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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)

Book Review: He Said / She Said by Erin Kelly

Who do you believe?

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.

She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim's life that is changed forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something - and someone - is always in the dark... 

Published April 20th 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton  

There is so much I want to say about this book - the themes it raises and the twists it takes make it perfect for long discussion. However, I also don't want to give anything away - because this book completely took a turn I wasn't expecting, coming like a bolt from the blue and leaving me slack jawed in disbelief and  how-the-hell-did-I not-see-that-coming astonishment. I wouldn't want to spoil that for anyone.

He Said / She Said begins with Laura and Kit, as in the blossoming stages of a new romance, they go to Cornwall to watch the Eclipse. Immediately Erin Kelly creates a feeling of intensity, enhanced by the atmospheric, heady environment and the phenomenon itself. I remember both Eclipses (1999 and 2015) which provide the back drop for this story, and while something that was only mildly interesting to me at the time, found it a fascinating and original driver for this book, being both beautiful and menacing, peaceful and dangerous in equal measures, with a different perspective depending on the place or angle you see it from.

This book tackles the extremely sensitive subject of sexual assault and both the attack itself and the following court case are traumatic, uncomfortable and shocking. It switches between what happened during the trial and its aftermath, and the present where Kit and Laura are in hiding, clearly traumatised and terrified. But what led them to this position? Erin Kelly cleverly leads the reader on a merry dance, subtlety planting seeds of doubt into your subconscious before landing that lightening bolt twist to throw it all back up in the air.

I'm not sure I'd say this was a pacey and fast read, it's far more subtle and clever than that. It is gripping though, especially from around half way through when I found myself completely drawn into this eerie, twisted story of half-truths, obsession, power and fear and the resulting catastrophic consequences. If I had to be nit picky, then I'd say I was less interested in Kit's present day chapters earlier on as they went into a bit more detail and science behind the Eclipse chaser aspect. Overall though, I'd say He Said / She Said is a sophisticated, thought provoking psychological thriller, which drips with atmospheric tension and bowls a twist to knock you over.

( I read an advanced ebook edition courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley)

Book Review: Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland

You can trust a book to keep your secret . . .

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she'll never show you.

Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can't hide any longer.

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible and heart-rending novel, with the emotional intensity of The Shock of the Fall and all the charm of The Little Paris Bookshop and 84 Charing Cross Road. 

Published by Bonnier Zaffre 20th April 2017 (UK) 

The second I spotted this book, I was in love and snapped it up at the first opportunity. I mean, the cover is just gorgeous for a start. But set in a book shop? A quirky character with an emotional story to tell? Yes Please! This book couldn't sound more up my street if it tried.

And oh, how I absolutely loved it. I haven't read anything by Stephanie Butland before, so her beautifully encompassing writing was new to me. I was completely drawn in from the beginning, loosing track of what was going on around me and completely involved in Loveday's story. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I cared for a fictional character as much as I did this one.

Loveday is prickly, introverted and prefers books to people. I related quite a bit with her if I'm honest. However, there's a darker side to this story which is revealed in one of three timelines alternating throughout (and each one cleverly distinguished with book genres) that allows the reader to understand why Loveday is the way she is now. The whole story, both present and past, is written so sincerely, it was impossible not to form an attachment to Loveday. By the end I felt I knew her inside out, she truly did get under my skin.

Lost For Words is Loveday's story, but it's supported by a cast of equally quirky and endearing characters. Archie, bookshop owner and boss is fantastic with his larger than life personality and outrageous stories. Yet you know that beneath the pompousness and grandeur, he has a kind, wise heart with a hidden perceptiveness. Nathan provides a romantic interest, yet this burgeoning relationship is tastefully written, sweet and tender. It's integral to the story without overshadowing it, and again something I completely got behind as a reader.

The bookshop setting is an absolutely perfect refuge for Loveday and book lovers the world over will love the quotes and nods to literature that litter the pages effortlessly. I love the way books are used by Loveday for protection, as she hides away and isolates herself but also the vehicle to her moving on and reconnecting with people again. Lost For Words is a journey, as Loveday faces her past and begins to look to the future. It's about a lost and lonely soul recognising that family and belonging can come in different forms and learning to like and accept herself again. Because Loveday is likable - she's real, she's flawed and she completely deserves a happy ending. Will she get it? Well, you'll just have to read it to find out. Lost For words is a gorgeous book. It made me laugh and cry, it's both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and it's sad yet filled with hope. And I guarantee you will fall in love with Loveday Cardew too.

(I read a proof copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program)

Book Review: Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

No one ever disappears completely...

You leave for work one morning.

Another day in your normal life.

Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.
His belongings have disappeared.
He hasn't been at work for weeks.
It's as if he never existed.

But that's not possible, is it?

And there is worse still to come.

Because just as you are searching for him
someone is also watching you. 

Published 23rd March by Headline (UK) 

I'm going to be straight up here, I have mixed feelings about this book. For seventy five percent of it I thought it was probably going to be quite disappointing. However, a huge twist that had completely evaded my suspicion was revealed that had me thinking "ooooh...clever!" and look back at what I had read in a completely different light.

The gist of this story is that high achieving Hannah - a strong, workaholic professional, comes home to find her boyfriend appears to have left her. Only he's literally wiped every trace of himself away. Every single belonging he owned has gone, but so has every photo, email and phone call record from Hannah's phone. Hannah's world crumbles and as her personal life falls apart, so does her professional life. And while at her most vulnerable, it seems that someone is playing mind games with her. Where has Matt gone, and who is it that just won't leave her alone?

So the premise is excellent. I really wanted to know where Matt had gone. Had he gone of his own free will or was something more sinister at play? Do any of the people closest to Hannah know anything? I had some ideas spinning about my head. They were wrong. The writing is very, very readable and easy to speed through and this combined with my intrigue at Matt's disappearance kept me reading at a speedy pace.

Where I found it problematic was that I just didn't find the characters convincing. I felt that Hannah was portrayed initially as a very strong and capable character, yet she folded immediately and became almost pathetic at times. I lost some sympathy for her and struggled to connect or relate with her. I also disliked the other characters, in particular her best friend Katie and struggled to understand this relationship at all. On the other hand, having now read the book fully, it makes more sense. I think the atmosphere that was being created in the first part of the book just didn't quite come across as well as it could have, meaning it lost some of it's intensity and build up to the big twist.

The twist when it did come was not what I'd been expecting at all, and actually is a really, really good one. It also tackles a subject that is not talked about enough, has stigma and shame attached to it and has a message that is important to get out there. I can't reveal it though - so you're going to have to trust me on this one and read it yourself! Gone Without A Trace would make a great TV drama I think, I can vividly see how it could play out.

I feel really conflicted summing this book up. There was a lot I liked. It's an easy, speedy read with an intriguing premise - ideal for holiday or lazy afternoon reading when you have a large chunk of time to spend reading. It has a twist that I have neither seen before or expected, and the final quarter of this book completely redeemed it for me and left me feeling glad that I'd spent the time reading it. I would absolutely read more by this author, as I really liked her engaging and pacey writing style. It's just a shame that I personally found it difficult to believe in or relate to any of the characters, which in turn had an effect on my overall enjoyment of it.

(I read a copy supplied by the publisher)

Blog Tour: Q&A with Felicity Everett - Author Of The People At Number 9 + Giveaway!

Today I'm thrilled to be hosting a blog tour stop for The People At Number 9 and welcoming author Felicity Everett to answer some of my questions. Plus, there's the opportunity for 3 UK winners to grab themselves a copy of this gripping book over on twitter. Read on for more info....

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

Hello. I’m a middle-aged empty-nester, originally from Manchester. After studying English Literature at Sussex University in the 80s (where I met my husband Adam), I worked in children’s publishing, where I caught the writing bug. I was lucky enough to get a job with a dynamic independent children’s publisher – Usborne, who trained their writers and editors in-house. Here I wrote twenty or so children’s books both fiction and non-fiction. Usborne was a family-friendly outfit, so I was able to continue my career whilst having my four kids. Eventually, however, domesticity won out and for a while I went freelance, publishing four more children’s books, before bowing to the inevitable and dropping out of the work of work altogether. In 2011 I dusted myself off again and, finding myself unemployable in any other capacity, decided I had nothing to lose and might as well have a crack at the adult novel I had always wanted to write.  The first one went in the bottom drawer and then in 2011, I published The Story of Us.  By the time it came out, Adam’s job had taken us to Melbourne, which was a massive change after 25 years in London. It took some getting used to, but in the end I loved my time in Australia and I used it well, writing The People at Number Nine while I was there.  We returned to the UK in 2014, moving to Gloucestershire, where we live in a country cottage in an idyllic spot, which, being an inveterate townie, I can’t help finding rather sinister!

The People At Number 9 is your latest adult novel, could you tell us what it's about in your own words?

The People at Number 9 is really a story of unrequited love, not between individuals, but between couples. Sara and Neil are happy-enough, jogging along in their suburban life, until a new family moves in next door and they glimpse a glamorous, Bohemian existence that makes their own seem hum-drum. They are surprised and flattered when Gav and Lou their new neighbours seem keen to make friends, but what starts out as a mutually supportive meeting of minds, degenerates into an exploitative and even corrupting relationship where heads are turned and lives turned upside down.  

When I read The People At Number 9, I felt the characters were so realistic that I could recognise them in people I knew myself! How do you go about creating such believable characters and are they based on people you know?

I’m glad you found the characters believable. The way I discover characters is through dialogue. If I can hear a character speak, they usually start to live for me and I can work out what they look like, where they live and so on. The central characters in The People at Number 9 are pretty familiar, but I wouldn’t say they were based on people I know (that would be too dull). Rather they share characteristics with a various people I have known. I have always had a bit of a weakness for ‘arty’ types, and from University onwards I’ve gravitated towards flamboyant, non-conformists, even though (or perhaps because) I am not like that at all myself. Sara is the character in the book whose circumstances and attitude most reflect my own, which is why I wrote it from her point of view but I didn’t realise until the end that in her own way she is just as selfish and even more foolish than the neighbours she is besotted with. I am always intrigued by the debate in fiction about whether characters need to be likeable. For me, what matters is that they are real.

The book explores an intense relationship between neighbours, which turns sour, where did the idea come from to write your book?

 The London street I lived on for twenty five years belied the cliché about the capital being a stand-offish and unfriendly place. It was a fantastic community, where the kids played out together, and the parents - some working, some not - socialised together. Sometimes that closeness could be a bit oppressive – there was that thing of everyone living in everyone else’s pockets. The idea for The People at Number Nine grew out of the gossip and gripes that flourish in that setting. It was a what if scenario- what if those people down the road were not just having a boring book club, but were… well I don’t want to spoil the story.

I started thinking about my neighbours...I live in a bubble and don't even know most of them, but I wondered what they think of me behind the curtains...So... How are YOUR neighbours?  And what kind of neighbour are you?

I could get in a lot of trouble here, couldn’t I? After 25 years in one place (a London Street very much like the one in The People at Number 9), the last eight years have found me in two very different communities – surburban Melbourne and rural Gloucestershire. I had fantastic neighbours in London – very friendly and supportive – everyone knew everyone else and the only downside was that at Christmas, we ended up repeating the same conversations over and over as we all turned up to the same get-togethers. No complaints really though, some of those neighbours have become lifelong friends. Melbourne was a hard nut to crack. We moved to quite a posh suburb where people were mostly out at work during the day. People were very polite, but not especially friendly  - they probably just had us down for the fly-by-night ex-pats we were. I made some wonderful friends in Melbourne, but they weren’t my neighbours. And now, living in rural Gloucestershire, in what is essentially a hamlet, I see more sheep than people. We just about know who our neighbours are and they are perfectly genial, but we hardly ever bump into them. 

As for what kind of neighbour I am – over-involved would probably be the way I would put it. Is that the same as nosey? I do like to get on with the people around me and to feel a sense of trust and community. But I suppose there’s also some truth in the adage good fences make good neighbours. You have to have boundaries. That’s where my character Sara comes to grief!

The People At Number 9 has a subtle darkness, in the ordinary and everyday, which simmers rather than explodes. Was this your intention when writing it?

That’s a lovely description. I don’t think it was my intention to write a dark novel – it just came out that way. Of course I knew the scenario was a doomed one, but for me there was also a lot of humour and pathos in the situation, as Sara’s pretensions get punctured and she finds out that all life choices come at a cost.  I have a great affection for my characters. I don’t think there are goodies and baddies in life, so I don’t think there should be in fiction. It’s more complicated, and more interesting than that.

You've previously written extensively for children – what made you switch to adult fiction and how different is writing for this market?

I loved writing children’s fiction and having four very different kids myself, all of whom loved books, I had a pretty good idea of what entertained them and made them laugh. As they grew up though, I found I had less and less time to devote to writing and eventually I stopped altogether. By the time I was ready to start again, my youngest was in secondary school, Y.A was exploding and I felt a bit out of touch. I had always wanted to try an adult novel, but never felt quite grown up enough to write one. It was now or never, so I enrolled in a creative writing course at Goldsmith’s University and gave it a go. After a few false starts I published my first novel, The Story of Us in 2011. 

I don’t think there’s such a big difference between writing for children and adults. Children are extremely discerning – they’ll see a hole in a plot quicker than an adult, they get subtle humour, they don’t like clichés. I think I’m a better writer for having written children’s fiction – you have to cut the waffle and you can’t get away with the sort of purple passages that can slip through into adult fiction if you’re not careful. I would say writing for children was the best apprenticeship I could have had and I wouldn’t mind doing more of it one day – maybe when I’ve got grandchildren! 

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

Yes I am a lover of reading, especially fiction.  I have a pretty short attention span these days though, so whereas I used to plod on even if I wasn’t enjoying a book, now I give up and get on with the next one. As far as must-reads go, I love Jonathan Franzen, particularly Freedom. I am also a big fan of Colm Toibin and Anne Enright – their novels share an intensity and an interiority which I really enjoy and they write brilliantly about families. For me, a stand-out recent novel was Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. I love short stories – Lorrie Moore’s are favourites, and I have discovered some wonderful new writers by listening to The New Yorker short story podcasts – check out The Prairie Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.

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?

This one made me smile. When we moved to the country cottage we live in now, my dream was to have a writing shack in the garden with a wood-burner and a well-stacked book shelf. I would be so productive in there, I thought, writing away with the cows staring through the window and coffee brewing on the stove. We couldn’t afford it, so second best was a study. I insisted we get it kitted out with a sound-proof door and a nice desk in front of the window. I think since it’s been finished, I’ve written in there twice!  Something about going in and shutting the door, sitting down and staring at the blank screen really intimidates me. It is “writing’ and I don’t do that. So my writing happens in bed, when I’ve opened my laptop and mucked about on social media for a bit. That way it’s casual, non-committal – I can sneak up on it. If I’m lucky, I’ll have written half a chapter before I’ve noticed I’m working. It’s terrible for my back, but I’ve accepted now that it’s what I do. That’s my ritual. That and stopping when it’s not going well. I used to feel like such a slacker, bunking off for a walk or to the swimming pool, but the number of times I’ve cracked a scene, or a chapter or a plot point while my mind’s been in neutral, makes me realise what a useful strategy it actually is. Yes. It’s a strategy – not a cop-out! 

Finally, what are you working on next?

My next novel is a gothic psychodrama about a menopausal woman in an unhappy marriage who moves to the country. As she slowly loses her grip on reality, neither she nor the reader knows whether the malevolence around her is in the community, the landscape, her marriage or  her mind.  

Thank you Felicity for taking the time to answer my questions...I hope you enjoyed them! 

Thanks. I did!  

About The Book 

Have you met them yet, the new couple?

When Gav and Lou move into the house next door, Sara spends days plucking up courage to say hello. The neighbours are glamorous, chaotic and just a little eccentric. They make the rest of Sara's street seem dull by comparison.

When the hand of friendship is extended, Sara is delighted and flattered. Incredibly, Gav and Lou seem to see something in Sara and Neil that they admire too. In no time at all, the two couples are soulmates, sharing suppers, bottles of red wine and childcare, laughing and trading stories and secrets late into the night in one another's houses.

And the more time Sara spends with Gav and Lou, the more she longs to make changes in her own life. But those changes will come at a price. Soon Gav and Lou will be asking things they've no right to ask of their neighbours, with shattering consequences for all of them...

Have you met The People at Number 9? A dark and delicious novel about envy, longing and betrayal in the suburbs... 
Published 6th April by HQ Stories (UK)

Fancy reading The People At Number 9 for yourself? I have 3 copies to giveaway courtesy of the publisher. Just head over to twitter and follow me @vicki_cosybooks and Re-tweet my pinned tweet about the giveaway to enter 

Good Luck! 

Book Review: The Many Colours Of Us by Rachel Burton

My dearest daughter
This will be the last letter I write to you. I hope she will let you read this one. I hope she will let you ask questions and hear the story you need to hear. The story of you. And if she doesn’t I hope that one day you will get curious, wonder where you came from and come and find me.

Called to a lawyers office to be informed of an inheritance, Julia Simmonds, discovers she’s the secret love-child of the late, great artist Bruce Baldwin. With temperamental seventies supermodel Philadelphia Simmonds as a mother, Julia is used to drama, but is completely unprepared for the way her life is about to irrevocably change.

Bruce not only left Julia his house, but as she discovers, her father wrote to her. One letter every year of her life, urging Julia to learn from his mistakes.

It is finally time for Julia to dig deep into her mysterious past and take control of her future, but as more secrets and lies are uncovered, she must find the courage to follow her dreams… 
Published by HQ Digital 26th April 2017 

I make no secret of the fact that I'm an emotional reader, drawn to books that are likely to result in a lump in my throat and a quiet sniffle into a tissue (while my 12 year old exclaims "are you crying again?") and that's what attracted me to The Many Colours Of Us in the first place. It sounded like an emotional read, with letters from the past revealing a life changing secret. Just my cup of tea.

The story centers on main character, Julie. A woman in her early thirties and somewhat adrift having dated the same guy for a decade, without taking the next step of living together, working an office job she hates and renting the spare bedroom in her friends dilapidated house. But Julia's life is about to change - she's just discovered her father was a successful and respected artist and she's the sole heir of his entire estate.

So girl stuck in a rut, finds riches and all is well - right? Well, yes but not exactly, because The Many Colours Of Us has more depth than that, and the added touch of letters, wrote annually on Julia's birthday draw a more complex and human story of mistakes, regret and an innate fear of rejection. Her father's absence in her childhood is a case of leaving something so long, it's becomes almost impossible to know how to dare to change things. Bruce's letters provoked mixed feelings in me - anger, frustration and yet, some sympathy too.  Similarly, Julia's mum has acted in a credibly human way by being both selfish and selfless. There's blame on both sides and I couldn't help feel that someone at some point in the past just needed to bang the two of their heads together. Both being celebrities and famous though, I felt the people around them had probably pandered to them rather than been honest with them.

I really liked the character of Julia though, she's far nicer than I ever would've been - a genuinely warm, understanding and thoughtful person and it was easy to root for her. There's a real feeling of self discovery from this character, as she not only finds out about her father, but gains confidence in herself having been overshadowed by her glamorous mother. I also enjoyed the slowly simmering romance between herself and solicitor Edwin, which was tender rather than passionate.

With some more lighthearted moments - usually from Julia's mother, Philadelphia (who quite frankly wouldn't have looked out of place on the set of Ab Fab) and exuberant Italian cafe owner, Marco, The Many Colours Of Us was a delight to read. I read it on a lazy Sunday morning and it would be perfect for those times when all you want is a relaxing book to while away some hours peacefully. It had emotion, entertainment and romance with an interesting cast of characters and a plot that allowed the right amount of intrigue to keep me reading. I really enjoyed the time spent in Julia's world and left it feeling satisfied and hopeful for her future, and with a big smile on my face.

(I read an advance Ebook edition courtesy of Netgalley)

Rapid Fire Book Tag

Thanks to the lovely Dee of for tagging me in the rapid fire book tag! I've seen these about and thought they looked fun, so I'm pleased to have a go myself. So here we go ...

Ebooks or physical books?
I still prefer physical, nothing beats the feel of a new book. But I read both and really appreciate Ebooks these days as there's only a limit on how many real books I can actually house
Paperback or hardback?
Easy...Hardbacks. I LOVE Hardbacks and collect them.
Online or in-store book shopping?
Online. I just don't go into town shopping all that often. 
Trilogies or series?
Trilogies. More and I get bored
Heroes or villains?
Heroes! I like a good guy 
A book you want everyone to read?
Recently-I've been shouting about This Love by Dani Atkins a lot. 
Recommend an underrated book.
The Drowning Girl by Margaret Leroy. This would be so much more popular if it were released now (I read it 8 or 9 years ago)
The last book you finished?
The Many Colours of Us by Rachel Burton
Weirdest thing you used as a bookmark?
You know the price tags off clothes...those. Also, not bookmark, but those M&S plastic knicker pack bags with the pressy/clippy fastener make great kindle protectors on the beach (with the labels off of course!)
Used books, yes or no?
I don't mind. As long as they're good condition
Borrow or buy?
Characters or plot?
I'm an emotional reader. I enjoy feeling connected - so character. 
Long or short book?
Under 500 pages. 
Long or short chapters?
Short! So much more gripping!
Name the first three books you think of?
The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger  
The Binding Song by Elodie Harper
Dead Woman Walking by Sarah Bolton
Books that make you laugh or cry?
Cry. I am an emotional soul. 
Our world or fictional worlds?
These days - Our world. I do like a touch of magic now and then though. 
Audiobooks : yes or no? mind just wanders. 
Do you ever judge a book by its cover?
Always - sorry!
Book to movie or book to TV adaptation?
Probably TV. 
A movie or TV adaptation you preferred over the book?
I can't think of any. I don't actually watch much TV or films
Series or standalone?
Standalone. I like closure.   

So I'm tagging the following as I don't think they've done it? (or if you have or just don't want to- ignore me!) 

and anyone else who wants to do it! 

Discussion: Reviews and Ratings - Why I'm Mainly Taking The Positive Approach

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, kind of a discussion/explanation of my approach to reviewing books and in particular less favorable or negative reviews. Then last night I noticed an email in my junk box from an author, whose book I'd reviewed on Amazon and had mainly liked, but had a couple of issues stopping me from really loving it. Now, I'm not looking for some sort of shit storm here or a blogger v author battle. The author was very polite, kind  and not at all aggressive - thanking me for my review (and I won't be divulging who the author was). It did make me feel a bit uncomfortable though. I've been worrying since that I may have upset someone and that in turn makes me feel awful. However, that's mixed with a conviction on my part that I also have to be honest and act with integrity. It's what I respect and admire in others, but also what I expect from myself.

I'm a very emotional person, and that reflects in my opinions and feelings towards books. This is a personal thing, I cry at things that leaves others staring at me in disbelief (Kids singing is a big one - not even my own! Thank god mine are both out of primary now and neither myself or my child have to suffer the embarrassment of my uncontrollable sobby face in assemblies) or I feel ridiculously smiley and warm and exuberant where others may just raise a small smile. Ok, so my stability is probably a whole different post and I'm risking getting off track here, but my point is to say that how I react to a book emotionally is what drives my enjoyment of a book, whether it is sadness or joyfulness. I'm not a literary expert and I'm not critically analyzing every word when I read. I just want a story that captures me, that I can connect with, that takes me away for a while, that makes me feel something.

And this brings me onto negative reviews. If you regularly follow my reviews, here or goodreads or some other place, you may notice that I tend to only write positive reviews these days. I don't rate books on the blog, because I kind of feel my opinion is enough to let people know if the book is for them or not and rating is so very, very subjective anyway. On sites where you have to leave a rating though, in 2017 and in 28 books read and rated I haven't given less than three stars. And three stars is a GOOD rating in my eyes. It means I liked a book enough to read it and recommend it.

This hasn't always been the case, and in the past I've written some fairly negative reviews. I've been blogging a long time on and off and in the early days I used to get a ridiculous amount of unsolicited book post, which I felt I HAD to read, even when I didn't like a book or would never have chosen it myself. Yes, it meant I discovered some gems I wouldn't have read otherwise, but often it meant I ploughed through books I didn't really want to read or wasn't enjoying. I don't do that now. I'm pretty confident in choosing books I'm likely to enjoy - I know my tastes and stick to them. But I'm also not afraid to just say a book isn't for me and not continue. So, yes, I've started books this year that I didn't like, but I moved on and I won't rate a book I didn't finish - it's unfair. I love reading, and to be honest, forcing my way through books I didn't like was a big factor in my stopping both reading and reviewing for a while. This is what I do for fun and I intend to keep it that way. There's not enough time to read all the books I will adore, let alone trudge through the ones I'm not.

So while I do tend to review books positively and mainly ones I've enjoyed nowadays, I also want to be honest. Not every single book can be amazing, faultless and a five star read, and there has to be some explanation and balance. I will point out anything I found problematic, but I will try my very best to do it as thoughtfully as possible. And it IS only my personal opinion. Something that mattered to me may not be an issue for others. I'll justify why I felt that way, but ultimately leave a reader to decide if this is something they can live with or not. I think I achieve this, and I'll continue to do so despite my slight discomfort when reading that email last night.  Oh, and if I were to come across a book I felt was offensive in anyway, I would absolutely call it out. I'm not afraid to say when something's bad or even to say I didn't particularly like something. I'm just more adept at recognising when a book isn't for me and calling time on it pretty early on these days.

So what about you? How do you approach reading and reviewing? Do you go into it with a critical eye? How do you feel about writing negative reviews and also, about those of us who mainly write positive reviews? I do wonder if the fact I appear to "love" every book makes my opinion less valid, but at the end of the day I'm not here for personal acclaim or to discover the next literary award winner. I'm here because I love books and love talking about books to others.


I've moved ... you can now find this blog at CosyBooks.Blog ...same content, different place!

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