Posts Tagged ‘blog tour’

Book Blog Tour ~ The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

9780751566208Serendipity is a property seeker. So much more than an estate agent, she, along with her assistant Kiki, travel the world hunting for perfect homes for their clients. One summer finds her on the west coast of Ireland, searching for a property in Ballykiltara, an idyllic town with a close-knit community and their fair share of folklore.

Ren (as she prefers to be known) finds the perfect house almost immediately, but there’s a problem; nobody seems to own the house. It’s known locally as the Welcome House; its doors are always open for anyone who might need it. Whether that’s hikers looking for shelter, or women seeking refuge, there’s always room at the Welcome House.

Ren tries to find out who owns it so they can negotiate a sale, all the while falling in love with the little Irish town, while trying to avoid the distractions of the hotel manager, Finn.

This is the first of Ali McNamara’s books that I have read; I know that she is very popular in the chick-lit circles, but I haven’t ever picked up one of her previous novels. I was pleasantly surprised by the story here, mostly because I wasn’t expecting anything quite so historical or mystical. It’s no fantasy book, of course, but there’s a fair sprinkling of mythology in the story, and the eventual mystery surrounding the house is not something that I was expecting.

Of course, this is a chick-lit novel, so there’s also a fair sprinkling of romance. Ren is ready to fall in love again after a traumatic relationship in the past, and Finn, the hotel manager, is the perfect man – mysterious, handsome and kind.

If I have one complaint about The Summer of Serendipity, it’s that there’s far too many cultural references. It’s one of my biggest bugbears when it comes to modern fiction; if you pepper your story with references to Ed Sheeran and Stephen Tomlinson (?) your story has a shelf-life of about five minutes. I also took some issue with the way that Kiki was characterised; she was described as being quirky and kooky as soon as we met her,  but somehow we were meant to believe that underneath all that, she was whip sharp. She wasn’t, she was ditzy and frequently got things wrong, and I found her really annoying!

Overall, however, this is a fun story, and one that will be an easy read if you’re heading off on your summer holidays. It has made me want to visit the west coast of Ireland as well!

The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara
Publication Date: 13th July 2017
Provided by publisher

Book Blog Tour ~ English Animals by Laura Kaye

english-animals-jacketMirka is 19, Slovakian, and starting a new job at an English country house. Her employers, Sophie and Richard, are upper-middle class, with no children, and Mirka is unsure at first what her role is to be. She becomes a live-in assistant, helping Richard with his fledgling taxidermy business, and providing domestic support to Sophie. The lines are blurred; is she domestic help, business employee, friend?

Mirka’s ability as a taxidermist soon surpasses Richard’s; for him it is another business venture to try and keep afloat amidst the troubles of keeping a large house running. But Mirka, though reluctant at first, finds an art in it; the English animals that she preserves become a way of expressing herself, and taking inspiration from old fashioned anthropomorphic taxidermy, creates a name for herself, eventually being featured in a magazine.


The taxidermy is expertly described, down to the smallest detail; if Laura Kaye has no experience of the craft herself then she has certainly done her research. But it provides a mere backdrop to the more important English Animals that are at work here; Richard, Sophie, and the supporting players throughout the story.

Mirka finds Richard an easy man to like when he is being warm, generous and funny; she shares a close friendship with him that includes trips to the pub and hunting expeditions (even if Mirka does ultimately balk at the idea of shooting an animal).

Sophie, the lady of the house, is an enigmatic, privileged woman who is used to having what she wants; though what she wants more than anything is the one thing she can’t seem to have – a baby. Mirka struggles at times to understand Sophie’s motivations, accusing her of seeing everything as a toy to play with. Sophie admits as much herself; she just wants to feel wanted.

The entrance of Mirka, an Eastern European, into a middle England village in this day and age certainly reflects a Brexit state of mind; in groundskeeper David we get a man who almost certainly would have voted leave, threatening Mirka and making it clear that he thinks she should go back to where she comes from. Sophie’s father, though slightly more caricatured than David, has similar views on foreigners, failing to recognise the irony in having a house in France that he lives in year-round.

The quirkiness of the English middle classes; isolated in their rural communities, is emphasised by the fact that the entire story is told from the perspective of Mirka, whose first language is not English. She has no handle on idioms, unable to help Sophie with the cryptic crossword until something finally clicks towards the end of the novel. Mirka’s sense of disorientation at this previously unknown culture helps us to see these people through her eyes. Her discomfort at Richard’s birthday party – a bad taste fancy dress party where people dress as dictators, pregnant nuns and child molestors – is palpable, and in stark contrast to another party she attends with some hipster types in East London, where she feels at ease, with her ‘own tribe.’

This really is an exceptional piece of work, particularly given that is a debut novel. It’s easy to read without lacking in scope, and the plot drives the momentum of the story beautifully. Laura Kaye is most certainly a novelist with a bright future.

English Animals by Laura Kaye
First published: January 2016
ISBN: 9781408709450
Little Brown
Provided by publisher


Book Blog Tour ~ Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

9780349406589-1Amateur detective Kate Shackleton has decided to take a break; nothing ever happens in August, so she heads to Whitby for a holiday, meeting up with her old school friend Alma whilst there. But mystery and crime tends to follow Kate around, and she finds herself caught up in the investigations into the murder of a jeweller in the town, who happens to be Alma’s current love interest, and who has also recently lent Alma’s daughter Felicity some money so she could run away with her beau to find her father.

This is the third year in a row that I have had the pleasure to review a Kate Shackleton mystery here on my blog. Affectionately referred to as ‘cosy crime’, they aren’t the sort of books that are going to present violently graphic murder scenes, or end in a thrilling chase to nail the killer. Things trot along at a pleasant pace, and much like an Agatha Christie novel, build to an exciting climax in which the perpetrator, along with his or her motive, is finally revealed.

Kate Shackleton is an interesting heroine; bound by the societal rules of the time (post World War I), but written as an independent and intelligent woman who can’t resist the lure of a mystery that has to be solved. Kate’s lovable sidekick, Sykes, is once again on hand to assist her, as is her housekeeper, Mrs Sugden.

When I read my first Kate Shackleton Mystery, I was worried that I might feel as though I had missed something; often when reading a series, you feel that you have to start at the beginning. While of course there would be some benefit to reading the series in order, these are self-contained cases, and it’s only the ephemera of Kate’s life that continues with any consistency. But Brody is able to build the backstory without including pages of exposition; it’s always introduced gently that Kate is a widower who lost her husband during the war, and everything else is mentioned only if necessary. It doesn’t necessarily matter that Kate solved the mystery of a murder in a library two books ago, but if something like this needs to be mentioned, it is done with a deft hand.

I can’t recommend this series of books enough to someone who enjoys this kind of cosy crime; it’s not unlike an episode of Midsomer Murders or Morse; just fantastical enough to be entertaining, but moving along at such a pace that you never feel as though you are being left behind.

Death at the Seaside
First published: 6th October 2016
ISBN: 9780349406589
Review copy provided by publisher

Book Blog Tour ~ Martini Henry by Sara Crowe

Martini HenryMartini Henry tells the story of Sue Bowl, a young woman whose mum has died, and whose family now consists of her spendthrift Aunt Coral and a band of eccentric lodgers who live at Green Place. Sue wants to be a writer, and thinks of little else, but she finds herself caught up in the story of For the Concern of the Rich and the Poor, a long tome that has links to her aunt’s big house.

Sue’s story is told to us through letters and diary entries, and while we are hearing about her life, we are also being treated to the story of London Taylor through excerpts of For the Concern of the Rich and Poor that Sue chooses to share with the reader. The two stories are separate, but have a strong link, and while at first it seems as though the latter is going to intrude on our enjoyment of Sue’s own story, it soon takes off and becomes as important as the heroine’s story.

Sue’s world is full of eccentric characters who must have been great fun for Sara Crow to write, and we come to love them as Sue does. Sue’s love of language is also infectious; her education at the start of the novel continues throughout the story, and as someone who loves words, it was a lot of fun to see her discovering new ways to express herself.

It took me a little while to get a hold on Martini Henry, simply because it was so different to what I expected it to be. Eventually, I got completely on board with it, and found myself eager to find out what happened to both Sue, in the main story, and London Taylor, in the secondary story.

Martini Henry by Sara Crowe
First published: June 2016
ISBN: 9780857523129
Review copy provided by publisher

Book Blog Tour ~ Relativity by Antonia Hayes

Relativity Antonia Hayes review

Ethan is twelve years old, raised by a single mother, and is particularly gifted in the field of physics. He has an innate understanding of the scientific ordering of the universe, is fascinated by astronomy, and counts among his heroes Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. Ethan knows that his dad is no longer around, and that his mother, Claire, doesn’t like to talk about it, but what he doesn’t know, and what Claire wants to make sure he never finds out, is that his father, Mark, was accused, tried and convicted of shaking Ethan when he was just four months old, causing a brain injury.

The story proceeds from the point where Mark makes an unexpected return to Claire and Ethan’s life. This moment coincides with the discovery that Ethan, beyond the seemingly natural affinity for physics and astronomy, may be something entirely more unique; doctors posit the idea that he is an acquired savant, able to actually ‘see’ physics. This raises the question of whether or not the brain injury he sustained as a baby (something his father has always denied causing), really was such a tragedy, or if it set in motion the events that would allow Ethan to see the world differently to others.

Relativity book quote 2 [74270]

Relativity is first and foremost, a wonderful novel. In Ethan, Hayes has created a complex and brilliant young protagonist whose view of the world is a joy to read. Claire and Mark are equally complex, and as adults whose lives have been dictated by this earlier tragedy, they are flawed and open to much interpretation. One of the most enjoyable facets of this story is that the reader is not asked to vilify either character or their actions, either in the past or the present. Mistakes are made on both sides, but Mark and Claire are both imbued with such humanity.

Testament to Hayes’ talent for writing is that the physics element of the story is written with exceptional understanding, but never alienated me, a reader who has no natural affinity for the laws of the universe. I’m fascinated by the ideas of matter and anti-matter, of supernovas and wormholes, but I can’t say I approach even the most basic understanding of those things. Hayes writes with authority on this subject, but never allows the science to overpower the emotion at the heart of the story; rather, she uses the physical forces that are an undeniable part of our galaxy to examine emotions. Each chapter is named after a physical force – time, space, gravity, energy, and the book’s title, Relativity, refers as much to the idea of how a person exists in relation to those they love, as it does the scientific notion of the same word.

With exceptionally well drawn characters, an unflinching look at a family defined and forever-changed by a single moment, and a nuanced exploration of how our parents’ experiences impact on our own lives, Relativity is a wonderful debut novel from Antonia Hayes.

First published (UK): 7th April 2016
ISBN: 9781472151681
Review copy provided by publisher

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