The Stonebridge Regatta is looming. The town’s annual face-off against neighbouring Meadowfield is usually a weekend filled with sunshine, laughter and camaraderie.
This year is different.
A week before the race, the body of Stonebridge team captain Matthew Henderson is found dead in the water. The police file his passing as a tragic accident however, his grieving widow disagrees and suspects foul play is involved. She enlists the help of Adam and Colin, the town’s amateur (self-proclaimed) private detectives to unearth the truth.
Did Matthew simply slip and fall into the water, or is there more to his death below the surface?
Originally hailing from the north coast of Northern Ireland and now residing in South Manchester, Chris McDonald has always been a reader. At primary school, The Hardy Boys inspired his love of adventure before his reading world was opened up by Chuck Palahniuk and the gritty world of crime. A Wash of Black is his first attempt at writing a book. He came up with the initial idea whilst feeding his baby in the middle of the night, which may not be the best thing to admit, considering the content. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs. Whispers in the Dark is the second installment in the DI Erika Piper series, and Chris is currently working on his latest series, The Stonebridge Mysteries, published by Red Dog Press in 2021.
Thanks to Emma at Damppebbles for the opportunity to read and review for the blog tour, and to Louise Walters Books for a digital review copy. This is the first book I’ve read by Helen Kitson, so my first visit to ‘Morvale’.
Diana and her sister Antonia are house-sharing spinsters who have never got over their respective first loves. Diana owns a gift shop, but rarely works there. Antonia is unemployed, having lost her teaching job at an all girls’ school following a shocking outburst in the classroom after enduring years of torment. Diana is a regular at the local library, Antonia enjoys her “nice” magazines, and they treat themselves to coffee and cake once a week in the village café.
Naomi lives alone, haunted by the failure of her two marriages. She works in the library, doesn’t get on with her younger colleagues, and rarely cooks herself a proper meal. Secretly she longs for a Boden frock.
When a body is discovered in the local quarry, all three women’s lives are turned upside down. And when Diana’s old flame Gill turns up unexpectedly, tensions finally spill over and threaten to destroy the outwardly peaceful lives all three women have carefully constructed around themselves.
Helen takes us back to the fictional Shropshire village of Morevale in this, her brilliant second novel which exposes the fragilities and strengths of three remarkably unremarkable elderly women.
The synopsis of the book intrigued me, what did the three women know about the body found in the local quarry? Had one or more of them been involved?
The story introduces us to the siblings, Diana and Antonia, who live together in their childhood home whilst loathing each other and Naomi, who knew them at school. All of them are living in the village they grew up in and are trapped by their past. I must admit that I didn’t like any of the three by the end of the story but I did find myself feeling sorry for them, as they had all become trapped by their reactions to past events.
The story is well written and we slowly start to find out what has happened in the past to each of the three main characters. All three have to face up to their past as the police start their investigation and old memories resurface. Although the story is sad in places, the day out in Birmingham for Antonia did make me laugh out loud, especially her visit to a fast food venue.
The message I took from the book was not to allow yourself to be stuck in an unhappy past, but to start looking forward, something we probably all need to do. See below for the purchase links so that you can also find out who the ‘old bones’ belonged to.
Helen lives in Worcester with her husband, two teenaged children and two rescue cats. Her first poetry collection was nominated for the Forward Best First Collection Prize. She has published three other poetry collections and her short fiction has appeared in magazines including Ambit, Feminist Review and Stand. She holds a BA (Hons) in Humanities.
Helen’s debut novel The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson was published in March 2019. Her second “Morevale” novel, Old Bones, will be published on 16 January 2021.
Thank you to the publishers and authors for providing these books to read and review this month. A couple are prizes, some are for blog tours and others have been sent by the publishers in exchange for a fair review.
We will be continuing in lockdown in England for the next month so I’m looking forward to curling up with some good books to travel the world virtually.
February is the second month of lockdown 3 in England. The weather for the first few weeks has been cold and/or wet so ideal to catch up on some reading and these fabulous books took me all over the world and back in time.
Historical fiction :
A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore, The German Heiress by Anika Scott, Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green, While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart
Flappy Entertains by Santa Montefiore, A Family Reunion by Patricia Scanlan, The Other Daughter by Caroline Bishop, Space Hopper by Helen Fisher, Saving Missy by Beth Morrey, Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession, The Village of Lost and Found by Alison Sherlock, A Wedding in the Country by Katie Fforde, Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior and Old Bones by Helen Kitson
The Domestic Revolution by Ruth Goodman, When Harry Met Minnie by Martha Teichner, What the World Needs Now – Bees! by Cheryl Rosebush
Thank you to the authors and publishers for keeping me busy during lockdown. If you haven’t seen a review for one of the books on this review blog yet, it will be appearing in the next two weeks.
Today I’m pleased to be taking part in the cover reveal for Damage, the debut novel by Caitlin Wahrer, being published by Michael Joseph Books later this year.
ONE NIGHT. ONE CRIME. ONE FAMILY TORN APART.
TONY has always looked out for his younger brother, Nick. So when Nick is badly hurt and it looks like he was the victim of sexual assault, Tony’s anger flares.
JULIA is alarmed by her husband Tony’s obsession with Nick’s case. She’s always known Tony has a temper. But does she really know what he’s capable of?
NICK went out for a drink. After that, everything’s a blank. When he woke up he found himself in a world of confusion and pain, and the man who hurt him doesn’t deny doing it. But he says the whole thing was consensual.
Three ordinary people; one life-shattering event. When the police get involved with this family in crisis, all the cracks will start to show…
Set to ignite debate and as gripping as your favourite box-set, Damage is a compulsive drama from an extraordinary new writer.
Thanks to Kelly and Meggy of Love Books Tours for the opportunity to read and review this historical fiction book. Thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy of the book to read and review.
Headstrong Johanna Berglund, a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota, has very definite plans for her future . . . plans that do not include returning to her hometown and the secrets and heartaches she left behind there. But the US Army wants her to work as a translator at a nearby camp for German POWs.
Johanna arrives to find the once-sleepy town exploding with hostility. Most patriotic citizens want nothing to do with German soldiers laboring in their fields, and they’re not afraid to criticize those who work at the camp as well. When Johanna describes the trouble to her friend Peter Ito, a language instructor at a school for military intelligence officers, he encourages her to give the town that rejected her a second chance.
As Johanna interacts with the men of the camp and censors their letters home, she begins to see the prisoners in a more sympathetic light. But advocating for better treatment makes her enemies in the community, especially when charismatic German spokesman Stefan Werner begins to show interest in Johanna and her work. The longer Johanna wages her home-front battle, the more the lines between compassion and treason become blurred–and it’s no longer clear whom she can trust
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction debut novel set in the USA during World War 2. We start to find out about Johanna through a series of letters, many written by Johanna or written to Johanna, or between some of the other main characters, mostly based in the small town of Ironside Lake.
Johanna had escaped from her small town to study at University, but finds herself back in town to be the translator at the POW Camp in her home town. Initially the townspeople aren’t happy to have a POW camp in the area, but Johanna helps educate the locals whilst educating the POW’s. One of the officers, Stefan Werner, makes Johanna feel uncomfortable despite being polite and helpful.
Some of the letters are between Johanna and her University friend Peter, who is the son of immigrants from Japan, who is now at war with the USA. Peter is now working for the US military but has spent a few years studying in Japan – is he going to be patriotic or a traitor?
As we read the letters, we can see that some of the letters are being used in a court case. But who will be heading for court?
As I said before I enjoyed this story. This is an excellent mix of history, mystery and intrigue, wrapped up in so many letters and subplots that I didn’t know who had done what until the very end. I’m pleased I had the opportunity to read this book and I look forward to reading more by Amy Lynn Green in the future.
Amy Lynn Green is a publicist by day and a freelance writer on nights and weekends. She was the 2014 winner of the Family Fiction short story contest, and her articles have been featured in Crosswalk, Focus on the Family magazines, and other faith-based publications over the past 10 years. This is her first novel. Learn more at www.amygreenbooks.com.
I’m pleased to be sharing my review for this gorgeous children’s book today. Thanks to Love Books Tours for the invitation.
Inside the sprawling forests of Ontario, Canada lives a friendly black bear named Melly. One of Melly’s favourite things to do is EAT! And many of the delicious fruits she snacks on wouldn’t grow without the help of some very important little forest creatures.
What the World Needs Now: Bees! explores the vital role busy, busy bees play in helping plants to grow the food people and animals love to eat.
A few years ago, I worked as a teaching assistant in our local Primary School when my own children were young (the hours fitted better than my previous job as a Medical underwriter). One of my main roles was to try to encourage reluctant readers to enjoy choosing and reading books.
I’m sure that this book would have encouraged even the most reluctant of readers. It is so bright and colourful, and gives a clear message about why we need to support our bees to save our wildlife and ourselves. Some of the terminology does appear advanced for 4 year olds, so personally I would have put this in Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2. To be read independently, I would expect the reader to be a strong reader in Year 2 or above.
I will be passing on my review copy to our local school, and I believe that the children will enjoy it as much as I did.
I was born and raised in Southern Ontario, Canada in the cities of Burlington and St. Catharines. Long before the internet and mobile phones (now I’m ageing myself!), my childhood was spent in forests and parks, on bike rides, and playing hide and seek until the streetlights came on. My family did comical Griswold-style road trips in wood-panelled station wagons. We spent summers swimming in friends’ backyards. These are my very fortunate roots.
I knew from an early age that my destiny would take me far from Southern Ontario. I graduated high school and moved to Montreal to study international politics at McGill University. The subject fascinated me, but as graduation approached, I realized I didn’t know what I wanted to do with a degree in international politics. I didn’t want to become a lawyer. I didn’t want to become a politician or civil servant. The media industry, on the other hand, intrigued me.
The West Coast of Canada also intrigued me. So, after graduating McGill, I packed up again, moved to Vancouver and took the first media job I could get at a local Top 40 radio station (Z.95.3) in Vancouver. Best job. Great bosses. I learned so much. But after a couple of years there, the winds of change came calling again.
September 11, 2001. In a heartbeat, Z95.3 went from playing Britney Spears to reporting up-to-the-minute information on the local, national and international fallout of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. In that moment, I knew I had found my calling. I wanted to do something that was needed on a good day, and needed even more on a bad day. I wanted to become a full-time journalist.
So, I packed my bags again (a running theme in my life), and moved to Ottawa, Ontario to do my Masters of Journalism. Another incredible two years culminated in me getting a research internship with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) in London, England. That position helped me land back in Montreal for a second chapter there as a local news reporter for the CBC. While I was there, I wore just about every hat you could in CBC’s radio and TV newsrooms. Depending on the day, I was a researcher, producer, reporter, or online writer. I even filled in for the weather reports every once in a while.
As you might have seen on IG, our UK Shopify online store is now open for business: www.Environmentalkids.co.uk. We are really proud of our set up in the UK. All books in the series are printed in and shipped from the UK, which means we can pass along shipping savings to the customer, and the books have the lowest carbon footprint possible.
100% recycled paper, biodegradable lamination, vegetable-based inks and carbon-balanced printing we use, and now more than ever, these are books you can feel REALLY good about buying.
Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour for this fascinating debut novel. Thank you to Harriett Collins at Simon and Schuster for the beautiful proof copy with yellow edges to read to prepare for the tour.
When it finally arrived I was shocked to see it; to read the words Mum wrote about these women fighting for rights I know I take for granted. Mum was here. And while she was, something happened that changed the entire course of my life. Perhaps, if I can summon the courage, the next eight weeks will help me finally figure out what that was . . .’
When Jessica, a young British woman, discovers a shocking secret about her birth she travels to Switzerland in search of answers. She knows her mother spent time in the country writing an article on the Swiss women’s rights movement, but what she doesn’t know is what happened to her while she was there. Can Jess summon the courage to face the truth about her family, or will her search only hurt herself and those around her even more?
A breathtaking, richly historical commercial women’s fiction debut, set against a stunning Swiss backdrop in the 1970s women’s rights movement. The Other Daughter follows one woman in her search for the truth about her birth, and another desperately trying to succeed in a man’s world.
This was a fascinating book to read and an impressive debut novel. In the background, we have the story about how Switzerland was starting to change, to allow more rights to women, many years after the changes in the UK. Jess is on a voyage of discovery, to find out more about what happened when her mother, a journalist, was covering the story at Swiss women’s rights and gave birth to her in Switzerland.
Jess is also coming to terms with a huge number of changes in her personal life, and is spending the summer teaching English to the children of a successful Swiss couple, which will hopefully help her process the changes – or will it make things worse?
The story covers history, the changes in women’s rights, dealing with the loss of loved ones and the loss of future hopes and dreams. I enjoyed curling up with this book and watching the story unfold, as we moved backwards and forwards in time. The writing brought the characters and the beautiful scenery of Switzerland to life as Jess tried to work out the events that happened when she was born. This is a non spoiler review so I’m having to be very careful not to give any clues to the various mysteries involved in this story.
I found this well written book to be thought provoking about how women’s rights have changed, and also how “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”. How often are people jealous about other peoples lives without realising that they may not be as happy or fulfilled as you might imagine? Happy to recommend this book – I’ve added a 5 star review to online bookstores and communities. I look forward to reading more from Caroline Bishop in the future.
Caroline Bishop began her journalism career at a small arts magazine in London, after a brief spell in educational publishing. She soon moved to work for a leading London theatre website, for which she reviewed shows and interviewed major acting and directing stars. Caroline turned freelance in 2012 and a year later moved to Switzerland, where her writing veered towards travel and she has contributed to publications including the Guardian,Independent, Daily Telegraph and BBC Travel, writing mainly about Switzerland, and co- wrote the 2019 edition of the DK Eyewitness Guide to Switzerland. For two years Caroline was editor of TheLocal.ch, an English-language Swiss news site, and it was during this time that she became fascinated with aspects of Swiss history and culture, particularly the evolution of women’s rights.
Women’s Rights in Switzerland
1971 Switzerland finally granted women the right to vote at national level
1981 Gender equality and equal pay for equal work were written into the Swiss constitution
1985 Women were granted equal rights within marriage. Until then men had legal authority over their wives and could prevent them from working and even opening a bank account
1990 After being forced by the federal Supreme Court, the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden became the last canton in Switzerland to grant women the right to vote at cantonal level
2002 Abortion was legalised 2005 Statutory paid maternity leave was introduced, having been rejected in four previous referendums
2018 The Swiss federal parliament passed a salary equality law, but only within companies with over 100 employees
Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the opportunity to read and review this thought provoking book, about the true events of what happened when Harry met Minnie and Martha. Thank you to Octopus Books for the review copy.
There are true fairy tales. Stories that exist because impossible-to-explain coincidences change everything. Except in real life, not all of them have conventional, happily-ever-after endings. When Harry Met Minnie is that kind of fairy tale, with the vibrant, romantic New York City backdrop of its namesake, the movie When Harry Met Sally, and the bittersweet wisdom of Tuesdays with Morrie.
There’s a special camaraderie among early-morning dog walkers. In this special space and time, a chance encounter with an old acquaintance changed Martha Teichner’s world.As fate would have it, her friend knew someone who was dying of cancer, from exposure to toxins after 9/11, and desperate to find a home for her dog, Harry. He was a Bull Terrier, the same breed as Martha’s dear Minnie. Martha agrees to meet Harry andhis owner Carol. What begins as a transaction involving a dog becomes a deep and meaningful friendship between two women with complicated lives and a love of Bull Terriers in common. Through the heartbreak and grief of Carol’s illness, the bond that develops changed Martha’s life, Carol’s life, Minnie’s life, Harry’s life. As it changed Carol’s death as well.
Loneliness as a topic is becoming more and more prominent – especially in these uncertain times. This book explores what can happen when we take the time to talk to those around us. This is a memoir of love and loss, of being in the right place at the right time, and of the mysterious ways a beloved pet can bring people together.
“I decided to write this book, because I didn’t want to stop living the story of what happened when Harry met Minnie. I didn’t want to forget any of it, even the sad parts. This story of unexpected friendship, of love, was a wonderful gift, and in the end, it made me and Minnie happy.”
– Martha Teichner, CBS Sunday Morning News correspondent and multi-award-winner.
I must admit that the picture of the book ‘sold’ this book to me. As a dog adopter myself, I was keen to find out who Harry and Minnie were. As ‘a Brit’, I had never heard of Martha Teichner, but after reading this, I feel as if I would love to meet her, to hear more of her stories about her work and her love of dogs.
But back to the book. Martha is introduced to Carol and her bull terrier, Harry by a mutual friend, Stephen who knows that Carol is looking for someone to care for Harry due to her terminal cancer diagnosis. The first meetings between Harry and Minnie, Carol and Martha made me chuckle in places as everyone wondered whether the two dogs would be happy to spend time together. This time also enabled Carol and Martha to build a friendship, to share stories about their careers and their love for their dogs.
The book is also heartbreaking, as Carol becomes more poorly and her friends try to make her last days as comfortable as possible. However, the uplifting part of the story is how the friends became a ‘family’, looking out for each other and helping when times are tough. Happy to recommend as a book about the power of friendship and kindness, for humans and dogs alike.
Martha Teichner has been a correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning” since December 1993. Since joining CBS News in 1977, Teichner has earned multiple national awards for her original reporting, including 11 Emmy Awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and five James Beard Foundation Awards.
Martha has reported on some of the largest national and international stories of this era, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the run-up to the war in Iraq, the death of Princess Diana and the life and death of Nelson Mandela. She’s interviewed world leaders and other newsmakers, including then-first lady Hillary Clinton.
Now based in New York, Teichner spent more than a dozen years as a foreign correspondent covering major international news. Teichner was twice assigned to the CBS News London bureau (1980-1984, 1989-1994), covering the Northern Ireland hunger strikes, the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and was one of only a handful of female war correspondents.
Teichner covered the Lebanon War, the 1st Intifada in 1988 in Israel and the West Bank, embedded with the US First Armored Division in the Persian Gulf War, covered the conflicts associated with the collapse of Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia) and spent three years in South Africa during the last years of apartheid. She reported on the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the Romanian revolution. Teichner also spent several weeks in the Bolivian jungle covering undercover operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
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From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Last Letter Home, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick, comes a thrilling novel about a woman with an extraordinary life, based on a true story.
Minnie Gray is an ordinary young woman. She is also a spy for the British government.
It all began in the summer of 1928… Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.
Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.
She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion. What if they find out? Full of suspense, courage and love, A Beautiful Spy is a stunningly written story about resisting the norm and following your dreams, even if they come with sacrifices.
Minnie Gray is going to be one of my favourite book characters. In 1928, she knows her own mind and it doesn’t involve settling down just because everyone expects it. Minnie is looking to make a difference to the world, and through a chance encounter, she finds herself in a very different world.
When we think of a spy, of course, we tend to think of James Bond. We never see him wrestling with trying to keep the very different elements of his life apart or find out how emotionally draining it is to keep so many secrets, or to miss out on having proper friendships with work colleagues and neighbours.
I enjoyed the way this story was written, so that we could understand the emotions Minnie felt during the various stages of her journey from living in Edgbaston, travelling to India and appearing in court. She had to deal with a large number of changes and secrets with very little help. I also loved the ending of the book, which reminded me how spirited Minnie is. A fascinating book that I will be awarding 5 star reviews to.
Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a full-time writer. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her last novel, The Love Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller.