Book Review: Mystery at Maplemead Castle (Chapelwick Mysteries #2), by Kitty French

Publisher:  Bookouture

Publication date:  17th March 2017

The Mystery at Maplemead Castle is a place where ghouls rule and rival ghost whisperers duel. It’s bursting with personality, non-stop hilarity, and the eccentricities are just tripping off the page!

Chapelwick is the home of the Bittersweets, no nonsense ladies with an intuition for all things other-worldly.  There’s the champagne flute wielding grandmother, a pancake flipping mother, a converse wearing daughter and her dog she lovingly named after a fictional vampire (I’m 100% convinced that pooch could have his own series!)

Melody might be the youngest of the clan but she has fiercely inherited her ‘gift’ from a long line of independent Bittersweet women. She embraces a contented sense of fashion offset by a lack of passion sense, at least where recurring mania for the journo-inferno that ‘lights her fire’ is concerned. Yes, self-control reaches breaking point as the Melody/Fletcher connection becomes feverishly intense and risqué humour positively thrives with their dialogue exchanges.

When she isn’t failing spectacularly at applying ‘Fletcher Gunn avoidance tactics’, Melody can be found sniffing out baked goodies faster than her one-eared, keg-bellied pug, Lestat, or chasing the next peculiar presence with her ghostbusting fellowship, who are every bit as quirky as she is.

They’re a cracking bunch of individuals, with the stress on individual! A strong cast is needed to cope with the unwanted, wisecracking visitors residing Maplemead Castle, and I’m not talking about the American couple who bought the property over the internet!

What I love about the Chapelwick Mysteries is in addition to the funnies is a compassion shown for the tormented souls who linger to replay the most traumatic moment of their life. The ‘troupe’ of lodgers this time provides an assembly of raw emotions. Despite their poltergeist activities and sardonic retorts when acquainting themselves with the new people that come and go, they are driven by their own tragedy, eternally trapped by the final moment of the end of their lives.

Melody, for all her unintentional inappropriate timing and clumsy approach to life (and death!) situations, is compelled to delve into the source of conflict which is something other people often miss; people like her adversary and ex, Leo Dark, and his snarky devotees who Melody refers to as his ‘fem-bots’. The tottering clones make some fleeting but smashing appearances, and we are treated to a new performance from Leo altogether: is there a lighter side to Mr Dark?

Miss Bittersweet may be a tad unsubtle at times, sugar-crazed certainly, and so impulsive the heckles of hindsight are frequently heard, but she’s a flurry of unpredictable fun, delivering an amusing, amorous, and pretty darn awesome diversion.

Rating:  4.5/5

You can find my review for the first Chapelwick Mystery here. You’ll may notice the cover has been re-branded since my review was written, but as I have a soft spot for the original I’ve left it exactly as it is!

(I requested a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley and it’s my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Welcome to Chapelwick, a leafy English town in the hills of Shropshire, where chocolate pecan cookies come with a helping of sabotage.
Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers… literally.
A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?
Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.
Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?
An utterly hilarious, gripping, spooktastic read for fans of HY Hanna, MC Beaton, Gina LaManna and Jana DeLeon.
 (Courtesy of Amazon UK. Photograph courtesy of publisher.)

USA Today best selling author Kitty French writes sexy, escapist romance hot enough to burn your fingers…

The USA Today best selling Lucien Knight series has been a hit around the world, and Kitty is now writing and releasing the Regular Sex series of half hour erotic reads, a weekly issue to make sure your weekend starts with a bang!

Kitty is also the disreputable alter-ego of a romantic comedy writer Kat French. She writes full time, and lives in England with her husband and two little boys.



Book Review: Titian’s Boatman, by Victoria Blake

Publisher:  Black and White

Publication date: 26th January 2017


titians-boatman-coverThere is an epic vibrancy to Titian’s Boatman where the necessity of appreciating every morsel of life takes on new meaning as events unfold. The words wrap you in their splendour as they take you on a journey as relevant to the present as they were to the present.

The beautifully layered narration from a 16th century Venetian gondolier who tells his story of the time of disease and corruption that is partially cloaked in resentment, and for good reason. The brutally honest Titian’s Boatman tells of the ills that befell his family, the sights he endured, and the orders he willingly complied with. How this man came to know the great painter Titian as a youth and grew into boatman like his father before him is utterly compelling. The unwavering respect he offers to his masters is as intricate as the paintings of his time.

In 2011, a London gallery and an apartment in New York display these glorious, mesmerising works many centuries after the smell of turpentine and the raging tantrums have died away, like the muse who sat for them. Yet they remain as vivid and affecting as the day they were framed.

A particular canvass depicting The Man with the Blue Sleeve becomes an iconic symbol in this tale that spans centuries. The undetermined identity of the sitter and the way a painting may speak to those who care to visit it. In one case the painting actually verbalises its opinion to a thespian named Terry, and offers him some peculiar words of wisdom!

Each character is a captivating individual whose story is touched by a passion, hope, regret or desire that is present in all of them in varying degrees: The morose actor, his flamboyant director, the widowed housemaid from Cuba, our humble yet determined boatman, a successful and headstrong courtesan, and the artists whose work continues to enthral viewers who stand in awe before it.

Titian’s Boatman incorporates divine passages and glides effortlessly through the eras. His story conjures the artistry and imagination of the magicians whose brush strokes are as fluid and alive as the sitter themselves, their enigmatic essence immortalised and open for admiration and speculation. As the delicate connection of time begins to show its hand, so does the clarity that accompanies new beginnings everywhere.

A fascinating story, gracefully told. 

Rating:  4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher, with my thanks, and it is my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)


(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

It is 1576 and Venice is in chaos, ravaged by plague and overrun by crime.

In the midst of the anarchy we find those brave souls who have chosen not to flee the city. Titian, most celebrated of Venetian painters, his health failing badly. Sebastiano, a gondolier who is the eyes and ears of the corrupted and crumbling city. And Tullia, the most notorious courtesan of the age, who must fight to retain her status as well as her worldly possessions.

In the present day, the echoes of what happened centuries earlier still ripple as the lives of ordinary people as far distant as London and New York are touched by the legacy of old Venice…

‘Travelling across time and place, this compelling intrigue captures the beauty of several Venices and the essence of Titian the city’s most scandalous genius.’
Francesco Da Mosto

‘From the squalid glamour of 16th-century Venice to modern-day London and New York, Titian’s Boatman demonstrates the power of art to bridge the years and transform lives. With fine, elegant brush-strokes, Victoria Blake has created a rich and enchanting novel.’
Rory Clements, author of Sunday Times bestseller Holy Spy



(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Victoria Blake s love of Italy and history was inspired by her father, the historian Robert Blake, famous for his pioneering biography of Benjamin Disraeli. She grew up in Queen’s College, Oxford where he was the Provost. After studying history at Lady Margaret Hall she subsequently worked in law, publishing and bookselling.

She is the author of an Oxford-based crime series featuring the PI Sam Falconer and has written two true crime books for the National Archives, one on Ruth Ellis, and one on Florence Maybrick. Her historical novel Far Away was shortlisted for the Historical Society Novel Indie Award 2016.


Book Review: The Last Days of Leda Grey, by Essie Fox #ledagrey

Publisher:  Orion

Publication date:  3rd November 2016


The Lasy Days of Leda Grey - CoverWhat remains behind the crumbling façade of White Cliff House in 1976 is its solitary resident and ageing star of the silent movie, Leda Grey. As time passed the strange and alluring artefacts of many a movie set are all she has for company. Yet she seems content to be alone, sweeping the dusty floor with the hem of her fraying skirt as it trails behind her.

Leda has one advantage over the bricks and mortar as she is destined to live forever after being immortalised on film by a ‘special effects’ pioneer and director, Charles Beauvois. With many an infectious spark of genius enticing her further into his possessive, artistic lair, Beauvois became her lover and captured the essence of his leading lady in more ways than one.

The parts she played during her life are sealed in metal film reels just waiting for someone to release her by feasting their eyes upon the startling, flickering imagery once more. That someone would be Ed Peters, a restless arts’ journalist who first learned of Leda Grey when her penetrating eyes meet his from behind a shop window. He is instantly attracted to the young subject in the old black and white photograph and is desperate to learn more about this spectral beauty of the silent screen, as he feels compelled to write her story.

What follows is a surreal relationship and the obscure manner in which Leda to choses to share the knowledge of her captivating early life with this young and welcome stranger. As she allows Ed into her world, I found myself immersed in an ethereal fantasy which is both seductive and tragic.

As I continued, I found an eeriness settling upon White Cliff House. It has become the polar opposite of the serenity captured by a camera lens decades earlier; a solitary candle burns low, the hands of the clock no longer turn, and the redundant props in the studio in the grounds look positively ghoulish, adopting a sinister connotation.

It’s as though after the last film was made, Leda chose to become an integral part of the decaying set while the memories of the long gone cast stir around her. During Ed’s captivating visits, he witnesses a peculiar wildness between twilight and reality, until he becomes utterly distracted by this eccentric recluse and begins to question his own sanity.

The intensely sensual and untamed echoes of the past come alive in The Last Days of Leda Grey. It is an exquisitely written, tantalising mystery heaving with imagination, atmosphere and drama. And as I have experienced when reading Essie Fox’s previous work, the techniques she applies when conveying her mesmerising stories provide so much more than I could ever dream of.  Bravo!

Rating:  4.5/5

(I received an advanced digital copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley, and this is my unbiased opinion.)


(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A bewitching novel about an enigmatic silent film actress, and the volatile love affair that left her a recluse for over half a century – for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.

During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the Brighton Lanes. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey.

Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living – now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film. As Beauvois’s muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect.

But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality when Beauvois suspected a love affair between Leda and her leading man. A horrific accident left Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century – until Ed Peters finds her and hears the secrets of her past, resulting in a climax more haunting than any to be found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois.



(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Essie Fox’s debut novel THE SOMNAMBULIST was selected for the Channel 4 TV Book Club and was shortlisted for a National Book Award in 2012. She is the author of The Virtual Victorian (, and divides her time between Windsor and Bow in the East End of London. She can be found on Twitter @essiefox.



(The covers below relate to the books I already own – I think the artwork is magnificent!)


Book Review: The Life Assistance Agency, by Thomas Hocknell

Publisher:   Urbane Publications

Publication date:   22nd September 2016

The Life Assistance Agency - MY REVIEW

The Life Assistance Agency by Thomas Hocknell 22.09.16Ben Fergusson-Cripps: owner of a half-cocked blog, the copyright to a book, and an unusual double-barrelled surname, is currently watching his life swirl down the pan after the launch of his literary debut, Mirrors and Lies. Just as the tome tries to debunk psychics and spiritually, all everyone else wants to do was debunk him and you can sense his nonchalant desperation from page one.

Quickly coming to terms that he needs a day job to prevent him eating out of dustbins, a business card from The Life Assistance Agency left on a pub table piques his interest. The company claims to offer solutions to all manner of calamities including the finding lost things, arranging coincidences, and bonsai trimming.

A desperate Ben finds himself in need of their ‘talents’ to turn his life around and visits an office he finds is manned by an old acquaintance who is delighted to clap eyes on him, even though the telephone is sitting in the middle of the floor and it looks like they should call their own help line and request immediate assistance.

When Ben enquired what life assistance agencies do, Scott Wildblood replied, “It’s like a detective agency without detectives.” That’s when Ben’s temporary career move took flight, with their first case to find a missing man from Mortlake. The trail of the eccentric University lecturer will take them from Kent to Krakow in a battered Saab, with nothing but Scott’s heart pills rattling around in the foot well to keep them on their toes.

On a road trip from hell, the not-very-dynamic-duo stay in flea pit hotels while stumbling across relics of historical or psychic significance. Each new destination draws them closer into the furtive subjects of Scrying and Alchemy until they find they are being tailed by hired hooligans courtesy of ‘The Society’, whose job it is to keep an eye on matters all things otherworldly to prevent members of the public accidently wading into dangerous waters. The manner in which Ben and Scott shake them in various escapades would be best left to village idiots in You Tube Videos!

A few inexplicable events later and sceptic Ben is contemplating the mockery of his own ‘Mystic Meg’ mother in his book. As 16th C ideals and morals merge with the present, he is lead to question his own beliefs and the suggestion that immortality is tangible (while wondering why a mysterious, intellectual man can continually whack his brow off everything and not become permanently concussed).

I was so immersed in this utterly bonkers reading experience I greedily devoured it in one sitting. There’s a cracking turn of events and it’s walloped in some brilliant one liners too. Undoubtedly, considerable attention has been paid to merging the past and the present which are brought alive by the frantic finesse of mystic mayhem, and a constant stream of curiosity that I found impossible to ignore.

Unquestionably quirky. Brilliantly barmy. Absolutely recommended.

Rating:  5/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review, with my thanks.)

The Life Assistance Agency - BOOK SUMMARY

(Courtesy of NetGalley)

Do you want to live forever? is THE question facing anyone pursuing immortality.

But what happens when eternal life is disappointing, and everyone around you keeps dying? Ben Ferguson-Cripps, a struggling writer with a surname that gets more attention than his creative endeavours, sets aside his literary ambitions to join the mysterious Life Assistance Agency.

Their first case is to trace a missing person with links to the Elizabethan angel-caller Dr John Dee. Pursued by a shadowy organisation – and the ghosts of Ben’s past – the trail leads through Europe into the historic streets of Prague, where the long-buried secrets of Dr Dee’s achievements are finally revealed, and Ben discovers there is far more to life than simply living…


The Life Assistance Agency - AUTHOR PROFILE

(Courtesy of NetGalley)

Thomas Hocknell was brought up by Springer spaniels and his family in Kent. He knew the distance to central London from the foot of his childhood bed, and moved there the first moment he could 23 years ago. He has been writing music reviews for Record Collector, The Metro, Classic Pop, BBC and Line of Best Fit while also practicing as a mental health social worker. He won some short story competitions a long time ago, and completed the Faber Writing course under Richard Skinner in 2012. The Life Assistance Agency is his first novel.


Book Review: The Front Seat Passenger, by Pascal Garnier

Publisher:  Gallic Books   |   Publication date: 10th March 2014

Front Seat Passenger Author Profile

Front Seat Passenger - 10.03.14After reading my first Pascal Garnier book last month, this book called to me from NetGalley to download it whilst I was supposed to be uploading a review for another book entirely!

I’m so glad I did, as The Front Seat Passenger is another winning combination of the wry observations of impossibly surreal grim situations and the absence of domestic harmony.

Monsieur Fabien Delorme has a caring, yet distant relationship with his father. Their emotions are fairly constipated, until alcohol is introduced to the conversation encouraging Fabien to spill his guts while his father maintains a bland composure. Bizarrely his deceased mother is referred to by her Christian name, and his father’s display of affection is sparse at best. It’s interesting being a fly on the wall watching them interact from their respective corners.

Following a visit to his father’s house to help him clear out his mother’s things, Fabien returns to an empty home. In the absence of his wife being there to greet him there are three answer phone messages. The first two are innocent enough. But the third is unsettling, as he hears a stranger’s voice telling him there has been an accident and urges him to contact the hospital.

It turns out that even though his beloved Sylvie has been killed in a car crash it’s his world that’s been turned upside down. They didn’t have children. They kept themselves to themselves. So now it was just him and the knowledge that his wife was not alone when she died. He should be able to take comfort in that, but it was such a cruel way to discover that she was having an affair.

To Fabien children were just receptacles that you constantly had to empty and fill. They clung to you for years, and as soon as they took themselves adults, they reproduced and ruined your holidays with their offspring.

Being left without a way to confront her, Fabien makes the unusual decision to focus on stalking the widow of his wife’s lover. He embarks on clandestine methods to get closer to Martine Arnoult, but first he has to get passed her battle-axe friend, Madeleine – a.k.a. the human shield.

Needless to say there’s some top class satirical moments and the spontaneous method of dispatching ‘problems’ as they occur, verging on the unhinged. Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ came to mind at one point, but not everything is as it appears! If one thing is clear it’s that Fabien ought to leave dangerous games to the more experienced players.

I’m wowed by the author’s skill of cramming such a vibrant, brilliantly layered world into such a short page span. The terrific one-liners bring clarity to life, death, and the assorted bits in-between. And I’ll hold my hand up. I wasn’t expecting any twist in the tale until one was delivered with precision timing.  It’s sharp, and very, very clever.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the publisher for allowing me to download this title from NetGalley for review.)

Front Seat Passenger Book Summary

Fabien and Sylvie both knew their marriage wasn’t working. But when Sylvie is involved in a fatal car accident, Fabien is stunned to discover she had a lover who died with her. Harbouring thoughts of revenge, he tracks down the lover’s widow, Martine, and begins stalking her. Fabien is desperate to get Martine on her own. And that won’t happen until he deals with her protective best friend, Madeleine…


Front Seat Passenger My Review

Pascal Garnier was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. His noirs are published in English by Gallic Books.

Praise for Pascal Garnier:

‘A brilliant exercise in grim and gripping irony, it makes you grin as well as wince.’ The Sunday Telegraph ‘Often bleak, often funny and never predictable.’ The Observer

‘Garnier’s take on the frailty of life has a bracing originality.’ The Sunday Times

‘For those with a taste for Georges Simenon or Patricia Highsmith, Garnier’s recently translated oeuvre will strike a chord.’ The Independent

‘This is tough, bloody stuff, but put together with a cunning intelligence.’ The Sunday Times


Book Review: Too Close to the Edge, by Pascal Garnier

Publisher: Gallic Books   |   Publication date: 1st April 2016


Too Close To The Edge b Pascal GarnierToo Close to the Edge was my first Pascal Garnier experience. Despite a stunted start, I soon settled into the clipped pace and style of writing. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I ever read a book so quickly!

Eliette has lost her beloved husband to cancer and she is at loss as to what to do with herself. Her grown up children have lives of their own and despite their casual nurturing and occasional watchful glances she has a light-bulb moment of how she wants her life to continue without their father.

Before his death, they had their sights set on a quiet little farmstead. So why not continue the dream? Despite the sadness, she realises she’s not the one who passed away. So, off she goes and along the way she’s developing new skills like driving, claiming a new image by wearing jeans, and she’s even encouraged to invite a helpful stranger into her home, after he kindly changed her tyre in the pouring rain.

Such an event would be unthinkable to her family. But she doesn’t let that hold her back, especially as life is proved to be undoubtedly fragile when another tragedy strikes, as she learns her neighbours’ son has been killed in a car accident. Eliette sees her friends trudging through the fallout from the psychological damage caused by an unexpected incident and this gives her a quiet determination and room to grow.

After a series of horrendous events that conspire against this little group of people and their very personal reactions to the grief process in a quite extreme manner, Eliette finds she is more encouraged by her new found confidence. The enigmatic stranger has an alluring pull and she just can’t help herself, nor does she want to, as she wants to discover more about him and his life before he arrived on the scene. She might be sixty-four, but, after all, she is alive and her desire to step outside her usual ‘motherly box’ finds her dismissing her usual sensibilities.

It’s a diverse tale drawing from a variety of darker ‘domestic’ themes: incest, murder, suicide, discrimination, alcoholism, and drugs. There’s a lot crammed into the pages, yet somehow it’s not oppressive, or disturbingly illicit.

It comes to the boil quickly and bubbles continually to keep the story moving forward. Like I say, it’s one of the quickest reads I’ve ever encountered. If you’re interested in the study of people and their unpredictable reactions to monumental upheavals in their lives, then this is an especially fine example.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the publishers for allowing a digital download of this title via NetGalley for review.)


(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Recently widowed grandmother Éliette is returning to her home in the mountains when her micro-car breaks down. A stranger comes to her aid on foot. Éliette offers him a lift, glad of the interruption to her humdrum routine. That night, her neighbours’ son is killed in a road accident. Could the tragedy be linked to the arrival of her good Samaritan?



(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Gallic has published The Panda Theory, How’s the Pain?, The A26 and Moon in a Dead Eye, with more to come in 2014.


The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers  |  Published 2nd July 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Review Copy)

A curse? Or something even more sinister? Welcome to the accident season…

This curious story is narrated by seventeen year old Cara, who takes a moment to introduce us to her seemingly ordinary family: her sister, Alice, her ex-step brother, Sam, and their mother, a purple-haired artist named Melanie, who all live together in County Mayo, Ireland.

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about this family (except for their purple-haired mother), so it’s surprising to learn that they each suffer from the same affliction.

Every year during the entire month of October they fear what they have come to know as ‘the accident season’. During this time, they are prone to knocks, scrapes, bumps and the like – in extreme circumstances, deaths have also occurred.

Under the guidance of Cara’s best friend Bea with her trusted Tarot cards, Bea foretells that this year is not looking good.  It turns out she was right.

Despite their mother taking some ridiculous precautions to protect her children, even bubble-wrapping the kitchen surfaces to prevent any incidents, Alice has already taken a mysterious tumble down the stairs and Cara is wearing a wrist brace, but the mystery grows…in addition to this strange phenomenon, Cara sees something she’s never noticed before – for the last seventeen years a quiet girl named Elsie, who she last remembered from when she was eight years old, seems to have appeared in all their family photos.

accident season tumblr

Mysterious: The friends hold a surreal Masked Ball where certain truths are revealed. (Photo is courtesy of the Accident Season Tumblr site.)

Clearly unnerved by this, Cara embarks on a mission to discover why she’s never noticed Elsie in the pictures before and exactly what she’s doing there. It soon becomes clear that this is a story overflowing with a desperate need for the truth and as a dark family secret bubbles closer to the surface you just can’t help but read on.

Various ‘accidents’ continue to occur throughout the story and I couldn’t help wondering what fate has in store for Cara and Co. Running parallel to these incidences are some tough, real-life issues being tackled head-on.

Though the story does enter odd dreamlike phases, these paranormal/fantasy elements are artfully woven into the pages. For me, this placed more emphasis on just how detached from reality the family have become.

I admit that my heart broke once or twice as they struggled to confront their own relationships, without losing each other along the way. But this quirky read, told in a straightforward uncomplicated way, captivated me right to the end, when the true darkness that shadowed this family finally revealed itself.

The Tumblr page to accompany this story is eerily good too:    (The images above are all credited to this site.)

Rating: 4/5

(Huge thanks to the publisher for the advanced Kindle copy, via Netgalley.)

Accident Season Author Link Graphic 2

You can follow the author on Twitter: @moirawithatrema

Author’s Tumblr Page:

Buy the Book: Amazon UK

Amy Snow, by Tracy Rees

Publisher: Quercus | Publication date: 9th April 2015 | Edition: Paperback (review copy)

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

What is the ultimate gift you could you give someone? Hope? Freedom? Or a copy of this book? All of the above?

A delightful and inventive tale of friendship, heartbreak and surviving whatever life may throw at you. It’s written with absolute class and is a glorious example of a shining needle in a very large haystack (otherwise known as ‘a little beauty’).

The Story

In January 1831, a baby came into the lives of the Vennaway family of Hatville Court, but not in the traditional way it would appear.

The new born was not a bundle of joy and happiness, it was lying abandoned on the crisp white snow of the grounds.

Amy had arrived. And so, her journey had begun.

Her tiny, naked form was discovered by the youngest member of the Vennaway household. If it wasn’t for a feisty, impetuous girl by the name of Aurelia, the babe may never have survived – she owes her life to the young heir and will never forget it.

Amy snow

Escaping the grip of Hatfield Court

So, you would think that a decent enough life would be waiting for a baby who had survived the odds, yet Hatfield Court offered nothing but a miserable existence. For all their fancy airs and graces, the cruel and vindictive ways of the Vennaways left a lot to be desired. Aurelia’s mother was so vile they should have renamed the house ‘Hateful’ Court. I truly wanted to slap the scowl right off her face and all her venom with it. Lady Vennaway’s behaviour is explained late in the book, but you’ll have to see if you think this excuses her…I’m afraid that whilst I sympathise, I personally think not.

Only Aurelia truly fought the little girl’s corner; Amy was the sister she never had.

Seventeen years later, Aurelia tragically left the world, leaving Amy behind bleary-eyed and afraid. She was released from her life of servitude, which was a relief to both parties. Having been offered a token sum in the young woman’s will, Amy was sent speedily on her way. Before she left the grounds she was secretly handed a mysterious letter written by the recently deceased.

This was the first ‘clue’ which would lead her on a solitary journey, a concept completely alien to her. Upon her arrival to her previously unknown destination, it’s not too long before another letter comes to light. Before she can move on, Amy finds she must decode the hidden messages from her only friend in the world, who is no longer with her to offer advice.

“Open the door. Unlock the secret.”

A secret and patient chase for the next clue leads an unchaperoned Amy from place to place, putting her in awkward positions, accepting or declining invites to balls and events, and introducing her to a society she never knew existed. All the while, Amy considers if there is any place where she will truly belong.

Faced with suitors she didn’t know she would attract, social soirees where she doesn’t know how to act, and Aurelia’s bizarre and secret pact – will Amy figure out the final destination before she abandons the quest, like her mother abandoned her?

Soon, Amy begins to question Aurelia’s motives – is she making a fool of her from the grave?

Whilst the ending is not totally unexpected, the story itself is a delight to read. It’s one which moves at a gentle trot, not a gallop, allowing you to bathe in the atmosphere the writer has successfully conjured up.

And you know something? It’s makes pleasant change to reach end of a book without any profanity in it.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

(I am grateful to Hannah Robinson of Quercus for agreeing to send this to me for review.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @AuthorTracyRees | Publisher: @QuercusBooks

Dark Tides, by Chris Ewan

Publisher: Faber & Faber | Publication date: 16th October 2014 | Edition: Hardback

Dark Tides 19.12.14

Suspenseful & brooding, a great crime mystery.

Dark and moody, Dark Tides centres around the seemingly not so coincidental events surrounding a group of friends on Hop-tu-naa (Halloween, on the Isle of Man). The events ‘brew’ slowly, but not like you would normally expect on the 31st October!At 8 years old, young Claire has to cope with the loss of her mom, who disappeared after taking her ‘trick or treating’; her body was never found.

A few years pass and Claire is introduced to a group of friends, who take it in turns each year to select a dare of their choice. This dare takes place on Hop-tu-naa, usually in a remote location, somewhere you’d normally avoid in the daylight, let alone visit in the dark. Despite reservations, she participates.

The story is told, the group grows older. Yet, it appears that as the years pass varying ‘accidents’ also occur on this familiar date. Unfortunate, yes, but ‘something’ starts to nag at Claire, who has since joined the Police. She realises that she and her friends have something other than their secret yearly dare to bind them. As it turns out, there’s someone watching them, resulting in horrific consequences. (That ‘something’ is pretty creepy, too.)

You’d be forgiven if you thought this was a regurgitation of a typical, ‘teenage’ scare story on a familiar date. Let me stop you there. It’s a story that’s very well told, and the Isle of Man makes an incredibly interesting setting.

To summarise:
Dark Tides is a subtle, brooding tale, full of suspense to the end with a few twists thrown in.
Definitely worthy of a read.

Rating: 4/5

(Thank you to the publisher and Chris Ewan for my signed copy I received as a result of a Twitter Competition. Much appreciated.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @chrisewan