The Library by Bella Osborne – Blog Tour/Book Review

About the book:

Two lonely bookworms. An unexpected friendship. A library that needs their help

‘A touching story of a friendship between a troubled teenager, a yoga-practising farming woman in her seventies and a local library. A delight!’ – Sunday Times bestselling author Katie Fforde

Teenager Tom has always blended into the background of life. After a row with his dad and facing an unhappy future at the dog food factory, he escapes to the library.

Pensioner Maggie has been happily alone with her beloved novels for ten years – at least, that’s what she tells herself.

When they meet, they recognise something in each other that will change both their lives for ever.

Then the library comes under threat of closure, and they must join forces to prove that it’s not just about books – it’s the heart of their community.

My review:

The Library by Bella Osborne is a change of direction for Bella. It really captured my heart and I honestly did not want it to end.

The story follows, in alternating chapters, two users of the village library. Tom is 16 and is missing the support of his late mum who died when he was 8. In an effort to reconnect with her he joins the library and borrows romance books as his Mum loved them.

Maggie is in her 70s, and runs a smallholding alone, and is a member of the library book club who meet once a week.

When an incident brings Tom and Maggie together an unusual friendship develops between them.

Getting so much from the library they begin a campaign to save the library and bring the community together. Although there were some tough moments and some very serious issuess covered in this book, it was such a warm story with a very special friendship at its core.

I loved the time they spent on Maggie’s smallholding, and I adored the Jacobs. This story really made me think of my late mum because she had a smallholding that had chickens and a pedigree flock of Jacob sheep, including a very boisterous ram a lot like Colin.

Tom was such a sensitive young man and was the perfect foil for feisty pensioner Maggie. They both got so much out of their unlikely connection, and both helped one another immensely.

I loved this story, with its strong central characters and the library front and centre. By the end of the story it made me determined to make the most of my local library before it is too late. There is a part of me that hopes I find a Maggie there.

Many thanks to Head of Zeus and Aria for my invitation to take part in the blog tour. Please check out the remaining stops on the tour below.

Buy from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3slYgWB

Buy from Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-library/bella-osborne/9781801100489

About the author:

Bella Osborne has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. In 2016, her debut novel, It Started At Sunset Cottage, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award. Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz and planning holidays. She lives in the Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping).

Social media:

Follow Bella:

Twitter: @osborne_bella

Facebook: @BellaOsborneAuthor

Instagram: bellaosborneauthor

#TheLibrary

Follow Aria & Head of Zeus:

Twitter: @Aria_Fiction

Instagram: @headofzeus

Facebook: @ariafiction

Website: https://headofzeus.com/

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures by Holly Hepburn – Blog Tour/Book Review

About the book:

When Hope loses her husband, she fears her happiest days are behind her. With her only connection to London broken, she moves home to York to be near her family and to begin to build a new life.  

Taking a job at the antique shop she has always admired, she finds herself crossing paths with two very different men. Will, who has recently become the guardian to his niece after the tragic death of her parents. And Ciaran, who she enlists to help solve the mystery of an Egyptian antique. Two men who represent two different happy endings.

But can she trust herself to choose the right man? And will that bring her everything she really needs?

The brand new novel from Holly Hepburn, author of Coming Home to Brightwater Bay

My review:

The latest book by Holly Hepburn, The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures, is set in York and in it we follow Hope who returns to York to rebuild her life following the death of her husband. She finds work in the Ever After Emporium, an antiques and bric-a-brac store that has captivated her since she was a little girl.

When she moves to York she gradually makes friends. I loved the connection Hope had with jeweller Will and his neice Brodie. When Brodie inadvertently introduces us to a mystery, we are taken back in time to Howard Carter’s excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun and the lives of a young star-crossed couple.

One of her new friends encouraged to her to attend belly dancing classes, which sounded a lot of fun. Although I’m not so sure I would have wanted to take part in a public performance, although that is a ‘me’ problem!

As Hope takes steps to return to the world of dating, she finds that she has two suitors vying for her affections. From the start I was rooting for one particular love interest and was not disappointed.

I was captivated by the story of Elenor in Egypt, and would have loved to have known more about her love story.

The location of the main story, both in the shop and York itself were completely wonderful. I haven’t been to York since my honeymoon in the early 90s, but it really made me want to book a trip there.

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures is a lovely comforting story about second chances at love.

Many thanks to Team BATC and Simon & Schuster for my invitation to take part in the blog tour. Please check out the other stops on the blog tour.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3rfPVBI

Waterstones*: https://tidd.ly/3quT2GL

*Please note this is an affiliate link which means if you purchase via that link I will receive a few pennies from the store at no cost to you*

How to Lose an Earl in Ten Weeks by Jenni Fletcher – Book Review

About the book:

This is the announcement of the engagement of The Earl of Denholm to Miss Essie Craven. Welcome to the hottest Season that Regency London has ever seen.

An enemies-to-lovers regency romance that’s like watching an episode of Bridgerton. Perfect for fans of Georgette Heyer, Outlander and Romancing the Duke.

Miss Essie Craven has been engaged since birth to a man she has only met once. The haughty, black-haired man with the intense blue eyes: Aidan Ravell, Earl of Denholm. The most coveted man in all of the Ton.

The day of their marriage is set. The only problem is, spirited Essie dreams of more than being a Countess. She soon finds out that Aidan has his own reasons for not wishing to marry, but is compelled to proceed due to his sense of honour and the financial baggage his father has left him.

So, Aidan and Essie strike up a deal. Essie will find him a more suitable match, and in the meantime they will keep up appearances as the most fashionable couple in all of the Ton.

But soon what is real and what is fake begins to converge. Suddenly, what seemed to be a simple agreement is no longer quite that straightforward . . . 

My review:

How to Lose an Earl in Ten Weeks is a regency romance published by Penguin, and aimed at the Young Adult market. It is also author Jenni Fletcher’s first foray into YA books.

When Essie was 8 her father arranged her marriage to Aidan Ravell, the future Earl of Denholm. Upon her 18th birthday the plans for her marriage to Aidan is arranged to take place during her debutante season.

Essie dreams of a life without marriage, and she strikes a deal with Aidan to find him a bride so that he will still be able to financially stabilise his family following the death of his financially irresponsible father.

I loved the instant connection between Essie and Aidan, and there were some hilarious moments during the time that Essie was trying to put him off, before reaching a deal. I especially loved her dress choices, and the way Aidan reacted to them! I loved the way in which they became trustworthy friends to one another, with their willingness to put their own reputations on the line for a loved one, before they are able to realise that their feelings have developed further.

I really liked the addition of Essie’s cousin Caro, and her very feisty grandmother. There was even a regency rake within the story to spice things up. The way in which the story was written gave the story almost a feeling of being contemporary, in spite of the historical setting, which I think will really appeal to YA readers. It was fast-paced, romantic and funny and I did not want to put it down, which was why I ended up reading it until 2am last night!

I’m a sucker for a regency romance, and if you love regency romances, or watching/reading Bridgerton, then you will absolutely love this delightful book!

Many thanks to Jenni Fletcher for my proof copy, in exchange for an honest review. How to Lose an Earl in Ten Weeks is out now!

https://amzn.to/3FqXNX1

One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley – Book Review

About the book:

Elderly widow Sabine knows this will be her last Christmas in her beloved home, Mitras Castle. Determined to make it just like the ones she remembers as a child, she employs Dido Jones of Heavenly Houseparties to help with the big day.

Dido is enchanted by the castle as soon as she steps through the imposing front door. And as Christmas day approaches, her feeling of connection to the old house runs deeper than she first thought. But when the snow begins to fall and Sabine’s family arrive at the house – including Dido’s teenage crush Xan – tensions rise around the castle’s future and long-buried mysteries begin to unravel…

As past secrets come to light, can this still be a magical Christmas to remember?

My review:

This wonderfully festive book is one of my favourite reads this year.

Sabine is elderly and terminally ill. She decides she wants to recreate her happiest memories of Christmas growing up in Mitras Castle as she only has one Christmas left. She hires Dido and Henry who run Heavenly Houseparties for the month of December.

Dido is surprised when her teenage crush Xan turns out to be Sabine’s beloved godson. As family arrive at the castle, all hoping that they will be the main beneficiary in Sabine’s Will, you know there is trouble coming.

As secrets unravel, the long lost feelings Dido had for Xan return.

This was such an entertaining read that left me feeling very excited about Christmas.

I loved the location, and the perfect dusting of snow which really added to the Christmassy feeling. There were even some baddies amongst the characters but then I think inheritances or potential future inheritances can seriously bring out the absolute worst in people.

One More Christmas at the Castle was such a lovely festive read to become immersed in that I completely lost track of time when I was reading it. I felt quite bereft when I’d finished reading it because it was so enjoyable, it left me with a book hangover.

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/3ppDMcy

Waterstones*:

https://tidd.ly/3EvEqM4

*Please note the Waterstones link is an affiliate link which means that I will earn a few pennies commission if you purchase the book via the link, at no additional cost to you.

Christmas Surprises at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett – Blog Tour/Book Review

About the book:

Christmas is a time for love, laughter, families and friends, and in Mermaids Point, everyone is getting ready for the festive season.

For Nerissa and Tom, this will be their first Christmas as a couple, but making sure they have time for each other, whilst blending their families, will take some careful planning. What festive traditions will they make their own?

Laurie and Jake are flat out running Laurie’s seafront café, packaging up orders of mince pies, sausage rolls and other delectable Christmas goodies, as well as finding time for Jake’s journalism.  But when Jake’s mum offers them an unexpected gift, their plans are turned upside down.

Alex can’t help but be charmed by beautiful and talented Ivy, but he’s still recovering from his ex-wife’s betrayal and has a secret life he’s not ready to share with anyone yet. But as the Christmas spirit starts weaving its magic, Alex may find himself ready for love sooner than he imagines.

For Andrew, nothing is more important than family. As friends and family gather beneath his roof it’s a time for reflection about what the future might hold.

As far as Nick is concerned, pop sensation Aurora Storm is the ‘one that got away’. After they shared a brief holiday fling, he has been thinking about her ever since. Is Christmas the perfect time to finally reach out to her, or is love at first sight just in fairy-tales?

My review:

Christmas Surprises at Mermaids Point is a novella that follows on from the previous book in the series, Autumn Dreams at Mermaids Point.

In this novella we rejoin all of the characters we have met before who live at Mermaids Point. It was so lovely to see characters that I love, as they prepare for Christmas. We see the main couples from the first two books in the series, Jake and Laurie, and Nerissa and Tom.

We also see the couples who may complete the series, with Tom’s brother Alex and local Ivy, and Laurie’s brother Nick and popstar Aurora who made a brief appearance in Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point. I would say that you do need to have read the previous two books in the series if you want to get the most out of this novella.

It was a lovely Christmas interlude in the middle of the series with hints on the future that fans of the series can look forward to.

This novella was a Christmas cracker of a gift from the pen of Sarah Bennett, which leaves me excitedly waiting for the next book in the series.

Many thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources, Boldwood Books and Sarah Bennett for my invitation to take part in this blog tour. Please check out the other stops on the tour below:

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/3uPpHat

About the author:

Sarah Bennett is the bestselling author of several romantic fiction trilogies including those set in Butterfly Cove and Lavender Bay. Born and raised in a military family she is happily married to her own Officer and when not reading or writing enjoys sailing the high seas.

Social media:

Website https://sarahbennettauthor.wordpress.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SarahBennettAuthor/

Twitter https://twitter.com/Sarahlou_writes

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/sarahlbennettauthor/

Newsletter Sign Up Link http://bit.ly/SarahBennettNewsletter

Bookbub profile https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sarah-bennett-b4a48ebb-a5c3-4c39-b59a-09aa91dc7cfa

Bad Apples by Will Dean – Book Review

About the book:

It only takes one…

A murder

A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated

A festival

A cultish hilltop community ‘celebrates’ Pan Night after the apple harvest

A race against time

As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story…

My review:

Bad Apples is the fourth book in the Tuva Moodyson series from the pen of Will Dean. If you thought Gavrik, the town where journalist Tuva Moodyson has been promoted to deputy editor of the newspaper Gavrik Posten, was creepy, you clearly haven’t been to Visberg, a neighbouring town that takes creepy to a whole new level.

When a headless body is found in the forest outside Visberg by Tuva after she hears the screams of a woman deep in the forest, it is identified as Arne Gustav Persson, a plumber from Visberg. As the investigation progresses, Tuva finds herself in Visberg as the locals celebrate Pan Night, an ancient, sexually charged adult celebration shortly before Halloween, and filled with debauchery and menace.

The titular apples have fallen from the trees in the town square, with the smell of rotten and decomposing apples pervading through the town of Visberg.

I loved the moments Tuva spent with Noor, and I loved her connection with her young neighbour Dan, who was a new addition in Tuva’s world.

This was a spooky addition to the series with very dark, intense moments, and the return of the troll-making sisters Cornelia and Alice, whose trolls are popular in Visberg so they open a pop-up shop in the town square for Halloween.

Will Dean’s talent is to keep you on edge the entire time you are reading, and Bad Apples will definitely do that, with some heart in mouth moments that will have you gasping. It is next level creepy, and I think I won’t want to store any of my belongings in a storage unit any time soon! If you haven’t read any of the series yet, make it a priority, you won’t regret it!

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/31rastZ

Waterstones*:

https://tidd.ly/3oju2ky

Bookshop.org*:

https://uk.bookshop.org/a/6701/9781786079817

*Please note that these two links are affiliate links which means that if you purchase the book with either link, I will receive a tiny commission from the shops.

Midnight in the Snow by Karen Swan – Book Review

About the book:

From Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Swan, Midnight in the Snow is the story of a forbidden attraction that will reveal long-buried secrets, set amongst the snow-covered mountains of the Austrian Alps.

Award-winning director Clover Phillips is riding high when she encounters Kit Foley; a surfer and snowboarder as well-known for controversy as he is for winning championships.

Involved in an accident that had devastating consequences for a bitter rival, Kit has never spoken about what really happened that day. Determined to find out the truth, Clover heads to the snowy wilderness of the Austrian Alps, sharing a romantic winter wonderland with a man who can’t stand her.

But as she delves deeper, Clover finds herself both drawn to Kit, and even more convinced he’s hiding something. Is Kit Foley really as cold as he seems? 

My review:

Wow, this was a massive adrenalin rush of a book. Initially beginning in the world class surfing world, the majority of the book is actually set in the snow in Austria.

Clover, a documentary filmmaker made an award-winning film about a surfer, Cory, whose successful career is cruelly ended by a freak accident. However the accident appears to have been caused by the actions of another surfer, Kit, whose career is ended perhaps as a result of the documentary and the accident.

When Clover is asked to do a documentary from the other side, about Kit and his new career as a snowboarder, she takes her film crew to Austria to meet with a reluctant Kit who is unwilling to trust her or open up to her about what happened.

This is a captivating read and as we get to know Kit there appears to be much more to the story than we first believe.

You don’t need to be an expert, or even familiar with surfing or snowboarding, this book gives you enough information without being overly technical. The general atmosphere will suck you in before you know it, and you will find yourself completely immersed in this glamorous and sporty world.

The burgeoning tension between Clover and Kit is so enticing and neither of them are prepared for the passion that results. This builds so poignantly that it is hard to see how either of them will be able to get past the accident that injured Cory.

I loved what the crew and Kit’s brother and manager brought to the story. I have to say that like Clover I found it very difficult to have any compassion for Kit at the beginning of the story but as more secrets were revealed I found it impossible not to fall for Kit.

With the snowy location this story felt wonderfully festive, even though the festivities were not the focus of the story. A fabulous book to curl up with a blanket, a fire, and a hot drink.

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/3pbrJ2c

Bookshop.org*:

https://uk.bookshop.org/a/6701/9781529006148

*Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link which means I will receive a tiny commission at no expense to you if you buy the book via the link.

The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell – Book Review

About the book:

From number one bestselling author Caroline Mitchell, comes the first chilling Slayton thriller for fans of C. J. Tudor and Stephen King.

If you open your door to the Midnight Man, hide with a candle wherever you can. Try not to scream as he draws near, because one of you won’t be leaving here…

On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.

It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.

Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.

Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man?

My review:

I have a slightly embarrassing confession to make. Although I love thrillers, police procedurals, and noir novels, I’m not a massive fan of horror. When I began reading this I was seriously creeped out with the first chapter and I put it down, thinking that I couldn’t handle it.

Ten minutes later and a conversation with myself to pull myself together, I picked up my kindle again. I am so glad I did!

The Midnight Man is a police procedural thriller with a supernatural element that really makes for a fabulously creepy vibe.

I really warmed to Sarah Noble, the protagonist. She clearly comes with a lot of baggage but she is dedicated to her job and with so much compassion within her which hasn’t been dented by her traumatic past. This book is the first in the series, and I look forward to finding out more about her character as the series progresses.

The setting in Slayton felt suitably noir-esque, with the fancy gated communities of Upper Slayton surrounded by trees, and the more down-at-heel Lower Slayton where the poorer people lived.

This novel contains the main storyline, dealing with the investigation of a young girl murdered in a mysterious Halloween game. In addition there is a subplot relating to part of Sarah’s past in Blackhall Manor, which is the setting of the main story too.

Dramatic beginning aside (that I was chicken about!), this was a gripping story that built in tension, particularly with the distinctive voice of The Midnight Man raising the tension throughout.

This dark atmospheric thriller was so hard to put down, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Many thanks to Embla Books and Netgalley for providing a copy for me in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/3E4Y0hQ

The Image of Her by Sonia Velton – Book Review

About the book:

From the author of Blackberry & Wild Rose comes an extraordinary story of two women who never meet and yet share the closest possible bond.

STELLA and CONNIE are strangers, brought together by two traumatic events – cruel twists of fate that happen thousands of miles apart.

Stella lives with her mother, a smothering narcissist. When she succumbs to dementia, the pressures on Stella’s world intensify, culminating in tragedy. As Stella recovers from a near fatal accident, she feels compelled to share her trauma but she finds talking difficult. In her head she confides in Connie because there’s no human being in the world that she feels closer to.

Connie is an expat living in Dubai with her partner, Mark, and their two children. On the face of it she wants for nothing and yet … something about life in this glittering city does not sit well with her. Used to working full time in a career she loves back in England, she struggles to find meaning in the expat life of play-dates and pedicures.

Two women set on a collision course. When they finally link up, it will not be in a way that you, or I, or anyone would ever have expected.

My review:

Having loved Sonia Velton’s debut novel Blackberry and Wild Rose I could not wait to read this. I was initially surprised that The Image of Her does not fall into the category of historical fiction. What it did provide me with was a dual timeline masterpiece which absolutely blind-sided me with such a finely nuanced and intricately woven contemporary story.

The story arc of both women created such a compelling and dramatic narrative.

Stella spent her life being constantly put down by her narcissistic mother. She does not get to live her own life the way that she would have liked when she becomes a full-time carer to her mother who develops dementia in later life. Following the death of her mother, Stella remains a recluse, hiding in her home with only the delivery of clothes she will send back as her only enjoyment. As she tries to recall her past, she finds that her own memory of events has framed both her past and her present. The only person she feels truly connected to is Connie, an expat living a glamorous life in Dubai, and her only knowledge of Connie is what she sees on social media.

Connie’s life in Dubai is not quite as exotic or as happy as it seems on social media, and she gets caught up in concerns about modern day slavery in the housemaids who support the exotic lifestyles. In the same way that Stella gave up her life to care for her mother, Connie sacrificed a successful career to support her husband’s career.

The parallels between Connie and Stella, and what links them are spoilers that I am not willing to even hint at. You will need to read this incredible novel for yourself.

The ending of the novel and the inspiration for the novel itself really touched me, and prompted me to do some research, giving me food for thought.

The Image of Her is a stunning second novel by Sonia Velton and one that will stay with me for a long time.

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/3xw4dAK

Waterstones*:

https://tidd.ly/3lg5G9B

Bookshop.org*:

https://uk.bookshop.org/a/6701/9781529406498

*Please note the Waterstones and Bookshop links are affiliate links. This means that the companies will pay me a few pennies if you purchase via those links.

Forget Russia by L. Bordetsky-Williams – Book Review

About the book:

“Your problem is you have a Russian soul,” Anna’s mother tells her. In 1980, Anna is a naïve UConn senior studying abroad in Moscow at the height of the Cold War—and a second-generation Russian Jew raised on a calamitous family history of abandonment, Czarist-era pogroms, and Soviet-style terror. As Anna dodges date rapists, KGB agents, and smooth-talking black marketeers while navigating an alien culture for the first time, she must come to terms with the aspects of the past that haunt her own life. With its intricate insight into the everyday rhythms of an almost forgotten way of life in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, Forget Russia is a disquieting multi-generational epic about coming of age, forgotten history, and the loss of innocence in all of its forms.

My review:

I must first apologise to L. Bordetsky-Williams who kindly gave me a copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review. I am so sorry it has taken me so long to write this review.

I was so drawn to this novel, Forget Russia because one of the settings was a time and a place I was very familiar with. I went to Russia with my Mum in 1984, which meant that some of the experiences in the book really resonated with me.

This was a dual timeline novel following Anna, an American in Russia in 1980 to study the language but also to connect with the past and her grandmother’s life. She finds herself in a Cold War Soviet Union that I recognised from my own experiences.

In addition to Anna’s story, we also see her grandmother Sarah’s experiences from witnessing the rape and murder of her own mother during a pogrom which included the burning of her Jewish village following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Pogroms were seen in Russia in 1821, and recur throughout history, when groups of non-Jewish Russians destroyed villages and raped and murdered Jews, forcing those who survived to move on. Tens of thousands of Jews were murdered between 1918 and 1920 in parts of Belarus and Ukraine.

We see Sarah escaped to the United States, and return to Russia briefly in the 1930s with her young family, including Anna’s mother, following empty promises of a better life in Russia if they returned. Many Russians who had settled in the US were tempted by these promises following the Great Depression and its employment shortages. When Sarah and her family realised the promises were empty they then returned to the US.

I found the comparison of life in Russia in the 1930s and 1980 fascinating given that in almost 50 years few of the promises or plans for the future in the Soviet Union came to fruition, and there were few differences between the two eras, including the continued persecution of Jews in Russia.

This eloquently written novel has a lyrical quality that completely engrossed me. The parallels between the lives of Anna and her grandmother Sarah with secrets and traumas bring a symmetry that is both appealing and poignant.

The drama of this stunning novel captivated me from the first page to the last, and left me with the absolute certainty that Forget Russia is one of my favourite novels this year.

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/2ZwPglF