Monday, 30 July 2018

The Venetian Game by Philip Gwynne Jones

The Venetian GameThe Venetian Game by Philip Gwynne Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A game of cross and double-cross in Venice, one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

From his office on the Street of the Assassins, Nathan Sutherland enjoys a steady but unexciting life translating Italian DIY manuals. All this changes dramatically when he is offered a large sum of money to look after a small package containing an extremely valuable antique prayer book illustrated by a Venetian master. But is it a stolen masterpiece - or a brilliant fake?

Unknown to Nathan, from a vast mansion on the Grand Canal twin brothers Domenico and Arcangelo Moro, motivated by nothing more than mutual hatred, have been playing out a complex game of art theft for twenty years. And now Nathan finds himself unwittingly drawn into their deadly business . . .

This was marketed as a thriller but seemed to me more of a mystery and if it had been billed as a mystery then the review would have been against that, however it was billed as a thriller and as such just didn't make the mark. Nathan the main character was likeable enough but we didn't really know anything about him save he is the Honourary British Consul in Venice and translates Italian manuals (mainly DIY) into English to earn extra money.

I loved the humour which kept it going and his relationship with his cat Gramsci is very funny but it lacked character substance for me. The characterisation of the cat was great, he was selfish, greedy and always got his own way, I loved him, I knew him, I could relate to him. Nathan was not given the same treatment and because of this the reader never really had a chance to warm to him as we knew so little about him. Because of that he came across as a bit weak and lack lustre. There were so many characters in the book that at times I had to go back and remind myself who they were.

The book was rich on atmosphere and descriptive passages of the beautiful city of Venice, so much so that it was almost like reading a travel log, the architecture, the paintings, the beautiful venetian views, so well written and so well described. You could tell the writer has lived in this beautiful city.

I won't go on to re-tell the story suffice it to say that after Nathan is pressed to look after what appears to be a priceless artefact things get out of his control and he is spiralled into playing a part in a dangerous 'game' with two Italian brothers. On the surface this sounds great but it just didn't get as thrilling as I thought it would and the ending was a bit limp.

As a great thriller or mystery I have read better and the pace was just a bit slow for me.
I have to give his 4 stars for the wonderful atmospheric setting and Gwynne Jones skill at bringing this out for the reader, surely if you've never been to Venice you will want to go after reading this novel.

Friday, 27 July 2018

The Beachside Guest House by Vanessa Greene

The Beachside Guest HouseThe Beachside Guest House by Vanessa Greene
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Rosa and Bee get together in the run-up to Bee's wedding, they reminisce about the holiday they took together as teenagers to the beautiful Greek island of Paros. They remember the sandy coves, the guest house in the converted windmill where they stayed with their friend Iona, and the gorgeous local men. As memories of that long-forgotten holiday resurface, they are forced to confront the turns their lives have taken - and the guilt they both feel about letting Iona slip away from them.

When they learn that the windmill guest house is going bust they form a plan: why not go back to the island and take it over themselves? And so begins a life-changing journey - because it turns out that opening a guest house and reliving their teenage dreams isn't that easy . . .

Very easy to read novel perfect for holidays a light and simple read. Three friends end up reuniting and revisiting Greece on the island of Paros a place they visited when they were teenagers and take over the guest house they stayed in all those years ago. They plan to renovate and reopen the windmill guest house to try and create the idyllic memories they had for their guests when they stay there proves to be more problematic than they initially thought and with finances running low and the windmill eating money they are soon worrying that they have made a bad decision.

Typical chic-lit novel with all the trials and tribulations, testing friendships and loyalties, building new relationships and characters finding themselves on this beautiful island.

Good atmospheric scene setting and some humour blended well together held this story for me, the characters were a little weak and predictable as was the ending, no fireworks here, very guessable with no real mystery.

If you're after a gentle easy holiday read this will do the trick, don't expect anything more. Three stars from me.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The Last Thing She Told Me - Linda Green
Even the deepest buried secrets can find their way to the surface...

Moments before she dies, Nicola’s grandmother Betty whispers to her that there are babies at the bottom of the garden.

Nicola’s mother claims she was talking nonsense. However, when Nicola’s daughter finds a bone while playing in Betty’s garden, it’s clear that something sinister has taken place.

But will unearthing painful family secrets end up tearing Nicola’s family apart?


The house appeared to know that its owner was about to die, shrouded, as it was, in early-morning mist, the downstairs curtains closed in respect, the gate squeaking mournfully as I opened it.

If there was such a thing as a nice house in which to end your days, this certainly wasn’t it. It was cold, dark and draughty, perched high on the edge of the village, as if it didn’t really want to be part of it but was too polite to say so. Behind it, the fields ‒ criss-crossed by dry-stone walls ‒ stretched out into the distance. Beyond them, the unrelenting bleakness of the moors.

I shivered as I hurried up the path and let myself in.

‘Grandma, it’s me.’ The first thing I thought when I didn’t hear a response was that maybe I was too late. She’d been weak, drifting in and out of sleep when I’d left the previous night. Perhaps she hadn’t made it through till morning.

But when I entered the front room – in which she’d lived, eaten and slept for the past year – she turned her face to give me the faintest of smiles.

‘Morning,’ I said. ‘Did you manage to get some sleep?’

She nodded.

‘It’s not too late to change your mind, you know. We could get you to hospital, or the hospice said we could call them at any time.’

She shook her head. She’d remained adamant she would leave the house only in a coffin. She’d also refused medication to relieve the pain. It was as if she thought she somehow had a duty to suffer.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending the extract to share with you. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Maddie Please - Come away with me blog tour with extract

The hilarious feel-good romantic comedy you need to read in 2018

Somewhere beyond the sea…

When Alexa Fisher finds herself trapped on a twelve-day cruise to celebrate her younger sister’s hen-do – just the two of them – she wishes she’d jumped overboard.

Despite the age difference, India has always been the judgemental sibling, and there’s been even more friction than usual since ‘the big engagement’. With India constantly obsessing over wedding plans, Alexa has never felt more single, or more of a failure.

If only she could find a man who was funny, handsome and faithful. But when she meets the enigmatic (and *gorgeous*) Gabriel Frost on the cruise, he is as cold as his name suggests… Isn’t he?

Set sail for an adventure on the high seas, it’s time for Alexa to discover that sometimes romance can surprise you!


By then I had parked all my reservations and prejudices about joining a boat full of old crocks with my wedding-obsessed sister, especially after Mum gave me a pretty stern talking-to about being the bigger person, making allowances, blah blah blah. Yes, Mum, okay. So I did my best to think positively. I was firing on all cylinders and ready to go. I mean, if nothing else, we were going to spend a few hours in an airport lounge, complete with free champagne and magazines, before flying to New York. As far as holidays went, this was a result.

After a tearful farewell dinner with Jerry the previous night, India, burdened with a hangover, had spent most of the car journey convincing herself our flight would crash into the Queen Mother Reservoir shortly after take-off, or – failing that – into the Atlantic, where our remains would never be discovered. She’d always been a bit dramatic when it came to air travel. No idea where she got it from, what with our parents spending more time in the air than on the ground these days.

Dad eventually reassured her by promising that if anything happened he and Mum would throw a wreath over the probable crash site and give Jerry the insurance money. There had then been a mild argument about whether Jerry should get my insurance payout too. Once we had agreed Mum and Dad would get my bit and put it towards a world cruise, India calmed down and got into the spirit of things, which was good as we were just coming up to departures and I couldn’t wait to get out of the car. Surprisingly, the subject of the wedding hadn’t come up once so far. I was just hoping it would stay that way …

A Summer Scandal - Kat French and guest post

A feel-good summer romance guaranteed to make you laugh out loud!

Summer has never been so scandalous…

When Violet moves to Swallow Beach, she inherits a small Victorian pier with an empty arcade perched on the end of it, and falls in love immediately. She wants nothing more than to rejuvenate it and make it grand again – but how?

When she meets hunky Calvin, inspiration strikes. What if she turned the arcade into an adult-themed arcade full of artisan shops?

Not everyone in the town is happy with the idea, but Violet loves her arcade and business begins to boom. But as tensions worsen and the heat between her and Calvin begins to grow, life at Swallow Beach becomes tricky. Is it worth staying to ride out the storm? And can Violet find her own happy ending before the swallows fly south for the winter?

Sexy, sassy and full of heart, Kat French is back in a new summer sizzler.

Guest Post:
I’ve written a summer book for the last five years now - I love the idea of people packing my book in their suitcase alongside their bikini and sunscreen. This year my release is called A Summer Scandal, a story about a girl who unexpectedly inherits a pier in a seaside town she’s never heard of and packs up her life to head down there to discover her roots. What follows is a story of love and heartbreak across the decades, with lots of laughter along the way thanks to the eccentric locals of Swallow Beach!

Summer is undoubtedly my favourite season of the year, and here are my top ten reasons why.

Summer holidays. I wouldn’t be without the annual family pilgrimage to somewhere warm, preferably with a beach on the doorstep and a hammock in the trees. The older I get, the more I just want to get off the plane and crash out. When the kids are very little we started visiting the Balearics because of the short flight, and we love them so much that we go back most summers. This year we’re off to Formentera, the smallest and least known of the islands, and the only one we’ve yet to visit.

Everyone is in a better mood when the suns out. It’s true, isn’t it? Grey skies puts everyone in an equally grey mood, while the sunshine just seems to make everyone smile. No wonder they say that Aussie’s are the happiest people on the planet!

Opening all of the windows. Oh, this one is a biggie for me! We recently moved into a house that has lots of windows and French doors, and it’s blissful to be able to open everything up and let the summer in. I work at the table beside the French doors and it’s like having an inside-outside office.

Not having to wear winter clothes. The joy of cracking out a

sundress after a long winter of jeans and opaque tights is a particular thrill, isn’t it! Let’s forget about the whole having to shave our legs and slap on some bronzer. It’s harder work, but just so much more fun.

Not being cold. Seriously. I hate the cold. Give me a dappled, shady spot on a sunny day and I’m a happy writer.

Light mornings. I love the early mornings, those precise extra hours of daylight before everyone else wakes. I like to sit outside with a coffee and think about the day ahead, or write if I’m close to deadline.

Late nights. Ditto the long summer evenings. BBQ’s, windows open and start-lit nights… my idea of heaven.

Summer cocktails. I love a cocktail at any time of the year, but especially so in the summer. Long, preferably, stacked with ice and gin! Or fizzy. Bubbles def taste better in the sunshine.

The flowers. Summer hedgerows, parks bursting with colour, and the wisteria that climbs the front of our house. Summer is such a riot of colour and scents, flowers and freshly cut grass. No one say hay fever!

The school holidays. I always think that the end of the school year marks the onset of longer, lazy days. We work from home, so once the kids are out of school for summer, or home life in general takes on a more laid back, lazy pace for a couple of months. Bring it on, I’m so ready this year!

A Summer Scandal is out on June 28th 2018.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

The Wonder of UsThe Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Riya and Abby are: Best friends. Complete opposites. Living on different continents. About to embark on an epic adventure around Europe.

Since Riya moved away with her family to Berlin, she and Abby have struggled to be there for one another, and they haven’t spoken in weeks. But Riya is pretty sure she knows the perfect way to make things better – a grand tour of European cities. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun.

Can the lush countrysides and dazzling cities of Europe fix their friendship, or does growing up mean growing apart?

I love a good summery book to get you in the mood for summer and with the current heatwave we are having here in the U.K there was not a better time to read this.

Riya and Abby have been best friends forever, they lived in California and have attended school together, they pretty much have been inseparable, that is until Riya tells Abby she is leaving and her family are moving to Germany. This hits the girls hard and they seem to drift away, after a few months they have little contact with each other. Riya knows that they both behaved badly but wants to fix their friendship, after all, it was once as strong as anything. Riya sends Abby a plane ticket to meet her in Italy and said she is giving her a holiday of a lifetime around Europe, something that her nan has paid for. Abby touches down in Italy and decides that perhaps Riya is right, she decides to enjoy her time away, but things don't go to plan.

This is a story about friendship and growing up a long the way. I had a slight problem with the narration of the characters, at times it was hard to identify who was speaking at one point and I had to go back to check which character I was reading, it would have helped if the voices were slightly different to aviod confusion.

This is a cute book, with a travel theme of two girls who are trying to repair their friendship but also knowing that sometimes people change. It didn't blow me away but it passed the time nicely in the garden.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Confessions of a First-Time Mum by Poppy Dolan - Blog Tour

When Stevie had her first baby her life changed. She loves being a mum, but between the isolation and being vomited on she really wishes she had someone to talk to. Turning to the internet, Stevie begins the anonymous First-Time Mum blog and blasts the rose-tinted glasses of parenthood right off her readers.

Soon Stevie begins to realise that being a 'perfect mum' isn't everything. But when the secret blog goes viral, Stevie must make some tough choices over who she wants to be...


I’ve had about 300 hits in the last month and I’m convinced it’s men after porn and, because I say boobs and nipples so much, the metadata wrongly brings them to First-Time Mum. I hope the reality of the mastitis and bloody, oozing nipple cracks I detail are their just desserts. First-Time Mum is not here for anyone’s sexual gratification, thank you very much. She’s here to say everything I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to say in real life.

But I suppose it’s the one thing I expected for my mum life before Cherry’s arrival that has actually come true: I had this vision of myself keeping a little blog going, journalising our adventures and milestones, ‘keeping my mind occupied’ in the time before going back to work. I saw it as flapjack recipes and pics of handprint collages, and baby and I in sunnies on our first beach holiday (which has still yet to happen). But what it turned out to be was an SOS. A catalogue of my shortcomings. A way to say ‘this is hard’ without saying it to a flesh-and-blood person who might judge me or dislike me or tell everyone I’m a bad parent.

And today it’s the space for the things I can’t say to Ted.

He’s still out – he texted to say he was going to swing by the supermarket and get me in some things for next week. And that’s a token effort and all, but I know really he wants to prolong his break out of the house. He has so much more freedom than me that sometimes it feels like I really am the mad prisoner behind the glass and I have to watch him swan off into the great unknown every time he goes to work. To a land where he can pee in private and take lunch just when he pleases and eat food he hasn’t microwaved himself. And the idea of that sweet freedom makes my domestic incarceration so much more of a bitter pill to swallow.

He’ll have drinks in Hong Kong. Dinners. Cocktail parties. He’ll bring back a cuddly toy for Cherry and think balance has been restored. But what kind of balanced relationship can you have when one person is free to hop continents and the other can barely manage a stress-free trip to Sainsbury’s?

Ted and I used to think the same about everything: food – you can’t have too much butter; travel – the path untrodden is all well and good but where can I get a decent glass of red around here?; domesticity – if you make a mess, you clear it up. Genitalia has nothing to do with it. So how has everything slipped so drastically since we’ve moved from a two to a three?

I was ready to take on more of the household chores, of course I was. He’s earning the money to pay the bills so it’s fair enough I push the hoover around more than usual. But all of a sudden I realise I’m doing all the washing. All the cooking. I’m remembering his family’s birthdays and organising trips up to Leicester to see them.

And he doesn’t even seem to notice. It’s like it’s background noise to him these days. Home life is the brief pause between working weeks and international flights.

When no one else is listening, there’s always the internet. I disabled my comments section after a string of spammers, but I also didn’t want to log on one day and see a paragraph of badly spelled abuse about what a lazy, ungrateful harpy I was and how I should feel lucky to have a roof over my head and a husband and a healthy baby, especially when I’m such a bitch. I don’t need a troll to tell me that: I am lucky. Ted might feel like he’s on another planet at the moment, but in so many ways he is a great partner and dad – dependable, a provider, calm and steady. We’re OK for money and, bar her reflux, Cherry is fighting fit. I lost a pregnancy early on, about six months before we conceived Cherry, so I know what an incredible feat of biology and luck and magic dust it is when the stars align and you get that squirmy bundle to take home from the hospital. I wouldn’t have my life without her. Rather, I’d like to keep her, but with more sleep and time and sanity, please?

My phone vibrates on the sofa cushion and Cherry’s head wriggles for a moment, letting just a little cool air in on the sweat patch she’s leaving on my trousers. Another bout of luck that my miracle hasn’t woken up.

It’s an invitation to join a WhatsApp group: ‘Mums I’d Like to Befriend’, from Will.

Will: Coffee at mine on Monday? I can’t bring myself to say ‘play date’ but you know what I mean. 10.30? I’m off Roger’s Lane, no.5 The Annexe.

Nelle pings back before I can think of a snappy reply.

Nelle: Can’t wait! What can I bring?

Will: Tarpaulins. Hoses. Hazmat suit. Anything that will help clean up after a craft session with my girls.

Stevie: Hahahaha! I’ll bring my Marigolds and sheep dip. X

I might not be heard by my husband these days, but I have found two sets of ears who totally get me.

About the Author:

Poppy Dolan is in her mid thirties and lives in Berkshire with her husband. She's a near-obsessive baker and a keen crafter, so on a typical weekend can be found moving between the haberdashery and kitchenware floors of a department store, adding to her birthday wish list. She has written three novels: The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp, There's More to Life than Cupcakes and most recently The Bluebell Bunting Society. The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp made it into the Amazon top 100 bestseller chart, so clearly someone other than her mum must have read it. She's currently working on her fourth novel – it's about friends, siblings and crafty things – and drinking far too much tea. You can get in touch with Poppy on Twitter @poppydwriter and on Facebook at PoppyDolanBooks. She doesn't bite. Unless you are a dark chocolate digestive.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Stalker by Lisa Stone

STALKER, Lisa Stone

Someone is always watching…

Derek Flint is a loner. He lives with his mother and spends his evenings watching his clients on the CCTV cameras he has installed inside their homes. He likes their companionship – even if it’s through a screen.

When a series of crimes hits Derek’s neighbourhood, DC Beth Mayes begins to suspect he’s involved. How does he know so much about the victims’ lives? Why won’t he let anyone into his office? And what is his mother hiding in that strange, lonely house?

As the crimes become more violent, Beth must race against the clock to find out who is behind the attacks. Will she uncover the truth in time? And is Derek more dangerous than even she has guessed?

A spellbinding crime novel from the worldwide bestseller Cathy Glass, writing as Lisa Stone.


At home Julie had checked on the children – they were both sleeping peacefully – and was now downstairs viewing the recording on the monitor in the hall. She had all the camera images showing and the digital display at the bottom of the screen showed the date and time. She had rewound the tape to where Sophie had arrived to babysit at 6.50pm, and had watched her on the camera trained on their front door as she’d rung the bell and Julie had let her in. Then the camera in the living room showed the three of them talking although she couldn’t hear what they were saying as there was no sound, before she and Russ said goodbye and left. Outside, the camera covering the drive showed them getting into their car and pulling away. Julie then saw Sophie sitting on the sofa texting, presumably to tell her boyfriend they’d gone. Within five minutes he was at their front door, so either he lived in the neighbourhood or he’d been waiting out of sight close by. He didn’t press the bell so Julie guessed Sophie must have told him to text her when he arrived as the doorbell might wake the children. They kissed on the doorstep and then the camera in the living room showed the lad making himself comfortable on the sofa and Sophie leaving the room, grinning. She returned with two glasses containing what looked like gin or vodka and ice.

Ten minutes passed when they sipped their drinks, laughed, snogged and groped each other. Julie fast-forwarded the tape and then stopped as Sophie stood, picked up their empty glasses, left the living room and returned with refills. Cheeky little cow! Then sprawled on the sofa with their drinks on the table, they continued their heavy petting. At one point they stopped and cocked their heads as though they might have heard something and Julie hoped it wasn’t one of the children calling out and being ignored. Another five minutes or so and Sophie had her hand down his trousers and his mouth was on her breasts. It was getting close to the time the email had been sent. Julie looked at the footage sent from the outside cameras but nothing untoward was showing there. More heavy petting; she fast-forwarded again and then slowed the tape to ‘play’ mode again as the lad stood. Clearly aroused, he pulled Sophie up and they disappeared from view, presumably going upstairs to her bedroom to have sex.

The living room stayed empty, and the outside cameras showed no sign of any disturbance that could have tripped the alert. She continued to watch, her anger growing. Russ had been studying the dessert menu now and the emails would shortly arrive on their phones. Another few minutes and she guessed it was the time she’d phoned Sophie’s mobile, but she could see it now lying on the table in the living room. She’d then called the house phone but the living room remained empty so the little minx must have answered the extension in their bedroom. She inwardly fumed as she pictured Sophie untangling herself from her boyfriend to reach out of bed and pick up the handset, just as she and Russ did sometimes. No wonder it had taken her time to answer. She’d been having sex in their bed when she’d phoned!

A minute later she saw them rush into the living room tucking in their clothes, now aware that she and Russ were returning. The boy grabbed his jacket and went out the front door while Sophie tidied up the living room, smoothing the sofa cushions, taking out the glasses. She reappeared in the living room, sat on the sofa and switched on the television. Then to her horror Julie saw her daughter appear in the doorway of the living room, possibly woken by the home phone ringing. She watched as Sophie went over to her and disappeared from view, she assumed taking Phoebe back upstairs to bed. She must have only just dropped off to sleep again when they’d arrived home.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One and Other StoriesParis for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nell's boyfriend has deserted her in Paris . . . alone in the most romantic city in the world, can she forget him to find herself?

Eleven unmissable stories from the author of heart breaking Me Before You, including Paris for One - soon to be a major film - about Nell, deserted by her boyfriend minutes before setting off on a romantic weekend away, and a tale of the early days of two marriages, featuring Liv and Sophie from Jojo Moyes' bestselling romance The Girl You Left Behind.

Some nice little gems of stories in this book. I do enjoy short stories as I can dip in and out of the book when I have time. Some of these stories were longer than the average short story, which was nice. Paris for One I had already read as it was featured one year in the Quickreads so this was not a new one for me. It had been a while since I had read it though and I still enjoyed it.

If you are a fan of Jojo Moyes and women's fiction I do recommend you give this one a go. This book is very light and will help you escape for a few hours.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Last Time I LiedLast Time I Lied by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever played two truths and a lie?

A gripping new thriller that you won't be able to put down with a plot that will keep you guessing. If you enjoyed A. J. Finn's The Woman in the Window, you'll love Last Time I Lied

Emma's first summer away from home, she learned how to play the game. And she learned how to lie.

Then three of her new friends went into the woods and never returned. . .

Now, years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She thinks she’s laying old ghosts to rest but really she’s returning to the scene of a crime.

Because Emma’s innocence might be the biggest lie of all. . .

Good pacey book once it got going, it was a little slow to start with but picked up nicely and catapulted to the finale.

Camp Nightingale summer camp held a tragedy when three out of four girls disappear one night and the fourth girl suffers a nervous breakdown. Fifteen years later and now an artist, Emma (the fourth girl) is asked to go back and teach art at the campsite. She is initially reluctant to return but has to lay ghosts to rest and believes going back will allow her to finally find out what happened to those girls so she agrees. She even stays in the same cabin she stayed in fifteen years previously and comes to uncover the truth along with secrets and lies and a very ingenious twist at the end. This one doesn't come out until July 2018 - reserve yourself a copy, its a good read, moves quickly and is well worth the 5 stars I am giving it.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.