#bookreview MY FATHER’S HOUSE by Joseph O’Connor Published Today by @harvillsecker @gray_books #publicationday #newrelease

Many thanks to Graeme of Graeme Williams Marketing for my wonderful hardback proof copy of the book.

Out January 2023, My Father’s House is a literary thriller based on the true story of an Irish priest in the Vatican, who rescued victims of the Nazis in Rome, right out from under the nose of his SS officer nemesis. It’s a powerful, unforgettable novel from a master of historical fiction about love, faith and sacrifice, and what it means to be truly human in the most extreme circumstances.

SYNOPSIS

September 1943: German forces occupy Rome. SS officer Paul Hauptmann rules with terror. The war’s outcome is far from certain.


An Irish priest, Hugh O’Flaherty, dedicates himself to helping those escaping from the Nazis. His home is Vatican City, the world’s smallest state, a neutral, independent country within Rome where the occupiers hold no sway. Here Hugh brings together an unlikely band of friends to hide the vulnerable under the noses of the enemy.


But Hauptmann’s net begins closing in on the Escape Line and the need for a terrifyingly audacious mission grows critical. By Christmastime, it’s too late to turn back.

MY THOUGHTS

I only remembered after reading the book that this story is based on real events during the Nazi occupation of Rome. It is a fantastic story which underlines the risks seemingly ordinary people were prepared to take.

The story revolves around Irish priest Monsignor Hugh O’ Flaherty who is based in the Vatican during the war years. He is the glue that pulls together a city-wide operation to hide, feed and finally transport escapees. He manages the operation through a small choir who meet regularly in the safety of the Vatican. Only O’Flaherty knows everything, while everyone else has only specific knowledge.

The book covers the period up to Christmas 1943 when the transport of a large number of escapees is planned. At the same time the Nazi’s grip on Rome and The Vatican is tightening.

The structure of the book is very interesting, most of it is told as later interviews with members of the Choir, who each have their own perspective. Each is looking back over different periods of time and putting their versions on record in different ways. This is interspersed with contemporary commentary and O’Flaherty’s own thoughts. The style draws you in, as just as the fog is lifting the narrator and the time changes and we move on to learn another part of the puzzle. All the time the clock is ticking, the noose is tightening.

As the war nears Rome we see O’Flaherty turn from consoling priest to activist, confused by the Vatican’s attitude towards him and slowly gathering a likeminded group around him.  The character is well drawn, O’Flaherty is sociable and engaging, but also devout and sincere. People trust him, both the man and the priest. Wherever he goes he locks horns with his nemesis, Paul Hauptmann, who ends up chief of the army in Rome. The cat and mouse between the two is well written, with Hauptmann wondering why the priest is so difficult, waiting for him to make a mistake, and O’Flaherty believing Hauptmann can be redeemed.

As the night of the transfer approaches the tension rises, O’Flaherty has to take more risks, the net closes in and the lives of O’Flaherty, the choir and dozens of escapees are put in peril as O’Flaherty hurtles across Rome. As the days and then hours pass the narrative becomes more gripping, the desperation and anguish are vivid as the final hours and minutes are seemingly filled with hopelessness and doubt.

This is a cleverly written story that believably moves from one man’s war to a thrilling, headlong race against time.

My Father’s House is released TODAY!

#bookreview #newrelease WEYWARD by @EmiliaHartBooks Published Feb 2nd by @BoroughPress #Weyward #NetGalley

Many thanks to the author and publisher for my advanced digital copy of the book via NetGalley.

SYNOPSIS

KATE, 2019
Kate flees London – abandoning everything – for Cumbria and Weyward Cottage, inherited from her great-aunt. There, a secret lurks in the bones of the house, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

VIOLET, 1942
Violet is more interested in collecting insects and climbing trees than in becoming a proper young lady. Until a chain of shocking events changes her life forever.

ALTHA, 1619
Altha is on trial for witchcraft, accused of killing a local man. Known for her uncanny connection with nature and animals, she is a threat that must be eliminated.

But Weyward women belong to the wild. And they cannot be tamed…

MY THOUGHTS

Three women, all suffering in different ways from the actions of men.

Telling it’s story by flipping from character to character and timeline to timeline, Weyward tells the story of three women all from the Weyward family but spanning centuries.

Kate is in an abusive relationship, but on finding out that her great aunt Violet has left her her cottage Weyward in Cumbria, she has found the means and along with it the strength to flee. As she begins to explores the interior of the cottage, trying to make it her own, she begins to find things that start to connect the dots between herself and two other strong women in her family. Altha and Violet.

Including a tale of a mother and daughter suspected of witchcraft in 1619 and male dominance and power in 1942, we learn of how the Weyward women touch the lives of those daughters that are born after them, giving them the power they need when they need it most.

An engrossing and well told story of the misogyny experienced by women, both past and present, the strength and healing powers of nature and the courage to survive. I enjoyed reading this and found it a compelling debut novel. Rich in setting and time and place, the use of the natural world, animals and nature, coupled with an interesting and well planned narrative made for an interesting read. I look forward to seeing what this author writes next.

#bookreview #publicationday AMAZING GRACE ADAMS by Fran Littlewood Published by @MichaelJBooks on Jan 19th @_franlittlewood #newrelease #AmazingGraceAdams #Nettgalley

Many thanks to the author and publisher for my digital copy of this novel via NetGalley.

SYNOPSIS

Grace Adams is one bad day away from saving her life.

One hot summer day, stuck in traffic on her way to pick up the cake for her daughter’s sixteenth birthday party, Grace Adams snaps.

She doesn’t scream or break something or cry. She simply abandons her car and walks away.

But not from her life – towards it. To the daughter who won’t live with her anymore and has banned her from the party. To the husband divorcing her. Towards the terrible thing that has blown their family apart . . .

Today she’ll show her daughter that no matter how far we fall we can always get back up again. Because Grace Adams was amazing. Her husband and daughter once thought so. They and the world might have forgotten.

But Grace is about to remind them . . .

MY THOUGHTS

Telling the story of one very pivotal day in the life of Grace Adams, this novel was a terrific read.

Far deeper than I originally thought it was going to be, this book touches on many emotions and some serious topics. It had me both laughing and crying.

With the use of flash backs, as the day progresses, we learn what has bought Grace to this moment. From meeting her husband years back to more recent happenings involving her teenage daughter, we learn of Grace’s adult life and the things that have kicked her down. Well now she is on one serious pick herself back up moment!

Topics and experiences included in the novel are death, divorce, abuse and mental health and they all make for some very moving scenes, which are handled with care and sensitivity. I particularly liked Grace’s character in present day, when it is portrayed as the peri-menopausal woman she now is.

A much deeper story than I first thought which made for a powerful read. At times this book had me in tears yet I found it an uplifting story.

#bookreview NEEDLESS ALLEY by @NatalieMarlow2 Published |Jan 19th 2023 by @BaskervilleJMP

Many thanks to the publishers Baskeville for an advance reading copy of this book via Netgalley.

SYNOPSIS

Birmingham, 1933.

Private enquiry agent William Garrett, a man damaged by a dark childhood spent on Birmingham’s canals, specialises in facilitating divorces for the city’s male elite. With the help of his best friend – charming, out-of-work actor Ronnie Edgerton – William sets up honey traps. But photographing unsuspecting women in flagrante plagues his conscience and William heaves up his guts with remorse after every job.

However, William’s life changes when he accidentally meets the beautiful Clara Morton and falls in love. Little does he know she is the wife of a client – a leading fascist with a dangerous obsession. And what should have been another straightforward job turns into something far more deadly.

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this immersive and gritty historical noir set in 1930’s Birmingham.

William Garrett, Private Enquiry Agent works and lives from his office and digs in Needless Street. A number of jobs come his way via a shady solicitor called Shifty Shirley, facilitating divorces for rich male clients by setting honey traps for their wives. Working with his old friend, a handsome but troubled actor Ronnie Edgerton. Ronnie provides the bate, while William hides ready with his camera to capture the act. William doesn’t like what he does but having known what it’s like to have no money, the financial rewards keep him coming back for more.

One day, however, he meets Clara, wife of his current client, and everything changes. William falls for her and the job he already despises becomes even more difficult. However, trouble brews as Clara’s husband is no other than Edward Morton, rich, ambitious with political aspiration connected to fascist Oswald Mosley. Life soon becomes dangerous for William, and as his plan of action merges with some unexpected disturbing and dark goings on William soon finds himself in trouble.

Gritty, dark and with some violence the story is wonderfully balanced out with wonderful attention to detail, evocative settings of time and place and with the addition of wonderful characters like old love Queenie on her narrowboat and surprisingly resourceful Phyll. All the characters are wonderfully ‘fleshed out’ with each one battling demons and a life lived or being lived. The book is also a well researched and wonderful piece of social commentary of Birmingham at this time.

With great pace and numerous twists and turns this made for an extremely engaging and enjoyable read.

Needless Alley is out on January 19th. Check it out!

#bookreview SEA DEFENCES BY HILARY TAYLOR @hilarytaylor00 Published by @EyeAndLightning on January 12th

So many thanks to Simon of Eye and Lightning Books for sending me a copy of this fantastic read back in November. Developed from her prize-winning short story, this is the author’s first novel and one that I really couldn’t put down. Read on for my review.

SYNOPSIS

Rachel, a trainee vicar struggling to bond with her flock in the coastal town of Holthorpe, learns the terrifying power of the North Sea when her six-year-old daughter goes missing on the beach.

Meanwhile Mary, a defiant and distrustful loner, is fighting her own battle against nature as the crumbling Norfolk shoreline brings her clifftop home ever closer to destruction.

Both scarred by life, the two women are drawn into an unlikely friendship, but Mary’s misfit son Adam is nursing a secret. For Rachel, it will subject her battered faith to its greatest test: will she be strong enough to forgive?

In her taut, lyrical debut novel, Hilary Taylor weaves the bleak power of the East Anglian winter into a searingly honest psychological drama, as gripping as any thriller.

MY THOUGHTS

I like to support local authors when I can and read fiction set in East Anglia, so I was delighted when a copy of this landed on my door mat. Not just because of these reasons, but also because it sounded like a really interesting read!

The book opens on a cold and blustery Friday afternoon with our main character Rachel attending a PCC meeting at her church on the Norfolk coast. A trainee vicar, the author does a wonderful job at explaining how Rachel decided on this path and her constant doubts in her own ability. It describes Rachel as a very normal woman, wife and mother but one who is also training to become a priest, and I loved how this was merged at the start of the book in amongst her everyday life.

We then meet Mary and her son Adam who’s garden backs right onto the cliffs edge and is in ever present danger of being stripped away in the next storm. I loved their chapters, not just because they are great characters, but also the wonderfully evocative descriptions of the area and setting as they both spend a great deal of time outside. The author does a marvellous job at portraying the atmosphere and power of living by the North Sea. The coastal erosion and the setting of the whole novel is wonderfully effective and the author uses it throughout to great effect.

With the main characters introduced the book moves on to the disappearance of Rachel’s young daughter whilst on the beach one day. I won’t go into details of this as it would ruin the book for those who haven’t yet read it but I found it an immensely powerful and emotional read, with raw emotions from a family dealing with such an experience but also woven through the story a tremendously dramatic drama, as the story moves forward and we learn of what happen on that fateful day.

I found this book a powerful and unputdownable read, for a debut novel I was blown away. I felt connected to the characters right from the start and the book has the most wonderful atmosphere. I would highly recommend this to anyone and suggest you check it out immediately.

#blogtour #bookreview for THE COMING DARKNESS by GREG MOSSE @GregMosse published November 10th 2022 by @moonflowerbooks Blog Tour arranged by @midaspr #TheComingDarkness

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Coming Darkness. The debut thriller by Greg Mosse. Huge thanks to Sofia at Midas PR for my proof copy and spot on the blog tour.

SYNOPSIS

Paris, 2037. Alexandre Lamarque of the French external security service is hunting for eco-terrorists. Experience has taught him there is no one he can trust – not his secretive lover Mariam, not even his old mentor, Professor Fayard, the man at the centre of the web. He is ready to give up. But he can’t.

In search of the truth, Alex must follow the trail through an ominous spiral of events, from a string of brutal child murders to a chaotic coup in North Africa. He rapidly finds himself in a heart-thumping race against chaos and destruction. He could be the world’s only hope of preventing THE COMING DARKNESS . . .

MY THOUGHTS

The Coming Darkness is a near-future espionage thriller written as a classic spy story. We’re introduced to Alex Lamarque, an operative in the French external security service. He clearly believes in right and wrong, but he is no longer sure if the ends justify the means. Alex also has a reputation for reliable intuition and he has a growing sense of foreboding that something big and bad is developing. He is a comfortable and human hero and feels familiar from the off; he is easy to spend time with. Those around him are also well drawn with a believable history reinforcing the idea that these characters have had a life together before this story.

As with all good spy thrillers there are multiple strands, initially seemingly disparate but becoming intertwined as Alex’s assignments and intuition draw them together. Those around him, from his mother to his childhood friend and lover, are pulled into the multi-layered plots increasing the sense of jeopardy and raising Alex’s anxiety.

The near-future setting allows some liberties with political geography to be taken that set up a key plot, and believable changes in communication and transport are showcased with ongoing pandemics and climate change providing the dystopian backdrop with the displaced and migrants having no identity, living in ghettos outside of society. The haves still have, the have-nots don’t even have an identity.

While the start of the book is complicated as the plots are drawn the pace is always fast as Alex moves from one assignment to the next and the pressure builds as the story and his sense of foreboding grows.

An enjoyable, fast-paced , well constructed thriller.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

About Greg Mosse 

A theatre director, playwright and actor Greg Mosse is the founder and director of the Criterion New Writing programme at the Criterion Theatre in London, running workshops in script development to a diverse community of writers, actors and directors. In addition, since 2015, Greg has written, produced and stage 25 plays and musicals.

Greg set up both the Southbank Centre Creative Writing School – an open access program of evening classes delivering MA level workshops – and the University of Sussex MA in Creative Writing at West Dean College which he taught for 4 years. 

The husband of the bestselling novelist Kate Mosse, Kate’s hit novel Labyrinth was inspired by a house that Greg and his mother bought together in the French medieval city of Carcassonne, where the couple and their children spent many happy summers. Following the success of Labyrinth, Greg created the innovative readers-and-writers website mosselabyrinth.co.uk MosseLabyrinth. The first of its kind MosseLabrynth was the world’s first online accessible 3D world.

A multilinguist, Greg has lived and worked in Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Madrid and has worked as both an interpreter at a variety of international institutions and a teacher in the UK.

Greg and Kate live in Chichester, where Kate’s parents founded the Chichester Festival Theatre, they have two grown up children.

The Coming Darkness was written during lockdown and is Greg’s debut novel. 

#bookreview #blogtour DISCIPLINE IS DESTINY by @RyanHoliday Published September 27th by @ProfileBooks @midaspr #DisciplineisDestiny

Many thanks to Bei Guo at Midas PR for my hardback copy of this book and my invite onto the blog tour.

hardback copy

SYNOPSIS

The inscription on the Oracle of Delphi says: ‘Nothing in excess.’ C.S. Lewis described temperance as going to the ‘right length but no further.’ Easy to say, hard to practice – and if it was tough in 300 BC, or in the 1940s, it feels all but impossible today. Yet it’s the most empowering and important virtue any of us can learn.

Without self-discipline, all our plans fall apart. Here, Ryan Holiday shows how to cultivate willpower, moderation and self-control in our lives. From Aristotle and Marcus Aurelius, to Toni Morrison and Queen Elizabeth II, he illuminates the great exemplars of its practice and what we can learn from them. Moderation is not about abstinence: it is about self-respect, focus and balance. Without it, even the most positive traits become vices. But with it, happiness and success are assured: the key is not more but finding the right amount.

MY THOUGHTS

The second book in the author’s Stoic Virtues Series, Discipline is Destiny looks at Temperance, which along with Courage, Justice and Wisdom formed the four virtues of Stoicism a school of philosophy that hails from ancient Greece and Rome in the early parts of the 3rd century, BC

Now this makes it all sound like a serious philosophical text book, but it really isn’t. Holiday a young man, who has sold over 5 million books and has a huge digital following with among other things, his daily Stoic podcast, has done a really good job in breaking it down, sharing his thoughts and findings in a very informative, engaging and readable way. He explains how we could all use this ancient philosophy in today’s times. Short punchy chapters and the use of famous people throughout history make dipping in and out of this book very easy but engaging and useful.

Essentially a self-help book the author writes as if he is having a conversation with you and in learning of the lives of the people he uses to explain his theory you also learn about their lives and success stories.

There are some great quotes which really simplify what he is trying to get across and many hit the mark and made me think.

I passed the book onto my son, who is currently studying Philosophy at University and he said he is finding it an engaging and enjoyable read and one that he would recommend. He has also started following the author on social media too.

Blog Tour

#bookreview The Ambrosia Project by Abi Silver @abisilver16 Published Today! by @EyeandLightning #newrelease

cover

SYNOPSIS

In the sixth of Abi Silver’s nail-biting games of court-room cat-and-mouse, Judith Barton and Constance Lamb defend a caterer accused of killing a food magnate by negligence. Is something darker afoot?

When food magnate Brett Ingram collapses and dies at a public event, his seafood allergy is blamed and the caterer, Nick Demetriou, charged with manslaughter.

Nick hires legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb to defend him. They scrutinise the colourful panellists at the event – a food blogger, a beef farmer, a food scientist, a TV chef and a radio host – who all seem to be holding something back.

There’s something fishy about the allergy story. Did one of the speakers have a hand in the businessman’s death? And what of the nasty incidents that keep befalling them? Should the net be cast wider to include opponents of Brett’s mysterious Ambrosia initiative?

In another of Abi Silver’s nail-biting games of courtroom cat-and-mouse, Judith and Constance must find the truth among a smorgasbord of lies and deception.

MY THOUGHTS

This is the sixth book in the author’s Burton and Lamb series. Each book deals with a topical and interesting subject, involving the 2 main characters, solicitor Constance Lamb and lawyer Judith Burton, but can all be read as standalone stories.

The Ambrosia Project looks into the death of a large food company owner called Brett Ingram, after he collapses and dies suddenly at a small public event. With the knowledge of a food allergy, eyes soon turn to the caterer Nick Demetriou, who is charged with manslaughter and becomes the next new client for our legal duo.

A fast moving story, again with Silver’s trademark well explained and well researched background knowledge and information on the topic at hand. I found this new novel enjoyable and quick to read. The different POVs from the main suspects keeps the story fresh and moving forwards with secrets and red herrings in each new section of the novel.

You don’t need to read all the previous books to understand each new novel, but I will definitely go back and read book 5, which is one I’ve missed, as there seemed to be a change in dynamics between out two main character’s and I feel book 5 may tell me more.

Publication Day #bookreview of FOLLY DITCH by Anna Sayburn Lane @BloomsburyBlue The fourth book in the Helen Oddfellow Literary Mystery Series OUT TODAY!

Many thanks to the author for allowing me to read an ARC of this book. The fourth in the series and a great new addition to this wonderful series.

cover

SYNOPSIS

A Dickensian murder mystery. A brutal modern-day gang. Can Helen Oddfellow outwit an old enemy – or will she be his next victim?
When literary researcher Helen Oddfellow finds an old newspaper clipping in an antiquarian bookshop in Rochester, she uncovers a Dickensian murder mystery. The 200-year-old report of a woman’s murder on the steps of London Bridge provides clues to the real-life inspiration for Nancy, one of Charles Dickens best-loved characters.
But her quest takes a dangerous turn. She discovers that the eerie marshes of north Kent are home to a criminal gang more brutal than anything Charles Dickens dreamed of. On the bleak shore of the Thames estuary, she comes face to face with an old enemy. Can she keep Nancy’s secret from him, without sharing her fate?

MY THOUGHTS

Having read and enjoyed the previous three books in this very readable, historical/present day literary mystery series, I was looking forward to see where and who the author introduced us to in this new novel.

I raced through this and thoroughly enjoyed it!

The story follows Helens as she stumbles across an old newspaper clipping, hidden between the pages of an old book whilst browsing in antiquarian bookshop in Rochester. As before, with her background in historical literature, she soon recognises it’s possible significance and starts out trying to discover more about the article. However, Helen has inadvertently walked into a dark and dangerous world of criminals and people trafficking and is about to get tangled up in their dangerous world. Has she finally taken a step too far????!

Although it is totally possible to reads these books as standalone novels, it was also great to meet back up with some old familiar faces from the previous books as Anna writes such believable and true to life characters. I love how the historical story and real life people are intertwined within another great modern day and often gritty thriller/mystery. The two stories run parallel to each other and it was very engaging to watch as they finally converge together.

It kept my interest all the way through.  Wonderfully paced, with great twists and turns, keeping me turning the pages, wanting to know what would happen next. Once again the enjoyable and informative links back to a historical literary figure with wonderfully effective description of place and setting make me really look forward to seeing who the author chooses next!

THE AUTHOR

Anna Sayburn Lane is the author of page-turning mystery thriller books, featuring literary sleuth Helen Oddfellow. The books draw on Anna’s love of history, mystery and exciting stories, weaving together dark secrets from the past with contemporary thriller action.

Anna has published award-winning short stories and worked as a journalist.

She recently swapped her home in south London for a flat with a view of the English Channel in Kent.

#bookreview The Mortification of Grace Wheeler by Colette Dartford Published August 18th by Whitefox @ColetteDartford @Bookish_Becky @Gabriellamay24 @midaspr @wearewhitefox

Hugh thanks to the team at Midas for my proof copy of this fantastic novel of a woman in crisis.

proof copy

SYNOPSIS

A stale marriage, an illicit affair. Who pays the price?

Faced with an empty nest when her only child goes to university, the flaws in Grace’s marriage are sharply exposed. Finding excuses to escape the taut atmosphere at home, she is drawn into an affair that ignites a mid-life sexual awakening.

But when her secret is discovered there is a terrible price to pay, and Grace is not the only one who pays it.

A compelling and emotional read, The Mortification of Grace Wheeler shines a spotlight on a marriage in crisis, the challenges of being a middle-aged woman, and the fear that your best years are behind you.

MY THOUGHTS

I’ve been lucky enough to read some really good novels featuring women in their 40’s and 50’s this year and this is another great read to add to that list.

Being in my early 50’s myself, and, having had children, now getting used to them living elsewhere, it really does feel like starting another chapter of life, and it’s great seeing this portrayed in modern day fiction. I’m finding it harder to relate to female protagonists in say their 20’s and 30’s in novels these days, so I have been enjoying reading more books featuring older, but not old, women. Whatever the story line.

In The Mortification of Grace Wheeler the synopsis quickly lets us know that the character is set for troubled times, but I wasn’t expecting the story to go as it did and was surprised by the twists the author placed within the story line making it something a little different.

With Grace’s only child moving out to start University, she finds she can no longer ignore the cracks and faults in her marriage. Whilst learning how to fly fish, (a surprise for her son so they can spend time together when he comes home in the holidays) and a reason to spend less time at home, she meets her instructor and soon begins an affair. This may sound fairly cliché but the author does a fabulous job at explaining what Grace is thinking when she decides to act on this decision and makes the reader fully aware that our main character knows exactly what this could mean for her family. I also loved how the author doesn’t write the affair as all physical passion and self assurance and highlights real, believable moments and incidences that would be far more likely to happen and Grace’s thoughts and reaction to them.

We soon learn of the background to her marriage and the real reasons it has become what it has. The author writes wonderfully of our main character and uses friends and step children to great effect in allowing the reader to really get a feel for Grace and her current state and life at this present time. The story also highlights some important social issues, which I really wasn’t expecting, but what again makes this such a realistic and believable read.

A novel which had me drawn in from the very start and kept me fully invested throughout.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colette Dartford writes contemporary fiction with compelling emotional themes. Her debut novel, Learning to Speak American, was shortlisted for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and published by Bonnier Zaffre. Her second novel, An Unsuitable Marriage, was a Kindle bestseller for over 18 months. In addition to her novels, Colette has had award-winning Flash fiction, short stories and poetry, published in popular magazines and anthologies. The Mortification of Grace Wheeler is her third novel. Colette lives in Bath with her husband and a very demanding labradoodle.