Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things, by Ruth Hogan

Publisher:  Two Roads

Publication date:  26th January 2017

Source: Kindle [Own purchased copy]

I flocked to The Keeper of Lost Things like a ravenous magpie as the cover and synopsis projected instant, heartwarming appeal. Who can resist a curious story where discarded, random objects find a foster home with an author who collects ‘lost things’ while he walks each day? 

I just adored the care he took to label them with a description of the ‘find’ together with the date and its location before neatly storing it in its own drawer, with the hope that one day they may be reunited with their owner, of course.

But just how crucial is it that a hair bobble, jigsaw piece, or button is reunited with the person it once belonged to?

These unlikely treasures have their own unique story to tell, some with both positive and negative attachments. It offered me a new dimension to the things I take for granted when I’m on my own travels, making me consider how many hundreds of mundane items I have stepped over and never given a second thought to…

What if those inoffensive hair bobbles had fallen from someone’s ponytail if they were running, and was it toward something or away? Was it a significant day that would change their life, or perhaps it was just one like any other? What’s its story, and more importantly that of its owner?

The reason for the collection obsession is this: once upon a time the ‘keeper of lost things’ mislaid something of his own and despite sharing his life with Laura his assistant, Freddy his gardener, and Sunshine, who beautifully refers to herself as a Dancing Drome instead of having Downs Syndrome, he has never been able to find that ‘missing something’ and his heart aches dreadfully.

It’s part love story, part reminiscence and is balanced with sadness and hope. With underlying hints of an unusual clairvoyant perspective it shows how the little connections we make in life can leave behind a legacy of memories that are reawakened at the most unexpected moments.

Overall this book delighted me as it had a curious story-line that is both uplifting and thought-provoking. And yet, like The Keeper of Lost Things, I found myself looking for something; as threads from the past are spun with the present the fascinating and unique stories behind each abandoned object created a very pleasing fabric, just not the luxurious one I had been expecting.

Rating:  3/5

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Meet the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’…
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Hello dear readers, please allow me to introduce myself…

I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford. My sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me.

As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on. Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop. My favourite reads were THE MOOMINTROLLS, A HUNDRED MILLION FRANCS, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, and the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.

I passed enough A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of London, to study English and Drama. It was brilliant and I loved it.  And then I got a proper job. I worked for ten years in a senior local government position: a square peg in round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage. In my early thirties I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously.

It was all going well, but then in 2012 I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing and the eventual result was THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS, my first novel, which was published in hardback and ebook in January 2017 and is coming in paperback in September 2017.

Next year I will publish my second novel, A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO DROWNING and you can pre-order the book now.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering husband. I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan. My favourite word is ‘antimacassar’ and I still like reading gravestones.

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Book Review: The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain

Publisher:  Gallic Books

Publication date:  2nd March 2015

Source:  Kindle [My own purchased copy]

I purchased The Red Notebook after seeing it showcased on Jill’s Book Cafe in one of her lovely blog posts, otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have passed this one by – huge thanks, Jill!

I’m clueless as to how the contents of a stolen handbag could provide such a mesmerising focus for the duration of an entire book, but it did!

The distinctive purple leather bag could almost be classed a character as every item contained within breathed life into its journey: from the moment it was separated from its owner in the first chapter to await discovery by a curious bookseller, Laurent Letellier. It was in plain sight so anyone could have seen it but it was the bookseller that stumbled across it and it would change the direction of his life.

I loved how a single serendipitous moment is threaded through the pages with the most charming effect. Laurent is drawn to the haphazard jottings in a little red notebook he found in the discarded bag and his growing fascination with the unknown scribbler motivates him to reunite the random private thoughts with their owner.

Analysing aspects of her personality with only a handful of personal effects as clues is the most wonderful process. ‘Things’ can appear quite ordinary by themselves but combined they create the rare fingerprint of a lady’s life as no two handbags are ever the same.

It goes without saying that being the custodian of this peculiar lost property will have its memorable moments, as invading a stranger’s privacy sparks the jealousy of Laurent’s partner and offers a surprise introduction to a cat belonging to the owner of The Red Notebook, which eventually makes him wonder if anything positive can be achieved as a result of his covert endeavours!

As a reader I knew the identity and whereabouts of the enigmatic lady in question as is was shared with me but not with Laurent. It’s the most enchanting mystery where the paths of two people crossover without them ever having met. The ending was literally a perfectly placed punctuation mark, which will become clear if you read this story for yourself.

The Red Notebook is a thoroughly delightful and uplifting book and I could have happily have spent more time in its company. Wonderful!

Rating:  5/5

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street and feels impelled to return it to its owner. The bag contains no money, phone or contact information. But a small red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Novelist, journalist, screenwriter and collector of antique keys Antoine Laurain was born in Paris in the early 1970s. After studying cinema, he began his career directing short films and writing screenplays. His passion for art led him to take a job assisting an antiques dealer in Paris, an experience which provided the inspiration for his prize-winning debut novel.

Published on the eve of the French presidential elections of 2012, Antoine Laurain’s novel The President’s Hat is a Kindle top 5 bestseller and a Waterstones Book Club choice. In the USA, Antoine Laurain was selected for the ABA’s ‘Indies Introduce Debut Authors’ for Fall 13.

The Red Notebook was published in spring 2015. Antoine’s latest novel, French Rhapsody, was published in autumn 2016.

Sign up for Antoine Laurain’s newsletter and keep up to date with his upcoming novels, book signings and events near you. 

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Book Review: Trust me I Lie, by Louise Marley

Publication date: 20th June 2016

Trust Me I Lie - My Review

Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley - CoverFirst things first, that cover looks all lovely and innocent, doesn’t it? Well that’s the first deceit right there, as beneath it lies a twisty little bleeder of a plot that’s constantly trying to evade you! There are so many intricacies to it that are loosely based on what is perceived to be the truth, what is proven fact (ha! You think?!), and what you can only put down to a vague tingly gut feeling. How to keep up with the constant shifting sands when practically every character is hiding something is quite something!

In the present day and in the first few pages an unlikely detective, Ben (Benedict) Taylor, is off duty, bombing down the lane to his cottage and casually seething about his domestic situation, when he hits a pedestrian standing in the middle of the road.

The unlucky victim, who you would expect should be in a county air ambulance right now, gets up and gives him more grief than his ex-wife. Even on this first encounter he knows he’s being played. The lies are already pouring from this regular little Pinnochio who calls herself Milla Graham, yet he invites her back to his home to get cleaned up. He predicted she’d disappear during the night, but grows increasingly concerned when she starts unintentionally cropping up at various intervals during his line of work.

We soon discover that Milla is not who she claims to be. In fact, her identity has already been claimed by two people so far 1) by a child who perished in a blaze some eighteen years ago at the residence of the Grahams, a wealthy publishing family and 2) by a corpse that was recently found in one of the Graham’s derelict properties along with the personal effects of, you guessed it, Camila Graham. Considering the Graham family publish fairy tales it’s apt that this story just gets curiouser and curiouser…

Despite wearing their best stiff upper lip and living in their very own ‘Graham bubble’, the family feign a reluctant interest in this Milla character and soon their twisted history is unveiled, along with a few of their odd ball traits. All of them engage in some pretty devilish and sinister behaviour until I wasn’t sure which one of THEM was telling porkies either!

Milla keeps her agenda close to her chest. I seriously couldn’t work out the riddle of whether she telling the truth or if she was simply a delusional con-artist working the crowd gathering around her. Her random antics certainly keep you on your toes wondering whether anyone can be trusted. All I can say is that everyone has a motive for something, and nothing is quite what it seems!

Heck, even the police start to appear decidedly dodgy after a while. Despite leading a predictably quiet life Ben Taylor has a few secrets of his own that he’d rather forget relating to his own shady family background, and breathing down his neck are his colleagues who are either deliberately trying to trip him up, or find his new selective policing routine annoying, as Milla Graham is usually the cause of it. The difficulty is that he’s not doing himself any favours professionally.

There’s some cracking banter between ALL of the characters allowing their utterly wonderful and equally wacky personalities to shine through. Sometimes their affronted thought processes are written in italics right before they chose to share a politer verbal response in the dialogue.

Trust me I Lie invites you through a series of doors that are opened just a crack, only to be snatched shut before you can step inside. It creates the most expertly deceitful read where the truth may be a very dangerous thing. If you’re looking for something different on the suspense and twistiness scale, with a sprinkle of amusement in just the right places, then I’d seriously recommend giving this a download.

Rating: 4.5/5

(My thanks to the author for kindly providing a digital copy of her book in exchange for an unbiased review, with my sincere thanks.)

Trust Me I Lie - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Author)

When Milla Graham arrives in the picture-perfect village of Buckley she tells everyone she’s investigating the murder of her mother, who died eighteen years ago. But there’s already one Milla Graham buried in the churchyard and another about to be found dead in the derelict family mansion.

Obviously she’s lying.

Detective Inspector Ben Taylor has no life outside the police force. Even his own colleagues think he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud. But now he’s met Milla and his safe, comfortable life has been turned upside down. She’s crashed his car, emptied his wallet and is about to get him fired.

He knows she’s a liar because she cheerfully told him so.

Unless she’s lying about that too …

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Trust Me I Lie - Author Profile

(Courtesy of Author)

Louise Marley Author Photo

Louise Marley writes murder mysteries and romantic comedies. She lives in Wales, surrounded by fields of sheep, and has a beautiful view of Snowdon from her window.

Her first published novel was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which was a finalist in Poolbeg’s ‘Write a Bestseller’ competition. She has also written articles for the Irish press and short stories for UK women’s magazines such as Take a Break and My Weekly.

Her latest novel is Trust Me I Lie.

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Book Review: The Trouble with Henry and Zoe, by Andy Jones

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster

Publication date:  Paperback – 28th July 2016  |  Kindle – 1st July 2016

Trouble With Henry and Zoe My Review

The Trouble with Henry and Zoe by Andy Jones - Kindle CoverTake one fully qualified dentist, with a keen mind for recalling the subtle details of old movies, who seeks peace and quiet after jilting fiancée at the altar. Fled home town to avoid a lynch mob that can’t forgive him for said unforgiveable action. Also excels at pub quizzes and cuts a mean graduated bob. [Henry]

Mix gently with a scrabble obsessed publisher who has a peculiar streak of grey hair and a habit of comparing her past conquests to her DJ boyfriend. Currently lost, but hoping to stumble across herself soon. Will settle for any associated parts she can re-assemble along the way. [Zoe]

The result? The Trouble with Henry and Zoe, an achingly emotional blitz of lighthearted romantic moments and flashes of humour throughout – and what a magic read it is!

Differing circumstances lead Henry and Zoe to become single overnight and the story progresses as to how this came to be. In the wake of their lives recently imploding, a natural scepticism toward romantic interludes has evolved. As a result, their encounters are bursting with some unpredictable moments. These are packed into a mutual noncommittal time span of a few months before Zoe is scheduled to pack up her troubles to travel; some are touchingly comic and others I can only describe as the most perfect icing on a heart-warming cake.

There’s an unchallenging rhythm to the alternating Henry / Zoe chapters that’s so easy to fall into step with. Although they were destined to suffer the worst year of their lives without it we wouldn’t get to share their candid responses to these life changing events and how they decide to confront them. The layers of these two complete strangers gradually build and you will soon realise exactly what the title of this book suggests.

Considering this isn’t my usual fare when it comes to books, I’m a little taken aback by how much I loved it! But I think that’s because it’s not dreadfully soppy, nor does it present unrealistic expectations. This refreshingly mellow story keeps its feet firmly on the ground and was simply a breeze to read – I have no hesitation recommending it to, well, just about everyone!

Rating:  5/5

(Huge thanks to the publisher and Jamie Criswell for arranging a copy of this delightful title in exchange for an unbiased review.)

Trouble With Henry and Zoe Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A heart-warming and funny novel about love and the choices we make. How bad choices can lead to good things, and how life is never what you expect it to be. Perfect for fans of One Day and Me Before You, from the author of The Two of Us.

Henry and Zoe have more in common than they realise. For a start, they both have pasts they’d rather leave behind. After jilting his childhood sweetheart on the eve of their wedding, Henry makes a break for London. He has no friends, no job, no home, no plan.

Zoe has great friends, two jobs, a new house, and a big scary plan. After a traumatic, life-changing event, she plans to leave London and spend a year travelling. Alone.

If Henry and Zoe had met one year ago, things might have worked out differently. But that’s not the way life works. They meet seven months after their worlds have been turned upside down. And four months before Zoe is due to climb on a plane…

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Trouble With Henry and Zoe Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Andy Jones lives in London with his wife and two little girls. During the day he works in an advertising agency; at weekends and horribly early in the mornings, he writes fiction.

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Book Review: On Track for Murder, by Stephen Childs

Publisher:  Clink Street Publishing  |  Date of publication: 1st September 2015  |  Edition: Paperback (Review Copy, provided by Authoright)

On track for murder My Review

On Track for Murder by Stephen Childs COVER ONLY

Well, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by this book. There’s much more to the plot than I’d originally thought. Events move pretty swiftly, not in an exhilarating way, you understand, but by confidently holding your attention throughout.

The unease begins with eighteen year old Abigail Sergeant’s perilous journey in 1897 aboard the SS Elderslie. The young woman is tasked with taking sole care of her brother, Bertrand, who presents with learning difficulties.  The ordeal of the voyage takes it toll on the young lad, as they hit menacing seas. This is the least of Abigale’s problems when they reach their final destination of Australia, as before they disembark they fall victim to an unsavoury crew member, Stanley Larkin.

They leave the vessel behind them with Larkin secured in the Brigg. All they look forward now is seeing their father for the first time since they left England and embracing the new way of life that lies ahead.  The reunion starts badly and quickly falls away, as there’s no one to greet them at the station, except a familiar face they thought they wouldn’t see again so soon. His malevolent presence is truly unnerving.

Any exciting prospects they envisaged are short lived, as what follows is a run in with their fanatically-religious step-mother, who could give Cruella DeVille a run for her money any day of the week.

The step-mom from hell dislikes how the ‘witch girl’ has been encouraged by their father to keep up to date with new technologies and read fiction from the likes of Jules Verne. And she really cannot come to terms with Bertrand and his unusual behaviour, which positively offends her. Before the children get chance to make themselves at home a brutal death occurs.

Convinced of the accused’s innocence the authorities grant Abigale five days to provide proof, or they will hang. How can a young woman alone in Australia investigate a murder without any leads to go on? This is where our dashing yet shy Constable Ridley appears. Eager to make a name for himself as a detective, Ridley accompanies Abigale to try and solve this crime riddle before it’s too late, but he’s left behind when his charge is often two steps ahead of him (not intentionally, I might add!).

Any impropriety is observed in strict 19th century fashion and the entire situation tests Abigale’s failing resolve. She has to dig deep and apply her ‘modern technical knowledge’ when faced with some pretty dire circumstances. Despite her best efforts it’s impossible to confirm the actual culprit until the end, as several names are thrown into the hat of shady people!

All-in-all an entertaining, historical murder mystery where the villains are obnoxious and brusque and an unlikely heroine must try to save the day in an unfamiliar territory. It might be a little tamer than my usual crime reads, but there’s still plenty to keep the little grey cells occupied without wearing them out.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Kate Appleton of Authoright for providing a paperback copy of this book for review.)

On track for murder Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Travelling from England to Australia in the late nineteenth century, Abigail Sergeant and her brother, Bertrand, are looking forward to their new life. Leaving behind the prejudices that would likely have seen Bertrand committed to an institution before he reached adulthood, Abigail hopes their new life will offer freedom and security. But what awaits them on the shores of the Swan River dashes any prospects of a blissful life. A murder is committed and Abigail’s family is thrown into turmoil. The evidence is damning. Only the guilty would be found standing over the body clutching the bloodied murder weapon.

But something is not right. Police are convinced they have their killer. Abigail is certain they are wrong. As their one potential witness is missing, Abigail persuades the detective to allow time for a search. But that time is limited. Chasing across Western Australia with a reluctant Constable Dunning as her chaperone, Abigail is determined to uncover the truth. If only she had an inkling of what that may be. Through deception, kidnap, sabotage and arson, Abigail finds a resolve she didn’t know she possessed. Her understanding of mechanical principles surprises everyone, as does her tenacity. She turns out to be a capable young woman. But is that enough to save an innocent from injustice?

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Stephen Childs was born in London, England in 1961. He is the eldest of four siblings. Stephen travelled to New Zealand with his parents in the early 1970s.

Completing his education in New Zealand, Stephen took up work as an audio engineer in the film and television business.

Although his career covered a wide range of activities, shooting historical drama series’ was one of his favourite roles. In 2013 he moved to Perth, Australia, with his wife and youngest son.

His time is taken swimming, reading and walking along some of the most fabulous coastal walkways in the world.

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