wasn't a woman who would chose to work in a prison. Yet there she is...

Kitty is a fascinating character and had me intrigued . Just how much did she understand about her past and her current situation? Was she genuinely frustrated and acting out as a result from her brain injury, or was there something more sinister at play? I couldn't fathom her, and this kept me gripped, rushing through the pages and desperate to know what the truth really was. As an aside, I have to say that I thought Jane Corry depicted life in a care home and the good and bad practice by carers here very well (giving me the rage as Kitty screamed in her head about being called "she", having people talk over her and for her constantly, and at the lack of dignity afforded her. As someone who works with people with severe communication difficulties this is a huge bugbear for me and I thought the author got that just right)

Blood Sisters tells a tangled web of lies, deceit and envy, and unraveling it was a compelling, thrilling ride. The horrifying thing is, Blood Sisters takes the complexities, resentments and secrets that could be brewing in any family and shows just how easily they can spiral out of control and one moment can change lives for ever. It explores the fine line between love and hate and the old phrase "blood is thicker than water" is particularly apt. Ultimately though, this is a story about facing up to your past, no matter how traumatic, to be able to move on. I really enjoyed this book, and can't wait to see what Jane Corry comes up with next.

(I read an advanced proof courtesy of the publisher)

Blog Tour - Guest Post and Review: The Farm Girls Dream by Eileen Ramsay ( @BonnierZaffe )

I'm delighted to be hosting a stop on Eileen Ramsay's The Farm Girl's Dream blog tour today with a guest post and review. First up, over to Eileen...  

Eileen The Writer

Everyone in my family read – books, magazines, newspapers, the backs of cornflake boxes, and if there was nothing to read our parents told stories.
Our mother was Irish and when we were young she told us tales of all the naughty things she and her friends used to do when they were children. When we were older she told us stories about Ireland in what she called the “troubles.’’
Father was born in Scotland but his father was English and so my sister, my brother and I have always felt very British. Dad had been a professional soldier and so had served in many countries and when we were young he had just returned from WW11. On cold evenings he would light a fire in the living room and he would tell us stories of “old unhappy far-off things and battles long ago” He loved Burma and the Burmese people and fascinated us with his descriptions of jungle flowers, beautiful temples, and gentle generous people. Every night I told my sister a story.  She, being three years older, was supposed to tell me one in return but somehow she always fell asleep. 
I grew up and became a school teacher and wrote stories for my classes. And then one weekend when I was staying with friends I wrote a story about my friend’s father’s dog. I called it Duffer and the Writer. My husband read it before I could print it out for my friend.
‘You should have that published,’ said my husband. 
I had never thought of publication – that was for real writers – but I began to write seriously. I was reading the books of Elizabeth Goudge and Georgette Heyer and so I decided to start writing a Regency romance. At the same time I was doing a Master’s degree and a professor allowed me to submit the manuscript as part of my course. Not long after graduation I attended a writers’ conference at UC San Diego where I met an editor who surprised me by reading the manuscript and sending me a note. ‘I think this will go.’ That same year, we decided to return with our sons to Scotland where I met an editor who gave me the names of the agents his company used. I applied to one of them who asked for the manuscript and – imagine my delight when she sold it to an American company. They did not ask for a second book and so the lovely agent said, ‘Write about what you know,’ and so I did. I wrote The Broken Gate which is about love and family life and human strength and kindness.
And Duffer and the Writer, no I have never published it but it did win the ‘Children’s story’ category in a competition held by The Scottish Association of Writers.  

My Review 

From the fields of Angus to the shores of Mexico, a family struggles to find their way home. Perfect for fans of Nadine Dorries, Rita Bradshaw and Kitty Neale.

To young Victoria Cameron, Angus, Scotland is the most beautiful place on earth and she wishes nothing more than to stay on her little farm for ever. But the death of her beloved grandfather leaves her and her mother without a farm and struggling to make ends meet.

Never one to give up, Victoria soon finds work in a Dundee mill, while her mother supports them by taking in lodgers. Neither ever expected one of those lodgers would be John Cameron, the father that walked out on them so many years ago.

Victoria is torn about how to receive this stranger, and torn about the other man in her life - a young boy she thinks she could love if only he comes back from the war.  

Published June 15th 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre (UK)

I was brought up in the eighties with my Mum's historical romance/family saga paperbacks piled up on our bookshelves, and it was one of these that became my very first adult read at around age twelve. Over a couple of years I devoured many more, and although my tastes have changed since then, I still have a soft spot for a good old saga for a bit of comfort reading. 

Eileen Ramsay is a new to me author, although she has a massive 18 books already to her name. The Farm Girl's Dream is set in the perfect time period for this type of book - the years spanning the prelude to the first world war and before the second. I think why this period in history does work so well is that, with ordinary women at the heart of this book, this period in history offers a time of great social change, growth and opportunity for females, allowing deep character developement. It becomes difficult not to become attached and immersed in their life. 

The Farm Girl's Dream captures this feeling of change for its main character, Victoria, beautifully. Through adversity and hardship, we see her become independent, grasp opportunities and fight to make a life for herself beyond expectation. The supporting cast of characters are equally as intriguing and I loved the nostalgic sense of community typical of this time. 

Eileen's writing is engaging and flowing, meaning this is a very easy book to become lost in and read over a few hours. In places I felt it was a little jumpy and things seemed to move on quite quickly, however when you're spanning three decades, then I suppose this is somewhat inevitable. I did enjoy her descriptions of places and smells, from the squalor of the Jute mill to the exoticness of India as the world is opened up to Victoria. 

The Farm Girl's Dream is a sweeping saga - there's tragedy, struggle, family, rags to riches, a villain and romance. But it's the sense of hope and accomplishment which make these books so appealing and this one definitely hits the spot. I really enjoyed getting lost in this book for a few hours, and ended with a huge smile on my face and feeling of contentment. Lovely, feel good comfort reading well worth a read - and a new author for me, whose books I'd happily pick up again  

A Pinch Of Salt, also by Eileen Ramsay, is re-released in paperback later this summer. 

(I read a copy courtesy of the publisher)


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