Category Archives: Book reviews

Blog Tour: One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

Today I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis which will be published as an eBook on 23 February, and in paperback on 29 June by Black Swan.

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You trusted your best friend… you shouldn’t have.

Vicky Seagrave is blessed: three beautiful children, a successful, doting husband, great friends and a job she loves.  She should be perfectly happy.

But what she is about to learn is that one mistake is all it takes; that if you’re careless with those you love, you don’t deserve to keep them.

When Vicky risks everything she holds dear on a whim, there’s only one person she trusts enough to turn to, her best friend Amber.

One little lie.  One little secret.  One little mistake could destroy her world.


One Little Mistake is one of those novels that it’s difficult to talk about without giving too much away, so I won’t focus on the plot too much in my review.

It focuses on Vicky who makes a spur of the moment decision.  Nine times out of ten, such a decision would probably have no significant impact and you’d think little more of it.  Unfortunately for Vicky, her decision proves to have disastrous consequences in this instance, and she turns to her best friend, Amber, for advice.  What follows shows how Vicky deals with the aftermath of this mistake, which proves to be much further reaching than she could ever have guessed.

Curtis successfully weaves together two narratives throughout One Little Mistake – the first following Vicky’s plight in the present day, and the second set 18 years earlier.  Whilst the flashback scenes are few and far between, I really enjoyed these little snippets and this second story very quickly built up in tension.  I don’t want to say too much about it, but I really enjoyed the second story and the way that the two narratives eventually converged.

I thought that Curtis handled the relationship between Vicky and Amber really well, and the gradual deterioration of this relationship as Amber begins to show her true colours made this an absolutely fascinating read.  Vicky is pitched as one of those people for whom good things just happen.  What is very apparent to the reader is that Vicky has worked hard to get where she is, and I think that it’s very easy to forget the elbow grease that people have often put in to get where they are.  Amber, on the other hand, hasn’t had quite the same level of success that Vicky has experienced, and whilst they are friends, it’s clear from the outset that she is envious of many aspects of Vicky’s life and it doesn’t take much for the reader to see another side to Amber, a side that Vicky isn’t aware of.

Curtis has done a brilliant job of making Vicky easy to sympathise with.  She has made mistakes, but she’s hardly alone in this, and it feels as though the punishment far outweighs the crime.  I did perhaps find her to be too forgiving and perhaps a little gullible, although in this instance it made her endearing rather than frustratingly naive, as can sometimes be the case in a novel such as this.

One Little Mistake is a gripping read and builds up to a tense conclusion which, whilst not entirely unexpected in some respects, was nevertheless a dramatic, if slightly rushed, finale.

Many thanks to Rosie Margesson for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★★☆


Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour:

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The Bishop’s Girl by Rebecca Burns

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Jess works as a researcher at the Shacklock Library in Jedthorpe, Yorkshire.  The library is named after a prominent bishop from the area – Anthony Shacklock – who died in 1917 in France whilst assisting at a hospital looking after injured soldiers.

For the past six years, Jess has supported Professor Waller, who has dedicated much of his career to identifying a young woman, estimated to be around 17 years of age at the time of her death, who was found in Shacklock’s grave when his remains were removed from France to Jedthorpe.  She has no name, although DNA testing indicates a familial relationship to the bishop.

Jess is forced to balance her demanding job with an even more demanding home life, looking after her two children and worrying over the ever-increasing distance between her and her husband, Alec.

When a new snippet of information comes to light, it sends Jess on a journey that will have much more of an impact on her life than she ever expected.

I really liked Jess, and felt a great deal of sympathy for her.  At work, Waller takes advantage of her, often asking her to make the long journey to London to look in various archives at short notice and with no consideration of the impact on Jess and her family.  She gets no thanks for the work she undertakes and Waller takes all the credit, having done none of the leg work himself.  It’s infuriating, and I really enjoyed Jess’s gradual progression from resigned acceptance to open rebellion as she becomes utterly fed up with the situation.

Having accepted the situation for the last 6 years, the reader might wonder what has prompted the sudden change in character.  Jess’s home life is little better than her work life – she and her husband have been drifting apart, and are no longer able to talk to each other without arguing.  He resents any time she is away from home – especially the late evenings and weekends, at least partly because it means he has to look after the children.  But Jess finds a new lease of life when her best friend, Marie, suggests that she meets up with her grown up son, Hayden, who at 28 is 13 years younger than Jess, on one of her visits to London, never expecting that the two would end up in bed following a few drinks!  Jess goes through various feelings of guilt and excitement at her actions, but it does give her some spark as she becomes increasingly drawn to Hayden.  It’s as though she’s woken from a long sleep, and I loved the new spirit this gave her.

Whilst being something of a love story, there is also an historical element as the reader follows Jess’s investigations into the identity of the unknown girl buried with Shacklock.  This was my favourite part of the novel – the slow gathering of clues, the peaks and troughs as new lines of enquiry lead to something or nothing, and I thought that this was particularly well done.  Initially told from the perspective of Jess, part two of the novel moves back in time, and the reader sees what happened (which I won’t share!) as it happened.  I really liked this change in perspectives, and I thought it worked really well in the novel.

There are a couple of little twists here, although I did guess them before the end of the novel.  That said, I think that this is a novel where the journey is more important than the destination, and so this didn’t reduce my enjoyment at all.  If anything, I quite liked getting to the end and being able to say “Yes!  I knew it!”.  I did have a few outstanding questions at the end of the novel, although these were along the lines of “but I want to know what happens next” rather than relating to elements within the story that didn’t make sense or that I felt needed additional clarification.

The Bishop’s Girl is a highly enjoyable read, and one that I would recommend to those looking for something a little different, combining as it does the historical and the romance elements.

The Bishop’s Girl is available as an eBook and in paperback.  Many thanks to Rebecca Burns for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Blood Moon by John David Bethel

My second post of Mystery and Thriller Week 2017 is a review of John David Bethel’s Blood Moon, which was published by Tell-Tale Publishing in 2016.

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Blood Moon opens with the abduction of Recidio Suarez – a wealthy business man living in Miami.  Taken to a warehouse, he is beaten, tortured and starved whilst his captors make him sign over everything he owns – his money, his house, his business.  They intend to leave Suarez with nothing.  He has little choice but to cooperate with their demands, and the slightest hint – genuine or imagined – of rebellion earns him additional “attention”.

Eventually, Suarez is thrown off a bridge in an attempt to make his death look like a suicide, but, against all expectation, he survives.  The novel then deals with his search for justice, made all the more difficult by the authorities who don’t believe his tale.

Blood Moon is an unusual book to review, because it is based upon true events.  There is a prologue written by Marc Schiller who was subjected to treatment similar to that suffered by Suarez in Bethel’s novel.  I have to say that, had this simply been a work of fiction, I’m not sure I’d have found the story feasible – the way in which Suarez is treated doesn’t entirely make sense, and it’s the sort of thing that I would have found frustrating.  I’m all up for fiction, but I find that if I can’t “buy it” then I don’t always enjoy it.

Knowing that this is based upon real events, however, put an entirely different spin on things, and I sat morbidly fascinated and horrified at the treatment Suarez receives at the hands of the the psychopathic individuals holding him captive.  In the prologue, Schiller points out that:

Truth is often stranger than fiction.

and so it proves to be the case here.  Needless to say, Blood Moon isn’t a novel for the faint of heart – it is gruesome in places, and whilst I’m not particularly squeamish, I did feel a little uncomfortable at times whilst reading this.

Suarez’s treatment by the authorities also stays true to the real-life events upon which the tale is based, and this made the story all the more shocking for the way in which the case was handled.  Whilst I’m sure that this is extremely atypical of any law enforcement agency, it is disturbing to think that a case would sound so outlandish – and it does – that it might not even be investigated.  Even the barest scratching at the surface here would have revealed a few things that didn’t add up, and would have prompted further enquiries.

This is a somewhat different read for me, and not something I would normally have picked up.  I did enjoy it, however, despite some of the more unpleasant contents.  It’s difficult to know how much Bethel imagined versus what happened to Schiller, but the thought of anyone going through even a fraction of this is horrifying.

Many thanks to John David Bethel for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Blogger Recognition Award

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I was absolutely thrilled when I was nominated for this award by both Natalie at The Owl on the Bookshelf and Susan at Books From Dusk Till Dawn.  I love both of these blogs, and I really appreciate the support they’ve shown to me, both generally and in nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award.

Here are the rules for this award:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  2. Write a post to show your award
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
  5. Select other bloggers you want to give this award to
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide a link to the post you have created

I started my blog in May 2015 as a way of sharing my love of reading and all things book related with a wider audience.  It’s something I’d been thinking about doing for quite a while, although I’m not sure I’d ever have taken the final step of actually setting up a blog without the encouragement of my other half.

I’ll be honest, it was quite a daunting experience, particularly for the initial few posts, but I’ve found that I grown more confident with it over time.


My advice to new bloggers would be:

  • Do things your own way.  There are lots of bloggers out there, and we all do things differently – it would be really boring if we were all the same.  So, experiment, and find a style that works for you
  • Don’t put yourself under pressure – for most of us, this is a hobby, and it’s something we do whilst balancing our day jobs and general lifestyle.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t blog every day, or if you need to take a break.  Life can be stressful enough, so be kind to yourself, and treat blogging as a hobby and something to be enjoyed, rather than letting it become a chore

I’m nominating the following blogs for the award:

Cathy at Between The Lines

Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books

Emma at Emma’s Bookish Corner

Dave at Espresso Coco

Renee at It’s Book Talk

Janel at Keeper of Pages

Wendy at Little Bookness Lane

Annie at The Misstery

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

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The End We Start From is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who goes into labour in the opening pages.  With a healthy baby delivered, she, her husband and their new-born child are forced to leave their home as London is submerged below flood waters.

They move from place to place seeking shelter and food whilst watching Z’s development as he grows, thriving despite the worsening conditions around him.

This is possibly the briefest synopsis I’ve written for a novel, and yet it says that all that needs to be said, and the brevity seems suitably in keeping with the novel which is a much slimmer volume than I expected.

The End We Start From is set in a flooded England.  The reason for the floods is unknown, the reader and the nameless narrator know only that:

the water is rising faster than they thought.  It is creeping faster.  A calculation error.

Many are forced to flee their homes seeking higher ground, and shelters are set up to give a home to those with nowhere else to go.  As resources begin to dwindle, there are hints at atrocities committed as people loot, pillage and stockpile goods for themselves and their families.  This always happens off screen however – the narrator is aware of it, and so, therefore, is the reader, yet we never come face to face with any of the violence that often occurs immediately after a disaster such as this.

Juxtaposed with this rather bleak setting is the narrator’s joy in Z, her new-born baby boy.  This aspect of the novel made it completely unique – there are tales set in the midst of an apocalypse and its aftermath that deal with childbearing, the raising of those children and the difficulties that this entails when our usual support networks are no longer available, but Hunter makes this a much more significant element of the story than most do.  I really enjoyed reading the catalogue of the baby’s “firsts” – the first smile, laugh, tooth etc. – and the gradual progression of Z against the backdrop of a world forced to a halt.

Stylistically, this novel won’t appeal to everyone.  It’s disjointed, with incredibly short paragraphs – if you can count the combinations of 2-3 sentences paragraphs at all, and the sentences are usually brief.  There’s not a single word of dialogue.  The only name mentioned is the baby’s – Zed, although this is only mentioned once – for the rest of the story it’s Z, just as all the other names are denoted by a single initial.  This might be confusing in any other novel, yet there are so few characters here that it’s not an issue.  Similarly, this is not a novel with answers, where everything is explained neatly by the final page.  Yet through the incredibly spare language, Hunter manages to convey so much.

The End We Start From manages to be simultaneously haunting and melancholy, yet also uplifting, and it is definitely a novel that will stay with me – I absolutely adored it.  An incredibly timely novel for our uncertain times which touches on both the impact of climate change as well as looking at the fate of refugees, The End We Start From conveys a message of hope at our capacity to continue and to adapt, whatever challenges we’re faced with.

The End We Start From will be published on 18 May 2017 by Picador – many thanks to Camilla Elsworthy for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★★★

Kill the Father by Sandrone Dazieri

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Stefano Maugeri is out on a picnic with his wife and six-year-old son.  Falling asleep, he wakes to find no trace of them – just the remains of their al fresco meal.  Panicked, he searches for them before calling the police, and when they arrive, it doesn’t take them long to find his wife’s decapitated body.  Of his son, only his shoes have been left behind.  Convinced that Maugeri is responsible, the police arrest him, thinking it an open and shut case.

But one officer, Captain Rovere, isn’t convinced, and he encourages his Deputy Captain, Colomba Caselli – who has been out of action following a traumatic experience – to investigate, assisted by Dante Torre – a somewhat prickly individual who has proved himself to be an expert in finding missing people.

But Dante’s ability stems from a dark past – when he was six years old, he was kidnapped and held prisoner in a silo for 11 years by a man he only ever knew as the Father.  The police believed that the Father committed suicide following Dante’s escape, but Dante has never believed this, and has lived in fear ever since.

Beginning to investigate, and unable to avoid the obvious parallels between this case and Dante’s own past, Colomba and Dante begin to find hints that Dante’s worst fears are confirmed – the Father is still alive, and he’s still active.  But will anyone believe them?

The characterisation in Kill the Father is absolutely top-notch, and I loved the (largely platonic) relationship that develops between Colomba and Dante.  Both have troubled pasts – Dante from his time in the silo, which would have a significant effect on anyone, but also Colomba who has been off-duty, although not officially resigned, since a case nine months previous which resulted in “the Disaster”, as Colomba refers to it.  Unsure what her future holds, she now suffers from PTSD, and she controls her infrequent panic attacks as well as she can.  Their respective pasts mean that they form something of an unlikely bond, based partly upon the knowledge that each has suffered in ways that most of us are lucky enough not to.

Kill the Father is set in Dazieri’s native Italy, mostly in and around Rome.  Not a city that I’m familiar with, I thought that this was brilliantly evoked in the way that only a local person can – it gets beneath the glossy, tourist veneer, and presents the city as it would be to those who live there.  I also found the characters to be fiery and passionate, and (without wanting to stereotype) much as I would expect Italians to be.

At approximately 500 pages, this isn’t a quick read, and plot progresses relatively slowly to many novels where instant gratification seems to be the current trend.  I enjoyed this change of pace – there is so much detail in the novel, and the tension ebbs and flows as our protagonists encounter increasingly dangerous situations throughout the course of their investigation.  The killer always seems to be at least one step ahead of the duo, and there are several moments when I wasn’t sure that they were going to get out of whichever particular pickle they were in at the time.

Kill the Father is a brilliant police procedural set in Italy, and is the first of Sandrone Dazieri’s novels to be translated into English.  It will be published in hardback by Simon & Schuster on 9 February 2017, and is available to buy now as an eBook for the bargain price of £0.99 on Amazon Kindle.  Many thanks to Emma Finnigan for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Ragdoll is one of those books that has already attracted a lot of attention, despite having not been released yet, and I was absolutely thrilled when Ben Willis at Trapeze sent me a copy for review.

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘ragdoll’.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

Given the description above, I was expecting this to be quite gory and graphic, but I didn’t find that to be the case.  There are a couple of scenes that the more squeamish might not get on with too well, but overall I wouldn’t let that stop you if this is one you’re considering reading – I really didn’t think it was that bad.

The characterisation in Ragdoll is wonderful, and Wolf is one of the best detectives I’ve come across in recent years.  Maverick doesn’t even begin to cover it, and he got into some serious trouble on a previous case.  Having only just been reinstated when the ragdoll killer strikes, you might think that he’d be on his best behaviour in order to make a good impression, but it very quickly becomes clear that he has no such intentions – he just carries on exactly as he did before.

Ragdoll started life as a screenplay, and that comes through quite strongly in the novel – it’s incredibly cinematic and very easy to picture on screen.  Oddly enough, having been rejected previously, the TV rights have now been snapped up, and I can’t wait to this portrayed on screen – I think it will be rather spectacular.

What surprised me most in Ragdoll was the humour.  I think it’s really hard to do humour well in this kind of novel, but Cole manages it brilliantly, and I was regularly chuckling at the witty one-liners dotted throughout the novel.  Needless to say, it is quite a dark humour, so may not be to everyone’s tastes, but I enjoyed it.

Ragdoll is a novel that I would have happily read in a single sitting, had life not intervened.  It’s fast-paced and incredibly entertaining.  If you like your crime / detective fiction to be plausible, this probably isn’t the novel for you – it reads more like a season of 24 than it does a “realistic” police procedural.  And that is in no way meant as a criticism – Ragdoll is so entertaining that I was more than happy to get swept along by its narrative.  This is a great read, and I can easily see it being a bestseller upon its publication.

Ragdoll will be published on 23 February by Trapeze – many thanks to Ben Willis for providing a copy for review.