Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter: Review

Cows don’t need to follow the herd...

Dawn O’Porter’s highly entertaining novel follows the lives of three women facing some very pertinent issues.

TV exec and single mother Tara finds her life unexpectedly in tatters after a video of an ill-judged “private” moment on a train goes viral, resulting in massive public humiliation.

Cam, the author of a wildly successful (and lucrative) straight-talking blog, accidentally becomes “The Face of Childfree Women” after blogging about her choice not to have children, and faces a backlash as a result. (Incidentally this is something I will never understand. I do have children and am very happy about it, but why on earth anyone should be criticised for not having or wanting them is beyond me. Seems to me not wanting children is an excellent reason for not having any - pressurising anybody into doing so seems deeply misguided.)

And finally Stella, who works as PA to Jason, a successful photographer, is grieving the loss of her mother and twin sister, and dealing with her own terrifyingly high risk of developing the cancer that took their lives. Stella does want a baby, but with both health and relationship difficulties staring her in the face, how on earth is she going to achieve that? It's time to take control...

The Cows is a hugely enjoyable read which deals with some very topical issues facing women. It’s not the first story I’ve read recently in which a woman is publicly shamed for her sexuality, but it’s very well done. What happens to Tara is appalling but also quite believable, at least in terms of the public response, in which she is both delightedly mocked and widely condemned - not only for the incident but for her other life choices too, once they come to light. It’s horrific.

Cam is also a great character who is determined to live her life the way she wants, and largely succeeds, even though others (her mother, for one) don't always understand why she is the way she is. Her blogs seek to inspire and empower women, and usually do, though she misses the mark at times (it shouldn’t take a huge amount of sensitivity to notice that a statement like “My womb is what makes me a woman” might not go down well in some quarters.... women who've had hysterectomies, just as a for instance).

And Stella - well, Stella goes off the deep end to a point where the story does become a bit absurd, as she goes to some extreme lengths to achieve her goal.

There are some brilliant set pieces here (Tara’s dad’s birthday dinner, during which the mostly elderly attendees start recounting their own al fresco sexual experiences, was a delight). And some very spot-on observations about current society. Towards the end, something shocking and unexpected happens, and this threw me off balance a bit - I wasn’t quite sure why it was necessary in terms of the story and kind of wished it hadn’t happened...

Overall a fantastic read, highly recommended.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Far Cry From the Turquoise Room by Kate Rigby: Review

The book....

Told from both daughter and father's perspectives, Far Cry From The Turquoise Room is a coming-of-age, riches-to-rags tale of loss, resilience, and self-discovery, set just before the millennium. It is also about the passage of childhood into puberty.

Leila is the eight-year-old daughter of Hassan Nassiri, a wealthy Iranian property owner, and younger sister to the adored Fayruz, her father's favourite daughter. 

But a holiday narrowboat tragedy has far-reaching consequences for the surviving family. Hassan withdraws into reclusive grief, when he’s not escaping into work, or high jinks with his men friends at his second home in Hampstead, leaving Leila to fend for herself in a lonely world of nannies, chess and star-gazing.

Leila eventually runs away from home and joins a family of travellers in Sussex, and so follows a tale of adventure, danger and romance – and further anguish for her surviving family. But how will she fare at such a young age and will her family ever find her?

My thoughts...

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to read it in time for the one day blog blitz on 7th March (sometimes life and work interferes with my reading time, which is simply unacceptable), but I have now and I really enjoyed it. It’s a short novel but an absorbing and unusual one.

Hassan, a wealthy Iranian businessman living in London, is husband to Samira and father to his two little princesses - Fayruz and Leila - though Fayruz is the acknowledged favourite. When Fayruz is killed in an accident when Leila is eight years old, everything changes.

Leila’s parents are lost in their grief and there is no time or thought for Leila.  (Even Fayruz’s cat - a painful reminder for her parents but a comfort for Leila - is given away.) When boarding school is suggested, what is Leila, by now nearly eleven, to do but run away?

The story is told alternately by Leila and Hassan - although the Leila sections are longer. I loved her voice, which is very engaging. Feisty, funny and at times heartbreaking. While I enjoyed the first part of the book it wasn’t unputdownable, but it really picked up pace for me when Leila ran away and from that point I was riveted. 

Leila is brave and resourceful but has no idea how vulnerable she really is. She is fortunate to fall in immediately with people who are kind to her, but as she moves on dangers are all around and come terrifyingly close at times. As the mother of an eleven year old girl, it made alarming reading. Leila’s new life is far from the privileged bubble she has hitherto inhabited - far from the beautiful rooms of her home. Will she ever return, and how changed will she be? Meanwhile her father Hassan is on his own journey...

Kate Rigby skilfully inhabits the minds of both characters and has delivered an entrancing read.

Purchase Links...


Barnes & Noble



The author.... 

Kate Rigby was born near Liverpool and now lives in the south west of England. She’s been writing for nearly forty years, with a few small successes along the way, although she has long term health conditions. Having been traditionally published, small press published and she is now indie published.

She realized her unhip credentials were mounting so she decided to write about it. Little Guide to Unhip was first published in 2010 and it has since been updated.

However, she’s not completely unhip. Her punk novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus was published by Allison & Busby (1990) and by Villard (American hardback 1990). Skrev Press published her novels Seaview Terrace (2003) Sucka!(2004) and Break Point (2006) and other shorter work has appeared in Skrev’s avant garde magazine Texts’ Bones.

Thalidomide Kid was published by Bewrite Books (2007).

She has had other short stories published and shortlisted including Hard Workers and Headboards, first published in The Diva Book of Short Stories and as part of the Dancing In The Dark erotic anthology, Pfoxmoor Publishing (2011). Hard Workers is to republished for a third time - in an anthology called ‘Condoms & Hot Tubs Don’t Mix’ - an anthology of Sexcapades - which is due to be published by Beating Windward Press in the US in February 2018.  It is her shortest ever story and yet the most popular in that sense!  All proceeds will go towards planned parenthood.

She also received a Southern Arts bursary for her novel Where A Shadow Played (now re-Kindled as Did You Whisper Back?).

More information can be found at her website::

Or her occasional blog:

Social Media Links...




Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Pact by S. E. Lynes: Review

Toni has been a single mother to fifteen-year-old Rosie since the death, years earlier, of their beloved husband and father. Toni’s a little - OK, a lot - overprotective of her daughter. But when you learn what she’s been through in her life, it’s not surprising. Equally unsurprisingly, Rosie is starting to kick against the restrictions her mother, with the best of motives, imposes.

Auntie Bridget lives there too, the third point in their triangular family. It’s different, but it works. Whatever’s going on, there are always two people to support the third.

Toni and Bridget went through hell in their youth and made a promise to always be there for each other - and not to involve outsiders.

Toni is determined to protect her daughter at all costs from the risks she experienced. But the most protective parent is no match for a teenager set on deceit, and the heart-wrenchingly vulnerable Rosie’s secrets lead her unknowingly into terrible danger.

As the mother of a not quite (but definitely heading in that direction) teenage girl, this made harrowing reading. I was entirely gripped as the story unfolded, both afraid to read on and unable to look away, almost shouting at the characters at times for their naivety or iniquity (“Noooo, don’t do that!” “Oh, you utter bastard!” etc). At other times I was in tears. And by the end I was emotionally wrung out.

The characters are so brilliantly drawn, especially auntie Bridget who I would love to have as a friend. (She’s awesome.) As a parent I could relate to Toni too - although her behaviour was excessive and misguided at times it was also somewhat understandable in the circumstances. 

I loved this book -  beautifully written, incredibly compelling and with several twists in the tale. But parents of daughters: be warned, it’s an emotional rollercoaster.

 Out now.

Monday, 26 February 2018

BLOG TOUR! Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley

The book....

She looked away from his face and took in the clear spring night, full of stars. Her last thoughts were of her mother. Would she finally care, when one day they found her body, and a policeman came knocking at her door?

The body of missing tourist Bethany Haliwell is found in the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where nothing bad ever happens. News crews and journalists from all over the country descend on the small seaside town as old secrets are dragged up and gossip is taken as gospel.

Among them is Miller Hatcher, a journalist battling her own demons, who arrives intent on gaining a promotion by covering the grisly murder. 

Following an anonymous tip, Miller begins to unravel the mystery of the small town. And when another woman goes missing, Miller finds herself getting closer to the truth. But at what cost?

Purchase from Amazon: http://a.co/7y5bFY8 

The review...

How on earth could I resist a novel set on the coast of Coromandel? I’m ashamed to say that I never realised until now that it’s a real place and not an invention of Edward Lear. Anyway, there’s no sign of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo, but there’s plenty else going on in the small seaside town of Castle Bay, New Zealand, despite the locals’ frequent and increasingly unconvincing assertions that “Nothing bad ever happens here”.

When the body of a young backpacker is discovered, months after her disappearance, nobody wants to believe there’s a genuine connection to Castle Bay - surely, one of the many summer visitors must be responsible for Bethany’s murder. Surely, there can’t be a monster living among them, in their safe and picturesque little town.

As local police officer Kahu Parata and out-of-town journalist Miller Hatcher investigate, dark secrets begin to emerge which certain people would rather keep hidden. And another, less pleasant side of Castle Bay gradually becomes apparent.

Nothing Bad Happens Here is an excellent small-town murder mystery which I really enjoyed reading. The story is told largely from the perspectives of Miller and Kahu and they are both likeable and relatable characters with their own issues - Kahu dealing with his wife’s illness and the couple’s inability to have children, Miller grieving the recent death of her mother, struggling with her alcohol use and under pressure from her boss to deliver a great story. Other characters, including Delta and Oprah (yes, really!) at the Haven wellness retreat where Miller stays, are also very well drawn, as indeed are certain less likeable characters...

An atmospheric sense of place pervades the story, the idyllic surroundings of Castle Bay contrasting sharply with some very sad and unpleasant events therein. 

I found Nothing Bad Happens Here to be a great read and a very impressive debut novel from Nikki Crutchley, who I'll definitely look out for in future. Many thanks to the author and Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to read it and to be part of the blog tour!

The author...

After seven years of working as a librarian in New Zealand and overseas, Nikki now works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She lives in the small Waikato town of Cambridge in New Zealand with her husband and two girls. Nikki has been writing on and off her whole life and recently has had success in flash fiction. She has been published in Flash Frontier, Flash Fiction Magazine and Mayhem Literary Journal, and has also had a story published in the Fresh Ink Anthology. Crime/thriller/mystery novels are her passion. Nothing Bad Happens Here is her first novel, set on the Coromandel Coast of New Zealand.

Follow Nikki on:

Website: www.nikkicrutchley.com

Thursday, 22 February 2018

BLOG TOUR! Hiding by Jenny Morton Potts

The book...

A gripping psychological thriller with chilling twists, from a unique new voice.

Keller Baye and Rebecca Brown live on different sides of the Atlantic. Until she falls in love with him, Rebecca knows nothing of Keller. But he's known about her for a very long time, and now he wants to destroy her.

This is the story of two families. One living under the threat of execution in North Carolina. The other caught up in a dark mystery in the Scottish Highlands. The families' paths are destined to cross. But why? And can anything save them when that happens?

Purchase from Amazon UK

The review...

One peculiar day, Primmy said, "It's no use hiding. Life will still be here when you get back."

An orphaned ten year old girl, growing up with her grandparents and siblings in a chilly sandstone mansion in the Highlands of Scotland. On the other side of the Atlantic, an angry young man plotting revenge. A bank heist gone horribly wrong. A prisoner on Death Row.

Clearly there are connections between these disparate elements, but the true picture will emerge only gradually in a darkly intriguing and compellingly written story.

Hiding is a theme throughout. Rebecca has had the truth hidden from her all her life and is herself a determined liar. Keller is hiding many things including his true identity. ("Hiding" also has another connotation in terms of his youthful exploits.) Ultimately, when the truth is finally revealed, the title has a hard hitting resonance and poignancy.

The characters are complex and brilliantly drawn. I loved Rebecca, who we meet first as the imaginative ten-year-old "Youngest Brown" and follow her development into a young woman building a career. Keller is a complicated but not entirely unsympathetic character - as one person observes, there is or was a goodness in him. It's hard to avoid speculating about how people end up where they are and what could have been different.

Other characters - particularly Rebecca's grandparents, the disapproving Primmy and long-suffering Ralph - are also wonderfully described and Primmy in particular I could picture so clearly. Some others (such as the cowhand Murdo, who Rebecca at one point says she loves more than all of them put together) could perhaps have been given more detail... but the story does not lose anything as a result

There are some great scenes - I particularly enjoyed the stand-up comedy descriptions. Elsewhere, the story can become very dark and, at times, distressing.

I was very impressed with Jenny Morton Potts' novel, which I found to be intelligent, original, nuanced and complex. It's a book which repays close attention, as I found myself confused at times particularly in the earlier parts, but all gradually becomes clearer as the differing elements knit together satisfyingly. Finishing, I immediately wanted to read the whole thing again, to see how it all fitted.

The only bit I was not quite sure about was the very end, which felt perhaps a little abrupt after a tremendous and nerve-shredding build-up. As Keller observed, it's the hardest part... but I want to know what happened afterwards!

Many thanks to the author and Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to read "Hiding" and to be part of the blog tour. I loved it and look forward to seeing what Jenny Morton Potts does next.

The author...

Jenny is a novelist, screenplay writer and playwright. After a series of "proper jobs", she realised she was living someone else's life and escaped to Gascony to make  gĂ®tes. Knee deep in cement and pregnant, Jenny was happy. Then autism and a distracted spine surgeon wiped out the order. Returned to wonderful England, to write her socks off.

Jenny would like to see the Northern Lights but worries that's the best bit and should be saved till last. Very happily, and gratefully, settled with family.

She tries not to take herself too seriously.

Social media links...

The giveaway...

Win! 3 x e-copies of Hiding by Jenny Morton Potts (Open internationally)

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Girl in the Green Dress by Cath Staincliffe: Review

 Eighteen-year-old Allie Kennaway and her friends are off to their school prom, all dressed up in their finery and excited at the prospect of an evening of fun and dancing. But the evening ends in tragedy when Allie’s body is found in a street near the venue, the victim of a brutal attack. Allie happens to be transgender - is she the victim of a hate crime?

DI Donna Bell and her keen young DC Jade Bradshaw are charged to investigate the murder and begin to close in on their suspects. But someone very near at hand has powerful reasons for not wanting them to get to the truth...

Will justice be done for Allie and her grieving family? 

This was a brilliant read which packed a heavy emotional punch. I constantly moved between sadness, anger and hope. I thought Allie’s trans identity was handled very well - she has had her issues to contend with of course, but with a loving and supportive family and friends, her future seemed bright. The tragedy of her senseless death and the effect on those left behind is never glossed over. As Allie’s death occurs right at the start it would perhaps have been good to have another, not-dead trans character to mitigate the risk of a “trans = tragic victim” message. But I think Cath Staincliffe has tried hard to avoid any such message anyway.

All the characters were very well drawn. I could definitely relate to Donna, balancing work and family but with her partner acting as the main carer (I’m also in this position and it’s not often reflected in fiction). Jade was a particularly unusual and interesting character, who clearly has a significant back story which is only hinted at here. She has huge potential as a police officer but is volatile and sometimes acts in ways which can only lead to trouble. I’d definitely like to read and learn more about Jade.

Allie’s family, father Steve and little sister Teagan, are also really well depicted (as are the extended family) and their feelings and reactions as the investigation progresses are very believable.

There is not a huge amount of mystery here - the perpetrators and their motivations are established relatively early on. The story, and the tension and doubt, mainly comes from the fight to bring those responsible to justice, when there is a real threat of the investigation being seriously derailed. 

The Girl in the Green Dress is an excellent police procedural with its heart firmly in the right place. I loved it.