Blog Tour Book Review: We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings

It's 1984, and summer is scorching the ordinary village of Heathcote.

What's more, a mysterious figure is slipping into homes through back doors and open windows. Dubbed 'the Fox', he knows everything about everyone - leaving curious objects in their homes, or taking things from them.

When beloved Anna goes missing, the whole community believes the Fox is responsible.

For the worried residents, finding Anna will be difficult - but stopping the Fox from exposing their darkest secrets might just be impossible... 

Published April 20th by Orion (UK) 

First of all before I get to my review, I must apologise. This post should've appeared yesterday as part of the blog tour but I got mixed up with dates. I've just gone back to work after a period of sickness and to be honest, it's been exhausting and I lost the thread of what I was up to. For some reason I had today in my head, and only realised my mistake this morning when it was too late to fix as I've been at work all day. So, here comes my belated review!  

We All Begin As Strangers caught my eye initially with its cover. I do love that cover! However when I read the synopsis I was intrigued. I grew up in the eighties, and liked the sound of a mystery set then. I also thought the idea behind the Fox was fascinating, especially as it was inspired by some real life events remembered from the authors own childhood.  

The book itself is unlike anything else I've read recently. There's a mystery to solve, yes, in the shape of missing Anna and the creepy, sinister Fox, who is in all likelihood a villager themselves. However, this book isn't thrilling or fast paced, and is more about the relationships, secrets and desires of the villagers themselves. It's also told from four different perspectives, with each perspective forming part of a four part book. So part one is completely told from one characters point of view, then part two switches to another and so on. Even more unusual is that while the narrative changes, the story carries on in a linear fashion. At the moment, I can't think of any other book that uses this technique. It has it's pro's and con's. each chapter feels fresh, there's a new identity, new secrets, new intrigue to learn. On the other hand it meant I didn't connect with any of them in the way I usually like to. This had a distancing effect, the little windows into these peoples personal lives felt almost voyeuristic, which is of course what The Fox was doing too.  

While I did wonder what had happened to Anna, I found this was back-burnered by my intrigue into the individual character's stories. I'm not going to go into them, as that would be giving away to much plot. However, each story is interesting in that it conveys people who are putting on a front - to their neighbours, their families and the world, yet all long to be something they are not. Each feels trapped, either by their past or their circumstances and the mystery of missing Anna, who they all have what they think to be a close relationship with, is what connects them. 

There's also an atmospheric and claustraphobic small village feeling running through the narrative of this book. This is a community who live almost on top of each other, watch and judge - yet actually know very little about the people who live closest to them. The fear of the Fox and Anna's story both divides and brings them together. I also felt the mood of the era was captured well with a mix of an old fashioned attitude clashing with a new one. I don't know quite how to put my finger on it but it's almost as if people are aware of new possibilities but don't know how to go about taking them, so find themselves stuck and resentful in this village that isn't moving as fast as the rest of the world.  

We All Begin As Strangers is one of those books where you don't realise how clever and good it is until you've got to the end and thought about it. I found some of it slow going, especially at the beginning, before I became used to the style of the book. I also felt the disconnection from the characters impacted how engaged I was, until I considered that maybe this was how I was meant to feel - an outsider looking in where they weren't really supposed to. I think perhaps the pace will put off some thrill seeking readers, but for those who enjoy something a bit different, like secrets and exploring different relationship dynamics and a book that actually does give you lots to quietly ponder as you read, then you'll enjoy this one.  

Dead Woman Walking Blog Tour: Q & A with Sharon Bolton

I'm more than a tad excited to be hosting the Dead Woman Walking Blog Tour today with a Q&A with Sharon Bolton herself! I read Dead Woman Walking myself a few weeks ago and was absolutely blown away by this gripping, clever, shocking and twisty thriller, and am delighted to ask Sharon some questions on her latest novel!

Sharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

Hello Sharon, and welcome to Cosy Books. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

 I’m an accomplished tap dancer, I’ve white-water rafted the Zambezi, been chased by an elephant
on horseback, am scared of butterflies and my favourite film is Terminator 2. 

Dead Woman Walking is your latest novel, could you tell us what it's about in your own

Twelve passengers and a pilot, drifting in a hot air balloon over the Northumberland
National Park one morning, see a murder being committed on the ground. Determined to
allow no witnesses to live, the killer causes the balloon to crash, killing everyone on board,
apart from one woman who immediately goes on the run. And then things really go

The book is set in Northumbria – (a place close to me and one of the most stunning places in
my opinion!) what appealed about this setting?

Dead Woman Walking is essentially a chase story, a run and hide story, and for that to work I needed the most remote, least populated region of England. That could only be Northumberland. 

There are some difficult and controversial themes covered in the book. Can you tell us about
some of the research you undertook when writing Dead Woman Walking.

 I got lost in the Northumberland National Park, was almost stranded on Holy Island by a rapidly returning tide and had to wade through flood waters in York, but you didn’t mean that did you? Most
of my books involve my reading real life horror stories at some point, and this one was no
exception. It also threw up a pretty crucial question that we could all usefully ask ourselves :
how far would we go to save the life of someone we loved? (Difficult to say more without
giving away too much of the plot.) 

Dead Woman Walking is filled with unexpected twists … how on earth do you keep up with
them all when you are writing? 

Well, some of them take me by surprise! I just thank heaven for word processing and the ability to write as many drafts as I need to make sure the twist works perfectly and that all the clues are laid in the right places. Twists are very popular at the moment, but I don’t think thrillers necessarily need them. What crime readers love, in my experience, are the surprises. These are smaller than twists, more subtle, but immensely satisfying. 

 Most writers are readers this the case for yourself? Which authors and novels would
you recommend as must reads? 

My two great literary influences growing up were Charlotte Bronte and Stephen King, so they’d always be my first recommendations. After that, for crime writers, I’d say The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, the most completely perfect thriller ever written, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, a crime novel from the pen of a genius, and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, a masterclass in nastiness. 

As a non-writer, I'm always fascinated by the writing process...can you tell us about where
you write and any rituals or routines you have to aid the creative process?

 My house has a hanging gallery, a mezzanine floor that is neither entirely up nor downstairs. It feels like the heart of the house to me and it is here that I work. There are no windows, which is a good
thing, because I’d find a view endlessly distracting. I have no real rituals, but if I’m stuck, I
find movement, such as walking the dog, or driving to do a school pick up, will often get the
ideas flowing.  

Finally, what are you working on next? 

I hope my next novel will be the start of a loosely linked trilogy, running over split time lines, in the 1960s and 1990s, and set in the area around Pendle Hill in Lancashire where I grew up. The first book, out in April 2018, is called The Craftsman.  

Thank you, Sharon, for taking the time to answer my questions.

Author Links: Website Twitter @AuthorSJBolton 

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton Published April 20th April 2017 by Transworld  

A cold nugget in her heart told her that she hadn’t escaped after all, that five, ten, twenty years weren’t enough, that there was no escape and that the day would come when he would find her.

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a young woman is brutally murdered. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor.

She’s seen the killer’s face – and he’s seen hers. Now he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Alone, scared, trusting no one, she goes on the run. But the biggest danger of all could be where she least expects to find it.

Blog Tour Book Review: My Sister by Michelle Adams

MY SISTER by Michelle Adams is an addictive, twisty, shocking debut thriller - an intimate tale of family secrets that will grip readers who devoured Clare Mackintosh's I LET YOU GO and S.K. Tremayne's THE ICE TWINS.

My name is Irini. I was given away.

My name is Elle. I was kept.

All her life Irini thought she was given away because her family didn't want her. What if the truth is something worse?

Two sisters. Two separate lives.

One family bound by a harrowing secret. 

Published 20th April by Headline (UK) 

Michelle Adams' debut novel, My Sister, is probably number one contender right now for most creepy, unsettling, and deliciously sinister book of the year. This book got under my skin right from the very first page and kept me hooked from beginning to end. 

It starts when Irini gets a late night phone call from her sister Elle to tell her their mother has passed away. Immediately there's an intriguing tension between the two sisters and it's clear that this is a family with a lot of skeletons in the cupboard. Irene doesn't know her parents, having been sent to live with an aunt when she was very small and she wants to know why was she sent away and not her sister. What did she do to make her parents abandon their relationship with her in favour of Elle. So she goes back home for the first time since she was a child hoping for answers. But no-one seems to be able to tell the straight truth, least of all her increasingly erratic sister. 

God, this was such an intense read. The relationship between the two sisters was fascinating and I thought Elle in particular was written very well. She was terrifying, clearly damaged and dangerous, yet also compelling and addictive. I could see why Irene both idolised and feared her.  As far as characters go, she's one of the most chilling and intriguing I've come across in a while. In contrast, Irini is delicate, easily manipulated and at times weak. I found her frustrating now and then, wishing she'd get a back bone and stop skirting around issues with her family. Some of decisions she makes seem a little foolish and contrived, considering what she knows about her sister. Other times I felt only sorry for her, as it seems everyone around her manipulates and mistreats her. 

Despite being very much a modern story, set firmly in the present day, there's a feel of the gothic novel to this story. The huge, eerie house, the pained and silent father and the devoted staff who help to keep the hideous secrets of the family firmly kept all serve to create a wonderful atmosphere of sinister suspense. I wanted to know  as much as Irini did why she'd been sent away, what had caused Elle to be so disturbed and what the secrets of this toxic relationship were. There's some real shocking moments which had me on the edge of my seat, and a very clever twist at the end which I would never have guessed in a million years.  

My Sister is a gripping story, and Michelle Adams' writing is filled with tension and atmosphere, meaning that I devoured this book in two sittings. It's pretty twisted at times and probably not for the fainthearted, but I loved this sinister and chilling book and I'd happily recommend it to anyone who loves a story of tangled, twisted and toxic relationships and sinister settings.  

(I read an advance ebook edition courtesy of the publisher and netgalley) 

Blog Tour Guest Post: Sardinian Sunday: How We Can All Be A Bit More Sardinian For The Week Ahead by Sara Alexander

Today I am delighted to be the final stop on the Under A Sardinian Sky blog tour and welcoming author Sara Alexander with a fantasticly delicious guest post.... Over to Sara

Sardinian Sunday: How can we be a bit more Sardinian for the week ahead?  

The Sardinian way of life is epitomized by a lack of urgency. For anything. Other than perhaps, convincing another that your mamma’s pasta sauce recipe is the definitive version. To illustrate let me recall our wedding celebration. The invitations stated that the ceremony would begin at 4.30pm. My family didn’t turn up till almost 6. Our British guests were stood in the mid afternoon sun from 3.30pm, with hats, of course.

The same goes for their food. Once you have mastered the art of allowing a dish to infuse and rest
before devouring you will have glimpsed a slice of Sardinian sagacity. Unless it’s pasta of course, which should be eaten immediately. Resist the temptation to cook the perfect amount. You are no Sardinian host if you don’t have several extra portions to go around. The simplest, and my personal favourite is gnochetti. Do not confuse with the Roman potato gnocchi. Gnochetti are like little pellets, indented along the edges. These little beauties take me right to my grandma’s kitchen every time.
Tip a couple of fists full of dried gnochetti per person or, if you can find them, malloreddus (similar but a bit longer), into plenty of salted simmering water. Whilst they’re cooking heat a smushed clove of garlic gently until it begins to soften in two tablespoons of olive oil. Add a bottle of passata, season well, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir in plenty of seasoning, a little sugar or nub of dark chocolate and, when it’s cooked through, tip in several fresh basil leaves, immediately turning off the heat. Allow to infuse. Resist the temptation to hurry. When the little gnochetti are cooked, drain and stir them into the sauce pan, coating every little nub with the sweet tomato. Be generous with some more grated pecorino.

I love aperitif time of day. Summon the spirit of Sardinia by pouring yourself a crisp glass of vermentino. Fill a platter with pecorino Sardo, a delicious hard cheese from sheep’s milk, cracked green marinated olives, thin slices of prosciutto and salami – as close to farm fresh as you can find and preferably one you can slice yourself for authenticity. Add sliced fresh crudités, radishes, carrots, chicory and you’re set for a lazy catch up with friends and family – both at the very heart of Sardinian life. Devote an entire afternoon to eating, arguing, and sipping espressos after your feast together. Take turns to tell stories, children too. They are very much to be seen and heard, and, expected to listen carefully to others. They are never fed earlier and sent away from the grown ups table. There is no such divide around a Sardinian table. I love witnessing this democracy trickle through an afternoon of feasting. If you can see a sliver of turquoise sea in your periphery and are lucky to capture a ray or two as well, you’re pretty much on the island already!

Under a Sardinian Sky by actress and author Sara Alexander is out 20th April (HQ, £7.99)   

Sometimes a family’s deepest silences hide the most important secrets.
Carmela disappeared from her Italian hometown long ago and is mentioned only in fragments and whispers. Mina has resisted prying, respectful of her family’s Sardinian reserve. But now, with her mother battling cancer, it’s time to learn the truth.

In 1952, Simius is a busy Sardinian town surrounded by fertile farms and orchards. Carmela Chirigoni, a farmer’s daughter and talented seamstress, is engaged to Franco, son of the area’s wealthiest family. Everyone agrees it’s a good match. But Carmela’s growing doubts about Franco’s possessiveness are magnified when she meets Captain Joe Kavanagh.

Joe, an American officer stationed at a local army base, is charismatic, intelligent, and married. Hired as his interpreter, Carmela resolves to ignore her feelings, knowing that any future together must bring upheaval and heartache to both families.

As Mina follows the threads of Carmela’s life to uncover her fate, she will discover a past still deeply alive in the present, revealing a story of hope, sacrifice, and extraordinary love. 

My Thoughts: 

Sara's guest post today gives an indication of what the experience of reading Under A Sardinian Sky is like. This isn't a gulp down, page turning race of a read. Rather a lovely, leisurely meander which will transport you to another place. It requires you to slow right down, take a deep breath and relax into it. It took me a little while to settle into at first, after reading some edgy, fast paced thrillers, but once I had and allowed myself a good couple of hours of uninterrupted, unhurried reading I became immersed. Sara's writing is incredibly descriptive and evocative, the beauty of Sardinia and the delicious descriptions of foods will make you yearn to be there. With a rich cast of vivacious and vivid characters and an illicit romance, Under A Sardinian Sky is incredibly evocative and atmospheric. This book is ideal for holidays or lazy Sunday afternoon reading. If you enjoy being transported to another place and evocative, descriptive prose then I think you'll like this.

About The Author 

Sara Alexander has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries, including roles
in much loved productions such as Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Doctor Who, and Franco Zeffirelli’s Sparrow.

Growing up in North West London, Sara attended Hampstead Comprehensive School, before going on to graduate the University of Bristol with a BA honours in Theatre, Film & Television, and Drama Studio London with a postgraduate diploma in acting.

She now returns to her Sardinian routes through the pages of her debut novel Under a Sardinian Sky.

Book Review: The Choice by Samantha King

What if you had to choose between your children? 


Madeleine lived for her children. She'd always believed she'd die for them, too. But on the morning of her twins' tenth birthday her love was put to the test when a killer knocked on their door and forced her to make a devastating choice: which child should live, and which should die - her son, or her daughter?


Madeleine stands silent on the periphery of her now fractured family, trying desperately to unravel why her world was so suddenly blown apart. But while everyday life continues around her, memories of everything leading up to that tragic day return in agonising flashes.

And that's when she realises her family's life still hangs terrifyingly in the balance...  

Published 20th April 2017 by Piatkus (UK) 

As a mother, I really can't think of anything more terrifying than being made to make a choice between which of my children should live or die. I mean, how do you even do that? It's easy to say I wouldn't do this or that, but really, in such a situation who the hell knows what we would do? It's beyond my own imagination.

The Choice tackles this dilemma, when on the day of her twins tenth birthday, a masked gunman forces their way into Maddie's home and demands she choose which of her twins should be spared. It's a shocking and brutal opening, leaving the reader in utter, heart-stopping, horror before switching to three months later, when a grieving, disorientated and mentally broken Maddie is trying to piece together what happened that day.

It quickly becomes apparent that not everything is as it seems, as through a series of flashbacks and dream like states, the reader becomes as disorientated and confused as the fragile Maddie. I thought the way Samantha King portrayed her seemingly tenuous grip on reality was superb. And then when the massive shocker of a twist came, it made it only more impressive. I seriously had not been expecting it at all. I had no bloody idea where this book was going. It was so crazily twisty and gripping, I got thumb ache from pressing the next page button on my kindle so quickly.

Samantha King's writing is extremely engaging and convincing, with the whole book written from Maddie's perspective. I could feel her confusion, fear and consuming guilt. Yet there's a niggling feeling of is it real? Who do we trust? trickling through this story and is maintained right until the end. The Choice is fascinating as it explores parental favouritism between siblings and the effect of resentment and envy into adulthood. But there are many other themes running throughout, covering some uncomfortable topics, all of which interconnect and build to result in a catastrophic result.  

If I had one tiny complaint, then I felt the ending seemed a bit rushed and maybe an epilogue chapter would have just rounded it off. That's just me though, I like closure! Other than that small niggle, I thought The Choice was excellent. It had me gripped from beginning to end and with twists at every turn, it was an adrenaline-fueled, heart-pumping roller coaster of a ride. If you're a fan of great psychological thrillers, then you won't be disappointed by this one.

(I read an advance ebook edition courtesy of the publisher and netgalley)
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